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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.

Carol An achingly beautiful love story, adapted from an early Patricia Highsmith novel, about a New York City shopgirl (Rooney Mara) and a well-to-do married woman (Cate Blanchett) who fall into an affair. Todd Haynes directs the 1950s period piece, full of obsession and yearning and smoky, jazzy song. 1 hr. 58 R (sex, nudity, profanity, 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.

Youth Two old friends, played by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, ponder life, love and loss while they wander around a luxurious Swiss Alps spa. Paolo Sorrentino's follow-up to his Oscar-winning The Great Beauty is symphonic and cinematic, full of melancholy and hushed magic. With Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda and Paul Dano. R (profanity, nudity, adult themes) - S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

The Big Short

Four outsiders take on the financial crisis over the practices that led to the housing and credit bubble of the mid 2000s. Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling star. 2 hrs. 10

R

(profanity) -

G.T.

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.

Also on screens

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip **

Alvin, Theodore, and Simon are afraid that Dave will embark on a new adventure without them in favor of girlfriend Samantha. Misadventures ensue as the chipmunks set off on a trip to Miami. 1 hr. 30

PG

(mild scatological humor, some rude language)

- W.S.

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.

The Good Dinosaur *** The latest movie from Disney and Pixar asks the question: What if dinosaurs and primitive man developed alongside on 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.

The Hateful Eight ** An epic work of self-indulgence and smug riffing, stringing together tropes from TV and movie westerns and closed-room whodunits, Quentin Tarantino's long-winded western stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kurt Russell and Tim Roth. Although it was shot in expansive 70mm - and is being screened in 70mm film in select area locations - most of the jawing and chawing takes place inside a stagecoach way station, where bad dudes, bounty hunters and one foul-mouthed lady outlaw are waiting out a blizzard. Violence and verbiage ensue. 3 hrs. 07 R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

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.

Joy *** Jennifer Lawrence stars as the real-life Joy Mangano, a Long Island girl from a dizzyingly dysfunctional family, who crossed all sorts of hurdles on her way to huge success as a home-shopping entrepreneur. From David O. Russell, Lawrence's Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle director, with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro along for the crazy, carousing ride. 2 hrs. 04 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

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.

Sisters *** Amy Poehler and Tina Fey reteam to play the titular sibs who throw an epic rager when their parents decide to sell their childhood home. Written by Saturday Night Live vet writer Paula Pell, Sisters deals with what it's like to lose the last tangible piece of your childhood - the home you grew up in. Poehler, Fey and SNL cast members of past and present (not to mention a fabulous John Cena), are a delight. 1 hr. 58 R (language, drug use) - M.E.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens *** J.J. Abrams jump-starts the mythic in-a-galaxy-far-far-away franchise, bringing Old Timers Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca back and introducing a new generation of rebel fighters (played by the plucky Daisy Ridley, the sturdy John Boyega). Half reboot, half remake, all fun. PG-13 (intergalactic violence, 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.