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Movies

Movie capsules: Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko in “To the Wonder.”

Mary Cybulski/Magnolia Pictures via AP

Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko in “To the Wonder.”

New releases

½ 42 Writer-director Brian Helgeland’s ambitious bio-pic about Jackie Robinson is well-acted, handsomely made, and as shallow as a kid’s True Heroes picture book. As Robinson, newcomer Chadwick Boseman hits the script’s slow floaters and Harrison Ford is an enjoyable cartoon as Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey. It’s slick Hollywood pageantry, crowd-pleasing but hollow. (128 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Company You Keep An improvement over director-star Robert Redford’s recent movies: A dramatic thriller about aging ’60s radicals that goes relatively easy on the moral lectures and gets back to storytelling. The pleasurably deep cast includes Shia LeBeouf (as a callow reporter), Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, and Richard Jenkins. (125 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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½ Disconnect Think of it as “Crash”.com — a multi-character drama warning audiences of the perils and alienations of the modern wired world. It’s provocative and solidly made, but director/co-writer Henry-Alex Rubin (“Murderball”) opts for melodrama over drama and lets the message overwhelm the characters. The large cast includes Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, and Alexander Skarsgard. (115 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Koch Ed Koch, who died in February, is an unlikely movie star. That’s OK, since he was an unlikely political star. But the people of New York elected as their mayor this bald, bullying, squawky man no fewer than three times; and in Neil Barsky’s documentary he has a born leading man’s command of the screen. The film’s a valentine, but no whitewash. (95 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

To the Wonder The first Terrence Malick movie that’s a thoroughgoing misfire — a meditation on love and lost paradise that starts with breathtaking assurance and slowly crumbles into self-parody. Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko play lovers who flit back and forth from Europe to America, from rapture to disenchantment, and from interest to tedium. With Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams. (112 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Trance Glittering nonsense. James McAvoy gets conked on the head during an auction-house robbery and wakes up with no memory of where he put the stolen painting, so the sadistic gang leader (Vincent Cassell) hires a professional hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson). Over-directed by Danny Boyle, it’s what you might get if a post-doctoral student put a heist movie in a Cuisinart. (101 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Upstream Color In his second feature Shane Carruth outdoes the mind-boggling, exquisitely constructed puzzles of his first film, “Primer,” in this cryptic thriller involving subcutaneous worms, decaying pig-carcasses, cult-like behavior and extensive quotations from Henry David Thoreau. The effect is exhilarating and seductive, as it evokes a mood in which solutions to its mysteries seem imminent, but remain elusive. (96 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

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 Weitz 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 (“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)

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)

Evil Dead The thinking behind remaking Sam Raimi’s cult horror fave is to see what all those funky, low-budget chills play like when they’re reworked with a sleek, contemporary look and tone. The problem is that new director Fede Alvarez’s take, while proficient, can drain that old, kooky distinctiveness. You’ve got to get through an overlong stretch of demonic possessions played straight for a finale that’s more freewheelingly, twistedly grisly. (91 min., R) (Tom Russo)

½ From Up on Poppy Hill The new animated drama from Japan’s Studio Ghibli is a lesser project, not surprising since the legendary Hayao Miyazaki only co-wrote the script while his son Goro directed. It’s a gentle fable about a young girl’s coming of age in 1962 Tokyo, perfectly fine but not a patch on “Spirited Away.” Sarah Bolger and Anton Yelchin lead the English-language voice cast. (91 min., PG) (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)

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)

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)

Identity Thief All the good will Melissa McCarthy earned from “Bridesmaids” is undone in an obnoxious comedy made worse by obnoxious sentimentality. She’s a credit-card-fraud artist, Jason Bateman is her uptight victim, and the two hit the road together. Unfunny, vulgar, predictable, it’s the generic equivalent of a Judd Apatow movie. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Jurassic Park It’s a testament to Steven Spielberg’s storytelling virtuosity that this 20th-anniversary reissue still feels so intense. The movie’s 3-D conversion can make moments like a raptor leaping at the ceiling feel processed, but overall it’s a nice enhancement. Still, the crazily veering mix of terror and family-friendly wonderment continues to make this one of Spielberg’s more curious works, as imperfectly spliced as those frog-laced strands of dino DNA. (127 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ The Last Reef 3D: Cities Beneath the Sea Another nature doc where exotic creatures squiggle and swim in front of your face, daring you to grasp at them. But this film wants to do more than impress with its underwater photography and 3-D effects. It’s a cautionary tale about the fragility of the reefs and the risks posed by development and rising temperatures. The visuals are great, but the message needs more urgency. (40 min., unrated) (Loren King)

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)

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)

The Place Beyond the Pines Director Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to 2010’s “Blue Valentine” is an ambitious triptych about men and sin and forgiveness, but it gradually caves in to over-plotting and pretensions. Ryan Gosling makes the first third into something very special and Bradley Cooper does what he can with the midsection. With Eva Mendes. (140 min., R) (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 Silver Linings Playbook Bradley Cooper finally gets a role that gives his oily charm some vulnerability. He plays a mental patient living in Philadelphia with his parents, hung up on his estranged wife and spending time with an equally unstable woman (Jennifer Lawrence). The movie whizzes and stings. Its director is David O. Russell, who’s become Hollywood’s most instinctive maker of ensemble dramatic comedies. With a never-haler Robert De Niro as Cooper’s gambler dad. (122 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

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. (Mark Feeney) (109 min., R)

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)

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

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