The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (R) — David Fincher's thrilling take on the first chapter of the Millennium Trilogy doesn't reinvent the story of an investigative journalist who gets involved with a pierced and tattooed troublemaker, but it does cast it in a new, eye-opening light. The plot remains the same: Writer Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) looks into the disappearance of a girl 40 years earlier. Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) -— an antisocial, bisexual computer hacker who may or may not be a little insane — helps him. Lisbeth is a cold, calculating, and complex young woman with as much baggage as secrets, and Mara nails the pale, androgynous tones that have made Lisbeth one of the most vibrant characters of the past decade. The story is a slow build and the payoff isn't immediate, but the movie burns with an energy that's missing in the original Swedish version. (Michael Gallucci)
Hugo (PG) — Asa Butterfield plays Hugo Cabret, a wide-eyed boy whose clockmaker father dies unexpectedly, leaving the kid to be raised by his drunken Uncle Claude, who keeps the clocks running at a Paris train station. Rather than be gathered up as just another orphan and given over to authorities by the villainous Station Inspector, Hugo lives in the station's walls, stealing croissants and milk to get by. One day he meets a luminous, educated young woman, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), who introduces him to the colorful characters at the station that he's spent so long avoiding. The maze of connections between Isabelle, the station, and the other characters they encounter leads Hugo on a magical journey that's surprising and touching at every turn. (Justin Strout)
J. Edgar (R) — Clint Eastwood's stirring biopic looks at long-running FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (played with spot-on self-satisfaction by Leonardo DiCaprio), a deeply conflicted egomaniac whose personal agendas often broke the laws he had sworn to uphold. The movie crisscrosses eras and historical highlights from Hoover's life, but it isn't flashy — that's not Eastwood's style. It is supremely well-made, directed with insight and reverence and skepticism for Hoover and his story. (Gallucci)
Young Adult (R) — Even though Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is on a mission to win back her high-school sweetheart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who's now married with a newborn, it's hard not to love her. She considers herself lucky to have escaped the rural mediocrity of her hometown to make a decent living in the "big city" (Minneapolis), ghost-writing YA fiction. But after she gets an e-mail blast from Buddy's brood with a photo of their adorable new baby, something just snaps. So Mavis heads home to reclaim her glory. In her stupor, she meets Matt (Patton Oswalt), a decent guy who feels compelled to stay by her side and talk her out of her plan. What unfolds is a remarkably honest film built around Theron's endlessly complicated performance. But Young Adult is as much a triumph for director Ivan Reitman and writer Diablo Cody, who last collaborated on Juno. (Strout)
War Horse (PG-13) — At two and a half hours, Steven Spielberg's family drama can feel as long as war itself. But with so many movies abandoning classic filmmaking for digital gimmickry these days, there's something admirably quaint about the director's old-fashioned approach to the story about a horse and his adventures during World War I. Modern-day moviegoers may be confused by the film's deliberate pace. Unfortunately, they may also be turned off and bored. But stick with it: War Horse's quiet charms will win you over. (Gallucci)
We Bought a Zoo (PG) — Matt Damon plays Benjamin Mee, a writer and recent widower with two kids and a huge hole in his life. To get back on track, he packs up the family and — wait for it — buys a broken-down zoo. In addition to the menagerie of lions, zebras, and monkeys roaming the grounds, Benjamin acquires a kinda-girlfriend in Scarlett Johansson as the comely but too-busy-for-a-social-life zookeeper in charge of the ragtag staff. Too cute and swinging way too hard for family audiences, We Bought a Zoo is Cameron Crowe's most sentimental and conventional movie, but the sweetness of it all will smother you. (Gallucci)
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