Reviewed by critics Steven Rea (S.R.) and Carrie Rickey (C.R.). . W.S. denotes a wire service review.
Holy Motors Writer-director Leos Carax's brilliant series of vignettes has Denis Lavant acting numerous characters. English and French with subtitles. 1 hr. 55 No MPAA rating (adult material and graphic sexual images) - W.S.
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.
Lincoln Daniel Day-Lewis in an act of human alchemy, delivering an absolutely extraordinary performance as the 16th president of the United States, campaigning to end the Civil War and abolish slavery. A film about America's unique political process, and the leader trying to bend it to his will. 2 hrs. 29 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) - S.R.
Rise of the Guardians Enchanting animated adaptation of William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood, featuring Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Jack Frost as the fantastic five who protect and serve children's imaginations. 1 hr. 29 PG (Animated adventure, gloomy villain. For those 6 and older) - C.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.
Life of Pi *** Ang Lee's parable about a boy and a Bengal tiger adrift in a lifeboat (based on the best-seller by Yann Martel) is about the stories we tell to make peace with the incomprehensible. 2 hrs. 07 PG (its themes of loss and loss of innocence are best not for children under 12) - C.R.
Red Dawn *1/2 A laughably bad script and uniformly uncharismatic cast hobble this unnecessary, un-fun reboot of the 1984 Patrick Swayze/Charlie Sheen cult fave. Instead of Russians invading the U.S. of A., this time it's the North Koreans. High school resistance fighters aren't going to let them stay. 1 hr. 33 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
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. 2 hrs. 23 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 mega-selling 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.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.), David Patrick Stearns (D.P.S.), and Toby Zinman (T.Z.) Cinderella
(Arden Theatre) Cinderella's one tough cookie in this family show - and Mozart's on the scene too. Previews Wednesday-Friday, opens Saturday.
Dave and Aaron Go to Work (1812 Productions) Funnymen Dave Jadico and Aaron Cromie are a wordless odd couple in this silent-film-style comedy. Previews Thursday-Dec. 4, opens Dec. 5.
Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge(New City Stage) In this updating by Christopher Durang, Bob Cratchit's saintly wife has had it up to here. Previews Thursday and Friday, opens Saturday.
Plaid Tidings (Walnut's Independence Studio on 3) The heavenly boy group returns to make things right for the holidays. In previews, opens Thursday.
This Wonderful Life (People's Light and Theatre) A single actor, Jerry Richardson, brings the entire town of Bedford Falls to life. Preview Thursday, opens Friday.
Aladdin (People's Light and Theatre) A return to form for the company's holiday panto brings back some old favorites and introduces some stellar new faces. Through Jan. 6. - 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 Jan. 13. - H.S.
Dr. Dolittle (Media Theatre) The ultimate vet hunts for the Great Pink Snail. Through Jan. 27.
The English Bride (Theatre Exile) A deft political mystery that may strain your tolerance for ambiguity. Three good performances. Through next 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. - 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. Extended through Dec. 9. - T.Z.
Making God Laugh (Montgomery Theater) The kids are back home for various holidays. It's complicated. Through Dec. 8.
Misery (Bucks County Playhouse) World premiere of this stage adaptation of the Stephen King film classic. Through Dec. 8.
The Music Man (Walnut Street Theatre) Though the production isn't handsome, the cast is - as well as smart and just about everything you could hope for in this still-magic Broadway classic. Through Jan. 6. - D.P.S.
Satchmo at the Waldorf (Wilma Theater) Engaging biodrama about Louis Armstrong, the great trumpet player. Through next Sunday. - T.Z.
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. Ends Sunday. - H.S.
War Horse (Academy of Music) Magical equine stagecraft, set in World War I. Through next Sunday.
Video ParaNorman ***
A misunderstood boy with special powers is called upon when his town comes under attack by zombies in this animated family feature. 1 hr. 33 PG
(scary action, thematic elements, rude humor and language) - W.S.