Movie stars: capsule reviews

Halle Berry and Keith David in “Cloud Atlas.”
Reiner Bajo
Halle Berry and Keith David in “Cloud Atlas.”

New release

½ High Ground A documentary about 11 veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars trying to heal their scars, visible and invisible, by scaling the 20,000-foot peak of Mt. Lobuche in the Himalayas. A less than inspiring film about extremely inspiring individuals, it’s worth seeing for what it shows rather than how it shows it. (91 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

The Big Picture A brooding, opaque French suspense-drama about a Paris lawyer (Romain Duris) who takes the identity of a dead man to get out of his stultifying life. As in the Ripley novels and Antonioni’s “The Passenger,” things get complicated. Based on the 1997 novel by Douglas Kennedy. In French, with subtitles. (114 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Chasing Mavericks A fond tribute to the perseverance of the actual surfer Jay Moriarty, who, at 16, scaled a 50-foot-wave off the coast of Santa Cruz, Calif. In order to arrive at the great surfing you have to put up with a family movie of aggravating blandness. You have to really believe in messianic innocence and by-the-numbers screenwriting. Directed, improbably, by Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson. (109 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)


½ Cloud Atlas A dazzling cinematic folly from writer-directors Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer that tries to explain human interconnectedness through six narrative strands spread over centuries. It’s profound on the surface — and absurdly watchable — but banal beneath. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and others play multiple characters in sometimes convincing make-up. (172 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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½ Finding Nemo First released in 2003, now out in 3-D. It’s not quite top-drawer Pixar, but still leagues ahead of other family fare. On Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, an overanxious single-dad clownfish (voiced by Albert Brooks) loses his son (Alexander Gould) to a dentist-office fish tank and must travel 1,500 miles to bring him home. The supporting cast constitutes an embarrassment of riches, and many of the sequences have a weirdly mesmerizing underwater beauty. (100 min., G) (Ty Burr)

Frankenweenie Tim Burton’s stop-motion tale of a boy named Victor Frankenstein and his beloved undead dog is simple yet immensely pleasurable — elegant, very funny, and haunted gently by the ghosts of monster movies past. Charlie Tahan, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Martin Short, and Winona Ryder provide voices. In black and white and 3-D. (87 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ Fun Size ’Tween sitcom princess Victoria Justice is a dorky high schooler who gets a Halloween party invite from the class hunk, only to learn that she’s got to take her little brother trick-or-treating. When they get separated, her night really gets a shakeup. Justice and her gaggle are likable, but oh, the inconsistent tone. Sometimes it’s kiddie-cute, sometimes it’s Nickelodeonized “American Pie.” (90 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

½ Hotel Transylvania In a 3-D animated creature feature, Adam Sandler voices Dracula as a fretful father sheltering his daughter (Selena Gomez) from humans. He builds his monster resort as an elaborate means to that end, but complications ensue when they’re visited by a backpacker (Andy Samberg). Some might say there isn’t enough that is fresh, even if every generation of trick-or-treaters deserves its monster mash. Still, there’s likable energy throughout, and smart touches add up. (90 min., PG) (Tom Russo)


Looper Rian Johnson’s audacious time travel brain-twister features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hired assassin killing victims from the future and Bruce Willis as the assassin’s older self. Overloaded with cinematic style, “Matrix”-wannabe cool, and action sequences that click into place like a Rubik’s Cube, the movie’s something to see yet ultimately less than the sum of its parts. With Emily Blunt. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Master Another ambitious, powerfully acted achievement from Paul Thomas Anderson. In 1950 or so, a simple drifter (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in with the leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of a new spiritual movement and becomes its unwitting but eventually willing test subject. The movie is said to be loosely about Scientology, but it’s more generally concerned with the masks of performance and limits of faith in the absence of evidence. With Amy Adams. (137 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

The Other Son It’s almost too obvious and too inevitable to be real. A nice French-reared, Jewish family in Tel Aviv and a less-well-off Arab quintet discover that their sons were delivered to the wrong clan. Making this drama must have been like discovering the website URL you swore was taken is actually free. The movie, written and directed by Lorraine Lévy, is shameless and simple yet solemnly optimistic at the same time. In French, Arabic, and Hebrew, with subtitles. (108 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Paranormal Activity 4 It takes almost no effort or ingenuity to keep this franchise going. Same conceit, new home. These are the movies of our times: housing angst, recording devices everywhere, quiet suburban disorder. This time a little weirdo spends time with the family across the street and digital cameras record what happens. The air is suspenseful calm. The ending is virtually plagiarized. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Oana Marian/Sony Pictures Classics

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in “Smashed.”

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in “Smashed.”

½ The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author Stephen Chbosky adapts and directs his young adult cult novel into a moving, if visually drab, portrait of unhappy teens finding sustenance in each other. It’s frank enough to shock the parents but also genuinely and uniquely kind to all its characters. With Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Emma Watson making a credible move beyond Hogwarts. (103 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)


½ Pitch Perfect Anna Kendrick stars in this college singing-group comedy in which the throwaway lines are so many and so expertly deployed that you basically spend the whole movie digging through the trash. But the scenes of crassness, broadness, and projectile vomit point to the possibility that the movies have learned the wrong lesson from “Bridesmaids.” (88 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ The Sessions It sounds like a bad joke: A man in an iron lung hires a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity. But the achievement of this simple, intensely moving drama (based on a true story) is the clarity with which it portrays a good soul in an inert body. John Hawkes and Helen Hunt give rich, unshowy performances as the leads. (95 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Silent Hill: Revelation 3D Like the video games in the Silent Hill franchise, this movie sequel continues the story of a forlorn mining town fused to coexisting universes full of occult practices. When Dad (Sean Bean) is abducted, daughter Heather (Adelaide Clemens) teams up with fellow rebel Vincent (Kit Harington) to get him back. This is unoriginal dreck, but amid the eviscerations and mumbo jumbo an angsty metaphorical undercurrent might resonate with teen viewers. (94 min., R) (Ethan Gilsdorf)

½ Smashed The most interesting thing about this small, pat drama is the way its alcoholic schoolteacher never looks drunk — at least, not the way drunk people do in movies. Her face isn’t falling off. It could be just that Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn’t much of an actress or she’s opted not to be that kind of actress. But the movie might need that kind of intensity, since it doesn’t really have anything else. (83 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Taken 2 This is the sort of sequel that seems to make perfect sense to the people who made it but none to us. The Albanian relatives of the men killed in the first movie by former CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) seek revenge. The first movie was the divorced dad’s revenge fantasy done up as action-movie brutality. This one is action-movie camp. (97 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

½ Trouble With the Curve A congenial but distressingly formulaic drama about an aging baseball scout (Clint Eastwood) and his last season on the road. Eastwood lets his longtime producer Robert Lorenz take a crack at directing, which is nice. So’s the movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s very good. (111 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

War of the Buttons Adapting the celebrated 1912 kids-in-conflict novel by Louis Pergaud, director Christophe Barratier and his co-writers shift the action to Nazi-occupied France. Newcomer Jean Texier plays the leader of a junior gang involved in a turf battle with a neighboring village. But there’s a lighthearted, boys-at-play manner that creates an odd disconnect. War and persecution are bad — except when it’s all in good fun. In French, with subtitles. (100 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)