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MOVIES

Capsule reviews are by Kenneth Turan (K.Tu.), Betsy Sharkey (B.S.) and other reviewers. Compiled by Anthony Miller.

Openings

FRIDAY

The Cartel A documentary examining the forces behind the massive failures of the public school system in New Jersey. Directed by Bob Bowdon. (1:29) NR.

Dancing Across Borders A documentary chronicling the story of Sokvannara “Sy” Sar, who was discovered by Anne Bass on a trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, in 2000 and brought to America to audition for the prestigious School of the American Ballet. Directed by Bass. (1:28) NR.

Death at a Funeral A funeral ceremony turns into a debacle of exposed family secrets and misplaced bodies. With Zoe Saldana, Luke Wilson, James Marsden and Columbus Short. Directed by Neil LaBute. (1:30) R.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop A French filmmaker trails a graffiti artist in a meditation on the nature of street art in Los Angeles. Directed by Bansky. (1:26) NR.

Handsome Harry Granting a dying wish for a friend, a man embarks on a road trip to reunite with a group of friends from his Navy days and attempt to make amends for a violent confrontation over sexual identity that rocked their relationship. With Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi, Campbell Scott, Aidan Quinn and John Savage. Directed by Bette Gordon. (1:34) NR. Story on Page D6

The Joneses Employees of a stealth marketing organization pose as a seemingly perfect family who move into an upscale gated community along with all the newest goods hoping to make everyone else want what they’ve got. With Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard, Ben Hollingsworth, Gary Cole and Glenne Headly. (1:33) R.

Kick-Ass A comic-book fanboy decides to become a real-life superhero with no real superpowers. With Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mark Strong, and Nicolas Cage. Screenplay by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John S. Romita, Jr. Directed by Vaughn. (1:57) R.

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The Perfect Game Living amid the gritty poverty of 1957 Monterrey, Mexico, a ragtag group of boys from the wrong side of the tracks discovers the joy of sandlot baseball under the guidance of an aspiring Major League coach thwarted by discrimination. With Clifton Collins Jr, Cheech Marin, Jake T. Austin and Louis Gossett Jr. Written by W. William Winokur. Directed by William Dear. (1:58) PG.

The Secret in Their Eyes A former criminal court employee decides to write a novel based on the case of rape and murder of a beautiful young woman. Written and directed by Juan José Campanella. In Spanish with English subtitles. (2:36) R. Story on Page D6

Who Do You Love? An intimate look into the lives of Leonard and Phil Chess, the legendary founders of Chess Records. With Alessandro Nivola, Jon Abrahams, Robert Randolph, Keb’ Mo’, David Oyelowo, Chi McBride, Megalyn Ann Echikunwoke and Marika Dominczyk. Directed by Jerry Zaks. (1:31) NR.

Critics’ Choices

The Art of the Steal An energetically entertaining if a bit one-sided documentary that shows how the Philadelphia establishment committed an act of cultural vandalism by engineering a move of the Barnes collection from its iconic home in suburban Merion, Pa. to a proposed new museum in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. It’s a move that illustrates as few other things how art and culture have become commodified into big money industries. (K.Tu., March 12) (1:41) NR.

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Cop Out There really is no good reason to recommend “Cop Out;” there are, however, about a dozen bad ones, starting with the fact that it’s the first gross-out comedy to come along since “The Hangover” that is actually a comedy and not just gross, although make no mistake, gross it is -- this is a Kevin Smith film after all -- so don’t say you weren’t warned. But there is enough ridiculous fun in the Tracy Morgan-Bruce Willis pairing as two of Brooklyn’s “finest” to get many of you past the squirm-inducing stuff. After some rough sledding, Smith seems like he’s come home in “Cop Out,” with his loose, easy style helping to take the edge off the R rating. It’s in the execution of high-concepts that Smith sometimes gets lost, but that doesn’t happen here. There isn’t a high concept in sight. (B.S., Feb. 26) (1:50) R.

The Exploding Girl Writer-director Bradley Rust Gray and star Zoe Kazan are so committed to a minimalist aesthetic, and apply it with such craft and skill, that this very careful character study of a young woman’s quiet emotional crisis over spring break holds our interest almost without our knowing how it’s done. (K.Tu., April 2) (1:15) NR.

