EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 30, 2013

Also in theaters


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — A.C.O.D. 3 stars. Adam Scott is the grown up son of parents long and acrimoniously divorced, trying to bring them together for his younger brother’s wedding. Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins are especially terrific as the warring exes. A clever little comedy with some big performances. 1 hr. 28 R (profanity, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY 2 stars. The old college friends from 1999’s Best Man (Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Terrence Howard and others) reunite for a long Yuletide reunion during which secrets come spilling out and old wounds get reopened. The ensemble sparkles in the comedic moments, and suffers in the artificially melodramatic ones. 2 hrs. 4. R (emphatic profanity, nudity, adult themes.) — David Hiltbrand

THE BOOK THIEF 2 1/2 stars. World War II melodrama about a German girl who learns to treasure words through her friendship with a Jewish refugee hiding in the basement. Adapted from the bestselling young adult novel, and compromised by production design that is too beautiful by half — the Holocaust has never looked so good. With Sophie Nélisse in the title role, and Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the foster parents she comes to love. 2 hrs. 11 PG-13 (violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN 3 1/2 stars. The Belgian entry in the Academy Awards foreign language competition offers a time-hopping portrait of a couple’s romance and relationship. He’s a hipster bluegrass-obsessed musician, she’s a tattoo artist, and together they make music, literally — and then make a child. A child who, at 6, is diagnosed with cancer. A surprisingly moving, and musical, film. 1 hr. 51 R (sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS 4 stars. Based on the real-life story of a U.S.-flagged cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates, with Tom Hanks in the title role as a steady-as-she-goes veteran forced to face his own mortality. Paul Greengrass (the second and third “Bourne” films, “United 93”) masterfully orchestrates the intense, suspenseful drama. 2 hrs. 14 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

CARRIE 3 stars. Chloë Grace Moretz is the taunted, traumatized, telekenisis-powered teen in Kimberley Peirce’s rethink of Brian De Palma’s high school horror classic. Not anything the world needed, but not bad. From director Kimerley Peirce, of “Boys Don’t Cry.” 1 hr. 40 R (violence, profanity, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 3 stars. Intrepid and irrepressible young inventor Flint Lockwood has more problems with food in this charming animated sequel. With the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, and Will Forte. 1 hr. 35 PG — David Hiltbrand

THE COUNSELOR 2 1/2 stars. An A-list B-movie crime caper — a tangled tale of doublecrosses and dead people, scripted by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem. Who knows what really happened? 1 hr. 57 R (violence, profanity, sex, adult themes) — Steven Rea

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB The “inspired by true events” tale of a party-hardy Texas cowboy and self-employed electrician who, in 1985, contracted the AIDS virus. Matthew McConaughey gives a literally transformative performance as this homophobic hellraiser, who won’t accept the doctors’ diagnosis that he has 30 days to live. He proves them wrong, becoming a cash-rich drug dispenser and patients’ rights advocate in the process, in this wild, colorful, compassionate film. 1 hr. 57 R (sex, nudity, drugs, profanity, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

DELIVERY MAN 3 stars. Vince Vaughn stars in this more-than-serviceable remake of a French Canadian farce about an anonymous donor to a fertility clinic who discovers, several decades later, that he’s the biological dad to literally hundreds of kids. And many of them now want to know where their DNA comes from. Lawsuit and laughs ensue. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (profanity, sex, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea.

ENDER’S GAME 2 1/2 stars. A space adventure adapted from Orson Scott Card’s 1985 sci-fi novel about a bunch of smartypant kids recruited for battle against an alien invasion. Harrison Ford and Viola Davis are the military parental units in charge. Asa Butterfield, thin and nerdy and awesomely earnest, is “the One” chosen to lead the fight, if only he can overcome the bullying from his fellow junior cadets. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (violence, intense action, adult themes) — Steven Rea

ENOUGH SAID 4 stars. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in his final leading role) are divorced parents, each with a college-bound daughter, who meet, date and take a real liking to each other. And then the trouble begins. A smart, funny movie for grown-ups from the hugely talented writer director Nicole Holofcener. 1 hr. 33 R (sex, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

ESCAPE PLAN 2 stars. Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up in this mildly amusing, if ultimately pointless prison-break thriller. 1 hr. 56 R (profanity, violence, angry men in cages) — Tirdad Derakhshani

FREE BIRDS 1 1/2 stars. Turkeys in a time machine? That’s the rather desperate premise of this flaccid animated film that sends a couple of gobblers back to the first Thanksgiving. Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler do the voices. 1 hr. 31 PG (crude humor) — David Hiltbrand

