Opening Friday Event Yadda. (NR) Details Event Yadda. (NR) Details….. TK few

Opening Friday

Event Yadda. (NR) Details

Event Yadda. (NR) Details….. TK few openings this dead week……see the Film 2016 grid that Mark B has….

Local & Repertory

Event Yadda. (NR) Details……………. TK note that none of the theaters below are confirmed; see the emails from bookers that come in Mon/Tues to the film@ address…. for venues (as for viz, books, etc.) search 130101 in DTI…..

Event Yadda. (NR) Details

Event Yadda. (NR) Details


The Big Short In adapting Michael Lewis’ 2010 account of the subprime mortgage crisis, Anchorman director Adam McKay faces the challenge of relating a lot of esoteric financial detail. Toxic CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) and bundled bond tranches are explained by unexpected visitors to this frequently fourth-wall-breaking comedy. Circa 2007, the tone is both scattered and angry as we meet three teams who begin to doubt the solidity of the housing market. In California, 1) eccentric money manager Michael Burry’s (Christian Bale) focus on the junk—subprime mortgages bundled into securities—that Wall Street is peddling makes him an enormously unpopular contrarian. In New York, we have 2) successful but neurotic hedge-fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who’s no stranger to shorting (i.e., betting against prevailing market sentiment). New to Wall Street are 3) an affable pair of tyro money managers (Finn Wittrock and John Magaro) who get financial backing from ornery retired banker/disaster-prepper Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). There is much to entertain here as McKay, the merry ringmaster, zips us from one piece of the puzzle solving to the next. All three teams were correct in retrospect, we know, but as Ben sternly explains, their triumph (and huge profit) means financial disaster for millions of ordinary Americans. And it’s that foreknowledge that can make McKay’s comedy burn like bile in your throat, however zany the tone. BRIAN MILLER (R) SIFF Cinema Uptown, Sundance, Meridian, Thornton Place, others

Brooklyn Burnished by what you might call sentimental realism, this lovely adaptation of Colm Toibin’s 2009 source novel has young Irishwoman Eilis (Saoirse Ronan, swiftly maturing from Atonement to The Grand Budapest Hotel) sent to America by an older sister. Our heroine is determined to escape the narrow confines of Enniscorthy, where the stifling social codes seem almost medieval—though the year is 1951. Immediately established in a Brooklyn rooming house and a tony department store, it might seem that Eilis is an innocent, like Dorothy in Oz. Yet, partly because of Ronan’s assurance, Eilis already seems wise to the world. She appraises new people and situations with a cool gaze that belies her years. Sensitively adapted (by Nick Hornby, of Wild and An Education) and directed (by John Crowley), Brooklyn is respectful of all the minor players in Eilis’ adventures—which oughtn’t be surprising but somehow is. (Jim Broadbent trenchantly plays a priest; Julie Walters adds spice to the twinkle of Eilis’ landlady.) And while there are traces of melodrama, there’s a notable absence of blarney. You remember the movie less for Eilis’ two suitors (Domhnall Gleeson in Enniscorthy, Emory Cohen in Brooklyn) than her growth in confidence—which has its parallel in Ronan’s performance. Both are women coming into their own, mastering the new demands of age and vocation. And both succeed triumphantly. MILLER (PG-13) Pacific Place, Sundance, Lincoln Square, Thornton Place, Lynwood (Bainbridge), Kirkland, others

