NOW IN THEATERS
The pleasure in this quiet epic seems almost hidden at first, and its unfolding fills the viewer with awe at director Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s subtlety and daring. The experience is like walking down a gallery of magnificent paintings and suddenly becoming aware that something is moving in each of them. The pace can appear glacially slow, but things are constantly happening. Hou wraps action in stillness and infuses stillness with movement. Candles flicker in a still room. Steam drifts off a cup of tea. As for the story, set in the ninth-century Tang Dynasty, it borders on the undecipherable. A young woman named Nie Yinniang (Qi Shu) has been groomed by a mysterious nun since childhood to be an assassin. She is sent to her home province of Weibo to kill the governor, to whom she was betrothed as a child. There are isolated bursts of action, but the drama is in the morality and aesthetics of the moment, not the hiss of the blade. Not rated. 107 minutes. In Mandarin with subtitles. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)
BRIDGE OF SPIES
Steven Spielberg resurrects the fascinating tale of the Cold War prisoner exchange of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel and Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 pilot shot down over the Soviet Union. The story centers on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a Brooklyn insurance lawyer and former Nuremberg prosecutor who is drafted to represent Abel and uphold the image of the American justice system. As he works with Abel (Mark Rylance), a bond of admiration forms between the two. The first half of the movie hums along nicely, despite an occasional Spielbergian weakness for movie cliché. The second half, which sets Donovan to work arranging the swap, has too many threads to follow and loses focus. Both Hanks and Rylance are terrific. The movie reaches a powerful dramatic climax with the exchange on a West Berlin bridge and then sputters on a little further, reaching for a feel-good ending. Rated PG-13.
141 minutes. Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
In 1950s County Wexford, Ireland, the forwardthinking Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged for her younger sister Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) to go to Brooklyn out of clear-eyed necessity — Eilis can’t find a decent job, and there are few other prospects for her in Ireland. In New York, Eilis settles into a cloistered new life, living in a boardinghouse teeming with other, brasher young Irish women. She’s introverted and homesick, weeping over her sister’s letters, reacting like a startled deer whenever anyone addresses her directly — until she meets Tony (an adorable Emory Cohen), an Italian-American plumber who’s sweet on Irish girls and loves the Brooklyn Dodgers. Such a conventional plot would be slighter material in other hands, and though Nick Hornby’s screenplay is more sweetly sentimental than the Colm Tóibín novel it’s based on, the film never dips into treacly territory. The reason for that is Ronan, whose steely, undemonstrative performance capably anchors the story. Rated PG-13. 111 minutes. Violet Crown.
This Rocky sequel takes the spotlight off Rocky Balboa and puts it on Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s rival and friend, Apollo Creed. Sick of living in the shadow of a father he never knew, Adonis heads to Philadelphia and seeks out Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) to train him to fight. The film follows a satisfying, if predictable, sports-movie arc, but offers an strong romantic subplot (with Tessa Thompson), excellent acting, and a wonderful, authentic feel for urban Philadelphia. Stallone was nominated for an Academy Award for his 1976 performance as Rocky. Don’t be surprised if he is nominated for playing that character again. Rated PG-13. 132 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
The latest film by Pixar Animation Studios is aimed closer to the toddler audience than the moresophisticated Inside Out. It’s a simple tale of a dinosaur (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) who gets lost from his family and finds his way home with the help of a human boy (Jack Bright). In this imagining, dinosaurs are agrarian and highly intelligent, while humans are wild animals, which makes for a nice twist. Alas, the dinosaurs often speak with distracting and exaggerated Southern accents. The story might be too simplistic and clichéd for anyone over the age of eight, but should still win all but the stoniest of hearts over by the end. The real draw, however, are the gorgeous landscapes, which resemble Colorado and New Mexico as conceived by Hayao Miyazaki. This is one beautiful film. Rated PG. 100 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14. Screens in 2-D only at Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
R.L. Stine’s popular young-adult horror books get a film adaptation — but it’s not the kind you might expect. A young boy named Zach (Dylan Minnette) moves to a new neighborhood, where he meets Hannah (Odeya Rush), whose father is the author Stine (Jack Black). When they and another boy (Ryan Lee) open up one of Stine’s manuscripts, all of the monsters are set free. Rated PG. 103 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2
Putting the “stall” in “installment,” this bleak final film in the Hunger Games juggernaut juggles too many characters and gets bogged down in military tactics and personal drama. It picks up where the first Mockingjay film left off — Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and the rebels have just rescued Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) — but it quickly sputters. Once Katniss sets out to assassinate the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland), it kicks into high gear with some exciting action sequences, but the script is overloaded with clunky dialogue and ham-handed reminders that real war isn’t all that different from those Hunger Games arenas. Splitting Suzanne Collins’ book into two films certainly made financial sense for the studio, but couldn’t they have given us one exceptional 150-minute movie instead of two mediocre ones? Rated PG-13. 137 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Laurel Gladden)
In the latest movie by writer and director Nancy Meyers, Robert De Niro plays a retired widower who can’t figure out what to do with all of his time, so he becomes an intern for the founder of an online fashion site (Anne Hathaway). The jokes stem from the tough old-timer at an internet start-up, the heartwarming bits from the boss leaning on sturdy wisdom. Rated PG-13.
