Also in theaters
OK for 10 and older
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, below, 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 rapacious Texas oilman 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. But you have to wonder, if kids will get it, and if the film itself is little more than a tribute band.
Info for Parents: Rated PG for some 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.
(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, above. 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.
(Animated, Rated PG 99 minutes) The dancing, singing penguins, above, 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
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 (also Sandler, below) visits for Thanksgiving.
Sandler's longtime filmmaking partner Dennis Dugan ("Happy Gilmore," "Grown Ups") directs the unapologetically idiotic
Info for parents: PG for crude material including suggestive references and comic violence.
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). 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.
New Year's Eve
(Comedy, Romance, PG-13, 117 minutes)
This is the second in a remarkably shallow series of holiday-themed, celebrity-stuffed confections, following "Valentine's Day." Garry Marshall again directs a script by Katherine Fugate that weaves together a dozen or so plotlines that crisscross a holiday prone to sentimentalizing.
If there is some kind of world record for schmaltz, this may have set it. Included here are first kisses, midnight rendezvous, dying fathers, newborn babies, husbands at war and trapped strangers. Though it's pure, rosy fantasy on screen, this is cynical, paint-by-the-numbers entertainment, sold with a gaggle of stars spread across its movie poster like a telethon lineup. Among them: Hilary Swank, Jon Bon Jovi as a rock star, Katherine Heigl as a catering chef, Abigail Breslin as Sarah Jessica Parker's rebelling teenage daughter, Zac Efron as an ultra-confident courier, Jessica Biel as Seth Meyers' pregnant wife and Halle Berry as the nurse of a dying Robert De Niro. Maybe the really good stuff will come once they get to "Columbus Day," or maybe "Ash Wednesday."
Info for Parents: PG-13 for language, sexual references.
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), above, 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/nudity Tower Heist
(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.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
(Thriller, R, 127 minutes.)
Gary Oldman is in a tough spot here. As the ironically named George Smiley, he's an inherently reticent, veteran operative, given to revealing nothing personally or professionally. And yet, as the central figure in this adaptation of John le Carre's best-selling 1974 Cold War novel, he must serve as our conduit, our guide through a shadowy and increasingly dangerous world where no one is to be trusted and nothing is as it initially seems.
Because he's Gary Oldman and he's such a chameleon, he finds a slyness beneath the stoic veneer, a frightening intelligence that makes him a surprisingly formidable force. Oldman leads an excellent cast, a veritable who's-who of top British actors working today, all of whom keep us guessing as to who the traitor might be among them. Tomas Alfredson, perhaps best known for directing the superb Swedish vampire thriller "Let the Right One In," has crafted a precisely detailed, well-acted mystery. But he's created a chilly mood that may be a bit too cold, a tension that may almost be too restrained. Smiley, who's been forced into retirement by Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, is rehired to uncover a mole among its ranks. Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds and David Dencik are the suspects.
Info for Parents: Rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language.
(Art House/Comedy/Drama, R, 94 minutes.)
Gorgeous but damaged, conceited yet self-loathing, Charlize Theron dares you to like her, and the movie itself dares you to stick with an anti-heroine who makes no apologies for her deplorable behavior. It's an exciting thing to see, this willful rejection of tidy character arcs and happy endings, and it actually makes you wish "Young Adult" had been even further fleshed out and gone on a little longer.
This is not something we say about a movie very often. In re-teaming with "Juno" director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody dials down the snark that marked the Oscar-winning script that made her a superstar in her own right. She's actually created the anti-Juno in a lot of ways while managing to retain much of the directness, the sharply drawn characters and the casual poignancy that are her signatures. Theron's teen-lit writer Mavis Gary, above, is as verbal as Juno MacGuff was, but rather than finding the perfect, clever quip at all times, she usually manages to say the rudest, most inappropriate thing.
This trait is on vivid, horrific display when she returns to her Minnesota small town to pry her high-school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife (Elizabeth Reaser) and newborn daughter. Patton Oswalt is excellent as Mavis' nerdy former classmate and the film's voice of reason.
Info for Parents: Rated R for language and some sexual content.
(Comedy, R, 81 minutes)
Jonah Hill, world's worst babysitter. Must have sounded like such movie magic that director David Gordon Green and his team grabbed the first three brats they found on the street, shoved them in a minivan with Hill and started filming.
As broad, dumb comedy goes, it's not a bad idea to cast Hill as a chubby slacker roped into a hellish night tending to a high-maintenance brood. Yet other than Hill's admirable work ethic trying to squeeze laughs out of this dismally underdeveloped scenario, the movie has nothing going for it, slogging from one rotten gag to the next.
The movie's also a serious racial offender, parading a gang of black actors around as hoods stealing cars, talking jive or looking for a fight. Hill plays an idler minding three annoying siblings (Max Records, Landry Bender and Kevin Hernandez), who tag along with him on a mirthless trek through Manhattan in search of the cocaine he needs to keep his sort-of girlfriend (Ari Graynor) happy.
To his credit, Hill tries to make this mess work, without success. Co-starring Sam Rockwell in a wretched role as a psychotic drug dealer.
Info for Parents: Rated R for crude and sexual humor, pervasive language, drug material and some violence.
(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
(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