Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), Molly Eichel (M.E.), and Gary Thompson (G.T.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review. Read reviews at www.philly.com.
Creed **** Sylvester Stallone is back as Rocky Balboa, agreeing to train Apollo Creed's son (Michael B. Jordan), who is determined to box his way to glory. Ryan Coogler takes over the writing and directing duties from Sly and the result is a knockout. 2 hrs. 13 PG-13 (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
The Good Dinosaur *** The latest movie from Disney and Pixar asks the question: What if dinosaurs and primitive man developed alongside one another? Arlo, a runt dinosaur who speaks, and a Neanderthalish boy, who hops about on all fours and sniffs the air like a dog, become fast friends who go on a life-altering adventure in which the courageous boy teaches the timid dinosaur to be brave. 1 hr. 40 PG (perilous situations) - G.T.
Legend **1/2 Biopic on Reggie and Ronnie Kray, identical twins who were two of London's most powerful organized-crime figures during the 1960s. 2 hrs. 11 R (strong violence, language, some sexual and drug material) - W.S.
Trumbo *** Bryan Cranston is the G-force at the heart of this oddly jolly cautionary tale based on the true-life political and professional ostracism of one of Hollywood's most talented scribes, Dalton Trumbo, a victim of blacklisting in the "Red Menace" days of the late 1940s and '50s. Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman head a large cast, bringing Tinseltown's glammy bygone days to picturesque life. 2 hrs. 04 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Victor Frankenstein **1/2 Equal parts the steampunk of Sherlock Holmes (intentional) and the spoofy camp of Young Frankenstein (probably not intentional), this new iteration of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley tale is set in 1860s London and stars James McAvoy in the title role with Daniel Radcliffe as Igor, his hunchbacked aide de camp. But it's not a real hump, and the giant creature made of rotting flesh isn't scary, either. 1 hr. 49 PG-13 (violence, rotting flesh, adult themes) - S.R.
Brooklyn Saoirse Ronan is an Irish country girl who travels to New York in search of a new life. It's the early 1950s, and she is full of courage, dread, and loneliness. One of the most memorable characters of recent film, born from Colm Tóibín's 2009 novel and brought to exquisite life via a screenplay by Nick Hornby and the smart, steady direction of John Crowley. Moving and magnificent. 1 hr. 53 PG-13 (profanity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Room A young woman and her 5-year-old are held captive in a garden shed - the only reality the boy, born there, has ever known. Amazing, gripping, scary, beautiful adaptation of the Emma Donoghue novel (by the writer herself), deftly directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay are extraordinary as the mother and son. 1 hr. 58 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Spotlight Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, and Liev Schrieber lead an ace ensemble cast in this compelling account of the Boston Globe's 2002 investigative series on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. A complex procedural drama told with clarity and accumulating suspense. One of the great movies about journalism, and one of the great movies of our time, period. 2 hrs. 08 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Very Good (***1/2)
Bridge of Spies Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance star in Steven Spielberg's taut Cold War thriller, a based-on-true-events spy-swap yarn set in New York and East Berlin, steeped in paranoia and period detail. 2 hrs. 22 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
My All American Exceedingly well-crafted, straightforward, guy-cry biopic about the tragic life of Freddie Steinmark, the celebrated University of Texas player who lost his battle against bone cancer at 22, but not before realizing his dream of playing college football. 1 hr. 58 PG (thematic elements, mild language, brief partial nudity) - W.S.
Also on screens
Altered Minds *** The grown children confront the gentle patriarch (Judd Hirsch) of a Philadelphia family before his impending death from lung cancer in an admittedly fanciful and contrived psychological thriller. 1 hr. 46 No MPAA rating (disturbing images, profanity, violence) - T.D.
By the Sea * Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (also writer-director) play a married couple laden with baggage at a seaside French resort who discover a peephole that allows them to spy on the couple next door in a movie that is at various times dull, painful, and insufferable. 2 hr. R (strong sexuality, nudity, language) - G.T.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 **1/2 If Mockingjay - Part 1 was walkier and talkier than its forerunners, Part 2 is pretty much all action - and lesser for it. Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen and a "propo" squad work their way through the battle-scarred Capitol as the final installment in the adventures of a valiant teen and her battle against decadent authority figures and cynical puppetmasters comes to a crashing end. 2 hrs. 17 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Love the Coopers ** Four generations of the same family break through the unhappiness of the holidays to discover joy is right in front of them. But this Diane Keaton vehicle is a little too messy for its own good. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (thematic elements, language, and some sexuality) - M.E.
The Night Before ** Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and Seth Rogen are three childhood friends, now all grown up - sort of - and celebrating the holidays in this Yuletide comedy from 50/50 and The Wackness director Jonathan Levine. 1 hr. 41 R (profanity) - G.T.
Spectre *** The fourth Bond film with Daniel Craig is, says the actor, his last, and all sorts of things get tied up neatly - including Léa Seydoux, the heroine of the tale. Christoph Waltz is the supervillain, one with a long history in the Bond canon. It's business as usual, but business that's pulled off with brilliant precision, deftly choreographed action, and an itinerary boasting some of the most photogenic spots on Earth. 2 hrs. 28 PG-13 (violence, sex, adult themes) - S.R.