Movie stars: capsule reviews

Weinstein Company
Best actor nominee Jean Dujardin and Missi Pyle in “The Artist,’’ which is up for 10 Oscars, including best picture.

New releases

★★Underworld Awakening Vampires and werewolves are back at each other’s throats in a sequel overly eager to assert that monster mashes aren’t about “Twilight’’ melodrama. Kate Beckinsale wriggles back into her catsuit as Selene, thawed after a human purge of vampires and Lycans that left her in cryo-freeze. India Eisley is the young girl who now shares a psychic link with her, and special abilities. (88 min., R) (Tom Russo)

Previously released

★★★ 2011 Sundance Shorts A selection of last year’s Sundance short films. The hit-to-miss ratio is high, and the films underscore what makes a great short work: a solid idea expanded into a brief, powerful vision of the world. “The Eagleman Stag’’ and “Deeper Than Yesterday’’ are the best of a solid bunch. (86 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

★★★★ 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)


★★★ ½ Carnage Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage’’ isn’t a great play and this is hardly Roman Polanski’s finest hour, but the schematic tale of two upscale couples descending into savagery as they discuss a fight between their young sons is good, stinging fun, and the performances are wonderful. John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and the peerless Jodie Foster star. (79 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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★★ ½ Contraband Mark Wahlberg, money, guns, grime, shipping containers, violence, and several plot holes: It’s a better time than you’d think. With Giovanni Ribisi, Ben Foster, J.K. Simmons, and Kate Beckinsale. (109 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ ½The Descendants With his wife in a coma, a prosperous Hawaii lawyer (George Clooney) has to cope with all the parts of his life he didn’t know. A somewhat minor work from director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,’’ “About Schmidt’’) that’s also a movingly rich pleasure about compromise and connection. With Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller as the hero’s daughters. (115 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★★ Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close The 11-year-old protagonist (Thomas Horn) of Stephen Daldry’s movie is a handful. Mostly for an audience tasked with watching him whirl across every inch of New York’s five boroughs. The film’s whimsy and cuteness should exasperate, but there’s great, poignant urgency at its center, much of it courtesy of Horn and Max von Sydow, who plays his elderly sidekick. With Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Viola Davis. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel. (129 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★ Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos This Japanese animated feature offers occasional glimpses of the energetic entertainment that’s made the “Alchemist’’ saga a staple of both manga comics and TV anime. Here the franchise’s heroic Elric brothers - one a breezy techno-magician, the other a robot - are drawn into an adventure with a teenage girl leading a revolution. If only the movie translated better overall. (110 min., unrated) (Tom Russo)

Merrick Morton/Sony, Columbia Pictures via ap
Best actress nominee Rooney Mara as the title character in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’’

★★★ 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)

★★★ Haywire The new Steven Soderbergh film puts at its center the martial-arts star Gina Carano as a covert operative. The movie is playful, but its naturalness is also cold and no-frills. Soderbergh wants to get close to how these chases and fistfights might happen in everyday life. So it’s less a thriller than a kind of documentary. With Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, and Michael Douglas. (106 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Hugo An exhilarating tale of magic, machines, memories, and dreams. Martin Scorsese marshals the latest movie technology to create a love letter to the earliest movies of all. Yes, it’s a family film - and a great one - but the family Scorsese has really made this for is the 100-year-old tribe of watchers in the dark. With Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Sacha Baron Cohen. (127 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

★★ The Iron Lady The best way to appreciate the high-ludicrousness of Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher might be to watch this thin, conventionally structured movie with the sound down. It’s good acting. It’s great kabuki. The movie, meanwhile, lacks the gumption to damn Thatcher solely on the terms of her decade-long prime ministership. Unfairly, too much of it gawks at her while she’s doddering and deluded in old age. (105 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★ Joyful Noise Hot gospel singing and earnest family squabbles are all that distinguish this pew-pounding but wholly predictable musical drama starring Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, and the skeletal remains of Dolly Parton. Featuring appearances by gospel great Kirk Franklin and child singer Ivan Kelley Jr. - is it a sin to wish the movie had been about them? (118 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)


★★★ Pariah Dee Rees’s first film is a coming-of-age and coming-out drama centered on a 17-year-old Brooklyn lesbian (Adepero Oduye). It’s a movie that feels in all its vividness, specificity, and honesty - and in its amateurish screenwriting, too - like something found from the early- to mid-1990s when American independent moviemaking encouraged far more conversations than it currently does about the sexuality of young, brown girls. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ Pina Wim Wenders’s ode to the work of the late German modern-dance choreographer Pina Bausch is a parting gift from one creative force to another. Soberly ecstatic, it’s also the latest proof (with Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo’’ and Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams’’) that 3-D can serve as midwife to art and exhilaration. In lots of languages, with subtitles. (100 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

★★ Red Tails George Lucas produced this action movie about Tuskegee Airmen stationed in Italy during World War II. This is a story people have been waiting decades to see, so it’s no fun feeling responsible to run out and go to a movie that isn’t very good. It means well, but it’s too basic to be rousing or even heartening. With Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Terrence Howard. (125 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ 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. (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)