"August: Osage County": An A-list cast tackles playwright Tracy Letts' award-winning black comedy about a horribly dysfunctional Oklahoma family. As a cruel, pill-popping matriarch with mouth cancer, Meryl Streep shows once again how to deliver choice lines. But her performance, like much of the film, seems just too much and upstages Letts' powerful dialogue. Julia Roberts is good playing the uptight daughter who starts to take on some of mom's traits.
* * -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (R) 2 hours, 18 minutes.
"American Hustle": Filmmaker David O. Russell has done it again. His rambling, robustly entertaining take on the '70s and the Abscam scandal is loaded with telling details, laughs and killer performances. Jennifer Lawrence is simply unforgettable as a housewife with a whole lot of issues.
* * * * -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (R) 2 hours, 18 minutes.
"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues'': Will Ferrell's clueless San Diego broadcaster returns, and now he's confronting the 24-hour news cycle. This follow-up to the classic comedy isn't as good as the original, but does have moments of howling hilarity and the improvisatory spirit that gave Ron Burgundy's origin story its shaggy, ramshackle charm.
* -- (Colin Covert, Star Tribune, McClatchy News Service) (PG-13) 1 hour, 59 minutes.
"Frozen": Disney gets back to what it knows by putting its own spin on a fairy tale, then pouring on the action, humor and magic. This adaptation of "The Snow Queen" finds a kingdom in peril from its queen in exile, who didn't know how to harness her powers and is now the target of a frantic search led by her younger sister.
* ¿½ -- (Tony Hicks, Staff). (PG) 1 hour, 25 minutes.
"Her": Filmmaker Spike Jonze issues a cautionary, well-crafted futuristic tale about romance in our plugged-in times. Joaquin Phoenix, in a vulnerable performance, stars as an L.A. man who falls for his new operating system (voice of Scarlett Johansson), who is super helpful -- to a fault.
* ¿½ -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (R) 1 hour, 48 minutes.
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug": Congrats, Peter Jackson. You've thoroughly redeemed yourself with this action-packed, fun second installment about Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on an epic J.R.R. Tolkien journey. All that and a killer dragon at the end.
* -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (PG-13) 2 hours, 41 minutes.
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire": This sequel to the 2012 megahit about a young female archer from a dystopian future improves on the original. Jennifer Lawrence nails it as Hunger Games victor Katniss who comes under the intense scrutiny of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).
* ¿½ -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (PG-13) 2 hours, 26 minutes.
"Inside Llewyn Davis": The latest from the Coen Brothers is a piercing character study of a '60s folk musician (Oscar Isaac, in a career-making performance) who acts like a jerk most of the time. There's no real plot to speak of, just an evocative drama that thoroughly gives us a sense of a time, a place, a space and the characters within it.
* * * * -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (R) 1 hour, 45 minutes.
"Lone Survivor": Mark Wahlberg gives a commanding performance in this true story about a Navy SEAL mission that goes seriously awry in Afghanistan. Director Peter Berg's film effectively puts us into the heart of a firefight battle. The result is a violent, painfully realistic war movie that's not just harrowing but well-acted by all, including Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana and Taylor Kitsch.
* -- (Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times) (R) 2 hours, 1 minute.
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom": At times, this film felt like a long walk. Five decades of Nelson Mandela's life is awfully difficult to squeeze into one movie, and, in this case, it comes off more like a history lesson. Idris Elba is great as Mandela as is Naomie Harris as his wife Winnie Mandela. But this feels like it should have been a TV miniseries, instead of a big screen feature.
* ¿½ -- (Tony Hicks, Staff) (PG-13) 2 hours, 19 minutes.
"The Nut Job": So it's not Pixar. Regardless, this peppy animated caper about squirrels getting tangled into a heist plot boasts just enough zippy one-liners to help chase away the winter doldrums. Just don't expect too much.
* ¿½ -- (Roger Moore, McClatchy Tribune) (PG) 1 hour, 25 minutes.
"Ride Along": A little of comedian Kevin Hart goes a long way in this dull buddy picture engineered as a vehicle for the mini-motor-mouth Hart and the permanently scowling Ice Cube. The derivative comedy finds the popular funnyman playing the videogame-addicted fiance of a cop's (Cube) sister. Nothing about any of it is inspired as this mismatched duo take on a bad guy. Hart needs to find better material than this -- as should you.
* ¿½ -- (Roger Moore, McClatchy Tribune) (PG-13) 1 hour, 42 minutes.
"Saving Mr. Banks": Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney trying to get author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to sell him the film rights to "Mary Poppins." And it works wonderfully. Thompson is magnetic as the grumpy Brit, who explores her own past and what inspired "Poppins," even as she fights Disney's people tooth and nail to make the film the way she wants it.
* * -- (Tony Hicks, Staff) (PG-13) 2 hours, 6 minutes.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty": Adapted from a short story of the same title by James Thurber, this charming "Mitty" stars Ben Stiller (who also directs) as an insecure Life photo editor whose fantasy life turns to reality -- sort of.
* * -- (Jessica Herndon, Associated Press) (PG-13) 1 hour, 56 minutes.
"Walking With Dinosaurs": The BBC series gets the kid-friendly movie treatment, complete with cutesy story and dino-poop jokes. Aimed squarely at the 7-12 crowd, it pumps a few IQ points into the kid film genre.
* ¿½ -- (Roger Moore, McClatchy Tribune News Service) (PG) 1 hour, 26 minutes.
"The Wolf of Wall Street": Raunchy and certain to cause a ruckus, Martin Scorsese's adult e-ticket ride through the life of a corrupt New York stockbroker is loads of blushable fun. It's also Leonardo DiCaprio's finest hours -- three of 'em -- on film. Don't miss it. But keep the kids away.
* ¿½ -- (Randy Myers, Staff) (R) 2 hours, 59 minutes.