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movie stars

Movie capsules: Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Previously released

½ 56 UP The latest installment of this groundbreaking documentary series represents a bit of a holding pattern. The 13 British men and women who have been filmed at seven-year-intervals since they were 7 are now in the space between middle age and old age, and they want us to know they’re not dead yet. Essential viewing nonetheless. (144 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

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)

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½ Beautiful Creatures A teenage boy (Alden Ehernreich) discovers his new girlfriend (Alice Englert) is a witch. Adapted from the first of four “Caster Chronicles” novels, but it may play better if you’re not a convert. As “Twilight” knock-offs go, this has its pleasures, mischievous banter and two happy hams named Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson among them. (124 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Bullet to the Head Hardly a noted cutup, Sylvester Stallone is surprisingly funny playing an irascible New Orleans hit man paired with a cop (Sung Kang). It’s a trick Stallone pulls off by not trying too hard, and generally just looking annoyed to be here. If “Bullet” had anything else going for it, it might be more than just the grungy revenge flick of the week. (92 min., R) (Tom Russo)

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 A Good Day to Die Hard It took 25 years and five films, but the “Die Hard” series has finally devolved into joyless sludge. John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Moscow to rescue his son (Jai Courtney) and gets caught up in Kremlin mayhem. The movie has two problems: It’s terribly directed and it makes no sense. (97 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Happy People: A Year in the Taiga If Siberia didn’t exist, Werner Herzog would have had to invent it. Since it does exist, he directed this documentary with Dmitry Vasyukov. It focuses on several fur trappers. The title isn’t ironic. Herzog, who narrates, loves, and envies the trappers’ elemental existence and connection to nature. In English and Russian, with subtitles. (94 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

Identity Thief All the good will Melissa McCarthy earned from “Bridesmaids” is undone in an obnoxious comedy made worse by obnoxious sentimentality. She’s a credit-card-fraud artist, Jason Bateman is her uptight victim, and the two hit the road together. Unfunny, vulgar, predictable, it’s the generic equivalent of a Judd Apatow movie. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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)

½ The Last Reef 3D: Cities Beneath the Sea Another nature doc where exotic creatures squiggle and swim in front of your face, daring you to grasp at them. But this film wants to do more than impress with its underwater photography and 3-D effects. It’s a cautionary tale about the fragility of the reefs and the risks posed by development and rising temperatures. The visuals are great, but the message needs more urgency. (40 min., unrated) (Loren King)

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)

Life of Pi Ang Lee’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s 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. (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)

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Animated and Live Action As advertised, the 10 films vying for Academy Awards in the animated and live action shorts categories. While there are few knockouts, it’s an impressive group, with “Paperman” the most charming of the animated shorts and “Henry” the most affecting of the live-action. (animated, 40 min.; live action, 96 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2013: Documentaries Homeless teens, women with breast cancer, Rwandan children in dire need of heart surgery — in theory, this year’s nominated shorts promise compassion fatigue. In practice, they’re inspiring in the toughest, most moving ways. “Inocente” is the standout, but they’re all good. In English, Spanish, Rwandan, Italian, with subtitles. (Program A, 123 min.; Program B, 83 min., unrated) (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 Safe Haven Nicholas Sparks’s latest ambles along in generic-melodrama mode before insulting audience intelligence one time too many. Julianne Hough plays a domestic-violence fugitive trying to start over in a coastal town, where she catches the eye of widowed dad Josh Duhamel. Some three-hankie stuff, but a backstory kisses dramatic adequacy goodbye, and the film offers a ludicrous final flourish. (115 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

Side Effects A sleekly clever murder mystery that plays as many games with the audience as it does with its characters. Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum play a married couple, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jude Law play psychiatrists, somebody ends up dead. In the end, though, it’s just a genre exercise and evidence that director Steven Soderbergh is getting bored. (106 min., R) (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. Its director is David O. Russell, who’s become Hollywood’s most instinctive maker of ensemble dramatic comedies. With Robert De Niro as Cooper’s dad. (122 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Skyfall The James Bond movie franchise turns 50 and continues with Daniel Craig in the title role. But to hear everybody in this tedious new movie debate whether, after 23 movies, James is now too long in the tooth for glamorous spycraft, you would think the star of this movie is Methuselah. With Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, and, as the hilariously blond villain, Javier Bardem. (145 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Tabu In modern-day Lisbon, a woman (Teresa Madruga) listens to a tale of an adulterous affair that takes place in colonial Mozambique and features Ana Moreira and Carloto Cotta as sexy but delusional lovers. Portugal’s Miguel Gomes has made a black-and-white fever dream whose undertow sucks you in as often as it strands you on shore. In Portuguese, with subtitles. (118 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Warm Bodies A zombie date flick that has its “Twilight” and makes fun of it too, thanks to a cheeky screenplay and tart direction by Jonathan Levine. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer play a zombie lad and a living girl who fall for each other after the apocalypse. It’s silly, often funny, and surprisingly sweet. (97 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Zero Dark Thirty Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliantly crafted 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)

Find an archive of reviews at www.boston.com/movies.
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