The Ghost Writer Made by a filmmaker suddenly returned to the height of his powers, this is a thriller wrapped around a roman á clef about contemporary politics wrapped around director Roman Polanski’s trademark cynicism. An effortless blending of personal preoccupations with audience preferences that recalls the classic work of Alfred Hitchcock. (K.Tu., Feb. 19) (1:35) PG-13.

Green Zone As created by director Paul Greengrass, screenwriter Brian Helgeland and star Matt Damon, this risk-taking endeavor takes the narrative skills and drive Greengrass honed to perfection on “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Bourne Supremacy” and marries them to reality-based political concerns. More specifically, this is a red-hot action thriller that deals quite candidly and unapologetically with the situation in Iraq. (K.Tu., March 12) (1:35) R.

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Hot Tub Time Machine This starts with four -- Adam, Lou, Nick and Jacob -- or for the literal minded among you, John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson as old friends, and Clark Duke as Adam’s nerdy nephew. But frankly, a literal mind is not something that should be brought anywhere near this raunchy party. So if everyone will just check theirs at the door, “Hot Tub Time Machine” will in turn deliver. (B.S., March 26) (1:40) R.

How to Train Your Dragon has taken the age-old story of a teenage boy sorting through his fundamental life issues set it in ancient Viking times and still managed to give it a thoroughly modern spin. “Train Your Dragon,” which stars Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, the boy in the boots, is also a study in how nuance can actually complement the spectacle we’ve come to demand of 3-D animation. Like Hiccup’s growing pains, the film has its rough spots too but, mostly, like the mythical creatures at the heart of this tale, the movie soars. (B.S., March 26) (1:38) PG.

A Prophet Part prison film, part crime story, part intense personal drama, this masterful new film by French director Jacques Audiard is an answered prayer for those who believe that revitalizing classic forms with contemporary attitudes makes for the most compelling kind of cinema. (K.Tu., Feb. 26) In French, Arabic, and Corsican with English subtitles. (2:30) NR.

The Secret of Kells A ravishing, continually surprising example of largely hand-drawn animation in the heyday of computer-generated imagery, an inexpensive and sophisticated European production in an age of broad-stroke studio films, even a spirited defense of books and bookishness while Kindles walk the earth, this Oscar-nominated film fights the tide and succeeds beautifully. (K.Tu., April 2) (1:15) NR.

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Shutter Island Director Martin Scorsese has created a divinely dark and devious brain tease in the best noir tradition with its smarter-than-you’d-think cops, their-tougher-than-you’d-imagine cases to crack, and enough nods to the classic genre for an all-night parlor game. (B.S., Feb. 19) (2:18) R.

Vincere One of the most surprising things about watching the wrenching “Vincere,” the story of Ida Dalser, Mussolini’s secret wife and his first-born son, Benito, is that when the relationship went sour and Ida just wouldn’t let it rest, that Il Duce, the sweet one, just didn’t have her killed. Though Ida’s life would become a torturous hell spent locked away in an insane asylum, the legacy left by her letters has made for an intense and intriguing, if at times uneven, film with Italian director Marco Bellocchio wringing every drop of emotion out of his actors and his audience before it is over. (B.S., March 26) (2:08) NR.

Waking Sleeping Beauty The decade between 1984 and 1994 saw animation at Disney go from an afterthought to a powerhouse. This tale of artistic reincarnation is a classic show business story, not lacking in temper tantrums and clashing egos, and this documentary tells it with a terrific inside-Hollywood sensibility plus an unblinking candor that lets the chips fall where they should. (K.Tu., March 26) (1:26) PG.

Also in Theaters

After.Life A young woman caught between life and death and a funeral director with intentions on burying her alive. With Liam Neeson, Christina Ricci and Justin Long. Written and directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo. R.

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Alice in Wonderland The combination of director Tim Burton and Lewis Carroll’s fantasy classic sounds promising, but despite the presence of Johnny Depp the finished product is only mildly successful, more like a Burton derivative than something he actually did himself. (K.Tu., March 4) In Disney Digital 3D and IMAX 3D. (1:49) PG.

The Black Water of Echo’s Pond While on vacation on a remote island in Maine, nine close friends discover a long-hidden, archaic board game in a stately Victorian home that unleashes an ancient evil that brings out the worst in each of them. With Robert Patrick, Danielle Harris and James Duval. Written by Gabriel Bologna, Sean Clark and Michael Berenson. Directed by Bologna. R.

