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The Best Man Holiday — This most welcome sequel to the 1999 sleeper hit The Best Man follows a tight-knit circle of black friends who gathered then for a wedding, now to spend Christmas together. Everybody’s paired up, now — pretty much everybody, anyway. And everybody seems successful. But when Mia (Monica Calhoun) and her star running back husband Lance (Morris Chestnut) invite everybody to their New Jersey mansion for the holidays, cracks show in everyone’s facade. Yes, it’s occasionally maudlin and melodramatic, and it’s entirely too long. But it’s also heartfelt and often downright hilarious, and shows off just how canny writer/director Malcolm D. Lee’s casting was all those years ago. With Melissa De Sousa, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Harold Perrineau. Rated R, 122 minutes. — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Kill Your Darlings — Dull, dreary movie about what could have been an interesting topic. Daniel Radcliffe plays Allen Ginsberg in his freshman year, 1944, in college before he became the famous Beat poet. Director John Krokidas follows around a group that includes the soon-to-be-famous Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William Burroughs (Ben Foster), Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) as they cavort, take drugs, and explore the world and all its pretensions. The actors are fine in their roles, but Krokidas constantly overplays his dramatics. Rated R, 104 minutes. At the Angelika Dallas and Plano. — Boo Allen


Captain Phillips — Tom Hanks stars as Capt. Richard Phillips, head of the Maersk Alabama, a huge container ship that is stopped in the Somali Basin by pirates. Director Paul Greengrass ratchets up the tension with his rapid pacing and lack of narrative filler. The compelling story brings constant surprises and discoveries. Rated PG-13, 134 minutes. — B.A.

Carrie — A re-imagining of the 1976 horror tale in which a shy girl ostracized by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother is pushed too far and explodes in a telekinetic rage. With Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Rated R, 99 minutes. — Los Angeles Times

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 — Wide-eyed inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) is recruited by a mega-billionaire (Will Forte) to figure out why food items are evolving into living creatures such as Shrimpanzes and Flamangos. Rated PG, 95 minutes. — The Fresno Bee

Ender’s Game — In this heavily derivative science-fiction saga based on Orson Scott Card’s novel, with screenplay and direction from Gavin Hood, Asa Butterfield plays young Ender Wiggin. In a future showdown with Earth’s enemies, he is chosen for his skills and leadership qualities to learn fighting tactics and then lead his minions into battle. Harrison Ford and Viola Davis play two of the adults in charge. Impressive special effects and auditorium-shattering sound complement the familiar action sequences. Rated PG-13, 114 minutes. — B.A.

Escape Plan — An expert on structural security agrees to take on one last job — breaking out of a top-secret high-tech prison — but is then duped and wrongly imprisoned, spurring him to recruit a fellow inmate to help him escape. With Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Caviezel. Rated R, 114 minutes. — LAT

Free Birds — In this animated film, two turkeys travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving to try to get their kind off the menu. With the voices of Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler. Rated PG, 91 minutes. — LAT

Gravity — Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) directed this white-knuckle outer-space thriller about two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) who become detached from their spacecraft. Cuaron conveys what it feels like to be lost in space, vulnerable to the vast oblivion that lurks beyond. He uses his two-person cast to ratchet up the tension. Rated PG-13, 90 minutes. — B.A.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa — An elderly man and his 8-year-old grandson embark on a series of misadventures in this hidden-camera comedy. With Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll. Rated R, 91 minutes. — LAT

Last Vegas — Four Oscar-winning actors (Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline) play childhood friends living in different parts of the country who reunite 58 years later in Las Vegas when one (Douglas) plans on marrying for the first time. In what has been called “Hangover for seniors,” expect plenty of Viagra, death and prostate gags. Predictable, good-natured and yet harmless enough. Rated PG-13, 105 minutes. — B.A.

Thor: The Dark World — As Marvel’s latest 3-D behemoth, Thor: The Dark World isn’t so much a sequel as the latest plug-and-play into the comic book company’s blockbuster algorithm. Thor has spent the last two years restoring order to the nine realms of the cosmos, but just as peace settles, a previously locked-away dark energy called the Aether seeps out. It leaks into an astrophysicist (Natalie Portman), awakening a previously vanquished species of Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Rated PG-13, 111 minutes. — The Associated Press

12 Years a Slave — British director Steven McQueen directs Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free man in 1841 New York who is abducted and sold into slavery in the South. He experiences torture and humiliations from his various owners, particularly one (Michael Fassbender). Provocative yet well-made film touches many buttons while delivering a compelling experience. Rated R, 133 minutes. — B.A.