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Movie Stars: capsule reviews

columbia pictures via ap

Rooney Mara (left, with Yorick van Wageningen) is the title character in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’’

New releases

Merrick morton/sony

Emile Hirsch fights aliens in Moscow in “The Darkest Hour.’’

The Darkest Hour Four young Americans meet up at a bar in Moscow just in time for an alien invasion. Sean and Ben, played by Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella, have just been ripped off in an Internet business deal when they meet Natalie and Ann, played by Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor. When all hell breaks loose, they hide out in a storage room, emerging days later into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They find themselves fighting for survival in a yawn-inducing genre exercise. (89 min., PG-13) (Joel Brown)

Previously released

★★ ½ The Adventures of Tintin Director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson bring the intrepid boy reporter of Hergé’s classic comic books into the digital new millennium with mixed results. The film’s a visual marvel that’s cold to the touch, with a chase-rinse-repeat story line that grows tiresome and motion-captured characters that lack the warmth of human beings. (107 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

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Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked Young children may enjoy the third film in the series, bland as it is. Alvin and the other five singing chipmunks join their guardian Dave (Jason Lee) for a luxury cruise and end up stranded on an (almost) uninhabited tropical island where they learn to be more self-reliant. David Cross is also on hand, wearing a giant pelican suit, but even that’s not enough to make this fun for grown-ups over age 9. (85 min., G) (Joel Brown)

★★★★ The Artist Michael Hazanavicius’s silent, black-and-white love letter to classic movies isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough to make just about anyone who sees it ridiculously happy - and that includes children and grown-ups who’ve never come across a silent film. Jean Dujardin plays the charming Hollywood ham whose career goes south with the arrival of the talkies; Bérénice Bejo is his love interest. A crowd-pleaser and a joy. (100 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★★ ½A Dangerous Method The insinuation in David Cronenberg’s sex drama is strong, the acting stronger. Adapted by Christopher Hampton from his play, the film focuses on the professional and emotional bond between the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mistress and assistant Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). With Cronenberg, devilishly, the sex proves more curative than the talking. (94 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher disinfects the luridness of the first of Stieg Larsson’s fun-to-read Swedish bestsellers until overheated trash assumes the chilly, clammy precision of a Fincher production, which is to say that the violence is both terrible and extremely alluring. Fincher also clearly adores his brutal (and brutally funny) cyberpunk played by Rooney Mara, whose dead seriousness is a grim hoot. With Daniel Craig, Robin Wright, and Christopher Plummer. (152 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol This is the fourth and most navigable installment in 15 years, and Tom Cruise’s decision to keep making these ridiculous movies doesn’t feel desperate. It feels like exercise. For him. For us. For whoever on the set was responsible for saying, “Tom, that’s a union job.’’ The mission this time? Stop nuclear apocalypse. With Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg. The elegant direction is by Brad Bird. (133 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★ Shame Petty provocation from the Englishman Steve McQueen. It’s the tale of a white-collar guy (Michael Fassbender) who can’t seem to stop looking for and having sex. The movie is empty - what’s McQueen after, really? - especially after Carey Mulligan arrives as Fassbender’s wayward sister. Still, there’s a misery in Fassbender that’s spellbinding. (96 min., NC-17) (Wesley Morris)

★★Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows It has its pleasures, chief among them Robert Downey Jr., but the light has gone from the star’s eyes and the thrill is gone from this franchise. Jared Harris plays professor James Moriarty, and the scenes between him and Holmes are the film’s sharpest. Jude Law and Noomi Rapace costar. (129 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★ The Sitter “Adventures in Babysitting’’ airlifted into Judd Apatow’s neck of the woods. You get Jonah Hill, crass racial and sexual stereotypes, more drugs than a DEA evidence room, reckless child endangerment, language to drop a nun, and a very strange white boy crush on all things black and urban. Some laughs, too, but not enough. (81 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★ ½ Three Stars In international restaurant circles where the Guide Michelin series has long been a tastemaker, careers and fortunes can rise and fall on the guidebooks’ annual ratings. The men and women (but mostly men) behind the food are the focus of this documentary by Lutz Hachmeister, which unfortunately delivers more talking than cooking, and too much of it spent on the guides themselves. Featuring René Redzepi, Nadia Santini, Yannick Alléno, and other elite chefs. (94 min., unrated) (Janice Page)

★★★ ½Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy The stillness of Gary Oldman as George Smiley is magnificent to behold. This adaptation of the 1973 John le Carre novel, about a British intelligence wonk (Oldman) trying to catch a traitor in his ranks, is a model of smart restraint and telling details - an engrossing movie for grown-ups. With Colin Firth. (127 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★★ War Horse A boy (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, separated and rejoined by World War I. Steven Spielberg’s “serious’’ movie of 2011 is a work of full-throated Hollywood classicism that looks back to the craftsmanship and sentimentality of John Ford and other legends of the studio era. It’s as impressive as coasting gets, but it’s coasting all the same. (146 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★ We Bought a Zoo Matt Damon plays a grieving single dad who takes over a ratty Southern California wild animal park. It’s a sweet-natured, terribly unthreatening drama about redemption and renewal, and it may matter more to the man who made it (director Cameron Crowe, stuck in a career slump) than the audiences who see it. With Scarlett Johansson. (124 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

★★★Young Adult Diablo Cody wrote this pungent, piquant movie about a sputtering young-adult novelist (Charlize Theron) who tries to win back an old, married boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). Cody’s aiming at adolescent archetypes and Theron plays the part in a bulletproof vest. With Patton Oswalt. Directed by Jason Reitman. (94 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

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