In this week’s new movies, director Steve McQueen adapts the true story of Solomon Northup — a free man sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War south — in "12 Years a Slave." The film receives four stars. "Carrie" starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, is a remake for a new generation, and the story's elements remain universal. Documentary "Mother of George" by Nigerian-born photographer Andrew Dosunmu receives four stars.

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is sold into slavery, eventually landing with cruel plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). (Photo by Francois Duhamel – © 2013 - Fox Searchlight Pictures)

12 Years a Slave” (R) “Intense, unflinching, bold in its simplicity and radical in its use of image, sound and staging, '12 Years a Slave' in many ways is the defining epic so many have longed for to examine — if not cauterize — America’s primal wound. But it’s also a crowning achievement of a filmmaker whose command of the medium extends beyond mere narrative and its reductive, sentimental snares to encompass the full depth and breadth of its most expressive and transforming properties.” – Ann  Hornaday

Carrie” (R) “The original 'Carrie' could be read as a universal allegory of adolescence. Who hasn’t felt like a freak in high school, or fantasized about lashing out — or more often, inward — after being hurt or rejected? But more recent events — the Columbine massacre and the news, just this week, that a young Florida girl killed herself after being taunted by bullies who allegedly boasted about it online — have added resonance to the source material.” – Michael O’Sullivan

Escape Plan” (R) “Now, in case you’ve forgotten, neither Stallone nor Schwarzenegger can act. That’s why they make movies in which they don’t have to. One high point of the film is a slow-motion close-up of Schwarzenegger’s lined and gray-bearded face as he grabs a machine gun, preparing to open up some whoop-ass.” – Michael O’Sullivan

The Fifth Estate” (R) “…as a piece of filmed entertainment, 'The Fifth Estate' shows why things like authorial point of view and visual sensibility are so essential in bringing such stories to life. Unlike its most obvious predecessor, “The Social Network,” this film doesn’t have much of either, and the weakness shows.” – Ann Hornaday

I’m in Love with a Church Girl” (PG) “Atkins is actually a fairly decent actor, but the supporting cast members sound like they’re reading their lines. Even usually impressive performers, such as Vincent Pastore ('The Sopranos'), have a stilted delivery. The acting isn’t nearly as distracting as the music, however, which is constant and ham-handed.” – Stephanie Merry

Mother of George” (R) “The tensions that animate ‘Mother of George’ — between tradition and autonomy, culture and identity, loyalty and duty — clash in a highly pitched domestic melodrama that will be familiar to fans of the Ni­ger­ian genre known as Nollywood.” – Ann Hornaday

1/2 “Muscle Shoals” (PG) “The word 'magic' is mentioned a lot in 'Muscle Shoals,' a mesmerizing documentary that tries to explain, or at least place in context, the extraordinary success of FAME (founded by producer Rick Hall in the late 1950s) and Muscle Shoals Sound (a competing studio spun off in 1969 by members of FAME’s original house band, known as the Swampers). It’s as good a word as any to capture the ineffable quality of the Muscle Shoals sound” – Michael O’Sullivan

The Stream” (PG) “Feigley, in essence, has made a family-friendly version of Rob Reiner’s ‘Stand by Me.’ Awkward pre-teen characters wrestle with small crushes, big imaginations and equivalent coming-of-age obstacles on a lazy summer afternoon. Even the structures are comparable, with an older version of the main character narrating our action as he fondly reflects on his childhood memories.” – Sean O’Connell

"Wedding Palace" (Unrated) "The debut feature by director and co-writer Christine Yoo, 'Wedding Palace' boasts some neat moments. The animated sequences are rendered in a simulated-watercolor style, and there’s a funny bit with Jason’s grandmother and some tough-but-tender Latino guys." – Mark Jenkins