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.
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.
BULLET TO THE HEAD (R). 1980s icons Sylvester Stallone and director Walter Hill ("48 Hrs.," "The Warriors," "Streets of Fire") team up for this throwback to the action pictures of that decade, starring Stallone as a hit man who teams up with a cop (Sung Kang) to take down some bad guys.
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.
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. More grenades and Gattling guns than Brothers Grimm. With Gemma Arterton, Jeremy Renner. H (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 1/25). 1:26.
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. With Laura Linney, Elizabeth Wilson, Olivia Williams. 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 collection of one-joke short films strung together as a feature -- movies seemingly built around this guiding directive: Find big-name stars and see how far "out there" they'll go for a laugh. A dizzying array of actors in a wide variety of oh-no-they-didn't sketches, almost all using oral sex and penis gags as their punch lines. H (Moore, McClatchy Tribune-News Service -- 1/29). 1:55.
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.
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. The action is fast and furious; Taylor Hackford directs crisply, unpretentiously; and it requires a willingness to abandon all plausibility. With Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis. HH (Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer -- 1/26). 1:58.
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.
STAND UP GUYS (R). Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin play aging con men planning to pull off one last big heist.
THE IMPOSSIBLE (R). A woman swept away with her eldest son by the overpowering rush of water in the tsunami that struck Thailand in 2004 desperately tries to reunuite with her husband and youngest son. With Naomi Watts, Ewen McGregor.
WARM BODIES (PG-13). Zombies are played for laughs in this comedy about a flesh-eating teen (Nicholas Hoult) who starts to develop feelings -- not hunger -- for a girl (Teresa Palmer). Review, D6
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.
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. A thrilling, cathartic movie experience. HHH1/2 (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 1/15). 2:36.