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Arts

Movie stars: capsule reviews

Murray Close/Lionsgate

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket (left) and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.’’

★★ ½The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye For this documentary, Marie Losier spent seven years documenting the performance artist Genesis P-Orridge who, along with his late wife, Lady Jaye, wanted to create a third gender. The movie is a manic, overmedicated, and remembered elegy. It’s also private and personal, more fit for a small, chairless room in a museum than an evening out at the movies. (70 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

★★ ½Delicacy A charming but shapeless tale of amour lost and refound that’s mostly about the joys of being in love with Audrey Tautou. Every man in the film falls for her character, and at times even the camera swoons. It’s assumed you will feel the same, which may depend on how many times you’ve seen “Amelie.’’ In French, with English subtitles. (108 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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★★ ½Footnote Joseph Cedar’s foreign-language Oscar nominee is set in the world of Israeli academia and focuses on a father-son rivalry. When the father wins a prestigious prize meant for the son, he must make a difficult choice. The film has power and drama but so much flab and whimsy in the first hour that the rest of the film feels almost like a different movie. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. (107 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★Free Men A story, loosely based on fact, about Algerians fighting for the Resistance in Nazi-occupied Paris. Serious and well-intentioned, the film is also slow and pedestrian. Writer-director Ismaël Ferroukhi is no Jean-Pierre Melville, and his film is no “Army of Shadows.’’ Michael Lonsdale is appealingly imperturbable as rector of Paris’s Great Mosque. (99 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

★★★The Hunger Games The millions who devoured Suzanne Collins’s futuristic thriller will be satisfied, on balance, by the compromises Hollywood has made while keeping the story true to itself. The millions more who haven’t read the books will be entertained while wondering what the fuss was all about. It’s not a movie on fire, and it should have been. With Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. (142 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★★ ½21 Jump Street We have lots of terminology for what happens when two male stars appear to have the platonic hots for each other. What Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have in this very funny, unusually perceptive action-comedy scrambles, transcends, and explodes all of that. They play nincompoop narcs undercover at a high school. The movie may not be consciously exploiting the evolution of male buddydom in Hollywood, but it has redrawn the boundaries. (106 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★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)

★★Being Flynn Filmmaker Paul Weitz relocates Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir from Boston to New York, but that isn’t the reason the film feels directionless. Paul Dano is wanly reactive as Nick, a struggling writer working at a homeless shelter and confronting his father there. As the latter, Robert De Niro gives a real performance in a movie that isn’t equipped to deal with it. (102 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★ ½Casa de mi Padre A genial but awfully thin goof on cheap Mexican telenovelas, with star Will Ferrell leading a Latin American cast that includes Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, the bad boys from “Y Tu Mama Tambien.’’ It’s extra mild salsa - a “Funny or Die’’ Web-sketch that somehow escaped the corral. In Spanish, with subtitles. (84 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★★ 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)

★★Friends With Kids Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and stars in this comedy about two New Yorkers who have a baby together but claim not to want to date or marry. You already know the outcome. But it doesn’t matter. Jon Hamm (Westfeldt’s real-life partner) burns the whole movie down, playing a bitterly drunk dad and father. With Adam Scott, and not enough Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. (113 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★ In Darkness The true story of a group of Polish Jews who lived for 14 months, until the end of the WWII, in the sewers beneath the city of Lvov. It’s an astonishing tale, but Agnieszka Holland’s film (nominated for a foreign language Oscar) boxes it up a little too slickly. In Yiddish, Polish, and German, with subtitles. (145 min., R) (Ty Burr)

★ ½Jeff Who Lives at Home Praising this comedy requires great charity. Two adult brothers (Jason Segel and Ed Helms) seek one brother’s wife (Judy Greer), who could be having an affair, while the brothers’ mother (Susan Sarandon) deciphers romantic instant messages from a co-worker. This is a sad, shabby world. The filmmaking brothers Mark and Jay Duplass have chosen it because they think they can laugh at it without making it funny. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★★John Carter Edgar Rice Burroughs’s 1912 epic pulp novel “A Princess of Mars’’ comes to the screen after influencing a century of rocket rodeos. Against the odds, it rises to the level of its best imitations; your 10-year-old will go gaga. Taylor Kitsch plays the Earthling hero; Andrew Stanton (“WALL-E’’) directs from a script by, among others, writer Michael Chabon. (132 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

★★★Kill List A scuzzy little cross between a crime movie and a horror freak-out that gets under your skin and stays there. Two slovenly British hit men (Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley) take a job that leads to domestic strife and apocalyptic doom. Co-writer/director Ben Wheatley has made a Nicolas Roeg movie on the cheap, but it’s not for the squeamish. (95 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

★★★ The Lorax This animated film’s deviations from Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book don’t stray terribly far from its spirit. A boy hears the tale of a cursed industrialist who implores him to plant the world’s final tree. It’s for a girl, but it’s still heroic. Despite some schmaltz and pandering, this is still a nifty feat whose activism comes mostly from its excellent musical numbers. With the voices of Zach Efron and Taylor Swift. (94 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

★★ Project X A Pasadena blowout turns into a horny, druggy apocalyptic scene culminating in riot police, news choppers, and a gentleman with a flamethrower. The mayhem echoes footage of the Arab Spring and the 1990s upheaval in South Los Angeles. Here, you see similar destruction and anarchy used to bestow eternal popularity upon one boy (Thomas Mann) and think, “What a waste.’’ (88 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

★★Salmon Fishing in the Yemen For anyone who wishes the movies could be more like 1985 or 1958, there’s Lasse Hallström, the director of “Chocolat.’’ Here he gives us dour Ewan McGregor and punchy Emily Blunt supervising the transfer of fish to Yemen for the amusement of a sheik. Rather wanly, the movie is about the big vat of “I think you’re swell’’ they fall into. It couldn’t be more harmless or more dull. (107 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

★★ ½The Salt of Life A quietly insistent parable of male menopause, Gianni Di Gregorio’s second feature (after 2008’s “Mid-August Lunch’’) ambles along the line between comedy and melancholy, rarely making a misstep but rarely looking up. The filmmaker stars as an aging married man confronting the waning of desire. In Italian, with subtitles. (90 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

★★ ½The 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)

★★Silent House A horror movie in which Elizabeth Olsen does a lot of hiding under tables and shivering in corners. Something is chasing her from room to room - teasingly, so it stretches to an hour and a half. What/who is after her is more traumatic than it appears, but in a deadeningly cerebral way. This is the first horror movie to feel like an assignment for a women’s studies class. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

★★ ½Undefeated This year’s documentary Oscar winner follows the unlikely season of North Memphis’s Manassas High School football team, which went from the worst team in Tennessee to one of the best. The movie is focused on an amazing season, but we’ve seen that before. What we want is access to the lives of the players and coaches. Otherwise, the movie is almost so familiar that its special achievement is indistinguishable from its Hollywood counterparts. (113 min., PG-13) (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)

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