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Movie Stars

Movie capsules

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in “The Conjuring.”

Michael Tackett/Warner Bros.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in “The Conjuring.”

New releases

½ The Conjuring A trim, effective haunted-house spookshow that’s both a throwback to ’70s real estate shriekers like “The Amityville Horror” and a big-studio response to the “Paranormal Activity” found-footage genre. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play married paranormal investigators, and Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston are a couple whose dream home has a bad case of the Beelzebubs. (112 min., R) (Ty Burr)

RED 2 Retired assassins Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren get together (again), this time to sort out a decades-old nuke-smuggling plot. But you know how it is with reunions — after the initial charge, it all inevitably turns a little less cool. So it goes with this sequel, which offers some snappy interplay but mostly feels like a cast working to manufacture what came naturally the first time. (116 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

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½ Turbo Ryan Reynolds voices a garden-trolling snail who dreams of Indianapolis 500 glory. That’s an order only slightly taller than trying to put a fresh spin on animated racing and micro-scale action after “Cars” and a host of adventure-in-the-grass ’toons. But “Turbo” makes an entertaining go of it by borrowing liberally from the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and sticking a slime trail onto “Rocky.” (96 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

Previously released

20 Feet From Stardom Possibly the happiest time you’ll have at the movies this year. Morgan Neville’s lovely documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” celebrates the backup singers, those women whose voices are all over classic rock and ’60s pop but whose names never made it to the liner notes. The vocal performances alone can make you weep with joy. (90 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Before Midnight The third installment in director Richard Linklater’s saga of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is richer, riskier, and more bleakly perceptive about what it takes for love to endure (or not) over the long haul. Like Michael Apted’s “Up” documentaries, this series offers a touching and humbling time-lapse study of human nature. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ The Bling Ring Based on a Vanity Fair article about a group of Los Angeles teens who robbed celebrity homes for clothes and thrills, Sofia Coppola’s film bears some resemblance to the recent “Spring Breakers” but without the go-for-broke craziness. It’s gorgeous, distanced, and monotonous, but Emma Watson is very good as the most soulless of the crew. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Despicable Me 2 The animators might have done well to call their movie something else, given the lack of despicability Steve Carell’s reformed baddie displays. The scope of the ’toon espionage-adventure goings-on is surprisingly limited, mostly confining Gru and his secret agent soulmate (Kristen Wiig) to a mall, of all places. But the filmmakers so clearly love working on these characters — Gru’s yellow, mutant-elf Minions in particular — their creative joy is infectious. The sequel might not be all that warped, but it’s plenty funny nevertheless. (98 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story This rollicking documentary about a giant of children’s literature employs animated versions of Ungerer’s work to relate his traumatic background in wartorn Strasbourg and to illustrate his conviction that kids can handle the truth at least as well as many adults. The latter couldn’t handle his forays into politics and erotica, and drove him into self-exile, nearly ending his career. (98 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Fast & Furious 6 In another all-hands-on-deck installment, retired racer-robbers Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and crew get a call for help from frenemy Dwayne Johnson, who’s tangling with new bad guy Luke Evans. There’s a significant incentive: Diesel’s lovergirl, fourth-episode casualty Michelle Rodriguez, is mysteriously back among the living and hanging with Evans. The cast shows an easy chemistry and the star-crossed love story also works, in its steroidally melodramatic way. (130 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ Grown Ups 2 Fans of the original will probably enjoy this sequel in which Adam Sandler plays a Hollywood agent who moves back to his hometown; everyone else will shake their heads in disbelief. Don’t bother to keep track of jokes involving bodily fluids, flatulence, or blows to the crotch, and as for the touches of sentimental sludge, they won’t make you feel good, either. (101 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

The Heat If you’re going to make a dopey, foul-mouthed, predictable lady-buddy-cop movie, you might as well make it funny. And until it overstays its welcome in the final half hour, “The Heat” is shamefully funny. Prissy Sandra Bullock and slobby Melissa McCarthy have genuine chemistry, and director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) makes nice use of Boston locations and action-comedy clichés. (117 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ A Hijacking A coolly assured nail-biter from Denmark that takes a story familiar from the news — Somali pirates storming commercial vessels and holding their crews for ransom — and turns it into high-stakes human drama. The second feature from writer-director Tobias Lindholm showcases his gift for tightly focused stories told without an ounce of fat. In English, Danish, and Somali, with subtitles. (116 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ I’m So Excited! Pedro Almodovar’s latest plays like “Airplane!” staged by a maniacal gay cabaret troupe. No, it’s not one of the master’s more enduring works, but if you’re in the mood for a giddy, oversexed trifle, this may be your bag of slightly stale peanuts. With Javier Cámara and Cecilia Roth. In Spanish, with subtitles. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain Despite an overlong, awkward prologue that makes him seem more insecure than self-deprecating, the hyperactive fireplug Kevin Hart demonstrates some moments of comic genius in this documentary of his sold-out 2012 Madison Square Garden stand-up show. At other times, though, you wish he’d just take a deep breath and not try to explain so much. (75 min., R) (Peter Keough)

½ The Lone Ranger Ugh. Gore Verbinski’s bloated, overlong, boring western comedy casts Armie Hammer as a bumbling tenderfoot of a Lone Ranger. As Tonto, Johnny Depp shoots off whimsical one-liners in Injun-speak; He’s Jack Sparrow on downers in red-face. The movie features the usual bigger-than-big action “ride” scenes, but save your money for Six Flags. (149 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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 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)

½ Much Ado About Nothing Just about the sloppiest Shakespeare ever put on the screen, Joss Whedon’s black-and-white house party may also be the most exhilarating — a profound, crowd-pleasing trifle that reminds you how close Shakespeare’s comedies verge on darkness before pirouetting back into the light. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are wonderful as sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick. (107 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Now You See Me Take four master illusionists. Have them pull off some spectacular heists. Even better, have them incorporate the heists in their act. Throw in an appealing cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent). Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the resulting film is noisy, empty, and slickly ridiculous. (116 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

½ Pacific Rim Hands down, the blockbuster event of the summer — a titanic sci-fi action fantasy that has been invested, against all expectations, with a heart, a brain, and something approximating a soul. Guillermo del Toro’s robots-vs.-monsters slugfest wants to be the biggest “Godzilla” movie ever and a rousing tale of human solidarity and a straight-up summer hoot. It achieves all three with spellbinding confidence. (131 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Unfinished Song This might have been another trite tale of codgers acting cute if not for the performances of two great actors. Vanessa Redgrave brings vivacity and depth to the role of a cancer victim who wants to sing in the choir; Terence Stamp is cranky and majestic as her naysaying mate. When things get manipulative and formulaic, those two elevate the sentiment to genuine emotion. (96 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

½ White House Down Not known for subtlety or sense, Roland Emmerich outdoes himself in this hilariously overheated action thriller about an assault on the White House by terrorists with an apocalyptic agenda. Jamie Foxx, as the president, and Channing Tatum, as the unlikely hero who protects him, are good sports, but Emmerich might be the only one who isn’t laughing at this presumably unintentional comedy. (129 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

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 to 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)

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