THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE
Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams | PG-13 |

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ROMANCE
Next time your husband goes to the store for milk and doesn't come home for two hours because he bumps into a buddy, cut him a break. It could be worse. Clare (McAdams) is married to Henry (Bana), who frequently and without warning disappears for days and even weeks as he involuntarily time-travels into his own past or future. Pffft—suddenly he's gone, leaving Clare staring at a crumpled pile of his clothes on the floor.

As Ladies' Home Journal would ask, "Can this marriage be saved?" The Time Traveler's Wife, based on a bestseller by Audrey Niffenegger, is a swoony love story that gets too caught up in explaining the mechanics and minutiae of its hero's wandering woes, including a subplot in which a doctor discovers Henry is "chrono-impaired." Though some viewers may willingly jump feet first into this big bucket of goop, I found myself—despite a meltingly lovely performance by McAdams and an appealingly stoic one by Bana—put off by such queasy-making scenes as Henry chatting up Clare when he's a 40ish adult and she's a young girl, and later sharing a romantic kiss when she's still a teen. Ewww.

Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope | R

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

SCI-FI
Attention, smart movie shoppers: Get two for the price of one—a clever political film and a kick-ass sci-fi thriller. In District 9 the two concepts mesh with splendid success. When their spaceship stalls over Johannesburg, towering, crustacean-like aliens—dismissively labeled "prawns" by local humans—are rescued but then fenced into a squalid shantytown. An obvious analogy to apartheid, 9 shows how the prejudices of one man (Copley) change—it's Alien Like Me—after a virus begins to transform him into an alien. Overflowing with action, cool special effects and even a Transformers-like robot scene at the end, this unexpected summer treat (produced by Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson) is not to be missed.

Gaelan Connell, Aly Michalka, Vanessa Hudgens | PG |

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DRAMA
A geeky, picked-on teen (Connell, a likable Shia LaBeouf lookalike) moves to a new town and finds himself torn between two high school hotties (Hudgens and Michalka). Hey, it could happen. Sweeter and smarter than it has to be, this teen drama centers on figuring out who you really are and, oh yes, a contest between high school rock bands. The film runs a little long for adult viewers, but at least Lisa Kudrow (as Connell's mom) pops up periodically to enchant with a tart zinger.

Voices by Frankie Jonas, Noah Cyrus, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Betty White, Lily Tomlin | G |

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ANIMATED
Fred, 9, my consultant on kids' movies, makes my job easy. After seeing Ponyo—the latest magical offering from Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki (Howl's Moving Castle)—Fred piped up, "The great thing about Miyazaki's movies is that they are for kids, but they're for adults too." Um, buddy, may I quote you on that?

Ponyo—inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid—tells of a goldfish named Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus, Miley's kid sister) who longs to be a real live girl. How she becomes one, and what happens next, makes for a humorous and heart-swelling adventure. And the drawing is astonishingly beautiful, never more so than when Ponyo runs atop ocean waves.

>Library or multiplex? Leah's call on lit flicks.

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel wins. The book offers layers of feeling and meaning merely skated on by the film.

JULIE & JULIA This tasty flick is based on Julie Powell's 2005 memoir Julie & Julia and Julia Child's 2006 tome My Life in France. The movie beats Powell's icky-cute book, but Child's memoir is most delicious of all.

MY SISTER'S KEEPER The movie is far from great, but at least improves on the ridiculous ending of Jodi Picoult's 2004 novel.

>• Half of a pop duo with her sister AJ, the 20-year-old makes her big-screen debut.

ON GETTING STARTED EARLY When I was 10 AJ and I wrote our first song with our mom. We've always been into putting on a show.

ON BANDSLAM DOWNTIME We did karaoke at this hole-in-the-wall. You got onion chips as a prize if you won. We sang "Livin' on a Prayer." It was wild.

ON FAME'S PITFALLS You won't see me involved with scandals or nude pictures. The root of that is low self-esteem.

ON CLUBBING I'd rather be at home in my pajamas!

>I LOVE YOU, MAN Paul Rudd cements his hold on the King of the Cute Nice Guys title with his hilarious turn in a wickedly funny raunchathon about male bonding, now on DVD. Jason Segel and Rashida Jones costar. (R)

>• She's got a new baby, steamy scenes with Ashton Kutcher in the film Spread and a role as a high-strung ex on HBO's Hung.

YOU'RE IN GREAT SHAPE IN SPREAD. I had to be in bathing suits so I focused on sit-ups. Ashton was always teasing me about whose stomach was flatter. I wanted my body to reflect what women are obsessed with in L.A.: youth and being fit.

THEN YOU GOT PREGNANT AND GAVE BIRTH TO ATLAS IN MARCH. HOW'S HE? A real bundle of joy. He's so easy I can't believe it. He cracks a smile every time he opens his eyes.

DOES HOMER, 7, LIKE BEING A BIG BROTHER? He really likes it! It took him a little bit; it's hard to share attention. But he found his stride and he's very protective now.

HOW ARE YOU AND YOUR BEAU JAMES TUPPER ADAPTING? He's a wonderful dad and I think I'm calmer than I was the first time. [Homer] is incredible so I'm not so panicked about doing [everything] right.

YOU FILMED HUNG EIGHT DAYS AFTER GIVING BIRTH! HOW? The camerawoman helps. The costumes ... Everyone works with me on my TV body!