movie stars

Short reviews of what’s in theaters

Annette Bening plays an LA widow in “The Face of Love.”
Ralph Nelson
Annette Bening plays an LA widow in “The Face of Love.”

Previously released

300: Rise of an Empire A belated 3-D sequel to the 2006 action hit that pioneered a new genre: Ancient Bro History. Athenian hero Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) tries to keep the Persians at bay while whipping the fractious Greek city-states into, you know, a nation. Pretty ridiculous, but Eva Green is gloriously mean as Persian
naval commander Artemisia. (102 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Bad Words Jason Bateman gets off to a sour start as a director with this joyless, unfunny scatological comedy about a miserable 40-year-old misanthrope (Bateman) with a mission to beat the grade-schoolers in a national spelling bee. The female reporter who follows him and the cute Indian boy, a fellow contestant, who befriends him, give Bateman more opportunities to offend. (89 min., R) (Peter

Divergent The adaptation of Veronica Roth’s sci-fi fantasy novel is almost good enough to make you forget what a cynical “Hunger Games” knock-off it is. Director Neil Burger (“The Illusionist”) improves on the book with intelligence and visual flair before the overplotting and sequel-mongering take over. With Shailene Woodley — likable but miscast in the lead — Theo James, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet. (139 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)


½ Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me A fine new documentary by Chiemi Karasawa about the Grand Old Broad of Broadway, her final cabaret show, and subsequent retirement to Michigan. Affectionate and unflinching, the movie’s a portrait of a tough yet vulnerable woman fighting age with everything she’s got, giving in, getting scared, and fighting some more. (80 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

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½ The Face of Love Annette Bening plays a chic Los Angeles widow who loses her marbles after meeting her dead husband’s double (Ed Harris). The kind of movie they don’t make anymore, with Bening channeling the spirit of Joan Crawford; it’s a great performance in a movie that’s not sure what to do with it. A fine guilty pleasure nevertheless. (92 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Gloria From Chile, a multilayered, quietly charming portrait of a middle-aged divorcee, played with weary delight by Pauline Garcia. Director Sebastian Lelio celebrates the daily work it takes to keep dignity and humor intact when the day gets late and the men still act like babies. In Spanish, with subtitles. (110 min., R) (Ty Burr)

½ The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson is up to his old tricks but with a new confidence that feels like a gift. Set in the fictional country of Zubrowka between the wars, it’s the story of a world-class concierge named Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, achingly fine), his adoring bellboy Zero (Tony Revolori), and the hive of intrigues and character actors that buzz around them. (99 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Grand Piano Damien Chazelle’s feature debut, “Whiplash,” was a hit at Sundance. But his screenplay for this thriller directed by Eugenio Mira falls flat. Elijah Wood sweats for 90 minutes as a concert pianist whose return to the stage after a long hiatus becomes more stressful when he is threatened with death if he hits a wrong note while playing an impossibly difficult piece. (90 min., R) (Peter Keough)


½ The LEGO Movie A witty, exuberant series of comic riffs on creativity, made with a mixture of CGI and stop-motion animation and using 3-D to invite us into its brightly knubbled world. It’s the first great movie of 2014 — really. Voice talent includes Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, and Shaquille O’Neal as a tiny plastic Shaquille O’Neal. (100 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

½ The Lunchbox A hot lunch is mis-delivered from a neglected wife (Nimrat Kaur) to a lonely widower (Irrfan Khan); letters and something that might be love ensue. A humanist fable from India, the film is actually a romance in the old-school tradition, a “Brief Encounter” transposed to the rhythms and flavors of modern-day Mumbai. Charming and, in its quiet way, revolutionary. In English and in Hindi, with subtitles. (104 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Mr. Peabody & Sherman There was a pretty clear blueprint for this feature update of the sly ’60s cartoon about time-traveling brainiac dog Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles). Don’t dumb things down, stick to character, give the duo’s WABAC machine a flashy, 3-D animated rebuild, and you’ve got your movie. The filmmakers do this, but they add uneven emotional elements. (92 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

Muppets Most Wanted The Muppets embark on a European theatrical tour at the urging of their smug new manager (Ricky Gervais), unaware that he and Kermit’s evil doppelganger are exploiting them as a criminal cover. Tina Fey plays matron in the Siberian gulag where Kermit winds up, and Ty Burrell is an Interpol inspector in Clouseau mode. The plot basics are dressed up nicely by the film’s clever humor, as well as a celebrity cameo roster that’s stacked even by Muppet standards. (113 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

½ Need for Speed A tricked-up, morally dubious video-game spinoff about driving really, really fast while cops and citizens crash into trees behind you. “Breaking Bad” costar Aaron Paul goes the Ryan Gosling/Clint Eastwood monosyllabic route as a cross-country racer, but he’s better suited to slower-moving vehicles. In 3-D. (124 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)


½ Non-Stop Is there an actor who has ever looked more miserable about kicking butt than Liam Neeson? In his latest effort as the thinking man’s Chuck Norris, he plays a marshal trying to find a nutcase on a trans-Atlantic flight. Dumb fun until it tries to make sense in the last 10 minutes. With Julianne Moore. (105 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ Nymph()maniac: Vol. 1 Lars Von Trier’s latest shot across the ramparts of taste is the story of a teenage sex addict (newcomer Stacy Martin) as told by her older, more bruised self (Charlotte Gainsbourg). What’s most disquieting is how funny, tender, thoughtful, and truthful the movie is, even as it pushes into genuinely seamy aspects of onscreen sexuality. With Shia LeBeouf and Uma Thurman. (118 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Omar Set in the moral quagmire of the occupied West Bank, Hany Abu-Assad’s film — a foreign language Oscar nominee this year — is told with a clarity that leaves you with fewer answers than before. Newcomer Adam Bakri plays the young hero, losing his political and personal innocence the hard way. In Arabic and Hebrew, with subtitles. (98 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Particle Fever Mark Levinson takes on a daunting task in this documentary about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson, a discovery that could transform our concept of the universe. Except for the huge machinery, all the action is subatomic and invisible. He wisely focuses on the stories of six scientists who convey their passion and even some understanding. (99 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Son of God Christ has been mostly absent from the big screen since “The Passion of the Christ,” but the popularity of the 2013 History Channel miniseries “The Bible” seemed worth cashing in, so the best Jesus bits were condensed into a feature. Though occasionally moving, this version of the greatest story ever told proves bland. (138 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

The Summer of Flying Fish Chilean documentarian Marcela Said applies principles of cinema vérité to add realism and mystery to this tale of oppression and exploitation. In it, a teenage girl objects to her patrician father’s attitude toward the land he owns and the Mapuche Indians who once inhabited it, an attitude symbolized by his attempts to exterminate the carp in his artificial lagoon. In Spanish, with subtitles. (86 min., unrated) (Peter Keough)

Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club Tyler Perry, in his second film in three months, shows how five women from disparate backgrounds can find common cause by bonding in the title group after their neglected kids end up in trouble at school. Despite some rough patches, platitudes prevail, especially when five good-hearted single men lend a hand. (111 min., PG-13) (Peter Keough)

Veronica Mars Kristen Bell returns as the now-grown high school detective of the 2004-2007 UPN series, but creator-director Rob Thomas treats the occasion as a Very Special Reunion. Fans paid for it on Kick-starter, and that’s who it’s made for. (108 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

½ The Wind Rises Anything Hayao Miyazaki does is worth your time, but the legendary animator’s final film (he says) is a gorgeous, problematic anomaly — a fantasy biopic of the designer of Japan’s WWII fighter planes. The excellent English dub includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Werner Herzog. (126 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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