**** 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; W.S., Inquirer wire services.
See review on Page 4.
The Captive See review on Page 6.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies See review on Page 5.
Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb See review on Page 4.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Ed Oxenbould plays the boy who unintentionally jinxes his parents (Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner) and siblings. Comic mayhem ensues . . . predictably. An adequate if artificial kids' comedy. 1 hr. 21
(profanity, acts of recklessness)
The Babadook From Australian director Jennifer Kent, an effectively creepy, darkly amusing look at the challenges of single-parenting. A horror story about a mother and her son, haunted and taunted by a picture-book bogeyman come to life. It is imaginary, isn't it? 1 hr. 33 No MPAA rating (blood, bugs, things that go bump in the night) - S.R.
Beyond the Lights 1/2 A superstar singer finds help in dealing with her new-found fame from a young police officer who is assigned to protect her. 1 hr. 56 PG-13 (sexual content including partial nudity, language, suggestive gestures) - W.S.
Big Hero 6 1/2 Set in a wonderfully realized near-future San Francisco, this animated feature follows an adolescent robotics inventor and his puffy, inflatable companion. Disconcertingly violent and mature for a Disney kids' film. 1 hr. 48 PG (violence) - D.H.
Birdman Michael Keaton is a faded Hollywood star trying to reclaim his career by mounting a Broadway drama in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's fierce, funny, breathless dive inside the head of a man in deep trouble. An exhilarating, out-of-the-blue masterwork that ranks as one of the best films not just of the year, but of the decade, the century. With Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Naomi Watts. 1 hr. 59 R (profanity, violence, sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Citizenfour 1/2 Director Laura Poitras enjoyed remarkable accessibility to whistleblower Edward Snowden as he was leaking the documents that revealed just how much private information our government has been gathering on its citizens. A documentary with strong if limited appeal. 1 hr. 54 R (profanity) - D.H.
Diplomacy 1/2 Niels Arestrup and André Dussollier are electrifying in Volker Schlöndorff's tense, suspenseful adaptation of the WWII play by Cyril Gely. It's a fact-based account of the Swedish diplomat (Dussollier) who on the morning of Aug. 25, 1944, persuaded Paris' otherwise draconian Nazi governor, Général von Choltitz, to disobey Hitler's direct order to use bombs and mines to grind the City of Light into rubble before the Allies capture it. 1 hr. 25 No MPAA rating (shocking subject matter, violence) - T.D.
Dumb and Dumber To Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles as the intelligence-challenged Lloyd and Harry. Don't ask why. Just get down in this trough of crude humor and root around. 1 hr. 50 PG-13 (profanity, crude and sexual humor, nudity and drug references) - D.H.
Exodus: Gods and Kings Ridley Scott's big and curious cinematic retelling of the story of Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, the burning bush, the march of the Israelites out of Egypt. All the impressive CG effects in the world can't make up for clunky dialogue and one-note thespian-izing. With Christian Bale as the bearded, beleaguered Hebrew prophet, Joel Edgerton as his shiny-domed, eyelinered adoptive sibling, Ramses, and a cast of thousands - most of them virtual. 2 hrs. 30 PG-13 (violence, plagues, adult themes) - S.R.
Force Majeure 1/2 Sweden's official entry in the foreign-language Oscar race finds a family vacationing in the French Alps, where husband and wife are put to the test following a jarring event. Cannes-winning filmmaker Ruben Östlund shows us that sometimes there is an unbridgeable gap between image and reality. 1 hr. 58 R (profanity, brief nudity) - T.D.
Foxcatcher Steve Carell, sporting an aquiline nose and a marionette's gait, morphs into Newtown Square multimillionaire John du Pont, a self-styled coach and sponsor of American wrestling. By inviting Olympic gold medalists Dave and Mark Schultz (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum) to live and train on his estate, du Pont invited disaster, too. Bennett Miller directs this slow-burning, brilliant account of a real-life tragedy. 2 hrs. 14 R (violence, profanity, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.
