The Artist (PG-13) Michel Hazanavicius’ silent film stars Jean Dujardin as a 1920s silent-movie star who resists the change to sound films. Also with Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell, and John Goodman. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A Dangerous Method (R) David Cronenberg’s adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play about Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his sexual relationship with a disturbed Russian patient (Keira Knightley). Also with Viggo Mortensen, Sarah Gadon, and Vincent Cassel. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Like Crazy (PG-13) Drake Doremus’ roundly overrated romance stars Anton Yelchin as an American college student who tries to keep his relationship with his British girlfriend (Felicity Jones) alive after she’s barred from re-entering the U.S. The movie focuses so much on mood instead of plot that it turns out weirdly forgettable, and while the story is reportedly based on the filmmaker’s own life, he doesn’t tell us anything about long-distance relationships that we don’t already know. Jones brings asperity and sweetness to the role, and Doremus occasionally captures the mood perfectly (the final shot), but not enough to raise this movie above the ranks of other earnest indie dramas. Also with Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Oliver Muirhead, Finola Hughes, Alex Kingston, and Chris Messina.
Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (PG-13) Arguably the best of the M:I movies since the first one, this fourth installment stars Tom Cruise as a secret agent who’s forced to go rogue with two colleagues (Paula Patton and Simon Pegg) and a State Department analyst (Jeremy Renner) after they’re framed for a terrorist bombing in Moscow. Director Brad Bird (Ratatouille, The Incredibles) makes his live-action debut with some splashy action set pieces, especially a sequence with Cruise dangling off the side of the Burj Khalifa tower. This action flick isn’t deep, but it’s a tasty bit of escapism. Also with Léa Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, and uncredited cameos by Tom Wilkinson, Ving Rhames, and Michelle Monaghan.
The Muppets (PG) It’s good to have Kermit and his gang back. Much like the movies that Jim Henson’s creations made during their late ’70s-early ’80s heyday, this newest big-screen adventure features leisurely pacing, musical numbers, smartly self-referential jokes, celebrity cameos, and a big show to top everything off. Co-writer Jason Segel stars as a man who takes his girlfriend (Amy Adams) and his Muppet brother to L.A., where they must foil an evil oil baron (Chris Cooper) by rounding up Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the others to put on a show to save the Muppets’ old studio. The movie gets off to a ragged start, but Bret McKenzie’s songs are often uproarious (especially the power ballad “Man or Muppet”), and the show at the end is vintage Muppet zaniness. The movie brings the Muppets’ spirit into a new era intact. Also with Rashida Jones, Jim Parsons, Zach Galifianakis, Alan Arkin, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Schaal, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Neil Patrick Harris, Selena Gomez, James Carville, Rico Rodriguez, Judd Hirsch, Dave Grohl, Ken Jeong, Leslie Feist, Mickey Rooney, and an uncredited Jack Black.
My Week With Marilyn (R) Michelle Williams’ performance as Marilyn Monroe is the main reason to see this diverting but largely empty exercise in nostalgia. Simon Curtis’ drama takes place on the set of the 1956 film The Prince and the Showgirl, with Monroe’s skittish behavior driving everyone nuts, including director Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). The script is based on two memoirs by Colin Clark, who shows up in the film as a boring third assistant director (played by Eddie Redmayne) in whom Marilyn confides. Williams locates Marilyn’s crippling shyness and self-destructiveness without indulging in any histrionics. Yet we don’t learn anything about Marilyn that we didn’t already know. This movie isn’t about anything. Also with Judi Dench, Toby Jones, Dougray Scott, Dominic West, Zoë Wanamaker, Julia Ormond, Derek Jacobi, and Emma Watson.
