Movie Stars

October 13, 2010

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New releases
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson,’’ “Sugar’’) go soft on us with this gentle comedy about a New York teenager (Keir Gilchrist) in a psych ward. It’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’’ Lite, often charming but just as often skirting real emotional pain. With Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts. (101 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Life As We Know It Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel play a mismatched pair — she’s a neatnik, he’s a cocky slob — forced to raise their friends’ orphaned toddler. An improvement over Heigl’s last few movies, this is brisk, pleasantly acted, painless date-night fluff — the sort of thing that gives bland and predictable a good name. (115 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Secretariat Yes, it’s a movie about a horse, but it’s also a horse movie about a woman. Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) decides to enter the predominately male world of professional horse racing in 1972. Her thoroughbred wins the Triple Crown. This is a small, conventional movie, but in its smallness it’s exquisitely made. Lane dominates the movie with nothing more than poise. (115 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

White Wedding It looks like the groom, who’s already missed his bachelor party, might also miss his ceremony. The bride has tasked him with driving to a remote village to fetch her ancient grandmother. Sitting through this comedy, from South Africa, is like opening the door to an overloaded closet. Stuff just tumbles out. In English, and in Xhosa, Afrikaans, and Zulu, with English subtitles. (95 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Previously released
Buried As premises go, this one isn’t bad. What if Ryan Reynolds made an Olivia de Havilland movie? It’s “Lady in a Cage’’ or “The Snake Pit’’ for subscribers of Gentleman’s Quarterly, only the sets are a lot smaller. Reynolds plays a truck driver who finds himself buried alive in Iraq. The central mysteries — how did he get into this mess and how will he get out? — are reasonably entertaining. But the movie makes an embarrassing, gimmicky detour into current political events. (95 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Howl Writer-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman try awfully hard to make sense of “Howl,’’ Allen Ginsberg’s epic 1955 rant against conformity. James Franco is very good as the young Ginsberg, and an all-star reenactment of the 1957 obscenity trial is solid, but the decision to visualize the poem using Eric Drooker’s phantasmagoric animations plays as kitsch. With Jon Hamm and David Strathairn. (90 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

Last Train Home A miniature masterpiece of observation, Fan Lixin’s documentary examines the costs of China’s “economic miracle’’ on one family. Or what used to be one family: By the time this quietly heartbreaking saga of displacement and generational change has glided to a close, its members have scattered to the winds. In Mandarin, with subtitles. (87 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Social Network David Fincher’s brilliantly assured, blithely fictionalized drama about the founding of Facebook is about belonging and wanting to belong. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay moves from Harvard to the geek battlefields of Silicon Valley with wide-ranging wit, and Jesse Eisenberg comes of age playing Mark Zuckerberg as a sort of Charles Foster Kane with Asperger’s. (121 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Waiting for “Superman’’ Davis Guggenheim’s public-school-system documentary doesn’t feel exploitative the way it might in another disaster movie. The filmmakers don’t need to put down the camera to hand the thirsty a cup of water or the drowning a ride in your helicopter. On some level, the movie is that cup of water, part of a solution. It’s meant to infuriate you and break your heart enough so that you feel compelled to do something. (102 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Woody Allen’s 40th features gives us a handful of frustrated people in London, and it’s shopworn to the bone. The movie’s central concerns are trust, fraudulence, reversed fortune, and mortality. But it all lacks tension. With Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Lucy Punch, Freida Pinto, and Antonio Banderas. (98 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

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