NOW IN THEATERS
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP
This is the fourth film in the current Alvin and the Chipmunks series, after the original, The Squeakquel, and Chipwrecked. Apparently, the movies will live as long as there are bad puns for the titles. In this one, the delightfully selfless Chipmunks try to prevent their friend Dave (Jason Lee) from getting married, out of fears that he’ll ditch them shortly after. Rated PG. 86 minutes. Regal DeVargas; Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
THE BIG SHORT
Rated R. 130 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. See review, Page 44.
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, sportsmovie 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; DreamCatcher. (Robert Ker)
EVERY THING WILL BE FINE
Glum writer Tomas (James Franco) and his girlfriend Sara (Rachel McAdams) have reached an impasse in their relationship, so Tomas retreats to icy Quebec to get some work
done. Out in his car one day, he accidentally hits a toboggan and kills a child, the son of Kate, a single mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose performance is a bright spot). For the rest of the film, he — and unfortunately the audience — must dully slog through his grief and guilt, measuring the effects of the accident on the course of his life in two and four-year increments. Wim Wenders, who directed this international co-production in incongruous 3-D, has had some success in translating a certain kind of still-waters masculinity to the screen. But Franco’s Tomas is simply shallow and unlikeable as he’s written, and the actor doesn’t possess the kind of depth that might render his depression sympathetic. What we end up with is a beautifully shot snoozer in which nearly every thing is very much less than fine. Not rated. 118 minutes. Jean Cocteau
Cinema. (Molly Boyle)
HEART OF A DOG
Artist and performer Laurie Anderson’s experimental documentary uses the story of her dog Lolabelle to tie together several philosophical and autobiographical narratives. It’s a tender and impressionistic film, which was mostly shot using an iPhone. Anderson also uses home movies, animation, drawings, and photographs, describing moments in her own life as well as those of others: friends and family — as well as the nation itself. Throughout, she brings the narrative back to her dog who she treats with respect, dignity, and love. Anderson details the experiences of the dog’s life, death, and afterlife from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhist theology, musing on Lolabelle’s journey and the paths we take in our own lives. Not rated. 75 minutes. Center for Contemporary Arts. (Michael Abatemarco)
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. (Laurel Gladden)
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 Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
Australian Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s play-that-must-not-be-named (theatrical superstition forbids the uttering of the title inside a theater) is powerful, brutal, original, and sometimes almost incomprehensible. The more familiar you are with the language of the play, the better off you will be, because, as half-whispered in hoarse Scottish brogues throughout most of the movie, against an insistent score that is sometimes mournful, sometimes bombastic, much of the dialogue is lost. The cast, headed by Michael Fassbender in the title role, and the haunting, saucer-eyed Marion Cotillard as his lethal wife, is superb, and the film’s performances work masterfully to overcome the auditory challenge with their intensity. The cinematography by Adam Arkapaw is majestic, and almost unremittingly dark. By the time Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, the hell on earth that Macbeth’s misguided ambition has wrought has become tangible and terrifying. Rated R. 113 minutes. Center for Contemporary Art. (Jonathan Richards)
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)
This adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel (with a screenplay by the author) from director Lenny Abrahamson is both suspenseful and deeply moving. It’s the harrowing tale of a young woman (Brie Larson) and her son (Jacob Tremblay) who are being held captive in a grungy 11-by-11-foot garden shed. It’s no one’s idea of a feel-good story, and in less capable hands, it could easily have been dark, melodramatic, or sensationalist. Instead, Abrahamson has created a gripping tale of survival and a tender depiction of a mother and son who save each other. Rated R. 118 minutes.
Regal DeVargas. (Laurel Gladden)
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have been comedic partners from their early days in Chicago’s ImprovOlympic in the 1990s through Saturday Night Live in the 2000s and up to their recent run as co-hosts of the Golden Globe Awards. This film finds them using that chemistry to play sisters who throw one last party at their parents’ house before it is sold. Rated R. 118 minutes. Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
It’s not a religion that comes under the glare of Spotlight, but an institution. In Tom McCarthy’s splendid, crackling ode to journalism, the “Spotlight” investigative team at The Boston Globe tackles pedophilia and its coverup within the Church. The series won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. McCarthy is careful not to glamorize his reporters. They’re played as hardworking stiffs by a superb cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, and Liev Schreiber, and it will be hard to overlook any of them come Oscar time. This movie will evoke comparison to All the
President’s Men. There’s a lot of the same shoe-leather approach, conducted here in an even lower key, which in a perverse way gives it even more drama. McCarthy keeps nibbling at the question of how this story could have remained buried for so long. Part of it has to do with the power of the Church, and the shame of the victims. And some of it has to do with the cozy relationships among the city’s power institutions. At the end of the film, the truly staggering extent and reach of this scandal is revealed.
Rated R. 128 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
It has been more than 30 years since the Rebel Alliance defeated the Empire in Return of the Jedi (1983) but now the First Order has arisen from the Empire’s ashes, seeking control of the galaxy. With the help of Finn (John Boyega), a reformed Stormtrooper, the Resistance (formerly the Rebel Alliance) seeks the assistance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who some believe is only a legend. Finn joins Resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger from the planet Jakku. They’re aided in their efforts by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) while relentlessly pursued by the First Order’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who’s bent on lighting up the cosmos with a Death Starlike weapon of awesome power. But Rey is harboring a secret power of her own that could change all of their destinies. Star
Wars: The Force Awakens introduces plenty of new characters to root for and brings back beloved series favorites who we have not seen since Return of the Jedi. Helmed by J.J. Abrams, this spirited seventh chapter in the saga is the Star Wars movie you’ve been waiting for. Applaud you will. Rated PG-13. 135 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14, Violet Crown, and DreamCatcher. (Michael Abatemarco)
Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) lives with his Bedouin tribe in the wilds of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. His father has died, so Theeb is learning life skills — how to shoot a gun, how to water the camels — from his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen). When Hussein is sent to guide a British officer to a secret location, Theeb follows them. This gorgeous film is told entirely from Theeb’s point of view and is at heart a little boy’s adventure tale — but this tale is tied to how progress has changed the countryside and the livelihoods of the tribes that inhabit it. Plot and character details are finely wrought, with Al-Hwietat turning in a subtle, entrancing performance in which he conveys intimate comfort with heat and sand, the visceral relief of slaked thirst, and a fierce determination not to allow a mysterious stranger to further betray him. Not rated. 100 minutes. In Arabic with subtitles. The Screen. (Jennifer Levin)