recommended 50/50
50/50 tells the story of Adam (played perfectly by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a seemingly healthy 27-year-old who gets diagnosed with cancer. On his team: a sucky girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), an overbearing mom (Anjelica Huston), a newbie therapist (Anna Kendrick), and his stoner BFF, Kyle, who has deep supplies of both blowjob jokes and weed. (Kyle is played by Seth Rogen. Of course Kyle is played by Seth Rogen.) The trailer is calling this movie a comedy, which it technically is—but cancer can't not be heavy. You might cry, but you'll also laugh. And then you'll also probably need a big cocktail when you get home. ELINOR JONES Laurelhurst Theater.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D
Or, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's Adventure in the Uncanny Valley. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked 3D
So this exists. Various Theaters.

Arthur Christmas
I am pretty Grinchy, so me saying that this too-long Christmas movie is not terrible means something. It's hardly a must see, and I'm not sure what the "message" is, but if you have kids who insist on holiday merriment, this has got to beat Happy Feet Two: Die Happier. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.

recommended Bringing Up Baby
"The love impulse in men frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict." Hollywood Theatre.

recommended A Charlie Brown Christmas
"Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest." Pix Patisserie (North).

recommended Contagion
What Psycho did for showers? What Jaws did for the ocean? Contagion does that for EVERY SINGLE THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE. Do you talk to people? Do you touch things? Do you go places, like "rooms" or "outside"? Do you eat or breathe? Because Contagion will ruin all of these things. It will turn you into one of those sad, lonely freaks who carries a little thing of Purell with them wherever they go, and whenever you touch or smell anything, or come within 20 feet of anyone, you will see your own corpse: your dull, dark eyes; your pale, rubbery skin; your cold lips, crusty with snotty, dried-up froth. ERIK HENRIKSEN Laurelhurst Theater.

The Descendants
There are, perhaps, more identifiable figures in contemporary cinema than the members of an exceedingly rich family who are about to become even richer. The Descendants is about the Kings, a well-off Hawaiian family that's about to sell a huge chunk of unspoiled paradise to a developer. More specifically, it's about Matt King (George Clooney), the patriarch upon whose shoulders that decision rests—and also a man whose wife is in a potentially deadly coma, whose rebellious teenage daughter (Shailene Woodley) is less than impressed with his parenting, and whose life seems to be slipping from his grasp with every moment. There is, on the surface, a lot that's great about The Descendants—beginning with Clooney and Woodley's fantastic performances—but below that surface, there isn't much. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

recommended Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
You wouldn't know it from most American action movies, but adrenalin and intellect aren't always mutually exclusive. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within—a sequel to 2007's well-regarded Brazilian crime thriller Elite Squad—is a hell of a reminder, though: It's smart, it's intense, and it deftly balances both hard-edged crime drama and all-too-relevant political maneuvering. ERIK HENRIKSEN Hollywood Theatre.

recommended En Route: Grapes of Wrath & Wendy And Lucy
See My, What a Busy Week! Hollywood Theatre.

Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle & Summer
Two films by French New Wave filmmaker Eric Rohmer. More info: Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher's take on those books your aunt wouldn't stop talking about. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.

recommended The Hedgehog
One part The Royal Tenenbaums, one part Babette's Feast, and with enough pint-sized ennui to choke a goldfish, The Hedgehog follows Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic), a bright little girl (and possibly Camus reborn) set on killing herself on her 12th birthday rather than going on to live the absurd life of wealth and malaise she sees before her—but, whaddya know, first she has to get through a Gruff Character and a Wise Character with some Truths to impart. Whimsical and lovingly shot, The Hedgehog pulls from a lot of playbooks, but it works, probably better than it should. Leave it to the French to make the feel-good movie of the year about suicidal children. MELANIE "THE INTERN" JOHNSON Living Room Theaters.

The Help
The maladroit love child of Remember the Titans and Eat, Pray, Love, conceived during a drunken and misguided romp behind the bushes at a child's birthday party. Would-be journalist Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelas (Emma Stone) comes home from college wanting to change the world, but instead finds herself writing a cleaning column in the local daily, playing endless rounds of bridge, and hunting for a husband. After hearing one of her friends insist that black servants use separate bathrooms from their white employers, an incensed Skeeter decides to collect and publish the accounts of the help to shove the intolerance of the white richesse right back in their faces. The film wants to be a portrait of racism, bigotry, and child neglect in civil rights-era Mississippi. Instead, it is just boring. KATHERINE LONG Academy Theater, Laurelhurst Theater.