Carol In tackling a 1952 novel by Patricia Highsmith, Todd Haynes presents a period piece that presents its passions in impeccably designed scenes that contain remarkably few surprises. Illicit discovery is impossible in the year 2015 as we watch how romance simmers between Therese (Rooney Mara), a department-store salesgirl with vague notions of becoming a photographer, and Carol (Cate Blanchett), an elegant lady currently divorcing her respectable husband (Kyle Chandler). Haynes is less interested in the social-issue aspects of the story than in the hesitant intimacy between the two women. This plays out against luscious production design, which frankly overwhelms the people—were the ’50s really this relentlessly arranged ?—like a visual reminder of the constraints on this romance. Haynes recalibrated the mid-century melodrama in Far From Heaven, but Carol is less artificial than that exercise. If Carol feels less adventurous than Haynes’ previous forays into upending Hollywood styles, it still maintains a pulse because Blanchett and Mara are superb at executing one of the cinema’s great gifts: the exchanged glance, held long enough to scorch even the well-mannered ’50s. ROBERT HORTON (R) Guild 45th, SIFF Cinema Uptown, Lincoln Square

Chi-Raq Spike Lee is upfront about the hybrid artifice to this broad, clumsy Chicago tale: Samuel L. Jackson’s cheerfully cynical narrator Delmedes steps in and out of the action to explain how we’re watching an update of the Greek comedy Lysistrata and to caution that most of the dialogue is in rhymed couplets of verse—not unlike modern rap. The plot, as we know from Aristophanes, will be women going on a sex strike to keep their men from war. Our heroine (Teyonah Parris) begins as a blissfully ignorant young woman, smitten with rapper/gangster Chi-Raq (Nick Cannon) and untroubled by conscience. After a near-miss rival gang attack, Lysistrata is roused to blockade (“No peace, no pussy!”), mentored by a wise neighbor (Angela Bassett), aided by sassy young women who wear rival colors of purple and orange, and shamed by a grieving mother (Jennifer Hudson) whose young daughter caught a stray bullet. An uncomfortable-looking John Cusack shows up as a crusading priest, and politicians (D.B. Sweeney, Harry Lennix) are treated like fools. This is not a subtle film; it shouts more than it insinuates, and only the musical sequences take flight. Somehow there’s too much School Daze here—unless too little? MILLER (R) Ark Lodge

Concussion The true story chronicled here looks at Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who established a connection between football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. In Pittsburgh, gentle Dr. Omalu gets a look at the brain of former Steeler Mike Webster (played, hauntingly, by David Morse), who died at age 50 in 2002. From there, Omalu faces an obstacle course erected by the NFL, which comes to resemble Big Tobacco in its dogged attempts to deny something that is increasingly obvious: A career in football is a deadly gamble. Writer/director Peter Landesman takes a nicely low-key approach to some of this, but the subplots feel like Hollywood string-pulling: The shy Omalu takes in a fellow immigrant (the splendid Gugu Mbatha-Raw, from Beyond the Lights) and slowly falls for her, while the NFL’s flunkies apparently wage a campaign of bullying and intimidation against him. The film is respectable to the point of stuffiness. I wish the film had pursued its story’s other implication, the way we’d all rather embrace fantasy than face reality—this is, after all, a movie about science denial, that maddeningly timely subject. HORTON (PG-13) Pacific Place, Sundance, others

Creed The Rocky franchise is almost four decades old! Despite critical pummelings and disrespect, it keeps getting up from the canvas, bloodied but unbowed, to reliable cheers. The crowd-pleasing Creed, assuming you liked the prior six Rocky movies, essentially recycles them. The illegitimate son Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) of Rocky’s old nemesis/pal Apollo Creed seeks self-validation in the ring. Though “Donnie” was raised in an L.A. mansion by Creed’s widow (Phylicia Rashad), he’s more square than street. This amateur boxer wants respect, to prove he’s not a mistake, so he naturally seeks out training advice from grizzled old Rocky (Stallone, now 69, as was Burgess Meredith in Rocky). You can write the rest. Creed is a film unburdened by surprises—or any serious consideration of brain damage and CTE, which will have to wait for Concussion. Writer/director Ryan Cooglar (of Fruitvale Station) does his best with this 50-pound heavy bag of cliches, yet fans won’t care about the sheer familiarity—they’ll reward it. Creed offers the reliable pleasures of formula and nostalgia. Never a great actor, Stallone’s stiffness now suits Balboa’s sad, widowed modesty. And there are flashes of the core shyness in his character that was best expressed in the original with Talia Shire. Though we miss her dead Adrian, we can look forward to Dolph Lundgren’s cameo as Ivan Drago in Creed II. MILLER (PG-13) Pacific Place, Thornton Place, others

