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    Short reviews of what’s in theaters

    Warner Bros. Pictures

    New releases

    ½ The LEGO Movie
    A witty, exuberant series of comic riffs on creativity, made with a mixture of CGI and stop-motion animation and using 3-D to invite us into its brightly knubbled world. It’s the first great movie of 2014 -- really. Voice talent includes Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, and Shaquille O’Neal as a tiny plastic Shaquille O’Neal. (100 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

    The Monuments Men
    A sadly misfired WWII drama about a ragtag team of curators in uniform searching for Nazi troves of stolen art. It’s a great story (and mostly true), but director-writer-star George Clooney can’t decide whether he’s making a caper comedy, a patriotic drama, or a historical adventure. With Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray. (118 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

    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)


    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)

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    August: Osage County
    A black comedy of prairie family dysfunction, stolidly adapted from Tracy Letts’s 2007 play. At its center, in one of her most flamboyant yet gimmicky performances, is Meryl Streep as cancerous, poisonous matriarch Viola Weston. A fine guilty pleasure rather than a great movie, with a cast that includes Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, and (thankfully) Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale.
    (121 min., R) (Ty Burr)

    ½ Devil’s Due From “V/H/S” alumni Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, another feeble, found-footage horror movie. Fans of “Rosemary’s Baby” might be outraged by this lazy rip-off, translated into one of cinema’s laziest genres, but other than that, the only emotional response is mild boredom and concern about the safety of the demonized couple’s affable golden retriever. (89 min., R) (Peter Keough)

    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)

    ½ Gloria From Chile, a multilayered, quietly charming portrait of a middle-aged divorcee, played with weary delight by Pauline Garcia. Director Sebastian Lelio celebrates the daily work it takes to keep dignity and humor intact when the day gets late and the men still act like babies. In Spanish, with subtitles. (110 min., R)
    (Ty Burr)


    Her Joaquin Phoenix plays a nice, lonely guy who falls in love with his computer’s operating system, which speaks in the voice of Scarlett Johansson. What could have been a horror movie, a farce, or a disaster is a profoundly touching meditation on what it means to be human and where our machines may be taking us. Written and directed by Spike Jonze. With Amy Adams.
    (120 min., R) (Ty Burr)

    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)

    I, Frankenstein One thing the vampires-versus-werewolves setup of “Underworld” neglected was to cover all three corners of the unholy creature-feature trinity. And so we get the similarly conceived “I, Frankenstein,” which stitches up Aaron Eckhart’s chiseled face like a baseball cover, sticks him in a hoodie, and promptly crashes thanks to a complete inability to resist overdone dialogue and faux-lofty exposition. (93 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

    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)


    The Invisible Woman Ralph Fiennes’s second film as director is nominally about Charles Dickens (Fiennes), but it’s really about Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), the young mistress Dickens hid from Victorian society until she began to vanish from her own life. A master class in acting and a quietly ravishing experience on a big screen. With Kristin Scott Thomas. (111 min., R)
    (Ty Burr)

    ½ Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit The late Tom Clancy’s super-CIA-guy hero makes his fifth movie appearance — the first not based on a Clancy novel. This series reboot is an origins story, with Chris Pine as Jack just starting out. Kenneth Branagh, who directed, plays a Russian oligarch seeking to bring America to its proverbial knees. Keira Knightley is the future Mrs. Ryan, with a first-rate Kevin Costner as Jack’s handler. (106 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

    ½ Labor DayA somber-unto-silly star-crossed romance that casts Kate Winslet as a depressive New Hampshire single mother, Gattlin Griffith as her protective young son, and Josh Brolin as the manly escaped prisoner who takes them hostage and falls in love. Directed, inexplicably, by Jason Reitman (“Juno”), who tries to reverse-engineer a Nicholas Sparks movie and puts the pieces back together all wrong. (111 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

    ½ Lone Survivor Writer-
    director Peter Berg viscerally re-creates two days in June 2005, when Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and three fellow Navy SEALs (Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster) fought a small Taliban army in the mountains of Afghanistan. The movie’s in the tradition of soldiers’ stories that find hard, simple truths in notions of sacrifice and courage. The problem is that the wars we fight now aren’t as simple, and the best recent movies about them aren’t either. (121 min., R)
    (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 The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animated The annual road-tour of Academy shorts contenders includes a strong animation category, highlighted by Daniel Sousa’s “Feral” and Disney’s “Get a Horse!” (62 min., unrated)
    (Ty Burr)

    The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Documentaries This year’s nominees showcase individualism in refreshingly spiky ways. Subjects include dying murderers, obsessive cave-diggers, the world’s oldest living Holocaust survivor, protesters wielding video cameras under government sniper fire, and a gay man whose best friend is the ex-skinhead who once tried to kill him. In English and Arabic, with subtitles. (Program A,
    91 min.; Program B, 79 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

    The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Live Action This should be an easy category to call. The terrific “Just Before Losing Everything,” from France, is the best in a weak live-action lineup. (104 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

    ½ The Past The new film from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi isn’t on a level with his Oscar-winning “A Separation,” but it’s taut, quiet, democratic, and observant — a fine meal made with rare and subtle ingredients. Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”) is the standout in a superb ensemble cast. In French, with subtitles. (130 min., PG-13)
    (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 Ride Along Motor-mouthed Kevin Hart plays a security guard and combat-video-game obsessive with imminent plans to marry his live-in girlfriend, and big dreams of becoming a real policeman. Neither idea sits well with his prospective brother-in-law (Ice Cube), a truculent detective who offers him a dubious chance to prove his manhood by riding shotgun with him for a day. Hart’s yammering might not ignite every movie he does, but it sure gives this one a boost. (100 min., PG-13)
    (Tom Russo)

    ½ The Wolf of Wall Street One of the funniest yet most depressing movies of Martin Scorsese’s long career — a celebration and evisceration of male savagery, financial division. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a wily, loose-limbed comic performance as Jordan Belfort, go-go hustler of the 1990s. But, at three hours, the parade of creepy macho excess threatens to turn smug. With Jonah Hill. (180 min., R) (Ty Burr)

    An archive of reviews is at