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September 25, 2011

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New releases Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame It’s a title worthy of a ’30s matinee serial, with a sensibility to match. Set in 7th-century China, this combination of martial arts extravaganza and mystery is slambang in pacing, if bald in exposition. Andy Lau has fun with the title character. In Mandarin, with subtitles. (123 min., PG-13) (Mark Feeney)

Dolphin Tale An excellent family film that lightly fictionalizes the tale of Winter, the wounded Florida dolphin with a prosthetic tail. Nathan Gamble plays the boy who befriends her, and Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., and Morgan Freeman play the nearby adults. Winter plays herself, winningly. Charles Martin Smith directs in unobtrusive 3-D. (113 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Happy Happy The material here about two couples in a snowy rural town in Norway is obvious yet light and perceptive. But while the grown-ups cavort, their sons play “slave,’’ which mires everything in a mess it’s too self-congratulatory and naive to climb out of. In Norwegian, with English subtitles. (95 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

Killer Elite Based on a true story and about a half-dozen Jason Statham movies. Conveniently, it stars Statham as an assassin-for-hire who wants out of the assassin-for-hire business but is dragged back in for One More Job after an Oman sheik kidnaps his old buddy and partner in vigilantism (Robert De Niro). Any scene that fails to involve the revving of motors or the breaking of bones is dead. With Clive Owen as a peevish British agent. (100 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Moneyball A tersely hilarious baseball drama set in the front office. Adapting Michael Lewis’s book about the 2002 season of the Oakland A’s, director Bennett Miller shows where love of numbers connects with love of the game, and Brad Pitt does his best and sneakiest work yet as general manager Billy Beane. (133 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

My Afternoons With Margueritte In Jean Becker’s fine little movie, Gérard Depardieu plays a small-town handyman who forges a bond with a tiny, elegant older woman (Gisèle Casadesus). Depardieu operates on the quiet side of his stardom. We tend to think of him at his best when he’s pouring it on. Here, he holds the sauce and gets as much done. In French, with English subtitles. (88 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Previously released

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy There’s a decent comedy somewhere in here, if only its makers weren’t so attracted to everyone else in the room. Any originality is overwhelmed by a lazy eagerness to embrace the new standard for R-rated comedy. The movie wants so badly to be “The Hangover’’ that its chubby star, Tyler Labine, might as well be carting around a Wayfarers-wearing baby. Costarring Jason Sudeikis as a party boy who throws one last bash at his father’s soon-to-be-sold Hamptons house. (95 min., R) (Loren King)

Apollo 18 It must have been a simple pitch: “The Blair Witch Project’’ on the moon. The movie claims to consist of found footage from the secret Apollo 18 moon mission. Two astronauts land on the lunar surface only to find a damaged Soviet spacecraft and some non-human tracks. The actors do their best to portray space heroes in extremis. But the script is built entirely with tired horror-movie tropes. (88 min., unrated) (Joel Brown)

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star Nick Swardson (“Reno 911!’’) plays a bucktoothed, gee-willikers hick who accidentally learns that his parents were porn stars and heads to Hollywood to carry on the family tradition. Swardson and co-writer pal Adam Sandler generally opt for silly over edgy and outrageous, but Bucky is just too dashed-off a character for the movie to get by on that. (96 min., R) (Tom Russo)

Creature Once upon a time, a hick killed a giant white alligator, ate it, and “became one with the gator.’’ The legend of Lockjaw grew, just in time for six hot young things to camp on the bayou and encounter the creature and clichés about inbred Cajuns. Potentially gator-jerky-chomping, tongue-in-cheek fun, if the filmmakers had any clue where their cheeks were. (93 min., R) (Ethan Gilsdorf)

The Debt A Mossad team captures a Nazi in 1966 East Berlin and struggles with the aftermath in 1997 Tel Aviv. A remake of a 2007 Israeli film, it’s a potboiler but a gripping one, and it leaves you chewing on both nuances and implausibilities. With Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, and Jessica Chastain. In German, Ukrainian, and English, with subtitles. (113 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Drive In Nicolas Winding Refn’s action thriller, Ryan Gosling plays a getaway-car driver who goes soft for the woman next door (Carey Mulligan). Refn finds so many perfect ways to disturb with the combination of utter stillness and grisly violence that the urge to applaud the achievement is involuntary. With Bryan Cranston, and, a very good, very vicious Albert Brooks. (100 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Gun Hill Road A father (Esai Morales) returns from three years in prison to a family he no longer recognizes. For instance, his 17-year-old son (Harmony Santana) is undergoing treatments to become a woman. Rashaad Ernesto Green’s first movie feels like it’s been workshopped, but he’s a talented director of personalities. The film’s urgency is that the son wants to tell his dad he feels locked up, too. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

I Don’t Know How She Does It In this adaptation of Allison Pearson’s best-selling novel, Sarah Jessica Parker plays Kate Reddy with such preternatural perkiness that her character - a smart working mom - looks like a nitwit. Has Parker’s kooky persona worn as thin as the heel on a pair of Jimmy Choos? (89 min., PG-13) (Hayley Kaufman)

The Interrupters The immediacy and caprice of violence in Steve James’s documentary are as strong as in nearly any film you could see about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this one is set on Chicago’s South Side, where, we’re told, as many black men, women, and children have died as US troops in both those wars. What the movie does simply in observing is chronicle the problem’s reach, and the seemingly Sisyphean task of overtaking it. (125 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

The Lion King 3D Has the world been clamoring for the story of Simba to be as visually deep as it is wide? No expense has been spared in making this the best-looking post-production 3-D job to date, but it’s still a post-production 3-D job, and it still doesn’t look quite right. The movie hasn’t aged all that well either. (89 min., G) (Ty Burr)

NO LONGER PLAYINGRapt The title is French for “kidnapping.’’ In its simplicity and terseness, it ideally represents this film about a high-powered abduction. It’s cool, smooth, and efficient. Writer-director Lucas Belvaux goes from victim (Yvan Attal) to police to the victim’s family to his business associates and back again. A final twist suggests that no kidnap victim is ever truly rescued. In French, with subtitles. (120 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)9/16/11

Straw Dogs Like being waterboarded by liberals outside a Democratic National Committee event. A crude, queasy, ugly remake of a 40-year-old Sam Peckinpah movie sends two Hollywood types (James Marsden, Kate Bosworth) to the Deep South. A red state-blue state allegory might be brewing. But writer-director Rod Lurie is too spineless to be concerned with more than how best to use a bear trap. (115 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Find an archive of movie reviews at www.boston.com/movies.

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