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Movie Stars

Sam Riley (left) and Garrett Hedlund in “On the Road.”

Gregory Smith/IFC Films and Sundance Selects

Sam Riley (left) and Garrett Hedlund in “On the Road.”

New releases

½ Admission A blandly pleasant comedy about the scramble to get into college. Tina Fey dials down the sitcom wackiness to play a Princeton admissions officer wooed by crunchy high school director Paul Rudd. Director Paul Wietz juggles plotlines and tries to keep us from noticing he’s made a movie that’s primarily about disappointment. Based on a novel by Jean Hanff Korelitz. (107 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Croods Our notion of the modern Stone Age family gets tweaked in the latest bit of 3-D rock candy from DreamWorks Animation. It’s a prehistoric world that’s emotionally a lot like ours, with a cutely brutish cavegirl (Emma Stone) butting heads with her overprotective, monobrowed dad (Nicolas Cage). The movie entertainingly conveys what a struggle survival is at the dawn of man, but the finale misses its chance at something more resonant. (98 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

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Ginger & Rosa The new movie by Sally Potter (“Orlando”) is her most mainstream work to date, a solid coming-of-age memory play set in a 1962 London of Ban the Bomb marches and parental betrayals. It’s made special by Elle Fanning, who gives an achingly luminous, utterly natural performance in the lead. With Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, and Alice Englert. (90 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Olympus Has Fallen Gerard Butler does “Die Hard” as a Secret Service agent left to single-handedly rescue the president (Aaron Eckhart) from North Korean terrorists who’ve taken the White House. But this is no Bruce Willis smirkfest. We’re halfway through before director Antoine Fuqua starts giving Butler the occasional dark quip, and by that time it’s an insufficient weapon. Pop jingoism isn’t easy to stir once you’ve established an echoes-of-9/11 vibe that’s so deflating. (119 min., R) (Tom Russo)

On the Road A surprisingly effective adaptation of the Jack Kerouac classic, if no substitute for reading the book. Brazil’s Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) directs with a solid eye for period and landscape, and he has a great Dean Moriarty in Garrett Hedlund. With Sam Riley, Kirsten Dunst, and Kristen Stewart, the latter not bad at all. (124 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Silence Writer-director Baran bo Odar fails to tap into the soul of Nordic noir with his adaptation of Jan Costin Wagner’s novel. He substitutes style and a convoluted narrative for atmosphere and angst in a story about a girl’s disappearance that stirs memories of a similar event that occurred years before in the same place and on the same date. In German, with subtitles. (119 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

½ Spring Breakers Director Harmony Korine (“Gummo”) comes of age with this mesmerizing vision of teenage apocalypse. Former TV innocents Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Selena Gomez play college girls who rob a diner and head to St. Pete, where they hook up with a sleazy gangbanger (a surprisingly effective James Franco). The film’s an outrageous provocation, shocking and exhilarating and tender in equal measure. (94 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

The ABCs of Death For this wildly uneven project, 26 directors from 15 countries were assigned a letter of the alphabet to inspire a tale of death. Hence, “D is for Dogfight,” “F is for Fart,” and “W is for WTF!” Exploring death via miscarriage, obesity, torture, sex, and gallows humor, some are inventive and funny, others incomprehensible and disgusting. Few are for the faint of stomach. (129 min., unrated) (Ethan Gilsdorf)

Amour A simple yet devastatingly profound story of an elderly French couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) during the long, squalid months of the wife’s decline. Writer-director Michael Haneke (“Caché”) observes his subject with an unadorned style that takes on aspects of the holy. The movie avoids melodrama; instead, it’s just extraordinarily intimate. In French, with subtitles. (127 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Call Halle Berry stars as a 911 operator trying to save kidnapped teen Abigail Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), who’s stuck in a psycho’s trunk with a dying cellphone. Grueling, effective suspense, and the scenes in the call center are novel, but the movie gets increasingly stupid as it caves into thriller clichés. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Dead Man Down Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace are two urban loners whose parallel revenge plots intertwine. A bruised, loopy, violent crime thriller that has its melodramatic charms before the story gets stupid, it’s the first Hollywood film by Niels Arden Oplev (the Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”). Costarring Terrence Howard and, surreally, Isabelle Huppert. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey This overcoming-adversity documentary from director Ramona S. Diaz follows the story of Arnel Pineda, who stepped into the very large shoes of Steve Perry as lead singer of Journey. It’s an inspiring, if slightly by-the-numbers, rags-to-riches story. Who wouldn’t root for Pineda (other than maybe Perry)? (113 min., unrated) (Geoff Edgers)

