By Steven Rea

Exodus: Gods and Kings Ridley Scott's epic, CGI-crazy take on the story of Moses - his not-quite-brother Ramses, the banishment from the pharaoh's palace, the plagues, the burning bush, the epic march of the Israelites, and that Red Sea business. Christian Bale is Moses, Joel Edgerton is Ramses, and Ben Kingsley, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, and a cast of thousands, all sporting appropriate 1,300 B.C. dress and eyeliner, reenact the prophet's profound journey. PG-13

Top Five Chris Rock stars in - and wrote and directed - this roman à clef-y rom-com about a famous film and TV funnyman who wants to be taken seriously. Then, newspaper reporter Rosario Dawson enters the picture, determined to see what he's really made of. R

Wild Reese Witherspoon is memoirist Cheryl Strayed in an adaptation of her best seller about an 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, trying to right a life that has gone woefully wrong. From the director of Dallas Buyers Club. Witherspoon's performance is already Oscar-buzzing. R

Also Opening This Week

Diplomacy This historical drama looks at the relationship between the German military governor of occupied Paris and the Swedish consul-general during World War II. French and German with subtitles.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), Dan DeLuca (D.D.), and David Hiltbrand (D.H.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.

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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 into the head of a man in deep trouble. An exhilarating, out-of-the-blue masterwork that ranks as not just one of the best films 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.

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.

Very Good (***1/2)

Force Majeure Sweden's 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.

Gone Girl Filmmaker David Fincher pulls off a cannily crafted adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best seller, 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.

The Theory of Everything 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. 03 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.

Whiplash 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 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.

Also on Screens

The Babadook *** From Australian director Jennifer Kent, an effectively creepy, darkly amusing look at the challenges of single parenthood. A horror story about a mother and her son, haunted and taunted by a picture-book bogeyman come to life. Or is Mum (Essie Davis) simply going mad? No MPAA rating (blood, bugs, things that go bump in the night) - S.R.

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.

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. PG-13 (profanity, crude and sexual humor, nudity, and drug references) - D.H.

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, which has 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, default-mode dialogue, and 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.

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. 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. (Not previewed)