"Parker" (R, 118 minutes, Sony): Parker, the antihero of Taylor Hackford's serviceable action thriller, is an odd duck. Partly, it's the quaint code of ethics espoused by this gentleman thief (Jason Statham), who shoots a guy in the leg before robbing him and then calls him an ambulance. It's unusual enough that Parker will only steal from those "who can afford it" and hurt those "who deserve it," as he puts it. Shooting in an extremity, presumably, doesn't count as hurting. That's understandable, considering that Parker himself seems to have a congenital insensitivity to pain. Covered in scars from previous injuries, Parker is shot twice and left for dead early in the film, when four accomplices in a robbery (Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, Micah Hauptman and Clifton Collins Jr.) decide that they don't want to split the proceeds with him. After being rescued by a farmer and self-medicating with a quick dose of stolen Demerol, Parker sets about hunting down the double-crossers, who are planning another heist, so he can enforce his Robin Hood-like moral code on them. Although the outcome is never in doubt, it's satisfying, like pot roast and gravy.
"Beautiful Creatures" (PG-13, 123 minutes, Warner): This movie is so schizoid in its extremes of pleasure and pain that it's hard to know how to weigh its contradictions. On the plus side, this "Twilight"-esque tale of paranormal teen love which centers on the relationship between a human high school boy and a 15- year-old witch, or "caster" is anchored by two surprisingly solid and sweet performances from Alice Englert, as Lena, and Alden Ehrenreich (Adam). The bad news is that director Richard LaGravenese just doesn't know how to rein in the film's more fantastical plot elements. The screenplay for "Beautiful Creatures" is sharp and witty, the cast is stellar, and the chemistry between the young stars is magical. But too much of the rest of the movie is an unholy mess.
"Side Effects" (R, 106 minutes, Universal): Like a gel capsule in a sip of orange juice, this psycho-pharmacological thriller goes down easily. A medical thriller wrapped around a social-issue picture suspended within a potboiler, Steven Soderbergh's cautionary drama glides along at a brisk clip. From the swooping crane shot that opens the film to the moment when the camera settles on a trail of bloody footprints, the audience's interest is suitably piqued. The film, written by Scott Z. Burns, cannily portrays the epidemic of overprescribing now at play in America. Soderbergh handles the switching of gears with characteristic smoothness even if the result is a movie composed of one part "Thank You for Smoking," one part "The Snake Pit," one part "Spellbound" and a dash of "Basic Instinct" for titillating good measure. If "Side Effects" does prove to be Soderbergh's big-screen swan song, that's a shame.
Also: "The Last Stand," "Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn," "Yossi" (Israel), "Open Road," "The ABCs of Death," "Soldiers of Paint ," "Dark Circles," "A Common Man," "Medium Cool" (1969, The Criterion Collection), "The Royal Collection" (BBC), "Nightfall" (Hong Kong), "Laverne and Shirley: The Sixth Season."