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Mama Jessica Chastain plays a woman caring for two traumatized sisters who may be haunted by an evil force. Rated PG-13, 100 minutes. — The Associated Press




Argo (***1/2) Ben Affleck directed and takes the lead role in this true story of a CIA operative who goes to Iran in 1980 posing as the producer of a bogus science-fiction film in order to extract six Americans hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Abundant dark humor smoothly combines with frightening sequences and ample action. With an excellent supporting cast, including John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan. Rated R, 120 minutes. — Boo Allen

Django Unchained (**1/2) In Quentin Tarantino’s new tale of wickedly savage retribution, a black man (Jamie Foxx) gets to rewrite Deep South history by becoming a bounty hunter on a killing spree of white slave owners and overseers just before the Civil War. It’s Tarantino at his most puerile and least inventive, with the premise offering little more than cold, nasty revenge and barrels of squishing, squirting blood. Performances by Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson make the film intermittently entertaining. Rated R, 165 minutes. — AP

Gangster Squad (**) This pulpy, violent tale of cops and mobsters in 1949 Los Angeles rides an uncomfortable line between outlandishness and outright parody, and it’s difficult to tell which is director Ruben Fleischer’s intention. While the film wallows in period detail and has some sporadic moments of amusing banter, it’s mostly flashy, empty and cacophonous, and it woefully wastes a strong cast led by Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in barely developed, one-note roles. With a cartoony Sean Penn as mob king Mickey Cohen and Brolin as a police sergeant tasked with putting together a secret team to take down Cohen’s empire. Rated R, 113 minutes. — AP

The Guilt Trip (*1/2) In this lame comedy written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Anne Fletcher, Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen star as a mother and son traveling together in a cross-country road trip. She talks constantly while he becomes more and more discomforted and annoyed, probably like most of the audience will be. Bad jokes, little chemistry and not much here to admire. Rated PG-13, 95 minutes. — B.A.

A Haunted House Marlon Wayans, Cedric the Entertainer and Essence Atkins star in this spoof of “found footage” movies such as Paranormal Activity. Rated R, 86 minutes. — The Dallas Morning News

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (***) Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson returns with J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel starring Martin Freeman as young Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo joins an army of dwarfs and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) for a long march and multiple battles to prove his bravery. As usual, Jackson delivers a technically remarkable film, filled with memorable costumes and sets. Rated PG-13, 166 minutes. — B.A.

Jack Reacher (****) Clever, well-crafted and darkly humorous, Jack Reacher features one of those effortless bad-ass performances from Tom Cruise that remind us that he is indeed a movie star. OK, so maybe Cruise doesn’t exactly resemble the Reacher of British novelist Lee Child’s books, but Christopher McQuarrie’s film moves so fluidly and with such confidence, it’ll suck you in from the start. Besides being a mind teaser, Jack Reacher offers the muscular thrills of a ‘70s action flick, including fight scenes and a thrilling, prolonged car chase through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. With Rosamund Pike, Robert Duvall and Werner Herzog. Rated PG-13, 130 minutes. — AP

Les Miserables (***) Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) directed this big, brassy version of the stage musical with Hugh Jackman playing Jean Valjean, the wanted man followed and persecuted by the obsessive Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). The film’s production values make the film visually engaging while the music never stops. With Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen. Rated PG-13, 157 minutes. — B.A.

Life of Pi (**1/2) Ang Lee directs from Yann Martel’s allegorical novel about a boy, Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma), who travels with his family from India to Canada. A shipwreck lands him in a small boat with a group of zoo animals, all quickly reduced to a tiger. Man and beast coexist, supposedly giving Zen-like life lessons to the boy, who grows into a man (Irrfan Khan) who tells the story in flashback. Moderately entertaining pseudo-spiritual diversion with elaborate but not particularly awe-inspiring special effects. Rated PG, 127 minutes. — B.A.

Lincoln (****) This is more a wonky, nuts-and-bolts lesson about the way political machinery operates than a sweeping historical epic that tries to encapsulate the entirety of the revered 16th president’s life. That was a smart move on the part of Steven Spielberg and Pulitzer-winning screenwriter Tony Kushner. Talky and intimate but also surprisingly funny, Lincoln focuses on the final four months of Abraham Lincoln’s life, and Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits the role fully. With Tommy Lee Jones, James Spader, John Hawkes and David Strathairn. Rated PG-13, 150 minutes. — AP

Parental Guidance There’s something touching about how hard Billy Crystal and Bette Midler hustle to peddle the threadbare material that makes Parental Guidance a perfectly tolerable, if uninspired, moviegoing experience. Artie Decker (Crystal), despondent over losing his longtime gig as “De Voice of the Fresno Grizzlies,” and his wife, Diane (Midler), have been recruited to baby-sit their daughter Alice’s (Marisa Tomei) three kids when she and her tech-geek husband Phil (Tom Everett Scott) get a last-minute opportunity to have some out-of-town alone time. Rated PG, 104 minutes. — The Hollywood Reporter

Silver Linings Playbook (**) Writer-director David O. Russell takes Matthew Quick’s novel about a man (Bradley Cooper) with bipolar disorder who returns from a mental facility to live with his doting mother (Jacki Weaver) and his Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father (Robert DeNiro). Add another unstable, seemingly unsuited love interest (Jennifer Lawrence) and the results are abrasive histrionics, much yelling and consistent inconsistency. Rated R, 122 minutes. — B.A.

Skyfall (***1/2) Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in the 23rd film based on 007’s exploits. Britain’s MI6 comes under attack, with M (Judi Dench) as the chief target. Bond finds and brings back the villain (Javier Bardem), but that just sets the stage for furtheraction and adventure. Between the action sequences, director Sam Mendes takes time to build a personal drama that distinguishes this Bond film from its predecessors. Rated PG-13, 143 minutes. — B.A.

Texas Chainsaw 3D The movie picks up where 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre left off, with masked killer Leatherface on the loose again. Rated R, 92 minutes. — AP

This Is 40 (**1/2) Theoretically, this moderately funny domestic comedy follows two characters, Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann), a few years after their appearance in writer-director Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. Here, Apatow seems to be revealing all, milking his own life for its crotch gags and bathroom humor as the couple approach their 40th birthdays. Apatow’s and Mann’s two daughters even appear as Pete and Debbie’s offspring. Rated R, 134 minutes. — B.A.

Wreck-It Ralph Disney’s new animated film mixes retro eye-candy for grown-ups and a thrilling, approachable storyline for the tykes. Short-tempered, sledgehammer-fisted bad guy Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) journeys to Game Central Station, the gateway to every game in an arcade, to prove he can be a hero. Director Rich Moore (The Simpsons) ably manipulates the action by tantalizingly shifting the characters between game worlds. With Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman. Rated PG, 93 minutes. — HR

Zero Dark Thirty (***) Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) directed this movie concerned with the years-long process behind finding and then executing Osama bin Laden. Jessica Chastain stars as the dedicated CIA agent who doggedly continued on a long and tedious journey to piece together the clues that will lead to the film’s final, well-executed assassination sequence. With an excellent supporting cast. Rated R, 157 minutes. — B.A.