Movie Stars

Apparition Ben Whishaw as John Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne in “Bright Star.’’ Apparition
Ben Whishaw as John Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne in “Bright Star.’’ (Apparition
October 16, 2009

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Act of God Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary looks at lightning and people who have been hit by it, either figuratively or literally. They include the proprietor of a lightning museum in France and the novelist Paul Auster, who survived a lightning strike. Often absorbing and visually spectacular, the film has a calm, detached style that can flirt with slackness. (75 min., unrated) (Mark Feeney)

The Boys Are Back Clive Owen plays a successful Australian sportswriter whose life gets turned upside down when his wife dies of cancer, leaving him with two boys (Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay). It’s a solid entry in the Bad Dad Gets It Together genre and Owen is quite touching, but director Scott Hicks pretties away the rawness. (104 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Bright Star A quiet, watchful, transporting film about the romance between the 19th-century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and the seamstress Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Director Jane Campion stands biopic clichés on their head by making Brawne the subject and Keats the limpid love object; the result is a woman’s film in deep and profound ways. (119 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Capitalism: A Love Story Michael Moore goes after the entire US economic system. His documentary is long on damning stories of helpless families and officials profiting from the abuse of their power. But in creating this air of unstoppable cosmic economic oppression, he makes us seem a little more helpless than we actually are. (108 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs This 3-D animated romp is more than an extrapolation of the 1978 children’s book about a town where food falls from the sky. It’s a glossy spoof of a disaster movie that nooks nothing like the original but creates a vibrant- if derivative- world all its own. Bill Hader voices a nerdy inventor, and James Caan is remarkable appealing as the voice of his gruff, misunderstanding dad. (81 min., PG) (Joanna Weiss)

Coco Before Chanel In which we learn about the life of the legendary fashion designer when she was just a skinny young hat-making courtesan named Gabrielle. Having Audrey Tautou play her is a good idea, since it gives her an occasion she can rise to. It’s unclear what the director and co-writer, Anne Fontaine, thinks fashion means to Chanel. The movie fails to find any joy in her creations. With Benoît Poelvoorde and Alessandro Nivola as two of her lovers. (105 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Couples Retreat Painfully unfunny comedy about four couples at a Caribbean relationship-maintenance resort. Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman, and Faizon Love play the husbands; Kristin Davis and Kristen Bell are among the wives. A few uncomfortable truths are raised and glossed over, but it’s dumbed-down entertainment aimed at a dumbed-down audience. (107 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Fame In this sugarless update of the 1980 movie, innocent songs and unsuspecting dance routines are hacked to bits. Like its predecessor, the 2009 edition is also set at a performing arts high school where a clan of fresh young faces descend for four years of, of - well, that’s part of the problem. We don’t know if these kids have talent or not. I’m gonna live forever? Not this time. (99 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell Web author and novelist Tucker Max brings his bad-boy tales of binge-drinking and serial fornication to the screen. For a remake of “The Hangover’’ that appears to be made by drunk, entitled frat boys on a budget consisting solely of their parents’ credit cards, it’s slightly better than you’d expect. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Informant! The true story of corporate whistle-blower Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) is given a bright, shallow satiric spin by director Steven Soderbergh. Damon is terrific as the delusional hero, and the movie’s fun to watch, but you can tell it was a lot more fun to make, and that’s a problem. (108 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Invention of Lying Ricky Gervais has come up with a wickedly funny idea for a movie - in a world where everyone is brutally truthful, one man lies up the existence of God - and then purged the wickedness right out of it. The laughs are there but squandered by shaky direction and loss of nerve. With Jennifer Garner. (100 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

No Impact Man A confused portrait of an eco-warrior - Colin Beavan, who vowed to live for a year without impacting the environment - that somehow puts its confusion to good use. Beavan comes off as a well-meaning twit (his wife, Michelle, is the one we side with), but his quest gradually takes on meaning and accountability. (90 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Pandorum Director Christian Alvart and screenwriter Travis Malloy must have seen “Aliens’’ in the cradle, for they’ve digested it with love and delivered a highly effective sci-fi thriller that will please more than genre fans. Even Dennis Quaid, playing yet another astronaut, this time on a mission to colonize a newly discovered planet, seems genuinely creeped out. (108 min., R) (Justine Elias)

Paranormal Activity An invisible force bedevils a San Diego couple - and it’s all captured on videotape! The microbudget Slamdance sensation aims to recapture the “Blair Witch’’ terror of being lost in the woods, but director Oren Peli manages only to serve up mild unease in an underfurnished home. (85 min., R) (Justine Elias)

St. Trinian’s As shoddy as this comedy about an imperiled girls school is, most 13-year-olds won’t be able to help themselves. It’s kookier and cruder than what they’re watching at home. After 15 minutes, their parents might have an alternative verdict. It’s the longest Cyndi Lauper video ever made. (100 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

A Serious Man The Coen brothers remake the Book of Job in 1967 suburban Minneapolis. It’s Jewish Bergman and one of their very best films - a pitch-black Old Testament farce in which God is either absent, absent-minded, or mad as hell. Love it or hate it, it’ll haunt you for a long time. Michael Stuhlbarg plays the hapless hero. (105 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Surrogates In the future, we’ll all have robot surrogates, and won’t that be fun? The latest Bruce Willis futuristic action rama-lama is a pretty watchable sci-fi B movie, a case of a good director (Jonathan Mostow) and some intriguing ideas struggling to overcome formulaic plotting, limp dialogue, and a serious case of the sillies. (88 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Toy Story/Toy Story 2 For this double feature re-release, Disney and Pixar give their original flagship a 3-D makeover so that the movies don’t look stale next to “Up,’’ or next year’s “Toy Story 3.’’ Happily, “Toy Story’’ and current technology do make a terrific match. Seeing the imagery dimensionalized subtly adds to the already tangible curviness of Woody and Buzz’s molded plastic world. (188 min., G) (Tom Russo)

Whip It This comedy about a Texas girl (Ellen Page) who discovers roller derby marks the directing debut of Drew Barrymore, who has so thoroughly laced the movie with her own lunatic affections for women and the human race in general that it ought to be sold as an antidepressant. With Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat, Juliette Lewis, and the director as a stoner derbyist. Shauna Cross adapted the smart script from her novel. (111 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Zombieland A short, tatty zombie farce that’s the funniest entry in the genre since “Shaun of the Dead.’’ Playing the handful of post-plague survivors are Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine with a double-barreled shotgun. Gory rather than scary, a little too sloppy, but very entertaining. Surprise cameo by a Beloved Comedy Legend. (83 min., R) (Ty Burr)

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