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Movie Stars

Movie capsules: Short reviews of what’s in theaters

New releases

½ The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones In an attempt to become the next big teenage fantasy franchise (think “Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games”), this adaptation of the first in Cassandra Clare’s series of books steals from all of them. A teenage girl glimpses an underworld of supernatural good and evil that soon descends into the realm of self-parody. (120 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Previously released

2 Guns Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are relaxed and very funny as a pair of drug dealers who, unbeknownst to each other, are both undercover cops. The film itself is busy, bullet-riddled, and more than a little mean, director Baltasar Kormákur piling on the quadruple-crosses and macho smack-downs with style but not enough sense. With Bill Paxton and Paula Patton. (109 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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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)

½ The Attack A distinguished Palestinian-Israeli physician’s attempt to comprehend a suicide bombing becomes more urgent when the terrorist turns out to be his wife, a tragedy that forces him to reconsider his shaky status in his adopted homeland. Though at times contrived and implausible, Ziad Doueiri’s treatment of this provocative premise confronts the mysteries of motivation and the dilemmas of divided loyalty.
In Arabic and Hebrew, with
subtitles. (102 min., R) (Peter Keough)

½ Blackfish It sounds like a summer blockbuster adapted from the pages of a Peter Benchley novel: A crazed serial killer whale is stalking theme park performers, trainers, and even one hapless after-hours visitor. But “Blackfish” is no trumped up horror story fueled by Hollywood brand names and special effects. In this riveting documentary directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, all of the creatures are real, and all seem entitled to the serious chip on their shoulders. SeaWorld’s infamous bull orca, Tilikum, stars as
himself. (83 min., PG-13)
(Janice Page)

Blue Jasmine A good Woody Allen movie with a very great Cate Blanchett performance at its center. She plays a New Yorker whose world of privilege falls apart, forcing her to move in with her blue-collar sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. With Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, and — most unexpectedly — Andrew Dice Clay (98 min., PG-13)
(Ty Burr)

½ The Butler The story of an African-American White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who was a fly on the wall of the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and more. The cast is stacked with stars, but director Lee Daniels wants us to look hard at a man who thought the only way forward was to be invisible. (126 min., PG-13)
(Ty Burr)

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)

½ Elysium 2154 AD: Scowly Matt Damon plays a working-class hero fighting his way from the poisoned Earth to the space-station Elysium, where the 1 percent live. Writer-director Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”) delivers an expertly-made slice of future shock that breaks no new ground whatsoever. With Jodie Foster in arguably the worst performance of her career. (109 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Fruitvale Station An American tragedy: The final day on earth of Oscar Grant (a terrific Michael B. Jordan), shot in the back in 2009 by a San Francisco transit officer. Writer-director Ryan Coogler focuses on the smaller struggles, satisfactions, and injustices of a young man’s life. One of the most necessary films of the year. With Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz. (85 min., R)
(Ty Burr)

½ Great White Shark This documentary arrives at the New England Aquarium just in time for beach-going, shark-fearing season. Following teams of researchers around the globe, this 3-D IMAX nature short attempts to balance consciousness-raising with spectacle. We learn plenty about the great white’s ways and moves. But the amped-up danger, overdramatic soundtrack, and exploitative great white eye-candy footage exploit the very fears the movie is trying to dispel. (40 min., unrated) (Ethan Gilsdorf)

½ I Give It a Year In his directorial debut “Borat” screenwriter Dan Mazer attempts to inject gross-out comedy into the more genteel romantic comedy genre, with mixed results. Some of the crude jokes coming mostly from minor characters get laughs, and the four-way romantic entanglements, featuring a standout performance by Anna Faris, add charm, but the drastic tonal shifts between the two styles undermine both. (97 min., R) (Peter Keough)

In a World . . . Lake Bell proves yet again that women are as funny, if not more so, than their uptight male counterparts. She directs and writes this hilarious comedy, and also stars as a voice coach who hopes to break into the macho bastion of movie trailer voiceovers, despite her biggest obstacle, her father, a voiceover legend. The result is narratively bumpy, but exhilarating and hilarious. (93 min., R) (Peter
Keough)