Daddy’s Home Will Ferrell hasn’t exhausted the comedy of emasculation just yet—his argyle-sweater-vest-clad persona still has some comic juice. Still, it was probably wise to reteam him with his The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg, as the latter’s alpha-male swagger seems to bring out the best in Ferrell’s passive-aggressive boob. Brad (Ferrell) works at a smooth-jazz radio station—the movie gets points just for that glorious touch—and is determined to be the world’s best stepdad to the two dismissive kids of new wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). The little tykes can’t stand his chipper enthusiasm for family bonding. Enter Dusty (Wahlberg), Sara’s tattooed, chopper-ridin’ ex, who blows in from parts unknown and might want to re-enter the family portrait. It’s a formula situation, and director Sean Anders (That’s My Boy) sticks to sitcom setups. Jokes tend toward the obvious. But compared to, say, the shapeless Sisters, Daddy’s Home at least has structure, and even some sincerity behind its ultimately sweet-natured story. The movie’s good-hearted ending and ironic coda are authentically funny; comedies should build as they move forward, and this one peaks at just the right time. HORTON (PG-13) Sundance, Thornton Place, Pacific Place, Southcenter, others

The Danish Girl Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar last year for The Theory of Everything, now plays Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who underwent sex-reassignment surgery to become a woman, newly christened Lili Elbe. This true story happened in the early years of the 20th century, which makes it prime fodder for the period-decoration approach of director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). Einar is married to fellow artist Gerda (Alicia Vikander), and early reels catch some of the uncertainty and riskiness of people figuring out who they are—Gerda as much as Einar/Lili—before an experimental doctor (Sebastian Koch, from The Lives of Others) is consulted, and the film takes a turn toward the fatally noble. The eerily composed Vikander—recently seen in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and as the android in Ex Machina—gives a very modern, thoughtful performance. (Redmayne’s sober acting style actually looks a little antique next to hers.) Hooper’s enervated approach brings to the fore the worst aspects of the prestige arthouse picture: tasteful design, serious subject, self-congratulating mood. The Danish Girl is content to quietly admire its own importance, and assume you will, too. HORTON (R) SIFF Cinema Egyptian, Lincoln Square

The Hateful Eight Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting a valuable prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), so she can be properly hanged. Ruth’s stagecoach reluctantly picks up a colleague, Marquise Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and a small-town sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), before a blizzard sets in. In Quentin Tarantino’s long, verbose, mostly indoor Western, we also have a lustily racist Confederate general (Bruce Dern), a Mexican ranch hand (Demian Bichir), an English hangman (Tim Roth), and a brooding cowboy (Michael Madsen). Strewn throughout the movie are pointed references to race and Manifest Destiny, but Tarantino is too confident to need to lecture us about it. This is a slyly anti-romantic Western by a filmmaker who loves the genre; it makes you remember how the world’s most famous movie geek has actually been a debunker this whole time. What redeems the sourness of Hateful Eight is its pleasure in yarn-spinning (and -tangling); the director himself is heard halfway through as an offscreen narrator, as though unable to resist horning in to relish the ways the plot details are beginning to pay off. HORTON (R) Pacific Place, Sundance, Lincoln Square, others