The Bounty Hunter The new action caper starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler as dueling exes plays to everything that turned one of the “Friends” six-pack into a lip-gloss superstar. First to be exploited is Aniston’s perk power. When that fails, the second line of defense is a close-up of that really great hair, which doesn’t so much make for a movie as a running photo op. (B.S., March 19) (1:46) PG-13.

Brooklyn’s Finest It’s an old-style potboiler about desperate cops in dire straits that overcooks both its story and its stars, with Ethan Hawke, Don Cheadle and Richard Gere the main ingredients left to stew. It’s also the latest compromised cop drama from director Antoine Fuqua, at best only echoing the electrifyingly unpredictable thrill of 2001’s “Training Day.” Instead, the complexity a drama like this demands gets lost amid the cliches, leaving “Brooklyn’s Finest” never able to live up to its name. (B.S., March 5) (2:20) R.

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Chloe Envisioned as a psychosexual thriller about a woman scorned, director Atom Egoyan’s latest puzzle is just puzzling, little more than a messy affair with mood lighting, sexy lingerie, heavy breathing and swelling, um, music. Everyone here is dripping with money, lust and anxiety, all to bad effect. Julianne Moore is Catherine a successful Ob-Gyn who suspects husband David (Liam Neeson), of infidelity and hires a high-end hooker (Amanda Seyfried) to trap him in the act. Yet when things begin to go bad in ways that should twist the characters, and the rest of us, up into terrified knots, this master of tension and unease lets the moments go slack. (B.S., March 26) (1:36) R.

City Island A family’s bizarre and layered lies to one another come unraveled. With Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies, Steven Strait, Alan Arkin and Emily Mortimer. Written and directed by Raymond De Felitta. (1:43) PG-13.

Clash of the Titans 3D This remake may be the first film to be made worse by being in 3-D, which makes the action harder to follow rather than thrilling. And the dialogue is so plodding that a half-way decent line like, “You have insulted powers beyond your comprehension” sounds like something out of Noel Coward. (K.Tu., April 2) (1:50) PG-13.

The Crazies As epidemic scenarios go, “The Crazies” has solid underpinnings for going in any direction: bloody social commentary or nasty good time. But if George Romero’s chaos-fueled 1973 original, pockmarked with troops-versus-civilian shootouts and bureaucratic bickering, was intended to mirror a fractured society’s uneasy pulse (think: Vietnam), Breck Eisner’s loud, squishy and jokey redo simply reflects other movies. Nearly every scare in “The Crazies” is telegraphed, whether by suddenly too-tight photography or shrieky crescendos of sound. The movie’s attitude toward carnage, meanwhile, is the most schizoid, asking us to toggle between emotional loss, over-the-top giggles and -- in an ill-advised Holocaust allusion -- moral outrage. (Robert Abele, Feb. 26) (1:41) R.

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Date Night A suburban couple whose lives have become routine reignite the marital spark by visiting a trendy Manhattan bistro, where a case of mistaken identity turns their evening into the ultimate date night gone awry. With Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Written by Josh Klausner. Director by Shawn Levy. (1:28) PG-13.

Dear John A young soldier home on leave falls in love with an idealistic college student during her spring vacation and over the next few years they meet only sporadically and correspond through love letters. With Channing Tatum,Amanda Seyfried, Henry Thomas,Scott Porter and Richard Jenkins. Screenplay by Jamie Linden, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Directed by Lasse Hallström. (1:48) PG-13.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid The adventures of wise-cracking middle school student Greg Heffley, who must somehow survive the scariest time of anyone’s life: middle school. Based on the best-selling illustrated novel by Jeff Kinney. With Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn, Rachael Harris and Devon Bostick. Directed by Thor Freudenthal. (1:31) PG.

Don McKay Twenty-five years after abandoning his hometown, Don McKay gets a letter from his ex-girlfriend Sonny to tell him she is dying and wants him to come see her. When Don returns home, Sonny doesn’t seem quite as he remembers her and everything seems a little bit off. With Thomas Haden Church, Elisabeth Shue and Melissa Leo. Written and directed by Jake Goldberger. (1:27) R.

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The Eclipse A widower still reeling from the death of his wife is plagued by terrifying apparitions and finds himself drawn to an empathetic author of supernatural fiction. With Ciar?n Hinds, Iben Hjejle, Aidan Quinn and Hannah Lynch. Screenplay by Conor McPherson and Billy Roche, based on Roche’s “Tales from Rainwater Pond.” Directed by McPherson. (1:28) NR.

