Movie Listings for Dec. 18-24

Movie Listings for Dec. 18-24

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Ratings and running times are in parentheses; foreign films have English subtitles. Full reviews of all current releases: nytimes.com/movies.

★ ‘Amy’ (R, 2:08) Asif Kapadia’s shattering biographical portrait of the British singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse traces the arc of her short, messy life from smoky-voiced jazz singer to global pop sensation to her death in 2011, at 27, from alcohol poisoning. This material makes for uneasy viewing, as do some of her agonizing self-portraits, though there’s a great deal more to this documentary than sad spectacle. (Manohla Dargis)

Amy Winehouse (Full) The Untold Story – Documentary Channel 5

‘Arabian Nights’ (R, in Portuguese) Miguel Gomes’s sprawling, splintered six-hour bundle of tales (which is divided into three sections) mixes fabulism and documentary in an attempt to reconcile the whims of the imagination with social responsibility. While some of the wilder stories are provocative allegories of European life in a time of economic and social crisis, the most affecting parts dwell on the tough, local realities of the battered Portuguese working class. (A. O. Scott)

‘The Assassin’ (No rating, 1:44) Ravishing to behold but stilted in its emotions and mannered in its techniques, this sword-and-vengeance mini-epic, directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, stars Shu Qi as a woman dispatched by the imperial authorities to kill a rebellious provincial potentate, who happens to be her cousin. (Scott)

★ ‘The Big Short’ (R, 2:10) Adam McKay’s adaptation of the Michael Lewis best seller is a wildly entertaining movie that leaves you nauseated and shaking with rage. That’s as it should be, since Mr. McKay and his energetic cast (including Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling) set out to capture both the giddy thrills of the economic bubble of the mid-2000s and the moral corruption that fueled it. Rooting for the film’s designated good guys means rooting for economic collapse, and you feel the awfulness of this contradiction. (Scott)

‘Body’ (No rating, 1:15) Three young women party in an empty house in which they’re not supposed to be partying; terribly unpleasant complications ensue. This horror film contains about five minutes’ worth of inspired discomfort on the one hand and a lot of workmanlike triteness on the other. (Glenn Kenny)

★ ‘Boy and the World’ (PG, 1:20) Alê Abreu’s superb animated film unleashes the exuberance of a child on the harsh realities of Brazil today, with bouquets of crayon color and jazzy sound design. It’s about a tyke who journeys from the country to a city, leading to a jaw-dropping depiction of the modern megalopolis and its workers. (Nicolas Rapold)

★ ‘Bridge of Spies’ (PG-13, 2:15) In this gravely moody, perfectly directed thriller about a real 1962 spy swap, Steven Spielberg returns you to the good old bad days of the Cold War and its fictions, with their bottomless political chasms and moral gray areas. Tom Hanks leads a terrific cast that includes Mark Rylance as a Soviet mole and Scott Shepherd as a C.I.A. operative. (Dargis)

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★ ‘Brooklyn’ (PG-13, 1:51) Saoirse Ronan gives a remarkably lively and subtle performance as Eilis Lacey, a young woman who emigrates from Ireland to New York in the early 1950s, in John Crowley’s lovely adaptation of the novel by Colm Toibin. (Scott)

★ ‘Carol’ (R, 1:58) In Todd Haynes’s gorgeous adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel stars Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet, a young woman in early-1950s New York who falls for an older suburban housewife played by Cate Blanchett. The blossoming of their love affair is related in subdued colors and whispered words, and it lingers in the air like an old song. (Scott)

★ ‘Chi-Raq’ (R, 1:58) Furious, funny and wildly uneven, Spike Lee’s latest is a restaging of Aristophanes’ fifth-century B.C. sex-strike comedy, “Lysistrata,” now set in a Chicago where sidewalks are washed with blood and hearts beat to the rhythm of gunfire. (Dargis)

★ ‘Creed’ (PG-13, 2:13) The “Rocky” saga, revised and reborn, with the Italian Stallion in the role of the grizzled trainer, helping a young contender prepare for his shot at the title. The contender is Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the love child of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s erstwhile nemesis and eventual best friend. The director is Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”), at 29 a rising champion in his own right. (Scott)