He Named Me Malala Directed by Davis Guggenheim, who copped an Oscar for the Al Gore lecture An Inconvenient Truth, this new film takes the stock documentary approach, with interviews and music and animated sequences. But it’s a pleasure to watch, solely for the sake of seeing Malala Yousafzai in action and in interviews. She still has some nerve damage from the 2012 Taliban attack, yet appears just as sharp and articulate (and funny) now as in footage taken before the shooting. She’s bossy when she lords it over her two younger brothers, girlish when she refuses to admit that her fascination with certain handsome cricket players might have something to do with how hunky they are. Since recovering from her injury, she’s published a book, bonded with Bono, and secured a Nobel Peace Prize. And I repeat: She deserves better than sainthood. The delightful thing is that Yousafzai is too distinctive to simply stand on a pedestal for a do-gooder movie. Her quick, observant personality comes shining out of this project, as though eager to move past her biographer and get on with it. She’ll be heard from again. HORTON (PG-13) R.H. Crest

The Intern It’s gratifying to see how Robert De Niro has freed himself, in late career, from the Mantle of Greatness by doing more comedies. Some are mediocre (e.g., the Fockers flicks) and others quite good (Silver Linings Playbook). Nancy Meyers uses him to fine effect in her latest distaff comfort movie, in which Anne Hathaway plays the multitasking Park Slope mommy trying to manage her fashion startup. De Niro’s Ben is her unwanted 70-year-old intern, who inevitably proves himself a trusted aide and companion to the stressed-out Jules. There are no surprises here, the comic and story turns are rote, but The Intern—like courtly, punctual, and observant Ben—never fails to please. What Meyers also gets right is the kindred discrimination both Ben and Jules face in the New Economy, he for being too old (cue the Facebook jokes), she for being a woman (and too young, and neglecting her daughter, etc.). The movie also charms in positing a non-sexual romance between the two. She’s married, he’s a widower being pursued by Rene Russo’s masseuse, so they can chastely bond over Singin’ in the Rain in their bathrobes together on a business trip. Though lounging on the same hotel bed, in a sly nod to Old Hollywood, Meyers even has chivalrous Ben keep one foot on the floor. He may even bring pocket handkerchiefs back into style. MILLER (PG-13) Crest

In the Heart of the Sea In his typically sincere and redemptive adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 whaling-disaster book, director Ron Howard makes Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) a character and framing device, who in 1850 seeks out the traumatized last survivor (Brendan Gleeson) of the Essex. Thirdy years prior, we see how the Nantucket vessel was tensely divided between Captain Pollard (Benjamin Walker), whose family bought him the command, his far more seaworthy first mate, Chase (Chris Hemworth). First come storms, then the whale attack that (partly) inspired Moby-Dick, and finally the harrowing survival tale of three small skiffs in the mid Pacific, when things go from bad to worse. Liberties are being taken in the service of this entertaining, uplifting IMAX 3-D yarn, but Howard’s real challenge is this: No one in the year 2015 wants to see a movie about sentient mammals being slaughtered for their oil (used for lamps in those pre-electric days). Howard also has to acknowledge modern environmental concerns. Nineteenth-century whaling is resource management at its worst, its rapaciousness deservedly near collapse. When Moby-Dick strikes back, Chase asks, “What offence did we give God? Our arrogance? Our greed?” No, replies Pollard, it’s man’s mission “to bend nature to our will.” And to keep the investors happy. MILLER (PG-13) Sundance, Meridian, Pacific Science Center, Bainbridge, others

Joy Intentionally or not, David O. Russell’s pleasing new empowerment-com is perfectly represented by its emblem, the Miracle Mop. The movie begins as an enjoyable mess, with a broken/imperfectly mended Long Island clan incessantly squabbling, four generations under one leaky roof. Then that mess is miraculously mopped up by our heroine Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), the tireless Ms. Fix-It and conciliator of the Manganos. Order is established, a fortune is made, and she finally triumphs as a successful ’90s businesswoman. Yet I prefer the mess of Joy’s first half, and that’s where Russell and his fine cast—including Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Diane Ladd, Edgar Ramirez, Isabella Rossellini, and Virginia Madsen—do their best work. Russell has a gift for screwball (recall Flirting With Disaster), and he really embraces the theme of creativity coming from chaos—precisely how he runs his sets. Yet as Joy steamrolls every obstacle, Joy becomes less anarchic and interesting. Russell obviously means his movie to be a salute to strong, can-do women who succeed without men. Joy is relentlessly positive and uplifting, well-timed to the holidays. What you like best here are the family imperfections that Russell transforms into strengths. MILLER (PG-13) Sundance, Oak Tree, Big Picture, Kirkland, others

