Editor’s Note: For a more complete listing of movie capsules, see the Arts & Entertainment section of www.recorder.com
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.
When available, movies are rated on a scale of 1 to 4 stars.
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.
47 RONIN — A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun. PG-13. (Source: www.imdb.com)
ALL IS LOST 4 stars. Robert Redford delivers the performance of his career in J.C. Chandor’s majestic, melancholy film about a solo mariner, stranded on his sailboat in the Indian Ocean. 1 hr. 46 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea
AMERICAN HUSTLE — Two con men are compelled to work with a wild federal agent to concoct a sting targeting New Jersey power brokers and the mafia in this drama based on the FBI’s Abscam operation of the 1970s. With Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell. Directed by Russell. (2:17) R.
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES — The bumbling news anchor Ron Burgundy and his cohorts join the nation’s first 24-hour news channel in this 1980s-set sequel to the 2004 comedy “Anchorman.” With Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate. Written by Ferrell and Adam McKay. Directed by McKay. (1:59) PG-13.
THE ARMSTRONG LIE 3 stars — A story of epic betrayal and deception - and self-betrayal, self-deception, as Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney tags along with Lance Armstrong on his 2009 Tour de France comeback. And then chases the cycling superstar down again, once all the doping allegations he had long denied turn out to be true. 2 hrs. 02 R (profanity, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea
THE BOOK THIEF 21/2 stars — World War II melodrama about a German girl who learns to treasure words through her friendship with a Jewish refugee hiding in the basement. Adapted from the bestselling young adult novel, and compromised by production design that is too beautiful by half — the Holocaust has never looked so good. With Sophie Nélisse in the title role, and Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the foster parents she comes to love. 2 hrs. 11 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea
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.
FROZEN 3 stars — 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.
THE GREAT BEAUTY — Jep Gambardella has seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades, but after his 65th birthday and a shock from the past, he looks past the nightclubs and parties to find a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. Not rated. (Source: www.imdb.com)
GRUDGE MATCH — A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout — 30 years after their last match. Stars Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinge. PG-13. (Source: www.imdb.com)
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG — The reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins continues his quest to face the fearsome dragon Smaug and help 13 dwarves reclaim their lost kingdom in this second installment of a film trilogy adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” With Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch. Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson. Directed by Jackson. In 3-D, HFR and Imax. (2:41) PG-13.
HOMEFRONT 31/2 stars — Jason Statham stars as a retired DEA agent, trying to go off the grid with his 10-year-old daughter in a sleepy Louisiana town — which suddenly isn’t so sleepy when a crazed meth kingpin (James Franco) discovers who our hero really is. An updated take on the reluctant-hero western, from a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea
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.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS — Amid the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961 New York, an aspiring musician navigates a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, some of which are of his own making. With Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund. Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. (1:45) R.
OUT OF THE FURNACE 3 stars — When his brother goes missing under shady circumstances shortly after returning home from Iraq, a blue-collar steel worker seeks justice on his own terms. With Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson and Forest Whitaker. Written by Brad Ingelsby and Scott Cooper. Directed by Cooper. (1:56) R.
NEBRASKA 4 stars — Bruce Dern in a career-defining performance as an ornery coot who believes he’s won a $1 million prize, and heads from Montana to Nebraska to claim it. His son (Will Forte) reluctantly tags along, in Alexander Payne’s funny, sad, poignant, absurd road movie. In black and white. It’s a gem. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea
PHILOMENA 31/2 stars — 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.
SAVING MR. BANKS — A biographical drama about Walt Disney’s attempts to acquire the screen rights to “Mary Poppins” from the reluctant novelist P.L. Travers. With Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti and Jason Schwartzman. Written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Directed by John Lee Hancock. (2.) PG-13.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD 21/2 — 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.
TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS — Coaxed into helping a friend pay her daughter a surprise holiday visit, the stern, sassy matriarch Madea shakes up a small rural town preparing for its annual Christmas Jubilee. With Tyler Perry, Kathy Najimy, Chad Michael Murray and Anna Maria Horsford. Written and directed by Perry. (1:40) PG-13.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS — A young pachyrhinosaurus comes of age and tries to protect his herd on a great migration in this animated film. With the voices of John Leguizamo, Justin Long and Tiya Sircar. Written by John Collee. Directed by Barry Cook and Neil Nightingale. In 3-D. (1:27) PG.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET — Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, P.J. Byrne, Jon Favreau. R. (Source: www.imdb.com)