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Box Office

January 16, 2009

Gran Torino

* 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

$29.5

million

$40.5 million

5 weeks

(1 week here)

Rated: R

Running time: 116 minutes

What it's about: An emotionally scarred and bitter Korean War veteran (Clint Eastwood, above) becomes the unlikely defender of the Hmong brother and sister (Bee Vang, Abney Her) who live next door.

Our take: Even for those who've been yearning to see Dirty Harry clean his hands, or have been waiting for another big action hero to play Messiah ever since Paul Newman stretched his arms out crucifix-style in Cool Hand Luke, this movie delivers only the second- and third-hand goods.

Bride Wars

* ( 1 STAR)

$21.1

million

$21.1 million

1 week

Rated: PG

Running time: 90 minutes

What it's about: The worst comedy idea since Springtime for Hitler, with no room for redeeming camp: Kate Hudson (above) and Anne Hathaway play inseparable friends who declare war when they wind up with the same June wedding day.

Our take: The destructive strokes and counterstrokes are numbingly stupid and demeaning; the whole thing sets off noxious fumes, like a smoky, damp sparkler.

The Unborn

* ( 1 STAR)

$19.8

million

$19.8 million

1 week

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 87 minutes

What it's about: The story of a young woman's demonic possession is infused with Jewish folklore, the Kabbalah and, gulp, the memory of Auschwitz. Ethan Cutkosky (above) stars.

Our take: The Unborn tries to be ambitious but progressively becomes incoherent over the course of the movie's mercifully brief 87 minutes.

Marley & Me

*** ( 3 STARS)

$11.4

million

$123.7 million

3 weeks

Rated: PG

Running time: 120 minutes

What it's about: Based on the autobiographical book by newspaper columnist John Grogan, Marley & Me is about a newly married couple (including Jennifer Aniston, above) who adopt a puppy.

Our take: If you have experienced the redemptive joy of coming home from a hard day at work, only to be greeted by a dog who just knows you're the best thing in the world, then this is the movie you've been waiting for.

... Benjamin Button

**** ( 4 STARS)

$9.2

million

$94.1 million

3 weeks

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 159 minutes

What it's about: In 1918, Benjamin Button (the never-better Brad Pitt, above) is born with an old face, dilapidated plumbing and wrinkled skin over an infant body. Then he ages backward.

Our take: Every chapter of Button's story brings a fresh air of discovery. And the movie's emotional completeness comes from a full comprehension not just of one man's life, but of the intersection of many lives over the course of the 20th century.

Bedtime Stories

* ( 1 STAR)

$8.8

million

$97.4 million

3 weeks

Rated: PG

Running time: 105 minutes

What it's about: Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler, above) discovers, while baby-sitting his niece and nephew, that elements of his made-up bedtime stories come true the next day.

Our take: If you look closely at Bedtime Stories, it is almost possible to see how the cast and crew were making up the movie as it went along. It's just a series of nonsensical events that at times are anchored by reality and at other times are pure fantasy.

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