In theaters this week

Film Capsules 

In theaters this week

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most WantedThe Penguins of Madagascar is one of the few TV shows that's better than the movies it's spun off from. That's probably why the third outing in this increasingly tiresome animated franchise gives the aquatic flightless birds — along with their lemur and monkey co-stars, all originally supporting characters — more screen time. The focus is still on the main quartet of animals (voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith), still trying to find their way home to America and now traipsing across Europe as part of a traveling circus. But the movie only comes to life when the action shifts away from them. The plot and gags are basically variations on those found in the other two movies, with European landmarks standing in for the African plains and New York City streets. The few moments of inspiration and absurdity are, as Alex the lion tells the circus animals, just going through the motions. Good thing we have the supporting crew. (Michael Gallucci)

The Avengers (PG-13) — There's a really good chance that the summer's most anticipated movie will also be one of its best. Part of that has to do with the all-star team assembled here: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), all imported from their own (mostly) hit movies. But part of it also has to do with director, co-writer, and geek god Joss Whedon. Armed with a great story (Thor's evil brother Loki plans to wipe out the planet), a game cast, and total reverence for the source material, Whedon stages nearly every scene like it's a Big Moment. (Gallucci)

Bernie (PG-13) — Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater's latest movie is a half-fiction, half-documentary true story about an effeminate mortician in a tiny conservative Texas town who takes up with a wealthy and unlikable octogenarian and shoots her in the back, only to find the entire town rallying to his defense. Even more bizarre, the funeral director is played by Jack Black with wholesomeness, restraint, and heart. Actual interviews with the town's locals who knew the real Bernie and the reviled Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine) dominate much of the conversation, and they're chock-full of doozies. Linklater is at his best presenting the macabre tale as if it were a regional character trifle. MacLaine fills in some blanks, and Matthew McConaughey is a welcome arch figure in a town where moral ambiguity had better be earned through near-Christ-like acts of goodness. (Justin Strout)

Men in Black III (PG-13) — In the 10 years since the last Men in Black movie, Tommy Lee Jones has played everyone from a wizened small-town sheriff to a downsized white-collar worker, so policing aliens really isn't his thing these days. Most of the heavy lifting this time around lands on the sturdy shoulders of Josh Brolin as a younger Agent K, whom Agent J (Will Smith, who hasn't aged a day) travels back to 1969 to save. That's the plot. But like the other two movies in the series, III is mostly an excuse for some fancy special effects and state-of-the-art CGI, now in 3D. (Gallucci)

Snow White and the Huntsman (PG-13) — At the very least, the second movie of 2012 to revisit the classic fairy tale will wash out the bad taste left by Mirror Mirror. Kristen Stewart plays the teenage princess, who escapes her castle prison for the Dark Forest, pursued by a drunken Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, Thor in The Avengers) sent by her evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). First-time director Rupert Sanders dresses up Snow White and the Huntsman with enough CGI and eye candy to keep things visually exciting. And the eight dwarfs here (yes, eight) are far from the amiable whistling and sneezing forest-dwellers found in other versions of the story. But the movie is overlong, and its uninspired plot is no match for the stunning look of the film. And Stewart is no match for the hammy, gorgeous, and deliciously evil Theron. (Gallucci)

Sound of My Voice (R) — This is no movie, it's a sketch — an inkling of an exploration of cults of personalities as seen through the eyes of two documentary-making skeptics, a maddeningly pretentious couple who pose as true believers to expose a cult leader (co-writer Brit Marling) as a fake. As the couple gets pulled deeper into the basement-dwelling cult, they each worry that the other has been compromised. Filmed with minimal budget, the movie's no-frills, shaky-cam charm feels dated, and the cult at its heart is sterile and castrated. (Strout)

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