Quentin Tarantino is one of contemporary cinema’s boldest provocateurs, and Django Unchained may feature his most incendiary premise yet: it’s a Spaghetti western set in the antebellum South. Thankfully, critics say the director has delivered another winner, one that’s by turns thrilling, bloody, and deeply moving. Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a runaway slave who teams up with a bounty hunter in an effort to rescue his wife from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a diabolical slaveholder. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Django Unchained is stylish, exciting, and often very funny, but it also pulls no punches in its depiction of the evils of slavery. (Check out our video interviews with Django’s stars.)
Les Misérables hits theaters swaddled in gravitas: it’s a period epic with a prestigious cast that’s been adapted from a wildly popular musical by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). And critics say it mostly deserves the hype — it’s impeccably mounted and robustly acted but occasionally bombastic. Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, an ex-con turned factory owner who takes care of his ex-employee Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter while avoiding the ruthless Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). The pundits say Les Misérables is often over-the-top, but the performances are excellent, and Hooper injects a sense of grit and passion to the proceedings.
It’s the holidays, so naturally there’s a new family comedy in theaters, one that promises to both warm hearts and tickle funny bones. Unfortunately, critics say Parental Guidance mostly fails in its mission — it’s good-natured, but blandly predictable, and it misuses old pros Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. Crusty old Artie (Crystal) and his wife Diane (Midler) agree to babysit their grandchildren for a week; hilarity ensues and life lessons are learned. The pundits say Parental Guidance is sweet but milquetoast, an inoffensive trifle that doesn’t amount to much more.
Also opening this week in limited release:
West of Memphis, a documentary about the campaign to free three young men wrongly convicted of murder, is at 98 percent.
The Portuguese import Tabu, a drama about a dying woman reflecting on a forbidden love affair of her youth, is at 92 percent.