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Movies

Movie Stars

Movie capsules: Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Jessica Chastain stars as a CIA agent in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Jonathan Olley/Columbia Pictures

Jessica Chastain stars as a CIA agent in “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Previously released

Amour A simple yet devastatingly profound story of an elderly French couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) during the long, squalid months of the wife’s decline. Writer-director Michael Haneke (“Caché”) observes his subject with an unadorned style that takes on aspects of the holy. The movie avoids melodrama; instead, it’s just extraordinarily intimate. In French, with subtitles. (127 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Broken City A cluttered, formulaic urban thriller, with Mark Wahlberg miscast as a conflicted tough-guy detective caught in an election week conspiracy. The best thing here — i.e., the most enjoyably bad — is Russell Crowe as a greasy, macho New York City mayor. He’s Michael Bloomberg’s evil twin. With Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jeffrey Wright. (109 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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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)

Gangster Squad Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling head a secret crew of cops intent on bringing down crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). This is almost like every popular movie about crooks and cops made in the last four decades, but it’s never enough like its own movie. Director Ruben Fleischer gives it some flash and bang, but it inadequately substitutes for what you could be watching instead. (113 min., R ) (Wesley Morris)

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)

The Last Stand Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wrinkles actually serve him well in playing a veteran lawman working a border enclave. Things get dicey when slithery Peter Stormare hits town with bridge-building gear, and an escaped Mexican cartel boss comes rocketing south. Director Kim Jee-woon seems to take an approach that’s less “let’s see what sticks” than “who cares what sticks,” with results that can be funny but also oddly arrhythmic. (107 min., R) (Tom Russo)

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)

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman And now for something completely different: an animated multi-chapter documentary life story that is narrated by its own subject, Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, who has been inconveniently dead for 23 years, and who’s probably making it all up anyway. For Python completists only. (85 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Life of Pi Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel is a marvel of contradictions: a movie about the magnificence of nature that’s largely computer-made, a two-character epic, a 3-D extravaganza that takes place inside a 20-foot lifeboat. The movie shouldn’t work at all, but it does. Keep kids under 10 at home, though. With Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan. (127 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ Lincoln In the weeks following his reelection, Abraham Lincoln (a remarkable Daniel Day-Lewis) fights to get the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery passed. A terrifically entertaining film that, against all odds, makes politics exciting again. Steven Spielberg is in top form, Tony Kushner’s script is full of crackling talk (and lots of it), and there are scene-stealing turns from Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and James Spader. (149 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Mama Director Andy Muschietti’s supernatural thriller wonders what if abandoned kids were watched over by an angry ghost. Jessica Chastain does nuanced work as the rock chick put in charge of young sisters found after missing in the mountains for five years. The frustration, though, is how much the movie leans on made-ya-jump scares and contrived plot devices when its quieter chills are so potent. (106 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ Promised Land Two movies in one: An earnest anti-fracking drama written by costars Matt Damon and John Krasinski, and a nuanced portrait of small-town America by director Gus Van Sant. The first tries not to be preachy but doesn’t quite succeed, the second is buoyed by the sympathetic performances. With Frances McDormand and Rosemarie DeWitt. (110 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Quartet From first-time director Dustin Hoffman, a sweet-tempered, rather fuddly drama about retired British opera singers, less slick than the vaguely similar “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and better for it. Maggie Smith gets to go glam as a famous soprano who has lost her gift; Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins provide support. A minor treat. (98 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ 2012 Sundance Shorts If collections of film shorts are like party mixes, this program has a few too many questionable wasabi peas. The two longest shorts — “Fishing Without Nets,” about Somali pirates, and “The Return,” a heart wrencher from Kosovo — are the best; the rest are interesting without being particularly engaging. (95 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper finally gets a role that gives his oily charm some vulnerability. He plays a mental patient living in Philadelphia with his parents, hung up on his estranged wife and spending time with an equally unstable woman (Jennifer Lawrence). The movie whizzes and stings. With a never-haler Robert De Niro as Cooper’s gambler dad. (122 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

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 make viewers confront their own response. (157 min., R) (Ty Burr)

An archive of reviews is at www.boston.com/movies.

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