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Movies

Movie Stars

Movie capsules: Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Brad Pitt (center) stars in “World War Z.”

Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures

Brad Pitt (center) stars in “World War Z.”

New releases

The Iran Job Kevin Sheppard, an African-American, is a classic fish out of water, as he plays point guard for an Iranian professional basketball team. Till Schauder’s lively, engaging documentary follows Sheppard during the 2008-09 season. As intriguing as the situation is — can you say “hoop dreams” in Farsi? — what makes the documentary is Sheppard’s exuberant personality. In English and Farsi, with subtitles. (91 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

½ Monsters University Better than “Cars 2” but not by enough, and further evidence that Pixar’s Golden Age may be in the past. It’s a prequel, the story of how Mike (voiced once more by Billy Crystal) met Sulley (John Goodman) at college. Small children will have a blast, but it’s still closer to average than any Pixar movie should be. (110 min., G) (Ty Burr)

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½ Sign Painters The title tells you exactly what this documentary’s about. What it doesn’t tell you is that it’s fresh and articulate, passionate and unexpected. Thirty or so practitioners discuss their craft, and we get to see their wares. One of them, Phil Vandervaart, says of the profession, “It’s meant to convey information and be attractive.” That describes the movie, too. (80 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

World War Z The surprise of this absorbing, frightening apocalyptic drama is that what sounds ridiculous on paper — Brad Pitt as a globe-trotting UN employee fighting legions of the undead — turns out be a gripper on the screen. It’s the rare zombie flick that’s mostly about the frail pleasures of being alive. (117 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

45 Minutes From Broadway The irrepressible Henry Jaglom returns with this play within a movie that is supposed to be a celebration of the art of acting but is in fact an exercise in overacting. The bogus Chekhovian scenario involves a family of histrionic thespians thrown into even more chaos by the return home of an estranged daughter and her “normal” fiancé. (106 min., R) (Peter Keough)

Dirty Wars Ostensibly an expose of the activities of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan and elsewhere, this documentary feels a lot more like a valentine. The recipient is investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, who narrates and co-wrote the film. The camera gazes at him writing notes, inserting push pins, putting Post-its on photographs, taping together printouts. He could be auditioning for a Staples ad. (86 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

The Kings of Summer What if Henry Thoreau moved to Walden just to get away from his parents? That’s the conceit (more or less) behind this stylish, funny teenage coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old kid (Nick Robinson) who builds his own house in the woods of suburbia. With Nick Offerman and Megan Mulally, both in fine farcical fettle. (93 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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½ Man of Steel Director Zack Snyder (”300”) has made a superhero blockbuster that carries the weight of its fraught times, but where’s the pop joy? As Superman, Henry Cavill is very good without quite convincing us he’s a star. With Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, and crazy-eyed Michael Shannon as General Zod. (143 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Pandora’s Promise Nuclear power is the most practical way to generate large amounts of electricity. Does that also make it the most environmentally friendly? Such well-known activists as Stewart Brand, Mark Lynas, and Michael Shellenberger have come to that grudging conclusion. Writer-director Robert Stone’s documentary is intelligent, if rather gratuitously slick. It lets them make their argument, and persuasively so. (87 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

Post Tenebras Lux Despite or because of the film’s extreme scenes of sex and violence, Mexican director Carlos Reygadas has created another genuinely religious work with this chronologically cockeyed, nightmarish, and transgressive meditation on the lives of an upper-class family and their lumpen counterparts. Set at a country estate, it combines stunning beauty and wrenching ugliness to achieve a kind of transcendence. In Spanish, French, and English, with subtitles. (115 minutes, unrated) (Peter Keough)

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

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