Week in film, DVD and streaming November 24
Walter Tevis adaptations
The Queen’s Gambit, about a young woman’s rise in the world of competitive chess in the early 1960s, is the streaming hit of the season on Netflix. It’s an adaptation of a 1983 novel by Walter Tevis (1928-1984). His work is also the basis for three other excellent films, all available on streaming services:
The Hustler (1961, not rated) Drama – Paul Newman is Fast Eddie Felson who wants a game of pool against the great Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). Career-defining roles for both. With George C. Scott, Piper Laurie and Myron McCormick.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976, R) Science fiction – David Bowie, at his most other-worldly, is perfectly cast as an alien who needs water for his dying planet. Directed by Nicolas Roeg.
The Color of Money (1986, R) Paul Newman returns as Fast Eddie Felson who takes a younger player (Tom Cruise) under his wing. Directed by Martin Scorsese.
Tevis also wrote two other novels that have not been filmed—Mockingbird (1980), post-apocalyptic science fiction, and The Steps of the Sun (1983) about a future with an ascendant China.
Alex Cross (PG-13) Crime drama – Tyler Perry assumes the mantle of James Patterson’s best-selling character (from Morgan Freeman) as he faces off against serial killer Matthew Fox.
Anna Karenina (R) Drama – Keira Knightley stars in yet another turgid literary adaptation by director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice, Atonement).
Argo (R) Drama – CIA agent Ben Affleck, who also directed, leads a group American embassy workers out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. One of the year’s best and a surprise favorite to take the Best Picture Oscar.
Broken City (R) Drama – Ex-cop Mark Wahlberg does dirty work for powerful mayor Russell Crowe. With Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Chasing Mavericks (PG) Drama – Veteran surfer Gerard Butler teaches young Jonny Weston how to handle the incredibly huge waves off the Northern California coast. (Based on a true story.
Deadfall (R) Suspense – After knocking over an Indian casino, Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde are stuck in the snowy Michigan (Canadian) wilderness. With Kate Mara, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson. (Limited theatrical release)
Django Unchained (R) Western – Christophe Waltz and Quentin Tarantino won Oscars (Supporting Actor and Writing) for this ultra-violent tale set in the pre-Civil War South. As the title character, Jamie Foxx is a freed slave who becomes a bounty hunter and sets out to free his wife (Kerry Washington) from her owner Leonardo DiCaprio. With Samuel L. Jackson.
End of Watch (R) Crime drama – Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are uniformed LAPD cops who go up against a well-armed drug gang. Smart, funny, involving, believable.
Flight (R) Drama – Alcoholic pilot Denzel Washington manages to land a damaged airliner but still must deal with his many demons. Complex, involving and serious. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. (Another Oscar nomination for Denzel.)
Frankenweenie (PG) Animation – Tim Burton’s short film is expanded into a feature about a boy who resurrects his dog.
Freaky Deaky (R) Crime comedy – Adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel finds Detroit cop Billy Burke investigating bomber Christian Slater. (DVD premiere)
Gangster Squad (R) Crime drama – In 1949 LA, gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is thwarted by rogue cops Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Michael Pena and Anthony Mackie. With Emma Stone.
Guilt Trip (PG-13) Road comedy – Seth Rogen is conned into a cross-country trip with his overbearing mother Barbra Streisand.
A Haunted House (R) Horror comedy – Paranormal Activity and other “found footage” horrors get the comic send-up they so richly deserve. With Marlon Wayans, Essence Atkins and Cedric the Entertainer.
Here Comes the Boom (PG) Comedy – High school teacher Kevin James tries to save his school’s music program by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter where the loser of a bout can bring home $10K. With Salma Hayek and Henry Winkler.
Hitchcock (PG-13) Drama – The director (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife (Helen Mirren) run into problems while making Psycho. With Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (PG-13) Fantasy – Overblown, overlong and hugely popular “prequel” to The Lord of the Rings introduced Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen).
Hotel Transylvania (PG) Animation – Adam Sandler provides the voice of Dracula who has turned his castle into a resort for monsters.
House at the End of the Street (PG-13) Horror – Divorcee Elisabeth Shue and her daughter Jennifer Lawrence move next door to an attractive young psycho killer.
