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Arts

Movie stars: capsule reviews

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston (center) star in “Wanderlust’’ as a couple who move to a hippie commune after losing their jobs.

Jasin Boland/universal pictures via ap (below)

Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston (center) star in “Wanderlust’’ as a couple who move to a hippie commune after losing their jobs.

New releases

★★★ Act of Valor In this peculiarly entertaining exercise in bare-bones, 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’’ with 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

★★ ½ The Adventures of Tintin Director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson bring the intrepid boy reporter of Hergé’s classic comic books into the digital millennium with mixed results. The film’s a visual marvel that’s cold to the touch, with a chase-rinse-repeat story line that grows tiresome and motion-captured characters that lack the warmth of human beings. (107 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

★★★ 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)

★★★★ The Artist Michael Hazanavicius’s silent, black-and-white love letter to classic movies isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough to make just about anyone who sees it ridiculously happy - and that includes children and grown-ups who’ve never come across a silent film. Jean Dujardin plays the charming Hollywood ham whose career goes south with the arrival of the talkies; Bérénice Bejo is his love interest. A crowd-pleaser and a joy. (100 min., PG-13) (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. Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star - along with animatronic whales, of course. (103 min., PG) (Janice Page)

★★ ½Chronicle A found-footage superhero movie about 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 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)

★★★ ½A Dangerous Method The insinuation in David Cronenberg’s sex drama is strong, the acting stronger. Adapted by Christopher Hampton from his play, the film focuses on the professional and emotional bond between the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mistress and assistant Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). With Cronenberg, devilishly, the sex proves more curative than the talking. (94 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★ 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)

★★★ ½The Descendants With his wife in a coma, a prosperous Hawaii lawyer (George Clooney) has to cope with all the parts of his life he didn’t know. A somewhat minor work from director Alexander Payne that’s also a movingly rich pleasure about compromise and connection. With Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller as the hero’s daughters. (115 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★★ 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. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel. (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 Girl With the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher disinfects the luridness of the first of Stieg Larsson’s fun-to-read Swedish bestsellers until overheated trash assumes the chilly, clammy precision of a Fincher production, which is to say that the violence is both terrible and extremely alluring. Fincher also clearly adores his brutal (and brutally funny) cyberpunk played by Rooney Mara, whose dead seriousness is a grim hoot. With Daniel Craig, Robin Wright, and Christopher Plummer. (152 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★ 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)

★★★★Hugo An exhilarating tale of magic, machines, memories, and dreams. Martin Scorsese marshals the latest movie technology to create a love letter to the earliest movies of all. Yes, it’s a family film - and a great one - but the family Scorsese has really made this for is the 100-year-old tribe of watchers in the dark. With Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Sacha Baron Cohen. (127 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

★★ The Iron Lady The best way to appreciate the high-ludicrousness of Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher might be to watch this thin, conventionally structured movie with the sound down. It’s good acting. It’s great kabuki. The movie, meanwhile, lacks the gumption to damn Thatcher solely on the terms of her decade-long prime ministership. Unfairly, too much of it gawks at her while she’s doddering and deluded in old age. (105 min., PG-13) (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 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 Los Angeles 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, Ice Cube, and Sigourney Weaver. (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 as the young agent responsible for bringing him in. (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? What if people paid to see this! With Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, and Reese Witherspoon in another thankless role. (98 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ ½Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy The stillness of Gary Oldman as George Smiley is magnificent to behold. This adaptation of the 1973 John le Carre novel, about a British intelligence wonk (Oldman) trying to catch a traitor in his ranks, is a model of smart restraint and telling details - an engrossing movie for grown-ups. With Colin Firth. (127 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★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 - the kind of movie you can simultaneously snort at and enjoy. 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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