Capsule Reviews of Movies
**** Excellent *** Good
** Fair * Poor
Reviewers: C.R., Carrie Rickey; S.R., Steven Rea; D.D., Dan DeLuca; T.D., Tirdad Derakhshani; D.H., David Hiltbrand; E.W., Elizabeth Wellington; E.H., Elizabeth Horkley; W.S., Inquirer wire services.
Also on Screens
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. 2 hrs. 18 R (sex, nudity, profanity, drugs, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
The Attorney A hustler-attorney's life changes when he takes on a case involving a student who was arrested and tortured by the South Korean government in this true story. 2 hrs. 07 No MPAA rating (profanity, mild violence, scenes of torture, smoking) - T.D.
August: Osage County 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.
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.
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 (fright) - D.H.
Gloria Paulina García stars as a fiftysomething divorcee, looking for romance, affection, maybe even love. Keenly observed and played pitch-perfect by the actress, this Chilean film is haunting and raw. The country's official entry in the foreign-language Oscar competition, it didn't make the cut to the final five - a shame. 1 hr. 50 R (nudity, sex, 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.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ** 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.
I, Frankenstein The big guy is still with us in this uneven, updated horror legend, but as played by Aaron Eckhart, he's got a bigger vocabulary. And now he has to worry about demons and gargoyles instead of villagers with pitchforks. 1 hr. 33 PG-13 (intense violence) - D.H.
Inside Llewyn Davis **** Oscar Isaac is a hard-luck troubadour on the folk scene of early-'60s Greenwich Village in the Coen Brothers' sublime time-capsule odyssey to nowhere and back again. It's a story of artistic struggle, of dumb luck and bad luck, 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.
The Invisible Woman Ralph Fiennes stars as Charles Dickens, and directs, in this storm-tossed true romance, describing the decade-long love affair between the famous Victorian scribe and a young actress, Nelly Ternan. Felicity Jones has the title role. Whoa, Nelly. 1 hr. 51 R (sex, adult themes) - S.R.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 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.
Kids For Cash A no-nonsense, no-stone-unturned documentary about the scandal that rocked Luzerne County in 2009, in which a pair of judges pocketed $2.6 million after they helped facilitate the opening of a privately owned juvenile detention center. A center where one of the judges proceeded to send literally thousands of youths who stood before his bench - some of them charged with no more than classroom pranks. Chilling, powerful stuff. 1 hr. 42 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Labor Day Kate Winslet stars as a sad, shut-in single mom whose life is upended - and passions rekindled - by a mysterious stranger (Josh Brolin) on the run from the law. An adaptation of the Joyce Maynard novel from director Jason Reitman, it's a strangely compelling romance - one minute a Harlequin bodice ripper, the next it's Jim Thompson pulp. 1 hr. 51 PG-13 (sex, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
The Lego Movie It took 65 years, but finally those little Danish construction toys get their own movie. If the Smurfs can do it, why not these interlocking little bits of plastic? The computer-animated feature is voiced by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and the three Wills (Arnett, Ferrell, and Forte). 1 hr. 40 PG (mild action, 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.
The Monuments Men George Clooney, in epaulets and Clark Gable mustache, leads a gang of art experts, tasked with retrieving troves of artwork stolen by the Nazis in this throwback to Hollywood's war movies of yore. Alas, it's a throwback that's thrown its back out - limping along, trailed by battalions of stereotypes and ammo rounds of cliche. With Matt Damon, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett. 1 hr. 58 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Nebraska **** Bruce Dern in a career-defining performance as an ornery coot who believes he has 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.
The Nut Job Animated family feature about a naughty squirrel (voice of Will Arnett) who plans a major nut heist. 1 hr. 26 PG (crude humor) - W.S.
The Outsider Cockney action star Craig Fairbrass pounds half the population of L.A. in this thin, trite stab at noir. With James Caan and Jason Patric. 1 hr. 34 No MPAA rating (profanity, violence, adult themes) - D.H.
Philomena *** A surprisingly tough and tender tale from director Stephen Frears, adapted from the true story of a seventysomething 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. 2 hrs. 2 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Ride Along 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.
Ring of Fire This Imax documentary looks at the ring of volcanos in and around the Pacific Ocean.
Saving Mr. Banks *** A sweet and affecting piece of Hollywood history, about a battle of wills between Walt Disney and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers. Disney, played by Tom Hanks, is eager to adapt the book, and Travers, beautifully brought to life by Emma Thompson, resists. And resists some more. 2 hrs. 05 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.
Space Junk 3D This Imax documentary looks at the vast amount of space debris orbiting Earth and the extent to which it jeopardizes space exploration. Not Previewed
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. 1 hr. 34 R (sexual content, profanity) - W.S.
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. 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) - S.R.
Vampire Academy Adapted from the first installment of Richelle Mead's six-novel young adult series, Vampire Academy is a derivative magic 'n' monsters teen rom-com that mixes the not-so-risqué sexuality of Twilight with the high school histrionics of Mean Girls and plops it all down at a Harry Potter-ish school of magic. 1 hr. 44 PG-13 (mild vampire violence, tepid sexuality, profanity) - T.D.
The Wolf of Wall Street ** 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.