Movie stars

Leonardo DiCaprio with Golshifteh Farahani in ''Body of Lies.'' Leonardo DiCaprio with Golshifteh Farahani in ''Body of Lies.'' (françois duhamel)
November 14, 2008
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"Appaloosa" Ed Harris's warmly made, slightly offbeat western gives us two for-hire lawmen (Harris and Viggo Mortensen) whose friendship is complicated when a widow (Renee Zellweger) comes to the New Mexico town that's hired them to keep the peace. The movie is traditional insofar as the western is a genre that tolerates certain character flaws. Unwarranted killing is a crime; promiscuity is not. And so Harris affectionately mines these relationships for comedy. With Jeremy Irons as a murdering rancher who's so dastardly charming it's hard not to like him. (114 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

"Ballast" You don't know anybody at the start of this magnificent realist drama. The actors are mostly untrained, and the writer and director, Lance Hammer, had never made a feature. But as you head up the aisle once the movie has suddenly, bluntly ended, they are all difficult to forget: a mother, her son, and his uncle in the Mississippi Delta holding onto each other in order to stay afloat and a filmmaker praying for them to succeed. With Micheal J. Smith Sr., JimMyron Ross, and the stunning Tarra Riggs. (96 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

"Body of Lies" An urgent current-events thriller that falls somewhere between "Syriana" and the "Bourne" movies, directed by Ridley Scott and based on a novel by journalist David Ignatius. Leonardo DiCaprio plays an honorable CIA agent on the ground in the Middle East, manipulated by both his boss (Russell Crowe, doughy and Machiavellian) and a Jordanian spymaster (Mark Strong). It's pulp fiction despite the whizzing datelines, no more so than when Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani turns up as the hero's unnecessary love interest. (128 min., R) (Ty Burr)

"Changeling" Clint Eastwood continues his improbable late-career expansion into a women's director. But this time he goes too far in one direction and not enough in another. Angelina Jolie plays a woman whose child goes missing and fights the LAPD after it returns the wrong boy to her. Eastwood unwisely forgoes the intimacy he's so good at generating and attempts to construct a large, complex tale of crime and corruption in 1920s Los Angeles. (135 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

"The Golden Boys" David Carradine, Rip Torn, and Bruce Dern share a big, dirty house on the water in 1905 Chatham. They're seamen. They're single. They're crotchety, and they're acting up a squall. The gist is that a woman is wanted to tidy their house and their lives. The movie itself, sweet as it is, is also plain. It was filmed in Chatham, and the quaintness has the air of reenactment. (96 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

"Happy-Go-Lucky" The title refers to Poppy, a North London teacher and irrepressible optimist played by Sally Hawkins in a great gooneybird performance. The new film from the British class theorist Mike Leigh puts one of life's natural sunflowers center screen and dares you not to be driven crazy by her good cheer. With Eddie Marsan as Poppy's driving instructor, a cynic of cosmic proportions. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

"The Haunting of Mary Hartley" When it comes to horror films, this one walks the line between electrifying and expendable. Haley Bennett stars as the title character, a girl who, after her own mother attempts to murder her, switches schools and starts anew. But visions of Mama continue to haunt her. Bennett and costars Chace Crawford and Shannon Marie Woodward shine, but there's nothing to write home about here. (86 min., PG-13) (Chelsea Bain)

"High School Musical 3: Senior Year" Diet Coke in a bigger bottle. The Disney Channel's unstoppable franchise comes to the big screen with sound-alike songs, more expansive dance numbers, and the same old Archie-comics characters. That this movie is pure product will be obvious to everyone except 10-year-old girls, so use it as a gateway drug to "Singin' in the Rain." Starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and the whole gang. (112 min., G) (Ty Burr)

"I've Loved You So Long" A lean and observant French weepie, slightly spoiled by melodramatic contrivances but anchored by a rich and subtle performance from Kristin Scott Thomas as a woman paroled after 15 years in prison for murder. The actress packs infinite amounts of nuance and agony into the tiniest moments; after a while she outraces the movie itself. With Elsa Zylberstein. In French with subtitles. (115 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

"Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine" The diminutive, iconic sculptor talks for almost all of Marion Cajori and Amei Wallach's inquisitive documentary. The filmmakers spend most of their time with Bourgeois in the early 1990s, and they find an intensely self-reflective woman in her 80s. The experience of watching her unpack the meaning of her life in relation to her work is illuminating but stressful: There's a lot to take in. (97 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" This should have been as easy as re-cueing Sacha Baron Cohen's infectious cover of "I Like to Move It," cranking out a few inspired lines, and filling in the pretty colors. The DreamWorks animators do give us bright, sweeping African landscapes and some amusing moments already lent to commercials. But most of this animated animal adventure is no more must-see than nap time at the zoo. (89 min., PG) (Janice Page)