Hyde Park on Hudson (R) Period drama – In 1939, FDR (Bill Murray) conducts an affair with his neighbor Laura Linney on the eve of a visit by the King and Queen of England.
The Impossible (PG-13) Fact-based drama – Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and their three sons are on vacation in Thailand when a tidal wave strikes their resort. Extraordinarily realistic, making full use of computer effects.
The Imposter (R) Suspense – Fact-based thriller follows a teenager who disappears in San Antonio and reappears three years later in rural Spain.
The Intouchables (R) Comic drama – Lower-class guy Omar Sy comes to be a friend to quadriplegic rich guy Francois Cluzet. Art house hit from France.
Jack Reacher (PG-13) Drama – Tom Cruise is Lee Child’s tough-as-nails ex-MP hero who investigates a series of sniper murders.
Killing Them Softly (R) Action – After three bozos knock over a Mob poker game, hitman Brad Pitt is dispatched to take care of them.
Les Miserables (PG-13) Musical – Anne Hathaway won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the adaptation of the massive stage hit. With Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.
Life of Pi (PG-13) Magical drama – Director Ang Lee won an Oscar for his adaptation of the hit novel about a young man who is stranded with a Bengal tiger on a lifeboat.
Lincoln (PG-13) Biopic – Daniel Day-Lewis won his third Academy Award for his portrayal of the president near the end of the war. Directed by Steven Spielberg.
Mama (PG-13) Horror – Two little girls disappear in the woods and reappear four years later. When they go to live with their uncle and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain), something nasty accompanies them.
The Master (R) Drama – Veteran Joaquin Phoenix has trouble adjusting to America in the 1950s until he meets the wealthy and charismatic Philip Seymour Hoffman. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.
Paranormal Activity 4 (R and un-rated) – The dirt-cheap surveillance video horror has reached an astonishing fourth entry.
Parental Guidance (PG) Comedy – Overprotective parents Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott leave their kids with freewheeling grandparents Billy Crystal and Bette Midler.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (PG-13) Drama – High school freshman Logan Leman falls for senior Emma Watson and joins her clique. Terrific coming-of-age story from director Stephen Chbosky, based on his novel.
The Possession (PG-13) Horror – Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick confront a spirit from an antique box bought at a yard sale that takes over their daughter. Based on you-know-what.
Promised Land (R) Drama – Corporate pitchman Matt Damon experiences a transformation while trying to persuade rural Pennsylvania residents to sell the fracking rights to the natural gas under their land. With Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook. Succumbs to its own propaganda.
Red Dawn (PG-13) Action – Remake finds teens in Washington state facing off against North Korean invaders. With Chris Hemsworth and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Rise of the Guardians (PG) Animation – The Tooth Fairy, Santa, Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny are recast as superheroes who battle the villain Pitch. Voices provided by Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Isla Fisher.
Safe Haven (PG-13) Sappy romance – Yet another adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel about pretty troubled people in North Carolina.
The Sessions (R) Drama – Adult polio victim John Hawkes decides to lose his virginity. Sex therapist Helen Hunt agrees to help. Priest William H. Macy assists.
Seven Psychopaths (R) Action comedy – Writer Colin Farrell becomes involved after his pals Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell kidnap crazy gangster Woody Harrellson’s beloved dog.
Silver Linings Playbook (R) Romantic comedy – Recently released from a mental facility, Bradley Cooper still hasn’t gotten over his divorce when he meets free-spirited widow Jennifer Lawrence, who took home the Best Actress Oscar. One of the year’s best.
Sinister (R) Horror – Writer Ethan Hawke discovers videos of families being massacred, thus calling the supernatural evil upon himself and his family.
Skyfall (PG-13) Action – James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes up against Javier Bardem, an ex-agent who attacks M (Judi Dench). Directed by Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition) as an affectionate and exciting tribute to the entire series.
Taken 2 (PG-13 and un-rated) Action – Retired agent Liam Neeson is forced back into action when his family is kidnapped in Istanbul by the father of the guys he took out in the first film.
This Is 40 (R) Comedy – Semi-sequel to Knocked Up finds Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann dealing with their children and careers.