‘The Danish Girl’ (R, 2:00) The story of a transgender pioneer, Lili Elbe, becomes a tasteful, sensitive and somewhat inert costume drama in the hands of Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech.”) Eddie Redmayne plays Lili, whom we first encounter as Einar Wegener, a Danish landscape painter. His wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), also an artist, is the emotional center of the film, in part because Mr. Redmayne’s performance, while technically flawless, keeps the audience at a distance from Lili’s experience. (Scott)

‘Dreams Rewired’ (No rating, 1:25) “Dreams Rewired,” a montage of clips from nearly 200 vintage films, is a lively, visually enthralling attempt to gaze into the future by remembering the past. The clips — mostly obscure excerpts from dramas, cartoons and scientific and educational films — are seamlessly fused into a whoosh of images, many of them zany, all dating from the 1880s to the 1930s. The later ones have sound. Tilda Swinton narrates. (Stephen Holden)

‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ (No rating, 1:42) Free market fundamentalism — the belief that the economy, if left to its own devices, will self-correct in times of stress — is the source of all evil in Russell Brand and Michael Winterbottom’s inflammatory documentary polemic. Mr. Brand, the British comedian, actor and left-wing activist might be described as Michael Moore with fangs. (Holden)

★ ‘The Good Dinosaur’ (PG, 1:40) In the beginning there was a dinosaur — followed by a kid scampering after him on all fours. That’s the story in Pixar’s latest, a lovely, eccentric charmer directed by Peter Sohn in which a gentle dinosaur roams the earth with a doglike boy. (Dargis)

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‘Goosebumps’ (PG, 1:43) R.L. Stine’s best-selling series spawns a jam-packed CGI-heavy adaptation that’s more like a toy chest than a movie. Jack Black plays the author, imagined here as a curmudgeon whose books actually harbor spooky characters that are released into the real world by a couple of teenagers. Colorful squeal-inducing havoc follows, but most real feeling is roped off in stilted scenes. (Rapold)

‘He Named Me Malala’ (PG-13, 1:27) Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 but has continued to campaign for education for girls, is a familiar face now in the West, especially since winning the Nobel Peace Prize. This documentary about her by Davis Guggenheim, which feels as if it is made for a school-age audience, is content to propagate her message, only intermittently finding the unguarded moments beneath the media image. (Neil Genzlinger)

★ ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’ (PG-13, 2:16) Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) returns to finish the fight, defeat the enemy and send off a big-screen series that has had an astonishing run both in cold-cash terms and in its meaningful symbolism. She’s ready (and so are you). (Dargis)

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ (PG-13, 2:01) Ron Howard directs this would-be epic about a shipwreck that was an inspiration for “Moby-Dick.” Spanning decades and miles, it pits man (Chris Hemsworth) against Leviathan in an adventure that becomes an ecological cautionary tale. (Dargis)

‘James White’ (R, 1:25) Cynthia Nixon gives an awards-worthy performance as a dying cancer patient whose grown-up son — a floundering, self-destructive slacker in New York — struggles to come to terms with her imminent demise. This small gem captures the din and chaos of the city with a hard-edged ferocity that sinks under your skin. (Holden)

★ ‘Janis: Little Girl Blue’ (No rating, 1:43) The documentary biography of Janis Joplin sustains a compelling double vision of Joplin, the needy lost child, pleading for love in a baby’s primal squall, and Joplin, the hippie rock-blues mama she was on her way to becoming when she died at 27 of a drug overdose. (Holden)

‘Krampus’ (R, 1:38) This attempt to wring a holiday horror-comedy out of the European legend of Santa’s evil twin (more or less) scrambles scares and sentimentality into a lumpy, starchy pudding. With Toni Collette and Adam Scott. (Scott)

‘Legend’ (R, 2:02) Tom Hardy provides two reasons to see this fictionalized take on the brothers Kray, British thugs who ran amok in the 1960s and who this versatile star plays with wit, pugilistic force and smart tailoring. Brian Helgeland wrote and directed. (Dargis)

