OK for all ages
Beauty and the Beast 3D
(Animated, G, 84 minutes)
Animated or not, movies don't come much better than "Beauty and the Beast," Disney's 1991 version of the fairy tale about a young girl captured by a lovelorn beast. After a long creative drought at the studio, the film turned out to be pure magic: drawn in the classic Disney style, enlived by a vibrant cast and graced with an Oscar-winning score. It's about as close to perfection as you can get. "Beauty and the Beast" returns to theaters this week in 3-D. Talk about the gilded lily! The extra dimension adds a few extra dollars to the ticket price, but it's worth it to see this gorgeous movie again on the big screen.
Info for Parents: Rated G
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
(Animated, G, 88 minutes)
The furry singing sensations may have finally run completely aground. Though the franchise has never been what you'd call high art, there was something of an inspired silliness to the live-action/CGI mash-up that began in 2007 with "Alvin and the Chipmunks." But that streak may have peaked with 2009's "The Squeakquel." Giving voice to the critters is some top tier comic talent, including Justin Long, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate and more. But their presence basically goes for naught, with identifying traits or emotional range lost in the helium squeak.
Info for Parents: Rated G
OK for 10 and older
We Bought a Zoo
(Drama, PG, 124 minutes)
This is a holiday movie worth rooting for. Directed by the cinema's last great romantic, Cameron Crowe, it features cute tykes, young romance and a grownup grieving for a lost love, adorable animals and the comically crotchety Thomas Haden Church. Matt Damon stars as Benjamin Mee, widower and father of two who decides to buy a little zoo out in the country. "We Bought a Zoo," with adult themes and dissonant bursts of profanity, kid-friendly romp, and stumbles when it reaches for emotional highs and lows.
Info for Parents: Rated PG for language and thematic elements
'The Adventures of Tintin'
(Animated, PG, 107 minutes)
Watching "The Adventures of Tintin" gives you the same thrill you felt when you saw "Toy Story" for the first time: Here is a next-gen animated film that builds on everything that has come before to create something new and exciting. In his first foray into animation, director Steven Spielberg uses the technology to achieve something like cartoonish photo-realism - the images look like impossibly beautiful hand-drawn photographs - and then frees his camera from all earthly constraints. The character of Tintin (played by Jamie Bell), an intrepid reporter who looks like a boy but actually is a man, is a beloved icon around the world but not that well-known in the U.S. The story here is a bit hard to follow, which makes the film feel more than a little frivolous. But there isn't a moment when you're not staring at the screen in wonder.
Info for Parents: Rated PG for mock violence
(Musical, PG-13, 118 minutes)
If some incarnation of "Glee" were to be developed for the Christian Broadcasting Network, it would look a lot like this. You've got your squeaky-clean reworkings of pop tunes from various decades, intended to please viewers of all ages; some romance, although nothing too hot and heavy; and a large dollop of prayer. But that doesn't mean it's effective as entertainment. Especially during the musical numbers, there's a disconnect, a sense that the songs are overproduced and hollow, and repeated cutaways to reaction shots of singers nodding and smiling further undermine cohesion. Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton co-star as longtime enemies battling for control over a small-town Georgia church choir. Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan play teens sharing a forbidden love ... through song. Graff jumps around awkwardly amid catfights, performances and surreptitious snuggle sessions.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for language, a sexual reference
'The Iron Lady'
(Biopic, PG-13, 105 minutes)
The same problems that plagued "La Vie en Rose," starring Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf, exist in "The Iron Lady," a biopic about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep as the former British prime minister. While both feature strong actresses playing strong women in strong roles, the scripts are weakened by going strictly by the numbers. Sure, Streep reliably nails her impression of Thatcher - that swoop of big '80s hair, the measured voice, the steely demeanor. Her impeccable ear for accents and detailed mimicry of mannerisms is well-documented at this point - who better to play this role? But the film from Phyllida Lloyd (who directed Streep in the giddy "Mamma Mia!"), based on a script by Abi Morgan ("Shame"), reduces this life to a greatest-hits collection of historic moments. It's a trap into which so many biopics fall in trying to encompass everything.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for violent images and brief nudity.
