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

August Rush (PG) Freddie Highmore ("Finding Neverland") is the only interesting facet of this blatant modern rip-off of "Oliver Twist." If you dread predictable or saccharine-laced movies, steer far clear of "August Rush." But if you revel in feel-good weepies, rush on over to see it - you'll be reaching for a hanky even before the opening credits finish. 2 stars - MC

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

Enchanted (PG) The Disney studios do the near impossible here, skewering their entire "fairy-tale" catalog while simultaneously paying homage to it. Amy Adams as the charmingly precious lead princess is never less than brilliant. Patrick Dempsey as a skeptical attorney and James Marsden as a vacuous prince take turns as love interests. 31/2 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

Hitman (R) Not quite based on the video game of the same name, "Hitman" is a quickly slapped together hodgepodge of other sharp-shooting action films. Fans of the game have complained, citing it strays too far from the original concept. For audiences not familiar with the game and looking only for gunfire and pyrotechnics, "Hitman" will make for a passable, if weak, way to kill 90 minutes. 2 stars - MC

I'm Not There (R) Like Bob Dylan himself, writer/director Todd Haynes' brilliant, all-over-the-place biopic of the singer refuses to be labeled or pinned down. Its inscrutable tone and scattershot narrative will make clear sense only to the most ardent Dylan fans, and Haynes' choice to use six actors to play variations of his personas will only add to the confusion. 31/2 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

Margot at the Wedding (R) Filmmaker Noah Baumbach's follow-up to the far superior "Squid and the Whale" contains similarly presented family dysfunction themes. But "Squid" benefited because of its depth, character arc and underlying hope. "Margot" has none of these qualities. It's mean-spirited and shallow, yet is, in a twisted way, a valid piece of work. 21/2 stars - MC

The Mist (R) After crafting a classic Stephen King adaptation ("The Shawshank Redemption"), then a so-so one ("The Green Mile"), director/adaptor Frank Darabont hits rock-bottom with "The Mist." Less a spooky, supernatural horror flick than clumsy, socio-political parable, the film is 30 minutes too long and features one of the most depressing endings of all 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

No Country for Old Men (R) The Coen brothers return to their glorious, "Blood Simple" beginnings with this stark and brutal crime thriller adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel. Javier Bardem plays an assassin on the trail of a Vietnam vet (Josh Brolin) who stumbled upon $2 million in dirty money. Tommy Lee Jones co-stars as the sheriff chasing them. 31/2 stars - MC

Sleuth (R) Producer Jude Law certainly tapped the talent well when preparing this remake of the 1972 original. He cast himself in the role originally played by Michael Caine, cast Caine in the Laurence Olivier role, brought in Kenneth Branagh to direct and enlisted Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter to pen the screenplay. Starting out strong, the film takes a nosedive halfway through and never recovers. 21/2 stars - MC