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Movie Stars

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in “J. Edgar,’’ directed by Clint Eastwood. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in “J. Edgar,’’ directed by Clint Eastwood. (Keith Bernstein/Reuters)
December 3, 2011
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New releases

Answers to Nothing One of those everything-is-connected dramas that seems to happen only in movies about Los Angeles, like Lawrence Kasdan’s “Grand Canyon’’ or Paul Haggis’s “Crash.’’ There is no big idea, just a droopy, overdone collection of characters for the movie to oscillate among. Most scenes are a dare to take the title at its word. With Dane Cook, Julie Benz, and Barbara Hershey. (123 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Burke & Hare Director John Landis’s first feature in 14 years is a slaphappy horror-comedy mess about a pair of legendary body-snatcher murderers in 1820s Edinburgh. The classy cast (Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Isla Fisher) and historical niceties can’t make up for an almost complete lack of comic inspiration. It’s one of those movies that was apparently a lot more fun to make than it is to watch. (91 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Tomboy A hushed, beautifully observant coming-of-age drama about a 10-year-old girl (Zoé Héran) who passes herself off as a boy to the kids in her new apartment complex. Writer-director Céline Sciamma is less interested in agendas than in what it means for a young person to lie as a first step on the way to a greater truth. In French, with subtitles. (82 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Previously released

Arthur Christmas Santa’s Christmas Eve run is imagined as a perfect, paramilitarized operation in a 3-D animated feature from Aardman, the outfit behind “Wallace & Gromit.’’ But when a little girl’s gift is overlooked, Santa’s geeky son Arthur (James McAvoy) is distraught, and races to make things right. The journey can drag a little after the dizzying opener, but the film’s holiday spirit is infectious. (97 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

The Descendants With his wife in a coma, a prosperous Hawaii lawyer (George Clooney) has to cope with all the parts of his life he didn’t know. A somewhat minor work from director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,’’ “About Schmidt’’) that’s also a movingly rich pleasure about compromise and connection. With Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller as the hero’s daughters. (115 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Happy Feet Two A 3-D vision of Antarctic excess, with digitally animated penguins thundering in choreographic lockstep to an unholy fusion of Janet Jackson, Queen, and “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.’’ Exuberantly weird and desperately plot-heavy, it’ll be a hit with kids and a curio to their parents. With the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Hank Azaria. (100 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Hugo An exhilarating tale of magic, machines, memories, and dreams. Martin Scorsese marshals the latest movie technology to create a love letter to the earliest movies of all. Yes, it’s a family film - and a great one - but the family Scorsese has really made this for is the 100-year-old tribe of watchers in the dark. With Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Sacha Baron Cohen. (127 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Immortals This Mixmastered retelling of the Theseus legend brings on slavering Titans, a Minotaur, and assorted gods and goddesses, but all of them fall back before the majestic side of ham that is Mickey Rourke. He’s the villain, Henry Cavill is the hero, and director Tarsem Singh (“The Cell’’) tries to make up for the lousy 3-D with baroque visuals. (98 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Inside Hana’s Suitcase In 2000, a battered suitcase bearing the name Hana Brady made its way from Poland’s Auschwitz Museum to Fumiko Ishioka at the Tokyo Holocaust Museum. Director Larry Weinstein uses a variety of techniques (reenactment, family photos, animation, talking heads) in his attempt to make a fresh Holocaust-themed documentary. But what makes it so powerful is the most traditional technique of all: the eloquent storytelling of Ishioka and George Brady, Hana’s brother. (90 min., unrated) (Loren King)

J. Edgar Clint Eastwood’s Hoover biopic has a flawed historical figure played by a top-tier Hollywood star (Leonardo DiCaprio), impassioned monologues, lots of old-age makeup. That it never convinces - that at times it’s quite entertainingly bad - can be blamed on an unfocused script and the project’s very bigness. Somewhere in this epic is a small love story struggling to get out. With Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson. (137 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Jack and Jill Adam Sandler has a dual role as an ad exec and the screechy twin sister he can’t stand. You may well feel likewise - it’s a big, flat stunt. Still, there are plenty of kicks in documentary snippets, crackerjack cameos, and other flashes of something different. Al Pacino giddily plays himself in a featured role - the movie’s other, more successful stunt. (89 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

Le Havre Aki Kaurismäki’s immigration caper makes dramatizing politics look easy. It’s as if he heard there was breaking news at the docks - more African refugees have turned up! - in the French port of the title. The movie’s obviously not a documentary. You need great coaching for characters as archly finessed as these, and only a chambermaid could get an ending as satisfyingly tidy. In French, with subtitles. (93 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Melancholia Lars von Trier, the bad boy of art-house cinema, delivers his most lifeless ode to cosmic misery yet, despite Kirsten Dunst’s valiant performance. Gorgeous visuals, disastrous weddings, and a planet about to collide with Earth: Some call it Art. I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it. With Charlotte Gainsbourg and Keifer Sutherland. (136 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Muppets So often with remakes and movies based on a television show, there’s no point. The new Muppets musical-comedy is ingenious. Everything about it is satirical. But the show means something to the filmmakers. They’ve made an uncynical film about resurrecting the brand. It’s an embrace of the spirit of a bygone enthusiasm for show business that, like most Muppets, is fully felt. With Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and Chris Cooper. (98 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

My Week With Marilyn Michelle Williams is convincing and moving as Marilyn Monroe, circa 1957. The film itself is a stodgy period piece and self-defensive bit of grave-robbing on the part of memoirist Colin Clark (played as a young movie-set gofer by Eddie Redmayne), but Williams gets both Monroe’s insecurities and mystery. With Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier. (99 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 The turgid, over-edited, anti-erotic cautionary fantasy is two movies away from bringing down the curtain on the human-loves-a-vampire series. Here, Edward marries Bella, and the instant outcome of their honeymoon is a pregnancy with the power to rock the world. The movie, directed by Bill Condon, has whiffs of glee and passion but scarcely enough to make you laugh intentionally or swoon. (117 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

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