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The Great Beauty — Italy’s Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film is visually sumptuous and filled with striking images. A noted writer (Toni Servillo) hits 65, thinks about his past, and pessimistically looks ahead while attending flashy parties and talking with pretentious artsy types. He reflects somberly. Director Paolo Sorrentino has obviously been influenced by Fellini and 8 1/2. Not rated, 121 minutes. At the Angelika Dallas. — Boo Allen

A Madea Christmas — Coaxed into helping a friend pay her daughter a surprise holiday visit, the stern, sassy matriarch Madea (Tyler Perry) shakes up a small rural town preparing for its annual Christmas Jubilee. With Kathy Najimy, Chad Michael Murray and Anna Maria Horsford. Written and directed by Perry. Rated PG-13, 100 minutes. — Los Angeles Times


All Is Lost — In a nearly dialogue-free performance, Robert Redford takes us on a physical and existential voyage in this masterful tale about a man trying to survive after a mishap at sea. Directed by J.C. Chandor. Rated PG-13, 105 minutes. — The Washington Post

Blue Jasmine — Woody Allen wrote and directed this drama-with-humor that takes license with A Streetcar Named Desire. Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, the Blanche DuBois figure, disgraced and penniless when she arrives at the San Francisco home of her sister (Sally Hawkins). Rated PG-13, 98 minutes. — B.A.

The Book Thief — A slice of Holocaust history filters through a gauzy lens in this treacly rendering of Markus Zusak’s novel of the same name. In late 1930s Germany, an illiterate girl, Liesel (a bland Sophie Nelisse), is taken from her mother and placed with foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson), then learns the joy of reading while having innocuous adventures with a friend. Rated PG-13, 131 minutes. — B.A.

Dallas Buyers Club — Matthew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, an electrician and part-time cowboy who tests HIV positive in 1985 and is given a month to live. He turns to alternative drugs, obtaining them in trips around the globe, eventually organizing the buyers’ club, a ruse for others to buy them. Touching, persuasive performances from McConaughey and Jared Leto. Rated R, 117 minutes. — B.A.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire — The action roars along in this second film edition of Suzanne Collins’ popular novels. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) again face off against a team of rivals, but this time heavy intrigue at the capital looms large, particularly with President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Much looks familiar, but impressive special effects and outlandish costumes serve as visual distractions. Rated PG-13, 146 minutes. — B.A.

Out of the Furnace — Casey Affleck and Christian Bale play two woeful brothers in a small Pennsylvania iron mill town. They look headed in opposite directions but end up on the same path in this violent, gloomy film from co-writer and director Scott Cooper. Woody Harrelson plays the quintessential bad guy headed for a fall. Rated R, 116 minutes. — B.A.