To Rome With Love (R) Comedy – Woody Allen tells intersecting love stories set in the Eternal City. With Alec Bladwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg and Penelope Cruz.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 (PG-13) Fantasy – The hit series finally comes to an end. With Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. Winner of many many Razzies.
Wreck-It Ralph (PG) Animation – Video-game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) wants to break free of his role and become a beloved hero. With Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman. From Disney.
Zero Dark Thirty (R) Drama – Jessica Chastain leads a group of CIA analysts who spend years tracking down Osama bin Laden. Realistic, suspenseful but somehow uninvolving. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
Abduction (PG-13) Action – Taylor Lautner, the shirtless wolfboy from the Twilight movies, evades assassins. From director John Singleton.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (R) Horror – It turns out that Southern Secessionists were actually the living dead and it was the job of the president to get rid of them. Stylish and silly; based on the popular novel.
Act of Valor (R) Action – Real Navy SEALs play supporting roles in a story of counter-terrorism and drug smuggling. With Roselyn Sanchez.
Adventures of Tin Tin (PG) Animation – Motion-capture adaptation of the famous comic book is a long chase across the desert and ocean that gets a bit tiresome. From Steven Spielberg.
Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (G) Animation – In their third feature, the Chipmunks are stranded on a desert island. $130 million box office hit despite my strenuous objections.
The Amazing Spider-Man (PG-13) Sci-Fi Action – Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone take over for Tobey Maquire and Kirsten Dunst in a re-telling of Spidey’s origin. Terrific performances and special effects can’t overcome the feeling that we’ve just seen this.
American Reunion (R & unrated) Comedy – The American Pie guys and gals are back for their high school reunion.
Arbitrage (R) Drama – Crooked financier Richard Gere tries to unload his Ponzi-built empire before the truth of it is revealed. (Has been available on pay-per-view during its theatrical release.)
Arthur Christmas (PG) Animation – Santa’s underachieving son Arthur (voice of James McAvoy) comes to the rescue when things go bad on Christmas Eve. Very funny and charming, from the creators of Wallace and Grommit.
The Artist (PG-13) Comic drama – Oscar-winner for Best Picture and Best Actor is a love letter to Hollywood in the days of silent films. Jean Dujardin is the star who can’t make the transition to sound.
The Avengers (PG-13) Fantasy action – Marvel superheroes battle trans-dimensional invaders to save the earth. The year’s biggest hit with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson.
Battleship(PG-13) Action – The summer’s first big-budget flop (though it did turn a profit) stars Liam Neeson as the Admiral who leads the forces of goodness and light against alien invaders.
Bernie (PG-13) True crime comedy – Jack Black is funeral director Bernie Tiede who befriends Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), the richest and meanest woman in Carthage, Texas, before he shoots her. Even so, everyone says he’s a real sweetheart. With Matthew McConaughy. One of the year’s best.
Big Miracle (PG) Drama – Greenpeace volunteer Drew Barrymore and small town reporter John Krasinski lead the rescue of a family of whales trapped in Arctic ice. (Based on a true story.)
Born to be Wild (G) Documentary – Morgan Freeman narrates the stories of orphaned baby orangutans and elephants and the people who help them. A theatrical IMAX release.
The Bourne Legacy (PG-13) Action – Jeremy Renner takes over for Matt Damon as another agent in jeopardy in the fourth installment of the series.
Brave (PG) Animation – Pixar’s latest features Scottish princess Merida (voice of Kelly MacDonald) who clashes with her mother (Emma Thompson).
The Campaign(R) Comedy – Will Farrell and Zach Galifianakis compete for a North Carolina House seat. Raunchy hilarity ensues. With Dan Aykroyd. (Zach is the nephew of Nick Galifianakis who was a representative from North Carolina until he ran for the Senate against Jesse Helms in 1972 and lost.)
Chronicle (PG-13) SF – Three high school students discover that they have superpowers which can be misused.
Contagion (PG-13) Horror – Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and Kate Winslet battle a deadly airborne virus.
Contraband (R) Crime drama – Smuggler Mark Wahlberg is forced to go on one last job after his feckless brother-in-law crosses drug lord Giovanni Ribisi. With Kate Beckinsale.
