Movies

Opening This Week

The Adventures of Tintin

Steven Spielberg directs this animated family feature about the adventures of a brave young reporter and his trusty dog.

Opens Wednesday

The Artist See Steven Rea's preview on H2.

The Darkest Hour Five young adults in Moscow struggle for their lives when aliens attack Earth. Opens Christmas Day

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Daniel Craig stars as a journalist trying to unlock the secrets behind a powerful family. Opens Tuesday

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol See Steven Rea's preview on H2. Opens Wednesday

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy See Steven Rea's preview on H2.

War Horse The bond between a young man and his horse is put to the test during World War I. Opens Christmas Day

We Bought a Zoo A recently widowed father (Matt Damon) moves his family to the country to rehabilitate and operate a zoo. Thomas Haden Church and Scarlett Johansson also star.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Carrie Rickey (C.R.), Steven Rea (S.R.), and Sam Adams (S.A.). W.S. denotes a wire service review.

The Descendants George Clooney

in one of the most satisfying performances of his career - angry, sad, vulnerable, loving, foolish, comically discombobulated - as a Hawaiian lawyer coping with a family crisis and a daunting inheritance. From Alexander Payne, of Sideways and About Schmidt fame. Satisfying on every level. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.

Martha Marcy May Marlene A star-making turn for Elizabeth Olsen as a woman who escapes a creepy commune and tries to put the pieces of her life back together in the lakeside house of her sister and brother-in-law. Unnerving, in a beautiful, accomplished, haunting way. 2 hrs. R (violence, nudity, sex, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

Arthur Christmas

It's Christmas night, and Santa's son needs Pop's operation for an urgent mission of his own in this fun, animated family feature. 1 hr. 40

PG

(mild rude humor) -

W.S.

Being Elmo This documentary looks at Kevin Clash, the man from working-class Baltimore who created the lovable Muppet. 1 hr. 16 PG (mild language including a brief drug reference) - C.R.

Happy Feet Two Happy Feet's tap-dancing penguin hero, Mumble, has fathering problems of his own when it turns out his son Erik can't dance or sing. But when melting Antarctic ice threatens the safety of their colony, father and son - along with an obstreperous elephant seal and a self-help-spouting seabird named Sven - cross the continent to save their species, learning a few new steps along the way. 1 hr. 57 PG (rude humor and mild peril) - S.A.

Melancholia Lars von Trier's storm-tossed meditation on depression begins with a comically elaborate wedding reception and ends with a newly discovered planet on a collision course with Earth. Kirsten Dunst is simply remarkable, and the great, eccentric cast includes Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, Alexander Skarsgård, and Kiefer Sutherland. 2 hrs. 15 R (profanity, sex, nudity, adult themes) - S.R.

Also on Screens

The Muppets ***

Jason Segel stars with Amy Adams and a little felt guy named Walter in this rollicking reboot of the late Jim Henson's fur-ball franchise. Goofy song-and-dance numbers, slapstick silliness, winking we-know-this-is-a-

movie cutup asides - and all of it with heart. And with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, and Animal, too. 1 hr. 38 PG (mildly rude humor, adult themes) - S.R.

New Year's Eve ** A ridiculously well-stocked cast (Hilary Swank, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel and many more) search for holiday magic in this formulaic comedy. 1 hr. 58 PG-13 (sexual references, mild profanity) - D.H.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ** The sequel's afoot, with Robert Downey Jr. returning as the Victorian-era action hero, Jude Law playing his dutiful, doctorly sidekick, Watson, and Jared Harris as the evil mastermind Moriarty. Lots of stop-and-start fight scenes, lots of explosions, lots of pseudo-ratiocinating smartypants talk. 2 hrs. 09 PG-13 (violence, action, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.

The Sitter ** Jonah Hill stars as a layabout suburban nerd who reluctantly agrees to watch three obnoxious kids for the night - and ends up taking them on a wild ride into the big city, where mayhem, menace and a pileup of profanity ensues. Adventures in Babysitting meets Pineapple Express. 1 hr. 21 R (profanity, sex, violence, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I *** Swoony to the point of delirium, the one where the Virgin (Kristen Stewart) marries the Vampire (Robert Pattinson) implicitly links sex and death with undying love. Well-directed by Bill Condon. 1 hr. 57 PG-13 (sexual suggestion, vampire and werewolf violence, surgical candor) - C.R.

