Opening this week
Out of the Furnace If you’ve been thinking that the Oscar bait was kinda slow in arriving this year, just sit back and watch as this earnest attempt rounds all the bases. Direction by the guy who did “Crazy Heart”! Starring role for Christian Bale as a steelworker with a terminally ill dad! Supporting role for Casey Affleck as an Iraq veteran mixed up in organized crime! Early reviews that use adjectives like “gutsy,” “haunted” and “starkly powerful!” There’s no way Academy voters are gonna pass this one by, is there? And even if they somehow do, don’t worry: There’s another Christian Bale movie coming in just one week! (R) – Steve Schneider
Frozen After three failed attempts, Disney has finally brought an animated adaption of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” to the screen. This interpretation has little in common with the fairy tale, though: Gone are many of the story’s complexities and its spiritual overtones, replaced by an odd mix of drama, music and comedy designed to entertain the kids and distract the adults from the mediocrity. In true Disney fashion, there’s romance and an adorable sidekick (Olaf the Snowman, voiced and sung nicely by The Book of Mormon’s Josh Gad). Yet he, and virtually everything else in Frozen, seems to be trying too hard to bring back the musical magic of Disney films from the early 1990s. While kids will love it, the treat for adults is the masterful accompanying seven-minute short Get a Horse! (PG) – Cameron Meier
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Catching Fire covers Hunger Games co-winner Katniss Everdeen’s “victory tour” and new life as a tool in an endless propaganda parade, shoring up the spoiled, despotic Capitol that bleeds its impoverished districts dry of all resources. Pure pragmatism in a tough world, and with few options at her disposal, she’s doing what she must to save her own skin and protect those she loves. But those watching in the districts saw defiance, and now actual riots are in the offing. As played by the glorious Jennifer Lawrence, Katniss is a marvelous cutdown of the preposterousness that passes for heroism in movies, and a jab at the limited autonomy Hollywood often grants women characters. The movie itself is a devastating indictment of pop culture, and a strike at the willful ignorance of the well-off in the face of poverty and desperation all around them. (PG-13) – MaryAnn Johanson
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