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Movie Stars

December 11, 2009

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New releases
Julia A showcase for Tilda Swinton, who plays a raging LA alcoholic enmeshed in a kidnapping. Director Erick Zonca (“The Dreamlife of Angels’’) refuses to play by Hollywood rules and the film is a fascinating white-knuckle character thriller. But Swinton is a control freak playing a basket case, and that paradox barely makes it to the end credits alive. (138 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Strongman A sad, affecting documentary, ostensibly about Stanley Pleskun, an aspiring star in the strength entertainment business. But what emerges is a dysfunctional love story between Pleskun and his unhappy-looking girlfriend. Some of these people could be in a Harmony Korine movie. Only the director Zachary Levy isn’t attracted to grotesquerie. His camera finds human sorrow in many of its faces, namely Barbara’s. (113 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Previously released
Armored Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne and Columbus Short star in a heist flick set inside and around a pair of armored trucks. The kind of unpretentious, character-based B-thriller no one bothers make anymore, the film further establishes the American-born Hungarian director Nimród Antal as a no-frills craftsman to be reckoned with. (88 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Brothers When a US Marine (Tobey Maguire) is presumed killed in action, his ex-con brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps up to help with his widow (Natalie Portman) and daughters. The movie jerks between scenes of military torture on one side and scenes of domestic frolic on the other, then becomes an emotional potboiler. And there’s something distasteful in the way director Jim Sheridan relishes turning that trauma into a thriller. (110 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Defamation Is modern anti-Semitism an invention of right-wing Jews intended to silence dissent? Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir wears his point of view lightly but firmly, and the results are provocative in the best ways. You’ll have some good, loud arguments on the way out of the theater. In Hebrew, English, and Polish, with subtitles. (91 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Everybody’s Fine It takes some effort to neutralize the charm of a modestly charismatic Robert De Niro performance. But this tedious dramedy does a stupendous job. De Niro plays a widower crossing the country, by train and bus, to drop in on the adult children who claim they’re too busy to visit him. Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, and Drew Barrymore are the kids. Adapted from a 1990 Italian film. (101 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

The House of the Devil A college student (Jocelin Donahue) baby-sits for devil worshipers during a lunar eclipse. Bad idea. Director Ti West has made an almost fetishistic re-creation of a horror-suspense movie circa 1978, but his genuine love for the genre keeps it from being an empty stylistic stunt. With Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. (95 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Oh My God Peter Rodger took a movie camera on a tour of the world and its religions. He came back with a documentary that succinctly captures the experience of enduring this ponderous, repetitive, and exasperating attempt at moral, philosophical, and spiritual discourse. The problem isn’t with the questions. It’s the manner in which they’re asked. (93 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Transylmania A lowbrow vampire spoof in which party-hearty college students sign up for a study-abroad program in Romania with a curriculum straight out of the Universal horror vault. Musty and dull-witted, even for the stoner video game demo it’s aimed for. (92 min, R) (Tom Russo)

Up in the Air From Jason Reitman, a warm, smoothly made movie about a man (George Clooney) who spends most of his time firing people. The movie concerns his attempt to settle down. At its very best, it invents new for old Hollywood sophistication. The sequined cocktail parties and crack banter are now happening in the Admirals Club lounge. With Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, and Anna Kendrick, who’ll rightly be labeled a discovery. (109 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

An archive of movie reviews can be found at www.boston.com/movies.

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