GRAVITY 4 stars. A transcendent, zero-G tale of survival, with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as orbiting astronauts caught in a debris storm — quite literally at the end of their tether. A technological marvel, and an emotional, spiritual and physical voyage of stratospheric suspense. 1 hr. 30 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE 3 stars. Bigger, better, and broodier, with Jennifer Lawrence back again, causing no end of trouble as the Districts’ rabble smell rebellion in the air, and the Panem puppetmasters try to quash it. An Occupiers’ parable about class warfare? A metaphor for teen defiance? Or just a kooky story of survival in a controlled environment where, sadly, most of the contestants must die? However you read it, this franchise rocks. 2 hrs. 26 PG-13 (violence, dystopian bleakness, adult themes) — Steven Rea

KILL YOUR DARLINGS 3 stars. Allen Ginsberg goes to college, falling in with fellow fledgling Beats William S. Burroughs, Lucien Carr and Jack Kerouac, and falling into a dark — and true — tale of obsession, jealousy and murder. Daniel Radcliffe in a smart, nicely calibrated performance as the bright-eyed “Ginsy,” still figuring out who he is, and who he wants to be. 1 hr. 44 R (violence, profanity, sex, drugs, adult themes) — Steven Rea

LAST VEGAS 1 1/2 stars. Four aging lifelong friends attempt to relive their youth in Las Vegas in celebration of one’s engagement. Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline star. 1 hr. 45 PG-13 (profanity, partial nudity, sexual situations, hemorrhoid jokes) — Tirdad Derakhshani

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER 3 stars. Based on the true story of an African-American who served eight presidents, from Truman to Reagan, in the White House, with Forest Whitaker, full of dignity and humilty in the title role, as pivotal events in the history of the Civil Rights movement swirl all around him. With Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo. 2 hrs. 12 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rae

NEBRASKA 4 stars. Bruce Dern in a career-defining performance as an ornery coot who believes he’s won a $1 million prize, and heads from Montana to Nebraska to claim it. His son (Will Forte) reluctantly tags along, in Alexander Payne’s funny, sad, poignant, absurd road movie. In black and white. It’s a gem. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

RUNNER RUNNER 1 1/2 stars. Justin Timberlake is a Princeton grad student with a talent for algorithms, Ben Affleck is a broad-shouldered baddie who runs an Internet gambling operation out of Costa Rica. Stupefying generic crime stuff ensues. 1 hr. 31 PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

RUSH 3 1/2 stars. Ron Howard’s epic and exhilarating race-car miovie, about the legendary rivalry between 1970s Formula One champions James Hunt, a swaggering Brit, and Niki Lauda, a rigorously fussy Austrian. It’s a ride. 2 hrs. 03 R (sex, nudity, violence, profanity, intense medical scenes, adult themes) — Steven Rea

SHORT TERM 12 3 1/2 stars. A low-key, high-emotion indie set in a foster-care facility for at-risk teens, with a career-defining performance from Brie Larson as the supervisor who hides her own hurt with an outsized empathy. Full of heart and heartbreak, it’s also funny and inspired. 1 hr. 36 R (profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE SPECTACULAR NOW 3 stars. A high school romance that feels genuine, and finds deep places to go, with Miles Teller as a freewheeling senior who surprises himself by falling for a shy and unlikely schoolmate, beautifully played by “The Descendants’” Shailene Woodley. 1 hr. 35 R (sex, alcohol, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rae

TERRAFERMA 3 stars. From Emanuele Crialese, director of “Respiro,” another tale set on the same rocky Sicilian island — about an old fisherman who defies the authorities and rescues, and then hides, an African refugee he pulled out of the water. A sun-splashed meditation on compassion, tradition, tolerance, generational change. 1 hr. 28 R (nudity, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THOR: THE DARK WORLD 2 1/2 stars. The sequel to 2011’s “Thor is darker and messier, with much of the action restricted to Asgard and the Nine Realms — where a freaky alignment has allowed the long-banished Dark Elves to reemerge and make trouble for the God of Thunder. Chris Hemsworth, in red cape, breastplate and wielding his magic hammer, is back in the title role. 2 hrs. PG-13 (action, violence, adult themes) — Steven Rea

THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI 4 stars. With splendid detail and focus, this documentary examines the momentous forces that led Ali, then heavyweight champion of the world, to refuse service in the Army during the war in Vietnam. 1 hr. 30 No MPAA rating — David Hiltbrand

12 YEARS A SLAVE 4 stars. The remarkable, essential story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was abducted and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. The British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor gives body and soul in the lead, and Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Brad Pitt are part of a superb supporting cast. 2 hrs. 13 R (violence, nudity, profanity, adult themes) — Steven Rea