‘Life’ (R, 1:51) The photographer turned filmmaker Anton Corbijn imagines the brief friendship between James Dean (Dane DeHaan) and a Life magazine photojournalist, Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson, almost perversely listless). Mr. DeHaan has his moments as the vulnerable, mumbling Dean, but the movie comes to feel like a fetishization of an encounter without bringing much to bear on it. (Rapold)

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‘Love the Coopers’ (PG-13, 1:47) You can’t manufacture a Christmas classic by cobbling together scenes and themes from previous Christmas classics, but this dud tries. It’s the usual

story of a dysfunctional family that gathers for a holiday meal, and it’s full of recognizable names — Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde — but it almost never feels genuine. (Genzlinger)

‘Macbeth’ (R, 1:52) The best reason to see this slick version of the sanguineous tragedy is Michael Fassbender’s exceptionally fine title performances, though the writing isn’t bad, either. A mushy-mouthed Marion Cotillard co-stars; Justin Kurzel directed. (Dargis)

★ ‘The Martian’ (PG-13, 2:21) Matt Damon stars in Ridley Scott’s space western and blissed-out cosmic high about an American astronaut who, like a latter-day Robinson Crusoe, learns to survive on his own island of despair. Funny, loose and optimistic. (Dargis)

★ ‘Mustang’ (PG-13, 1:37, in Turkish) Full of life, “Mustang” is a stunning debut feature by Deniz Gamze Ergüven about five sisters in rural Turkey. Confined to their grandmother’s house, the girls bridle against losing their freedoms in a story grounded in both laughter and tears, and in the resilient strength of these girls against soul-deadening strictures. (Rapold)

‘The Night Before’ (R, 1:41) A harmlessly naughty Christmas-themed bro comedy, with Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the bros. Comic relief is provided by the guest stars, among them Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling and — spoiler alert! — Mylie Cyrus as Mrs. Claus. JK! She plays herself, of course. (Scott)

★ ‘The Peanuts Movie’ (G, 1:28) Charles M. Schulz’s characters are just the way you remember them (if you’re old enough to remember them, that is). In this animated feature film, Charlie Brown is smitten by a new neighbor, the Little Red-Haired Girl, but is repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to impress her. It’s refreshing to see an animated children’s story that isn’t about princesses and threatened kingdoms, but about the small problems that real-world children face. (Genzlinger)

★ ‘Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict’ (No rating, 1:37) Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s sleek, entertaining portrait of the collector who assembled one of the great troves of modern art is well organized, with hundreds of beautiful images spanning decades of artists Guggenheim knew, galleries she ran, parties she hosted. Using tapes of interviews before she died in 1979, the documentary is imbued with Guggenheim’s presence, even as art-world denizens dish on her foibles and vanities. (Daniel M. Gold)

‘Room’ (R, 1:58) Brie Larson and an exceptional child actor, Jacob Tremblay, play mother and son in the adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel. Written by Ms. Donoghue and directed by Lenny Abrahamson, the movie flickers with grace and imagination during its initial half but devolves into a dreary, platitudinous therapy movie in its second. (Dargis)

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‘Secret in Their Eyes’ (PG-13, 1:51) The sluggish, semi-coherent remake of the 2010 Argentine film that won an Oscar for best foreign picture has far less crackle than an average episode of “Law and Order.” It is notable only for the marquee value of its stars: Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. (Holden)

‘Sicario’ (R, 2:01) Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent caught up in nefarious doings on the United States-Mexico border in this violent fable, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Brutal and suspenseful, the film almost lives up to its potential to transcend the usual genre machinery and reveal some of the deep moral ambiguities of the drug war. (Scott)

‘Spectre’ (PG-13, 2:28) Bond, James Bond, etc. (Dargis)

★ ‘Spotlight’ (R, 2:07) A team of Boston Globe investigative reporters — played by Michael Keaton, Brian d’Arcy James, Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo — takes on the local archdiocese in this powerful fact-based newspaper procedural, directed by Tom McCarthy. The movie, with a superb cast and a tightly constructed script, is an unflinching investigation of systemic moral rot and a rousing defense of the values of professional journalism. (Scott)

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ (PG-13, 2:15) It’s good! (Dargis)

