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Movie Stars

Christopher Meloni (left) and Denis O’Hare star in “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.’’ Christopher Meloni (left) and Denis O’Hare star in “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men.’’ (Jojo Whilden/Ifc Films
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November 13, 2009

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Previously released
Amelia It’s Oscar season: Time to wheel out Hilary Swank for her annual viewing. This biopic of aviator Amelia Earhart is a big, hollow white elephant with a sharp idea struggling to get out: How does a woman marketed to the public as a star turn herself back into a human being? Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor play the men in her life. (111 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Astro Boy The latest iteration of the rocket-propelled superboy takes its cues from the original Japanese manga rather than the 1960s TV cartoon and is all the more interestingly weird for it. Freddie Highmore voices the computer animated hero, a Pinocchio-in-reverse who was a little boy and is now a robot. Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, and Donald Sutherland also aurally appear. (94 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day Ten years after Troy Duffy’s “Boondock Saints’’ - an unwatchable Boston gangster comedy with an inexplicable cult audience - comes the sequel. It isn’t art but it is an improvement: a scurrilous, lowdown, sub-Tarantino action comedy that, unlike the first film, doesn’t make you want to claw your eyes out. (117 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Box In the new movie from Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko,’’ “Southland Tales’’), James Marsden and Cameron Diaz, looking like a Pan-Am flight attendant, play a nice Virginia couple who receive a box that, should they press its red button, will make them rich (for 1976, anyway) but cost the life of one stranger. The beauty of Kelly’s imaginatively conceived science-fiction thriller is how what seems so cosmic turns out to be of this diabolical world - yet intriguingly hard to unravel all the same. With Frank Langella, missing a lot of his face. (118 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Brief Interviews With Hideous Men For his first film as a director, the actor John Krasinski has strip-mined David Foster Wallace’s 10-year-old story collection. What was once a disturbance of the literary peace is now just a painful date-night literalization: “He’s Just Not That Into You - for Now.’’ Clogged with actors (including Timothy Hutton, Dominic Cooper, Max Minghella, Christopher Meloni, Chris Messina), the movie is dull despite itself. Krasinski’s taken Wallace and put him in a food processor. (80 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

A Christmas Carol Robert Zemeckis’s second try at 3-D motion-capture holiday storytelling (after 2004’s dire “The Polar Express’’) is a marked improvement: A darkly detailed marvel of creative visualization that does well by Dickens and right by audiences. Jim Carrey (or his digital facsimile) gives a sharp, reined-in performance as Scrooge, and while the film sometimes panders, it just as often soars. Too scary for the little guys, though. (96 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant A sardonic vampire movie for teenage boys - a sort of Bill and Ted’s Undead Adventure. There’s plenty of talent before and behind the camera, but director Paul Weitz puts his trust in young lead actor Chris Massoglia, who’s too bland to deliver. John C. Reilly has a high old time as a vampire life coach. (108 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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 looks nothing like the original but creates a vibrant - if derivative - world all its own. Bill Hader voices a nerdy inventor, and James Caan is remarkably appealing as the voice of his gruff, misunderstanding dad. (81 min., PG) (Joanna Weiss)

Crude Joe Berlinger’s documentary follows a class-action lawsuit filed by 30,000 Amazon tribespeople against a US petro-giant for contaminating an area the size of Rhode Island. The film comments lucidly on the way worthy causes have to court the media and woo celebrities to get even a second of our attention. Featuring Sting. (See what I mean?) (105 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Fourth Kind Silly, cynical, incompetent, dull. Half the movie claims to feature found video footage of alien abductions and spiritual possessions. The rest has Milla Jovovich playing an alleged actual psychologist in Alaska, who, while interviewing a rash of supposed abductees, winds up abducted herself. The money you left at the box office will know just how she feels. (98 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Good Hair A documentary spurred by Chris Rock’s dilemma over how he would care for his two young daughters’ hair. Would he keep it natural? Would he have it relaxed? The film is the antic, free-ranging culmination of his crisis, in which Rock finds great comedy in what still lingers as a tragedy over the black compulsion to strive for a kind of whiteness through hair care. (95 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Heart of Stone A documentary about an inner-city high school - Weequahic High, in Newark - that shows how hard, how necessary, and how infinitely rewarding it can be to open doors for kids who didn’t know they were there. Technically the movie’s nothing much, but it makes Hollywood dramas like “Stand By Me’’ look tame and insipid. (84 min., unrated) (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)

Michael Jackson’s This Is It A compilation of footage from rehearsals for what would have been the late singer’s 50 concerts in London. The film arrives with an eerie taint. Yet watching Jackson pop, lock, rock, writhe, thrust, and clutch his crotch, we often see someone who’s vibrantly, reassuringly human. He’s a life force. He’s the Wiz. (98 min., PG) (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. (105 min., PG) (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 is a sexy, romantic, thrillingly random place where anything can go down. Sadly, two of those things are your eyelids. (110 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America Two Vikings, stranded in the new world of 1007 AD, hunt, gather, cook, and laze around a fire. Written and directed by Tony Stone, the movie is actually more involving than a film that shrinks the line separating seriousness from keeping a straight face should be. Driven by its synth-rock soundtrack, it’s more like the visual approximation of prog rock: long, immersive, textural, ambient, and, in its enjoyably ridiculous way, not entirely kidding. (108 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

35 Shots of Rum Only in the final scenes of Claire Denis’s latest bewitchment do we know for certain how the four main characters, mostly lower-middle-class French people of African descent, fit in each other’s lives. Until then, we do a lot of gleaning. This is a watchful, well-acted, and deeply immersive movie. Its bits-and-pieces vagueness is true to the fragmentary way we get to know strangers. In French, with subtitles. (100 min., unrated) (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)

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

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