(Drama, PG-13, 146 minutes)
Men on opposing sides of war find their shared humanity in their love of animals in "War Horse," Steven Spielberg's sentimental epic about a country thoroughbred who travels from the fields of Devonshire to the trenches of the Somme in World War I. The film is a tale told on a vast canvas, with a wide array of characters - each of whom develops a connection to "Joey," one of the prettiest equines ever to grace the silver screen. But that crowded hodge-podge of characters fritters away the potential poignancy as we're taken away from the story's heart and soul - a boy and his horse. This "War Horse" does well by war and justice to the horse. It's the people who are shortchanged.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for sequences of war violence
Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
(Action, PG-13, 132 minutes)
They've done without the number this time, but anyone who cares knows that "Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol" is really "Mission Impossible 4," the fourth time Tom Cruise's intrepid Ethan Hunt has taken on the evildoers of the world. Brad Bird makes his live-action debut after directing three exceptional animated films: "Ratatouille," "The Incredibles" and "Iron Giant." Bird has done a stylish and involving job here, turning in an entertaining production that's got considerable visual flair, especially in its action-heavy Imax sections. There are only 27 minutes of IMAX footage in the film, but every one of those minutes counts, which is one reason why Paramount chose to open this film in IMAX theaters five days before its general release.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for intense action and violence
A Game of Shadows
(Action/Thriller, PG-13, 129 minutes)
Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) is about to lose Watson (Jude Law), his perfect foil, to matrimony. Downey is more Chaplinesque, more whimsical and more English in this sequel, which is even lighter, funnier and yet more violent than the first. Ritchie takes his Sam Peckinpah slow-motion violence fetish to artful extremes and treats us to more scenes in which Holmes' peerless powers of concentration and perception give him an almost supernatural ability to play through the variables in a coming fight in his mind, before actually martial-arts-ing his way past legions of evil henchman. Downey and Law click like a polished comedy team, but Holmes nemesis, Professor Moriarty, played by the unimposing Jared Harris ("Mad Men," ) was more menacing off camera.
Info for Parents: Rated PG-13 for violence, action, drug material
(Action/Thriller, R, 109 minutes)
Mark Wahlberg is nestled deep within his comfort zone as a former criminal who's gone straight. Still, this is a solid genre picture that knows exactly what it is, has no delusions of grandeur and carries on in an entertaining and occasionally suspenseful fashion. Based on the 2008 Icelandic film "Reykjavik-Rotterdam" and directed by that movie's star, Baltasar Kormakur, "Contraband" features Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, a one-time expert smuggler now living a quiet life in the New Orleans suburbs with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and their two young sons. When Kate's younger brother (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a run for a volatile local drug dealer (Giovanni Ribisi, tatted, high-pitched and squirrelly), Chris must come out of retirement to make up the loss to this madman. Kormakur relies too heavily on shaky-cam tricks and quick, needless zooms to add tension, but some set pieces play out in visceral fashion.
Info for Parents: Rated R for violence, pervasive language and brief drug use.
'The Devil Inside'
(Horror, R, 147 minutes)
The things young Isabella Rossi sees on her fateful trip to Rome! She sees bodies contort into pretzels and climb walls and fling themselves across rooms, breaking restraints as they do. She sees blood and hears all manner of blood-curdling cursing in languages familiar and foreign. The un-emotive Fernanda Andrade plays a young woman whose mother killed three members of the Catholic clergy 20 years before in an American exorcism. Searching for the truth, she travels to a hospital for the criminally isane It's a profoundly foolish script, filmed with a shaky cam, a movie that goes to great pains to explain how many cameras there are and where they're placed in a room, only to drop that conceit and show us unexplained subjective shots.
Info for Parents: Rated R for sexual references, disturbing violent content, language and images
The Girl with the
(Drama, R, 152 minutes)
The dynamic between Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is so spontaneous and sensational, it instantly elevates the movie.
Info for Parents: Rated R for vulgar language, nudity, explicit sex, rape, violence, gore, adult themes