Movies

Opening This Week

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel The singing trio is back for another go-round. Opens Wednesday

Broken Embraces A writer rekindles memories of the tragic accident that left him blind and without the woman he loved. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Penélope Cruz. English and Spanish with subtitles.

It's Complicated See Steven Rea's preview elsewhere on this page.

Nine See Steven Rea's preview elsewhere on this page.

Sherlock Holmes Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law star as Holmes and Watson in this latest take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective.

A Single Man See Steven Rea's preview elsewhere on this page.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Carrie Rickey (C.R.), Steven Rea (S.R.), and David Hiltbrand (D.H.); W.S. denotes a wire-service review.

Fantastic Mr. Fox The fur flies in Wes Anderson's stop-motion- animation gem about an erudite predator and his burrowing brood. With the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray, this adaptation of a Roald Dahl book is the best animated film of the year, and maybe the best film, period. 1 hr. 27 PG (cartoon violence, "cussin," adult themes) - S.R.

Up in the Air As the frequent-flying "career transition counselor" (read: the suave bully you hire when you're scared to fire employees), George Clooney gives the performance of his career. Jason Reitman's movie is perfectly tailored to the star's melancholy twinkle and purring motormouth. With the sublime Vera Farmiga and quirky Anna Kendrick. 1 hr. 48 R (language, sexual content) - C.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

Avatar James Cameron's mega- expensive technological marvel is also a whole lot of fun: A gamer generation's Dances With Wolves, with a human soldier (and his avatar) falling in love with a blue-skinned alien from the planet Pandora. 2 hr. 41 PG-13 (violence, aggressive action, alien beasts, adult themes) - S.R.

Brothers Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman deliver the best work of their careers in this keenly observed and heartbreaking remake of the 2004 Danish film about a soldier gone to war, and the wife and black-sheep brother he leaves behind. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, scenes of torture, sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

An Education Disarming and unexpectedly poignant story set in 1961 of a dreamy, Oxford-bound 16-year-old (enchanting Carey Mulligan) who takes up with a sophisticated older man (Peter Sarsgaard). Pungently realized by filmmaker Lone Scherfig from the memoir by Lynn Barber. 1 hr. 35 PG-13 (discreet sexual content, smoking) - C.R.

Me and Orson Welles Richard Linklater's spirited reimagining of what went on with charismatic madman Orson Welles as he and his Mercury Players mounted their historic production of Julius Caesar in 1930s New York - before Citizen Kane was even a gleam in his eye. Christian McKay, as the young, blustery Welles, is riveting. With Zac Efron and Claire Danes. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (sex, adult themes) - S.R.

The Princess and the Frog This jazzy, pizzazzy, and enchanting Disney animated musical of the old-school, hand-drawn style features a scrappy new-school heroine - one who is both self-made and prince- completed. Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Tiana, a hardworking waitress hoping to save enough tips to buy her own restaurant, and Bruno Campos is a Mediterranean prince who steps into some deep voodoo when he disembarks in 1919 New Orleans. 1 hr. 37 G (some scary ghosts, may be too intense for viewers under 7) - C.R.

Also on Screens

The Blind Side **1/2

Sandra Bullock stars as a Southern woman who takes a destitute teen into her home. Based on a true story, it's part sports saga, all tearjerker. 2 hrs. 08.

PG-13

(violence; drug and sex references) -

D.H.

Disney's A Christmas Carol ** Robert Zemeckis' visually immersive, emotionally uninvolving animation of the Charles Dickens evergreen features motion-capture performances by Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, and Robin Wright Penn. Lost in the video-game effects and ghostly grotesquerie is the redemptive saga of the man who learns that his stinginess has spiritually deformed him. 1 hr. 36 PG (really creepy effects, unsuitable for those under 10) - C.R.

