Movies

Opening This Week

Any Day Now See Steven Rea's preview on H2.

The Central Park Five Ken Burns is among the writers and directors of this documentary about a high-profile 1989 New York City rape and the five minority teens who were wrongly convicted of the crime.

Deadfall See Steven Rea's preview on H2.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey A hobbit and a band of dwarves battle a dragon for the treasure it stole from them. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) directs.

Hyde Park on Hudson See Steven Rea's preview on H2.

Only the Young Friends in a sleepy California desert town are the focus of this documentary.

Tchoupitoulas Three brothers thrive in New Orleans' nightlife in this documentary.

Excellent (****)

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

Holy Motors Writer-director Leos Carax's brilliant series of vignettes has Denis Lavant acting numerous characters. English and French with subtitles. 1 hr. 55 No MPAA rating (adult material and graphic sexual images) - W.S.

The Sessions A beautiful, funny, life-affirming film about the quadriplegic poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, who, at 38, sought a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star, brilliantly. 1 hr. 35 R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Silver Linings Playbook A head-spinning wonder of a movie about love, pain, reinvention, rehabilitation, and the totemic power of an NFL franchise, with Bradley Cooper as a guy dealing with bipolar disorder and heartbreak, Jennifer Lawrence as a young widow with her own troubles, and an amazing supporting cast. From director David O. Russell, based on Matthew Quick's novel, and about as Philly-centric as you can get. 2 hrs. 02 R (profanity, sex, drugs, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

Argo Ben Affleck stars in, and directs, the far-fetched but nonetheless factual tale of a CIA plot to extricate six U.S. Embassy workers from Tehran as the 1979 Iran hostage crisis unfolds. With Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and crackling humor amid the white-knuckle suspense. 2 hrs. R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Flight A high-wire drama about a commercial airline captain - Denzel Washington in an extraordinary, Oscar-worthy performance - who crash-lands a jet carrying "102 souls." Back on the ground, things get complicated - and all the more rewarding for the experience. 2 hrs. 18 R (sex, nudity, drugs, alcohol, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Killing Them Softly Brad Pitt is a hit man called in to clean up after a messy robbery of a mob- protected card game in Andrew Dominik's jolting, suspenseful, bloody, and bloody entertaining crime pic, adapted from a vintage George V. Higgins novel. With Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and a band of shifty mugs. 1 hr. 37 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis in an act of human alchemy, delivering an absolutely extraordinary performance as the 16th president of the United States, campaigning to end the Civil War and abolish slavery. A film about America's unique political process, and the leader trying to bend it to his will. 2 hrs. 29 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Rise of the Guardians Enchanting animated adaptation of William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood, featuring Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Jack Frost as the fantastic five who protect and serve children's imaginations. 1 hr. 29 PG (Animated adventure, gloomy villain. For those 6 and older) - C.R.

A Royal Affair Sumptuous 18th-century historical drama about a young, beautiful English noblewoman married off to the Danish king. A giggly simpleton, he would rather cavort with his dog, and then the queen (Alicia Vikander) begins a passionate affair with the monarch's personal physician (the charmingly sinister Mads Mikkelsen). Complications ensue. Exhilarating! 2 hrs. 17 R (sex, nudity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Also on Screens

Life of Pi *** Ang Lee's parable about a boy and a Bengal tiger adrift in a lifeboat (based on the best-seller by Yann Martel) is about the stories we tell to make peace with the incomprehensible. 2 hrs. 07 PG (its themes of loss and loss of innocence are best not for children under 12) - C.R.

Playing for Keeps *1/2 Though it stars the rakishly charming Gerard Butler and the charmingly flirty Jessica Biel, this would-be comedy about a former soccer star fallen on hard times is utterly charmless. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (sexual situations, profanity) - C.R.

