Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Kristen Johnston, Candice Bergen, Bryan Greenberg | PG |

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COMEDY
It may not be the highest of praise, but Bride Wars is far easier to sit through than one would suspect based on its grating TV ads and movie trailer. The modest pleasures the comedy offers are due primarily to a lovely, tremulous performance by Hathaway and occasional welcome flashes of wit that sneak through in the script. A slick chick flick through and through, Wars follows the escalating battle of wills between two lifelong BFFs—ambitious lawyer Liv (Hudson) and elementary school teacher Emma (Hathaway)—after a chichi wedding planner (Bergen, regally gliding through) accidentally double-books their respective nuptials for the same day and hour at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel.

Watching Hathaway and Hudson go womano a womano is edifying. Hathaway beautifully conveys subtext, subtly revealing Emma's conflicted emotions through flickering facial expressions and an endearing gawkiness. But Hudson just plays cute, delivering her lines with ba-da-boom snap; she never ventures beneath the surface. Whatever the movie's ending, Hathaway handily wins this Wars.

Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell | R

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DRAMA
Like Valkyrie, this WWII drama does a decent job of telling a fascinating real-life tale that's too little known. When the Nazis marched into Belarus in 1941 and began rounding up and killing Jews, the four Bielski brothers (Craig and Schreiber play the two eldest) head for the woods and into hiding. The heroic siblings use the forest both to shelter an ever-growing number of other Jewish refugees and as a staging area from which to wage guerrilla warfare against the Nazis. While the story itself is inspiring, Defiance at times can't escape its essential Hollywoodness: Its charismatic stars suffer nobly even as they flash their perfect, gleaming white chompers and fetchingly belt their ersatz ragged costumes.

• The HSM alum, 24, plays a photographer in the Sean Penn drama Milk.

HOW WAS WORKING WITH SUCH AN ALL-STAR CAST?
Sean Penn, James Franco, Emile Hirsch ... It felt like a dream. One day James says to me, "I saw High School Musical last weekend. It was awesome!" I was like, this is insane.

DID YOU REALLY TAKE PICTURES ON-SET?
I did, while the cameras were rolling, so I didn't have to worry about pulling people aside to get a photo. It was great!

DO YOU MISS THE HSM GANG?
I was ready for it to end, but it is weird. I have an HSM basketball signed by everybody, and I look at it and say, "Wow, that's no more." It's relief and joy, but it's all good memories.

• In Wendy and Lucy, a harder-edged Marley & Me for the downwardly mobile, the actress proves astonishing.

1 SHE'S A MASTER MORPHER
Playing Wendy, a destitute woman driving to Alaska when her beloved dog Lucy goes missing, Williams simply becomes the character, never resorting to flashy tricks or tics.

2 CLOTHES DON'T MAKE THE WOMAN
No fancy costume changes for Williams, who wears the same grungy duds most of the film.

3 SHE WAS IN DAWSON'S CREEK
Proving that someday I may be writing similar encomiums to Gossip Girl alums.

GOOD
Viggo Mortensen (above left, with Jodie Whittaker) is a novelist and academic in pre-WWII Germany who allows self-interest to blind him to the full extent of Nazi evil. Though well-intentioned, this cautionary tale lacks dramatic oomph. (Not rated)

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CHE Shown in two parts that total more than 4 1/2 hours and presented almost entirely in Spanish (with subtitles), this arid biopic about revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara (Benicio Del Toro, above) proves a tough slog. Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven) directed, but Che too often plays like an Army training film. (R)

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