Short reviews of what’s in theaters

New releases

½ The Genius of Marian Of all the documentaries on Alzheimer’s disease, Banker White’s film about his mother, Pam, might be the most tragically ironic. Shortly after Pam started writing a book about her mother, Marian, an artist whose career was cut short by the disease, Pam herself was diagnosed with it. The book wasn’t finished, but this film honors both women with its poetic poignancy. (84 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Gimme Shelter Originally intended as a documentary about Kathy DiFiore’s program to offer refuge to pregnant teenagers who choose to keep their baby, Ronald Krauss’s didactic melodrama is marred by Vanessa Hudgens’s overblown performance and a plotline and character development determined more by ideology than psychology. A worthy story, it soon turns preachy and manipulative, raising more questions than it answers. (101 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

½ Ms. 45 Maverick filmmaker Abel Ferrara transformed this 1981 exploitation scenario into a subversive feminist statement and a cinematic tour de force. A meek seamstress in New York’s garment district (played by the tragic Zoë Lund) gets raped twice in the same day. She turns the tables on her second attacker, and armed with his gun, sets off on a spree of vigilante killings. (80 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Previously released


12 Years a Slave It isn’t the story of an American tragedy. It’s the story of the American tragedy — this country’s original sin. The true saga of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born black man kidnapped from New York state in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana, the movie’s to slavery what “Schindler’s List” was to the Holocaust: a mass-appeal reckoning. Directed by Steve McQueen (“Shame”). (133 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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American Hustle The title is perfect for this exuberant con job of a movie: a sloppy, miscast, hammed up, overlong, overloud story that still sends you out of the theater on a bouncy little cloud of rapture. Director David O. Russell and stars Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence address the 1980s Abscam scandal, sort of. (138 min., R) (Ty Burr)

August: Osage County A black comedy of prairie family dysfunction, stolidly adapted from Tracy Letts’s 2007 play. At its center, in one of her most flamboyant yet gimmicky performances, is Meryl Streep as cancerous, poisonous matriarch Viola Weston. A fine guilty pleasure rather than a great movie, with a cast that includes Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, and Margo Martindale. (121 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Captain Phillips An extraordinarily gripping movie based on events that took place on the container ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009. Director Paul Greengrass creates an aura of urgency so powerful that we temporarily forget what we know and hold our breaths for two-plus hours of tightening suspense. Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi star. In English and Somali, with subtitles. (134 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Her Joaquin Phoenix plays a nice, lonely guy who falls in love with his computer’s operating system, which speaks in the voice of Scarlett Johansson. What could have been a horror movie, a farce, or a disaster is a profoundly touching meditation on what it means to be human and where our machines may be taking us. Written and directed by Spike Jonze. (120 min., R) (Ty Burr)


½ Inside Llewyn Davis A transporting cinematic experience with a churl at its center. The Coen brothers re-create the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s with a mixture of poetry and sweet jaundice, and Oscar Isaac is excellent as the brilliant creep of the title. The music almost saves him, and it definitely saves the movie. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Invisible Woman Ralph Fiennes’s second film as director is nominally about Charles Dickens (Fiennes), but it’s really about Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), the young mistress Dickens hid from Victorian society until she began to vanish from her own life. A master class in acting and a quietly ravishing experience on a big screen. (111 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit The late Tom Clancy’s super-CIA-guy hero makes his fifth movie appearance — the first not based on a Clancy novel. This series reboot is an origins story, with Chris Pine as Jack just starting out. Kenneth Branagh, who directed, plays a Russian oligarch seeking to bring America to its proverbial knees. Keira Knightley is the future Mrs. Ryan, and Kevin Costner is Jack’s handler. (106 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

½ Lone Survivor Writer-director Peter Berg viscerally re-creates two days in June 2005, when Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and three fellow Navy SEALs (Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster) fought a small Taliban army in the mountains of Afghanistan. The movie’s in the tradition of soldiers’ stories that find hard, simple truths in notions of sacrifice and courage. The problem is that the wars we fight now aren’t as simple, and the best recent movies about them aren’t either. (121 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Cinema as civic statuary, a classic Great Man biopic weighed down by solemnity, duty, and an aversion to artistic risk. The movie is extremely well produced, it features two excellent lead performances — by Idris Elba, as Mandela, and Naomie Harris, as his fractious wife Winnie — and it is dull. (139 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)


½ Nebraska The latest from Alexander Payne) is a desolate, often powerfully moving comedy-drama about fathers, sons, life’s highways, and missed off-ramps. Bruce Dern plays an ornery old coot on a road trip to claim a sweepstakes prize and Will Forte is the grown son trying to get him there. (115 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ The Nut Job Animated park critters Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, and Brendan Fraser angle to get their paws on a nut shop’s stash. You think of the twisty ingenuity that heist movies are so great at showcasing, and then you think about the ways that animation could unfetter the scheming, and you hope for some fun. Disappointingly, this just spins its wheels like rodents in a Habitrail. (85 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ The Past The new film from Iran’s Asghar Farhadi isn’t on a level with his Oscar-winning “A Separation,” but it’s taut, quiet, democratic, and observant — a fine meal made with rare and subtle ingredients. Bérénice Bejo is the standout in a superb ensemble cast. In French, with subtitles. (130 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Philomena A tearjerker of rare honesty and craft, based on the story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), who in her 70s decided she wanted to find the illegitimate son the Catholic Church took from her and sold in 1950s Ireland. Steve Coogan plays the posh journalist who helps her and Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) directs, keeping sentimentality at bay at every turn. (96 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Ride Along Motor-mouthed Kevin Hart plays a security guard and combat-video-game obsessive with imminent plans to marry his live-in girlfriend, and big dreams of becoming a real policeman. Neither idea sits well with his prospective brother-in-law (Ice Cube), a truculent detective who offers him a dubious chance to prove his manhood by riding shotgun with him for a day. Hart’s yammering might not ignite every movie he does, but it gives this one a boost. (100 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ The Square What does a revolution feel like from the inside? Jehane Noujaim’s electrifying, often heartbreaking documentary takes us into Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the uprisings of the Arab Spring and the months of chaos and betrayal that followed. An impassioned work of documentary impressionism and a story that’s hardly over. In English and Arabic, with subtitles. (103 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ The Wolf of Wall Street One of the funniest yet most depressing movies of Martin Scorsese’s long career — a celebration and evisceration of male savagery, financial division. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a wily, loose-limbed comic performance as ’90s hustler Jordan Belfort. At three hours, the parade of creepy macho excess threatens to turn smug. (180 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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