Opening this week

The Collection, Killing Them Softly

'The Collection'
'The Collection'

The Collection With the Wal-Mart body count revealing that we're now in the thick of the Christmas season, it's time for the movie business to do its part to get us all in the right warm-and-fuzzy frame of mind. And what says "home, hearth and family" better than a little warmed-over torture porn? Filmmaker Marcus Dunstan, one of the "brains" behind the Saw franchise, has his own little cottage industry of commercial sadism going on with this sequel to his 2009 offering, The Collector. This time, a survivor of the murderous Collector's booby traps has to re-enter the maze to save the life of the madman's next would-be victim. See? It's the spirit of giving, in all its Judaeo-Christian splendor. Just watch out for perforated testicles. (R) – Steve Schneider

Killing Them Softly They done shot up Jesse James real good, so writer/director Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt are at it again. Their latest collaboration has a mob operative (Pitt) on the trail of three bumbling thieves whose ill-advised heist hurt all the wrong people. (In other words, people who know how to hurt people. Who, you may have heard, are the luckiest people in the world.) Also in the cast are genre faves Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta – although, in years to come, you'll nonetheless be referring to this flick as "the one that didn't have Christopher Walken and the Shih Tzu in it." (R) – SS

Also playing

Rise of the Guardians This year's Thanksgiving kids' picture was a big washout at the box office, proving perhaps that legendary figures like Jack Frost, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny and even Santa Freakin' Claus himself aren't quite the public-domain profit centers a studio might expect. Hey, remember a year ago, when the big holiday question was if anybody under the age of 21 still cared about the Muppets anymore? Boy, were we worried over nothing. Of course minors love them a good Muppet; it's why Kevin Clash is out of a job! (Too soon? Too topical? Too … ticklish?) (PG) – SS

Silver Linings Playbook Matthew Quick's 2008 novel provides a sturdy backbone for filmmaker David O. Russell to explore the fractured dynamic between an amiable former mental patient (Bradley Cooper) with anger issues and an explosively unbalanced young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) who uses sex as coping skill. Graced by award-worthy performances from Cooper and Lawrence, this marvelously eccentric romantic comedy demonstrates that smart, high-quality, mainstream entertainment for grown-ups has not yet, and hopefully never will, perish entirely from the Earth.  (R) – Corey Hall


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