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Movie stars: capsule reviews

Kristen Stewart stars in “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

Universal Pictures via AP

Kristen Stewart stars in “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

New releases

½ Snow White and the Huntsman Entertainingly schizophrenic, this re-engineering of the classic fairy tale feels like it was made from pieces of every fantasy-action movie ever made. It barely holds together but there are daft pleasures, from Charlize Theron’s rampant overacting as the evil queen to Kristen Stewart’s surprising underplaying as Snow. Directed by Rupert Sanders. (116 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

½ 21 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)

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½ Battleship If you’re going to make a movie based on a board game, you’ve got to fill two hours with something. So why not go the “Transformers” route? Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter”) plays a ne’er-do-well who joins the Navy just in time to fight an alien armada that lands off Hawaii. If only there were more genuine rah-rah fun, instead of seen-it-all-before mayhem. (131 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ Bernie Jack Black dials back the boorishness to play Bernie Tiede, a real-life Texas funeral director and community pillar who in 1996 shot his aged companion (Shirley MacLaine) in the back. Richard Linklater directs it as a loopy black comedy with generous input from local “witnesses” — the movie’s bouncy, amusing, and wholly lacking in a point. With Matthew McConaughey. (104 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Proof that art-house movies can be as clichéd as multiplex fare. A comedy-drama about a group of British retirees at a ramshackle hotel in Jaipur, India, it’s predictable fluff aimed at desperate or undemanding 50+ audiences. Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson almost turn it into something. (124 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Bully Lee Hirsch’s documentary applies a gloss of lyricism to the ugliness of adolescent torment. It has three or four moments of real alarm and, in the school bus, one nightmarish motif. But Hirsch struggles to shape it (three editors are credited). The movie doesn’t need research or great filmmaking or narrative focus, per se. It needs only the shaming power of its relentlessness and a young audience open to feeling that shame. (94 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

The Cabin in the Woods A clever, bloody, funny spin on the doomed-teens genre, with director Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”) and co-writer Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) gradually taking their little genre riff into cosmic-comic sci-fi territory. Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford are delightful as office drones with a stake in the proceedings. (95 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Chernobyl Diaries All that appears to be motivating anybody in “Chernobyl Diaries” to do anything is paltry screenwriting. Chris and Amanda and Natalie visit Chris’s brother, Paul, in Kiev. Paul thinks it would be fun to go to the site of a town abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. This is a “don’t go in there” movie in which all you think is, “Please, go in there. We want to go home.” (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Chimpanzee DisneyNature’s new “animal drama” has been whittled down from a wealth of wildlife footage into a pleasant, occasionally scary picture-book narrative aimed at 6-year-olds. Tim Allen provides jokey narration and lite-jazz songs bop along to images of frolicking baby chimps. The movie’s astonishing and blandly condescending, often in the same shot. (78 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ Crooked Arrows What “Cool Runnings” did for bobsledding and “Mighty Ducks” for youth hockey, “Crooked Arrows” should do for lacrosse. A half-Native American former lacrosse star (Brandon Routh) returns to the reservation to help expand a casino. To get tribal approval, he agrees to coach the reservation’s struggling high school lacrosse team. Much of it was filmed around Boston. The action sequences don’t disappoint, and the story transcends the uplifting sports-underdog formula. (100 min., PG-13) (Loren King)

Dark Shadows Tim Burton has got his groove back. This big-screen revamp of the much-loved (if ridiculous) late-’60s Gothic soap opera is both sendup and homage, and it recaptures the show’s doomy vibe with blissful comic precision. Johnny Depp is great fun as Barnabas Collins, an 18th-century vampire having trouble adjusting to the polyester 1970s. With Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green. (113 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Darling Companion A movie for women who love their dogs too much. The first film in nine years from director Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”) is an overwritten and underplotted vanity project, but Diane Keaton is a joy as a well-to-do surgeon’s wife whose frustrations boil over when her beloved mutt goes missing. With Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, and Richard Jenkins. (103 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Dictator The despot here is a tall, fit, flamboyantly bearded North African goofball (Sacha Baron Cohen) who winds up working in a Brooklyn food co-op. That’s the best idea in the movie, which lacks the cultural tension in “Borat” and “Bruno,” satires that Cohen and director Larry Charles previously made together. This one is lazy, a satire that can’t bring itself to properly satirize anything. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

First Position Another kiddie-competition documentary, but more gripping than usual because the competitors — six young ballet dancers vying for awards and contracts in the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix — are so driven and so talented. First-time director Bess Kargman skips lightly over the harsher aspects, but her subjects are compelling and the dancing is phenomenal. (90 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ The Five-Year Engagement A pleasant but predictable and overlong romantic comedy about a couple (Jason Segel and Emily Blunt) whose relationship suffers when he follows her from San Francisco to Michigan for her career. One of the softer offerings from the Judd Apatow production factory, it gets its laughs while having virtually no dramatic tension. With Alison Brie. (124 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Headhunters A sleek Norwegian crime thriller about an Oslo executive-by-day/art thief-by-night (Aksel Hennie) who gets in over his head. Based on a novel by the best-selling Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, it’s crisp Tom Ripley-esque entertainment even as the bodies and plot absurdities pile up. In Norwegian, with English subtitles. Costarring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Synnove Macody Lund. (100 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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)

