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MOVIE STARS

Movie capsules: Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Tina Fey plays a Princeton admissions officer in “Admission.”

David Lee

Tina Fey plays a Princeton admissions officer in “Admission.”

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)

The Call Halle Berry stars as a 911 operator trying to save kidnapped teen Abigail Breslin, 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 in to thriller clichés. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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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)

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 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 M. 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)

Ginger & Rosa The new movie by Sally Potter 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)

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)

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 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. Less is more might have improved the motion-capture creatures, but their initial reveal is fairly stunning, and the stratospheric beanstalk is a show-stealing effects element. (114 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ Lore In May of 1945, a 14-year-old girl (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)

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 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)

Reality A Neapolitan fishmonger (Aniello Arena) has a chance to appear on a reality show, and it’s the worst thing that could have happened to him. Director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”) delivers a playful, dark, increasingly sharp inquiry into the metaphysics of modern fame — how the dream of “being seen” can completely unhinge the average schmo. In Italian, with subtitles. (116 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ The Sapphires A formulaic but extra-likable Australian charmer about an Aborigine sister act singing soul music to US troops in 1968 Vietnam. Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) is the marquee name (sort of), but Deborah Mailman is the movie’s star and life force as oldest sister Gail. The plot elements are familiar, but the film feels the funk. (103 min., PG-13) (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) 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)

½ Starbuck This Canadian comedy/male weepie takes its title from the pseudonym its hero (Patrick Huard) used as a successful sperm donor two decades ago. How successful? He fathered 553 children, 142 of whom have now filed suit to learn dad’s identity. Like Huard’s character, the film is amiable but feckless. In French, with subtitles. (109 min., R) (Mark Feeney)

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)

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)

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