New Year’s Eve (PG-13) Garry Marshall’s follow-up to Valentine’s Day is so sloppy and formulaic that it makes its predecessor look like a comedy masterpiece. The best plotline has a package courier (Zac Efron) helping a downtrodden clerical employee (Michelle Pfeiffer) fulfill her New Year’s resolutions, but the movie inflicts the comedically inert likes of Hilary Swank and Josh Duhamel on us, not to mention Sofia Vergara’s tired hoochie-mama shtick, and an unintentionally creepy plotline about two pregnant women racing to deliver the first baby of the new year. The outtakes over the closing credits are funnier than the rest of the movie. That should tell you all you need to know. Also with Robert De Niro, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Halle Berry, Katherine Heigl, Jessica Biel, Lea Michele, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Ludacris, Seth Meyers, Til Schweiger, Sarah Paulson, Cherry Jones, Carla Gugino, Cary Elwes, Alyssa Milano, Jim Belushi, Larry Miller, Sean O’Bryan, Hector Elizondo, Ryan Seacrest, John Lithgow, and Matthew Broderick.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (PG-13) The great detective returns, but he’s too busy dodging bullets to make much use of his detective skills, which is partly why this sequel is so disappointing. Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role, this time trying to prevent Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) from starting a world war. The comic chemistry between Downey’s Holmes and Jude Law’s Watson is still here, and director Guy Ritchie comes up with two engaging twists on the device from the original in which Holmes thinks through his fight sequences before they happen. Yet Holmes’ deductive reasoning powers are reduced to sleight of hand and a series of silly disguises. If you’re not going to show off Holmes’ brains, why bother with him at all? Also with Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Kelly Reilly, Paul Anderson, Eddie Marsan, and Rachel McAdams.
Tower Heist (PG-13) Brett Ratner’s plush comic thriller wants badly to be awesome but enjoys only a few isolated moments of awesomeness. When a Bernard Madoff-like financier (Alan Alda) is placed under house arrest in his deluxe Manhattan apartment tower, the building’s manager (Ben Stiller) recruits a small-time neighborhood thug (Eddie Murphy) to help the building employees steal back the money that the financier conned them out of. The premise is clever, but hole-filled plot shifts all the weight onto the comedy. Some of the jokes land but not enough of them. Even though the street-hustler role rejuvenates Murphy, his partnership with Stiller and the chemistry among the cast as a whole doesn’t yield much. The movie’s a modest little diversion, but it should have been much more. Also with Gabourey Sidibe, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Peña, Téa Leoni, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zeljko Ivanek, Jessica Szohr, Heavy D, and Judd Hirsch.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part I (PG-13) The fourth film in this series has a fourth new director in Bill Condon, and the constant change of directors seems to be keeping these films from finding a consistent tone. After Edward Cullen and Bella Swan (Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart) get married, they’re both shocked to find that she’s pregnant and that the baby she’s giving birth to might not only be killing her but also might threaten the peace between the vampires and the werewolves. The plot twists are surprising if you haven’t read the books, but the director fails to generate any suspense or even block or edit scenes with any sense of rhythm. It looks like this series might end without producing a single good movie. Also with Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Peter Facinelli, Jackson Rathbone, Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Mía Maestro, Maggie Grace, MyAnna Buring, Jamie Campbell Bower, Anna Kendrick, and Michael Sheen.
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (R) Our favorite Asian stoner pals (John Cho and Kal Penn) are back in top form, having to find a new tree on Christmas Eve after Kumar accidentally burns down Harold’s tree. Along the way, they sling in-jokes at each other, become claymation figures, run from Russian mobsters, almost kill Santa Claus (Richard Riehle), pick up a waffle-making robot that falls in love with Kumar, acknowledge that they’re getting older, and take part in a fabulous dance number with Neil Patrick Harris. With better use of the 3D than you find in most Hollywood blockbusters, this is great surreal fun. Also with Paula Garcés, Danny Trejo, Danneel Harris, Thomas Lennon, Amir Blumenfeld, Bobby Lee, Elias Koteas, RZA, Jordan Hinson, Patton Oswalt, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and David Krumholtz.
Young Adult (R) This comedy won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you’ve overdosed on holiday cheer, the sour goodness here is just the tonic you need. Charlize Theron portrays a 37-year-old author named Mavis who returns to the tiny Minnesota hometown she loathes so she can steal her high-school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson) away from his wife. Theron, director Jason Reitman, and screenwriter Diablo Cody all seem out to prove that they’ve been unfairly typecast, and they spur one another to greater heights as they relentlessly detail Mavis’ ferocious unpleasantness. It culminates in a sad, riveting scene when Mavis loses her grip at a gathering. The film’s critique of Mavis isn’t free of holes, but it does the difficult task of building a compelling and funny comedy around a messy and unlikable antiheroine. Also with Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser, Collette Wolfe, Jill Eikenberry, and Mary Beth Hurt.
The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby (NR) Carl Colby’s documentary reveals secrets about the career of his father, the former agency director who served under President Nixon.
Shame (NC-17) Michael Fassbender stars in Steve McQueen’s drama about a New Yorker whose struggles with sex addiction come to a head when his sister (Carey Mulligan) visits him. Also with James Badge Dale and Nicole Beharie.