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Movies: November 29, 2013

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12 Years a Slave
R, 2 Hrs., 14 Mins.
Agonizingly magnificent. As a free black man sold into slavery, the great Chiwetel Ejiofor places us right inside his skin. A Owen Gleiberman

The Best Man Holiday
R, 2 Hrs., 4 Mins.
Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee shouldn’t have waited 14 years to do a sequel to The Best Man, that outrageously fresh comedy of love and backbiting. He reunites the characters for a Christmas-weekend house party, and what ensues is like a better-written Tyler Perry movie: too many crises rooted in too much recycled backstory. But the actors are winning. B-Owen Gleiberman

The Book Thief
PG-13, 2 Hrs., 11 Mins.
The hit novel comes to the screen as a schmaltzy drama about an adorable girl growing up in Nazi Germany. The terrors of the Third Reich are bathed in a cozy, Thomas Kinkade-style glow that makes even swastika flags seem like festive holiday decorations. B-Adam Markovitz

Charlie Countryman
R, 1 Hr., 47 Mins.
Unless you’re a Shia LaBeouf completist, you’ll want to avoid this shaggy-dog thriller about a romantic whose dead mother instructs him to go to Romania, where he meets a cello-playing femme fatale (Evan Rachel Wood). Not so much a whodunit as a why’d-they-make-it. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) C-Chris Nashawaty

Cold Turkey
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 24 Mins.
Dysfunctional-family Thanksgivings have been served up by other films (Home for the Holidays, Pieces of April), but there’s still enough meat on the carcass for Will Slocombe’s well-observed portrait of a white-wine alcoholic (Peter Bogdanovich) and his irresponsible brood, who gather for a holiday of bickering, blame-hurling, and fork-stabbing. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) BKeith Staskiewicz

Dallas Buyers Club
R, 1 Hr., 57 Mins.
Matthew McConaughey gives a harrowing performance as a good ol’ boy diagnosed with HIV in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. BChris Nashawaty

Ender’s Game
PG-13, 1 Hr., 54 Mins.
This sci-fi tale about a boy who saves Earth is easy on the eyes, but the script’s a clunker. C+Chris Nashawaty

Gravity
PG-13, 1 Hr., 31 Mins.
Alfonso Cuarón’s awesome technological daydream of a movie. AOwen Gleiberman

Last Vegas
PG-13, 1 Hr., 44 Mins.
Four codgers reunite for a bachelor party in Vegas. The actors display the soft-shoe touch of old pros. B-Owen Gleiberman

Narco Cultura
R, 1 Hr., 42 Mins.
Mexico has become the drug-murder capital of the world. And as Shaul Schwarz’s disturbing documentary reveals, the streets awash in cartel blood have fueled the culture of narcocorridos: pop songs that celebrate AK-47s and decapitations, turning violent drug gangsters into folk heroes in a way that would have made Biggie Smalls squirm. BOwen Gleiberman

Nebraska
R, 1 Hr., 55 Mins.
Bruce Dern is fantastic as Woody Grant, a pickled old grouch who thinks he’s won a million dollars, in Alexander Payne’s black-and-white road movie. At 77, Dern has been given the role of a lifetime, and he knows just what to do with it. B+Chris Nashawaty

Reaching for the Moon
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 58 Mins.
The real-life love story of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop (Miranda Otto) and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Gloría Pires) is gorgeously shot against the lush postcard backdrops of ’50s and ’60s South America — but its emotional landscape is a little more arid. If Blue Is the Warmest Color is the gloriously messy supernova of this year’s lesbian dramas, this is the J. Peterman catalog version: elegant, tasteful, and two-dimensional. BLeah Greenblatt

Thor: The Dark World
PG-13, 1 Hr., 52 Mins.
An overscaled but watchable slab of Marvel boilerplate, with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the stud-Viking avenger, now back on Asgard. B-Owen Gleiberman

Weekend of a Champion
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 33 Mins.
Made in 1971 during the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo, this portrait of the Scottish Formula One legend Jackie Stewart is a blast of ’70s scruffy cool that has never before been released in the U.S. The film, produced by Roman Polanski (we see him hanging out with Stewart), embodies both the strengths and weaknesses of cinema vérité. A rambling look at an engagingly humane daredevil, it presents Stewart as a shaggy charmer, at times visibly anxious in the face of the sport’s then-staggering fatality record. He analyzes each hairpin turn and gear shift as if prepping for a chess game in motion. B+Owen Gleiberman

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