ARGO (R). Ben Affleck directs and stars in a rescue thriller set against the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A glorious surprise. Directing his third feature, Affleck has come up with a seamless blend of detailed international drama -- based on the true story about the rescue of six American embassy employees hiding out in the Canadian ambassador's house in Tehran -- and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. With John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber. ♥♥♥♥ (Lemire, Associated Press -- 10/12). 2:00.
CLOUD ATLAS (R). Perhaps this bloated, pseudo-intellectual, self-indulgent slog through some notions that are really rather facile worked better on the page. "Cloud Atlas" comes from the best-selling novel of the same name by David Mitchell, encompassing six stories over a span of 500 years. Sibling directors Lana and Andy Wachowski, working with "Run Lola Run" director Tom Tykwer, have chopped up the various narratives and intercut between them out of order. The A-list actors who make up the cast (among them Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent) play multiple parts across the various stories and in elaborate makeup that's often laughable. But rather than serving as a satisfying, cohesive device, this strategy feels like a distracting
FLIGHT (R). Director Robert Zemeckis' first live-action movie since 2000's "Cast Away" stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot whose alcoholism and drug abuse are revealed after he becomes a hero for saving the lives of his passengers during a disastrous flight. Neither a simple story of heroism, nor one of a fallen hero. Things are more complex than that -- and it is its complexities that make this film all the more rewarding an experience. ♥♥♥ (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 11/3). 2:15.
FUN SIZE (PG-13). A girl and her little brother get a lesson in school popularity on Halloween. Pity this film isn't as much fun as its title implies. "Fun Size" waddles along at half-speed, never building momentum. Even the good gags are robbed of their punch by the way this film was shot and cut. ♥♥(Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 10/26). 1:27.
HERE COMES THE BOOM (PG). A teacher and ex-wrestler (Kevin James) moonlights as a mixed martial-arts fighter to save his school's music program. The film begins not well, with overstated and very broadly played comedy. But once it gets going and commits to its time-worn inspirational formula, it's not bad. ♥♥ (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 10/17). 1:45.
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (PG). Adam Sandler provides the voice of Dracula in an animated monster mash that finds the venerable count operating a luxurious resort for monsters on vacation. He also is eager to prevent his sheltered 118-year-old daughter from hooking up with a backpacking human cutie who accidentally stumbles into Dracula's resort just in time for his daughter's birthday party. Most of the laughs arise from director Genndy Tartakovsky's cheeky take on famous monsters of filmland, funneled through the ordinariness of vacationing. Sandler's voice-only turn outshines many of his front-of-camera appearances. ♥♥ (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 10/1). 1.31.
LINCOLN (PG-13). Steven Spielberg directs, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the 16th president in this epic drama about Lincoln's determined effort to pass the 13th Amendment, ending slavery, while also trying to bring the Civil War to a close.
SKYFALL (PG-13). Simultaneously thrilling and meaty, this is easily one of the best entries ever in the 50-year, 23-film series, led once again by an actor who's the best Bond yet in Daniel Craig. In the hands of director Sam Mendes, it almost feels like a reinvention of the series. This time, James Bond must try and protect his no-nonsense boss, M (the always intelligent and dignified Judi Dench), from what feels like a very personal attack, even as it seems that she may not necessarily be protecting him in return. Javier Bardem pretty much steals this entire movie away from a cast of esteemed and formidable actors as the villainous Silva, the former MI6 agent getting his revenge against this staid, old-fashioned organization in high-tech, ultra-efficient ways that make him seem unstoppable. ♥♥♥♥ (Lemire, Associated Press -- 11/9). 2:23.
THE FLAT (NR). The discovery of a newspaper clipping anout a Nazi in Palestine while family members are cleaning out the apartment in Israel of their recently deceased 98-year-old grandmother leads to a search for the truth by the grandson, who also is the director of this documentary.
THE OTHER SON (PG-13). Two infants switched at birth each grow up as someone else in families living on opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. In French, Hebrew, Arabic and English, with English subtitles.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (PG-13). Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, and Ezra Miller star in a teen coming-of-age tale. Based on the best-selling young adult novel of the same name, the film sounds like a total formula, right down to the rebellious thrill of experimenting with drugs and alcohol and the liberation of experiencing "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." But there's also a darkness that follows its main character, even at his happiest, which keeps the film from turning completely safe and self-satisfied. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" may not do anything groundbreaking, but it tells a familiar story in small, thoughtful ways. ♥♥♥ (Lemire, Associated Press -- 10/29). 1:43.
THE SESSIONS (R). A 38-year-old polio patient (John Hawkes) in an iron lung enlists a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) so he can lose his virginity.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN -- PART 2 (PG-13). Kristen Stewart adjusts to her after-life as a vampire in the finale of the supernatural fantasy. Review, D4
WRECK-IT RALPH (PG). The villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) of an old-school 1980s arcade video game tires of always being the bad guy and starts to sneak into other video games to play the hero. The movie's first half is its funniest. The second half is cleverly designed, high-fructose eye candy with typical Disney lessons in reaching for the stars, being who you are blah, blah, blah. ♥♥♥ (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 11/2). 1:33.