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Movie Stars

Movie stars

Ben Affleck stars as a CIA operative in “Argo.”

Claire Folger/Warner Bros. Pictures

Ben Affleck stars as a CIA operative in “Argo.”

New releases

Alps An hour and a half of darkening absurdism. A nurse, a paramedic, a gymnast, and her coach loan themselves out as living replacements for the dead. You spend most of this film waiting for the line separating rationality from sanity to stop moving, and it never really does. That’s an achievement. Directed and co-written by Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth”). In Greek, with subtitles. (93 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Argo Ben Affleck directed this highly entertaining if shallow film based on the actual story of six embassy employees led out of Iran by a CIA hostage specialist played by Affleck. Affleck is the first actor since Warren Beatty’s generation of stars to make a persuasive case for himself as a talented Hollywood filmmaker. He applies lightness but not too much. He’s serious but innocent of the pomposity that comes out of certain kinds of seriousness. (120 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

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½ Girl Model A verite-style documentary about an international modeling industry that preys on adolescent girls like 13-year-old Nadya from Siberia. It’s a distressing eye-opener that could have used more shaping and focus, but it’s still worthy. If you know a teenage girl with her own dreams of modeling, she really needs to see this. (78 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Here Comes the Boom Kevin James’s latest collaboration with director Frank Coraci (“Zookeeper”) is a formulaic comedy about a Boston teacher who takes up mixed martial arts to combat budget cuts at his school. The result is a lean (get a look at its newly slimmed star), mean (get a look at that star being pummeled), ultimate-fighting machine that delivers repeated blows — to the abdomen, to the head, and to the groin, but not often enough to the funny bone. Real-life UFC icon Bas Rutten steals the show. (105 min., PG) (Janice Page)

½ Keep the Lights On Ira Sachs directed and co-wrote this muted romantic drama about two men (Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth) and what one’s drug addiction does to their relationship. The movie is sad in the familiar ways stories of addiction and romantic futility often are. But Sachs over-blurs the line between plain and plaintive. It’s not necessarily craziness you crave, it’s inflection; it’s need, if not from the characters then from the filmmaking. (102 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Nobody Walks A tale of funky, upscale LA marriage and infidelity, Ry Russo-Young’s film has good performances (by John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Olivia Thirlby) and a coolly observational tone that blunts the dramatic urgency. Co-written by the director and Lena Dunham, this could have used some of the acid truth-telling of Dunham’s “Girls.” (83 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Victor and his dog Sparky in “Frankenweenie.”

Walt Disney Pictures

Victor and his dog Sparky in “Frankenweenie.”

The Other Dream Team The gold-medal 1992 US Olympic basketball team you know about. The Lithuanian squad, who took bronze, you don’t. This smart, lively, if somewhat hectic documentary shows how hoops became part of a small Baltic nation’s identity. If the final 20 minutes don’t leave you a bit wet-eyed, you don’t care about sports, geopolitics, or the Grateful Dead. In English and Lithuanian, with subtitles. (91 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

The Paperboy Come for the crime thriller. Stay for the sex — between and among Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, David Oyelowo, John Cusack, and Nicole Kidman. This is just the sort of movie certain people go to the movies hoping to see but would never say they go to the movies for. It’s trash. But it’s glorious trash. Directed by Lee Daniels (“Precious”), who adapted Pete Dexter’s novel with Dexter himself. (107 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Seven Psychopaths Playwright-turned-filmmaker Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”) tries to up his game with this manically inventive, extremely entertaining, very bloody crime caper/Hollywood meta-farce. It’s a case of more being less, but the great Christopher Walken has a worthy valentine of a role. With Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, an overbearing Sam Rockwell, and Tom Waits toting a bunny. (109 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Sinister A horror movie that aspires to be some kind of self-conscious amalgam of “In Cold Blood” and “The Shining.” It doesn’t happen even though Ethan Hawke is ready, willing, and able to take us there. He’s just stuck in a movie that’s pleased to have professionally painted over the movies that have come before it. And while the paint is welcome, it’s not enough. (110 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

½ Wake in Fright A lost drive-in classic of Australian cinema, this grimly brilliant (and newly restored) 1971 drama about an outback town sees drunken macho de-evolution as a Down Under way of life. It’s a toxic shrimp on the barbie. With Gary Bond, Donald Pleasence, and Jack Thompson; directed by Ted Kotcheff. (106 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

Beasts of the Southern Wild Benh Zeitlin’s astonishing first feature is a magical-realist fable that’s set in a small Louisiana community at the time of Hurricane Katrina but that plays like a primeval foundation myth. As the 6-year-old protagonist, Quvenzhané Wallis gives a performance that grows in majesty over the course of the film. (91 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Chicken With Plums Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s follow-up to their striking animated feature “Persepolis” (2007) is a bit of a letdown. Based on Satrapi’s graphic novel, it’s mostly live action. There are multiple imaginative flourishes, but overall the film’s surprisingly static. At heart it’s a fairly traditional story — a kind of fairy tale for adults — about thwarted love in mid-century Iran. In French, with subtitles. (85 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel In less than 90 minutes, this documentary walks us through sketches of the legendary fashion magazine editor’s private life and the formulation and decades-long execution of her philosophy in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. The energy here is a selling point. So is the reminder that clothes weren’t fashion to her. People were. (77 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

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)

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)

How to Survive a Plague The director David France and his crew have sculpted years of old broadcast news stories and home video into a narrative of an era that is impressionistic in its scope but coherent in its feeling. This movie is alive — hot, really — with the political seething at the federal government’s failure to help combat the spread of AIDS with effective medical treatments. (115 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

The Master Another ambitious, powerfully acted achievement from Paul Thomas Anderson. In 1950 or so, a simple drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in with the leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of a new spiritual movement and becomes its unwitting but eventually willing test subject. The movie is said to be loosely about Scientology, but it’s more generally concerned with the masks of performance and limits of faith in the absence of evidence. With Amy Adams. (137 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

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)

½ The Perks of Being a Wallflower Author Stephen Chbosky adapts and directs his young adult cult novel into a moving, if visually drab, portrait of unhappy teens finding sustenance in each other. It’s frank enough to shock the parents but also genuinely and uniquely kind to all its characters. With Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Emma Watson making a credible move beyond Hogwarts. (103 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Won’t Back Down This inspirational fable about the need for parents to take back failed schools is long on gumption and short on particulars — a made-for-TV message movie with a high-end cast that includes Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as a mom and teacher who fight bureaucracy and that mean old teachers’ union. (119 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

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reviews at www.boston.com/movies.
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