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MOVIE STARS

Max Records stars in “Where the Wild Things Are.’’ Max Records stars in “Where the Wild Things Are.’’ (Matt Nettheim/Warner Bros.
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October 17, 2009

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New releases

Chelsea on the Rocks A shaggy, free-form documentary about New York’s fabled Chelsea Hotel, shot by one of its fabled denizens, director Abel Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant’’). Don’t go expecting coherence - or even onscreen IDs for the interviewees - but it’s still a fond, woozy eulogy for a vanishing bohemia. (88 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Damned United Michael Sheen plays the late English soccer coach Brian Clough, who in 1974 is recruited from the bottom of the professional soccer ladder to coach Leeds United, the country’s premier team. There’s a jesting charge to this performance that Sheen’s others, such as Tony Blair and David Frost, haven’t had. Fun. (97 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

An Education A charming, intelligent coming-of-age tale set in early-’60s London. Carey Mulligan is hugely appealing as a levelheaded teenage girl who gets involved with a mysterious older man (Peter Sarsgaard). Nick Hornby adapted the script, Lone Scherfig directed, but the movie belongs to its star. (95 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Law Abiding Citizen Jamie Foxx is a lawyer in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office harassed by a nut (Gerard Butler) angry that the killers of his wife and children didn’t suffer enough. The script forgoes the primacy of revenge fantasy and leans on military-grade weaponry that turns Philadelphia into sections of Afghanistan. (108 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

More Than a Game This documentary about the pre-NBA career of basketball superstar LeBron James is as much about friendship as sports, focusing on the bond among James and four teammates. The presentation can be overwrought, but the material is emotionally rich and often involving. (PG, 105 min.) (Mark Feeney)

New York, I Love You A desultory compilation of short episodes (about 15 or so) that, once assembled into a 110-minute film, are meant to stir in us the feeling that New York City is a sexy, romantic, thrillingly random place where anything can go down. Sadly, two of those things are your eyelids. (R, 110 min.) (Wesley Morris)

Where the Wild Things Are In adapting Maurice Sendak’s classic book, director Spike Jonze has teased out the melancholy along with the magic. The film has more than its share of wild rumpuses, but its heart is in what happens after the rumpus dies down. Max Records is a fine Max; James Gandolfini and others provide voices. (101 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

The Boys Are Back Clive Owen plays a successful Australian sportswriter whose life gets turned upside down when his wife dies of cancer, leaving him with two boys (Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay). It’s a solid entry in the Bad Dad Gets It Together genre and Owen is quite touching, but director Scott Hicks pretties away the rawness. (104 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Bright Star A quiet, watchful, transporting film about the romance between the 19th-century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and the seamstress Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Director Jane Campion stands biopic clichés on their head by making Brawne the subject and Keats the limpid love object; the result is a woman’s film in deep and profound ways. (119 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Capitalism: A Love Story Michael Moore goes after the entire US economic system. His documentary is long on damning stories of helpless families and officials profiting from the abuse of their power. But in creating this air of unstoppable cosmic economic oppression, he makes us seem a little more helpless than we actually are. (108 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs This 3-D animated romp is more than an extrapolation of the 1978 children’s book about a town where food falls from the sky. It’s a glossy spoof of a disaster movie that nooks nothing like the original but creates a vibrant- if derivative- world all its own. Bill Hader voices a nerdy inventor, and James Caan is remarkable appealing as the voice of his gruff, misunderstanding dad. (81 min., PG) (Joanna Weiss)

Coco Before Chanel In which we learn about the life of the legendary fashion designer when she was just a skinny young hat-making courtesan named Gabrielle. Having Audrey Tautou play her is a good idea, since it gives her an occasion she can rise to. It’s unclear what the director and co-writer, Anne Fontaine, thinks fashion means to Chanel. The movie fails to find any joy in her creations. With Benoît Poelvoorde and Alessandro Nivola as two of her lovers. (105 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Couples Retreat Painfully unfunny comedy about four couples at a Caribbean relationship-maintenance resort. Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, and Faizon Love play the husbands; Kristin Davis and Kristen Bell are among the wives. A few uncomfortable truths are raised and glossed over, but it’s dumbed-down entertainment aimed at a dumbed-down audience. (107 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Informant! The true story of corporate whistle-blower Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is given a bright, shallow satiric spin by director Steven Soderbergh. Damon is terrific as the delusional hero, and the movie’s fun to watch, but you can tell it was a lot more fun to make, and that’s a problem. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Invention of Lying Ricky Gervais has come up with a wickedly funny idea for a movie - in a world where everyone is brutally truthful, one man lies up the existence of God - and then purged the wickedness right out of it. The laughs are there but squandered by shaky direction and loss of nerve. With Jennifer Garner. (100 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Jennifer’s Body Not a disaster but a meh: A teen horror comedy that’s neither funny enough nor terribly scary. The script by Diablo Cody (“Juno’’) swaggers but doesn’t bite, and Megan Fox is too generic to make her demonically possessed high school queen bee very interesting. Amanda Seyfried is more fun as her nerd-grrl pal. “Heathers’’ it ain’t. (102 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Julie & Julia The easiest thing Nora Ephron has ever done with a movie. Half the film is spent with Meryl Streep as Julia Child in France in 1949. Half is spent 50 years later in Queens with Amy Adams as Julie Powell, who devotes a year (and a blog) to exploring the recipes from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.’’ The movie is more than a tale of two women (although it is certainly that). It’s a tale of two different ages for women. With Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina. (123 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