Fury Brad Pitt leads a Sherman tank crew through battle-scarred Germany in the waning months of World War II in David Ayer's visceral, violent combat film. 2 hrs. 15 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Gone Girl *** 1/2 Filmmaker David Fincher pulls off a cannily crafted adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestseller, a whodunit and a who-are-you-gonna-believe mystery about the disappearance of a wife (Rosamund Pike), and the husband (Ben Affleck) who becomes the prime suspect. With Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Neil Patrick Harris. 2 hrs. 29 R (violence, sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Horrible Bosses 2 Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day return as pals completely unsuited to the life of crime they are driven to. (This time it's kidnapping.) The comedy starts with verve and ends with nothing. 1 hr. 48 R (pervasive profanity; crude sexual content) - D.H.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I Quieter and less flashy than its predecessors, the satisfying third installment in the four-parter based on Suzanne Collins' mega-selling trilogy finds Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss poised to lead the rebellion against the imperious fancypants in the Capitol. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, and Chris Hemsworth are ready to give her an assist. 2 hrs. 4 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Interstellar Matthew McConaughey leads an intergalactic expedition, searching for a new home for humankind, having turned our planet into a Dust Bowl of doom. Anne Hathaway is along for the ride, and Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, and Casey Affleck figure into the equation back on Earth. A cinematic experience to be sure, but lofty queries about quantum physics and the human spirit are weighed down in sci-fi cliches, in default-mode dialogue and in characters rendered in two dimensions, never mind the fourth and fifth dimensions everyone is talking about. 2 hrs. 49 PG-13 (violence, intense space travel sequences, adult themes) - S.R.
Nightcrawler Creepy satire about a young Los Angeles man (Jake Gyllenhaal) who finds his way into the seedy world of freelance crime journalism. 1 hr. 57 R (graphic violent images, profanity) - T.D.
Ouija A group of friends unleash dark forces when they play with a Ouija board. It's a duller-than-dull 89 minutes you'll never get back. 1 hr. 29 PG-13 (violent content, frightening horror images) - W.S.
Penguins of Madagascar **1/2 Insistently antic and intermittently clever spinoff of the DreamWorks Animation Madagascar franchise, with feathered, flappered, flightless heroes Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private caught up in global intrigue and groaningly bad punnery involving a gigantically obnoxious purple octopus (the voice of John Malkovich) bent on revenge. 1 hr. 32 PG (cartoon mayhem, adult themes) - S.R.
Point and Shoot Fascinating, far-reaching documentary about Matthew VanDyke, a Baltimore native who embarked on a "crash course in manhood," taking a solo motorcycle trek across the Middle East and joining up with rebel fighters in the Libyan civil war. 1 hr. 23 No MPAA rating (war footage, adult themes) - S.R.
The Pyramid An archaeological team finds trouble when they attempt to unlock the secrets of a mysterious pyramid. 1 hr. 29 R (horror violence and bloody images) Not Previewed
Rosewater A strong, striking political drama about the real-life imprisonment, and torture, of journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) in his native Iran, adapted from his memoir and directed by Jon Stewart. 1 hr. 43 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
St. Vincent Bill Murray owns the title role, as a crusty curmudgeon whose world is upended when a single mom (Melissa McCarthy) and her 12-year-old (a terrific Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door. The kid needs a caretaker, and Vincent needs cash. Life lessons, and inappropriate behavior, ensue. A charming comedy, and Murray keeps pulling it back from the cornball abyss. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
The Theory of Everything 1/2 The life, and loves, of British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking are given keen, poignant treatment in Oscar-winner James Marsh's film, starring Eddie Redmayne as Hawking, and Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde, the student he meets at Cambridge and falls for (and vice versa). Then, the challenge of the disease that cripples Hawking's body. 2 hrs. 3 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.
Top Five 1/2 Chris Rock proves he's as brilliant a film auteur as a stand-up comic with this sharp romantic dramedy which he also wrote and directed. He plays a disillusioned comic who's in NY to promote his first serious film, an earnest if terrible story about slavery. Rosario Dawson is terrific as a reporter who forces the self-indulgent star to face up to his demons. Gabrielle Union is wonderfully sleazy as Rock's narcissistic reality star fiancée. 1 hr. 41 R (strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, profanity, drug use) - T.D.
Whiplash 1/2 Miles Teller (the student) and J.K. Simmons (the teacher) star in Damien Chazelle's propulsive drama about an aspiring jazz musician's torturous mentorship at a prestigious New York conservatory. It's a hyperventilated nightmare about artistic struggle and ambition - as much a horror movie as it is a keenly realized indie about jazz, about art, about what it takes to claim greatness. 1 hr. 46 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.