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Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones — The hit found-footage horror franchise returns, this time focusing on a young man (Andrew Jacobs) who relies on his family to protect him from supernatural forces. Rated R, 90 minutes. — The Miami Herald


American Hustle — David O. Russell co-wrote and directed the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who in 1978, began running scams with his partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Busted by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), the two then help trap politicians. High-energy scenes combine with bad hair and worse costumes for a wild ride. Jennifer Lawrence burns up the screen as Irving’s unstable wife. Rated R, 138 minutes. — Boo Allen

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues — Everything about 2004’s Anchorman, a cult classic of the Will Ferrell oeuvre, and its lead character, Ron Burgundy, was puffed up and absurd and ridiculous. And so, why wouldn’t the sequel be even more puffed up, more absurd and more ridiculous? Burgundy gets fired from his job hosting a morning show, but opportunity comes in the form of a new 24-hour news channel. Burgundy heads for New York, stopping to gather the old news team from San Diego (David Koechner, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell). With Christina Applegate, James Marsden and Kristen Wiig. Directed by Adam McKay. Rated PG-13, 119 minutes. — The Associated Press

47 Ronin — Keanu Reeves stars in an Americanized, or perhaps internationalized version, of one of Japan’s most treasured tales. It’s the story of Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), leader of a group of samurai living in peace under their master, Lord Asano (Min Tanaka). But when Asano is killed, the samurai must regain their honor and avenge their master. Reeves plays an add-on to the story, a half-breed named Kai who was raised by demons. 47 Ronin can be a hoot, but it also feels like a somewhat botched attempt by Hollywood to bridge the cultural gap between North American and overseas box offices. Rated PG-13, 119 minutes. — Newsday

Frozen — Disney’s new movie, very roughly based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” follows two princesses: rambunctious young Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell as an adult) and older sister Elsa (Idina Menzel), who has the secret, magical ability to chill whatever she touches. Traumatized by a near-miss, Elsa turns her back on the outside world, and her confused, disheartened little sis. When Elsa’s coronation day approaches, a squabble between the sisters sets off a freak cold snap throughout the land. Rated PG, 85 minutes. — Minneapolis Star Tribune

Grudge Match Grudge Match is a sort of “Punchy Old Men,” a slow-footed, high-concept comedy that pairs up the screen’s greatest pugilists, circa 1981, for a few slaps and a few laughs. Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone square off as aged boxers brought back by desperation and a desperate fight promoter (Kevin Hart). It’s all very much in the style of director Peter Segal (Get Smart) — slow, sentimental, slick and sadly recycled. With Kim Basinger and Alan Arkin. Rated PG-13, 113 minutes. — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug — The first film of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, took way too long to get going and then dragged for much of its 169 minutes. The Desolation of Smaug is not much shorter — 8 minutes, to be exact — but it feels brisker, lighter, funnier. Instead of a drawn-out intro, we get right to the action — the quest of Bilbo (Martin Freeman, himself livelier and funnier) and the band of dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim the kingdom of Erebor from the frightening dragon Smaug. With Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Ryan Gage, Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lilly. Rated PG-13, 161 minutes. — AP

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. With an excellent supporting cast: Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz. Rated PG-13, 146 minutes. — B.A.

Justin Bieber’s Believe — If Justin Bieber is retiring, as he tweeted rather dubiously on Christmas Eve, does that make Believe his version of The Last Waltz? A brisk 90 minutes of arena-concert footage intercut with slow-pitch interviews and behind-the-scenes fluff, Believe works to present Bieber as a respectable musician, no less serious or dedicated than those other Canadians in Martin Scorsese’s late-’70s documentary about the Band. Directed by Jon M. Chu (reprising his role from 2011’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never), the movie promises an intimate look at the singer who’s spent much of this year experimenting — sometimes fascinatingly, sometimes disturbingly — with sex, drugs and other such tokens of pop-star (im)maturity. Yet Believe refers only glancingly to these disruptions of Bieber’s polished image. Rated PG, 92 minutes. — Los Angeles Times

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. Rated PG-13, 100 minutes. — LAT

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom — The pitfalls of making biopics are manifold, but Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom does a worthy job of honoring both its subject and its audience. It can feel, at times, both overlong and oversimplified, but the story propels itself while awakening in viewers some profound emotions — thanks largely to star Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther). A persistent melancholy pervades the film, especially toward the end as Mandela achieves more than he hoped to, not just ending apartheid but becoming the leader of South Africa. Directed by Justin Chadwick. Rated PG-13, 139 minutes. — The Washington Post

Saving Mr. Banks — Tom Hanks stars as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson turns in a spirited performance as Mrs. P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. He brings her to Hollywood from England in hopes of landing the movie rights to her book. But he finds her cantankerous and obstructionist at every turn. Amusingly entertaining with two fine lead performances. Rated PG-13, 125 minutes. — B.A.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty — Adapted from James Thurber’s short story of the same name, the outlandish scenes in Mitty bring the most memorable element of the original tale — reality bending — to the forefront. Luckily, the CGI-marred moments flood only the first 30 minutes of the film. Walter (a poised and sincere Ben Stiller, who also directed) works at Life magazine, which is transitioning from print to digital. A top executive (Adam Scott) takes to bullying Walter, who must pin down the negative image for the final issue’s cover. With Sean Penn, Shirley MacLaine, Kristen Wiig and Patton Oswalt. Rated PG. — AP

Walking With Dinosaurs — Like an elaborately decorated wedding cake, the kid-friendly Walking With Dinosaurs may leave you wondering how something so stunning could end up being so bland. Aesthetic attention to detail goes only so far when the content is mediocre. The movie follows a young pachyrhinosaurus, Patchi (voiced by Justin Long), and his best friend, a bird named Alex (John Leguizamo). Based on the television series of the same name. Rated PG, 80 minutes. — WP

The Wolf of Wall Street — Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this inconsistently high-energy film from Martin Scorsese that skewers Wall Street and those who bend the rules to work there. A blazing first half filled with excess slows to a second-half grind. Fine supporting cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Shea Whigham, Jonah Hill and Jon Bernthal. Rated R, 180 minutes. — B.A.