Ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America are: (G) for general audiences; (PG) parental guidance urged because of material possibly unsuitable for children; (PG-13) parents are strongly cautioned to give guidance for attendance of children younger than 13; (R) restricted, younger than 17 admitted only with parent or adult guardian; (NC-17) no one younger than 17 admitted. Where available, movies are rated on a scale of 1 to 4 stars.
Editor’s Note: For a more complete listing of movie capsules, see the Arts & Entertainment section of www.recorder.com
12 YEARS A SLAVE 4 stars — The remarkable, essential story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was was abducted and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. The British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gives body and soul in the lead, and Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt are part of a superb supporting cast. 2 hrs. 13 R (violence, nudity, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea
ABOUT TIME — A young man discovers that he can travel through time and also meets the love of his life, but he comes to realize his gift doesn’t necessarily make life’s ups and downs any easier to deal with. With Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. Written and directed by Richard Curtis. (2:04) R.
ALL IS LOST 4 stars — It’s hard to imagine being farther off the grid than the weathered yachtsman played by Robert Redford in the majestic, melancholy “All Is Lost.” There he is, solo on a 39-foot sailboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean, taking on water after a freak accident: During the night, while he slept, his boat struck a drifting shipping container, and a corner of the giant corrugated metal box pierced its hull. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor, “All Is Lost” is as simple a tale of survival as it gets. A man, a boat, the sea, the sky. And all the questions of our lives — how we relate to our families, our loved ones, how we think of death, do we believe in a God, an afterlife — are there to consider. To consider wordlessly, because, with the exception of an opening voice-over and a guttural profanity aimed at the heavens, Redford’s man (identified only as “Our Man” in the end credits) hardly speaks. There is no one to speak to. PG-13 (profanity, adult themes)
THE ATTACK — An Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv discovers a dark secret about his wife in the aftermath of a suicide bombing.
THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY — When college friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR 4 stars — Yes, there is a lot of sex. Graphic sex between two young women. But that’s only part of what this extraordinary film is about. This three-hour portrait of a French high school student (an amazing Adèle Exarchopoulos) is shot with a close-up intensity that brings the character out from the screen and into your heart. It’s emotional 3-D! 2 hrs. 59 NC-17 (graphic sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea
THE BOOK THIEF — A young girl transforms the lives of those around her when she is sent to live with a foster family in Nazi Germany in this adaptation of the novel by Markus Zusak. With Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson. Written by Michael Petroni. Directed by Brian Percival. (2:11) PG-13.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS 4 stars — Based on the real-life story of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, with Tom Hanks in the title role as a steady-as-she-goes veteran forced to face his own mortality. Paul Greengrass (the second and third “Bourne” films, “United 93”) masterfully orchestrates the intense, suspenseful drama. 2 hrs. 14 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 — 3 stars. Intrepid and irrepressible young inventor Flint Lockwood has more problems with food in this charming animated sequel. With the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, and Will Forte. 1 hr. 35 PG — David Hiltbrand
DELIVERY MAN — An affable underachiever has to reckon with his past when he learns that his anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years earlier have resulted in more than 500 children. With Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt and Cobie Smulders. Written and directed by Ken Scott. “Delivery Man” skips over all the diaper changes and sleepless nights and gets to the essence of parenthood, when fathers must learn to put aside their preconceived expectations and accept their children for who they are. Life is well under way for most of them when Wozniak enters into the picture, and the movie celebrates the diversity of possibility, presenting him with offspring of all colors and personalities (1:43) PG-13.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB — A drama based on the story of Texas electrician Ron Woodroof, who battled the medical establishment and the law after being diagnosed with HIV in 1986 and began smuggling anti-viral medications from all over the world. With Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner. Written by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. (1:57) R.
