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Movie Stars: capsule reviews

IATM, Relativity Media

Lieutenant Rorke leaves for deployment in “Act of Valor.’’

New releases

★★★ Act of Valor In this peculiarly entertaining exercise in barebones, Hollywood-style action heroism, the anonymous active-duty Navy SEALs who’ve been cast as themselves have one facial expression and one tone of voice. But if you compare “Act of Valor’’ to the convoluted “Safe House,’’ this movie is a roller coaster; that one’s a parked car. Directed by Mike “Mouse’’ McCoy and Scott Waugh. (106 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ Addiction Incorporated An eminently watchable documentary about how the tide turned against Big Tobacco. Director Charles Evans Jr. smartly uses the articulate, charming scientist and whistle-blower Victor J. DeNoble to explain how researchers, news reporters, lawyers, and ultimately Congress exposed decades of deceit. (102 min., PG) (Loren King)

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★★ Bullhead Michael R. Roskam’s dramatic descent into the “hormone mafia underworld’’ has too many parts. Not enough of them are focused on the film’s psychological center, an emotionally damaged cattle farmer who has been injecting himself with the hormones. An Oscar nominee for foreign language film. In Dutch and French, with English subtitles. (128 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★ Wanderlust For about the length of a good episode of TV comedy, this movie is really up to something. Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd play a New York couple who lose their jobs and move south to a hippie commune. It feels as if the director and co-writer David Wain might be trying to get at what Albert Brooks went after in “Lost in America,’’ this kind of cynical generational anthem. The movie doesn’t even get halfway there. (98 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Previously released

★★★ Albert Nobbs As the title character, a woman passing as a male butler at an upper-crust hotel, Glenn Close skulks through Edwardian-era Dublin like a eunuch on a stealth mission. Rodrigo Garcia’s drama is cautious to the point of stodginess. Close (who co-wrote the script) gives a fascinating performance, even if Janet McTeer steals the film. (113 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★★Big Miracle If this movie is to be believed, the most riveting and important story of the late 1980s was three migrating California gray whales stranded beneath miles of ice far above the Arctic Circle. Luckily the film needs only to entertain, and that it does thoroughly, with minimal preaching. Praise be. Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star - along with those animatronic whales, of course. (103 min., PG) (Janice Page)

★★ ½Chronicle A found-footage superhero movie about three high schoolers who videotape the aftermath of their encounter with a glowing space-rock. Pieces of this are downright brilliant, but the filmmakers can’t decide whether they’re making fun of the genre or just going overboard with it. Paging John Hughes or Gus Van Sant. (84 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★★ ½ Coriolanus Making his directorial debut, star Ralph Fiennes brings Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy roaring into a 21st century of military strongmen and civil unrest, asking what society should do with the attack dogs we ask to protect us. Vanessa Redgrave scalds the screen as one mean mother. With Gerard Butler and Jessica Chastain. (122 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★★ Crazy Horse The 39th film from the legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman prowls the Paris nude-revue nightclub of the title, watching the ways human beings manufacture the art of desire. His fly-on-the-wall approach yields insights into process from everybody but the dancers themselves. In French, with subtitles. (134 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

★★ Declaration of War As ponderous and overwrought as a movie hogged by hipsters named Roméo and Juliette can be. Their son has a brain tumor, and the movie seems to be about everyone’s struggle to hope for the best while physicians strategize to prevent the worst. But really it’s about the stars - Valérie Donzelli, who directed, and Jérémie Elkaïm. They’ve based the movie on their own lives. In French, with English subtitles. (100 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close The 11-year-old protagonist (Thomas Horn) of Stephen Daldry’s movie is a handful. Mostly for an audience tasked with watching him whirl across every inch of New York’s five boroughs. The film’s whimsy and cuteness should exasperate, but there’s great, poignant urgency at its center, much of it courtesy of Horn and Max von Sydow, who plays his elderly sidekick. With Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Viola Davis. (129 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Nicolas Cage’s flaming-skulled comic book anti-hero returns, this time to protect a boy cryptically being targeted by satanic Ciaran Hinds. Directing duo Neveldine/Taylor throw enough inventive craziness at us to legitimize a sequel that no one really asked for. And it’s enough to make Cage’s own brand of crazy blend right in as well. (96 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