Jobs The first two biopics of the late founder of Apple (another written by Aaron Sorkin is in development) features a compelling performance by Ashton Kutcher in the title role but otherwise reduces the life to a series of inspirations, tirades, and motivational speeches set in corporate boardrooms. It seems like an extended Apple ad, with a few gossipy asides, but less entertaining. (127 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Kick-Ass 2 A mean-spirited, ultra-violent action-comedy sequel with the emotional maturity of an arrested 12-year-old and the ethical compass of a turnip. With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Jim Carrey. (103 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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)

Paranoia A plug-and-play Hollywood thriller, the kind where a handsome young lead (Liam Hemsworth) and aging stars in juicy character roles (Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman) chase after a high-tech MacGuffin. As processed cheese goes, the movie’s edible and forgettable; not surprisingly, the old pros offer the most reliable entertainment value. With Amber Heard and Richard Dreyfuss. (115 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters In this second installment of the mythology-rooted YA series, Percy (Logan Lerman) and his pals set out for the Bermuda Triangle to find the Golden Fleece. But oh, all the gods-darned obstacles complicating their quest, including self-doubt, a cryptic prophecy, and Percy’s tagalong, Cyclops half-brother. Like the first movie, there’s some unabashed “Harry Potter” cribbing and thin emotion, but when the fantasy spectacle clicks, you’ll feel forgiving. (106 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ Planes The hero of this amiable animated feature from Disney is Dusty, a cropdusting plane who wants to win the Wings Around the Globe air race. After a slow start, the movie picks up air speed. Featuring the voices of Dane Cook (as Dusty), Stacy Keach, Teri Hatcher, and Carlos Alazraqui, who as a Mexican plane in the race steals the show. (92 min., PG) (Mark Feeney)

Prince Avalanche This lyrical little oddity returns filmmaker David Gordon Green to form. A remake of the 2011 Icelandic film “Either Way,” it transfers the action to the barren Texas wilderness, destroyed by wildfires in 1988. Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) are spending the summer painting bright yellow traffic lines on empty roads. Not much happens besides arguing and joking in this “Waiting for Godot”-like character study, but the performances and ghostly, melancholic atmosphere make it satisfying twist on the male buddy film. (94 min., R) (Loren King)

½ Rising From Ashes Years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, a disgraced American cycling champion helps put together an Olympics-worthy Rwandan national cycling team. Though the topic is inspiring, documentarian T.C. Johnstone’s uneven treatment too often replaces genuine insight and emotion with platitudes and sentimentality. (80 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

½ The Spectacular Now
A clear-eyed, disarmingly tender teen romance that bears comparison with the best of its genre, both old (“Say Anything”) and new (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”). Miles Teller plays a beloved class cut-up with a drinking problem; Shailene Woodley is the quiet nobody he unexpectedly falls for. (95 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Still Mine Michael McGowan makes the personal political in this true story about an octogenarian who tries to build a new house for his dementia-afflicted spouse despite officious government interference. The director’s argument against bureaucratic myopia
resonates, but at the expense of a compelling depiction of a tragic disease and a touching love story beautifully acted by James Cromwell and Geneviève Bujold. (103 min., PG-13) (Peter
Keough)

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)

We’re the Millers Jason
Sudeikis plays a pot dealer who hires a fake family to get his weed across the border: Stripper “wife” (Jennifer Aniston), geeky “son” (Will Poulter), teen runaway “daughter” (Emma
Roberts). The movie’s as edge-free as its casting. Some laughs, one or two flashes of inspiration, and enough sentimentality to ensure that no one gets hurt. (109 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Wolverine Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) dispatch Wolverine to Japan to grapple with a sinister criminal element and his own virtual immortality. The loose adaptation of an essential 1980s comics story line is an effective way of dramatizing and accentuating the hero’s dual nature as a berserker given to timely displays of honor and loyalty. The final act is muddled, but Jackman spends enough time compellingly playing stranger in a strange land that you’ll put up with it. A fight sequence aboard a bullet train is a stunner. (126 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

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

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