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Movie stars

Suraj Sharma in director Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.”

20th Century Fox via AP

Suraj Sharma in director Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.”

New releases

½ Hitchcock The best way to better understand the man who made some of our greatest movies is simply to see them. There’s no case to be made for a mangy shortcut like this. All surface and formula, it takes Stephen Rebello’s invaluable 1990 account of the making of “Psycho” and implodes as it tries to turn the book into camp. Anthony Hopkins plays the director as a creepy parade float. Helen Mirren is his long-suffering wife (98 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Life of Pi Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel is a marvel of contradictions: a movie about the magnificence of nature that’s largely computer-made, a two-character epic, a 3-D extravaganza that take place inside a 20-foot lifeboat. The movie shouldn’t work at all, but it does. Keep kids under 10 at home, though. With Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan. (127 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

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½ Orchestra of Exiles The story of how the violin virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman recruited Jewish musicians from across Europe to form the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in the 1930s offers rich, moving, and unfamiliar material. That should be a documentary trifecta. Yet writer-director Josh Aronson’s flaccid film squanders that material. Not coincidentally, it’s a textbook example of the idiocy of using historical reenactments. (85 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

Film District via AP

Adrianne Palicki and Chris Hemsworth in “Red Dawn.”

Red Dawn The teen Commie-anxiety flick from 1984 gets a remake, dated title and all. The new version drops Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, and Josh Hutcherson into the roles, shifts their guerrilla fight from Colorado to more urban Spokane, and promotes North Korea to Evil Empire status. Semi-forced, but hey, it satisfies the brand. Mostly solid viewing as a combat action spectacle, but politically, unable to decide whether to play it retro-jingoistic or contempo-liberal. (93 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ Rise of the Guardians Happily, this 3-D animated dream-teaming of “Guardians of Childhood” Santa (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) doesn’t just coast on familiar lore. Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is placed at the center of the adventure, joining them against bogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) in an adaptation of kid-lit author William Joyce’s books. Distinctive, but could push its crossover gimmick more aggressively. (97 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

A Royal Affair This Danish historical drama about a mad 18th-century king, his wife, and her lover is one of the stodgier entries in the Oscar-season costume parade but also one of the more straightforwardly enjoyable: a crowned-heads soap opera that balances effectively between pomp and melodramatic circumstance. With Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen. In Danish, with subtitles. (137 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Tristana A restored print of Luis Buñuel’s 1970 film about a smug old goat (Fernando Rey) and the innocent (Catherine Deneuve) who ruins him. It’s not top-drawer Buñuel, but it’s a good starting point for newcomers, and the old devil is welcome any time in a movie culture as safe as ours. In Spanish, with subtitles. (95 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Pictures

From left: Tooth (Isla Fisher), Jack Frost (Chris Pine), and Jamie (Dakota Goyo) in “Rise of the Guardians.”

Previously released

½ Anna Karenina Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Tolstoy classic staggers under the weight of a dazzling, hermetically sealed visual style that fails to connect with our emotions; the entire movie seems to take place in a snow globe. The cast, led by Keira Knightley, is good, although Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky may be too much the boy-toy. With Jude Law and Matthew Macfadyen. (130 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Chasing Ice A calmly furious documentary about the disappearance of the great northern glaciers and the photographer, James Balog, who captures this silent apocalypse in time-lapse images that balance between beauty and horror. Director Jeff Orlowski gives us more about Balog than we need to know; it’s the work that matters. (76 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Cloud Atlas A dazzling cinematic folly from writer-directors Andy and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) that tries to explain human interconnectedness through six narrative strands spread over centuries. It’s profound on the surface — and absurdly watchable — but banal beneath. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and others play multiple characters in sometimes convincing make-up. (172 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Flight A so-so movie with Denzel Washington as a commercial-airline pilot in hot water after he crash-lands a plane while drunk, high, hung over, and horny. The movie doesn’t do much that you couldn’t anticipate just by seeing the trailer. But you know what’s still worth $15 plus the cost of a baby sitter, popcorn, and parking? Two hours with Washington at the height of his everything. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. (138 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters Ben Shapiro’s documentary chronicles Crewdson’s stellar career, focusing on a series of photographs called “Beneath the Roses,” which includes many images shot in Western Massachusetts. Crewdson has become known for his haunting photographs of uncanny twilight scenes in dilapidated suburban settings. This film gives terrific insights into his working processes, and his relationships with the communities he shoots in. (77 min., unrated) (Sebastian Smee)

