Reviewers: S.R., Steven Rea; D.D., Dan DeLuca; T.D., Tirdad Derakhshani; M.E., Molly Eichel; G.T., Gary Thompson; W.S., Inquirer wire services.
The Big Short See Gary Thompson's review on Page 6.
Carol See Steven Rea's review on Page 5.
Concussion See Gary Thompson's review on Page 4.
Daddy's Home See review on Page 7.
The Hateful Eight See Steven Rea's review on Page 5.
Joy See Steven Rea's review on Page 4.
Point Break See review on Page 8.
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.
Bridge of Spies 1/2 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.
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.
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.
Extraction (Not previewed) Bruce Willis plays a former CIA operative who is kidnapped by a shady group looking to put a terrorist plot into action. When it turns out the CIA isn't particularly interested in saving its former agent, his son mounts an unsanctioned rescue mission. 1 hr. 23 R (violence, language, brief sexual content/nudity).
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 has 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.
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.
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.
Love the Coopers ** Four generations of the same family break through the unhappiness of the holidays to discover that 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 - 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.
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 adapatation 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, profanmity, 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, Sistersis 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 castmembers of past and present (not to mention a fabulous John Cena), are a delight. 1 hr. 58 R (language, drug use) - M.E.
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. 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.
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.
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.