Invictus *** Rousing sports inspirational starring Morgan Freeman as newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela, who seizes upon the gladiatorial game of rugby to unify angry blacks and scared whites in his nation after the fall of apartheid. With Matt Damon. 2 hrs. 14 PG-13 (profanity) - C.R.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon *** Swoony love triangle plus swoopy camera work equals this abstinence-makes-the-heart-grow-

fonder adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's young-adult romance novel. With angst-princess Kirsten Stewart, passion prince Robert Pattinson, and studmuffin Taylor Lautner. 2 hrs. 10 PG-13 (girl in peril, threats of terror, vampire and werewolf violence) - C.R.

2012 **1/2 Roland Emmerich sure knows how to make a doomsday movie with a happy ending. This preposterously diverting film starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Cusack, and Danny Glover is a wild ride that says, it's OK if eight billion die as long as eight movie stars - and the dog - live. 2 hrs. 28 PG-13 (intense disaster and destruction, profanity, children and dogs in peril) - C.R.

Theater

Reviewed by critics Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.), and Toby Zinman (T.Z.).

New This Week

The World of Jewtopia

(Kimmel Center) A hit wherever it goes, this Broadway-bound festival of humor, shtick, and stereotypes opens Christmas Eve and runs through Sunday.

Continuing

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

(Bckseet Productions) The humbuggiest comedy of all is about the jolly old fat guy who has got a thing for reindeer, not to mention children and elves. The bucks and does tell us all about it. Ends Wednesday.

- T.Z.

Holiday Show With the Swing Club Band (Theatre Horizon) Seasonal swing for hepcats! Through Jan. 3.

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Delaware Theatre Company) The same old story told in a new and not particularly exciting - though well-acted - way. Ends today. - W.R.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (New Candlelight Theatre) The Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber biblical tale of a boy and his brothers, by a charismatic cast that stresses the show's elements by the way it acts through songs. Ends today. - H.S.

Little Shop of Horrors (11th Hour Theatre Company/Theatre Horizon) A joint production of this horticultural-horror musical is, in Center City, less dark and rich than it was in Norristown, but still sparkling fun. Ends today. - H.S.

Oliver! (Walnut Street Theatre) You couldn't ask for a better rendition of this musical based on Dickens' Oliver Twist. Superb cast, Mark Clements' fine staging, Lionel Bart's great songs, and Victorian London's mean streets - it's all here. Through Jan. 10. - H.S.

Peter Pan (Arden Theatre Company) Douglas Irvine's new adaptation is sweet, but the real stars of this production are the Arden's set, puppet, and costume-design team. Through Jan. 24. - W.R.

Rabbit Hole (Arden Theater) David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer-winning play about a couple dealing with the loss of their 4-year-old son is, like the production, sometimes convincing and sometimes not. Ends today. - T.Z.

Red, White, and Tuna (Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio) Unlike the first two hilarious Tuna plays, the quick-change, two-actor, many-character trilogy about the benighted residents of this Texas town concludes on a flat, unfunny note. Through Jan. 3. - T.Z.

The Santaland Diaries (Flashpoint Theatre Company) For the fifth time, Derick Loafmann dons pointy shoes in this funny, sweet staged version of David Sedaris' classic essay about his tenure as a Macy's elf. Ends today. - W.R.

Scapin (Lantern Theatre Company) A holiday frolic, full of funny fun, likely to amuse everybody. Moliere's classic comedy has been adapted for contemporary tastes by the great clown Bill Irwin and further tweaked by puppeteer Aaron Cromie. A hugely enjoyable evening. Through Jan. 3. - T.Z.

Snow White (People's Light & Theatre) This year's panto doesn't match last year's spectacular success, but still provides everything kids have come to expect. Through Jan. 3. - W.R.

This Is the Week That Is (1812 Productions) This annual satiric look - this year, focusing on the new administration - hits and misses, but the cast is uniformly classy and endearing. Through Jan. 3. - H.S.

When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? (New City Stage Company) Things get messy at the diner. Through Jan. 11.

The Wizard of Oz (Media Theatre) Acting and singing are fine, but the production suffers from uninspired stage effects and a pedestrian look. Through Jan. 10. - H.S.

Video

(500) Days of Summer ***

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel star in this engagingly breezy tale of a guy with a broken heart and the girl who broke it. Too cute at times, but easy to live with. 1 hr. 35

PG-13

(adult themes) - S.R.