Friday January 25, 2013

A HAUNTED HOUSE (R). Marlon Wayans and crew run riot in a "Paranormal Activity" parody that is, in its own way, more horrifying than the real thing. Thompson (Philadelphia Daily News -- 1/16). 1:20.

ARGO (R). Directing his third feature, Ben 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 during the 1979 hostage Iranian crisis -- and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. HHHH (Lemire, Associated Press -- 10/12). 2:00.

BROKEN CITY (R). Five years after leaving the NYPD and setting up shop as a private detective, the ex-cop is hired by the man who pressured him to quit -- the mayor of New York -- to find out if his wife is cheating. Director Allen Hughes hides the secrets well and he stages a good fight and chase. But it’s a hallmark of this better-than-average thriller that it doesn’t have the requisite thrills or compelling narrative to pull it along. With Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones. HH (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 1/22). 1:49.

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. A big lug of a movie, a hard-boiled actioner as guiltily pleasurable for its macho strengths as its cops-and-robbers cliches. With Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone. HH1/2 (Daly, Tampa Bay Times -- 1/14). 1:53.

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (R). The young tykes all grown up and making a career out of tracking down down and dispatching witches, no matter what it takes. With Gemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner. Review, D6

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (PG-13). Bill Murray stars as the 32nd president as he prepares to host the King and Queen of England on a state visit to his Hyde Park retreat. If you like your U.S. history breezy, here’s a film half as long as "Lincoln" and three times funnier. HHH (Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune -- 1/21). 1:45.

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.

MAMA (PG-13). Five years after their parents’ murder, two girls who had been living alone in the woods are rescued and brought to live with their uncle and his girlfriend -- but an evil presence may have accompanied them. An effectively spooky ghost story that is every adoptive parent’s nightmare. With Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier. HHH (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 1/19). 1:40.

MOVIE 43 (R). A number of
stories intersect and overlap in this ensemble comedy. With Kristen Bell, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Chloe Grace Moretz, Chris Pratt, Kate Winslet and many more. Multiple writers and directors.

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. There’s something touching about how hard Crystal and 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.

PARKER (R). After his crew double-crosses him, a professional thief who lives by his own code of ethics takes on an unlikely partner to settle the score. With Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis.

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (PG-13). Documentary about the career and fate of 1970s Detroit singer-songwriter Rodriguez, who became the prophet and poet of young liberal Afrikaners opposing apartheid.

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 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. It’s a husk with the superficial features of a "Ring" movie but none of the energy and heart and wit. With Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen. H (Covert, Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- 12/15). 2:50.

THE LAST STAND (R). After leaving his LAPD narcotics post in the wake of a bungled operation and settling down in a sleepy border town, a small-time sheriff (Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds himself the last line of defense to intercept a notorious escaped drug kingpin. Arnold gets to show that his years as California governor didn’t improve his acting; that he’s an "old man" still able to hold his own in the one fist fight this retro-"Raw Deal"-era modern day Western demands of him. H1/2 (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 1/22). 1:47.

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 thrilling, cathartic movie experience from Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. HHH1/2 (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 1/15). 2:36.