The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) Action – Christian Bale and writer/director Christopher Nolan conclude their Batman trilogy with their best work. Astonishingly, Ann Hathaway is just fine as Catwoman.
Dark Shadows (PG-13) Horror comedy – Director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp take a new look at the famous supernatural soap opera of Barnabas Collins and family.
The Descendants (R) Drama – George Clooney deals with a dying wife, contentious daughters, and a family inheritance. He’s terrific. One of the year’s best.
The Devil Inside (R) Horror – Daughter suspects that her mom, who murdered three people, is possessed by youknowwho.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG) Comedy – Third installment of the successful adaptations of the popular books finds Grey (Zachary Gordon) stuck in summer vacation.
The Dictator(R and unrated) Comedy—Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat) is the titular world leader who finds himself working at a New York grocery with Anna Faris. Based on a novel by Saddam Hussein.
Drive (R) Drama – Ryan Gosling is a movie stunt driver by day, getaway wheelman at night, who becomes involved with Carey Mulligan and her young son.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (PG-13) Horror – Creatures in the basement threaten a little girl. Remake of a very frightening 1973 made-for-TV movie. With Katie Holmes.
Dream House (PG-13) Horror – Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz move their family into a country house where murders occurred. Naomi Watts knows what’s what.
The Expendables 2 (R) Action – Stallone, Statham, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Li, Lundgren, Norris, Van Damme and the rest are back for more old-school shoot-‘em-up stuff. Exactly what you expect it to be.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG-13) Drama – After his father is killed on 9/11, young Oskar (Thomas Horn) searches for the meaning of a mysterious key that his dad left behind. Much more involving and moving than it sounds. With Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullocl. Max Von Sydow, Viola Davis, James Gandolfini and John Goodman.
50/50 (R) Comic drama – Seth Rogen helps best friend Joseph Gordon-Levitt deal with his cancer diagnosis and treatment. Based on fact.
The Five-Year Engagement (R) Romantic comedy – It takes Jason Segel and Emily Blunt half a decade to get to the altar. Box office disappointment from the makers of Forgetting Sarah Marshalland 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Footloose (PG-13) Musical – Remake of the 1984 Kevin Bacon film stars Kenny Wormald. Dennis Quaid takes over for John Lithgow.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (not rated) Documentary – Martin Scorsese looks at the life and music of Beatle George Harrison. Exceptionally well done.
Get the Gringo (R) Action – Mel Gibson’s newest goes straight to pay-per-view. He’s an American trying to get out of a Mexican jail with the help of a kid.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (PG-13) Fantasy action – Nic Cage is back as a professional daredevil who moonlights as Satan’s errand boy with a flaming head, etc.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (R) Drama – Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig star in the American version of the international best-seller about sexual violence.
Good Deeds (PG-13) Drama – Tyler Perry stars as a well-meaning businessman who gets into trouble with his fiancée (Gabrielle Union) when he tries to help struggling single mom Thandie Newton.
The Grey (R) Drama – Liam Neeson and a crew of oil workers survive a plane crash in Alaska and find themselves hunted by wolves.
The Guard (R) Comic drama – FBI agent Don Cheadle goes to Ireland where he partners with small-town cop Brendan Gleeson to work on a drug/murder case. Formulaic but fun.
Happy Feet Two (PG) Animation – Mumbles’ (Elijah Wood) son discovers his own unique penguin talents.
Haywire (R) Action – Martial artist Gina Carano stars as spy who’s double-crossed by her employers and pursued by assassins.
Hop (PG) Animation – Russell Brand gives voice to E.B., a rabbit who wants to be a rock star instead of the Easter Bunny.
Hope Springs (PG-13) Comic drama – Meryl Streep persuades her reluctant hubby Tommy Lee Jones to accompany her to a couple’s retreat weekend with marriage therapist Steve Carrell.
Hugo(PG) Drama – In the 1920s, a boy (Asa Butterfield) lives inside the walls of a Paris railroad station and learns about the earlier days of movies. With Ben Kingsley and Chloe Moritz. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Nominated for several Oscars. (Also available in 3D)
The Hunger Games (PG-13) Sci Fi – In a dystopian future America, Jennifer Lawrence represents District 12 in a to-the-death competition. With Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG) Animation – The 47th entry (or so it seems) in the series finds the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Dennis Leary up to more prehistoric hijinks.