Legend This isn’t an especially good gangster movie, but it does allow Tm Hardy to play both the notorious twin gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Stylish East London celebrities in the ’60s, the Krays present writer/director Brian Helgeland with the same problem as in Black Mass: name-brand mobsters like Whitey Bulger are now in thin supply, figures plucked from an increasingly distant past. Still, Legend gets the period look—cinematography by the great Dick Pope—and texture exactly right. Ron (in glasses) and Reg wear carefully tailored suits, as a proper gangster should. Their adventures are related from the perspective of Reggie’s future wife, Frances (Emily Browning), which gives the movie and oddly passive, observational feel. Once you realize how routine Legend is, especially compared to 1990’s The Krays, the main pleasure lies in watching Hardy. And, boy, is he watchable. Legend is chiefly a comedy-with-violence, and the interplay between Reg and Ron is like Keitel and De Niro bickering in Mean Streets. One’s a mentally fragile clown, openly gay, with thicker jawline and Cockney accent (Ron); the other’s a selfish, dapper careerist who grows ever more exasperated by his brother’s idiocy. Are there any famous triplets Hardy could play? MILLER (R) Varsity

The Martian This is a problem-solving movie: Stranded on Mars, how will castaway astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) figure out the fundamental problems of food, shelter, and communication? Ridley Scott’s movie doesn’t waste much time worrying about issues of loneliness; after we’ve spent time with Watney, who has a complete lack of introspection and neurosis, it’s no wonder. Apart from his survival efforts, The Martian spends a lot of time back on our planet, where nervous NASA honchos played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, and Jeff Daniels are plotting out a rescue mission. There’s also the departed spaceship, slowly making its way back to Earth and peopled by the usual diverse crew: Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, et al. I like movies about solving problems, Damon gives a skillful performance, and Scott’s ability to put you in the middle of a howling Martian gale is impressive. But man, is The Martian corny. Its jokes are telegraphed a mile away, and its many inspirational moments are underscored by heart-tugging reaction shots. HORTON (PG-13) Meridian, Thornton Place, Sundance, others

Mustang This fine Turkish drama by debut director Deniz Gamze Erguven dounds like a grim old pre-Grimm fairy tale: five orphan sisters, locked in their home by a cruel uncle and grandmother, to be parceled out as unwilling brides. They’re taken out of school and denied cell phones and computers, and free will is crushed beneath the patriarchy’s boot heel. (The sisters are aged about 11 to 17.) The older sisters meet their fate—marriages with strangers, arranged by their families, complete with dowry—with varying degrees of resistance. Since humiliating “virginity tests” are required before these nuptials (and bloodied sheets after), the girls’ feelings about boys and sex are conflicted. Erguven doesn’t let her camera shy away from their healthy pubescent bodies, but she’s frank about the cost of such constant self- and social monitoring. Disturbingly, while social codes may be dictated by men, but they’re enforced and promulgated by women—chiefly the girls’ grandmother, who alternates slaps and hugs to keep them in line. The modern world seems very distant here, but Mustang—on the foreign-language Oscar shortlist—is also an escape movie, no parable. In many regions of the globe, Erguven reminds us, this is how young women are still being treated as chattel. MILLER (PG-13) Seven Gables

