OK, lit majors and climate freaks, this is the movie weekend for you.
The best new movie this week is “Anna Karenina,” a lush and exuberant adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel. Keira Knightley radiates as the title heroine, the Russian noblewoman whose indescretion with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) leads to her downfall in St. Petersburg society. Director Joe Wright, who worked with Knightley on “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement,” hits on the clever conceit of staging the action in a giant theater, choreographing the scene changes in a swirl of color and motion. The top-flight cast includes Jude Law as Anna’s upright husband, Matthew Macfadyen as her philandering brother, and Domnhall Gleeson (Bill Weasley from the “Harry Potter” series) as the idealistic Nikolai Levin.
Also worth checking out this weekend is “Chasing Ice,” the astonishing documentary that won the prize for cinematography at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Director Jeff Orlowski follows National Geographic photographer James Balog on his mission to record the receding of the world’s glaciers by setting up time-lapse cameras to photograph the melting as it happens. The footage is amazing, and points to the reality of global climate change.
The big studio movie this week is “Killing Them Softly,” director Andrew Dominik’s engrossing Mafia story. Brad Pitt gives a strong performance as Jackie, a thoughtful hitman brought into town to clean up an internal mess after thugs rob a Mob-run poker game. Dominik’s allusions to the 2008 financial crisis are a bit heavy-handed, but his handling of author George V. Higgins’ terse action is gruesomely beautiful. James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta also star.
The other wide release this weekend is “The Collection,” a sequel to the 2009 gorefest “The Collector.” It was not screened for critics.
Playing at the Tower is the documentary “Somewhere Between,” which follows four American teen girls with one thing in common: All were born in China, abandoned by their parents because of that country’s “One Child” policy, and adopted by families here. Some of the stories are compelling, others less so.
Lastly, the Megaplex 20 at The District is playing “Little Red Wagon,” a cloying melodrama based on the real-life story of a Florida kid (Chandler Canterbury) who starts collecting donations for hurricane relief and ends up starting a charity for homeless kids. The cause is noble, but the movie is insufferable.