The Greatest When a couple lose their teenage son, their fractured family is pushed to the edge but the appearance of a young woman helps everyone start to put the pieces back together. With Pierce Brosnan, Susan Sarandon, Aaron Johnson, Carey Mulligan, Michael Shannon, Johnny Simmons and Zoe Kravitz. Written and directed by Shana Feste. (1:39) R.

Greenberg Noah Baumbach’s favorite terrain is deconstructing life’s emotional ups and downs with characters so narcissistic and self-delusional they make everyone on-screen and off as uncomfortable as possible. With “Greenberg,” the writer/director who came to prominence with 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale,” has reached new highs or new lows, depending on your point of view. Baumbach’s latest stars Ben Stiller as 40-year-old Roger Greenberg, whose failed life is envisioned as a self-inflicted wound caused by a bad decision Roger made years ago. There is irony scattered all around him, but any comic relief it affords comes with such an undertow of repressed emotions and displaced anger that really it all starts to feel more depressing than dramatic. (B.S., March 19) (1:47) R.

The Harimaya Bridge Daniel Holder’s father was killed fighting the Japanese in the Second World War so when Daniel’s beloved artist son Mickey takes a job in Japan teaching English, it creates a rift between them and leads to unexpected discoveries for Daniel. With Ben Guillory, Saki Takaoka and Misa Shimizu. Directed by Aaron Woolfolk. (2 hours) NR.

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Hubble 3D In this documentary, moviegoers journey through distant galaxies to explore the grandeur and mysteries of our celestial surroundings and accompany space-walking astronauts as they attempt the most difficult and important tasks in NASA’s history. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. Written and directed by Toni Myers. In IMAX. (:45) G.

The Last Song A reluctant teenager begrudgingly spends the summer with her estranged father and they bond over a love for music. With Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Bobby Coleman, Hallock Beals, Nick Lashaway, Carly Chaikin, Nick Searcy, Kate Vernon, Kelly Preston and Greg Kinnear. Screenplay by Nicholas Sparks and Jeff Van Wie, based on Sparks’ book. Directed by Julie Anne Robinson. (1:47) PG.

Letters to God Inspired by a true story, a young boy fighting cancer finds strength and hope through writing letters to God and, in doing so, changes the lives of those around him. With Jeffrey S. Johnson, Robyn Lively, Tanner Maguire and Michael Bolten. Screenplay by Patrick Doughtie. Directed by David Nixon and Doughtie. (1:50) PG.

Mother When a mama’s boy is convicted of a young girl’s murder, his mother sets out to find the girl’s killer and prove her son’s innocence. With Kim Hye-ja and Won Bin. Written by Park Eun-kyo and Bong Joon-ho. Directed by Joon-ho. In Korean with English subtitles. (2:08) NR.

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Our Family Wedding Instead of invitations, they should be sending out apologies for “Our Family Wedding,” a cake-and-kisses comedy that has disaster written all over it. The film stars America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty,” and Lance Gross, a resident of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” as the secretly betrothed Lucia and Marcus. Race as much as romance and a wedding on the fly is at the heart of the matter. But the filmmakers waste a chance to take a smart cut at the cultural clashes that are sure to follow. (B.S., March 12) (1:30) PG-13.

Phyllis and Harold In a frank journey through a disastrous 59-year marriage, a filmmaker draws on a lifetime of her family’s home movies and interviews made over 12 years, mixing reportage, cinema verit? and animation to uncover family secrets and tell a story that could not be shown publicly as long as her father was alive. Directed By Cindy Kleine. (1:25) NR.

Prodigal Sons Returning to her hometown in Montana for the first time since her sex change, a transgendered filmmaker sets out to document her reunion at the high school where she had formerly been a star quarterback and hopes to make peace with her classmate and long-estranged, brain-damaged adopted brother, Marc. Things do not go as planned. Directed by Kimberly Reed (1:26) NR.

Remember Me There’s only one thing that loves Robert Pattinson more than his legions of hysterical teenage fans and that’s the camera. Which helps but doesn’t quite save the earnest new romantic drama “Remember Me,” whose filmmakers hang everything on those chiseled cheeks and moody eyes. The “Twilight” star has definitely figured out how to look the part, wearing “brooding” like a James Dean leather jacket, what he hasn’t yet found is a way past those soulful eyes into the soul itself. (B.S., March 12) (1:42) PG-13.

