Coming Jan. 8
"Frankenweenie" (PG, 87 minutes, Disney): The story of a young science nerd who brings his dead dog back to life with a blast from a lightning bolt is an expansive adaptation by Tim Burton of his 1984 live-action short of the same name. Designed to appeal to both discriminating adults and older kids, the gorgeous, black-and-white stop-motion film is a fresh, clever and affectionate love letter to classic horror movies. Warning: It is decidedly not for little children. Transplanting Mary Shelley's 19th-century story to the 1950s, "Frankenweenie" is the story of 10-year-old Victor Frankenstein, a bookish loner whose best friend is his dog, Sparky. After Sparky is hit by a car, a desperate, distraught Victor applies some half-remembered lessons in electricity and reanimates the pet pooch. All is well until some of Victor's classmates get wind of the secret experiment and begin resurrecting all of their dearly departed pets, too, including a hamster and some Sea-Monkeys. One kid, Toshiaki (James Hiroyuki Liao) unleashes a Godzilla-like monster when his late pet turtle turns into a giant, rampaging reptile. It's great fun. Contains some scary images and morbid thematic material. Extras: "Frankenweenie" touring exhibit, "Pet Sematary" music video by Plain White T's. Also, on Blu-ray: the original "Frankenweenie" short; another original short, "Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers"; and a "Bringing Frankenweenie to Life" making-of feature. Also available in 3-D.
"Hit and Run" (R, 100 minutes, Universal): Writer, co-director and star Dax Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a bedraggled, drawling man under witness protection who lives in the middle of nowhere with his professor girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell). While Annie has no ambitions for a better job, as that would mean leaving her marooned boyfriend, her boss insists she interview for a dream position in Los Angeles. The only kink is that L.A. is the hometown of the criminals who have it out for Charlie. Devoted boyfriend that he is, Charlie breaks out his souped-up Lincoln Continental and chauffeurs his girlfriend to her interview and toward a potentially life-threatening scenario. Hot on their heels are Randy (Tom Arnold) -- the trigger-happy numskull charged with protecting Charlie -- and Annie's vengeful ex, Gil, played by Michael Rosenbaum. Also entering the mix are the bank robbers Charlie has been evading for four years. In terms of humor, the punch lines often feel uninspired or distasteful. Jess Rowland, who practically steals the show as a gay police officer, could teach the rest of the players a thing or two about comic timing. Contains nudity, violence and crude language.
"House at the End of the Street" (PG-13, 101 minutes, Fox): This violent but not terribly bloody thriller boasts a few nice touches including the relationship between moderately rebellious 17-year-old Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) and her justifiably apprehensive mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue). Most of the comedy, however, is unintentional. The story begins with what seems to be the murder of two people by their young daughter, Carrie Ann. Four years later, Sarah and Elissa move into a nearby mini-mansion, fleeing Chicago and Mom's failed marriage. They're told that nobody lives in the home they can see through the woods, whose creepiness has earned them a reduced rent. They soon learn, though, that Carrie Ann's brother Ryan remains in the house. Elissa focuses her romantic interest on Ryan, who's sensitive and wounded. Sarah worries that her daughter's nurturing instincts will lead her into trouble. She's right, although she has no idea how serious the trouble will be. Serious, that is, if it weren't so absurd. Contains violence, scares, profanity and drug use. Extras: unrated version; making-of featurette.
"Dredd 3-D" (R, 95 minutes, Lionsgate): Pete Travis' savage interpretation of John Wagner's futuristic law enforcer adheres to the character's grim graphic-novel roots and proves far superior to the corny 1995 misfire. Solemn Karl Urban dons the trademark helmet and motorcycle boots of Dredd, a ruthless judge presiding over the decaying, post-apocalyptic metropolis of Mega-City One. Two events complicate Dredd's unremitting mission to clean up his streets. First, he's saddled with a rookie partner (Olivia Thirlby) who's bound to slow him down. Second, the duo is assigned to investigate an incident at the towering Peach Trees apartment complex run by crazed drug dealer Ma-Ma. After Travis establishes Dredd as a take-no-prisoners law enforcer, the movie's goal is to have our hero march up to Ma-Ma's penthouse, eliminating waves of well-armed criminals in the process. "Dredd 3-D" is malicious, gory, masochistic and uncompromising. Contains strong bloody violence, drug use, language and some sexual content. Extras: Dredd motion comic prequel and featurettes including "Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd," 3-D visual effects, "Dredd's Gear," "The 3rd Dimension" and "Welcome to Peach Trees." Also available in 3-D.
Also: "Samsara," "Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden," "Compliance," "Game Change" (HBO's Emmy-winning depiction of the John McCain-Sarah Palin presidential campaign), "The Assassins" (China)," "Sleep Tight" (2011, Spain), "The Inbetweeners Movie" (2008), "Jack and Diane," "Lapland Odyssey" (2010, Finland), "Love Notes" (Lifetime original movie), "Now Is Good," "Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers," "Stone of Destiny" (2008, Scotland), "30 Nights of Paranormal Activity With The Devil Inside the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," "Tiny Toon Adventures Crazy Crew Rescues!," "Red Dwarf X," "Who Did I Marry?", "The Wise Kids," "Guns, Girls and Gambling" and "Ghost Trap."
Television series: "Smash: Season One," "Doctor Who: Shada" (BBC), "The Hour 2" (BBC miniseries), "An Idiot Abroad 2: The Bucket List" (BBC), "Best of Widget!" (Nickelodeon), "Dallas: The Complete First Season," "Enlightened: The Complete First Season" (HBO), "Anger Management: Season One," "Monsuno: Destiny" (Nicktoons series) and "The Goode Family: The Complete Series" (2009).