121 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Not reviewed)
According to European folklore, Krampus is a horned figure who punishes children who misbehave. This horror movie pits the monster against a family whose members can’t be nice to one another. Soon, they start disappearing one by one. The scares come with a darkly comic element, provided in part by a cast full of people with comedy backgrounds, including Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner. Rated R. 98 minutes. Regal DeVargas; Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
One doesn’t expect a complex “warts and all” biopic of Mother Teresa, but even as hagiography, her life could have yielded a much more engaging film than this one. Juliet Stevenson plays Teresa, mostly while going through a crisis of faith during her time helping the poor in India. She’s up for the role, and co-stars Rutger Hauer and Max von Sydow are predictably excellent. Unfortunately, the dialogue they deliver is painfully expository, and despite the fact that the film doesn’t look cheap, the staging frequently resembles a soap opera. Teresa’s devotion and tireless work is undeniably inspiring, but cinema this bad crushes the spirit. Rated PG. 114 minutes.
Regal DeVargas. (Robert Ker)
LOVE THE COOPERS
This ensemble dramedy is about a family that gets together for a holiday reunion that nearly goes off the rails — despite the mother and father (Diane Keaton and John Goodman) wanting everything to go perfectly. These kinds of movies are typically only as good as the cast, and this one includes Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Amanda Seyfried, Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde, and some cute kids. Rated PG-13. 118 minutes. DreamCatcher.
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) may have been stranded on the Red Planet too early to get the memo about water on Mars, but he makes do with ingenuity and a cocky wit. Left behind for dead by his beleaguered crewmates after a Martian storm, he has to rely on can-do American spirit and science smarts (he’s the team’s botanist) to grow enough food to last him until a rescue mission can be mounted. Director Ridley Scott is back in space, and he keeps things lively in the thin atmosphere forty million miles from home. The movie is much more than a one-man show. Jessica Chastain heads a strong team aboard the spacecraft, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor run things at NASA, battling over humanitarian, scientific, and political considerations as they work to bring their man back home. Damon gives a star performance. The great thing about this film is that it makes intelligence cool. Rated PG-13. 141 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Jonathan Richards)
THE NIGHT BEFORE
After enraging North Korea with 2014’s Christmas release The Interview, Seth Rogen plays it safe this holiday season, and sticks to the kind of comedy he knows best: that of goofy hijinks, grumbling bromance, and a thick cloud of marijuana smoke. He, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie play three friends who party each Christmas Eve and this year seek the mythical soirée called the Nutcracka Ball. Rated R. 101 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Regal DeVargas; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
THE PEANUTS MOVIE
Charles Schulz’s classic creation gets a 21st-century makeover with this feature film, which boasts beautiful computer animation in a Sunday-strip style. The gist hasn’t changed much over the decades: Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) is trying to be the cool kid to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi). Otherwise, the movie dutifully if somewhat mechanically checks off nearly every famous trope and quirk of the property. But the sentiment is sweet and the jokes offer up chuckles, particularly for little ones. Rated G. 93 minutes. Screens in 2-D only at Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
THE PEARL BUTTON
Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán creates a lyrical and wrenching essay on the watery beauties of his country, with its thousands of miles of coastline, its vanishing indigenous coastal tribes, and its other “disappeared”: the desaparecidos who vanished under Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship. Guzmán’s subjects are the waters of Earth, the waters of the universe, and the specific waters of Patagonia, where 10,000 years ago the first inhabitants arrived by water and lived by, near, and on the water for numberless generations until European settlers arrived and began to systematically exterminate them. The exquisite beauty of Katell Djian’s
cinematography, the extraordinary ethnographic photographs of a disappearing people, the heart-rending recollections of a handful of surviving Kawésqar elders, and the reflections of a few contemporary poets and oceanographers and philosophers work together to weave an enchanting, exhilarating, and profoundly disturbing work of cinematic poetry. Not rated. 82 minutes. In Spanish and Kawésqar with subtitles. The Screen. (Jonathan Richards)