½ Jiro Dreams of Sushi This documentary about Jiro Ono, the 85-year-old Tokyo sushi chef generally acknowledged as the finest on the planet, touches on both the mysteries of gastronomic art and the human flaws that can come from the daily striving for perfection. It’s a foodie’s delight, best seen on a full stomach. In Japanese, with subtitles. (81 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Christine Plenus/Sundance Selects

Thomas Doret stars in “The Kid With a Bike.”

The Kid With a Bike A young boy (Thomas Doret) is abandoned by his father. It sounds tragic in outline, and Belgium’s Dardenne brothers film it in their usual minimalist style, but this Cannes prizewinner is, remarkably, about hope — about the connections people forge when the ones they’ve been given desert them. With Cécile de France. In French, with English subtitles. (87 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Mansome Morgan Spurlock’s new documentary is so late in noticing a shift in American male grooming that for a documentary on the subject to work Spurlock would either have to pitch it to our grandparents or trace a cultural shift and unpack it. This seems like the outcome of a director seeing his first Details magazine and sensing apocalypse. (82 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Marvel’s The Avengers If you like Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza (really, there’s almost nothing to dislike; it’s as close as a movie can come to the fantastical reality of a good comic book), stick around for the closing credits. As fun as it is to watch as the actors playing superheroes, the real stars are the hundreds of men and women who’ve closed the gap between what’s doable in comic books and the movies based on them. This is state-of-the-state stuff. With Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and Samuel L. Jackson. (148 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Monsieur Lazhar In a Montreal middle school, an immigrant substitute (Mohamed Fellag) helps his students cope with the suicide of their former teacher. What appears to be a gentle entry in the “To Sir With Love” genre actually has its mind on larger matters and a heart full of sorrow and rage. In French, with English subtitles. (94 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits The animators at Aardman (“Wallace & Gromit”) have a knack for leaving us smiling almost as goofily as one of their claymation creations. They do it yet again with this genial, 3-D genre sendup, featuring Hugh Grant as a swashbuckler informed by Darwin (David Tennant) that his “parrot” is a dodo, and their ticket to glory. Maybe even, yes, Pirate of the Year honors. (88 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

Polisse There are movies that grab you by the throat and knee you in the groin. And there are movies that grab your throat, knee your groin, drive you to the hospital, help you fill out the police report, and ask you out to dinner, where you both laugh and cry over everything. This is that latter movie, an electrifying epic emotional thriller about an endangered child-protection unit in the Paris police department and the tight, tense bond among the detectives. Directed and co-written by Maïwenn, who costars. In French, with English subtitles. (127 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

½ The Story of Film: An Odyssey This 2011 eight-part documentary made for British television takes in 14 decades, six continents (sorry, Antarctica), and one art form. Like that art form, it’s wildly ambitious, often extremely good, occasionally maddening, and always stimulating. Writer-director Mark Cousins’s unifying conception is cinematic innovation — or as he pronounces it in his marvelous Ulster accent (he narrates, too) “en-iv-ay-shun.” (916 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

½ To the Arctic 3D The latest IMAX nature documentary stars Meryl Streep as a real live polar bear. OK, I made that up. But do any of us doubt that she could have played the mama bear if she’d wanted? Instead, Streep narrates — delivering pious lines aimed at Prius owners — and we wonder what she might have made of a script better matched to the unforced drama of the cinematography. (40 min., G) (Janice Page)

½ Think Like a Man As an ensemble comedy, it’s just adequate — platitudes with romantic-comedy flavoring. Eight people — including Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, Gabrielle Union, Michael Ealy — pair off and act out scenarios from that Steve Harvey relationship guide, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” But Henson makes a case for more movies to take a chance on her charisma. The woman’s a star. (122 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

What to Expect When You’re Expecting It’s all in the delivery. The movie turns the best-selling pregnancy guide of the title into one of those glib all-star comedy-dramas with multiple story lines and predictable dilemmas, but the writing is sharp and the performances bright, and there are laughs to be had for those who’ve been there. (110 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Where Do We Go Now? How can women ever get men to stop killing each other? Director/co-writer/costar Nadine Labaki (“Caramel”) envisions a dusty Lebanese village where the women, Christian and Muslim alike, join forces to foil their husbands’ bloodymindedness. It’s “Lysistrata” in the desert, overly diffuse but full of heart, laughter, and sorrow. In Arabic, Russian, and English, with subtitles. (110 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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