"Pride and Glory" A lugubrious good cop/bad cop family melodrama in which Edward Norton and Colin Farrell slowly sink into ponderousness. Director Gavin O'Connor takes a perfectly fine B-movie premise and slows it down to an A-movie pace; in the process, he removes the juice that keeps a story like this honest. It isn't a feel-good genre, granted, but does it have to feel this bad? With Jon Voight. (125 min., R) (Ty Burr)

"Rachel Getting Married" Written by Jenny Lumet, this movie, at its best, is multiracial, multi-ethnic, and polyphonic, like Cambridge letting Williamsburg and Brooklyn move into its house. The central drama concerns Anne Hathaway as a junkie home from rehab in time for the wedding of her sister, played by Rosemarie DeWitt, who is the best thing in the movie. This could have been wildly, embarrassingly melodramatic. But Jonathan Demme strikes a vibrant balance between weepiness and eccentricity. (115 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

"Richard Serra: Thinking on Your Feet" A documentary focused on Serra's permanent installation of assorted steel sculptures in the Guggenheim Bilbao's largest gallery. The director, Maria Anna Tappeiner, doesn't rhapsodize or contend with the works the way the makers of "Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, the Mistress and the Tangerine" do. She observes the construction of Serra's pieces - curling shavings, snaking ribbons, conical cups - and plays student while he tells us what the pieces are all about. (93 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

"RocknRolla" The twitchy, over-cranked gangsta bang-bang of Guy Ritchie's "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" settles into a relatively patient adventure in crime-movie filth. The plot involves contested property (real estate's the new crack), a stolen painting, and the most contagious use of actors that Ritchie's ever permitted in one of his films. The assorted crooks include Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, and, best of all, Tom Wilkinson. (114 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

"Role Models" Two grown-up losers (Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott) mentor two young losers (Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Bobb'e J. Thompson) in a Big Brother program, part of their court-mandated community service. David Wain's scruffy, anti-everything comedy is remarkable for the way it mines the comedy of defeated expectations, and Rudd is becoming something unusual in American movies: a leading man who appears truly not to give a damn. (99 min., R) (Ty Burr)

"The Secret Life of Bees" Adapted from Sue Monk Kidd's novel, this movie takes a snapshot of life in 1964 for four black women (Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson) taking care of a runaway white girl (Dakota Fanning). On its tear-jerking surface, the movie is a tired old Hollywood story: Girl meets mammy - OK, mammies. But writer and director Gina Prince-Bythewood applies historical intelligence by having the characters react in subtle ways to their racial climate. (109 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

"Sex Drive" It aims for Judd Apatow territory but lands somewhere between 2000's "Road Trip" and a lesser Cinemax offering from 1987. A high school virgin (Josh Zuckerman) hits the road to meet an online sure thing, but the comedy is stolen by James Marsden as the hero's preening bully of a big brother and Seth Green as an Amishman with an attitude. Remarkably tame for all the trash-talk. (101 min., R) (Ty Burr)

"Soul Men" There are exactly two reasons to put up with this raunchy, poorly orchestrated buddy comedy: the soul men themselves. Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac appear to be enjoying themselves as two reunited R&B wash-ups, and for most of the film, that's enough. The cartoonish direction is by Malcolm D. Lee. (103 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

"Synecdoche, New York" In Charlie Kaufman's surrealist spectacular, Philip Seymour Hoffman is a woebegone playwright who oversees a theater project that results in the construction of a life-size replica of New York. The film is essentially a New York neurotic's somewhat secular "8 1/2," in which an artist is consumed by both his art and his women. The suspense in a Kaufman movie is whether his ideas will hit a ceiling. They never do. The sky, dark as it is, remains the limit. With Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener. (125 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

"W." Oliver Stone casts the life of George W. Bush as an American tragedy: the story of a privileged screw-up whose need to prove himself to his father delivers his country into the hands of predatory men. The film's a provocative but curiously unfocused fantasia. Starring Josh Brolin as Bush the younger, James Cromwell as Bush the elder, and a cast of thousands - well, dozens - as Washington insiders. (131 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

"Warren Miller's Children of Winter" The 59th installment of the Miller entertainment franchise is again directed by Max Bervy with narration by Jonny Moseley. It features extreme and not-so-extreme ski footage, awesome scenery, nostalgic touchstones, goofy asides, throbbing music, and many, many product placements. Unfortunately, too many of its scenes are unwelcome diversions (does anyone really need to see superband Yukon Kornelius snowboarding?) that feel like filler. (103 min., unrated) (Janice Page)

"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" Rudely silly rather than transgressively shocking, Kevin Smith's new film is the sort of bawdy but fundamentally decent farce you could take Grandma to, if Grandma were familiar with the oeuvre of Traci Lords. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks play roommates who turn to porn production when the electricity gets shut off. Raucous laughs give way to alarmingly conventional romance in the home stretch. (101 min., R) (Ty Burr)

An archive of movie reviews may be found at, the Globe's online service. Use the key words "movie reviews."

Theaters are subject to change.

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