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Movie stars: A look at what’s in theaters

Liam Neeson stars in the thriller sequel “Taken 2.”

Magali Bragard/20th century fox via ap

Liam Neeson stars in the thriller sequel “Taken 2.”

New releases

½ Butter Jennifer Garner (who co-produced) gives a shrill performance as an ambitious, God-fearing Iowa power-wife in a butter-sculpting contest. The film wants to be an Alexander Payne-style social satire, but it falls flat at almost every opportunity. The ensemble cast includes Olivia Wilde, Ty Burrell, and Hugh Jackman, all flailing. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Downeast With a monk’s calm, David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s documentary immerses itself in Gouldsboro, Maine, as a Boston-based Italian immigrant, Antonio Bussone, attempts to turn a former sardine cannery into a lobster processing facility. He doesn’t have an easy time. The movie approaches the people of Gouldsboro and Bussone’s determination — to provide jobs, to succeed — with the same absorbing solemnity. (77 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

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Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare A righteous health care documentary with real filmmaking gets you something like Michael Moore’s “Sicko.” Righteousness with none of that lands an audience in the monotonous murk of the average polemic, which seeks change by simultaneously scaring you and poking you in the chest. It’s not fun, which is fine. But it’s not at all rousing, either. (98 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Frankenweenie Tim Burton’s stop-motion tale of a boy named Victor Frankenstein and his beloved undead dog is simple yet immensely pleasurable — elegant, very funny, and haunted gently by the ghosts of monster movies past. Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Martin Short, and Winona Ryder provide voices. In black and white and 3-D. (87 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ The Oranges A pleasant but awfully mild ensemble comedy about suburban infidelity with a cast too good for the script. Hugh Laurie (“House”) and Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”) embark on a cross-generation affair that shocks their families. Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, and Alia Shawkat costar. The director and writers come from TV, and it shows. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Taken 2 This is the sort of sequel that seems to make perfect sense to the people who made it but none to us. The Albanian relatives of the men killed in the first movie by the former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) seek revenge. The first movie was the divorced dad’s revenge fantasy done up as action-movie brutality. This one is action-movie camp. (97 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

V/H/S The six shorts in this anthology attempt to infuse horror with a hipster nostalgia for the age of the video twist. Prepare ye for two hours of jittery, low-light, first-person footage of blase 20- and 30-somethings running, breathing heavy, and slitting open each other’s stomachs and throats. Two work: “Amateur Night” and “10/31/98.” But viewed en masse, “V/H/S” can’t generate the necessary suspense to truly get under your skin. (115 min., R) (Ethan Gilsdorf)

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