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Avatar (PG) It’s 2154 and humanity’s technologically advanced military industrial complex is poised to plunder the mineral riches of a planet called Pandora. The only thing in their way is the dominant life form called the Na’vi.

Avatar (PG)

It’s 2154 and humanity’s technologically advanced military industrial complex is poised to plunder the mineral riches of a planet called Pandora. The only thing in their way is the dominant life form called the Na’vi. The humans take the time to develop a kind of remote control Na’vi doppelganger, or “Avatar”, which will walk among them and be controlled by a marine back on the ship. To reverse a clichĂ©, what you get is what you see. Flesh and falling objects alike behave as they should. In Avatar there’s no real suspension of disbelief necessary. It’s taken care of and it’s all in the details. And the 3-D actually works. It’s subtle. Foreground objects seem to be in front of the screen, background seems much farther away. So why, after an exhilarating three hours of beauty and awesomeness, visual perfection, really, do I feel so unmoved? It may simply be the lack of any character development, any real sense of jeopardy in the script. (MK)

Dear John (PG)

The crew has stocked their story with a magnetic coupling in the form of Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. As the maidenly Savannah, she clings to and drapes herself over John, a Special Forces soldier of few words and a hot temper. When 9/11 strikes, however, John’s sense of duty promises to keep them apart for an insufferable period. In an attempt to stay close, the two exchange countless handwritten letters. Add to that John’s father’s autism, Savannah’s dream of opening an equestrian camp for kids, John’s questionable past and a jealous rival and Dear John should be the most gag-worthy piece of folderol this side of Brendan Fraser. But the film and its makers face these contrivances head on, without irony and stick to their belief in the couple at hand. It’s a good move; Seyfried and Tatum lock in on each other and never let go. (JS)

Sherlock Holmes (PG)

The relationship between Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson is a connection worthy of comparison to Jay and Silent Bob. It is a bromance for the ages. The chemistry between the two men felt natural and well balanced between machismo fronts of non-concern and genuine care and affection. Lord Blackwood, the villain played by Mark Strong, bears a striking resemblance to Stanley Tucci, and performed just as well as one would expect from the latter. Rachel McAdams was forgettable as Irene Adler and never quite seemed to fit into the London of Holmes’ time. All in all, this new Sherlock Holmes is deserving of the hype, and I look forward to the sequel that will build on this well-executed introduction to a modern Holmes and Watson. (LT)

Shutter Island (14A)

Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), a U.S. Marshal is assigned to Shutter Island with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) to investigate an escaped patient named Rachel. The problem goes beyond the fact no one can figure out how she got away; there’s also the stickiness of who among the facility’s ominous staff is telling the truth or if there is more hidden away than just an escapee. There are implications of medieval testing on the patients. Daniels and Aule are discomfited by the bureaucratic and enigmatic wardens who insist upon a thorough investigation but who also stymie it by providing little assistance, even going so far as to withhold vital information. Knowing that the odds are stacked against them, the detectives surmise they have played into an elaborate trap and now are inmates themselves. 1/2 (SH)

Valentine’s Day (PG)

What we are treated to are about 10 separate but still intersecting stories about couples and singles and how they respond to Valentine’s Day itself. One guy proposes while another woman takes a very long flight home to see her loved one. Reality takes the backseat in a stretch limousine during this romantic hodgepodge. The old school writing features a lot of easy setups followed by quick punchlines, making it seem all too much like an extended sitcom. It’s a substance-free story, existing only to tell people love is patient, kind, but sometimes blind and dumb. Most of the characters experience some of love’s foibles while other dunderheads carry on oblivious to the world around them. This obviously isn’t the kind of movie that is recommended for singles but they can still appreciate it. If you’re a romantic at heart you’ll fall for it, possibly even shedding a tear or two during key scenes. (SH)

When in Rome (PG)

In the spirit of maintaining low expectations, I have to say that the newest addition to the sad, long line of high-gloss lipstick chick flicks in recent years, When in Rome, is OK. Not terrible. Genuinely funny, even. Sometimes. Beth (Kristen Bell) is a young, over-achieving curator at the Guggenheim Museum with yet another unyielding boss who heaves the whole weight of the Guggenheim’s most important opening, like, ever, on the svelte shoulders of its youngest curator. At this crucial moment in Beth’s career, her little sister decides suddenly to get married in Rome. Here, the film spends a good five minutes proving how desperately single Beth compares to her lucky-in-love sis. We’re supposed to commiserate with our protagonist’s relationship troubles by the time she heads to Europe to fulfill her duties as the maid of honour. Enter Nick (Josh Duhamel), who comes to Beth’s rescue after she embarrasses herself in front of her sister’s new Italian family. This movie is, actually, adorable, mostly because Nick turns out to be a rather inept Prince Charming. But as soon as Beth opens herself up to the possibility of love, she spots Nick stumbling around with some hussy in a red dress. 1/2 (KB)