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Repo Men Set in the near future when artificial organs can be bought on credit, a heart transplant patient struggling to make payments on his recent purchase goes on the run before his ticker is repossessed. With Jude Law, Forest Whitaker and Liev Schriber. Written by Eric Garcia and Garrett Lerner, based on Garcia’s novel. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik. (1:41) R.

The Runaways The problem with “The Runaways,” a street-level snapshot of the creation of the groundbreaking ‘70s all-girl rock band, is that they went with the wrong girl. Instead of training the lens on The Runaways’ artistic rebel who hung around and became a legend, rocker Joan Jett, played with serious punk grrrl power by Kristen Stewart, the movie focuses on the one who actually ran away, lead singer Cherie Currie, a kohl-eyed and sullen Dakota Fanning. And as so often happens in music-based biopics, too much hangs on a song. (B.S., March 19) (1:45) R.

See What I’m Saying This documentary follows the journeys of four deaf entertainers through a single year as their stories intertwine and culminate in some of the largest events of their lives. With C.J. Jones, Robert DeMayo, T.L. Forsberg and Bob Hiltermann. Directed by Hilari Scarl. (1:31) PG-13.

She’s Out of My League There is one particular question that has long bothered and befuddled some of our greatest minds -- Freudians, Jungians, Judd Apatowians, Seth Rogenians and other noted R-rated auteurs alike: Can an attractive female fall in love with, and I use the scientific term here, a schlub? So props to “She’s Out of My League,” which stars Jay Baruchel, for wading into the fraught and frothy surf of the “I’m not worthy” genre of films. And more props for doing so with a disarming sentimentality and a certain decency along with the requisite raunch and repressed rage. (B.S., March 12) (1:45) R.

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The Square An adulterous couple’s scheming leads to arson, blackmail and murder. With David Roberts and Claire van der Boom. Directed by Nash Edgerton. (1:45) R.

Surviving Crooked Lake A coming of age story about four 14-year-old girls who encounter death and overcome extreme adversity on a summertime canoe trip to the North Woods, where everything that can go wrong?does. With Alysha Aubin, Candice Mausner, Stephanie Richardson and Morgan McCann. Written and directed by Sascha Drews, Ezra Krybus and Matthew Miller. (1:27) PG-13.

Tales From the Script A documentary about Hollywood screenwriters showcases first-person experiences from A-listers to newcomers and includes interviews with Allison Anders, Shane Black, John Carpenter, Frank Darabont, Bruce Joel Rubin and Paul Schrader. Directed by Peter Hanson. (1:45) NR.

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? The next chapter in the lives of eight college friends struggling with the challenges of marital life. With Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Sharon Leal, Malik Yoba, Richard T. Jones, Tasha Smith, Lamman Rucker, Michael J. White, Louis Gossett Jr., Cicely Tyson and Tyler Perry. Written and Directed by Tyler Perry. (2:01) PG-13.

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West of Pluto A look at a day in the lives of 12 Quebec high schoolers captures their teenage years. Written and directed by Henry Bernadet and Myriam Verreault. In French with English subtitles. (1:35) NR.

When You’re Strange A documentary look at the Doors, the music and personalities of the band and the period they both reflected and influenced, a time of a rupture in the culture between the youth movement and the establishment. It’s also a great L.A. story, starting with band members meeting at UCLA film school, hanging out in Venice and Santa Monica, and becoming the house band at the Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset. Narrated by Johnny Depp. Written and directed by Tom DiCillo. (1:30) R.

Women Without Men The story chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953, a cataclysmic moment in Iranian history when an American led, British backed coup d'état brought down the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and reinstalled the Shah to power. With Pegah Ferydoni and Arita Shahrzad. Directed by Shirin Neshat. (1:40) NR.

All movies are in general release unless noted. Also included: the film’s running time and ratings. MPAA categories: (G) for general audiences; (PG) parental guidance urged because of material possibly unsuitable for children; (PG-13) parents are strongly cautioned to give guidance for attendance of children younger than 13; (R) restricted, younger than 17 admitted only with parent or adult guardian; (NC-17) no one 17 and younger admitted.

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