Opening This Week

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

Alvin, Simon, and Theodore take drastic actions to maintain their relationship with Dave.

Sisters Amy Poehler and Tina Fey star in this comedy about sisters who decide to throw one final party before their parents sell their family home.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens This continuation of George Lucas' legendary sci-fi series is set 30 years after Episode VI - Return of the Jedi and features both new and familiar characters. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher star.

Youth A retired composer (Michael Caine) receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth while vacationing with his filmmaker best friend (Harvey Keitel).

Excellent (****)

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.

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.

Creed From Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler, in collaboration with screenwriter Aaron Covington and with the generous, genuinely inspiring participation of Sylvester Stallone. The Rocky mantle gets handed off to a new underdog determined to box his way to glory. It's Adonis Creed, son of Rocky's rival-turned-pal Apollo Creed - and Michael B. Jordan takes the title role, body and soul. 2 hrs. 13 PG-13 (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Hitchcock/Truffaut Essential viewing for anyone who cares deeply about movies and the artists who make them. Using the audio recordings of a weeklong interview session between the young, upstart French new wave director and the then 63-year-old Master of Suspense, documentarian Kent Jones brings Hitchcock's genius - and perversions, and dark psychological underpinnings - to life. Commentary from directors (Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Martin Scorsese and more) show how innovative Hitchcock was, how influential his work still is. 1 hr. 20 PG-13 (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.

Censored Voices Israeli director Mor Loushy's documentary about the 1967 Six-Day War reconstructs an ambitious journalistic project undertaken only days after the war to ask returning Israeli solders to recount their experiences. Loushy films the participants - interviewers and subjects alike - as they listen to themselves talk about the war. 1 hr. 24 No MPAA rating (scenes of war, adult topics, some profanity). - T.D.

The Martian Matt Damon gives a commanding, oftentimes darkly comic performance as an astronaut left for dead by his NASA crewmates when they beat a hasty retreat from Mars. With a limited supply of food and water and no means of communication, he has to figure out how to survive and how to contact Mission Control, hoping they can bring him home. Stirring, suspenseful, science-rooted stuff from director Ridley Scott; with Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, and Michael Peña. 2 hrs. 21 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict A richly informative, illuminating documentary about the art patron, collector and gallerist Guggenheim, one of the great champions of both the Dadaists and Surrealists of Europe in the 1920s and '30s, and of the Abstract Expressionists who came out of New York after World War II. Guggenheim's life was "all about art and love." 1 hr. 37 No MPAA rating (adult themes) - S.R.

Also on screens

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

(Not previewed)

Colin Hanks makes his feature-length directorial debut with this ode to the great chain record store Tower Records. Dave Grohl, Chris Cornell, and Chuck D. all appear in Hanks' documentary that examines the legacy of the store and its founder, Russ Solomon. 1 hr. 34

No MPAA rating

The Danish Girl *** Eddie Redmayne stars in Tom Hooper's true-life, transgender romantic tragedy, about a painter in 1920s Copenhagen who becomes a woman, with the encouragement of his wife (an exceptional Alicia Vikander). It's an increasingly complicated relationship, in a film that is visually splendid but a little empty at its core. Redmayne has the physicality just right, and the costumes are lovely, but it's a technical performance, not one summoned from the soul. 2 hrs. R (nudity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.

Goosebumps *** R.L. Stine's horror-for-kids books get a meta adaptation. Stine (played by Jack Black in full camp mode) is a character; the monsters he's created have leapt off the page and into real life, and it's up to him, his daughter, Hannah (Odeya Rush), neighbor Zach (Dylan Minnette), and Zach's bestie, Champ (a great Ryan Lee), to recapture them. 1 hr. 43 PG (scary situations, rude humor) - M.E.

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.

In the Heart of the Sea *** The real-life Moby-Dick, directed by Ron Howard and adapted from Nathaniel Philbrick's book of the same name about the sinking of an American whaling ship, the Essex, in 1820. Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw are some of the hands on deck. 2 hrs. PG-13 (brief violence) - 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.

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.

Macbeth *** A lean, mean take on the Shakespeare tragedy, with some of the signature verse cut away, and with Michael Fassbender in the title role as the murderous Thane, his eyes - and his wife's, Lady Macbeth's - on the throne. The French actress Marion Cotillard plays the latter, haunted and hauntingly. A restlessly cinematic adaptation, from Australian director Justin Kurzel, set on the misty moors of Dark Ages Scotland. 1 hr. 53 R (violence, adult themes) - S.R.

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.

The Peanuts Movie *** Computer-animated adaptation of Charles Schulz's iconic comic strip, featuring that nervous, self-doubting Everyboy, Charlie Brown, his faithful pooch, Snoopy, and the rest of the gang, including Linus, Lucy, and Schroeder. The late Schulz's son and grandson hatched the plot; the family-centric feature commemorates Peanuts' 65th anniversary. 1 hr. 22 G - 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.

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.