The Ides of March (R) Drama – Press secretary Ryan Gosling learns troubling things about his candidate George Clooney. Disappointing.
The Immortals (R) Fantasy – Mickey Rourke leads his evil army against ancient Greece to overthrow the gods on Olympus. Young Theseus (Henry Cavill) stands in the way.
In Time (PG-13) SF – In a world where each individual has a set amount of time to live, Justin Timberlake learns that the system is rigged for the rich.
The Iron Lady (PG-13) Biopic – Meryl Streep won another Oscar for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. For my taste, there’s too much time spent with the star in old-age make-up and not enough about the real woman’s political education. (For comparative purposes, it’s not as entertaining as Oliver Stone’s 1995 Nixon.)
Iron Sky(R) Sci Fi comedy – In 2018, Nazis who have been hiding on the dark side of the moon invade America. Mash-up of Independence Day, Star Wars and Dr. Strangelove with impressive CGI effects.
J. Edgar (R) Biopic – Leonardo DiCaprio does a remarkable acting job as famous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Jack and Jill (PG) Comedy – Ad man Adam Sandler is visited by his sister (Adam Sandler again) on Thanksgiving. (It makes my stomach hurt just to type those words.)
John Carter (PG-13) Fantasy – The year’s first mega-flop based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s novel about a Civil War soldier (Taylor Kitsch) who is teleported to Mars where he fights giant CGI beasties.
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG) Family adventure – Dwayne Johnson leads a rescue mission to a remote island with Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hudgens. Semi-sequel to the 2008 Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Joyful Noise (PG-13) Musical – Dueling divas Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton want to control the Divinity Church choir as it competes in a national competition. And they’ve got problems with their kids and grandkids.
Killer Elite (R) Action — Mercenary Jason Statham must rescue his ex-partner Robert DeNiro from a rouge unit and save the world from disaster. (Not a remake of the Peckinpah film and said to be based on a true story.)
Lawless(R) Period adventure – In Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia, the Bondurant brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clark) run moonshine and battle a nasty dapper lawman (Guy Pearce). With a restrained Gary Oldman.Lockout (PG-13 and unrated) SF Action – In the near future, disgraced agent Guy Pearce) must save the President’s daughter when she’s caught up in a prison riot on a satellite.
Looper (R) Sci-Fi – In the near future Joseph Gordon-Levitt kills gangsters sent back from the far future until he finds that he’s assigned to get rid of his own older self, Bruce Willis. With Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels.
The Lorax (PG) Animation – Danny DeVito gives voice to Dr. Seuss’s brave little environmentalist critter.
The Lucky One (PG-13) Drama – Veteran Zac Efron searches for a woman (Taylor Schilling) whose photograph he carried in the Iraq war.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (PG) Animation – Alex the Lion (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) join a traveling circus. The Penguins return, too.
Madea’s Witness Protection (PG-13) Comedy – Banker Eugene Levy stumbles onto a mob scam and is sent by prosecutor Tyler Perry to live with his aunt Madea. With Denise Richards.
Magic Mike (R) Comic drama – Male strippers Channng Tatum and Alex Pettyfur work at Matthew McConaughey’s club, and the ladies love them all. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. With Olivia Munn.
Man on a Ledge (PG-13) Drama – Disgraced cop Sam Worthington threatens to jump from a New York highrise while negotiator Elizabeth Banks tries to talk him down and a heist is in progress.
Men in Black 3 (PG-13) SF – Agent J (Will Smith) goes back in time to meet Agent K’s (Tommy Lee Jones) younger self (Josh Brolin), and to save the world.
Mirror, Mirror (PG) Comic fantasy – Julia Roberts is the Evil Queen who has it in for her step-daughter Snow White (Lily Collins). Cue the dwarfs.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (PG-13) Action –Tom Cruise dangles from an incredibly tall building and stuff blows up.
Moneyball (PG-13) Drama – Washed-up phenom Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) tries to remake the Oakland A’s using unorthodox methods. With Jonah Hill. One of the year’s best, certain to get significant Oscar nominations.
Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13) Romantic comedy – Young would-be lovers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward run away together upsetting their island community. From Wes Anderson. With Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. One of the spring’s sleeper hits.
The Muppets (GP) Musical comedy – Jason Segel and Amy Adams help Kermit and the gang return to show business, despite evil businessman Chris Cooper’s efforts to close their theater. Extremely funny and entertaining.
My Week With Marilyn (R) Drama – While Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) is making a film with Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), a young man (Colin Clark) falls for her.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green (PG) Comedy – Young Tim (CJ Adams) becomes a sort of magical son to Cindy (Jennifer Garner) and Jim Green (Joel Edgerton).
One for the Money (PG-13) Comic mystery – Katherine Heigl is private detective Stephanie Plum who solves a murder in Trenton, NJ.
ParaNorman(PG) Animation – Comic version of The Sixth Sense. Norman (voice of Kodi Smit-McPhee) talks to dead people and it comes in handy when zombies are resurrected to fulfill a witch’s curse.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG) Animation – The Wallace and Grommit gang turn their attention to the bounding main. Voices of Hugh Grant, Jeremy Piven, Morgan Freeman and Salma Hayek.
Pitch Perfect (PG-13) Musical – Newly arrived at school, Anna Kendrick is dragooned into a singing group and discovers the cutthroat world of college a cappella competition.
Premium Rush (PG-13) Action – New York bike messenger Joseph Gordon-Levitt picks up the wrong package and finds himself on the run in the streets of Manhattan.
Project X (R) Comedy – “Found footage” low-budget raunch-fest features a no-name cast as teenagers having a wild party.
Prometheus(R) SF Horror – Prequel to Alien finds Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender go to
the planet where the first film began and find more nasty thingies. Complex and thoughtful with excellent performances.
Puss in Boots (PG) Animation – Antonio Banderas returns to explain how Puss came to be the heroic lover and outlaw. Not up to Shrek standards but not bad, either.
Rampart (R) Crime drama – Woody Harrelson is a tough cop in 1999 Los Angeles. Terrific performance.
The Raven(R) Horror – Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) pursues a serial killer who’s acting out his stories. With Alice Eve and Brendan Gleeson.
Real Steel (PG-13) SF – In the near future, Hugh Jackman builds a robot boxer that contends for the championship.
The Red House (1947) Drama – Edward G. Robinson is at his best as a middle-aged man who’s far too protective of his niece (Allene Roberts). The cult favorite has been restored with a crisp black-and-white image.
Red Tails (PG-13) War drama – Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. lead an ensemble cast portraying the Tuskegee airmen, black pilots who flew P-51 Mustangs in the last days of the European campaign in WWII.
Rock of Ages(PG-13 and R) Musical – Tom Cruise is a rock star who figures in the lives of two kids who meet on Sunset Strip during the crazy ‘80s.
The Rum Diary (R) Dramatic comedy – In the early ‘60s journalist Johnny Depp moves to Puerto Rico for work and fun. Based on an early Hunter S. Thompson novel.
Safe (R) Action – Washed up MMA fighter Jason Statham comes to the aid of a 12-year-old Chinese girl (Catherine Chan) who’s the target of Russian mobsters and corrupt New York cops.
Safe House (R) Action drama – Ryan Reynolds is an inexperienced CIA agent who has to help Denzel Washington, a fellow agent who may have gone over to the other side.
Safety Not Guaranteed (R) Comedy – Seattle magazine reporters investigate the source of this ad: “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.” Low budget, limited release, charming.
Savages (R and un-rated) Drama – Drug dealers Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch take it badly when their girlfriend Blake Lively is kidnapped by drug kinpin (queenpin?) Salma Hayek and her henchman Benicio Del Toro. DEA agent John Travolta is also involved.
Screaming in High Heels (not rated) Documentary — Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley and Brinke Stevens—queens of such ‘80s/’90s B-movies as Return of the Living Dead and Slumber Party Massacre—discuss their careers. (It’s also a nice little history of the early days of the home video revolution.)
