Thursday November 22, 2012

A LATE QUARTET (R). Director Yaron Zilberman, a chamber music fan, uses the intimate collaboration required of a string quartet to examine the way in which lives become dangerously entangled over time. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir.

ARGO (R). Ben Affleck directs and stars in a rescue thriller set against the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. A glorious surprise. Directing his third feature, Affleck has come up with a seamless blend of detailed international drama -- based on the true story about the rescue of six American embassy employees hiding out in the Canadian ambassador's house in Tehran -- and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. With John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber. HHHH (Lemire, Associated Press -- 10/12). 2:00.

FLIGHT (R). Director Robert Zemeckis' first live-action movie since 2000's "Cast Away" stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot whose alcoholism and drug abuse are revealed after he becomes a hero for saving the lives of his passengers during a disastrous flight. Neither a simple story of heroism, nor one of a fallen hero. Things are more complex than that -- and it is its complexities that make this film all the more rewarding an experience. HHH (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 11/3). 2:15.

HOLY MOTORS (NR). Perennial French bad boy auteur Leos Carax re-imagines the City of Light as the backdrop for nearly a dozen surreal adventures starring the filmmaker's longtime collaborator Denis Lavant as a 21st century man of a thousand faces.

In French with English subtitles. Review, D6

LIFE OF PI (PG). Ang Lee combines a lifetime of storytelling finesse with arguably the most artful use of 3-D technology yet seen to bring to life Yann Martel's 2001 novel in which a deadly shipwreck maroons a boy (Suraj Sharma) on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. A gorgeous, ruminative film that is soulfully, provocatively entertaining. HHH1/2 (Germain, Associated Press -- 11/21). 2:06.

LINCOLN (PG-13). Steven Spielberg directs, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as the 16th president in this epic drama about Lincoln's determined effort to pass the 13th Amendment, ending slavery, while also trying to bring the Civil War to a close. An exceptionally good film, elevated by Day-Lewis' super-human star turn, and by the energy and invention its director displays in telling a story that doesn't rely on action and special effects. HHH (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 11/17). 2:29.

RED DAWN (PG-13). A bunch of defiant Washington teens jump in a pickup truck, crash through some barricades, and make for a cabin in the woods, where they plot a guerrilla campaign against U.S.-invading North Korean Captain Cho (a villainous Will Yun Lee) and his tanks and armored vehicles. This reboot of the 1984 original -- directed by Dan Bradley, a stunt coordinator and second unit director (action! action! action!) -- is hobbled by a laughably bad script and a uniformly uncharismatic cast. H (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 11/22). 1:33.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (PG). Based on William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" books, about a team that includes The Easter Bunny, given an Aussie accent by Hugh Jackman here; "North," aka Santa, made all Slavic and silly by Alec Baldwin; The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the silent, roly-poly Sandman. They need the help of newcomer Jack Frost (Chris Pine) if they're to have a prayer of stopping "Pitch," short for "Pitch Black," the night-terror voiced by Jude Law. He's seeing to it that kids across the world are giving up their belief in magic and magical figures like themselves. And he's giving them night terrors. "Rise of the Guardians" is harmless enough, and the lack of easy pop-culture jokes represents the post-"Shrek" direction of DreamWorks well enough. But this is the studio's least entertaining film. For a company that banks on building franchises of kiddie cartoons, from "Shrek" to "Madagascar," these Guardians don't rise to the occasion -- not by a long shot. H (Moore, McClatchy Trubune News Service -- 11/22). 1:37.

SKYFALL (PG-13). Simultaneously thrilling and meaty, this is easily one of the best entries ever in the 50-year, 23-film series, led once again by an actor who's the best Bond yet in Daniel Craig. In the hands of director Sam Mendes, it almost feels like a reinvention of the series. This time, James Bond must try and protect his no-nonsense boss, M (the always intelligent and dignified Judi Dench), from what feels like a very personal attack, even as it seems that she may not necessarily be protecting him in return. Javier Bardem pretty much steals this entire movie away from a cast of esteemed and formidable actors as the villainous Silva, the former MI6 agent getting his revenge against this staid, old-fashioned organization in high-tech, ultra-efficient ways that make him seem unstoppable. HHHH (Lemire, Associated Press -- 11/9). 2:23.

THE SESSIONS (R). A 38-year-old polio patient, the late poet and journalist Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), in an iron lung enlists a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt in a truly brave performance) so he can lose his virginity. Ultimately, this true-life drama is about a decent, disarming disabled man on a quest to lose his virginity; nothing more profound is afoot. It is story enough, moving enough. (Sharkey, Los Angeles Times -- 11/17). 1:35.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN -- PART 2 (PG-13). Finally -- finally! -- the "Twilight" franchise embraces its own innate absurdity with this gleefully over-the-top conclusion. This is by far the best film in the series. This does not necessarily mean it's good. But as it reaches its prolonged and wildly violent crescendo, it's at least entertaining in a totally nutso way. Bill Condon (who also directed last year's "Breaking Dawn -- Part 1") finally lets his freak flag fly. His final "Twilight" movie dares to have a little fun. Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) are now married vampires and parents to a newborn daughter, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy). With the help of the bloodsucking Cullen clan and vampires gathered from around the globe, they must band together with Edward's former romantic rival Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf buddies to protect the half-human, half-vampire spawn from the evil and suspicious Volturi. HHH (Lemire, Associated Press -- 11/16) 1:45.

WRECK-IT RALPH (PG). The villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) of an old-school 1980s arcade video game tires of always being the bad guy and starts to sneak into other video games to play the hero. The movie's first half is its funniest. The second half is cleverly designed, high-fructose eye candy with typical Disney lessons in reaching for the stars, being who you are blah, blah, blah. HHH (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 11/2). 1:33.