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Movie reviews: Michael Keaton shines in Spotlight

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By Jay Bobbin

Starting this week


Having a very good run this film-honors season – including a recent win for best picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards – director and co-screenwriter Tom McCarthy’s excellent, Oscar-nominated drama is an ode to the determination of journalists. It traces the investigation by several Boston Globe reporters that ultimately uncovered a long-concealed child-molestation scandal within the Catholic Church … and reverberations that prove to be not just local, but global. The superb ensemble cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery (“Mad Men”), Brian d’Arcy James (“Smash”) and Stanley Tucci. **** (R: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

The Good Dinosaur

The well-established Disney-Pixar brand of captivating animation and storytelling is in effect again in this entertaining-for-all-ages feature about the bond forged between a dinosaur and a youngster (voices of Raymond Ochoa and Jack Bright) who end up saving each other, in both the literal and figurative senses … and more than once. Heart-tugging moments and gentle history lessons – youngsters are likely to emerge knowing much more about prehistoric species – are part of the formula here, as is a voice cast that includes such notables as Anna Paquin, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn and Sam Elliott. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Fargo: Year Two

Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons (“Friday Night Lights”) and Jean Smart all were winners at last month’s Critics Choice Awards for the second season of the FX series, which also took an honor there for the overall show. This round is a prequel, with Patrick Wilson as the younger incarnation of the lawman played by Keith Carradine in the initial season; with personal problems of his own, he becomes involved in the probe of a young couple’s (Dunst, Plemons) larceny – and the adage that not everything is what it seems gets fresh proof here. Ted Danson, Brad Garrett, Jeffrey Donovan (“Burn Notice”), Bokeem Woodbine and Cristin Milioti (“How I Met Your Mother”) also are in the solid cast of this chapter of the saga, inspired by the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning movie of the same name. *** (Not rated: AS, P, V)

Secret in their Eyes

Adapted from an Oscar-winning Argentinian film, this melodrama teams Oscar winners Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman as members of an investigation team whose mutual work ended tragically with the murder of the Roberts character’s daughter. For well over a decade, another colleague (Chiwetel Ejiofor) has been determined to find the killer … and when he believes he finally has, the resulting information has a profound impact on all concerned. Dean Norris (“Under the Dome”), Michael Kelly and Alfred Molina also appear. DVD extras: two “making-of” documentaries; audio commentary by director-screenwriter Billy Ray and producer Mark Johnson. *** (PG-13: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

The Lion Guard: The Return of the Roar

The launch point for an animated series on Disney Channel and Disney Junior, this feature was televised last November and again offers the voices of James Earl Jones and Ernie Sabella as “The Lion King” characters Mufasa and Pumbaa. Actually, that’s “Uncle Pumbaa” … which he becomes to a younger brigade of African lions led by Kion (voice of Max Charles), the son of Samba and Nala (voices of Rob Lowe and Gabrielle Union), as the members of the new generation use their respective gifts to maintain the Circle of Life. Atticus Shaffer (“The Middle”) also is heard. *** (Not rated)

I Smile Back

Known for her comedy, Sarah Silverman tackles a dramatic role – for which she earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination – in this story of a troubled woman whose life is at loose ends, largely by her own doing. The wife and mother lives for the moment, engaging in drug abuse and casual hookups, but she reaches a crisis point and has to decide whether she can straighten herself out enough to preserve her family. Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”) plays her husband, and Skylar Gaertner and Shayne Coleman their children, in co-screenwriter Amy Koppelman’s adaptation of her own novel. Thomas Sadoski (“Life in Pieces”) also stars. *** (R: AS, N, P)

Coming soon

The Night Before (March 1)

Three pals (Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie) seek the biggest party they can find on Christmas Eve. (R: AS, N, P)

Childhood’s End (March 1)

The Arthur C. Clarke story puts Earth under the control of seemingly peaceful aliens; Mike Vogel, Daisy Betts and Charles Dance star. (Not rated: AS, P, V)

Macbeth (March 8)

Michael Fassbender portrays Shakespeare’s legendary character in this latest of the play’s screen adaptations; Marion Cotillard plays Lady Macbeth. (R: AS, V)

Open Season: Scared Silly (March 8)

The supposed presence of a werewolf puts the residents of a forest – human and otherwise – on edge in this animated, direct-to-video sequel. (Not rated)

The Peanuts Movie (March 8)

Snoopy goes after the Red Baron again, while Charlie Brown deals with another affair of the heart, in this computer-animated feature. (G)

Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series (March 22)

The cult-classic show, about a Detroit high school circa 1980, makes its Blu-ray debut and features Seth Rogen and James Franco. (Not rated: AS, P)

FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.