Film Capsules

In theaters this week

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Dr. Seuss traditionalists might have a few problems with this new adaptation of The Lorax. For starters, the movie adds an entire romantic subplot between Ted (Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift) that might muddle the original message found in Seuss' fable of consumerism and ecological destruction. Still, there's plenty to like in this tale of the Once-ler (Ed Helms), an enterprising dude who markets a multi-purpose yet purpose-free product made from the leaves of a special tree. Soon, the Once-ler's greed drives him to cut down every tree in sight with his mass-production machines. The Lorax (Danny DeVito), the little furry guardian of the forest, is none too pleased, especially when the nearby town of Thneedville becomes an insulated land of plastic trees and pollution where fresh air has to be shipped in. Ted's grandma (Betty White) provides the voice of wisdom and conscience, and a delightful array of forest animals serves as the entertaining Greek chorus to the Once-ler's regrettable actions. Not a bad way to learn how to protect the environment and distrust corporations. Rated PG. (Vince Grzegorek)

Act of Valor (PG-13) — U.S. Navy SEAL teams are many things: tough, focused, and cool under pressure. What they would freely admit they are not are Hollywood actors. Perhaps that's why co-directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh appear in a brief prologue not so much to disclose their employment by the U.S. Navy, but to couch their decision to utilize actual SEALs in the filming of this glossy, flag-waving bit of nonsense in vérité terms. They know this isn't a "Hollywood" film as much as we do; it's a propaganda film. The soldiers and the movie hop around the globe, from Ukraine to Cambodia to Mexico, with each new mission bringing a new set of challenges, all of which equal roughly the same thing: Shoot everyone in the head. (Justin Strout)

The Artist (PG-13) — You won't find a lovelier valentine to the movies than Michel Hazanavicius' black-and-white and near-silent tribute to the silent screen. In 1927 Hollywood, matinee idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is on top of the movie world. But then talking pictures begin to revolutionize the industry, and George brushes them off, setting in motion his slow but steady downfall. The story is straight out of A Star Is Born, but the inspiration comes from 100 years of cinema. (Michael Gallucci)

A Dangerous Method (R) — The relationship between Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and her doctor Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) will cycle through many stages and, according to David Cronenberg's version of this real-life story, shape both the relationship between Jung and his idol/soon-to-be-mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the development of psychological theory itself. (Lee Gardner)

Safe House (R) — Denzel Washington plays Tobin Frost, a former CIA agent accused of trading secrets. Ryan Reynolds is a baby-faced CIA newbie who whiles away the time at a rarely used safe house in South Africa, pining for a tougher assignment. Then Tobin is brought in for questioning, followed by gunshots, fights, and assassins. It's an action-packed ride, but it would be nice if it slowed down for a minute. (Grzegorek)

A Separation (PG-13) — Nader (Peyman Moadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are at a crossroads in their marriage. Simin wants to move their 11-year-old daughter to a country where there are more opportunities for women, but Nader wants to stay in Tehran to take care of his father. Their breakup isn't always the focal point of A Separation, but it's constantly there, hanging over everything that happens. Writer and director Asghar Farhadi doesn't take sides. Nader and Simin have their reasons. The film is matter-of-fact — occasionally devastating, sometimes infuriating, and always real. (Gallucci)

This Means War (PG-13) — When Reese Witherspoon's Lauren finds herself dating a smooth-talking CIA agent (Chris Pine) as well as his partner-in-espionage (Tom Hardy), she naturally recognizes their respective appeal and elegantly dissects it: One has "tiny hands" and the other is "British." Yes, This Means War is that dumb. Worse: It thinks you are too. (Strout).

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