Scott Marks 3:30 p.m., Dec. 24
Admittedly, yours truly is not the most informed critical voice to heed when it comes to assessing stodgy British costume dramas. (I tend to side with Francois Truffaut, who once referred to "British cinema" as an oxymoron.) Still, soon after the bits of choreographed slapstick at the film's opening, it became clear that when it comes to literary adaptations, Joe Wright should have stopped with Pride and Prejudice. Wright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard attempt to set the drama entirely on stage (though the conceit is all but dropped halfway through), and their use of theatrical gimmickry dwarfs the story's epic sweep, reducing it to an even bigger soap opera than the one Tolstoy imagined. The decorative bridging sequences are infinitely more engaging than the standard close-up, reverse angle coverage Wright employs in the stunted dialogue scenes. With Keira Knightly, Jude Law, Kelly Macdonald, and the insufferable Aaron Taylor-Johnson, whose posturing and vacant beauty perfectly suits this arid adaptation. 2012.