Film Capsules

In theaters this week

Salmon Fishing in the YemenAlfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is Britain's leading fisheries expert and is working on finding a suitably shocking cover for a fishing journal when his boss gives him an impossible task: bring wild salmon from British waters to the deserts of the Middle East. It's essentially a PR move to improve British-Arab relations after a bloody war incident. So Alfred begins working with a sheikh's representative, Harriet (Emily Blunt), but you know where the relationship is heading long before they do. This sweet but predictable love story is bathed in beautiful soft colors and stunning landscapes. And the actors do their best to bring it all to life, but ultimately this movie about restoring faith doesn't give you much to believe in. Rated PG-13. (Laura Dattaro)

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)

The Forgiveness of Blood (NR) — Welcome to modern-day Albania, where a man still delivers fresh bread by horse-drawn cart every day but uses his cell phone to text his customers to let them know he's coming, and where a murder brings the police — but also brings a blood feud between families. And the response is codified in Albanian traditional law, which calls for deadly retaliation. Sixteen-year-old Nik is coming of age in this land of contemporary tech and old grudges. Director Joshua Marston proves adept at opening a window into a little-known world of real-life trouble and making it feel true. (Lee Gardner)

Friends With Kids (R) — Jason (Adam Scott) and platonic BFF Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt) skip the whole marriage and commitment thing and decide to have a baby. Of course, this being a romantic comedy, you know it isn't going to be as easy as that. But Friends With Kids also offers some clear-eyed intrigue derived from the effects of their friends' stress — the kind of stress that comes from being married with children — and from Jason and Julie's attempt to ultimately not wind up like them. Still, the movie can't escape its formulaic essence, despite several valiant attempts. (Gardner)

The Hunger Games (PG-13) — The Hunger Games falls somewhere between the last couple of terrific Harry Potter movies and all of the terrible Twilights. The first story in Suzanne Collins' saga doubles as the series' setup: In a post-apocalyptic America, the government mandates that two kids from each of 12 districts fight to the death in a televised showdown. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a resourceful coal miner's daughter who takes her younger sister's place in the brutal battle. But first there's training, backstories, and personal issues to get out of the way. By the time the movie brings on the games, you're ready for blood. The Hunger Games drags a bit in the second half, but there's more life here than in any of those bloodless vampire movies. (Gallucci)

In Darkness (R) — In Darkness could easily traipse down the path leading toward Hollywood cheese, but it forges its own route, blazing a trail that's altogether heartbreaking, truthful, and life-affirming as it tells the story of Jews in Lvov, Poland, during World War II. When we first meet Leopold Socha, he's a petty thief who stashes his loot in the sewers of Lvov. He meets a group of Jews taking shelter in the sewers, and he offers them guidance in exchange for money. But soon he's offering the group food, and despite the danger posed to his family, he struggles to ensure their safety. In Darkness avoids putting us through unnecessary pain; rather, it holds onto hope, inspiring without indulging in melodrama. (Erin Gleeson)

John Carter (PG-13) — With characters and a story based on a 95-year-old Edgar Rice Burroughs novel and inspiration borrowed from Star Wars, Gladiator, and Avatar, among others, John Carter is a big, loud, and overlong sci-fi epic that aims for genre mythos but settles for super-caffeinated 3D spectacle. The title character (played by Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch) is a 19th-century cavalry captain who, thanks to a celestial medallion, ends up on Mars, where he gets caught up in a war between towering, four-armed CGI aliens and a race of people who look like they raided Flash Gordon's wardrobe. John Carter is a visual delight. But it's ultimately an empty experience. (Gallucci)

The Lorax (G) — Dr. Seuss traditionalists might have a few problems with this new adaptation — not least of which its romantic subplot — but 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. Not a bad way to learn how to protect the environment and distrust corporations. (Vince Grzegorek)

Thin Ice (R) — When insurance salesman Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear) schemes to bilk a dotty old man (Alan Arkin) to cover his own bad investments — and his schemes go badly awry in every way possible, including entangling him in a capital crime with a weedy loose-cannon ex-con (Billy Crudup) — the resemblance to Fargo is impossible to ignore. But Thin Ice isn't just a cynical knockoff; the story unfolds like a flow chart of every possible noir-plot disaster and twist in the book. But there's no Marge Gunderson to root for and a lot fewer laughs. (Gardner)

21 Jump Street (R) — Based on the late-'80s TV show that launched Johnny Depp's career, this reload centers around newbie cops Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, police academy pals assigned to go undercover to find out who's supplying kids with a synthetic drug. The movie clicks not so much because of its two leads, but thanks to its great supporting talent, including Ice Cube and Rob Riggle. The finale unravels on prom night, picking up speed after a late-inning cameo that almost justifies the price of admission. (Kyle Swenson)

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