Red Dawn *1/2 A laughably bad script and uniformly uncharismatic cast hobble this unnecessary, un-fun reboot of the 1984 Patrick Swayze/Charlie Sheen cult fave. Instead of Russians invading the U.S. of A., this time it's the North Koreans. High school resistance fighters aren't going to let them stay. 1 hr. 33 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Skyfall *** The 23d Bond film, and the third with Daniel Craig as the steely 007, takes a veddy British turn, even if it starts in Istanbul and hopscotches across the Pacific. Javier Bardem is the fey and psycho (and not terribly interesting) villain, and Judi Dench is back, and bristling, as M. There's a new young Q (Ben Whishaw), pleased with himself, and there's a fussy parliamentarian (Ralph Fiennes) displeased with MI6's security lapses. Bérénice Marlohe is the exotic Bond girl, Naomie Harris the empowered one. Great action, and a bit of Bond backstory, too. 2 hrs. 23 PG-13 (violence, intense action, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 **1/2 The trippiest and goofiest of the five filmic installments based on Stephenie Meyer's mega-selling books about teenage hormones and vampire beaus. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are newlyweds, and parents of a beatific baby girl, while Taylor Lautner finds another excuse to strip down to his jockey shorts. Over. Done. Nail that coffin shut. 1 hr. 55 PG-13 (sex, vampire-on-vampire violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Wreck-It Ralph *** Colorful, noisy, and pixel-deep diversion about Ralph (John C. Reilly), a video-game villain who wants to be a hero. In 3D. 1 hr. 33 PG (raucous humor, animated action violence, suitable for those 5 and older) - C.R.

Theater

Reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Peter Dobrin (P.D.), Jim Rutter (J.R.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.), David Patrick Stearns (D.P.S.), and Toby Zinman (T.Z.)

New This Week

ELFuego

 

(BCKSEET Productions) Fire has wreaked havoc with the labor situation at the North Pole, but one elf sees a solution. Opens Wednesday.

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Bucks County Playhouse) Back in Bedford Falls, with Justin Guarini. Preview Thursday, opens Friday.

Million-Dollar Quartet (Forrest Theater) Four future gods of rock-and-roll jam on Dec. 4, 1956. Opens Tuesday.

Oh What Fun (Act II Playhouse) Tony Braithwaite - who else? - powers this new holiday variety show. Previews Tuesday- Thursday, opens Friday.

The Winter Wonderettes (11th Hour Theatre Company) When Santa bails on the Harper's Hardware Christmas party, this snazzy quartet steps in. In previews, opens Monday.

Continuing

A Christmas Carol (Hedgerow Theatre) For the 20th year, Nagle Jackson's adaptation of Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge's redemption. Through Saturday.

 Aladdin (People's Light and Theatre) A return to form for the company's holiday panto brings back some old favorites and introduces some stellar new faces. Through Jan. 6. - W.R.

Cinderella (Arden Theatre) Generally antic and prone to bellowing, this new version of an old tale nonetheless conveys some admirable subtleties about the things people do to each other, and why. Through Jan. 27. - P.D.

Cooking With the Calamari Sisters (Society Hill Playhouse) Mamma Mia! Two guys portray behavior-challenged adult Italian sisters in a laugh-filled spoof of cooking shows that gets wilder as it progresses. Through Jan. 13. - H.S.

Dave and Aaron Go to Work (1812 Productions) A play where not a word is spoken. This brilliant comedy is about two mismatched guys and their misadventures. A delightful hour. Through Dec. 31. - T.Z

Dr. Dolittle (Media Theatre) Some lovely voices, charming kids, and lively dances can't lift this musical to the level of enchantment. Through Jan. 27.  

- J.R.

Freud's Last Session (Arden Theatre Company) An admirable production of an imagined meeting between Freud and C.S. Lewis where they debate theology. Through Dec. 23. - T.Z.

The Liar (Lantern Theatre Company) A delightful comedy in rhymed couplets, performed by a witty, nimble cast. David Ives adapts Corneille's 17th-century classic with style and gusto. Ends Sunday. - T.Z.

Marlene and the Machine (Bearded Ladies Cabaret) A German expressionist late-night experience, evoking Marlene Dietrich and Lotte Lenya. Through Dec. 15.

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge (New City Stage) In this updating by Christopher Durang, Bob Cratchit's saintly wife has had it up to here. Through Dec. 23.

The Music Man (Walnut Street Theatre) Though the production isn't handsome, the cast is - as well as smart and just about everything you could hope for in this still-magic Broadway classic. Through Jan. 6. - D.P.S.

Plaid Tidings (Walnut's Independence Studio on 3) A childish, not-so-funny show that wastes four good singing voices by not letting them sing enough. Through Dec. 30. - T.Z.

 The Real Inspector Hound (Curio Theatre Company) Tom Stoppard's play-within-a-play mystery parody - about theater critics. Through Dec. 29.

This Wonderful Life (People's Light and Theatre) Steve Murray's campy take on It's a Wonderful Life pokes its fun from a place of sincere affection, never once diminishing the magic of Frank Capra's tale. Through Dec. 23. - J.R.

Video

Ice Age: Continental Drift *** Manny, Diego, and Sid are forced into another adventure when their continent is set adrift. 1 hr. 27 PG (mild rude humor, action) - W.S.