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Movies

Movie Stars

Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Alison Rosa/CBS Films via AP

Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

New releases

American Hustle The title is perfect for this exuberant con job of a movie: a sloppy, miscast, hammed up, overlong, overloud story that still sends you out of the theater on a bouncy little cloud of rapture. Director David O. Russell and stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence address the 1980s Abscam scandal, sort of. (138 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Of course it’s a disappointment — how could it not be? — but this sloppy, strained sequel to the 2004 idiot masterpiece occasionally breaks through to realms of blissful comic Dada. Will Ferrell is back as blowhard newsman Ron Burgundy, but it’s Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland who’s the holy moron of this franchise. (119 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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½ Inside Llewyn Davis
A transporting cinematic experience with a churl at its center. The Coen brothers re-create the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s with a mixture of poetry and sweet jaundice, and Oscar Isaac is excellent as the brilliant creep of the title. The music almost saves him, and it definitely saves the movie. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Walking With Dinosaurs This feature narrative extension of the BBC documentary franchise may be well-intentioned, but it spills over with flat cutesy humor, making a slog out of an experience that should be filled with wonder. Justin Long voices a runty Pachyrhinosaurus (think Triceratops) who’s destined for big things – and who banters with avian pal John Leguizamo throughout, rather than letting the story’s exotic sights and sounds do the talking. (87 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ White Reindeer A bland, suburbanite real estate agent learns something about the holiday spirit when her husband is murdered just a few weeks before Christmas. Her disillusionment leads her down a path of degradation that ranges from shoplifting to group sex. Zach Clark’s laid-back direction and Anna Margaret Hollyman’s performance almost overcome the lapses into crudeness and puerility. (82 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Previously released

12 Years a Slave It isn’t the story of an American tragedy. It’s the story of the American tragedy — this country’s original sin. The true saga of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born black man kidnapped from New York state in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana, the movie’s to slavery what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a mass-appeal reckoning. Directed by Steve McQueen (“Shame”). (133 min., R) (Ty Burr)

All Is Lost Two hours of Robert Redford on a boat in the Indian Ocean, and the boat’s sinking — what sounds like a recipe for boredom is, in the hands of its star and writer-director J.C. Chandor, a nearly perfect thing: An economic, elegant Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook that ever so subtly backs into Zen. See it on a big screen, please. (106 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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½ At Berkeley Once again Frederick Wiseman takes on a powerful institution, in this case the academic bastion of the University of California, Berkeley, and with unobtrusively pointed observations, shows how an ongoing crisis in public funding threatens its educational ideals. A meticulous portrait of a particular instance of a general problem that subtly comments on the current state of education — and democracy. (244 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

The Book Thief This adaptation of Markus Zusak’s 2005 bestseller is unobjectionable, sentimental, and not a little dull. A tale of World War II Germany as seen through the eyes of a young girl (Sophie Nélisse), it re-creates the novel’s events while keeping them generic enough for everyone to agree on. Geoffrey Rush, as the heroine’s adoptive father, is the best thing here. (135 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Captain Phillips An extraordinarily gripping movie based on events that took place on the container ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009. Director Paul Greengrass creates an aura of urgency so powerful that we temporarily forget what we know and hold our breaths for two-plus hours of tightening suspense. Tom Hanks and the magnetic Barkhad Abdi star. In English and Somali, with subtitles. (134 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Dallas Buyers Club The story of Ron Woodroof, an HIV-infected Texas cracker who became a hero of the alternative-medicine underground. Matthew McConaughey’s newfound ambitions have found their focus at last: The hero’s mischievousness and growing rage — and Jared Leto’s striking performance as Woodroof’s drag-queen business partner — get the movie past its air of sincere calculation. With Jennifer Garner. (117 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Frozen Disney animators prove that “Tangled” wasn’t a fluke with their similar-skewing loose riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” Kristen Bell injects peppy personality into the story (and, yes, sings) as princess of a kingdom plunged into eternal winter by the frost powers of her misunderstood sister. Josh Gad (“1600 Penn”) is hilarious as a snowman who dreams of how wonderful summer must be. (108 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Second verse, same as the first, a little bit shorter and a little less worse. The heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy saga find their footing in this second franchise installment, and so does Peter Jackson’s epic telling of their tale. The movie still lumbers, but it has shape, forward momentum, and excellent B-movie giant spiders. (161 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Unexpectedly improving on its predecessor, this sequel is an engrossing and powerfully bleak futuristic epic, directed with real urgency and a skilled eye by Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”). At its best, it’s a blockbuster that bites the culture that made it. With Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Jena Malone. (146 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Nebraska The latest from Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”) is a desolate, often powerfully moving comedy-drama about fathers, sons, life’s highways, and missed off-ramps. Bruce Dern plays an ornery old coot on a road trip to claim a sweepstakes prize and Will Forte, unexpectedly good, is the grown son trying to get him there. (115 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Out of the Furnace A twitchily well-acted melodrama of burnt-out lives, family ties, and backwoods revenge, Scott Cooper’s film offers a bleak vision of America’s rural economic woes before flattening out into a routine thriller about good men doing bad things. Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, and a scary Woody Harrelson lead the strong cast. (116 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Philomena A tearjerker of rare honesty and craft, based on the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), who in her 70s decided she wanted to find the illegitimate son the Catholic Church took from her and sold in 1950s Ireland. Steve Coogan plays the posh journalist who helps her and Stephen Frears ( “The Queen”) directs, keeping sentimentality at bay at every turn. (96 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas Tyler Perry isn’t trying very hard with this holiday film, which despite an intriguing premise gets mired in tasteless jokes and an inept narrative. Visiting family in the Deep South, Madea must rely on her humor and common sense to deal with family problems and social issues — and with Larry the Cable Guy, which is more than even she can handle. (105 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

An archive of reviews at www.boston.com/movies.
An archive of reviews at www.boston.com/movies.

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