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Movie Stars

Recent movie reviews

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley play a record producer and songwriter, respectively, in “Begin Again.”

Andrew Schwartz/The Weinstein Company via AP

Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley play a record producer and songwriter, respectively, in “Begin Again.”

New releases

½ Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case The world’s most famous artist, Ai Weiwei, may also be the most persecuted. Andreas Johnsen picks up his story after the events of Alison Klayman’s 2012 documentary, in which Ai’s online campaign against Chinese government oppression earned him 81 days in solitary. At first he seems broken, but his art and defiance revive him. (Peter Keough) (89 min., unrated)

Begin Again A struggling songwriter (Keira Knightley) joins a burned-out producer (Mark Ruffalo) to record an album on the streets and rooftops of New York. What felt authentic and fresh in John Carney’s 2006 indie hit “Once” has curdled into calculation in his follow-up. Pleasantly predictable if you’re in the mood; unbearable if not. (104 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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½ Deliver Us From Evil An unrecognizable adaptation of real-life cop/demonologist Ralph Sarchie’s memoir of his work as an exorcist, this latest creep show from Scott Derrickson perfunctorily resolves the tough questions about good and evil and then follows the formula such films have followed since “The Exorcist.” Derrickson has a knack for atmosphere and suspense, however, and fans of cheap thrills will have fun. (117 min., R) (Peter Keough)

Earth to Echo This family sci-fi adventure feels designed to, yes, echo “E.T.” As it turns out, the movie is a wonderful surprise. Echo himself, a generically precious alien, is the least of it. The funny, moving, authentic bond among the kids in the story is the unadvertised draw. And the found-footage aesthetic actually cooler than the perkily vanilla ad spots hint. (89 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

Life Itself Steve James (”Hoop Dreams”) has fashioned a tremendously moving documentary from the life and career of film critic Roger Ebert. It’s a great story, from Ebert’s Chicago newspaper beginnings to his TV partnership with Gene Siskel to the health issues that seemed only to purify him in later years. With Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, and Ebert’s heroic wife, Chaz. (121 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Snowpiercer With this ferocious science fiction saga about a train carrying the remnants of humanity across a new Ice Age, Korea’s Bong Joon-ho ascends to the master level of commercial filmmaking. It’s an allegory of the have-nots bum-rushing the front cars to get at the haves, envisioned with spectacular detail and not for the faint of heart. Chris Evans stars. (126 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Tammy The new Melissa McCarthy comedy is something unusual: a congenially terrible movie. A road film that pairs the star’s small-town screw-up with her whiskey-soaked grandma (Susan Sarandon), it’s a scattershot mess. But it’s also a female-centric slapstick comedy set in the American underclass, and everyone here seems to appreciate the difference. With Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, and Gary Cole. (97 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Third Person The latest multi-character pile-up from “Crash” writer-director Paul Haggis is a watchably swank melodrama before mind games, over-length, and general pomposity bring it down. A glamorous cast broods in Rome, Paris, and New York, but only Olivia Wilde manages to make her character credible (for a while, anyway). With Liam Neeson, Adrien Brody, and Mila Kunis. (137 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia A portrait of a lion in winter: novelist, essayist, public intellectual Gore Vidal in the months before his death. The documentary wants to be a career overview and final platform for his political scorn; it’s better at the latter only because listening to him was always better than hearing about him. (83 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Grand Seduction It’s a familiar story: Local yokels show unexpected shrewdness by conning a city slicker. In this Newfoundland-set comedy a mayor fools a young doctor into taking up residence in his down-and-out fishing village. Cute and toothless, it offers some inspired moments from misused indie talent Don McKellar. (112 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz An informative, moving documentary intent on eulogizing Internet activist Swartz, who hung himself in 2013 as the US government prepared to punish him with possible prison time for allegedly downloading public documents. Director Brian Knappenberger is hardly non-partisan and some nuances are lost, but his film is a worthy memorial. (104 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

½ Ivory Tower An earnest, agenda-heavy documentary that tries to cover every aspect of the crisis in American higher education and nearly drowns in a sea of topics and talking heads. Worth seeing for the conversations it deserves to start but it’s an unfocused survey course where a sharp, probing seminar is needed. Directed by Andrew Rossi. (90 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Jersey Boys To appreciate this big-screen jukebox musical about the 1960s hitmakers The Four Seasons, you need to bring nostalgia, sentimentality, and a taste for dentist-drill close harmonies. Otherwise it’s a generic Italian-American theme park ride, drably directed by possibly the worst man for the job, Clint Eastwood. With John Lloyd Young re-creating his Broadway role as Frankie Valli. (134 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Othello If not Orson Welles’s best film, then his strangest and most perfectly realized. Welles portrays the general who loves not wisely but too well in this cubist pastiche, and each scene is a visual poem. In the end, Othello’s nemesis is not Iago but the roles and society that confine them both. (90 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

½ The Signal William Eubank’s feature debut shows intelligence, imagination, and style as well as a debt to old TV shows like “The Twilight Zone” — to which it ultimately suffers by comparison. Three college kids track down a hacker and find instead a Hazmat-suited Laurence Fishburne and lots of loose ends and plot tangles. (97 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Transformers: Age of Extinction The longest, loudest, and most ludicrous entry in the “Transformers” franchise, this fourth installment features a would-be inventor and junk collector (Mark Wahlberg) who buys a beat-up tractor trailer that turns out to be Optimus Prime. But a fanatical CIA director has deemed the Autobots terrorists, and the Decepticons return, threatening world destruction and more sequels. (165 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago Lydia B. Smith takes on a premise that Chaucer would have approved of as she follows the stories of six pilgrims on the titular 1,200-year-old, 500-mile trek across Spain. Though some subjects spark interest, by the end they have all been homogenized into acolytes of a New Age brand of Christianity. In English, Spanish, and French, with subtitles. (84 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger Joe Berlinger covers familiar ground in this account of the wicked ways of Whitey Bulger, his flight from justice, his Mephistophelian pact with the FBI, and his capture and trial. Berlinger also speculates on government cover-ups, but the film succeeds mostly as a vindication of Bulger’s victims and their survivors. (107 min., R) (Peter Keough)

For movie coverage, go to www.bostonglobe.com/movies.

For movie coverage, go to www.bostonglobe.com/movies.
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