Homegrown DocFest
A selection of short documentaries made by students in the NW Documentary Workshop, featuring live music by bluegrass band Jackstraw. More info: Mission Theater.

recommended Hugo
Martin Scorsese is still writing mash notes to cinema's past, but where last year's silly Shutter Island failed, Hugo is heartfelt and touching. It's a kids' movie that wistfully, almost cloyingly, ruminates about what it means to have a creative purpose, while treasuring historical artifacts—like good ol' silver nitrate film, stacks of leather books, and rusted automatons. If this sounds like the ramblings of your grampappy, you wouldn't be too off base. But that old coot's really loveable and he's got a point. COURTNEY FERGUSON Various Theaters.

recommended The Ides of March
Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a staffer working on the presidential campaign for Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). With strategist Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) leading the campaign, they're gearing up for the Democratic primary in Ohio. At the start of Ides, Stephen's a young-buck idealist who's entirely enamored with Governor Morris, a character loosely based on pre-"yaaargh" Howard Dean—in other words, a liberal's wet dream. Paul Giamatti plays the head of the opposing campaign, and while he seems to be an unscrupulous trickster, Stephen soon discovers that there isn't really room for absolute idealism when a presidency is at stake. There's almost no bloat to The Ides of March—it's a lean, clean thriller that steadily ramps to a sharp climax. NED LANNAMANN Fox Tower 10.

In which Greek gods fight in slow-motion. A lot. Various Theaters..

J. Edgar
Clint Eastwood starred in two movies with an orangutan called Clyde. J. Edgar Hoover apparently spent the bulk of his life in love with a man named Clyde, who also happened to be an associate director at the FBI. I don't have a punchline for this. I just think it's a funny coincidence. Okay, maybe not that funny—but J. Edgar, Eastwood's biopic of the legendary FBI director, is so self-consciously serious that you have to take levity wherever you find it. JAMIE S. RICH Fox Tower 10.

Jack and Jill
In which Adam Sandler plays his own sister. Various Theaters.

Margin Call
Set at a Goldman Sachs-like investment firm just before the financial collapse, Margin Call features an old boy's club of showy, competent actors (Stanley Tucci, as always, is perfect, and Jeremy Irons plays the CEO with his menacing rolled r's and weary grace). In the beginning, attractive guys in expensive suits say "Fuck me!" in exasperated tones while staring at computers. Then comes the exposition, with characters telling each other to dumb it down for them. And in the end, everyone rationalizes their part in the whole mess. Margin Call really shines in the last bit, where a feral Paul Bettany explains that traders are the heroes who make the excesses of the western world possible until they suddenly become the villains. The movie couldn't be better-timed, but anyone looking for usable information should watch Inside Job instead. As far as heartfelt quests for the soul of a salesman go, this is a well-put-together but ultimately unexceptional entry. PAUL CONSTANT Academy Theater, Living Room Theaters.

recommended Martha Marcy May Marlene
"What is wrong with you?" That's the refrain directed at Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) with increasing urgency over the course of director Sean Durkin's first feature. College-aged Martha has just run away from a cult in the Catskills after a two-year absence from her former life. Taking shelter with her concerned sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy), she finds it increasingly difficult to readjust to normal life: She skinny dips in front of Ted, she plops down on the bed while he and Lucy are having sex, and she accuses them of materialism even as she freeloads off their generosity. There's a sense that this arresting, moodily beautiful film doesn't quite know what to do with itself, and the narrative calls it quits just as another chapter appears poised to unfold. At first, the finish feels too abrupt—but when it sinks in, its ambiguity feels like a perfect reflection of its central character's guiding conundrum. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.

recommended Melancholia
On the surface, Lars von Trier's latest documents the end of the world: Earth collides with another, larger planet in a massive, fiery explosion. But unlike most films with a similar premise, there is neither panic in the streets, nor is there any heroism: There are just the slow-motion reactions of a select few on the grounds of an enormous castle estate. Far from a literal apocalypse film, Melancholia is a metaphorical portrait of a hallmark of depression: that its sufferers tend to handle catastrophe better than those who feel they have something to lose. MARJORIE SKINNER Hollywood Theatre.

Miracle on 34th Street
A filthy work of propaganda that gleefully spoon-feeds a damaging lie to our nation's youth. Academy Theater.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
The latest in the Cruise-tastic action series, helmed by The Incredibles and The Iron Giant director Brad Bird. See next week's Mercury for our review. Various Theaters.

recommended The Muppets
A joyless bastard could nitpick the hell out of The Muppets: The way Jason Segel & Co. reintroduce the Muppets—via a new Muppet, Walter, and Walter's brother (Segel) and his fiancée (Amy Adams)—is clunky. The pacing's weird. There are two bits of painful Disney product placement (Cars 2 and Selena Gomez). And there's not enough Gonzo. But then, there's never enough Gonzo, and to focus on those complaints would be to ignore all that's right here: Kermit has a couple of heartbreakingly great and melancholy songs. Fantastic one-liners zip through the air. Fozzie's jokes are magnificently stupid. Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and cameoing celebrities all have a phenomenal time. There are gleeful song-and-dance numbers. And the tone that defines the Muppets' best stuff—that blend of self-aware comedy, loveable characters, and bright-hearted optimism—is solidly in place. When it comes to the Muppets, that's what matters, and here it is. ERIK HENRIKSEN Various Theaters.

