A HAUNTED HOUSE (R). Marlon Wayans and crew run riot in a parody of "Paranormal Activity" and like-minded "found footage" thrillers.
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. The two hit on a bargain: the former slave points out the men, the bounty hunter kills them, and the slave gets his freedom. 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. And they will all have a point. But Tarantino has pushed these buttons to create something unique: a bold vision of what a black hero can be in a period piece developed with a modern film geek's eyes. The best Christmas 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.
GANGSTER SQUAD (R). True-life crime drama based on the battle between Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen and the highly unorthodox team of lawmen determined to bring him down. With Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone.
HITCHCOCK (PG-13). This drama shuttles between director Alfred Hitchcock's strained domestic life and his battles with
IN ANOTHER COUNTRY (NR). A comedy of manners from South Korea comprising three scenarios, each a little under a half-hour long, dreamed up by an aspiring young screenwriter (Jung Yumi) in the midst of some vague family trouble. The movies she writes, which we see enacted on the screen, have to do with themes of social awkwardness, sexual frustration and the selfishness of Korean men.
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 unrelenting 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.
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.
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). Director Gus van Sant's film casts a relatively even light over the unwinnable choice many farmers face when they have to decide between two evils. The residents of a farming community in western Pennsylvania must decide whether to lease their land to a gas company for deep drilling -- fracking -- because they need the money or reject the offer because of all the environmental issues. As a company sales representative, Matt Damon, who co-wrote the screenplay, effortlessly slips from man of conviction to man of the people and, in the process, makes the role and the film work. With Frances McDormand. John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook. HH1/2 (Bentley, The Fresno Bee -- 1/7). 1:46.
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.
TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (R). Set decades after the murders in 1974's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," this new sequel finds a young woman traveling to Texas to claim an inheritance -- and meeting up with a chain-saw-wielding lunatic instead. There are plenty shove-the-saw-at-the-camera moments. Otherwise, director John Luessenhop botches even the basics of making these many murders frightening. H (Moore, McClatchy Tribune News Service -- 1/8). 1:32.
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 marital comedy. A 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). 2:14.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (R). The story of the planning and execution of the mission to take out Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, is told through two ferocious CIA officers (Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke), modeled on the real if anonymous people who led the hunt in this true-life drama from Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.