Emperor Japan has surrendered. General Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) tasks a deputy, General Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox), to investigate whether Emperor Hirohito should be charged with war crimes. Doesn’t sound very promising, does it? Watching Jones be Jones — he sure isn’t MacArthur — is, as always, a kick. But, boy, even seen in flashbacks, courting a Japanese woman (Eriko Hatsune), what a hopeless stick Fox is. (104 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

Escape From Planet Earth This 3-D animated feature casts Rob Corddry as extraterrestrial tech nerd Gary Supernova, a safety-minded worrier who mans the mission control board for the spacefaring exploits of his hotshot brother, Buzz Light- um, Scorch (Brendan Fraser). When Scorch is captured on our world, Gary has to head out into the field to save him. Colorful as the aliens-among-us comedy is to look at, Corddry is handed a role that’s beige as can be. (89 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

The Gatekeepers In Dror Moreh’s stunning documentary — one of this year’s Oscar nominees in the category — a handful of grizzled old men talk openly about their experiences running Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. It plays a little like “Zero Dark Thirty” as directed by Errol Morris. In Hebrew, with subtitles. (95 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III The actor/walking disaster known as Charlie Sheen gives a perfectly credible performance as a graphic design rock star coming undone in LA. It’s the rest of Roman Coppola’s film that tries your patience. Sun-drenched, Art Deco, unambitious, it’s what you’d imagine a Hollywood scion would make. With Bill Murray. (86 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Habibi Palestinian students Layla (newcomer Maisa Abd Elhadi, who is terrific) and Qays (Kais Nashif of “Paradise Now”) are torn apart, Romeo and Juliet-style, in Susan Youssef’s accomplished but erratic debut feature. Shot in the occupied Palestinian Territories, the film has a gritty, low-budget realism as it depicts day-to-day life of young people seeking personal freedom under the threat of violence and age-old cultural and generational obstacles. (78 min., unrated) (Loren King)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Steve Carell plays a fatuous Las Vegas magician. It’s a lazy “Anchorman” rip that you watch in a happy state of expectation anyway, because the concept’s rich and just enough of it gets onto the screen, along with fine comic actors like Steve Buscemi, Alan Arkin, and James Gandolfini. Less so Jim Carrey, who’s over-indulged. (101 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Jack the Giant Slayer In director Bryan Singer’s clever 3-D version of the folk tale, Nicholas Hoult (“Warm Bodies”) is earnest, leather-hoodied Jack, who heads up the beanstalk with Ewan McGregor’s knight to rescue a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) imperiled by power-hungry Stanley Tucci — and giants, of course. Less is more might have improved the motion-capture creatures, but their initial reveal is fairly stunning stuff, and the stratospheric beanstalk is a show-stealing effects element. (114 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ John Dies at the End A loopy slacker horror farce that wants to play with your head — and time, and space, and paranoid conspiracy theories — so badly that it doesn’t care about making sense. Which doesn’t stop it from being a pretty good bad time, preferably when seen after midnight. Directed by Don Coscarelli from David Wong’s cult novel. (99 min., R) (Ty Burr)

La Sirga A young woman (Joghis Seudyn Arias) escapes the violence that kills her family and shows up at her estranged uncle’s inn at a remote lakeside village in the High Andes. The film’s slow pace might only appeal to the most fervent fans of art house or Latin American Cinema. But Sofia Oggioni’s naturalistic photography establishes an atmosphere of isolation and William Vega’s sparse direction casts a hypnotic, ominous spell. (89 min., unrated) (Loren King)

