Movies opening this weekend, still in theaters
Melissa McCarthy stars in "Identity Thief."
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:36AM
BULLET TO THE HEAD
R for strong violence, bloody images, language, some nudity and brief drug use
Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi, Jason Momoa
When the partners of a New Orleans hit man (Stallone) and a Washington, D.C. detective (Sung Chang) are both killed by the same bad guy (Momoa), they form an alliance to bring him down.
STAND UP GUYS
R for language, sexual content, violence and brief drug use
Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Julianna Marguilies
The best thing about “Stand Up Guys” is Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin (together for the first time) as retirement-age tough guys out for one last hurrah. Doc (Walken) is living a quiet life of painting sunsets until his best friend Val (Pacino) is released from prison — where he’s spent 28 years because he refused to implicate anyone in an armed-robbery shootout. Doc treats Val to an evening of hookers and hardcore partying, but there’s a problem. A vengeful mob boss has ordered Doc to kill his friend or die with him. The three Oscar winners make it all work fine, though, despite the extremely improbable places the script takes them, lending far more substance to their characters than this otherwise ho-hum tragic-comic crime drama deserves.
PG-13 for zombie violence and some language
Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich
Falling in love can be complicated, even if you’re not dead. Fortunately, though, in writer/director Jonathan Levine’s horror-comedy romance “Warm Bodies,” angst-ridden young zombie R (Hoult) isn’t going to let a little thing like lifelessness stop him. And the result is the first unexpected charmer of the new year. As charming as a brain-eating zombie movie can be, that is. R falls for Julie (Palmer) after eating the brain of her boyfriend, as his awakened heart slowly restores his humanity in general — along with the rest of the zombie community. That’s a game changer for the post-apocalyptic world, where the surviving humans are losing their battle with the zombies and the bonies, a faster, meaner, nastier breed of the living dead. There’s still a fair amount of horror to placate zombie purists, even though the emphasis is on smart, subtle comedy and awkward young love. In fact, it’s hard to imagine young love getting more awkward than this.
PG-13 for brief strong language and suggestive humor
Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins
“Quartet” is a light piece of work, but it’s meant to be that way, with just enough melancholy mixed in to keep the story from turning to treacle. Dustin Hoffman, in his directorial debut, along with an ideal cast, make that delicately balanced formula work to perfection. The film is set in an unbelievably posh, charity retirement home for retired opera performers and classical musicians, where the residents put on a benefit concert each year to help make ends meet. When their resident superstar becomes ill, it looks like the show is over, until the equally celebrated diva (Maggie Smith) reluctantly moves in — much to the dismay of the three singers who used to sing with her in a famed quartet. Smith refuses to sing again, however, and sparks fly with her ex-husband, who she jettisoned to advance her career. The featured performers are spot-on perfect (as you might expect) and Hoffman is savvy enough to make that the focus of his film.
R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence
Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Dramatically ho hum, morally abysmal and ridiculously complicated, “Broken City” is the kind of movie where nothing is as it appears, there’s a double-twist to just about every character and unrelentingly noir is the name of the game. New York City mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) hires Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), a disgraced former detective turned sleazy private eye, to find out who’s having an affair with his wife (Zeta-Jones). Or so it seems for about 10 minutes before the surface plot unravels with one nasty complication after another, until the plot threads are so snarled it takes Taggart upwards of an hour to sort things out — and even when he does, things still don’t make a lot of sense. Though the the deep-noir mood established by director Allen Hughes is some compensation. If “Broken City” were as credible as it is moody and atmospheric, it might be more worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s about as convincing as the mayor’s orange tan.
THE LAST STAND
R for strong bloody violence throughout, and language
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eduardo Noriega, Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker
It’s hard to tell if he really is as slow and creaky as he’s playing it in this surprisingly low-key action extravaganza, but one thing’s for sure — he’s still the same old Ah-nold. Just a little old and a little tired. In his first starring role in 10 years, Schwarzenegger plays a former LA detective who got tired of the mean streets and took the job of sheriff in a sleepy New Mexico border town. After escaping from the FBI, a vicious (yet handsome) Mexican drug lord heads for the border in a souped-up Corvette. The only thing standing in between him and freedom is Sheriff Ray and his ragtag group of deputies. To its credit, “The Last Stand” doesn’t ask us to take any of this seriously. Despite the mounting body count, the overall mood is light and mildly humorous, with a touch of poignancy as the sheriff takes his tough-guy moves out of mothballs and attempts to lay down the law one last time.
PG-13 for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements
Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse
This old-school-creepy ode to demented mother love is a better than average shocker despite its predictable and slow-moving plot. It relies more on suspense and atmosphere than splattery gore, plus it features a memorably freaky spectral boogey-woman who’s liable to linger as a nasty memory whether you want her to or not. After rescuing his two long-lost nieces from the cabin in the woods where they were abandoned five years ago by his brother, uncle Lucas (Coster-Waldau) brings the feral children home to live with his rocker girlfriend (Chastain) — unaware that they’ve been adopted by a psychotic ghost with baby issues from beyond the grave.
PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act and for brief language
Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Michael Haneke’s films tend to contemplate human behavior at its worst. They do their best to make us reevaluate whatever comforting notions we may have about life and about our ability to order the world into a benign place. The same holds true for the much-celebrated, Cannes Festival-winning “Amour,” a film that forces us to confront the very thing we like least to consider — the end of our lives — but with one new ingredient: tenderness and devotion. The Cannes Festival Palme d’Or-winning “Amour” is the story of Georges and Anne (Trintignant and Riva) a couple of retired, octogenarian Parisian piano teachers, whose quiet, content life is devastated when Anne is suddenly afflicted with a series of strokes that leave her partially paralyzed, then suicidal, then entirely helpless. Anne exacts a promise from her husband not to send her back to the hospital no matter what happens. A promise that Georges does his best to fulfill.
R for strong violence and language
Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Action-comedy director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) is no stranger to mayhem and crime, but taking on this ersatz, film noir-style, and almost entirely humorless, hard-boiled cops and robbers saga still seems a bizarre choice. “Gangster Squad” works within a just barely true-to-life framework to re-imagine the downfall of the post-World War II-era Los Angeles gangster kingpin Mickey Cohen — courtesy of a crew of maverick cops organized to attack him outside the law. Brolin is suitably square-jawed as the gangster squad honcho and Gosling is a plus as his enigmatic, world-weary right-hand man, but the mannered tough-guy dialogue is as over the top as the bullet-riddled final showdown in the heart of downtown LA.
ZERO DARK THIRTY
R for strong violence including brutal, disturbing images, and for language
Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, James Gandolfini
This harrowing, morally complicated drama by the creative team behind the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker” is every bit as realistic, suspenseful and emotionally intense. The closely based on fact “Zero Dark Thirty” opens with the introduction of a fictional, composite character — Chastain as an obsessively dedicated young CIA officer named Maya. After working for years to track down Osama bin Laden, Maya is convinced the Al Qaeda leader is in Pakistan. Of course, we know she is right and we know what happens when she ultimately locates him, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of this gripping, fast-moving dramatization, in which countless false starts and blind alleys only serve to heighten the feeling that the story could jump in any direction at any moment.