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Movie Stars

Movie stars: Capsule reviews of new and recently released movies

Foreground (from left): Samuel Joslin, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast, Ewan McGregor, and Naomi Watts in “The Impossible.”

Jose Haro/Summit Entertainment and Telecinco

Foreground (from left): Samuel Joslin, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast, Ewan McGregor, and Naomi Watts in “The Impossible.”

New releases

½ Bestiaire In this documentary, the fine Canadian filmmaker Denis Côté views animals at a Quebec safari attraction, their holding facilities, their human caretakers, and the paying visitors with a watchfulness that’s always exquisitely framed even as a knowing cruelty accompanies that beauty. But Côté applies his hand too heavily. The very act of spending an entire movie behind the scenes at a zoo is indictment enough. (72 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Hitler’s Children In this documentary from Israeli director Chanoch Ze’evi, we hear from Hermann Goering’s great-niece, Heinrich Himmler’s great-niece, the grandson of the commandant of Auschwitz, and other descendants of Nazi war criminals. They discuss the legacy of family guilt they feel. The subject is powerful and arresting. The film is talky and slack. (83 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

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The Impossible A grueling, well-crafted true-life drama that takes one of the worst natural disasters in history — the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami — and reduces it to a really bad day at Club Med. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are excellent as vacationing Europeans in Thailand, as is Tom Holland as their eldest son. (114 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliantly crafted ground-level procedural unfolds over a nine-year-period, from the early days of the war in Afghanistan to the midnight assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Jessica Chastain plays a CIA agent obsessed with the search; the early torture scenes intentionally make viewers confront their own response. (157 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

½ Anna Karenina Joe Wright’s adaptation of the Tolstoy classic staggers under the weight of a dazzling, hermetically sealed visual style that fails to connect with our emotions; the entire movie seems to take place in a snow globe. The cast, led by Keira Knightley, is good, although Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky may be too much the boy-toy. With Jude Law. (130 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D This moderately enjoyable film makes good use of 3-D technology but lacks the awe-inspiring visual and aural aplomb of Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil’s live shows. The story, told without dialogue, concerns a gamine who follows a handsome aerialist into another universe where the audience is treated to a compilation of acts from Cirque’s Las Vegas shows, including “O,” “Kà,” “Mystere,” “Zumanity,” and “The Beatles’ Love.” (91 min., PG) (Loren King)

½ Django Unchained In Quentin Tarantino’s clear-eyed and completely out of its mind exploitation western, Jamie Foxx plays a freed slave in 1853 on the way to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from a Mississippi plantation. Tarantino has never been more himself than he is here: grisly kitsch rigged for shock in a way that refuses to cheapen the atrocity of its subject. With Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and an audacious Samuel L. Jackson. (165 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

½ The Guilt Trip Barbra Streisand as a noodgy mom and Seth Rogen as a stressed-out son in a tiny car driving across America. It’s silly, predictable, and surprisingly sweet — the sort of thing you can and probably should take your own mother to. The stars are believable as parent and child, but who’s the father, Fozzie Bear? (95 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Title notwithstanding, almost exactly as expected. More Middle-earth — the first third of Tolkien’s prequel story to “The Lord of the Rings” — Peter Jackson’s film has lots of sound and fury and not enough narrative momentum. Ian McKellan’s Gandalf and (joy) Andy Serkis’s Gollum return. The 48 fps digital version in theaters looks like high-end video. With Martin Freeman. In 3-D. (169 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Les Misérables What’s great about the first half of Tom Hooper’s gigantic film of the musical is the balance it strikes between the misérable and the miz. After 2½ hours, the movie becomes a bowl of trail mix — you’re picking out the nuts you don’t like and hoping the next bite doesn’t contain any craisins. With Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who are wonderful, and Russell Crowe, who’s not and it breaks your heart (and hurts your ears). (157 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

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