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Movies

Movie stars

Ben Affleck (left) and Bryan Cranston in “Argo.”

Warner Brothers Pictures

Ben Affleck (left) and Bryan Cranston 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 cambat 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)

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

2016: Obama’s America Well, fair’s fair. George W. Bush got Michael Moore and “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Now Barack Obama gets Dinesh D’Souza and “2016: Obama’s America.” Both films are wildly partisan attack documentaries made by wildly partisan and generally annoying polemicists (D’Souza is more personable, actually, than Moore). The difference is that Moore is a talented filmmaker. Based on D’Souza’s 2010 bestseller, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” (89 min., PG) (Mark Feeney)

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)

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)

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)

½ Hotel Transylvania In a 3-D animated creature feature, Adam Sandler voices Dracula as a fretful father sheltering his daughter (Selena Gomez) from humans. He builds his monster resort as an elaborate means to that end, but complications ensue when they’re visited by a backpacker (Andy Samberg). Some might say there isn’t enough that’s fresh, even if every generation of trick-or-treaters deserves its monster mash. Still, there’s likable energy throughout, and smart touches add up. (90 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

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)

½ Knuckleball! This documentary on the curious baseball pitch and the curious men who throw it hits the sweet spot. Directors Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg focus on Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the Mets, but the movie connects those players with the eccentric fraternity of knuckleballers who have preceded them and finds poetry in their motion. (93 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ Lawless In southern Virginia, three bootlegging brothers clash during Prohibition with a sadistic cop imported from Chicago. The movie, which is quite bloody, is very handsomely mounted, but studiedly so. Tom Hardy has serious throw weight as the chief brother. Shia LeBeouf, as the youngest, is kind of twerpy. Guy Pearce preens as the cop. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, as love interests, are sadly superfluous. (115 min., R) (Mark Feeney)

Liberal Arts Newly single, 35-year-old Jesse (Josh Radnor, who also wrote and directed) returns to his Midwestern college campus for the retirement party of a beloved professor (Richard Jenkins). Filled with nostalgia, Jesse begins a cautious flirtation with Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, intelligent and radiant), a sophomore theater major. It’s a bit talky, but the film is smarter, if more sentimental, than the typical college comedy about frat house hijinks and hooking up. (97 min., unrated) (Loren King)

Looper Rian Johnson’s audacious time travel brain-twister features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hired assassin killing victims from the future and Bruce Willis as the assassin’s older self. Overloaded with cinematic style, “Matrix”-wannabe cool, and action sequences that click into place like a Rubik’s Cube, the movie’s something to see yet ultimately less than the sum of its parts. With Emily Blunt. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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)

Oslo, August 31st A coolly observed yet boundlessly compassionate day in the life of a recovering drug addict (Anders Danielsen Lie), Joachim Trier’s drama breaks your heart many times over. The influence of the great French filmmaker Robert Bresson hovers over the proceedings like a benediction. In Norwegian, with subtitles. (95 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

ParaNorman The ghoulification of American family entertainment hits a dead end in this highly creative but depressingly jaded stop-motion thriller about a kid who sees dead people. For older kids only, provided they don’t mind dismembered zombies coming at them in 3-D. (And those are the good guys.) (93 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ The Perks of Being a WallflowerAuthor 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)

½ Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick stars in this college singing-group comedy in which the throwaway lines are so many and so expertly deployed that you basically spend the whole movie digging through the trash. But the scenes of crassness, broadness, and projectile vomit point to the exasperating possibility that the movies have learned the wrong lesson from “Bridesmaids.” With Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson. (88 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

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)

½ Trouble With the Curve A congenial but distressingly formulaic drama about an aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) and his last season on the road. Eastwood lets his longtime producer Robert Lorenz take a crack at directing, which is nice. So’s the movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s very good. With Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake. (111 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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