★ ‘Steve Jobs’ (R, 2:02) This three-panel portrait of the Apple co-founder, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, portrays Jobs (Michael Fassbender) as a complicated,

ambitious man caught in a tangle of messy personal and business relationships. Isolating Jobs at three crucial moments in his career, the film plays like a fast, busy backstage comedy and ends up being a richly intelligent exploration of our ambivalence about technology, genius and consumer capitalism. (Scott)

‘Suffragette’ (PG-13, 1:47) Carey Mulligan plays Maud Watts, a laundry worker in London in 1912 who becomes a militant supporter of women’s voting rights. In telling her story, Sarah Gavron (the director) and Abi Morgan (who wrote the screenplay) hit a few soft and sentimental notes, but they also explore the vital and still relevant connection between feminism and class consciousness in modern democratic politics. (Scott)

‘Tamasha’ (No rating, 2:35, in Hindi) Imtiaz Ali’s Bollywood melodrama begins as an agreeable romance between a vacationing young man (Ranbir Kapoor) and woman (a charismatic but largely squandered Deepika Padukone); morphs into a professional identity crisis for the man; and concludes as a lavish self-serving ode by the director to his own calling. (Webster)

‘Trumbo’ (R, 2:04) This clunker about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) tells a great-man story with a patchwork of fact and fiction, mixing in the odd bit of newsreel with a great many dull, visually flat and poorly lighted dramatic scenes. Jay Roach directed. (Dargis)

★ ‘Truth’ (R, 2:01) The title of “Truth,” a gripping, beautifully executed journalistic thriller about the events that ended Dan Rather’s career as a CBS anchorman, should probably be appended with a question mark. More than most docudramas about fairly recent events, it is so well-written and acted that it conveys an eerie illusion of veracity. (Holden)

‘Victor Frankenstein’ (PG-13, 1:49) A pop romp that exhumes Mary Shelley’s famous monster-maker (James McAvoy) for a jaunty bromance with his bestie, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe). It’s a hyperventilated resurrection, larded with cheerful violence and self-regarding smiles. (Dargis)
Film Series

American International Pictures, Part 2 (through Sunday) Anthology Film Archives continues its tribute to the influential, no-budget production house American International Pictures, where the movies’ titles and posters often got hashed out before the scripts were written. The subtitle for this 13-film retrospective is “Bikers, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and an impressive number of the titles manage to check all three of those boxes. Two films with a more narrow focus are the chintzy hostage melodrama “Rock All Night,” with its marvelous tagline “Some Have to Dance … Some Have to Kill!,” and “Machine-Gun Kelly,” starring Charles Bronson. No fewer than seven of Anthology’s offerings come from Roger Corman, who directed and/or produced some 40 films for the company in 15 years — and even worked as an (uncredited) stunt driver on one of them. 32-34 Second Avenue, at Second Street, East Village, 212-505-5181, anthologyfilmarchives.org. (Eric Grode)

The Complete Studio Ghibli (through Dec. 31) IFC Center’s retrospective of the complete works of Studio Ghibli, the beloved Japanese animation house, varies from the wistful and pleasant, like Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro,” to the crushingly sad, like Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies,” about childhood alienation, set in Kobe at the end of World War II.) It all leads up to Jan. 1, when “Only Yesterday,” released in Japan in 1991, will have its United States theatrical premiere. 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village, 212-924-7771, ifccenter.com. (Alec M. Priester)

Consequences (through Friday) Truth be told, this overarching theme for the Rubin Museum of Art’s Cabaret Cinema series is fairly accommodating. With the occasional exception of the Coen brothers at their most fatalistic, what other filmmaker would claim that his or her onscreen actions have no reactions? Still, the museum (which has an accompanying series of public talks about karma) has assembled some fairly instructive examples. The series wraps up this Friday with “Prince of the Himalayas.” At 9:30 p.m., 150 West 17th Street, Chelsea, 212-620-5000, rubinmuseum.org. (Grode)

Film 101: Canon Fodder (Friday through Sunday) This enterprising brunch series would warrant mention just for the shameless subtitle, but the films are pretty nifty, too. IFC Center continues its efforts to expose high school students to some of the greats – complete with free admission and free popcorn at some showings. This weekend’s offering is Federico Fellini’s “8 ½.” (The series continues through Dec. 27.) At 11 a.m., 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village; 212-924-7771, ifccenter.com. (Grode)