½ Les Misérables What’s great about the first half of Tom Hooper’s gigantic film of the musical is the balance it strikes between the misérable and the miz. The movie becomes a bowl of trail mix — you’re picking out the nuts you don’t like and hoping the next bite doesn’t contain any craisins. With Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who are wonderful, and Russell Crowe, who’s not and it breaks your heart (and hurts your ears). (157 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Like Someone in Love The latest small, perplexing masterpiece from the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (“Certified Copy”). Set in Tokyo, it follows a college student call girl (Rin Takanashi), her possessive fiance (Ryo Kase), and a retired professor (Tadashi Okuno), all chasing illusions of love. It’s a quiet, contemplative film that darkens in the memory. In Japanese, with subtitles. (109 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ Lore In May of 1945, a 14-year-old girl (newcomer Saskia Rosendahl) leads her younger siblings across a conquered Germany toward a tortured acceptance of her country’s and family’s guilt. The second film by the gifted Australian director Cate Shortland occupies a stark dramatic minefield between historical reality and psychosexual myth. Over-stylized, yes, but overpowering too. In German, with subtitles. (109 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ No A sly true-life drama about the 1988 vote that threw out Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, focusing on an ad-man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who sold democracy like it was Coca-Cola. The movie has a cool intelligence that ripples up the years to where we live. A 2013 best foreign language Oscar nominee. In Spanish, with subtitles. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Oz the Great and Powerful This unofficial prequel has 3-D, the latest computer effects, and Sam Raimi behind the camera. But, alas, a lightweight James Franco is in front of the camera as a feckless young magician whisked to Oz. There are glorious moments, but the film never finds its groove. With Rachel Weisz (great), Michelle Williams (good), and Mila Kunis (sorry, no). (130 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ Quartet From first-time director Dustin Hoffman, a sweet-tempered, rather fuddly drama about retired British opera singers, less slick than the vaguely similar “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and better for it. Maggie Smith gets to go glam as a famous soprano who has lost her gift; Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins provide support. A minor treat. (98 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Safe Haven Nicholas Sparks’s latest passably ambles along in generic-melodrama mode before finally insulting audience intelligence one time too many. Julianne Hough (“Rock of Ages”) plays a domestic-violence fugitive trying to start over in a sleepy coastal town, where she catches the eye of widowed dad Josh Duhamel. Some three-hankie stuff, but a backstory kisses dramatic adequacy goodbye, and the movie heaps on a final flourish that’s stunningly ludicrous. (115 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

Side Effects A sleekly clever murder mystery that plays as many games with the audience as it does with its characters. Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum play a married couple, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jude Law play psychiatrists, somebody ends up dead. In the end, though, it’s just a genre exercise and evidence that director Steven Soderbergh is getting bored. (106 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Snitch Dwayne Johnson plays a father who cooks up a plan to reduce his son’s imminent drug sentence by helping the feds make mitigating arrests. Nobody is going to confuse this with “Les Misérables,” but “Snitch” gets a decent amount of drama (and action, of course) out of the argument that there’s paying for a crime, and then there’s overpaying. With Susan Sarandon as the prosecutor on the case. (112 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

Stoker An uncredited psychosexual remake of Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt,” with Mia Wasikowska as a young woman whose charming, evil Uncle Charles (Matthew Goode) comes to visit. Korean cult director Park Chan-wook makes his Hollywood debut, and the movie’s stunningly shot and deeply creepy before the script Explains Everything at the end. With Nicole Kidman. (98 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Thursday Till Sunday Chilean filmmaker Dominga Sotomayor's assured feature debut takes place almost entirely within the confines of a car. It’s a road trip film from the back seat point of view of 10-year-old Lucia (Santi Ahumada), who observes her parents as they drive north from Santiago on vacation. The dialogue is spare and the pace slow, but the film is beautifully photographed by Bárbara Álvarez and beautifully acted by Ahumada. In Spanish, with subtitles. (94 min., unrated) (Loren King)

Upside Down Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst play young lovers who live in adjoining worlds. Both lovers and worlds are kept apart by politics and physics. Writer-director Juan Solanas's film combines elements of sci-fi, dystopian fantasy, love story, and political allegory. There’s even some tango and a sublimely funny urine joke (you read that right). The movie doesn’t quite mesh, but it’s often excitingly imaginative and visionary. (108 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

Warm Bodies A zombie date flick that has its “Twilight” and makes fun of it too, thanks to a cheeky screenplay and tart direction by Jonathan Levine (“50/50”). Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer play a zombie lad and a living girl who fall for each other after the apocalypse. It’s silly, often funny, and surprisingly sweet. (97 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ West of Memphis A clear-eyed and convincing overview of the “West Memphis Three” case that provides a larger picture that the “Paradise Lost” trilogy of documentaries sometimes missed. Director Amy Berg takes us from the 1993 murders of three young boys to the gradual but total dismantling of the case against three men who are widely believed to have been wrongly convicted of the crimes. (147 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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