½ Hotel Transylvania In a 3-D animated creature feature, Adam Sandler voices Dracula as a fretful father sheltering his daughter (Selena Gomez) from humans. He builds his monster resort as an elaborate means to that end, but complications ensue when they’re visited by a backpacker (Andy Samberg). Some might say there isn’t enough that’s fresh, even if every generation of trick-or-treaters deserves its monster mash. Still, there’s likable energy throughout, and smart touches add up. (90 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ A Late Quartet A smartly cast, discreetly contrived melodrama about classical musicians, with retiring cellist Christopher Walken upsetting the delicate balance of his string quartet. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir are the other players; the music’s sublime but the situations feel pat. Fans of the actors (and of Beethoven) should check it out, though. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Lincoln In the weeks following his reelection, Abraham Lincoln (a remarkable Daniel Day-Lewis) fights to get the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed. A terrifically entertaining film that, against all odds, makes politics exciting again. Steven Spielberg is in top form, Tony Kushner’s script is full of crackling talk (and lots of it), and there are scene-stealing turns from Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and James Spader. (149 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Other Son It’s almost too obvious and too inevitable to be real. A nice French-reared, Jewish family in Tel Aviv and a less-well-off Arab quintet discover that their sons were delivered to the wrong clan. Making this drama must have been like discovering the website URL you swore was taken is actually free. The movie, written and directed by Lorraine Lévy, is shameless and simple yet solemnly optimistic at the same time. In French, Arabic, and Hebrew, with subtitles. (108 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick stars in this college singing-group comedy in which the throwaway lines are so many and so expertly deployed that you basically spend the whole movie digging through the trash. But the scenes of crassness, broadness, and projectile vomit point to the exasperating possibility that the moviemakers have learned the wrong lesson from “Bridesmaids.” With Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson. (88 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Searching for Sugar Man An astonishing rock documentary that seems pure urban legend. Sixto Rodriguez, a folk singer from Detroit, recorded two early-’70s albums that went nowhere in the US and made him a mysterious superstar in South Africa. Malik Bendjelloul’s film follows the efforts of two fans to find out whether he’s still alive. Magical. (86 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Sessions It sounds like a bad joke: A man in an iron lung hires a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity. But the achievement of this simple, intensely moving drama (based on a true story) is the clarity with which it portrays a good soul in an inert body. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give rich, unshowy performances as the leads; William H. Macy plays the hero’s priest. (95 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper finally gets a role that gives his oily charm some vulnerability. He plays a mental patient living in Philadelphia with his parents, hung up on his estranged wife and spending time with an equally unstable woman (Jennifer Lawrence). The movie whizzes and stings. Its director is David O. Russell, who’s become Hollywood’s most instinctive maker of ensemble dramatic comedies. With a never-haler Robert De Niro as Cooper’s gambler dad. (122 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Skyfall The James Bond movie franchise turns 50 this year and continues with Daniel Craig in the title role. But to hear everybody in this tedious new movie debate whether, after 23 movies, James is now too long in the tooth for glamorous spycraft, you would think the star of this movie is Methuselah. With Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, and, as the hilariously blond villain, Javier Bardem. (145 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Taken 2 This is the sort of sequel that seems to make perfect sense to the people who made it but none to us. The Albanian relatives of the men killed in the first movie by the former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) seek revenge. The first movie was the divorced dad’s revenge fantasy done up as action-movie brutality. This one is action-movie camp. (97 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Tales of the Night The new film from French animation visionary Michel Ocelot (“Azur & Asmar”) is a collection of original fairy tales with backgrounds that glow like illuminated manuscripts and characters done in the style of Indonesian shadow puppets. For adventurous kids and graphic arts grad students. In dubbed and subtitled versions; check the MFA website. (84 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 Boy, there’s a lot of standing around in this movie. In this series there’s always a lot of standing and waiting and sitting and hoping – for Edward the vampire (Robert Pattinson) to kiss human Bella (Kristen Stewart), for him to make transformative love to her. But this fifth and mercifully final installment features so much idle anticipation that it’s unclear whether we’re watching a movie or an Apple product launch. (116 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Wreck-It Ralph A video arcade villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) has an existential crisis and busts out into other games in an attempt to become a hero. Bright, fast, reasonably funny, and depressingly formulaic, it’s more fodder to keep your kids tethered to their home entertainment centers. Cranky old critic says: Send them out to play instead. (93 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

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