Movie Stars

May 12, 2010

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New releases

Babies As an advertisement for the wonders of figuring out how to be alive, Thomas Balmès’s documentary, which looks at life for four newborns in four different parts of the world, is an engaging proposition. When the film isn’t oscillating among its subjects, it’s partially juxtaposing images from their lives. It doesn’t appear to be looking for answers; it isn’t asking any questions. But by its very nature, this is both an experiment in ontology (do babies know they’re babies?) and existentialism (are they thinking about who to be?). (79 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

The Exploding Girl A college student named Ivy (Zoe Kazan) comes home for midterm break; that’s about it for plot. Within that frame unfold tiny moments that come to seem monumental, or try to, and that rest on the luminosity of Kazan’s face. Writer-director Bradley Rust Gray uses long, naturalistic takes and hopes divinity will surface through the everyday. Sometimes it does. (80 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Human Centipede (First Segment) A movie about a German madman who longs to turn tourists into a hundred-legged bug is made for midnight. His dream exceeds your nightmare. Tom Six’s movie has the freakiness and sadism of its genre, but it’s so heavy with self-appreciation — Dude, we had the craziest premise for a movie! — that it can’t lift off into the perverse ecstasy of decent exploitation. (90 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Iron Man 2 Robert Downey Jr. returns as the billionaire military industrialist who keeps the world safe with his metal suit. This time he’s battling a Russian-accented Mickey Rourke and a cocky rival military contractor (Sam Rockwell). This movie is at its best when it’s breezy, playing up the idea of the CEO and the superhero as a vain rock star. But the heavier both the movie and the metal get, the duller they become. The talking and chemistry here are so good that the brawling feels mandated. (124 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Please Give The new film from writer-director Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely & Amazing’’) is a moral comedy that feels at times like one of the late Eric Rohmer’s deceptively breezy miniatures, or a mid-period Woody Allen movie minus the fussiness. Catherine Keener heads up the cast as a frazzled Manhattanite wondering if it’s possible to lead a moral life. (90 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Previously released
The Back-up Plan A single woman (Jennifer Lopez) decides to cease man hunting and conceive a child on her own. Not long after the insemination, she meets a perfectly reasonable candidate for a partner (Alex O’Loughlin). In another universe this might have been an interesting comedy. Alas, it’s a romantic comedy starring Lopez. So it can’t be interesting at all. With Linda Lavin. (100 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Exit Through the Gift Shop An art-world documentary that’s one of the best, most karmically satisfying comedies of the year. Banksy, the anonymous British street artist (or soulless graffiti punk, as you will), tells the tale of one Thierry Guetta, an inept filmmaker turned art-world sensation, and the joke is on all of us, Banksy included. With Shepard Fairey, who looks appropriately mortified. (87 min., R) (Ty Burr)

The Headless Woman The condition of headlessness in Lucrecia Martel’s film is figurative. But all the movie’s enveloping ambiguity depends on it. A middle-aged woman (Maria Onetto) runs her car over something on a road and proceeds to have a quiet nervous breakdown. Martel is working at an intellectual remove, but after three movies she appears to have mastered atmospheric mystery. (87 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

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