Room Joy (the excellent Brie Larson, from Short Term 12), we shall learn, was abducted as a 17-year-old. We meet her as the young mother of Jack (Jacob Tremblay, an emotionally pure lodestar), both of them confined to a garden shed/prison that forms the 5-year-old boy’s entire known universe. A skylight above, a few books, and TV cartoons blur into a magical realm for Jack; notions of what’s real and imaginary are just beginning to settle into his head. Adapted by Emma Donoghue from her 2010 novel, Room is marked by Jack’s long, lyrical passages of description, taken directly from the book. Objects are like friends for Jack, who’s been kept in a paradoxical state of enchantment, since Joy needs to hold horrible reality at bay. To be vague about the plot, which takes a big turn after an hour, Jack’s task, like Alice’s in Wonderland, is to understand the rules—or their absence—in two different realms. He’s like a refugee, an almost alien visitor. Joy is meanwhile subject to regular attacks of doubt that I suspect many mothers will know. Is this all my fault? In very different situations, too many women routinely ask the same question, cast the same self-judgment and blame. Lenny Abrahamson, of Frank, provides direction that’s both sure-handed and dry-eyed. MILLER (R) Guild 45th, others

Sicario We’ve had depressing dramatic sagas from Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) and Oliver Stone (Savages), and this new one from Denis Villeneuve isn’t lifting the mood. Instead, a feel-bad spirit of arid futility and double-dealing informs the efforts of Arizona-based FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) to put a dent in the border trade. She’s recruited by some shadowy government spooks (Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, etc.) who refuse to name their branch of service (easily guessed). She’s flattered to be on their team, even if her partner (Daniel Kaluuya) is more sensibly skeptical. On her new assignment, Kate radiates an angry sense of WTF bewilderment. She’s better than this. Our side is supposed to be better than this, yet she’s confounded by everything she sees: Gitmo-style torture, illegal cross-border raids, killings on the sly (“sicario” means assassin), and a general cozening up to the bad guys. French-Canadian director Villeneuve rubbed our noses in Pennsylvania vigilantism-gone-wrong in Prisoners; now he grids our faces further into the smothering sands of American sanctimony. Kate—and the audience—are left with a grim imperative: Get over your moral qualms, or get out of the game. MILLER (R) Crest

Sisters In screenwriter Paula Pell’s sitcom premise, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play play sisters coming together to spend one last weekend in the childhood home their parents have just sold—allows the duo to vamp their way through a series of increasingly chaotic and eminently R-rated situations. After they invite their old high-school class over for a last waltz, things escalate quicklyk. Drugs are ingested, and genital jokes abound; it’s as though Fey and Poehler bottled up their raunchiest impulses during years of network success on 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation and just decided here to go full potty-mouth. Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore allows Fey and Poehler to stretch the rhythm of the film’s best scenes, so that the two women improvise ideas or bend inflections to suit their style. (Lending able support are Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and John Leguizamo; Dianne Wiest and James Brolin, as the sisters’ parents, get into the mugging.) Sisters feels as though we’re watching the outtakes reel during the actual film, instead of during the end credits. This is a compliment—those blooper reels are usually funnier than the films they follow. HORTON (R) Sundance, Majestic Bay, Ark Lodge, Admiral, Pacific Place, others

Spectre The 24th James Bond movie carries a strong awareness of its own brand halo. 007 (Daniel Craig) is in disgrace as usual, while MI6 (still led by Ralph Fiennes’ M) is itself threatened by an upstart new spy agency. There’s also a self-satisfied new villain (Christoph Waltz) who goes by different names, and a new Bond girl, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), also trying to escape her past. Spectre has a signature look and operating system that reinforce the Bond brand: quality, familiarity, lack of surprise (though many delights), and a design consistency that leads inexorably to the next product launch. It looks back, beginning with the famous theme and gun-barrel intro, then swoops forward in a seamless one-take assassination sequence in Mexico City. The filmmakers must show they can keep up with the Bourne and Mission: Impossible pretenders breathing down their necks. To this Bond-ophile, Spectre’s best moments after the Mexico City hit are familiar polishings of old 007 tropes. Boat chases helicopter, plane chases cars, Jaguar chases Aston Martin, and so on. This enjoyably overstuffed entertainment, also directed by Skyfall’s Sam Mendes, again has Bond reluctantly excavating more of his fraught/repressed past, much of it having to do with his boyhood orphan years with the Austrian Oberhauser family. Yet amid these sticky snowdrifts of memory, one suspects that Ian Fleming would have little use for all the talk of wounded heroes and stolen childhoods. MILLER (PG-13) Meridian, Woodinville, others

