Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Universal Pictures

New releases

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, and (thankfully) Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale. (121 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ Faust Russian auteur Alexander Sokurov takes on the German legend about the philosopher whose hubristic quest for knowledge and power tempts him into a poorly thought out deal with the devil. With its scatological humor and archly blasphemous discussions, it might be Sokurov’s closest stab at a madcap romp, but it still ventures into dark places where few filmmakers dare to go. In German, with subtitles. (134 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

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)


½ Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones This fifth in the series further diminishes the promise of the 2007 original, replacing mystery and suspense with predictability and misogyny. The wicked coven that caused the trouble in the other films now addles the life of teenage Jesse, marked by the cult for evil purposes since birth. He’s mad as hell, probably because his pal Hector keeps shooting him with his video camera. (84 min., R)
(Peter Keough)

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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 (“The Artist”) is the standout in a superb ensemble cast. In French, with subtitles. (130 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ 2013 Sundance Shorts Most collections of shorts have at least a couple of clinkers, but there isn’t a bad example to be found in this octet from the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Highlights range from Michael Almereyda’s subtly affecting documentary “Skinningrove” to Julia Pott’s animated enigma “The Event.” Like lyric poetry and artful short stories, they turn brevity into a virtue. In English and Finnish, with subtitles. (93 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Wrong Cops This cringe-worthy comedy from French filmmaker and electronic musician Quentin Dupieux is about a bunch of buffoonish cops in a city that looks a lot like Los Angeles but apparently has no crime. The cops sell weed, harass women, have sex with transsexuals, all played out with no comic pulse. It’s screening theatrically at midnight, which is the only way it should be seen — in a group, preferably with people who are sufficiently lubricated. (81 min., unrated) (Loren King)

Previously released

47 Ronin Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1941-42 masterpiece has been turned into a theme park ride by first-time feature director Carl Rinsch. Keanu Reeves stars as a lowly “half-breed” foundling who proves his supernatural mettle when the masterless samurai of the title seek revenge against the lord who usurped their master. Featuring a shape-shifting witch and Tolkienesque prodigies, it is dumb entertainment with glints of artistry. (119 minutes, PG-13) (Peter Keough)


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)

½ Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Of course it’s a disappointment — how could it not be? — but this sloppy, strained sequel to the 2004 idiot masterpiece occasionally breaks through to realms of blissful comic Dada. Will Ferrell is back as blowhard Ron Burgundy, but it’s Steve Carell’s Brick Tamland who’s the holy moron of this franchise. (119 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Grudge Match Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro play rival fighters — hardly an exact reprise of Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta, but even faintly suggesting this fantasy bout has novelty value. It’s also a matchup that comes about three decades late. The filmmakers get this, and actively acknowledge it. But that presents a big task: projecting freshness when so much is made of how creaky this all is. (113 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

Her Joaquin Phoenix plays a nice, lonely guy who falls in love with his computer’s operating system. 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. With Amy Adams. (120 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Second verse, same as the first, a little bit shorter and a little less worse. The heroes of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy saga find their footing in this second franchise installment, and so does Peter Jackson’s epic telling of their tale. The movie still lumbers, but it has shape, forward momentum, and giant spiders. (161 min., PG-13) (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)

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)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Ben Stiller updates James Thurber’s story and creates a trenchant parable about the fate of the imagination in the digital age. He plays a “negative assets manager” at Life magazine whose fantasies are surpassed by adventures when he’s challenged to vindicate his life. (114 min., PG) (Peter Keough)

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

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