Young Adult *** Charlize Theron inhabits every inch of the bitter ex-prom queen who returns home to steal her old high-school beau away from his wife and newborn. Pitch-black comedy, but the script falls apart exactly when it needs to be most taut and true. From the Juno team of director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. 1 hr. 34 R (sex, nudity, profanity, alcohol, adult themes) - S.R.

Theater

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

New This Week

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

(Gas and Electric Arts) A wise man and a little girl, armed with pickles and a dreidel, battle holiday-hating goblins. Preview Tuesday, opens Wednesday.

Continuing

A Cappella Humana

(Delaware Theatre Company) This world- premiere modern retelling of the Nativity story as a reality show is

full of gospel and traditional music, excellent until it falters at the end with a pummeling heavy hand. Great cast. Ends Sunday. - H.S.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Curio Theatre Company) A dated political comedy thoroughly mired in postwar European issues and thus irrelevant to contemporary American audiences - desperately unfunny. Through Jan. 7. - T.Z.

A Christmas Carol (Hedgerow Theatre) Nagle Jackson's adaptation of the classic is a Hedgerow tradition. Through Saturday.

Charlotte's Web (Arden Theatre Company) ) Super-sweet production with no saccharine. Charlotte was right, that's some pig. Through Jan. 29. - W.R.

A Dickens Christmas (Hedgerow Theatre) Jared Reed is Charles Dickens as he reads his A Christmas Carol. Through Saturday.

Gypsy (Bristol Riverside Theatre) Tovah Feldshuh stars as the best worst stage mom ever, in a downright maniacal characterization that works, with an excellent cast. Through Jan. 15. - H.S.

Jersey Boys (Forrest Theatre) They're back, walking like men - a new national-tour cast that's superb in an audience-wowing show about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Through Jan. 14. - H.S.

The King and I (Walnut Street Theatre) Rachel York's golden-age- of-Broadway performance and director and choreographer Marc Robin's innovations combine to make a classic even more so. Through Jan 8. - W.R.

Laughing All the Way (Act II Playhouse) Tony Braithwaite's variety show brings special guests, skits and improv for a G-rated good time. Through Dec. 31. - W.R.

Motherhood (Society Hill Playhouse) Mommy's got her own energetic musical revue, polished for maximum laughs. Lots of fun for moms and more. Extended through Dec. 31. - H.S.

Noël and Gertie (Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio) A play with songs about Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence attempts that old-timey savoir faire, but mostly manages only old-timey. Through Dec. 31. - T.Z.

Ordinary Days (11th Hour Theatre Company) This chamber musical is sentimental, entirely predictable, but an altogether pleasant evening in the theater. Ends Sunday. - T.Z.

Private Lives (Lantern Theater Company) Noël Coward's well-worn classic gets an impressive boost in a production that goes straight for the laughs. Through Dec. 31.

- H.S.

The Santaland Diaries (Flashpoint Theatre) David Sedaris' Crumpet the Elf is back. Ends Sunday.

The Sound of Music (Media Theatre) The music's certainly alive in this robustly sung version, but the production is uneven. Cute kids and a sweet-voiced Maria, Elisa Matthews. Through Jan. 15. - H.S.

This Is the Week That Is (1812 Productions) Our unfunny world has provided plenty of material for this funny company's spoof - just the ticket when the real news gets you down. Through Dec. 31. - T.Z.

Treasure Island (People's Light & Theatre) Here we go again! It's panto season, and the crew is on board - pirates, guy in a dress, solid chase scene - and lots of laughs. Through Jan. 8. - H.S.

Un Viaje: A Christmas Journey (Walking Fish Theatre) This bilingual kids' holiday show has the attention-deficit disorderliness of TV's Sabado Gigante, but less coherent. Through Dec. 30. - W.R.

Voices of Christmas (Theatre Horizon) An evening of holiday musical storytelling. Through Dec. 31.

The Whipping Man (Arden Theatre) This often absorbing, well-acted play about a Confederate soldier who comes home to find no family and only two former slaves has its bumps along the way. Ends Sunday. - H.S.

Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them (New City Stage) An assault on the "war on terror," this leaden farce is the perfect demonstration of how short the shelf life of political humor is. Through Jan. 8. - T.Z.

Video

Midnight in Paris ***1/2

A delightful shaggy-dog story with Owen Wilson as its shaggy hero. What's he doing in a Woody Allen movie about a B-list screenwriter who time-travels from the present to the Jazz Age? Disarming the audience with his wistful joie de vivre, that's what. 1 hr. 34

PG-13

(sexual references) -

C.R.