Movie Stars

James Franco plays hiker Aron Ralston in “127 Hours.’’ James Franco plays hiker Aron Ralston in “127 Hours.’’ (Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight Pictures)
November 19, 2010

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127 Hours James Franco plays hiker Aron Ralston, who in 2003 survived a horrific ordeal in the Utah desert. Director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire’’) delivers a movie experience both grueling and transcendent. What begins as a story of survival becomes something infinitely more moving: a metaphysical journey back toward the human race. (94 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Boxing Gym In the spring of 2007, filmmaker Frederick Wiseman spent a few weeks at Lord’s Gym, a training facility in Austin, Texas, that’s open to the public. He’s not out to say anything grand or complex; his camera simply films the gym’s members as they train, spar, work out, and shoot the breeze. It’s modest by the standards of Wiseman’s epics but transcendent all the same. (91 min., unrated) (Wesley Morris)

Conviction Whose idea was it to name the movie in which Hilary Swank puts herself through law school so she can get her brother out of prison “Conviction’’? It probably sounded clever at the time — or tested well. The brother (Sam Rockwell) is convicted, and in order to free him she’s gonna need. . . But, again, the sister is Hilary Swank. She already has it. The movie works as pasteurized entertainment. It’s as good and as safe as milk. (106 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Due Date From Todd Phillips, the man who brought us “The Hangover,’’ comes a rather pat, occasionally desperate road comedy with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis. The most interesting thing about the film is how deluded it is. This is a comedy of misunderstanding. No one, including us, can quite put a finger on what’s really happening. (95 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Fair Game Director Doug Liman takes one of the more shameful sub-chapters in modern US politics — the Bush administration’s outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) in retaliation for her ex-diplomat husband Joe Wilson’s (Sean Penn) public comments on the Iraq War — and turns it into a strident, condescending Hollywood melodrama. (104 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

For Colored Girls Tyler Perry is no stranger to kitchen-sink melodrama. But this version of Ntozake Shange’s seminal 1975 play is the kitchen sink, the washing machine, the curling iron, the sofa, and the ironing board. It’s Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, Tony, and Razzie. It’s astounding. It’s terrible. It’s astounding. Then terrible again. The giant cast includes Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Phylicia Rashad. (127 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest The robotic final movie based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy is all anticlimax. For one thing, “the girl’’ — Lisbeth Salander, the moody, ultra-fit, punk-goth cyber genius — doesn’t kick anything until the final 10 minutes. As superb as Noomi Rapace has been up to this point, there’s nothing she can do to bring craft or excitement to the act of texting. In Swedish, with English subtitles. (148 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Hereafter From Clint Eastwood, a multicharacter melodrama about the afterlife that’s affecting both in spite of and because of its sizable flaws. The three-pronged narrative spirals around a reluctant psychic (Matt Damon) who can commune with the dead. Peter Morgan wrote the script; Cécile de France and Bryce Dallas Howard costar, the latter stealing every one of her scenes. (129 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Inside Job A masterpiece of investigative nonfiction moviemaking — a scathing, outrageous, depressing, comical, horrifying report on what and who brought on the current financial crisis. Charles Ferguson’s movie succeeds at upsetting you not by losing its cool, the way so many similar films do, but by slow-cooking. (109 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story Filmmakers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson,’’ “Sugar’’) go amiably 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)

Jackass 3D 3-D is an obvious frontier for the Jackass franchise. The closer it can bring us to human secretions, high-impact mishaps, ornery farm animals, flaccid penises, and wholesale homosocial antics the better. The astonishment is that the new movie isn’t a lousy production. The physical-comedy spectacle now looks spectacular. (94 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

Megamind How do you make a big entertainment about dissatisfaction? Hire Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Brad Pitt to do the voices, then ask them to enjoy themselves. The comical evil-genius title character (Ferrell) gets bored after vanquishing his flamboyantly noble archenemy (Pitt). The bliss of “Megamind’’ is the way it pursues a solution for the tired problems of both superheroes and movies about them. (96 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

Morning Glory A bauble about the morning-show wars that floats on the updrafts of character comedy until it charmingly self-destructs in the final act. Rachel McAdams stars as a naive TV producer caught between anchor-desk divas Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford; the movie’s structured as a professional romance between McAdams and Ford but nervously throws in Patrick Wilson as a love interest. (102 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Paranormal Activity 2 A sequel, a prequel, and a remake, all in one film. The plot of this follow-up to the surprise 2009 hit leads up to and eventually over-explains the eerie events of the first film. The producers being no fools, the new movie’s also a virtual carbon copy of the original. As bloodless camcorder meta-horror goes, it’s passable. (91 min., R) (Ty Burr)

RED The latest in the recent wave of geriatric actionfests trading on the novelty of old folks getting medieval with guns, bombs, rocket launchers, you name it. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Dame Helen Mirren are the retired CIA assassins on the loose; it’s a decent joke brought down by sloppy filmmaking and slack storytelling. With Mary-Louise Parker. (111 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Saw 3D If this alleged final chapter in the franchise feels contractually obligated, that’s because, in part, it is. The director, Kevin Greutert, wanted to make “Paranormal Activity 2’’ but was required to stick around here. This is the movie of a man who knew what he was missing. It’s a gnarly work of spite. (91 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

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. By nearly every standard, 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)

Skyline There’s a particularly insulting kind of awful movie that doesn’t leave you mad at the director (but you could be) or the cast (although they’re mostly awful, too). You’re just left annoyed with a culture in which all a studio has to do for a gigantic opening weekend is buy ad time during football games. To see this science fiction action movie, in which an alien mother ship vacuums Los Angeles free of people, is to wonder why you’re watching it. (93 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

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. With Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. (121 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Town Ben Affleck’s Charlestown saga is a pretty decent crime drama — not a patch on the best parts of “Gone Baby Gone,’’ but it’s moody and involving if you approach it with lowered expectations. Affleck and Jeremy Renner play Townie bank robbers; Rebecca Hall is a bank manager who falls for Affleck. (125 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Unstoppable Two guys versus a train — how exciting is that? Surprisingly, very. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine play two railroad engineers struggling to stop a runaway train roaring through the Pennsylvania countryside with a payload of toxic goo. This is the kind of movie director Tony Scott should make more often: an unabashed genre flick with a job to do and characters bent on doing it. With Rosario Dawson. (98 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard Von Bingen The great German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta (“The Lost Honor of Katherina Blum’’) gives us a portrait of the medieval nun-mystic-composer as a complex feminist pioneer. It’s mature moviemaking in the best sense, with Barbara Sukowa an imperious force of nature in the title role. In German, with subtitles. (110 min., unrated) (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., R) (Wesley Morris)

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