Movies

Opening This Week

Django Unchained

See Steven Rea's review on H1.

Opens Tuesday

Les Miserables See Steven Rea's review on H1. Opens Tuesday

Not Fade Away See Steven Rea's preview on this page.

Parental Guidance Billy Crystal and Bette Midler star as grandparents who get more than they bargained for when they agree to watch their three grandchildren while their mother is out of town on business. Opens Tuesday

Promised Land See Steven Rea's preview on this page.

Excellent (****)

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

Monsters, Inc. 3-D This enchanting 2001 animated comedy that explains why beasties haunt the sleep of children returns to the big screen in 3-D. With the voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. 1 hr. 24 G (some sequences a little intense for the under-5 set) - C.R.

Rust and Bone Marion Cotillard is a trainer of orca whales, Matthias Schoenaerts is a homeless father of a small boy, and a couple of jolting events throw the two of them together in the south of France, in Jacques (A Prophet) Audiard's raw and beautiful melodrama. 2 hrs. R (sex, nudity, violence, profanity, adult themes) S.R.

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.

Hyde Park on Hudson Bill Murray disappears beneath the pince-nez and the presidential fedora, playing FDR during one fascinating summer weekend in 1939 when he and his wife host the King and Queen of England, and when a distant cousin (Laura Linney) falls in love with the polio-hobbled commander in chief. A charming, wistful film. 1 hr. 34 R (sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

The Impossible A family caught in the unbelievable carnage of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami - unbelievable, but true - with Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, and the remarkable young actor Tom Holland. A chilling but thrilling account of survival, visceral and inspiring. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (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.

Also on Screens

The Hobbit: The Journey Begins **

Bloated and blustery, the first installment of the film trilogy based on Tolkien's slim fairy tale finds furry-footed Bilbo Baggins reluctantly trekking across Middle-earth in the company of 13 grumpy dwarves and a worried wizard. Orcs and wargs, elves and goblins, great eagles and great spiders, furry little ponies, and giants made of stone get in their way - but not nearly as much as director Peter Jackson's obsession with newfangled movie technology. The 3-D, 48-frames-per-second business makes the whole thing look like hi-def Dr. Who. 2 hrs. 46

PG-13

(violence, adult themes) -

S.R.

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.

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.

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

Jekyll & Hyde

(Forrest Theatre) The good doctor at war with himself. Plus music! Opens Wednesday. Through Sunday.

Continuing

Aladdin

(People's Light & 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. Extended through March 10. - H.S.

Dave and Aaron Go to Work (1812 Productions) A play in which 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.

ELFuego (BCKSEET Productions) Kate Brennan's new musical about elf labor issues has amiable tunesmithing, but its themes never manage to form a union. Through Saturday. - W.R.

Freud's Last Session (Arden Theatre Company) An admirable production of an imagined meeting between Freud and C.S. Lewis in which they debate theology. Through next Sunday.

- T.Z.

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (Bucks County Playhouse) An evocative, persuasive fanfare for the common man, with a strong cast led by Justin Guarini. Through next Sunday. - D.P.S.

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. Ends Sunday.

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.

Oh, What Fun (Act II Playhouse) In this holiday show starring Tony Braithwaite, a few moments of humor sparkle through the unoriginal material. Through next Sunday. - J.R.

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 next Sunday. - T.Z.

The Real Inspector Hound (Curio Theatre Company) Tom Stoppard's clever one-act provides theatrical fun-and- games in this camped-up murder mystery. Through Saturday.

- T.Z.

This Wonderful Life (People's Light & 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. Extended through next Sunday. - J.R.

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

Video

Arbitrage ***

Slick and suspenseful financial-world thriller, with Richard Gere as a hedge-fund king whose world is collapsing under the weight of a huge accounting scam and a fatal car accident and its cover-up. With Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Nate Parker, and Laetitia Casta. 1 hr. 40

R

(sex, profanity, violence, adult themes) -

S.R.