Our critics recommend...
By Steven Rea
Gloria Paulina García has the title role - and won the best actress prize at the Berlin Film Festival for her efforts - as a 58-year-old divorcee in search of companionship, romance, and maybe even love. The official Chilean entry in the foreign language Oscar sweepstakes. R
That Awkward Moment Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller are a trio of commitment-wary guys in this indie rom-com from first-time director Tom Gormican. R
Oscar-nominated shorts Two programs - live-action and animated shorts - offer the complete lineup of contenders for the 2014 Academy Awards. Always a source of delight, surprise, disappointment, and befuddlement - and this year's mix shouldn't be any different. Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins, or Dr. John Watson, to you) stars in the live-action entry, "The Voorman Problem." Disney's Mickey Mouse toon, "Get a Horse!", is the most high-profile of the animated entries. No MPAA rating
Also Opening This Week
Labor Day A depressed single mother and her 13-year-old son take in a man who they soon discover to be an escaped convict. Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, and Tobey Maguire star.
Somewhere Slow An unhappy Delaware woman (Jessalyn Gilsig) makes a life-altering decision upon witnessing a convenience store robbery.
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 troubadour 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? 1 hr. 45 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.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit *1/2 Chris Pine stars in this increasingly flimsy re-reboot of the Tom Clancy espionage franchise. The new Jack is a financial analyst for the CIA who gets thrown into operational hot water when he heads for Moscow and meets a madman bent on bringing America to its knees. Kenneth Branagh is said nemesis, and also the film's director. Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley costar. 1 hr. 45 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
The Nut Job ** Kids may love The Nut Job, the animated story of Surly the outcast squirrel, but the animated tale will drive their parents nuts as they wait for the redundant humor - a lot of it from cheap jokes about flatulence, falls, and fumbles - to end. 1 hr. 26 PG (rude humor) - W.S.
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.
Ride Along *1/2 Kevin Hart and Ice Cube star in this facile action comedy about a tough Atlanta police detective and his chippy civilian partner-for-a-day. This vehicle won't pass inspection. 1 hr. 40 PG-13 (violence, adult themes, profanity) - D.H.
Reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.) Toby Zinman (T.Z.) and Jim Rutter (J.R.).
New This Week
Snowglobe (MacKnight Foundation/Shubin Theatre) Nicholas Wardigo's play starring Amanda Schoonover and Charlotte Northeast takes place in a 12-by-12-foot snow globe. Through Feb. 9
Tribes (Philadelphia Theatre Company/Suzanne Roberts Theatre) Nina Raine's play about a deaf man who appreciates what it means to be understood only after he falls in love with a woman on the brink of deafness. (Signing or captions at some performances.) Through Feb. 23.
True West (Theatre Exile/Plays & Players Theatre) Sam Shepard's play about a bitter sibling rivalry that surfaces when two brothers reunite in their mother's house in the desert. Previews Thursday through Feb. 4; opens Feb. 5, continues Feb. 23.
Tuesdays With Morrie (Bristol Riverside Theatre) The story of a mentor's conversations with author Mitch Albom, adapted from his best-selling book. Previews Tuesday and Wednesday; opens Thursday, through Feb. 16.
Beautiful Thing (Mauckingbird Theatre Company) Jonathan Harvey's groundbreaking play about gay first love gets an uneven production from Mauckingbird Theatre that treats the play like an afterschool special. Griffin Back gives a bright performance as the truant Jamie. Through next Sunday. - J.R.
Cherokee (Wilma Theater) Under Anne Kauffman's direction, the world premiere of Lisa D'Amour's camping-trip comedy is impressive, with a terrific cast and an eye-popping set, although the script still needs work. Through Feb. 8. - T.Z.
The Disappearing Quarterback (Plays and Players) Former Eagles quarterback Mike Boryla's one-man show about why he walked away is a highly enjoyable, attention-commanding work. Through next Sunday. - J.R.
Driving Miss Daisy (Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio) Johnnie Hobbs Jr.'s performance as Hoke, the African American chauffeur in the he Pulitzer-winning story of two lives enriched by friendship and respect, is a textbook example of how to play the role. Through Feb. 2. - T.Z.
Ghosts (People's Light and Theatre) Oh, the secrets! People's Light gives the Henrik Ibsen play a phenomenal production that indicts cowardice and hypocrisy in parenting so effectively that it could almost have been set in 2014. Through Feb. 9. - J.R.
Gidion's Knot (InterAct Theatre Company) A 10-year-old boy is dead, and his mother seeks answers from his teacher in a production that is intense and captivating. Alice Gatling and Karen Peakes give powerful performances, even though the script offers multiple reasons to disbelieve the identities and motivations of their characters. Through Feb. 9. - J.R.
Other Desert Cities (Walnut Street Theatre) When a novelist threatens to spill her family's beans, turmoil ensues. Through March 2.
The Pillowman (Luna Theatre Company) Superb acting elevates this creepy, edgy, nearly funny work from Martin McDonagh, given a crackerjack production by Luna Theater. Through Feb. 8. - T.Z.
Up From the Ashes (Iron Age Theater at Off Broad Street Theatre) Isa St. Clair, in a world premiere one-woman show, offers a friendly and engaging overview of the deadly 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and the birth of the women's labor movement. Closes Sunday. - W.R.
Vanities (Hedgerow Theatre) Three friends move through life - cheerleading to sorority sisterhood to feminism - in the 1960s and '70s. Through Feb. 9.
Water By the Spoonful (Arden Theatre Company) Quiara Alegría Hudes draws on her Philadelphia roots for this story about people seeking connection. Through March 16.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 *** Intrepid and irrepressible young inventor Flint Lockwood has more problems with food in this charming animated sequel. Voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte. 1 hr. 35 PG - D.H.
Philadelphia Orchestra on the Radio
Sunday at 1 p.m., tune in to WRTI (90.1 FM) for a Philadelphia Orchestra concert with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, substituting on short notice for an ailing Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and pianist Hélène Grimaud that featured the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 and the Symphonie fantastique of Hector Berlioz.