Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen | R |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

MUSICAL

The blood flows as freely as the songs do in Sweeney Todd. It's a slasher musical, filled with soaring Stephen Sondheim tunes and arterial spurting. Unhinged after being wrongly imprisoned, a barber (Depp) causes everything to go crimson when he returns to 18th-century London and begins slitting the throats of his customers. His chirpy paramour (Carter) then grinds up the corpses to serve as filling for the meat pies she sells.

This may be a musical, but absolutely don't take the kids. Do go yourself, though, because Sweeney Todd is thrilling. In making his inspired, albeit bloody, version of the 1979 Broadway hit, director Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow) brilliantly contravenes the accepted Hollywood wisdom that a movie must "open up" a stage show. Burton instead refashions the sprawling musical into an intimate chamber piece, bringing his camera in close so a character's every emotion shows. The result is exhilaratingly cinematic while remaining true to the original's intent. Depp and Carter—his singing voice is far stronger than hers—make for a comically macabre pair: he filled with bottomless sorrow and wrath; she with romantic longing.

Will Smith, Salli Richardson, Alice Braga | PG-13 |

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SCI-FI

It says a lot about the enormous appeal of Smith as a movie star that he can go solo—his only companion is a pet dog—for most of this sci-fi thriller without viewers peeking at the time on their cell phones. Legend (a remake of 1964's The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price and 1971's The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston) follows a military scientist (Smith) who is the last survivor in Manhattan after a virus wipes out most humans and turns those who remain into bloodthirsty zombies. A cross between Cast Away and 28 Days Later, Legend is at its best in its first half, when it focuses on the minutiae of Smith's daily survival, rather than later on when it cranks up the horror quotient.

• She's getting Oscar buzz as Juno's pregnant teen, but Ellen Page insists she's just your average 20-year-old from Nova Scotia.

YOU LIVE IN HALIFAX! It's completely separate from the industry. I was walking down the street and this tough guy was like, "Are you that girl from X-Men: The Last Stand?" I was like, "Yeah," and he was like, "But you're wearin' sneakers!" He was so confused. What else would I wear? I think there is an illusion when I go home that I'm going to be different or wear Armani.

SO YOU'RE NOT INTO FASHION? I really am a used T-shirt kind of gal. I appreciate a good pair of jeans—that's about as far as I go.

HOW DO YOU STAY GROUNDED? I have awesome friends. It's just about keeping perspective. And I don't want to seem like, "Hey, look at me!" but I'll pay for the Thai takeout, you know what I mean?

WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THE OSCAR TALK? It's very exciting, but at the same time, it could easily not happen, so I wanna make sure I don't get carried away. I've seen For Your Consideration!

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR Gliding along on the potent charm of Tom Hanks (left, with Julia Roberts), War tells with comic brio how a debonair Congressman from Texas single-handedly pushed through funding for a covert war in Afghanistan two decades ago against the Russians. Written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) and directed by Mike Nichols (Closer), the film is breezily entertaining, though the next day you'll barely recall it. Roberts is slyly amusing as a sexy socialite. (R)

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THE GREAT DEBATERS Denzel Washington (right) both stars in and directs a worthy drama, which tells the true story of how a debate team at a small, black Texas college won national fame in the mid-1930s. The film raises issues still relevant today and boasts a bright young cast, including Jurnee Smollett and Denzel Whitaker. (PG-13)

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P.S. I LOVE YOU This mawkish misfire about a new widow proves that Hilary Swank (flanked by Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon) sadly lacks the "adorable" gene needed to be a romantic comedy heroine. (PG-13)

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