Our critics recommend...
By Steven Rea
The Invisible Woman Ralph Fiennes portrays Charles Dickens, and directs himself doing so, in this account of the relationship between the celebrated Victorian scribe and the young actress he kept as a mistress. Felicity Jones has the title role. Whoa, Nelly! R
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Chris Pine, who plays Kirk in another rebooted franchise, is the fourth actor to take the role of Tom Clancy's super spy (following Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, and Ben Affleck). Kenneth Branagh directs, and plays the villain, in this Bourne-esque caper, with Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner in on the action. PG-13
The Past Acclaimed French-language film about an Iranian who returns to Paris to sign the divorce papers for his soon-to-be ex (The Artist's Bérénice Bejo), only to find a mess of domestic upheaval - a new beau, miserable, mixed-up kids, and an errant e-mail that triggers a tragedy. Perhaps. PG-13
Also Opening This Week
Devil's Due After a newly married bride unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she and her husband begin to notice sinister changes to her body and mind.
The Nut Job Animated family feature about a naughty squirrel (voice of Will Arnett) who plans a major nut heist.
Ride Along Ice Cube and Kevin Hart star in this comedy about a high school security guard who is desperate to impress a seasoned police detective whose sister he hopes to marry.
Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), and David Hiltbrand (D.H.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.
American Hustle David O. Russell's wild, woolly take on the late-'70s FBI sting operation Abscam is also a wild, woolly love story: Christian Bale and Amy Adams as con artists recruited by the feds, and fated for each other. Throw Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence into the mix and something goes kaboom in just about every scene, brilliantly. R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Captain Phillips 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) - S.R.
Gravity 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) - S.R.
Her Joaquin Phoenix stars as a lonely Los Angeleno who may have found true love at last - in the disembodied voice, and consciousness, of his computer's new operating system. A near-future meditation on intimacy and isolation, connection and the disconnect of new technology, from writer/director Spike Jonze. With Scarlett Johansson's voice, and Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt. 2 hrs. 06 R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Inside Llewyn Davis Oscar Isaac is a hard-luck troubador on the folk scene of early '60s Greenwich Village in the Coen brothers' sublime odyssey to nowhere. It's a story of artistic struggle, and of the crushing beauty that can be wrested from a song. With Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and John Goodman - and with many a dark laugh along the way. R (profanity, violence, drugs, adult themes) - S.R.
Nebraska 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) - S.R.
12 Years a Slave The remarkable, essential story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. 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) - S.R.
Very Good (***1/2)
Dallas Buyers Club The "inspired by true events" tale of a party-hearty Texas cowboy and self-employed electrician who, in 1985, contracted the AIDS virus. Matthew McConaughey gives a literally transformative performance as this homophobic hellraiser who won't accept the doctors' diagnosis that he has 30 days to live. He proves them wrong, becoming a cash-rich drug dispenser and patients' rights advocate in the process in this wild, colorful, compassionate film. 1 hr. 57 R (sex, nudity, drugs, profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Philomena A surprisingly tough and tender tale from director Stephen Frears, adapted from the true story of a 70-something Irish woman (Judi Dench) looking to find the son she was forced to give up for adoption when she was an unwed teen, and of the cynical veteran journalist (Steve Coogan) who tags along on her quest. 1 hr. 38 R (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Also on Screens
August: Osage County **1/2 A piled-high platter of histrionics, this heartland saga - adapted from Tracy Letts' Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play - is steeped in a grand American theater tradition: the dysfunctional family drama, full of dark secrets, darker resentments, and the darkest sense of dread. Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neill, Edward Albee - you get the drift. With Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts leading the parade. 2 hrs. 01 R (profanity, drugs, sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Frozen *** A plucky princess (voiced by Kristen Bell) is joined by a slapstick snowman (Josh Gad) in a delightful animated film that is part fairy tale, part farce. 1 hr. 48 PG - D.H.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug **1/2 Eight minutes shorter than its forebear, and at least eight minutes better - less twee, less chatty, more action, more Elvish. The second installment in Peter Jackson's overblown, three-part take on Tolkien's children's fantasy about Bilbo Baggins and his epic quest in the company of a troop of dwarves. Elves and orcs and giant spiders, oh my! Not to mention the titular, fire-breathing dragon, voiced - in echo-chamber style - by Benedict Cumberbatch. 2 hrs. 41 PG-13 (intense action, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Lone Survivor *** Mark Wahlberg stars in this full-force combat film, based on the true story of four Navy SEALS on a botched mission in 2005 Afghanistan. Harrowing, visceral. With Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and Taylor Kitsch. 2 hrs. 01 R (extreme violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones **1/2 Black magic and GoPros in Oxnard, Calif., as the fifth installment in the "reality" horror series roams around an apartment complex where really bad stuff once happened - and could very well still be happening. - W.S.
