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Dark Skies As an escalating series of disturbing events torments a young suburban family, the husband and wife try to stop the mysterious force targeting them. With Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo and Kadan Rockett. Written and directed by Scott Stewart (Legion). Rated PG-13, 97 minutes. — Los Angeles Times

56 Up (****) Director Michael Apted continues his fascinating, and long-running, cinematic sociological experiment. He once again returns to the same group of around 14 original British natives he has interviewed and profiled every seven years since they were 7 years old in 1964. Now at 56, everyone looks, and is, older, with a little more paunch and a lot less hair. By now, their lives are no longer mysteries, as they reflect on their successes and failures in life, none of which turned out as expected. The result is a bittersweet mixture, beguiling and compelling with every story engaging as the director fleshes out personalities with present-day footage mixing with enough of the back footage so that newcomers to the series will quickly catch up. Not rated, 144 minutes. At the Magnolia in Dallas. — Boo Allen

Snitch When his teenage son is wrongfully accused of a drug-distribution crime, a desperate father cuts a deal with the U.S. attorney to infiltrate a drug cartel on a risky mission. With Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon and Benjamin Bratt. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Rated PG-13, 112 minutes. — LAT




Beautiful Creatures (**1/2) Writer-director Richard LaGravenese's film, based on the first novel in the young adult series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, oozes Southern Gothic eccentricity and some amusing if inconsistent touches of camp. But a strong cast of likable and, yes, beautiful actors can only do so much with the formula in which they're forced to work. Alden Ehrenreich plays a restless teen in small-town South Carolina who’s smitten by a mysterious new girl (Alice Englert). Turns out she's a witch — and she's probably doomed — but could true love with a mortal save her? Emma Thompson, Emmy Rossum and Viola Davis co-star. Rated PG-13, 123 minutes. — The Associated Press

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

Escape From Planet Earth In this animated film, a nerdy blue alien endeavors to rescue his brother, a famous astronaut, from the notoriously dangerous planet Earth. With the voices of Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba and George Lopez. Rated PG, 89 minutes. — LAT

A Good Day to Die Hard (**1/2) Bruce Willis returns as John McClane, who travels to Moscow when his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney) faces trial in Moscow. Before long, the father-and-son team faces down criminals and various threats to world security before ending up in Chernobyl. John Moore directed from a script by Skip Woods to deliver an action-packed, completely brainless thriller. Rated R, 97 minutes. — B.A.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters The fairy-tale siblings (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) are all grown-up and bagging crones for a living. Rated R, 88 minutes. — AP

Identity Thief (**) Identity Thief strands ordinarily enjoyable comics Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman in the middle of nowhere with no help for miles. It’s not just that director Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) and screenwriter Craig Mazin (Hangover Part II) confuse meanness for hilarity. More fundamentally, the premise is just flawed. Bateman’s mild-mannered accounts processor, Sandy Patterson, discovers that a con artist (McCarthy) has stolen his identity and racked up thousands of dollars in charges. Sandy schleps to Florida to track down the perpetrator and drag her back to Denver to face charges. Rated R, 107 minutes. — AP

The Impossible Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star in director J.A. Bayona’s film about a family caught in the 2004 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia. Rated PG-13, 107 minutes.

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

Safe Haven Newly arrived in a small town in North Carolina, a guarded young woman begins opening up to a widowed store owner and father of two, but soon her dark past begins to catch up with her. Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks. With Josh Duhamel, Julianne Hough and David Lyons. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Rated PG-13, 115 minutes. — Los Angeles Times

Side Effects (****) — If this is indeed Steven Soderbergh’s final film, as he’s said it will be after toying with the notion of retirement for a couple of years now, then intriguingly it feels like he’s coming full circle in some ways to the film that put him on the map: the trailblazing, 1989 indie Sex, Lies and Videotape. Both movies are about danger, secrets and manipulation, filled with characters who aren’t what they initially seem, all of which Soderbergh depicts with his typically cool detachment. Rooney Mara is chilling as a troubled Manhattan woman who starts taking a new drug at the urging of her psychiatrist (Jude Law). Bad things happen. Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones co-star. Rated R, 106 minutes. — AP

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.

Warm Bodies The latest permutation of the zombie screen phenomenon places heart over horror and romantic teen angst over sharp social commentary. The story’s dystopian versions of Romeo and Juliet are Nicholas Hoult’s R — he can’t remember his full name — and Teresa Palmer’s Julie, whose meet-cute involves a shoot-’em-up that ends badly for her boyfriend (Dave Franco). Writer-director Jonathan Levine (The Wackness, 50/50) works from Isaac Marion’s young-adult novel. For those open to the idea of a gently goofy mash-up, the film is strong on atmosphere and offers likably low-key, if somewhat bland, charms. Rated PG-13, 97 minutes. — The Hollywood Reporter

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.