Movie Stars

Don Johnson in Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete.’’ Don Johnson in Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete.’’ (Joaquin Avellan/20th Century Fox via AP)
September 4, 2010

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New releases
The American George Clooney mopes through Italy as an assassin with a butterfly tattoo. Given the paucity of serious adult moviemaking that makes it into American megaplexes, it’s almost ungrateful to turn up your nose when one arrives. But this isn’t that serious a movie. Every time Clooney shares a scene with a female, it’s not the prospect of intercourse or gunfights you fear. It’s photo shoots. (107 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Going the Distance Drew Barrymore and Justin Long try to keep a relationship alive from different coasts. The movie earns its R rating, often by daring to say what goes frequently unsaid by women in raunchy comedies. The entire second half is a sitcom. But unlike many movies like it, this one isn’t cynical. Plus, a foul-mouthed Barrymore might be the best Barrymore of all. (109 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Kimjongilia North Korean defectors tell their stories in this frank, shocking documentary. The accounts, which are mixed with a historical overview of how Kim Jong-il turned North Korea into a morass of concentration camps and famine, provide vital insight into one of the most closed-off, horrifying countries on the planet. (75 min., unrated) (Jesse Singal)

Machete Robert Rodriguez expands his fake “Grindhouse’’ trailer into a hugely entertaining fake-’70s feature about a badass Federale (Danny Trejo). An unexpected end-of-summer tonic: a trash guilty pleasure with a healthy sense of social outrage. The game cast includes Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, Lindsay Lohan, and “introducing Don Johnson.’’ (94 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 The second installment in Jean-François Richet’s two-part gangster epic on the life of French criminal Jacques Mesrine (1936-1979). It’s a visually busier movie than “Killer Instinct,’’ as high on Mesrine’s crimes as he is, and star Vincent Cassel exchanges the stolid tension of Part 1 for a manic theatricality. In French, with subtitles. (133 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Nobody’s Perfect This documentary gives a fresh airing to the disastrous side effects for children born to mothers who were prescribed thalidomide in the late ’50 and early ’60s. German director Niko von Glasow attempts to get 11 of his fellow “Thalidomides’’ to pose naked for a calendar and photography exhibit. The idea is a jumping-off point for this darkly funny and moving examination of body image, sexuality, and self-esteem. (84 min., unrated) (Loren King)

Suck Rocker-filmmaker Rob Stefaniuk’s indie isn’t to be confused with “Vampires Suck’’ — but that doesn’t mean it’s an altogether sharper comedy, either. Stefaniuk heads a band that rockets toward the big time when its bassist becomes a vampire. Creative at points, but bit players like Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop sure aren’t movie stars. (111 min., R) (Tom Russo)

The Tillman Story Amir Bar-Lev’s fine new documentary peels back the public layers of Pat Tillman — pro footballer, Iraq War soldier, hero-martyr, disgracefully used propaganda chip — to arrive at a modern mystery: a born star who turned his back on fame and became his own man even after death. (94 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Two in the Wave Emmanuel Laurent’s illuminating documentary could easily have been called “Le Divorce.’’ The film provides a history of the eventually soured friendship between Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, the most famous filmmakers of the French New Wave. The shock of the film is how much le divorce turned poor Jean-Pierre Léaud into the object of a custody battle. (93 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Previously released
Animal Kingdom A brooding, bloody tale of a clan of criminal brothers and the teenage innocent (James Frecheville) who lands among them. There’s more style than substance here, but it’s still an impressive debut from writer-director David Michôd, part of Australia’s Blue-Tongue Films collective. Jacki Weaver is unforgettable as the gang’s chirpy, lethal Mum. (112 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Centurion You want a movie in which starving second-century Romans dine on the contents of a dead elk’s stomach to be equally ravenous. But this chase film written and directed by the atypically uninspired Neil Marshall (“The Descent’’) is a tame venture. Oh, there is blood and gore. The profanity is delightful. And the general atmosphere is grim. It just isn’t terribly rousing. With Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, and Dominic West (97 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Flipped A charming minor pleasure that will strike a lot of moviegoers — those who think no one makes movies for them anymore — as a major treat. Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe play eighth-graders stumbling toward love and respect; director Rob Reiner lays on the early-’60s nostalgia with a heavy hand. With Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, and Aidan Quinn. (90 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

The Last Exorcism When Louisiana preacher Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a nonbeliever who performs exorcisms, can’t keep up the act anymore, he lets his final exorcism be filmed as a documentary mea culpa, presented as found footage a la “The Blair Witch Project.’’ Early promise and interesting ideas are squandered by a well-worn portrayal of demonic possession and a spectacularly bad ending. (88 min., PG-13) (Jesse Singal)

Lottery Ticket Bow Wow is a nice kid who hits a $370 million jackpot and suddenly finds that everyone in the projects wants something from him, especially a scary parolee. What could be inspired cash-infusion kookiness is instead mostly just routine comedy with a few bits of resonant social commentary. (99 min., PG-13) (Tom Russo)

Mao’s Last Dancer Historical ballet camp. The movie tells the story of the dancer Li Cunxin (Chi Cao), but portraits of Mao get as many close-ups as the actors. The movie jerks back and forth between Li’s childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, which is spent in 1980s Texas. There are some nice touches, namely Bruce Greenwood as the retired dancer Ben Stevenson. But the dramatic highpoint — set in a mansion and featuring a bunch of people standing around — looks like a game of Clue. (117 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

Mesrine: Killer Instinct A true-life French gangster bio so in awe of its subject that it can’t fit the entire story into one film. (Part 2, “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1,’’ opened here a week after “Killer Instinct.’’) Vincent Cassel is mesmerizing as Jacques Mesrine, tearing up France and Canada during the 1960s, but there’s no larger point. In French, with subtitles. (113 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Nanny McPhee Returns In this disappointing sequel, Emma Thompson’s mono-browed, mole-dotted caregiver is gentler, and paired with kids whose rambunctiousness seems manufactured rather than amusingly exaggerated. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the beleaguered parent struggling to keep the family farm afloat while her husband is off at war. (109 min., PG) (Tom Russo)

Soul Kitchen Fatih Akin takes a break from cultural politics and great melodramatic tumult (his previous films include “Head-On’’ and “The Edge of Heaven’’). “Soul Kitchen’’ is a ragged — all right, sloppy — group comedy about two charismatic but unpolished brothers (Adam Bousdoukos, Moritz Bleibtreu) and their hip restaurant. The movie taxes neither us nor its maker. It’s a party. In German, with subtitles (97 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

The Switch Following Jennifer Lopez in “The Back-up Plan,’’ another blah insemination comedy starring a struggling Jennifer, this time it’s Aniston. She plays a single New Yorker raising her son (Thomas Robinson) while trying to negotiate her relationship with the real father (Jason Bateman) and the man (Patrick Wilson) who thinks he is. Bateman and Robinson are so good together, you have to ask: If a Jennifer Aniston movie doesn’t actually need Jennifer Aniston, do we? (104 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Takers An LA crew of high-rolling bank robbers goes up against a nail-spitting cop (Matt Dillon). It might have made a perfectly decent little B heist movie, but someone had to go and forget to give the cameraman his Ritalin. With Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, and Chris Brown. (107 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

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