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Arts

Movie Stars

Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Students design and build structures in “If You Build It.’’

Long Shot Factory

Students design and build structures in “If You Build It.’’

New releases

Cousin Jules Dominique Benicheti’s documentary about an elderly farmer, Jules Guiteaux, won the top prize at the 1973 Locarno Film Festival and promptly dropped from sight. It’s one of those rare experiences that’s rooted in the past yet feels very much of the moment; on top of that, it’s timeless. In French, with subtitles. (91 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

If You Build It Young architects Matthew Miller and Emily Pilloton head a high school program in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. Director Patrick Creadon’s engaging documentary, about innovation inside and outside the classroom and the transformative power of good teaching, takes us through the school year with 10 students learning to design and build structures, including a pavilion for a farmer’s market. (85 min., unrated) (Loren King)

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½ Non-Stop Is there an actor who has ever looked more miserable about kicking butt than Liam Neeson? In his latest effort as the thinking man’s Chuck Norris, he plays a US marshal trying to identify a nutcase on a trans-Atlantic flight. Good dumb fun until it tries to make sense in the final 10 minutes. With Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery. (105 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Son of God Christ has been mostly absent from the big screen since Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” but the popularity of the 2013 History Channel miniseries “The Bible” seemed worth cashing in, and so the best Jesus bits were condensed into a feature. Though occasionally moving, this version of the greatest story ever told is uninspired. (138 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Stalingrad This Russian-made, IMAX 3-D war drama’s depiction of the bloody Soviet-German clash certainly features some brutal bits of screen poetry. Still, they’re matched too infrequently by the aching human stories director Fedor Bondarchuk is so anxious to tell. Mariya Smolnikova plays a quiet teenage girl who ends up in the care of Russian soldiers. In Russian and German, with subtitles. (131 min., R) (Tom Russo)

Previously released

12 Years a Slave It isn’t the story of an American tragedy. It’s the story of the American tragedy — this country’s original sin. The true saga of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born black man kidnapped from New York state in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana, the movie’s to slavery what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a mass-appeal reckoning. Directed by Steve McQueen (“Shame”). (133 min., R)
(Ty Burr)

American Hustle The title is perfect for this exuberant con job of a movie: a sloppy, miscast, hammed up, overlong, overloud story that still sends you out of the theater on a bouncy little cloud of rapture. Director David O. Russell and stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence address the 1980s Abscam scandal, sort of. (138 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Frozen Disney animators prove that “Tangled” wasn’t a fluke with their similar-skewing loose riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” Kristen Bell injects peppy personality into the story (and, yes, sings) as princess of a kingdom plunged into eternal winter by the frost powers of her misunderstood sister. Josh Gad (“1600 Penn”) is hilarious as a snowman who dreams of how wonderful summer must be. (108 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ The LEGO Movie A witty, exuberant series of comic riffs on creativity, made with a mixture of CGI and stop-motion animation and using 3-D to invite us into its brightly knubbled world. It’s the first great movie of 2014 -- really. Voice talent includes Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, and Shaquille O’Neal as a tiny plastic Shaquille O’Neal. (100 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

The Monuments Men A sadly misfired World War II drama about a ragtag team of curators in uniform searching for Nazi troves of stolen art. It’s a great story (and mostly true), but director-writer-star George Clooney can’t decide whether he’s making a caper comedy, a patriotic drama, or a historical adventure. With Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Bill Murray.
(118 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Winter’s Tale Writer-director Akiva Goldsman takes a meat tenderizer to Mark Helprin’s epic 1983 magical-realist novel, hammering away until all that’s left is romantic-fantasy mush. Colin Farrell plays a heroic burglar in pre-World War I Manhattan, Jessica Brown Findlay (“Downton Abbey”) is the rich girl he loves, and Russell Crowe is a demonic (no, really) gang leader after Farrell’s soul. (118 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Find an archive of movie reviews at www.boston.com/movies.
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