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Movies

Movie stars: Recent movie reviews

Forest Whitaker stars in the title role of Lee Daniels’s “The Butler.”

ANNE MARIE FOX

Forest Whitaker stars in the title role of Lee Daniels’s “The Butler.”

New releases

½ Ain’t Them Bodies Saints Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a Depression-era outlaw couple; Ben Foster is the sad-eyed deputy who loves Mara. Writer-director David Lowery has made a precise, often staggeringly beautiful emulation of the ’70s work of Robert Altman and Terence Malick, specifically the former’s “Thieves Like Us” (1974) and the latter’s “Days of Heaven” (1978). But the characters are too ordinary to care for deeply and the story doesn’t add up to much. (105 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Cutie and the Boxer
A marriage between two artists doesn’t always lead to domestic tranquility, as is demonstrated in Zachary Heinzerling’s impressionistic documentary about Ushio and Noriko Shinohara. Despite hard times, the Japanese-born couple has stayed together for 40 years, still pursuing their art and squabbling in their garret-like Brooklyn loft. This portrait of the artists is all the more inspiring because of its harsh honesty. (82 min., R) (Peter Keough)

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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 teenaged girl glimpses an underworld of supernatural good and evil that soon descends into the realm of self-parody. (120 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Spark: A Burning Man Story Located in the desert of Nevada, the annual Burning Man festival is a Disneyland for Occupy Movement believers. But this documentary only gives us a one-sided picture through the eyes of the bohemian San Francisco founders. Their growing pains are discussed at length, but what is missing is accounts from festival-goers. (90 min., unrated) (Steve Morse)

½ The World’s End The third and weakest in the “Shaun of the Dead”/“Hot Fuzz” series from director-writer Edgar Wright, writer-star Simon Pegg, and costar Nick Frost, this juggles an epic pub crawl, male middle-age crises, and an attack of alien cyborgs. It’s more frantic than funny, but it’s still funny enough — just. With Rosamund Pike. (109 min., R) (Ty Burr)

You’re Next In this taut, twisted, and gratifying exercise in the home invasion scenario, Adam Wingard plays with stereotypes and subverts them. A dysfunctional family gathers for an anniversary, and unknown assailants put them out of their misery. But all is not as it seems, and Wingard reverses expectations in what proves to be a perverse parable of family values. (94 min., R) (Peter Keough)

Previously released

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 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 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)

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 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)

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)

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 a satisfying twist on the male buddy film. (94 min., R) (Loren King)

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)


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

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