Reviewed by critic Steven Rea (S.R.) and Carrie Rickey (C.R.). W.S. denotes a wire service review.
Searching for Sugar Man A surprising, inspiring documentary about Rodriguez, a forgotten singer/songwriter who recorded a pair of great and greatly overlooked albums in the early 1970s, and who - unbeknownst to him - became a star in South Africa. A beautiful, revelatory film. 1 hr. 25 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
The Sessions A beautiful, funny, life-affirming film about the quadriplegic poet and journalist Mark O'Brien, who, at 38, sought a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt star, brilliantly. 1 hr. 35 R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Argo Ben Affleck stars in, and directs, the far-fetched but nonetheless factual tale of a CIA plot to extricate six U.S. Embassy workers from Tehran as the 1979 Iran hostage crisis unfolds. With Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, and crackling humor amid the white-knuckle suspense. 2 hrs. R (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel The legendary fashion editor, society icon, and cultural arbiter is celebrated in this illuminating doc. Interviews with Vreeland (conducted by George Plimpton), and with designers, photographers, models, and stars, reveal a woman with preternatural instincts for recognizing talent and trends. Her philosophy was built on independent thinking and a belief in the transformative powers of beauty and art. 1 hr. 26 PG-13 (adult themes) - S.R.
Flight A high-wire drama about a commercial airline captain - Denzel Washington in an extraordinary, Oscar-worthy performance - who crash-lands a jet carrying "102 souls." Back on the ground, things get complicated - and all the more rewarding for the experience. 2 hrs. 18 R (sex, nudity, drugs, alcohol, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Sister The official Swiss entry in the foreign-language Oscar race, Ursula Meier's sharply observed portrait of a 12-year-old thief who preys on vacationers and tourists at a ski resort, and the older sibling he lives with in a public housing tower at the bottom of the slopes. 1 hr. 44 No MPAA rating (profanity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Cloud Atlas ** I've looked at Cloud Atlas from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it's Cloud Atlas' confusions I recall. I really don't know Cloud Atlas at all. Epically ambitious, epically ridiculous adaptation of David Mitchell's cosmic-connections novel. 2 hr. 52 R (sex, profanity, nudity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.
The Details ** Tobey Maguire stars as a suburban homeowner whose obsession with the raccoons ripping apart his yard leads to a dark chain of events. Elizabeth Banks also stars. 1 hr. 48 R (profanity, sexual content, drug use, and brief violence) - W.S.
The Man With the Iron Fists ** In this movie directed by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, Russell Crowe stars as a blacksmith-turned-human-
weapon who battles to save his adopted Chinese village from evil forces. 1 hr. 36 R (cartoonish graphic violence, sexuality, drug use) - D.D.
Skyfall *** The 23d Bond film, and the third with Daniel Craig as the steely 007, takes a veddy British turn, even if it starts in Istanbul and hopscotches across the Pacific. Javier Bardem is the fey and psycho (and not terribly interesting) villain and Judi Dench is back, and bristling, as M. There's a new young Q (Ben Whishaw) pleased with himself, and there's a fussy parliamentarian (Ralph Fiennes) displeased with MI6's security lapses. Bérénice Marlohe is the exotic Bond girl, Naomie Harris the empowered one. Great action, and a bit of Bond backstory, too. PG-13 (violence, intense action, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Taken 2 ** Liam Neeson is back as the super-resourceful ex-CIA guy who saved his daughter from sex traffickers in the 2008 surprise hit. This time, he and his ex (Famke Janssen) and their daughter (Maggie Grace) go vacationing in Istanbul, but menacing Albanians want blood and vengeance. Formulaic and far-fetched, and nowhere near as fun as the first one. 1 hr. 31 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Wreck-It Ralph *** Colorful, noisy, and pixel-deep diversion about Ralph (John C. Reilly), a video-game villain who wants to be a hero. In 3D. 1 hr. 33 PG (raucous humor, animated action violence, suitable for those 5 and older) - C.R.
Reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Jim Rutter (J.R.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.), and Toby Zinman (T.Z.)
Aladdin (People's Light & Theatre) A princess, a magic lamp, and the Widow Twankey enhance this year's holiday panto! Previews Wednesday-Friday, opens Saturday.
The English Bride (Theatre Exile) Love, lies, and terrorist plots in this world premiere. In previews opens Wednesday.
Making God Laugh (Montgomery Theater) The kids are back home for various holidays. It's complicated. Previews Thursday and Friday, opens Saturday.
The Music Man (Walnut Street Theatre) Con man Harold Hill, Marian the Librarian, and the people of River City make beautiful music together. In previews, opens Wednesday.
Satchmo at the Waldorf (Wilma Theater) One night in the life of the great Louis Armstrong. Preview Friday, opens Saturday.
Behind the Eye (Gas & Electric Arts) Offers melodrama at drama's expense and a conventional look at an unconventional surrealist icon. Through next Sunday. - W.R.
Cooking With the Calamari Sisters (Society Hill Playhouse) Mamma Mia! Two guys portray behavior-challenged adult Italian sisters in a laugh-filled spoof of cooking shows that gets wilder as it progresses. Through Dec. 2. - H.S.
The Exit Interview (InterAct Theatre Company) Good idea, great cast, silly script about a professor who's been fired. Much too much dialectic in a show held hostage by Brechtian technique. Ends Sunday. -T.Z.
Freud's Last Session (Arden Theatre Company) An admirable production of an imagined meeting between Freud and C.S. Lewis where they debate theology. Through Dec. 23.
The Liar (Lantern Theatre Company) A delightful comedy in rhymed couplets, performed by a witty, nimble cast. David Ives adapts Corneille's 17th-century classic with style and gusto. Through Dec. 2.
Othello (Quintessence Theatre Group) The all-male casting of this riveting production strips away the veneer of civilization to expose the savage heart of military culture. Ends Sunday. - J.R.
Pretty Fire (Theatre Horizon) This stirring one-woman show opens Horizon's fine new theater in Norristown. Through Nov. 18. - J.R.
Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood (Hedgerow Theatre) A crime, a curse, an oath of secrecy! Sherlock Holmes, too, and a bit rough around the edges, but with its standout moments. Through Nov. 25. - H.S.
Stars of David (Philadelphia Theatre Company) This night of 1,000 Jewish stars, lyricists, and composers sheds precious little light on what it means to be a successful American Jew. Ends Sunday. - W.R.
What a Glorious Feeling (Bristol Riverside Theatre) Tense staging and evocative choreography underscore the drama behind the making of film's most celebrated musical comedy. Through Nov. 18. - J.R.
Brave *** A feisty princess will have none of the clownish suitors her parents want her to consider for marriage - she'd rather ride her horse, shoot her arrows, wield her sword. And when a witch puts a curse on her lovely mother, she has to do all of that and more. Pixar's 13th animated feature isn't up to the studio's best, but there's still plenty of heart in this Celtic-inspired yarn. 1 hr. 40 PG (violence, scares, adult themes) - S.R.