Jennifer Lawrence stars in "Joy." (Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

In this week’s new releases, it’s four stars for “Carol,” a film set in the 1950s that follows the love affair between a department store clerk (Rooney Mara) and an older, married woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett). Jennifer Lawrence stars in “Joy,” an inspirational tale loosely based on the life of home-shopping pioneer and entrepreneur Joy Mangano.

★★★★ “Carol” (R) “‘Carol’ is a performance of a performance, whereby codes and signals convey the most essential stuff of life, while the kabuki of being ‘normal’ plays out with the carefully cultivated — and patently false — perfection of the toy train village Carol buys from Therese at their first meeting. Working from a carefully crafted script by Phyllis Nagy, Haynes portrays two people thirstily drinking each other in, while on the outside, they sip tea and cocktails with prim decorum.” – Ann Hornaday

★★½ “Concussion” (PG-13) “‘Concussion’ was adapted for the screen by director Peter Landesman (‘Parkland’) from a buzzy GQ article by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Smartly, the drama opens not by focusing on the scientific, but on the emotional side of the story and the agonizing breakdown of ‘Iron Mike’ Webster, who helped lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in the 1970s.” – Stephanie Merry

★★ “Joy” (PG-13) “‘Joy’ is an inspirational tale, no doubt, introducing us to Joy when she is a frustrated divorcee looking back on a promising life that has been squandered in dead-end jobs and looking after her seemingly agoraphobic mother (Virginia Madsen). Always a can-do kid, Joy never pursued her dreams, until she hits upon an idea for a new- fangled, easy-wring mop after wrestling with one that she uses to clean up spilled wine, cutting her hands on the broken glass.” – Michael O’Sullivan

★★ “The Big Short” (R) “Shot by Barry Ackroyd with the shaky-cam lensing he made famous in the Jason Bourne movies and ‘The Hurt Locker,’ ‘The Big Short’ winds up being a woozily punch-drunk assault on the senses, which makes it all the more remarkable when the actors manage to deliver sharp performances amid the circling bluebirds.” – Ann Hornaday

★★ “Daddy’s Home” (PG-13) “While falling short of the demented hilarity of, say, ‘Anchorman,’ ‘Daddy’s Home’ nevertheless avoids sinking into the seriocomic slough of Ferrell’s alcohol-soaked divorce dramedy ‘Everything Must Go.’ Instead, ‘Daddy’s Home’ is destined to be remembered among Ferrell’s most middle-of-the-road, if not exactly mirthless, comedies. ” – Michael O’Sullivan

★½ “The Hateful Eight” (R) “Tarantino, an outspoken champion for preserving endangered genres and platforms, wears his passions so earnestly that it’s all the more disappointing when the actual movie turns out to be so puny. He’s thrown everything he has in scale, style, scope and self importance at what amounts to a cramped, if initially colorful, parlor game. ‘The Hateful Eight’ never lives up to its intriguing opening minutes and provocative premise.” – Ann Hornaday

★ "Point Break" (PG-13) "It takes a very special director to make scenes of sky-diving, free climbing, big-wave surfing and BASE jumping something to yawn at. Yet Ericson Core must be that kind of miracle worker, because “Point Break,” his update of the 1991 cult classic, is basically a cavalcade of extreme sports, but with less drama than a highlight reel."