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Posted 1/13/2010

THE BOOK OF ELI Denzel Washington stars as the titular loner badass who wanders a post-apocalyptic somewhere protecting a sacred book from Gary Oldman--or something like that, suggests the trailer. Directed by Albert and Allen Hughes, their first feature outings since 2001's From Hell. Opens Jan. 15.

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 A musical about the Depression? It's so crazy, it just might work, for Gold Diggers of 1933 and for the Broadway show within the film. A poverty-flummoxed producer (Ned Sparks) tries to mount said extravaganza with a handful of his favorite showgirls (including Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, and Ginger Rogers) and an assist from a young composer (Dick Powell) with a fat bankroll and a secret. That's about it as far as the plot goes--this is exactly the sort of dithery, featherweight 1930s movie Woody Allen affectionately sent up in The Purple Rose of Cairo. But, as herded right along by journeyman director Mervyn LeRoy, Gold Diggers is surprisingly funny, and even touching here and there. Most importantly, the jaw-dropping production numbers demonstrate why people still remember the name Busby Berkeley, and why the film deserves to be seen on the big screen. Berkeley-orchestrated highlights include Rogers singing "We're in the Money" in pig Latin, a cavalcade of cops on roller skates, the female choristers donning grope-proof metal corsets, the masterful "Shadow Waltz" sequence, and the downcast Sturm und Drang finale, complete with a bluesy salute to all the out-of-work doughboys. It is about the Depression, remember? (Lee Gardner) At the Charles Theatre at noon Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. Jan. 18, and 9 p.m. Jan. 21.

THE LOVELY BONES Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Saoirse Ronan star in Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's 2002 oddly sentimental novel about the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in the early 1970s. Opens Jan. 15.

SIR! NO SIR! David Zieger's 2005 documentary about the anti-war movement of the 1960s and '70s led by military veterans then recently returned from Vietnam, with unambiguous parallels between that unpopular war and the current one. At Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

THE SPY NEXT DOOR Jackie Chan stars in this family flick as an international operative who turns to his skills while babysitting the neighbor's (Amber Valletta) children. No, really. Opens Jan. 15.

WINTER VISIONARY FILM SERIES This week's installment of AVAM's winter series features two documentary shorts about visionary California artists. "Grandma Prisbrey's Bottle House" looks at Tressa "Grandma" Prisbrey's folk art bottle village in Simi Valley, while "Possum Trot" stops in the titular amusement park created by Calvin and Ruby Black east of Barstow, Calif. At the American Visionary Art Museum Jan. 14 at 7 p.m.

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