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★ ★ ★ Life of Pi Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel is a marvel of contradictions: a movie about the magnificence of nature that’s largely computer-made, a two-character epic, a 3-D extravaganza that takes place inside a 20-foot lifeboat. The movie shouldn’t work at all, but it does. Keep kids under 10 at home, though. With Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan. (127 min., PG) (Ty Burr)
★ ★ Red Dawn The teen Commie-anxiety flick from 1984 gets a remake, dated title and all. The new version drops Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, and Josh Hutcherson into the roles, shifts their guerrilla fight from Colorado to more urban Spokane, and promotes North Korea to Evil Empire status. Semi-forced, but hey, it satisfies the brand. Mostly solid viewing as a combat action spectacle, but politically, unable to decide whether to play it retro-jingoistic or contempo-liberal. (93 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)
★ ★ ½ Rise of the Guardians Happily, this 3-D animated dream-teaming of “Guardians of Childhood” Santa (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) doesn’t just coast on familiar lore. Jack Frost (Chris Pine) is placed at the center of the adventure, joining them against bogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) in an adaptation of kid-lit author William Joyce’s books. Distinctive, but could push its crossover gimmick more aggressively. (97 min., PG) (Tom Russo)
★ ★ ★ A Royal Affair This Danish historical drama about a mad 18th-century king, his wife, and her lover is one of the stodgier entries in the Oscar-season costume parade but also one of the more straightforwardly enjoyable: a crowned-heads soap opera that balances effectively between pomp and melodramatic circumstance. With Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen. In Danish, with subtitles. (137 min., R) (Ty Burr)
★ ★ ½ Anna Karenina Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Tolstoy classic staggers under the weight of a dazzling, hermetically sealed visual style that fails to connect with our emotions; the entire movie seems to take place in a snow globe. The cast, led by Keira Knightley, is good, although Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky may be too much the boy-toy. With Jude Law. (130 min., R) (Ty Burr)
★ ★ ★ Brooklyn Castle The chess team at Intermediate School 318, a public junior high school in Brooklyn, dominates national competitions the way UCLA used to dominate college basketball. The story is a great documentary subject, told well by director Katie Dellamaggiore. The kids and their teachers who populate it are even greater. (102 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)
★ ★ ★ Chasing Ice A calmly furious documentary about the disappearance of the great northern glaciers and the photographer, James Balog, who captures this silent apocalypse in time-lapse images that balance between beauty and horror. Director Jeff Orlowski gives us more about Balog than we need to know; it’s the work that matters. (76 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)
★ ★ ½ Cloud Atlas A dazzling cinematic folly from writer-directors Andy and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) that tries to explain human interconnectedness through six narrative strands spread over centuries. It’s profound on the surface — and absurdly watchable — but banal beneath. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and others play multiple characters in sometimes convincing make-up. (172 min., R) (Ty Burr)
★ ★ ★ Flight A so-so movie with Denzel Washington as a commercial-airline pilot in hot water after he crash-lands a plane while drunk, high, hungover, and horny. The movie doesn’t do much that you couldn’t anticipate just by seeing the trailer. But you know what’s still worth $15 plus the cost of a babysitter, popcorn, and parking? Two hours with Washington at the height of his everything. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. (138 min., R) (Wesley Morris)
★ ★ ½ A Late Quartet A smartly cast, discreetly contrived melodrama about classical musicians, with retiring cellist Christopher Walken upsetting the delicate balance of his string quartet. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Mark Ivanir are the other players; the music’s sublime but the situations feel pat. Fans of the actors (and of Beethoven) should check it out, though. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)
★ ★ ★ ½ Lincoln In the weeks following his reelection, Abraham Lincoln (a remarkable Daniel Day-Lewis) fights to get the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed. A terrifically entertaining film that, against all odds, makes politics exciting again. Steven Spielberg is in top form, Tony Kushner’s script is full of crackling talk (and lots of it), and there are scene-stealing turns from Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and James Spader. (149 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)Continued...