Spotlight Arriving at a time when our culture appears to have embraced the idea that it is better to believe what you want to believe and that “the media” is not to be trusted, Spotlight creates excitement out of the day-to-day business of recognizing uncomfortable facts. Tom McCarthy’s extremely well-cast ensemble drama follows The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning 2002 expose of the Catholic church’s cover-up of widespread sexual abuse of minors by priests. He relates the story from the multiple viewpoints of editors (John Slattery, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber) and reporters (Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James). The approach allows us to see how the scandal permeates every level of Boston society, from blue-collar Catholic neighborhoods where disgraced priests are hidden to tony golf courses where church attorneys share the links with Globe editors. Given such explosive material, McCarthy (The Visitor) mostly lays off the hard sell. (If anything, Spotlight is a little too respectable; McCarthy and co-screenwriter Josh Singer hit each scene exactly on the button, and then move on to the next one.) This movie excels at digging into the nooks and crannies of deep-seated corruption and making those shadowed places come to credible life. (R) HORTON Meridian, SIFF Cinema Uptown, Lincoln Square, Sundance, Ark Lodge, Kirkland, Thornton Place, Bainbridge, others

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Director J.J. Abrams brings the beloved sci-fi series back to its core values. Unlike the middle George Lucas sequence of Parts I–III, it feels as though Abrams is borrowing more—and to better effect—from the original three (1977–83, aka the good ones). The chief improvements are pacing and humor, the latter mainly supplied by the droids (old and new), Chewbacca, and Harrison Ford. Han Solo now seems happier, mellower, and more comfortable being the agent of continuity. If not quite Obi-Wan, he’s the cool dad who gives you the keys to the spaceship. Adding some puckish charm is John Boyega’s very human “Finn”—a turncoat stormtrooper who doesn’t know his birth name—who’s the most fun among the three main new cast members. Oscar Isaacs’ pilot Poe Dameron spends too much time in his X-wing fighter; his swagger is less appealing than Finn’s self-doubt and improvisations. Orphaned scavenger Rey (Daisey Ridley) is very much the model of powerful female agency; she’s never passive or prim, but neither is Ridley terribly funny. Like Mark Hamill before, she seems to have been cast as the Serious One—heavy lies the crown, etc.—while Boyega gets to be more the jester. It’s no secret that Abrams has returned Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Ford to the fold. In addition to pushing the franchise forward with new faces (and dispatching one elder), he respects the nostalgia that viewers will bring to this nearly four-decade-old series. The Force Awakens is a worthy successor to the first three wonderful Lucas movies. MILLER (PG-13) Cinerama, Sundance, Meridian, Ark Lodge, Majestic Bay, Admiral, Thornton Place, others

Steve Jobs There is so much talent behind this oddly structured dud: Oscar winners Aaron Sorkin (script) and Danny Boyle (director), plus the title role’s Michael Fassbender, who’ll one day earn a statuette (though not for this). So why doesn’t the highly anticipated movie work? In part because the market is so glutted with other Jobs accounts. Steve Jobs gives Steve Jobs three chances to make amends and treat people decently. Sorkin has written a deliberately repetitive tripartite study in karma: the frantic backstage drama before product launches in 1984 (Mac), ’88 (NeXT whatever yawn), and ’98 (candy-colored iMac). All the same figures recur, beseeching King Steve for favors. He lords his status over others, even in the amusing middle chapter when it emerges that the emperor is wearing no clothes. Inevitably, per Hollywood formula, our prickly egotist will grow and mature. (Cue the adorable bastard daughter, played by three young actresses over the years.) Kate Winslet, as Jobs’ long-suffering marketing chief, fares the best here. Bizarrely, in profiling such an outspoken futurist, the film keeps ransacking Jobs’ past for Rosebuds; it’s the same sin he damns in Steve Wozniak (cuddly/wounded Seth Rogen), who can’t let go of his beloved Apple II. MILLER (R) Crest