Love Happens A self-help guru (Aaron Eckhart) in denial over his wife’s death meets a free-spirited florist (Jennifer Aniston). It’s being sold as a romantic comedy but it’s really a Big Cry movie, and it progresses from an acceptably cute to shamelessly sticky. With Dan Fogler, Judy Greer, and Martin Sheen. (109 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

No Impact Man A confused portrait of a New York eco-warrior - Colin Beavan, who vowed to live for a year without impacting the environment - that somehow puts its confusion to good use. Beavan comes off as a well-meaning twit (his wife, Michelle, is the one we side with), but his quest gradually takes on meaning and accountability. (90 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Pandorum Director Christian Alvart and screenwriter Travis Malloy must have seen “Aliens’’ in the cradle, for they’ve digested it with love and delivered a highly effective sci-fi thriller that will please more than genre fans. Even Dennis Quaid, playing yet another astronaut, this time on a mission to colonize a newly discovered planet, seems genuinely creeped out. (108 min., R) (Justine Elias)

Paranormal Activity An invisible force bedevils a San Diego couple - and it’s all captured on videotape! The microbudget Slamdance sensation aims to conjure the ”Blair Witch” terror of being lost in the woods, but director Oren Peli manages only to serve up mild unease in an underfurnished home. (85 min., R) (Justine Elias)

Ponyo In Hayao Miyazaki’s movie, a sea creature longs to be a real, human girl who can eat ham and have fun. But it’s more an ecological cautionary tale than a fable. Miyazaki’s ability to weave the ordinary and the irregular into something dreamlike keeps the movie from abject cuteness. With the voices of Tina Fey, Liam Neeson. (101 min., G) (Wesley Morris)

St. Trinian’s As shoddy as this comedy about an imperiled girls school is, most 13-year-olds won’t be able to help themselves. It’s kookier and cruder than what they’re watching at home. After 15 minutes, their parents might have an alternative verdict. It’s the longest Cyndi Lauper video ever made. (100 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

The September Issue One of the most revealing movies you’ll see about work. R.J. Cutler’s documentary is set at the Manhattan offices of American Vogue. Cutler treats it all seriously, but not too seriously. The people who work at Vogue work hard. They’re serious, really thinking about fashion, how it evolves, and where exactly it belongs in a woman’s life. The best stuff involves the editor, Anna Wintour, and her creative differences with creative director Grace Coddington, who’s the movie star. (90 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

A Serious Man The Coen brothers remake the Book of Job in 1967 suburban Minneapolis. It’s Jewish Bergman and one of their very best films - a pitch-black Old Testament farce in which God is either absent, absent-minded, or mad as hell. Love it or hate it, it’ll haunt you for a long time. Michael Stuhlbarg plays the hapless hero. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Surrogates In the future, we’ll all have robot surrogates, and won’t that be fun? The latest Bruce Willis futuristic action rama-lama is a pretty watchable sci-fi B movie, a case of a good director (Jonathan Mostow) and some intriguing ideas struggling to overcome formula plotting, limp dialogue, and a serious case of the sillies. (88 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Toy Story/Toy Story 2 For this double feature re-release, Disney and Pixar give their original flagship a 3-D makeover so that the movies don’t look stale next to “Up,’’ or next year’s “Toy Story 3.’’ Happily, “Toy Story’’ and current technology do make a terrific match. Seeing the imagery dimensionalized subtly adds to the already tangible curviness of Woody and Buzz’s molded plastic world. (188 min., G) (Tom Russo)

Whip It This comedy about a Texas girl (Ellen Page) who discovers roller derby marks the directing debut of Drew Barrymore, who has so thoroughly laced the movie with her own lunatic affections for women and the human race in general that it ought to be sold as an antidepressant. With Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat, Juliette Lewis, and the director as a stoner derbyist. Shauna Cross adapted the smart script from her novel. (111 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Zombieland A short, tatty zombie farce that’s the funniest entry in the genre since “Shaun of the Dead.’’ Playing the handful of post-plague survivors are Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine with a double-barreled shotgun. Gory rather than scary, a little too sloppy, but very entertaining. Surprise cameo by a Beloved Comedy Legend. (83 min., R) (Ty Burr)

An archive of movie reviews can be found at www.boston.com/movies. Theaters are subject to change.

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