Secret World of Arrietty (G) Animation – Japanese adaptation of The Borrowers series of children’s books.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (PG-13) Action – Robert Downey is back as the world’s greatest consulting detective with Dr. Watson (Jude Law) and Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). With Noomi Rapace.
The Sitter (R) Comedy – Jonah Hill is a babysitter who takes three kids on a night of adventures in New York City.
Snow White and the Huntsman (PG-13) Fantasy action – Evil Queen Charlize Theron is out to get Kristen Stewart, the fairest in the land. Lovingly directed by Rupert Saunders.
Take Shelter (R) Drama – Michael Shannon experiences increasingly frightening visions and dreams that may foretell the future or his unbalanced mental state.
Ted (R) Comedy – Mark Wahlberg has to deal with a foul-mouthed teddy bear (voice of director Seth McFarlane) that has accompanied him into adulthood. One of the year’s funniest.
That’s My Boy (R) Comedy – Ne’er-do-well dad Adam Sandler crashes son Andy Samberg’s wedding. Chaos ensues. With Leighton Meester, James Caan, Rex Ryan and Vanilla Ice.
The Thing (R) Horror/SF – Prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 film, paleontologist Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her team discover a shape-shifting creature in the Antarctic ice.
Think Like a Man (PG-13) Comedy – Four women use Steve Harvey’s self-help book to manipulate their men. The guys try to do the same.
This Means War (PG-13) Action comedy – CIA agents Tom Hardy and Chris Pine both fall for Reese Witherspoon.
A Thousand Words (PG-13) Comedy – Eddie Murphy’s latest misfire finds him as an agent who is cursed to die after he speaks 1,000 words.
The Three Musketeers (PG-13) Period action – Yet another version of the famous story, retold with GCI effects. From the makers of the Resident Evil franchise.
The Three Stooges (PG-13) Comedy – The Farrelly brothers direct an update of the famous comedy trio. With Jane Lynch and Sofia Vergara.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (R) Drama – Gary Oldman was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of George Smiley in this thoughtful adaptation of John LeCarre’s famous spy novel.
Total Recall (PG-13 and un-rated) SF – Colin Farrell takes over for Arnold Schwarzenegger in a remake of Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent take on Philip K. Dick’s story of memory and identity.
Tower Heist (PG-13) Caper comedy – Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy lead a group of workers who plan to steal back their retirement funds which were stolen by swindler Alan Alda.
Trouble with the Curve (PG-13) Drama – Grumpy old baseball scout Clint Eastwood reluctantly calls on his daughter Amy Adams for help in checking out a phenom.
21 Jump Street (R) Action comedy –In a remake of the TV series, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are misfit cops who go back to high school. Raunchy and funny.
Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, pt.1 (PG-13) Horror – Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) have a baby vampire.
Underworld: Awakening (R) Horror fantasy – Selene (Kate Beckinsale in her tight black leather outfit) finds that humans have figured out the whole vampire vs. werewolf business and want to get rid of both.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (R) Comedy – The guys (Kal Penn and John Cho) must find a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve in New York City.
The Vow (PG-13) Drama – Things are tough for newlyweds Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum when a car accident gives her amnesia. Not another Nicholas Sparks adaptation though it might have been.
Wanderlust (R) Comedy – New Yorkers Paul Rudd and Jennifer Anniston decide to leave the Big Apple for the simple life on a commune.
War Horse (PG-13) Drama – An Irish lad (Jeremy Irvine) and his thoroughbred fight in World War I. Multiple Oscar-nominee from Steven Spielberg.
We Bought a Zoo (PG) Drama – Widowed newspaper reporter Matt Damon resigns and buys a dilapidated animal park where he and his kids go to work. With Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Cameron Crowe.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (PG-13) Comedy – Couples deal with starting families. With Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lopez. (I haven’t seen it and cannot imagine circumstances under which I would voluntarily.)
Woman in Black (PG-13) Horror – Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) is a lawyer who discovers strange things in an old house as he settles a dead woman’s affairs.
Wrath of the Titans (PG-13) Fantasy action – Sam Worthington is back as Perseus who must fight more gigantic computer-generated effects.
Young Adult (R) Comedy – Writer Charlize Theron returns to her hometown and attempts to rekindle an old romance with Patrick Wilson, who’s married.