OK for 10 and older
(Comedy, PG, 130 minutes) Revered as a master for decades and functioning at the top of his game as he approaches 70, Martin Scorsese would seem to have nothing else to prove. So it's thrilling to see him make a bold, creative leap with "Hugo," which is not only an unusual family film from him but also his first movie in 3-D. Scorsese doesn't just tinker with this newfangled technology, he embraces it fully. Based on the Brian Selznick children's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," ''Hugo" takes place at a train station in 1930s Paris, where the title character, a wide-eyed orphan played by Asa Butterfield, secretly lives in the walls and keeps all the clocks running on time. Chloe Grace Moretz is radiant as the inquisitive girl who helps him unlock the secrets of his past, which have something to do with the mean old man who runs the train station toy shop (Ben Kingsley). The film takes a little while to find its narrative footing, but eventually morphs from a children's adventure into a lesson in the need for film preservation.
Info for Parents: PG for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking.
The big screen revival of The Muppets, cleverly titled "The Muppets," is a generally charming exercise in nostalgia. The musical comedy whimsically and often cleverly revisits the characters, their shtick and and the TV show and movies that made them most famous. British TV director James Bobin and world's biggest Muppet fan Jason Segel have concocted a wistful walk down memory lane. The Muppets are getting back together for one last show, a telethon to save their tatty old theater and their old movie studio from a rapacious Texas oilman named Tex Richman, played without the requisite glee by Oscar winner Chris Cooper. The songs are amusing enough, and Amy Adams and Segel make a cute duet. You have to wonder, though, if kids will get The Muppets, and if this generation of Muppet performers is little more than a tribute band itself.
Info for Parents: rated PG for some mild rude humor
Puss in Boots
(Comedy, PG, 90 minutes). A spinoff of the "Shrek" franchise, this is actually a prequel, providing the origin story of the diminutive, swashbuckling kitty voiced with great charisma, as always, by Antonio Banderas. At the film's start, Puss is an outlaw in his own small, Spanish hometown. Flashbacks take us to his childhood at an orphanage, where he was best friends with a brainy, ambitious Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Together, the two dreamed of stealing the magic beans, climbing the beanstalk and getting rich off some golden eggs. Now, that crime has become Humpty's obsession. A whole film may have been too much, but for quick, lively, family entertainment, "Puss in Boots" works just fine, even in 3-D, which is actually integrated thoughtfully into the narrative and doesn't just feel like a gimmick.
Info for Parents: Rated PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor.
(Animated Comedy, PG, 97 minutes). "Arthur Christmas" is a spirited, comical and adorable addition to the world's over-supply of holiday cartoons. Santas in this version of North Pole Inc. serve for about 70 years and pass the job down to a son. The current Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is more of a "figurehead" in the family business that his red camouflage-suited son (Hugh Laurie, perfect) has turned it into. Steve is waiting for the old man to retire, but he won't go.
Info for Parents: Rated PG for some mild rude humor.
(Animated, Rated PG 99 minutes) The dancing, singing penguins are as adorable as ever. Yet a couple of shrimplike krill almost steal the show in this animated sequel that sticks to the formula of the original while adding enough variety to give it a life of its own. The sequel delivers the key ingredients that made its predecessor such a hit: lovable characters, a rich blend of pop tunes employed in showstopping song-and-dance numbers and remarkable Antarctic landscapes whose bleak beauty pops off the screen even more than in the original, thanks to some of the finest use of 3-D animation since the digital age brought an extra dimension to the screen.
Info for Parents: Rude humor and mild peril
(Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, R, 110 minutes) The withering, gratuitous violence of "Immortals" is of a type better suited to a horror movie, but that's a separate issue - almost.The artificiality of the 3-D "Immortals" - in which the slave Theseus (Henry Cavill) swears vengeance against the rampaging King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) - is such that human beings almost feel like unwelcome intrusions on virtual Greece. Much of the movie is inadvertently comic - the way the dialogue swings between the slangy modern and the theatrically "classical," or the presentation of the virgin (not for long) Oracle. If you're even vaguely familiar with Greek mythology, forget it (Hyperion was a Titan; Theseus was the mythic founder of Athens).
