Our critics recommend...

Posted: November 19, 2012

Movies

Anna Karenina See Steven Rea's preview on this page. Opens Wednesday

Holy Motors Denis Lavant acts numerous roles in his portrayal of the actor Monsieur Oscar. English and French with subtitles.

Life of Pi See Steven Rea's preview on this page. Opens Wednesday

Red Dawn A group of teens band together to repel a North Korean invasion of their hometown. Opens Wednesday

Rise of the Guardians See Steven Rea's preview on this page. Opens Wednesday

Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.), Carrie Rickey (C.R.), and Dan DeLuca (D.D). 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.

Silver Linings Playbook A head-spinning wonder of a movie about love, pain, reinvention, rehabilitation, and the totemic power of an NFL franchise, with Bradley Cooper as a guy dealing with bipolar disorder and heartbreak, Jennifer Lawrence as a young widow with her own troubles, and an amazing supporting cast. From director David O. Russell, based on Matthew Quick's novel, and about as Philly-centric as you can get. 2 hrs. 02 R (profanity, sex, drugs, violence, 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.

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.

A Royal Affair Sumptuous 18th-century historical drama about a young, beautiful English noblewoman married off to the Danish king. A giggly simpleton, he would rather cavort with his dog, and then the queen (Alicia Vikander) begins a passionate affair with the monarch's personal physician (the charmingly sinister Mads Mikkelsen). Complications ensue. Exhilarating! 2 hrs. 17 R (sex, nudity, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

Wake in Fright A stunning, deeply disturbing psychological thriller set in the Australian Outback, First Blood director Ted Kotcheff's forgotten 1971 masterpiece has been rereleased in a restored edition. Gary Bond stars as a teacher who is waylaid in a small mining town where he is befriended by a group of increasingly psychotic men. A masterly study of male violence. 1 hr. 54 R (graphic violence and actual footage of a kangaroo hunt, sexuality, profanity, smoking) - W.S.

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 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.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 **1/2 The trippiest and goofiest of the five filmic installments based on Stephenie Meyer's megaselling books about teenage hormones and vampire beaus. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are newlyweds, and parents of a beatific baby girl, while Taylor Lautner finds another excuse to strip down to his Jockey shorts. Over. Done. Nail that coffin shut. 1 hr. 55 PG-13 (sex, vampire-on-vampire 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.

Theater

Reviewed by Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Jim Rutter (J.R.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.), and Toby Zinman (T.Z.)

Dr. Dolittle (Media Theatre) The ultimate vet hunts for the Great Pink Snail. Previews Tuesday-Thursday, opens Friday.

Misery (Bucks County Playhouse) World premiere of this stage adaptation of the Stephen King film classic. Opens Saturday.

Plaid Tidings (Walnut's Independence Studio on 3) The heavenly boy group returns to make things right for the holidays. Previews Tuesday-Nov. 28, opens Nov. 29.

War Horse (Academy of Music) Magical equine stagecraft, set in World War I. Tuesday through Dec. 2.

Aladdin (People's Light & Theatre) A princess, a magic lamp, and the Widow Twankey enhance this year's holiday panto! Through Jan. 6.

Behind the Eye (Gas & Electric Arts) Offers melodrama at drama's expense and a conventional look at an unconventional surrealist icon. Ends 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. Extended through Jan. 13. - H.S.

The English Bride (Theatre Exile) Love, lies, and terrorist plots in this world premiere. Through Dec. 2.

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. - T.Z.

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. - T.Z.

Making God Laugh (Montgomery Theater) The kids are back home for various holidays. It's complicated. Through Dec. 8.

 The Music Man (Walnut Street Theatre) Con man Harold Hill, Marian the Librarian, and the people of River City make beautiful music together. Through Jan. 6.

Pretty Fire (Theatre Horizon) This stirring one-woman show opens Horizon's fine new theater in Norristown. Ends Sunday. - J.R.

Satchmo at the Waldorf (Wilma Theater) One night in the life of the great Louis Armstrong. Through Dec. 2.

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 next Sunday. - H.S.

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, Singin' in the Rain. Ends Sunday. - J.R.

   

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