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Movie Stars

Mel Gibson (with Bojana Novakovic) stars as a Boston homicide detective in the thriller “Edge of Darkness.’’ Mel Gibson (with Bojana Novakovic) stars as a Boston homicide detective in the thriller “Edge of Darkness.’’ (Macall Polay/Warner Bros.)
January 30, 2010

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New releases

Edge of Darkness Mel Gibson returns to the screen after seven years as a veteran Boston homicide detective and single father whose daughter is murdered in front of his eyes. His assumption that he was the target proves wrong, and he tracks down and punishes the guilty parties. An above average revenge movie. (117 min., R) (Sam Allis)

Fish Tank British filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s second film, after 2006’s unnerving “Red Road,’’ is about a tough, angry teenage girl (the remarkable Katie Jarvis) drawn to her mother’s boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) while trying to dance her way out of the projects. The director’s eye for detail is at times magical but sentimental clichés start creeping in toward the end. (123 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Mystery Team An ultra-cheap comedy that takes a solid premise - three kid detectives grow up, hit high school, turn clueless - and tries like crazy to stretch it into a feature. It comes close enough to make you want to see what the members of the Derrick comedy troupe do next. A deeply dumb movie made by pretty smart people. (98 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Waiting for Armageddon A lucid, unnerving, perhaps too even-tempered documentary about Christian millennialists who expect the End of Days any day now and would be more than happy to help it along. Filmmakers Kate Davis, David Heilbroner, and Franco Sacchi show us the folks who are praying for the world to go to hell and fret about their impact on US foreign policy. (74 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

When in Rome There’s actually not a lot of Rome in this movie. And not much creativity or entertainment either. It’s a predictable romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell as an American who disturbs the mojo in an Italian “fountain of love,’’ which invites the advances of suitors ranging from Josh Duhamel to Danny DeVito. Even that sounds a lot funnier than it actually is. (91 min., PG-13) (Janice Page)

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 to 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)

The Book of Eli Denzel Washington plays a lone dude in post-nuclear America carrying a Very Important tome that frontier boss Gary Oldman wants. It’s basically “The Road’’ with twice the plot, four times the ammunition, and half the brains; it’ll probably make 10 times the money. Costarring Mila Kunis; directed by the Hughes brothers. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Creation Jon Amiel’s period film tries so hard to dramatize Charles Darwin’s spiritual, scientific, marital, and mental agonies during the writing of “On the Origin of Species’’ that it turns overwrought and impenetrable. Paul Bettany gives it his all as the conflicted naturalist and Jennifer Connelly (the star’s real-life spouse) is affecting as the stiff-backed Mrs. Darwin. (108 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Extraordinary Measures A run-of-the-mill, if perfectly watchable weepie with Brendan Fraser as a father who teams up with a crusty scientist, played by Harrison Ford, to find a drug to prolong his children’s lives. The focus on Fraser’s puddling eyes or his face wrenching before a crying jag - on his emotional state - feels like something new for the sick-kid movie: Dads hurt, too. (109 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

Fantastic Mr. Fox A dry stop-motion delight. Director Wes Anderson adapts Roald Dahl’s 1970 kids’ book to his usual obsessions (irresponsible dads, confused children). George Clooney voices the hero, raiding henhouses in a midlife crisis. A fairy tale for adults that’s gracious enough to let everyone play along. With the voices of Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. (87 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

The Lovely Bones A spectacular, cringe-inducing failure as both a book adaptation and a film. Peter Jackson has taken Alice Sebold’s challenging novel - narrated by a murdered girl about the relationships that grow up after her death - and made one disastrous choice after the other. A fine cast (Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci) is wasted. (135 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Legion Paul Bettany is an angel defiantly determined to protect diner waitress Adrianne Palicki and her unborn messiah-to-be from the apoca lypse. For the surprising amount of time the movie spends trying to dimensionalize an ensemble that includes Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, and others, they’re as implausibly shockproof as in any other doomsday flick. (100 min, R) (Tom Russo)

Planet 51 A digitally animated family film about an astronaut (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson) visiting a planet where he’s the alien. Fast, shiny, short, and cheerful; also obnoxious, unoriginal, and potty-mouthed. Young children and adults with a high pain threshold will enjoy the movie during its brief pause on the way to your On Demand menu. (88 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Police, Adjective In Corneliu Porumboiu’s outstanding work of wry intelligence, a Bucharest police detective (Dragos Bucur) tries to solve a drug case but winds up tangled in the hassles of his own word usage and grammar. Sounds dull, but it’s as thrilling as any cop movie you’ll see. The dictionary is a lethal weapon. In Romanian, with subtitles. (113 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push’’ by Sapphire Is America, in fact, ready for a movie about a poor, fat black girl (Gabourey Sidibe) who can’t read and is pregnant, for the second time, with her absent father’s baby? Who cares? It’s here, and it’s very much alive. In its own determined way, this is a work of immense, astonishing joy. It believes that in this girl’s wide, brown face and bleak little life there’s a reason to live. Mo’Nique brings down the house as her mother. (110 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Skin A drama based on the unhappy story of Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) who was born with black African features to white parents (Sam Neill, Alice Krige) during South African apartheid, raised as white only to feel, in adulthood, more accepted by her oppressed black compatriots. The movie crashes through the levels of fascinating irony until neither the lives nor the story make sense. A few good things have come from the bad of apartheid. This movie isn’t one of them. (88 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

The Spy Next Door Jackie Chan plays an undercover spy in suburban America, trying to win over his girlfriend’s (Amber Valletta!) kids. A Z-movie rip-off of “The Pacifier,’’ which was a B-movie rip-off of “Kindergarten Cop,’’ which wasn’t a grade-A idea to start with, the movie’s only likable because Chan is. (92 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

2009 Sundance Shorts Ten short films from last year’s Sundance Film Festival. The batting average is high: The best, Destin Cretton’s halfway-house drama “Short Term 12,’’ has been shortlisted for a 2010 Oscar, but many of the other films are just as good. (115 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Tooth Fairy You know what got this family fantasy made the minute you see it: Hey, how funny would it be to put Dwayne Johnson in ballerina slippers, pink tights, and a tutu? Not very. But here’s the movie anyway, scarcely more than the pitch meeting that spawned it. (101 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

The Twilight Saga: New Moon The second installment in Hollywood’s adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s mega-selling vampire romance series is an anemic comedown after the full-blooded swoon of last year’s “Twilight.’’ Director Chris Weitz is stuck with a sequel that’s a morning-after mope-fest, but Taylor Lautner is relaxed and likable as Native American wolfboy Jacob Black. (130 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The White Ribbon The pristine paradise of a small, Protestant village in pre-World War I Germany is beset by all sorts of unspeakable horrors whose culprits continue to go uncaught. The Austrian writer and director Michael Haneke is determined to keep the ends loose. But that lack of closure turns out to be thrilling. Haneke lays his grim fable of a movie and its mysteries at our feet, where we see a picture of future evil develop. (140 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Youth in Revolt Another week, another Michael Cera movie. This one, an adaptation of C.D. Payne’s “Nick Twisp’’ novels, casts the star as (surprise) a passive-aggressive teen misfit in love with a lofty dream girl (Portia Doubleday). Despite a great supporting cast and some good dark dialogue, it’s extremely familiar stuff. (90 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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