Suffragette This fictionalized account of the English suffrage movement, circa 1912, incorporates real historical figures and makes one composite its heroine: the unschooled East London laundry worker Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), who’s got a small son and a sympathetic husband (Ben Whishaw). Maud is drawn to the stone-throwing example of her co-worker Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff) and becomes, to her astonishment and her husband’s “shame,” a suffragette. That maligned group is led by firebrand Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), who spends most her time hiding to avoid arrest. A few scenes of the her donning disguises and ducking in and out of speaking halls suggest the kind of thriller Suffragette might’ve been. Likewise the mob scenes (with police beating women), mailbox bombings, and shop-window shatterings anticipate the militancy of our late Civil Rights era. Pankhurst (a real figure) is like the Malcolm X of her day, but Streep zips through her few scenes. The bulk of the movie belongs instead to Maud the martyr, with indignities and outrages stacked predictably upon her. This dull, uplifting classroom movie makes her more the victim than inspiring example. MILLER (PG-13) Varsity

Trumbo Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (1905–1976) was one of the Hollywood Ten, who were blacklisted by the studios during the great red scare of the Cold War era. This is a distant chapter in American history, let alone Hollywood annals. To educate today’s popcorn-chewers, director Jay Roach has to cover a lot of PBS-y ground in this very admiring drama, interpolating new footage with old newsreels of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Our hero (Bryan Cranston) stubbornly hews to principle—declaimed in tedious speeches, not recognizable prose—and refuses to answer HUAC’s questions, resulting in jail time and disgrace. The rest of Trumbo is a more familiar comeback story, and it’s even less interesting than the first half. Cranston’s had better results playing flawed heroes (Walter White, LBJ, etc.), and the good parts here go to Helen Mirren—as anti-Commie gossip columnist Hedda Hopper—and Michael Stuhlbarg, as Trumbo’s weakly compliant pal Edward G. Robinson. At every turn, Roach and his generally dull movie are gripped by a nostalgia for Old Hollywood and principled artists. This is the kind of handwringing drama where Trumbo’s loyal wife (Diane Lane) asks, “Where have all the liberals gone?” Where indeed. Ironically, this is exactly the kind of movie its hero was paid to punch up during the blacklist. MILLER (R) Guild 45th, others

Youth One of the great pleasures of The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino’s last film, was the way the portrait of an aging, regretful Roman society journalist became a more sprawling and satirical portrait of Italy-in-decline. Set in a posh Swiss spa/hotel, Youth has a lot in common with its predecessor. Here we have two old artists, Fred (Michael Caine) and Mick (Harvey Keitel), best friends who use their annual visit to catch up and cast back in memory. Both are 80ish, with many ex-wives and old loves behind them. Filmmaker Mick trails a crew of screenwriters, all trying to devise his next project (a dreadful-sounding final cinematic “testament”); while composer/conductor Fred has only his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz), who manages his affairs—despite his grumpy preference to stay retired. The early spa scenes are promising, a comic mix of Fellini and Tati. Rich sybarites of every nationality are poked and prodded by an attentive staff. Though the hotel is full of potentially interesting characters (one who performs magical footwork with a tennis ball), they never go anywhere. Despite a few hikes and walks in alpine scenery, Youth becomes claustrophobic—insular in its theme of Artist contemplating Art. Fred is constantly addressed as “maestro,” and Mick speaks reverentially of his muse (Jane Fonda, showing up late and to little effect). Youth, like its two heroes, never steps outside the spa’s nostalgic comforts. MILLER (PG-13) Guild 45th