**** Excellent *** Good
** Fair * Poor
Reviewers: C.R., Carrie Rickey; S.R., Steven Rea; D.D., Dan DeLuca; T.D., Tirdad Derakhshani; D.H., David Hiltbrand; E.W., Elizabeth Wellington; E.H., Elizabeth Horkley; W.S., Inquirer wire services.
New This Week
Go for Sisters See review on Page 5.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug See Steven Rea's review on Page 4.
The Last Days on Mars See Tirdad Derakhshani's review on Page 4.
Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas See "Also Opening," Page 5.
Also on Screens
All Is Lost Robert Redford delivers the performance of his career in J.C. Chandor's majestic, melancholy film about a solo mariner, stranded on his sailboat in the Indian Ocean. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Best Man Holiday The old college friends from 1999's Best Man (Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terrence Howard and others) reunite for a long yuletide reunion during which secrets come spilling out and old wounds get reopened. The ensemble sparkles in the comedic moments, and suffers in the artificially melodramatic ones. 2 hrs. 4 R (emphatic profanity, nudity, adult themes) - D.H.
Black Nativity A modern-day Christmas musical about a Baltimore teenager (Jacob Latimore) sent to spend the holidays with the grandparents he never knew (Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett). Inspired by the Langston Hughes play, with Jennifer Hudson wailing away as the kid's hard-pressed single mom, and lots of rousing rap and gospel numbers, archetypal good guys and bad guys, and a homeless couple expecting a child. 1 hr. 33 PG (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
The Book Thief World War II melodrama about a German girl who learns to treasure words through her friendship with a Jewish refugee hiding in the basement. Adapted from the bestselling young-adult novel, and compromised by production design that is too beautiful by half - the Holocaust has never looked so good. With Sophie Nélisse in the title role, and Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the foster parents she comes to love. 2 hrs. 11 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Captain Phillips Based on the real-life story of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, with Tom Hanks in the title role as a steady-as-she-goes veteran forced to face his own mortality. Paul Greengrass (the second and third Bourne films, United 93) masterfully orchestrates the intense, suspenseful drama. 2 hrs. 14 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Dallas Buyers Club The "inspired by true events" tale of a party-hardy Texas cowboy and self-employed electrician who, in 1985, contracted the AIDS virus. Matthew McConaughey gives a literally transformative performance as this homophobic hellraiser, who won't accept the doctors' diagnosis that he has 30 days to live. He proves them wrong, becoming a cash-rich drug dispenser and patients'-rights advocate in the process, in this wild, colorful, compassionate film. 1 hr. 57 R (sex, nudity, drugs, profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Delivery Man Vince Vaughn stars in this more-than-serviceable remake of a French Canadian farce about an anonymous donor to a fertility clinic who discovers, several decades later, that he's the biological dad to literally hundreds of kids. And many of them now want to know where their DNA comes from. Lawsuit and laughs ensue. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (profanity, sex, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.
Flight of the Butterflies Monarch butterflies are followed along their annual migration in this Imax feature. Not Previewed
Free Birds Turkeys in a time machine? That's the rather desperate premise of this flaccid animated film that sends a couple of gobblers back to the first Thanksgiving. Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, and Amy Poehler do the voices. 1 hr. 31 PG (crude humor) - D.H.
Frozen A plucky princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) is joined by a slapstick snowman (Josh Gad) in a delightful animated film that is part fairy tale, part farce. 1 hr. 48 PG (fright) - D.H.
Gravity A transcendent zero-g tale of survival, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as orbiting astronauts caught in a debris storm - quite literally at the end of their tether. A technological marvel, and an emotional, spiritual, and physical voyage of stratospheric suspense. 1 hr. 30 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Homefront Jason Statham stars as a retired DEA agent, trying to go off the grid with his 10-year-old daughter in a sleepy Louisiana town - which suddenly isn't so sleepy when a crazed meth kingpin (James Franco) discovers who our hero really is. An updated take on the reluctant-hero western, from a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Bigger, better, and broodier, with Jennifer Lawrence back again, causing no end of trouble as the Districts' rabble smell rebellion in the air, and the Panem puppetmasters try to quash it. An Occupiers' parable about class warfare? A metaphor for teen defiance? Or just a kooky story of survival in a controlled environment where, sadly, most of the contestants must die? However you read it, this franchise rocks. 2 hrs. 26 PG-13 (violence, dystopian bleakness, adult themes) - S.R.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa MTV reality star Johnny Knoxville eighty-sixes himself - that is, he puts on old-age makeup, a wig, and pretends he's 86 - in this R-rated road pic in which his obnoxious octogenarian travels the land in the company of his 8-year-old grandson. Stuff happens. 1 hr. 32 R (strong crude and sexual content throughout, profanity, graphic nudity, drug use) - W.S.
Last Vegas Four aging lifelong friends attempt to relive their youth in Las Vegas in celebration of one's engagement. Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, and Kevin Kline star. 1 hr. 45 PG-13 (profanity, partial nudity, sexual situations, hemorrhoid jokes) - T.D.
Nebraska Bruce Dern in a career-defining performance as an ornery coot who believes he's won a $1 million prize, and heads from Montana to Nebraska to claim it. His son (Will Forte) reluctantly tags along, in Alexander Payne's funny, sad, poignant, absurd road movie. In black-and-white. It's a gem. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Oldboy Josh Brolin gloweringly stars in this strange and superfluous remake of an ultraviolent Korean film. Toxic stuff from director Spike Lee. With Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharlto Copley. 1 hr. 44 R (extreme violence, profanity, substance abuse, nudity, adult themes) - D.H.
Out of the Furnace Casey Affleck and Christian Bale are brothers facing hard times, and hard choices, in this gripping Rust Belt noir. A solemn, blood-soaked drama about broken dreams. Cue the Springsteen. 1 hr. 56 R (violence, profanity, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.
Philomena A surprisingly tough and tender tale from director Stephen Frears, adapted from the true story of a 70-something Irish woman (Judi Dench) looking to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption when she was an unwed teen, and of the cynical veteran journalist (Steve Coogan) who tags along on her quest. 2 hrs. 02 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Ring of Fire This Imax documentary looks at the ring of volcanos in and around the Pacific Ocean.
Space Junk 3D This Imax documentary looks at the vast amount of space debris orbiting Earth and the extent to which it jeopardizes space exploration.
The sequel to 2011's
is darker and messier, with much of the action restricted to Asgard and the Nine Realms - where a freaky alignment has allowed the long-banished Dark Elves to reemerge and make trouble for the God of Thunder. Chris Hemsworth, in red cape, breastplate, and wielding his magic hammer, is back in the title role. 2 hrs.
(action, violence, adult themes)
The remarkable, essential story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. The British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gives body and soul in the lead, and Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt are part of a superb supporting cast. 2 hrs. 13
(violence, nudity, profanity, adult themes)