The Wolf of Wall Street **1/2 As thrilling a filmmaker as Martin Scorsese continues to be, and as wild a performance as Leonardo DiCaprio dishes up as its morally bankrupt antihero, this adaptation of Jordan Belfort's bestselling memoir - a story of stockbroker rapacity in the anything goes '90s - seems almost entirely unnecessary. Cocaine and hookers? Fast cars and fancy yachts? Trophy wives and pesky Feds? For three hours? Really? 3 hrs. R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.) and Toby Zinman (T.Z.).
New This Week
Beautiful Thing (Mauckingbird Theatre Company) Jonathan Harvey's groundbreaking play about gay first love. Previews Wednesday and Thursday, opens Friday.
The Disappearing Quarterback (Plays and Players) Former Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla's one-man show about why he walked away. Previews Thursday and Friday, opens Saturday.
Driving Miss Daisy (Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio) The Pulitzer-winning story of two lives enriched by friendship and respect. Previews Tuesday and Wednesday, opens Thursday.
Ghosts (People's Light and Theatre) Oh, the secrets! Previews Wednesday-Friday, opens Saturday.
Gidion's Knot (InterAct Theatre Company) A 10-year-old boy is dead, and his mother seeks answers. Previews Friday-Jan. 22.
Other Desert Cities (Walnut Street Theatre) When a novelist threatens to spill her family's beans, turmoil ensues. Previews Tuesday-Jan. 21, opens Jan. 22.
The Pillowman (Luna Theatre Company) Another dark one from Martin McDonagh. Opens Saturday.
Water By the Spoonful (Arden Theatre Company) Quiara Alegría Hudes draws on her Philadelphia roots for this story about people seeking connection. Previews Thursday-next Sunday, opens Jan. 21.
We Will Rock You (Academy of Music) Queen tunes conquer dystopia. Runs Tuesday through Sunday.
Cherokee (Wilma Theater) World premiere of Lisa D'Amour's camping-trip comedy. Through Feb. 8.
Cinderella (People's Light & Theatre) Time for the annual panto, and this year the gal with the glass slipper is back in a terrific show that's mandatory for your holiday merriment. Ends Sunday. - W.R.
Up From the Ashes (Iron Age Theater) Isa St. Clair in a world premiere one-woman show about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Sunday in Norristown; moves to Philadelphia's Off Broad Street Theatre Thursday through Sunday.
Vanities (Hedgerow Theatre) Three friends move through life - cheerleading to sorority sisterhood to feminism - in the 1960s and '70s. Through Feb. 9.
Carrie Chloë Grace Moretz is the taunted, traumatized, telekinesis-powered teen in Kimberly Peirce's rethink of Brian De Palma's high school horror classic. Not anything the world needed, but not bad. From the director of Boys Don't Cry. 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Philadelphia Orchestra on the Radio
Sunday at 1 p.m., tune in to WRTI (90.1 FM) for all Itzhak all the time, a broadcast of a Philadelphia Orchestra November concert with audience favorite violinist Itzhak Perlman as both soloist and conductor. He'll lead the Philadelphians in works by Beethoven, Dvorak, and Brahms, and solo in Beethoven's Romances Nos. 1 and 2.