My Reincarnation
Parental expectations are a bitch—but My Reincarnation offers the gentle suggestion that material obligations are much easier to escape than spiritual ones. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is a Buddhist master who, after fleeing Tibet, established himself as a teacher in Italy, where he married and had a family. His son, Yeshi, is identified as the reincarnation of another prominent Buddhist teacher—but there's a catch. The Italian-born Yeshi is neither particularly interested in his destiny as a spiritual leader, nor in the village full of Tibetans who await his return. My Reincarnation is primarily about Yeshi's slow, roundabout coming to terms with his spiritual calling, but it also provides a revealing look at the burdens of being a spiritual leader. ALISON HALLETT Clinton Street Theater.

My Week with Marilyn
There's a scene in The Prince and the Showgirl—which is the movie that the memoir-based My Week With Marilyn concerns—in which Marilyn Monroe throws a raincoat off a balcony. It's a tiny moment, but it's just great: You could watch Marilyn Monroe throw a raincoat off a balcony all day long. Watching her act, generally badly, in the generally bad The Prince and the Showgirl is not the pinnacle of cinematic experience, but it is better than watching Michelle Williams attempt to portray her in My Week With Marilyn. No one should ever try to play Marilyn Monroe. The entire point of Marilyn Monroe is that she possessed an ineffable thing that none of the rest of us ever will (call it an F-able thing, if you want to be rude). Williams isn't even especially terrible at it, though the breathiness and the moues do get mighty tedious; she's just a failure, as she is doomed to be. BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT Fox Tower 10.

New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is the new movie from the same people who brought you last year's Valentine's Day. Much like their last effort, this film loads the cast with B-listers and about a dozen intertwining love stories. And also like Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve totally blows. ELINOR JONES Various Theaters.

The Other F Word
A documentary about punk rockers who are now fathers, featuring Fat Mike, Mark Mothersbaugh, Flea, Tony Hawk, Art Alexakis, and more. Clinton Street Theater.

Puss in Boots
Shrek's loveable kitty pal gets his own movie! Everything about Western culture is fucking awful. Various Theaters.

Rid of Me
See review this issue. Living Room Theaters.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
1964's cult classic, presented with a slew of "vintage Technicolor Christmas cartoons" and other forgotten holiday ephemera. Academy Theater.

recommended Shame
See review this issue. Cinema 21.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
See review this issue. Various Theaters.

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness
Ukraine-born Yiddish humorist Sholem Aleichem gets the documentary treatment—which in this case means emphatic but incredibly dry commentary from academics, plus lots of old-timey black and white photos of shtetl life in Eastern Europe. Despite Aleichem being responsible for pioneering the Jewish humor that went on to influence many of the most important comedians of the 20th century, Sholem Aleichem is surprisingly and disappointingly without any laughs of its own. It sucks the vitality out of Aleichem's work in favor of serious, scholastic analysis. NED LANNAMANN Living Room Theaters.

recommended Silent Night, Deadly Night
It's no Black Christmas, but 1984's inevitable Santa-turns-slasher bloodbath Silent Night, Deadly Night has a few likeable qualities nonetheless: You've got your sex with nuns, you've got a multitude of arbitrary victims introduced and subsequently murdered in roughly one half of one scene, not to mention a smattering of increasingly ludicrous Christmas songs that all seem to be composed specifically for the movie. On the downside, you've got the needlessly expository first two-thirds of the movie, plus perhaps the least convincing horror villain of all time: a dashing, doe-eyed WASP-y dude in a Santa suit whose creepy one liners alternate between the equally un-scary "Puuunish!" and "Naaaw-tee!"—delivered in a nearly unintelligible monotone. ZAC PENNINGTON Hollywood Theatre.

The Sitter
One day soon, some bored film blogger is going to create a clever infographic that rates all the post-Apatow raunch comedies from best to worst. The graphic is going to get passed from blog to blog, launch a few thousand irate comments, and then immediately disappear from everyone's memory. I do not want to be that bored blogger—if I'm going to spend hours in Photoshop lovingly crafting a document that prominently features Paul Rudd's face, that document is going to be a suicide note. But if I were to create a post-Apatovian scale, I would place The Sitter firmly on the bad end of the spectrum, though I'd make sure it was slightly higher ranked than, say, 30 Minutes or Less, or director David Gordon Green's previous attempt at comedy, Your Highness. PAUL CONSTANT Various Theaters.

recommended The Skin I Live In
With his provocative new film, Pedro Almodóvar runs with the idea that Frankenstein's monster would be much more disturbing if sex were involved. This notion proves very, very correct. It'd be a laughable understatement to describe The Skin I Live In as "not for everyone"—it's strange, disturbing, and utterly unflinching in its literal deconstruction of gender and selfhood. But Almodóvar also baits this trap seductively—every surface is elegant and crisp, every shot so artfully composed that even the most grotesque medical footage has an undeniable beauty, and it's all leavened with a lurid smear of melodrama that plays with the line between horror and camp. ALISON HALLETT Fox Tower 10.

Young Adult
See review this issue. Various Theaters.