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
Adam McKay’s movie is by turns funny, frightening, suspenseful, informative, and tragic. It examines the 2008 near-collapse of the world financial system from the perspectives of four analysts, or teams, who had the vision to recognize what nobody else saw coming: the rottenness of the system, the worthlessness of the packaged mortgages on which the economy was gliding, and the inevitable devastating crash when the bubble burst. They bet against the economy. They bet big. And they won. That McKay is able to explain the financial collapse that cost so many people their homes and savings — and make it entertaining — is a remarkable achievement. Terrific performances come from a cast that includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carell. And McKay leaves us with a warning: It could happen again. Rated R. 130 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; 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.
CAROL This is director Todd Haynes’ second 1950s-era melodrama, after the Douglas Sirk-influenced
Far From Heaven, in which Julianne Moore plays a suburban housewife with a closeted gay husband. This time — in a story adapted from a 1952 novel by Patricia Highsmith, which she published under a pseudonym due to its lesbian plotline — it’s glamorous New Jersey housewife Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) who’s gay and nudging the closet door open. She’s going through a difficult separation and divorce from her husband, Harge (Kyle Chandler), during the holiday season when she meets Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), an ingénue working the counter at a New York City department store. The alchemy between Therese and Carol is instant, and glorious to behold, as the film centers on the remarkable performances of these two actresses. Every disparate element of the film adds to its virtuosity, from the period designs to the score. Rated R.
118 minutes. Violet Crown. (Molly Boyle)
After the recent success of Spotlight, here is another movie about people who are fighting for truth and justice. In this case, instead of the Catholic Church, the heroes are going up against another powerful institution: the NFL. Will Smith plays Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who discovers the extent of the brain damage suffered by football players who receive multiple concussions, and tries to spread the word. Luke Wilson plays his opponent, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Rated PG-13. 123 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
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 a 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)
Will Ferrell effectively played the milquetoast to Mark Wahlberg’s tough guy in the 2010 buddy-cop romp The Other
Guys, and now they bring the same dynamic to a family comedy. Ferrell plays a mild-mannered executive who is trying to be the best father to his stepchildren that he can, until one day the real dad (Wahlberg) comes roaring in on his motorcycle and makes him look like a total square. Linda Cardellini plays the mom who is caught between them. Rated PG-13. 96 minutes. Regal DeVargas; Regal Stadium 14; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
THE DANISH GIRL
Eddie Redmayne, winner of last year’s best actor Academy Award for his portrayal of the ALSburdened physicist Stephen Hawking, tosses his hat in the ring again with another physically challenged Oscar-bait performance as Lili Elbe, née Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who in the early 1930s became a transgender pioneer. Perhaps even better is Alicia Vikander, who brings enormous sympathy to the role of Einar’s artist wife, Gerda, without the benefit of torment or confusion on which to hang her character. Director Tom Hooper has crafted a beautiful picture. But there’s a sense of emotional distance that the movie never quite manages to shake. Maybe it’s too tasteful, too careful. What Lili Elbe did was terrifyingly bold. The movie is elegant and safe. Rated R. 120 minutes. In French, German, and English with subtitles. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Rated R. 168 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema; Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. See review, Page 34.
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, whom 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)
David O. Russell’s latest venture with the returning cast of Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook) opens with the title card, “Inspired by the true stories of daring women. One in particular.” The film tells the story of Joy (Lawrence), based on the real-life tale of Joy Mangano’s rise to home-shopping network success after she invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop while struggling to pay the bills as a single mother. Russell establishes a pleasantly screwball pace early on, and the narrative is entertaining for much of the film, carried along by Lawrence’s radiant energy and De Niro’s wry comedic chops. But style ultimately trumps the movie’s fragmented substance, and after all the sassy lines, sunglasses, and sauntering are over, viewers may be left wondering what exactly the point was. Rated PG-13. 124 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Molly Boyle)
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 booming, 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) 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 came 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)
THE PEARL BUTTON
The 1991 thriller Point Break, which starred Patrick Swayze as a surfing bank robber and Keanu Reeves as an undercover FBI agent trying to catch him, was a big hit that enjoys a cult following to this day. It’s hard to imagine that the film’s fans ever wanted a remake, yet here one is, with Édgar Ramírez in the Swayze role and Luke Bracey playing Reeves’ part. Rated PG-13. 113 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14. Screens in 2-D only at Regal DeVargas; DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
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, 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, wanting 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 Star-like weapon of awesome power. But Rey is harboring a secret power of her own that could change all of their destinies. 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; 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 story 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)
In this latest homage to Fellini from Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), two old friends contemplate life from opposite perspectives in a luxurious Alpine resort. Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a celebrated composer/conductor who has turned his back on his past and his future and is wallowing in the present. Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is a celebrated film director, but the celebration is winding down. Sorrentino’s premise of characters gathered at a grand hotel is not a fresh one, but the top-notch cast and the lovely surroundings give us enough to enjoy a pleasant couple of hours. There are some striking scenes and moments. But Sorrentino is too much in thrall to the master, Fellini; he never seems to get an original feel for the material, and make it matter. Not rated. 118 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
The actress and the pickpocket: Anna Magnani and Ben Gazzara in The Passionate Thief, at Center for Contemporary Arts
The Pearl Button, at The Screen