Author Philip Roth’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning 1997 novel gets a film adaptation courtesy of Ewan McGregor, who makes his directorial debut. McGregor stars as Seymour Levov, a 1960s businessman who embodies the American dream until it crumbles when his daughter (Dakota Fanning) falls in with an extremist political organization. Jennifer Connelly portrays his wife, a former beauty queen. Rated R. 108 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Not reviewed)
The eminently watchable trio of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor ushers audiences beyond the veil in this expertly pitched adaptation of the trip-o-delic comics created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Cumberbatch’s Dr. Stephen Strange, an arrogant surgeon who enrolls at a metaphysical dojo after sustaining injuries to his hands, is a flawed but likable hero and a reluctant convert to the “mystic arts.” Though there are tidbits for the Marvel faithful, the movie refreshingly keeps references to the brand’s endless tie-in products to a minimum. It’s also the rare film that truly benefits from computer animation and 3-D cinematography, which are well suited to its pandimensional settings. Cumberbatch and company keep things lively, delivering the snappy dialogue with precise comic timing. Perhaps the most entertaining character has no lines at all, being a magical cloak. Rated PG-13. 115 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown; DreamCatcher. (Jeff Acker)
In a year in which enough rock stars have passed away that we’ve come to better appreciate those still alive, director Jim Jarmusch offers a documentary about Iggy Pop and the Stooges. In it, the band’s story is cleanly told yet just shaggy enough to have some of the energy that made them famous. At front and center is Iggy himself, a delightful interview subject with a bright smile and more than 50 years of perspective. He walks us through his life and career from age five, when he learned about the importance of unpredictability and brevity through The Howdy Doody Show, up through his 2010 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was never much in-fighting in the Stooges, which is usually grist for the rock-doc mill, but Jarmusch’s film is full of fun facts (in their nascent years, the band actually called Moe Howard of the Three Stooges and asked permission to call themselves the Stooges), heart, and proper context for a band that inspired punk rock and everything that flowed from it. Rated R. 108 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Robert Ker)
Mel Gibson returns to the director’s chair for the first time since 2006’s Apocalypto to tell this World War II tale about an Army medic named Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who refuses to fight or kill people. Doss is derided for his pacifism by his peers, but when he saves many of their lives and becomes the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, he earns their respect. Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, and Sam Worthington co-star. Rated R. 131 minutes. Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
HANNAH: BUDDHISM’S UNTOLD JOURNEY
From nearly the first frame, this documentary drops viewers right into its narrative, informing us of the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the Cultural Revolution, and the loss of more than one million Tibetan lives. From that devastation, the film pivots to the culture’s rehabilitation, telling the story of Hannah Nydahl, a Danish woman who, in the 1960s and ’70s, learned about Tibetan Buddhism and helped spread it around the world. The pace of the movie never slows, and there’s fascinating footage of Nydahl’s mission and of the world’s cultures, though it’s edited too quickly to contemplate or even appreciate. Rushed along with distracting music, what should have been an inspiring story ultimately feels less like a spiritual journey and more like an information dump. Not rated. 90 minutes. The Screen. (Robert Ker)
A MAN CALLED OVE
Rated PG-13. 116 minutes. In Swedish with subtitles. Center for Contemporary Arts. See review, Page 39.
MICHAEL MOORE IN TRUMPLAND
Not rated. 73 minutes. Jean Cocteau Cinema. See review, Page 41.
Director Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 fairy tale for adults brims over with wonder and horror. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a young girl who is uprooted from a happy life just after the Spanish Civil War. She retreats into a fantasy world to escape her wicked stepfather, the sadistic Capt. Vidal (Sergi López). The parallel stories of reality and surreality are gripping, the acting is terrific, and the special effects are top-notch. The film won Academy Awards for cinematography, art direction, and makeup. Rated R. 118 minutes. In Spanish with subtitles. Jean Cocteau Cinema. (Robert Ker)
For those who have hoped that the crazy-coiffed, wide-eyed, multicolored troll dolls get an animated movie run through with radio hits, then your wait is over — Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani are among the actors lending both voice work and music here. Anna Kendrick voices the cheerful Poppy, who joins up with Branch (Timberlake) to save their friends from giant monsters. Zooey Deschanel, John Cleese, and Russell Brand also lend their voices. Rated PG. 92 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. Screens in 2-D only at DreamCatcher. (Not reviewed)
UGLY, DIRTY, AND BAD
Italian director Ettore Scola’s 1976 comedy centers on the large Mazzatella family, whose members live in poverty, crammed together in a small shack. When family patriarch Giacinto (Nino Manfredi) loses the use of one eye and receives a massive insurance payout that he then refuses to share, the other family members plan ways to off the old-timer and get their hands on the cash. Not rated. 115 minutes. In Italian with subtitles. The Screen. (Not reviewed)
Nuclear family: Jennifer Connelly and Ewan McGregor in American Pastoral, at Regal DeVargas