Info for Parents: Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, and a scene of sexuality
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
(Romance/thriller, Rated PG-13, 117 minutes) "Laughable" probably isn't the word the filmmakers were aiming for, but there it is: laughter, at all the wrong places. The dialogue is, of course, ridiculous and the acting ranges from stiff to mopey. But moments that should be pulsating with tension are usually hilarious because the special effects are still just so distractingly cheesy. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and her vampire beau, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), marry. The other man in the equation, werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), stops by as a gesture of goodwill. Edward impregnates her and the resulting hybrid spawn threatens to destroy her from inside.
Info for Parents: Disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements
Jack and Jill
(Comedy, PG, 90 minutes) Very much like one of the faux Adam Sandler movies of Judd Apatow's "Funny People," "Jack and Jill" stars Sandler as both sides of male-female identical twins. A gleefully stupid movie more in line with Sandler's earlier comedies than his later, more adventurous films. Sandler plays Jack Sadelstein, a family man (Katie Holmes plays his wife) and TV commercial producer, whose twin sister (Sandler) visits for Thanksgiving. Sandler's longtime filmmaking partner Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore," "Grown Ups") directs the unapologetically idiotic comedy.
Info for parents: PG for crude material including suggestive references and comic violence.
(Drama, R, 137 minutes) A riveting, noble attempt by director Clint Eastwood, to wrestle with big American questions, many of which have obvious relevance to today's politics. This is Hoover's story, mainly told through his perspective - and therefore a somewhat claustrophobic view of history. The film, from an ambitious script by Dustin Lance Black (who wrote the Harvey Milk biopic, "Milk"), covers the rise of Hoover as a Justice Department upstart at the nascent Bureau of Investigation. The most affecting parts focus on Hoover's two most important personal relationships: with his mother (Judi Dench) and with his No. 2 and close friend Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).
Info for parents: Rated R for brief strong language
(Comedy, PG-13, 105 minutes). Brett Ratner directs an all-star cast in this crime caper about workers at a luxury condominium plotting to take back the pensions stolen by a Wall Street plunderer. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sibide, Casey Affleck and Alan Alda partake in the high jinks.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas
(Comedy, R, 90 minutes). Six years after their previous adventures, the pothead pals (John Cho and Kal Penn) have grown apart and lead unconnected lives. That all changes, though, with the arrival of a package in the mail marked "High Grade."
Info for Parents: Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violence.
Ides of March
(Drama, R, 98 minutes). When powerful people amass their armies and go to battle in a tight political race, even the most fervent political junkies may find their faith tested, if not obliterated. It is an ugly, cynical business, full of ambitious people who will do whatever they must to survive. This is the not-so-shocking point of the latest film George Clooney has directed, based on the 2008 play "Farragut North." It's meaty and weighty and relevant, but it doesn't tell us much we didn't already know, or at least suspect, about the people we place our trust in come election time. And it features a major and distracting twist that undermines all the serious-mindedness that came before it. Clooney is such an excellent actor himself, though - here he plays a supporting role as a Pennsylvania governor seeking the Democratic presidential nomination - and he's such a smart, efficient director, he really knows how to get the best out of his cast. And it would seem difficult to go wrong with a cast like this. Philip Seymour Hoffman tears it up as the governor's gruff, no-nonsense campaign manager, a veteran who's seen it all and still continues to come back for more. Paul Giamatti is reliably smarmy as Hoffman's counterpart for the rival Democratic candidate, and watching these two acting heavyweights eyeball each other backstage at a debate provides an early, juicy thrill. But the real star is Ryan Gosling as Stephen Myers, a young, up-and-coming strategist and press secretary whose idealism is shattered.
Info for Parents: Rated R for pervasive language.