A big-budget, fantasy-tinged retelling of a Japanese legend about a band of masterless samurai. This time around, the star ronin is Kai (Keanu Reeves, miscast and confused), who faces down all sorts of mythological beasts in a quest for revenge and/or love. There's some neat creature design, but mostly, this thing's just impressively boring: It tries to hit somewhere between Seven Samurai and The Lord of the Rings, but ends up feeling like a lousy episode of Xena. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
With its big-talking swagger, period-piece glamour, and huge dirty-dealing cast, American Hustle feels like a response to Scorsese's classic crime films, only built to a less epic, more human scale. These are the characters you see running around in the background of Goodfellas or Casino, trying to scrape together a living while the fat cats live out their huge Greek tragedies. David O. Russell packs the film with popular music, but while Scorsese leans on the iconic rock of the Rolling Stones, Russell prefers the glitzy letdown of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." PAUL CONSTANT Various Theaters.
The Legend Continues
A clusterfuck of joyous stupidity. I ruin very little of it by telling you that the best parts involve a minotaur, a baby shark, and the ghost of Stonewall Jackson. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.
"Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating!" Academy Theater.
It's Rocky versus Raging Bull in the Sylvester Stallone/Robert De Niro match-up Grudge Match, a seasonally appropriate boxing comedy that will leverage the power of nostalgia to lure disparate family members to the theater. But it's only 60 percent as greedy as it sounds: Alongside the tired and predictable (endless jokes about the old guys' ignorance of social media, not one but two references to women shooting ping pong balls out of their vaginas), there are some actual laugh-out-loud moments. Stallone and De Niro's performances are natural as former pros settling a 30-year rivalry under ridiculous premises, and they get a lift from supporters Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart (and a disappointingly squandered Kim Basinger). And the mushy stuff (long-lost illegitimate children, old relationship drama) is handled with a relative lack of gratuity, respectfully allowing you to focus on the kinda dumb/kinda fun matter at hand. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
The Desolation of Smaug
I give The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug two thumbs up and five stars—and a week's worth of thirst-quenching miruvor and delicious lembas bread! (Ha!) You should totally go, and you won't at all be reminded of what a richer, fuller, more dramatically rewarding time you could have had if you'd just stayed at home and watched Game of Thrones. J.R.R. TOLKIEN Various Theaters.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Llewyn Davis is the latest in the string of feckless antiheroes that populate the Coen brothers' best movies, and Oscar Isaac turns in an exceptional performance that not only fulfills the role's technical challenges—that's Isaac singing every note and plucking every guitar string you hear—but allows you to find some affection for this prickly, troubled character. Indeed, Inside Llewyn Davis excels at every challenge the Coen brothers put up to it, succeeding not just as a richly appointed period piece or a movie musical, but also as the sort of riddle-like cinematic puzzle the Coens concoct so well. And there's a cat! NED LANNAMANN Various Theaters.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
It's nearly impossible to overstate how widely beloved Mandela is—that's what you get for leading a battered country out of apartheid—and how complex his legacy remains, intertwined with the complicated history of South Africa. Director Justin Chadwick is clearly mindful of the gravity, and gamely shoehorns all he can into two-and-a-half hours, but one has the sense there's room for a project of much greater thoroughness. MARJORIE SKINNER Various Theaters.
No Time to Think
A documentary about the evils of technology whose intentions are better than its sourcing, No Time to Think features lots of handwringing about videogame addiction, a supercut of prostitutes getting murdered in Grand Theft Auto, and a cursory attempt to balance the scales by interviewing a couple academics who don't condemn technology outright. The issues presented are interesting and relevant, but the treatment is superficial—and the filmmakers' bias is reflected in how many of the interviews take place at an internet rehab camp. ALISON HALLETT Hollywood Theatre.
Ulrich Seidl's Paradise Trilogy: Paradise: Love, Paradise: Faith, and Paradise: Hope. More at cstpdx.com. Clinton Street Theater.
Saving Mr. Banks
A film centered around Mary Poppins—particularly author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), who's loathe to sell her Mary Poppins books to the animated cryogenic head of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). It's 1961, she's broke, and Disney has been needling her for 20 years for the rights—but Travers knows, deep within her prickly soul, that he's going to put his spin all over her characters. Hanks' Disney is genial, but not above kicking back with a highball and chewing the fat about his shitty dad. They're both flawed and human characters—a portrayal that, in Disney's case, is rather surprising. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
A terrible movie. Directed by and starring Ben Stiller (and co-starring a bored Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott's terrible beard), here's how it "improves" upon James Thurber's famous short story about a downtrodden man who daydreams his way through his life: 1. It throws in a romantic subplot. 2. It turns Walter Mitty's daydreams into a self-helpy parable about the need to live a fully actualized life. 3. Walter Mitty is good at skateboarding! There's less a "plot" than a series of handsprings from one product placement to the next, including ads for Papa John's Pizza, McDonald's, Cinnabon, Instagram, and Patton Oswalt's shameless schilling as an eHarmony customer service rep. ALISON HALLETT Various Theaters.
Walking With Dinosaurs
Maybe eat a brownie first. DENIS C. THERIAULT Various Theaters.
The Wolf of Wall Street
After Shutter Island, Hugo, and Shine a Light, it was easy to worry that the 71-year-old Martin Scorsese was ossifying, but The Wolf of Wall Street annihilates those concerns. This is a movie that's funny and alive and furious, and it's as good as anything Scorsese's ever done. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.