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Imitations of Life: The Films of Douglas Sirk (Wednesday through Jan. 6) War dramas, Ibsen and Chekhov adaptations, caper films, 3-D westerns: There’s a lot more to the oeuvre of Douglas Sirk than sumptuously shot weepies, as this 25-film retrospective (Sirk’s largest in decades) makes clear. It starts well before the Eisenhower-era dissections for which he is best known, with a handful of German 1930s silents that he made when he was still known as Detlef Sierck. But fans of Rock Hudson in Technicolor needn’t worry: Thursday’s schedule alone includes “Magnificent Obsession,” “All That Heaven Allows” and “Written on the Wind.” Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center, 165 West 65th Street, 212-875-5601, filmlinc.com. (Grode)

Italian Film, 21st-Century Style: A Tribute to Rai Cinema (through Friday) This Museum of Modern Art’s 10-film tribute to the respected studio Rai Cinema concludes with Gianni Amelio’s 2004 movie “Le Chiavi di Casa (The Keys to the House).” At 4 p.m., MoMA Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters, 212-708-9400, moma.org. (Grode)

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (Friday through Dec. 25) Whether it’s Nitehawk Cinema showing the infamous slasher film “Silent Night, Deadly Night” or IFC Center showing “Die Hard,” area theaters have a hard time resisting a splash of arsenic in their holiday eggnog. (“Now I have a machine gun/Ho-ho-ho.”) But IFC Center tries to be nice as well as naughty, returning each year with a 35mm print of this machine-gun-free 1946 classic. Also returning is Donna Reed’s daughter Mary Owen, who will appear before showings four days this week; a portion of ticket sales from those shows will support the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts. IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village, 212-924-7771, ifccenter.com. (Grode)

Lonely Places: Film Noir and the American Landscape (through Sunday) You can’t really have film noir without the “noir” part, right? All those ominous assignations and foreboding clouds of cigarette smoke just wouldn’t be the same in the daytime. Well, this intriguing Museum of the Moving Image retrospective tests this notion with 15 films set everywhere from Chuckwalla, Nev., (“Desert Fury”) to wintry upstate New York (“On Dangerous Ground,” Friday and Sunday). But as this series makes clear, the streets can be plenty mean way out in the swamps or the mountains or even the Technicolor desert. 35th Avenue at 37th Street, Astoria, Queens, 718-784-0077, movingimage.us/films. (Grode)

Lynch/Rivette (through Tuesday) Film Society of Lincoln Center swings for the curatorial fences here, looking to point out the similarities between two hugely influential filmmakers – the American surrealist David Lynch and the French New Wave paterfamilias Jacques Rivette – in a series of seven double bills. Some pairings seem more natural than others: Saturday’s grouping of “Celine and Julie Go Boating” and “Mulholland Drive” splinters reality and performance in deliciously complementary ways, while last Sunday’s conjoining of the gonzo road movie “Wild at Heart” with the intensely claustrophobic “L’Amour Fou” seems like less of a neat fit. But perhaps those are the very dots that this series – programmed by Dennis Lim, the author of the new book “David Lynch: The Man From Another Place,” and Dan Sullivan — exists to connect. Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center, 165 West 65th Street, 212-875-5601, filmlinc.com. (Grode)

‘Pierrot le Fou’ (Friday through Thursday) When Jean-Luc Godard ran into trouble on his earlier films — not an uncommon scenario, given his seat-of-the-pants directing style — he often asked himself what Hitchcock would do. This 1965 lovers-on-the-run caper was the first time, he said, when Hitch’s imagined advice was of no use to him. As an absurdly glamorous

Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo connive and rob their way to the South of France, the result is both unlike any other movie and oddly similar to 10,000 other movies. Chantal Akerman saw “Pierrot” at age 15 and instantly decided to become a filmmaker; perhaps Film Forum’s 50th-anniversary restoration will spur future stymied filmmakers to ask themselves what Godard would do. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village, 212-727-8110, filmforum.org. (Grode)

[source NYT]