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Movies

Movie Stars

Rachel Mwanza stars as a child soldier in “War Witch.”

Item 7 via AP

Rachel Mwanza stars as a child soldier in “War Witch.”

New releases

½ G.I. Joe: Retaliation Falsely accused Dwayne Johnson and his fellow Joes have to clear their names and save the world from nefarious Cobra terrorists. This one’s pedigree doesn’t make us expect “Zero Dark Thirty-one,” but at least we can count on some 3-D fireworks. Or not, as director Jon Chu (“Step Up 3D”) makes dull work of all the pop combat. One of the few sparks, ironically, is the fun being had by a slumming Jonathan Pryce as the president’s evil-doppelganger replacement. (110 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ The Host Stephenie Meyer’s follow-up novel to her “Twilight” saga is a sci-fi romance with many of the same concerns; Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”) plays a human girl whose mind is taken over by an alien (a nice alien), then they both fall in love with different cute guys. Andrew Niccol directs, surprisingly ably. Max Irons and William Hurt costar. (121 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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½ War Witch An overwhelmingly grim yet clear-eyed and moving tale of a child soldier (Rachel Mwanza) in sub-Saharan Africa. Kim Nguyen’s movie seeks out glimmers of hope in individual resilience and in the connections that bind us together. An Oscar nominee for best foreign language film. In French and Lingala, with subtitles. (90 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

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)

Dead Man Down Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace are 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)

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)

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)

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 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 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 best foreign language Oscar nominee. In Spanish, with subtitles. (118 min., R) (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)

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 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)

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)

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)

An archive of reviews is at www.boston.com/movies.
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