Friday January 4, 2013

ANNA KARENINA (R). Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star in a baldly conceptual response to Leo Tolstoy’s novel. Much of this "Anna Karenina" takes place inside a 19th century Russian playhouse. You may fall under the intended spell. Or you may voice an opinion very much like Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky, who tells Anna early on: "I’m getting out of this operetta and going home." HH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 12/3). 2:10.

CHASING ICE (NR). Award-winning documentary chronicling dusturbing changes in Arctic glaciers.

DJANGO UNCHAINED (R). Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz star in Quentin Tarantino’s adventure about a slave freed by a white bounty hunter who go off in search of a trio of wanted men who brutalized the lawyer and his wife after a failed escape attempt. Some will blanch at the extensive use of the n-word by a white filmmaker; others will question the avalanche of bloody violence amid a cascade of real-life shooting violence. But Tarantino has pushed these buttons to create a bold vision of what a black hero can be in a period piece developed with a modern film geek’s eyes. The best present fans of racially conscious films and blockbuster action movies could ever imagine. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson. HHH1/2 (Deggans, Tampa Bay Times -- 12/27). 2:45.

HITCHCOCK (PG-13). This drama shuttles between director Alfred Hitchcock’s strained domestic life and his battles with studio execs and defenders of morality during the 1959 filming of "Psycho." Anthony Hopkins’ Hitchcock makeup recalls Mussolini, and his acting is superficial impersonation. As his wife, Alma, Mirren is pleasant but the film is unable to convey why she felt such loyalty to a charming but coldblooded control freak. With Scarlett Johansson. HH (Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- 12/17). 1:38.

JACK REACHER (PG-13). Tom Cruise is an ex-military cop chasing a deadly sniper in this action thrller based on the ninth book in Lee Childs’ hugely popular series. While it’s not to say Cruise’s potential new franchise is a slam-dunk, it’s hard to fault the entertainment onscreen, which presents its plot in tight, watch-closely pieces. Here’s hoping Cruise’s dark knight visits us again. HHH (Daly, Tampa Bay Times -- 12/24). 2:10.

LES MISERABLES (PG-13). Director Tom Hooper’s lavish yet gritty big-screen adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical based on Victor Hugo’s novel about an escaped felon’s determined effort to rebuild his life and a police inspector’s equally determined effort to put him back in prison. With Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried. HHH (Kennedy, Denver Post --12/26). 2:38.

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 novelist Yann Martel’s saga of an Indian youth lost at sea with a ravenous Bengal tiger aboard his small lifeboat. A gorgeous, ruminative film that is soulfully, provocatively entertaining. HHH1/2 (Germain, Associated Press -- 11/21). 2:06.

MONSTERS, INC. (G). John Goodman and Billy Crystal’s cartoon creature-feature is back on screen in 3-D.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE (PG). Grandparents (Billy Crystal and Bette Midler) clash with their daughter (Marisa Tomei) over child-rearing philosophies when they babysit the grandkids while daughter and son-in-law (Tom Everett Scott) get a last-minute opportunity to have some out-of-town alone time. The schmaltz is piled on thick and if the comedy were any broader it would require an Imax screen but there’s something touching about how hard Billy Crystal and Bette Midler hustle to peddle the threadbare material that makes "Parental Guidance" a perfectly tolerable, if uninspired, moviegoing experience. (Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter -- 12/29). 1:48.

PROMISED LAND (R). Matt Damon co-wrote and stars as the easygoing, amiable salesman for a natural gas company who comes to a small farming community in western Pennsylvania with the promise of riches. His employer wants to purchase the land rights to do fracking, a process that uses high pressure liquids to create cracks in rock layers for retrieving gas and petroleum products. With Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Krasinski, Hal Holbrook.

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. "Rise of the Guardians" is harmless 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 Tribune News Service -- 11/22). 1:37.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (R). Just out from eight months in a Baltimore psych ward, a high school teacher who has lost his job and his wife to another man recuperates in his parents’ Philadelphia home and meets, at a dinner, a young widow suffering from bouts of depression and low self-esteem. A head-spinning wonder of a movie about love, pain, reinvention, rehabilitation and the totemic power of a National Football League franchise. With Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro. HHHH (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 12/29). 2:00.

THE GUILT TRIP (PG-13). "Yentl" goes yenta in this creakily old-fashioned comedy that forgot to pack the laughs along with the nudging and kvetching as a son and his overly intrusive mother set off on a cross-country road trip from New York to San Francisco. With Seth Rogen in a very subdued mode, his fans will smell this one a mile away; it might be a movie only their mothers -- or die-hard Barbra Streisand fans -- could love. (McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter -- 12/19). 1:38.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (PG-13). "The Lord of the Rings" mastermind Peter Jackson returns to Middle-earth for chapter one of his three-part prelude. Not the worst film of the year, but it may be the most disappointing. It’s a husk with the superficial features of a "Ring" movie but none of the energy and heart and wit -- an unexpected journey indeed. With Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen. H (Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- 12/15). 2:50.

THIS IS 40 (R). Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their "Knocked Up" roles in Judd Apatow’s long, babbling but bawdily quotable laugher about growing older, growing broker and what not to shout out during a hubba-bubba shower scene. HH1/2 (Daly, Tampa Bay Times -- 1/1). 2:14.