★★ The Grey It’s cheap the way this movie wants to be both a Liam Neeson “Quit Taking My Stuff’’ movie and an existential thriller about survival. We’ve come to see Neeson danse-macabre with wolves. Instead, we get a lot of scenes of men being sad because they have no idea where they are and there are no women to have sex with. Those moments aren’t bad, but they’re not enough, either. (117 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ Haywire The new Steven Soderbergh film puts at its center the martial-arts star Gina Carano as a covert operative. The movie is playful, but its naturalness is also cold and no-frills. Soderbergh wants to get close to how these chases and fistfights might happen in everyday life. So it’s less a thriller than a kind of documentary. With Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, and Michael Douglas. (106 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★ ½ Journey 2: The Mysterious Island There isn’t much here to like: an enormous electric eel that powers a sunken ship, Dwayne Johnson sitting on a log next to Michael Caine and breaking into song, closing credits. Even by the unambitious standards of some children’s movies and many that star Michael Caine, this one has a difficult time making a case for itself as anything other than an adventure in baby-sitting. With Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Hutcherson, and an embarrassing Luis Guzmán. (94 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ Pina Wim Wenders’s ode to the work of the late German modern-dance choreographer Pina Bausch is a parting gift from one creative force to another. Soberly ecstatic, it’s also the latest proof (with Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo’’ and Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams’’) that 3-D can serve as midwife to art and exhilaration. In lots of languages, with subtitles. (100 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

★★ Rampart Woody Harrelson gives a ferocious performance as a bad LA cop, but director Oren Moverman thinks that if he keeps introducing characters and camera moves, he’ll end up with a movie. The reverse occurs: The more things happen, the less we care. With Robin Wright, Cynthia Nixon, and more. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★ Safe House Denzel Washington plays one of those misunderstood CIA operatives who’s “gone rogue.’’ But even before he’s tortured for information, Washington’s pulse never rises. His calm is absurd. Yet it’s exactly what’s needed in a by-the-numbers chase-’em-down and shoot-’em-up movie with lots of intentionally sea-sickening camerawork: confidence. With Ryan Reynolds. (115 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★ ½ The Secret World of Arrietty A curious and mostly congenial case of fusion cuisine that filters the classic children’s book “The Borrowers’’ through the quietly inventive worldview of Japan’s Studio Ghibli. Since legendary director Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away’’) only wrote the script, the movie is lesser Ghibli, but not by very much. (94 min., G) (Ty Burr)

★★★★ A Separation A superb work of realism by Asghar Farhadi about a youngish middle-class Iranian woman (Leila Hatami) who leaves her husband (Peyman Moaadi), putting his sick father and their studious and astute 11-year-old daughter (Sarina Farhadi) in the uncertain middle. The request for a divorce sets in motion a chain of small domestic events whose dismaying implications accrue. In Farsi, with English subtitles. (123 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

This Means War You can imagine how the ball got rolling on this mess. What if a woman was dating two guys? What if the two guys were CIA spies? What if the case the spies had been working on, then fired from, then put back on blasted its way into the romance plot? With Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, and Reese Witherspoon. (98 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★Underworld Awakening Vampires and werewolves are back at each other’s throats in a sequel overly eager to assert that monster mashes aren’t about “Twilight’’ melodrama. Kate Beckinsale wriggles back into her catsuit as Selene, thawed after a human purge of vampires and Lycans that left her in cryo-freeze. India Eisley is the young girl who now shares a psychic link with her, and special abilities. (88 min., R) (Tom Russo)

★★ ½ The Vow Young marrieds Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams hit a rough patch when she wakes from a coma with amnesia. It’s the rare chick flick that’s about brain trauma in addition to causing it, and it’s quite watchable date-night cheese. With Sam Neill and Jessica Lange. (104 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★ W.E. Madonna’s second film as director is a double drama. One story is about Wallis Simpson (a very good Andrea Riseborough) and the romance that led to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII (James D’Arcy). The other is about the modern-day sufferings of a Park Avenue housewife (Abbie Cornish). The period scenes are good, the rest is not. As a moviemaker, Madonna is best when she’s not trying so hard. (119 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★The Woman in Black How frustrating to be Daniel Radcliffe. One movie after Harry Potter vanquished Voldemort, and it’s like he’s anticipating having to do it all over again. Here he is in this blah ghost story searching a big, dreary house for the source of off-screen sound effects. Radcliffe has an exuberant side, and some of us are getting desperate to see it. (95 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

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