ENDER’S GAME 21/2 stars — A space adventure adapted from Orson Scott Card’s 1985 sci-fi novel about a bunch of smartypant kids recruited for battle against an alien invasion. Harrison Ford and Viola Davis are the military parental units in charge. Asa Butterfield, thin and nerdy and awesomely earnest, is “the One” chosen to lead the fight, if only he can overcome the bullying from his fellow junior cadets. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (violence, intense action, adult themes) — Steven Rea
ENOUGH SAID 4 stars — Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in his final leading role) are divorced parents, each with a college-bound daughter, who meet, date and take a real liking to each other. And then the trouble begins. A smart, funny movie for grown-ups from the hugely talented writer director Nicole Holofcener. 1 hr. 33 R (sex, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea
FREE BIRDS 1 1/2 stars — Turkeys in a time machine? That’s the rather desperate premise of this flaccid animated film that sends a couple of gobblers back to the first Thanksgiving. Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler do the voices. 1 hr. 31 PG (crude humor) - David Hiltbrand
FROZEN — An optimistic princess sets off on a journey with a rugged mountain man to find her sister, whose icy powers have trapped their kindgom in an eternal winter. With the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad. Written by Jennifer Lee. Directed by Lee and Chris Buck. In 3-D. (1:48) PG.
GRAVITY 4 stars — A transcendent, zero-G tale of survival, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as orbiting astronauts caught in a debris storm — quite literally at the end of their tether. A technological marvel, and an emotional, spiritual and physical voyage of stratospheric suspense. 1 hr. 30 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - Steven Rea
JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA — An elderly man and his 8-year-old grandson embark on a series of misadventures in this hidden-camera comedy. With Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll. Written by Knoxville, Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine. Directed by Tremaine. (1:31) R.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE 21/2 stars — A considerable upgrade over the first “Hunger Games” movie, “Catching Fire” comes across more like a remake than a sequel. In the adaptation of the second installation in Suzanne Collins’ young adult trilogy, there’s certainly plenty that has changed. Rebellion against the totalitarian rule of President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the 12 districts of Panem is growing. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is now a beloved hero with the weight of celebrity on her shoulders. And Philip Seymour Hoffman, bless him, has found his way into the proceedings. Yet the general plot — a journey from Katniss’ poor hometown of District 12 to a climactic game of human hunting in “the arena,” with high-speed train rides and training sessions in between — is identical to the first “Hunger Games.” More has shuffled behind the camera, and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” is much the better for it. Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”) has taken over directing from Gary Ross, whose poor handling of the first film didn’t stop it from becoming a sensation. Lawrence has given the film (the budget was nearly doubled) a more settled environment heavy on greys and a more appropriately grave emotional atmosphere. These are kids being forced to kill other kids, the franchise seems to have realized. (2:26) PG-13.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS — A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.
LAST VEGAS 11/2 stars — Four aging lifelong friends attempt to relive their youth in Las Vegas in celebration of one’s engagement. Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline star. 1 hr. 45 PG-13 (profanity, partial nudity, sexual situations, hemorrhoid jokes) — Tirdad Derakhshani
PHILOMENA — An Irish woman enlists a journalist to help her track down the out-of-wedlock son she was forced by her Catholic community to give away for adoption in this drama based on Martin Sixsmith’s 2009 book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee.” With Steve Coogan and Judi Dench. Written by Coogan and Jeff Pope. Directed by Stephen Frears. (1:35) R.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD — The hammer-wielding demigod Thor battles to save Earth and his home world of Asgard from an ancient enemy in this sequel to the 2011 movie “Thor.” With Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston and Stellan Skarsgard. Written by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Directed by Alan Taylor. In 3-D. (1:52) PG-13.
WADJDA 31/2 stars. A charming first feature from female Saudi director Haifaa al-Mansour, about a rascally 10-year-old who covets a bicycle, even though girls are not supposed to ride bicycles — it’s undignified, inappropriate, in conservative Islamic culture, which is the culture all around her. PG (adult themes) — Steven Rea