Recently reviewed films now showing in metro area theaters:

American Gangster (R) Director Ridley Scott takes some Martin Scorsese, a little Spike Lee and a few pages from the mob-movie handbook to create the greatest crime drama since "GoodFellas." Denzel Washington plays Harlem smack dealer Frank Lucas, who is being pursued by bulldog Jersey cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). An unqualified masterpiece. 4 stars - Michael Clark

Bee Movie (PG) Jerry Seinfeld's long-awaited feature film debut is like an episode of his old TV show, only three times longer and animated. Geared more toward adults than children, the first half's mostly wacky misadventures morph into a preachy and downbeat finale. It's ultimately saved by celebrity voice cameos from Sting, Ray Liotta, Larry King and Oprah Winfrey. 21/2 stars - MC

Beowulf (PG-13) Director Robert Zemeckis uses "motion-capture" animation in this brilliant adaptation of the classic epic poem. Pushing the PG-13 envelope far with bloody gore and suggestive erotica, the film is an eye-popping feast with humor inserted in just the right places and deep, resonant, universal themes. You won't find a more entertaining 2007 movie than this one. 4 stars - MC

Dan in Real Life (PG-13) Steve Carell shows more range than he ever has, but it's mostly a lost cause. A horrible combination of "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "The Waltons" by way of a Dear Abby advice column, the movie is designed to be a light, frothy romantic comedy but would have worked much better as an edgy, R-rated drama with regular injections of black humor. 2 stars - MC

Fred Claus (PG) Vince Vaughn stars as the title character and turns in a predictable Vaughn performance. His smart-aleck, charm-oozing bad boy offers acceptable contrast to Paul Giamatti's sad sack Santa, but the overlong movie itself is surprisingly stiff and serious. Evidently audiences agreed, as it posted a disappointing third place on opening weekend. 11/2 stars - MC

Lions for Lambs (R) Even the most fervent anti-war protesters will wince with embarrassment watching this preachy, boring and static talk-a-thon. The presence of megastars Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford (also the director) isn't enough to breathe any life into what amounts to a 90-minute, three-part lecture told in real time. 1 star - MC

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (G) Dustin Hoffman stars as a 243-year-old magic store owner preparing for death in this weak "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" rip-off. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Zach Helm ("Stranger Than Fiction") makes his directorial debut in a movie overflowing with great intent but done with completely flat-footed execution. 1 star - MC