Film Capsules

In theaters this week

The Kid With a Bike

When it becomes clear to 11-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) that his dad left him in a group home and isn't coming back, all he has left is his bike and a kind hairdresser named Samantha (Cécile de France) who agrees to foster him on weekends. If his barely bottled hurt and rage aren't likely to cause him enough trouble, the attentions of a local hood don't bode well either. Belgian writer/directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes bring to mind a few other finely observed realist gems, specifically Bicycle Thieves and The 400 Blows. Doret's performance is devastating, not least because of the Dardennes brothers' deftness in setting up the heartbreaks in their script. But the film wouldn't work without de France, whose character grounds Doret's in a number of ways. For all its social-services realism, The Kid With a Bike flirts with melodrama as it builds toward its climax by toggling between the tenacious grip of Cyril's entanglement with street crime and the growing bond of his relationship with Samantha. The Dardennes seem headed for a gut-punching ending, only to drop your jaw with something entirely different. Not rated. (Lee Gardner) The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (NR) — Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV frontman Genesis Breyer P-Orridge began an art project in the '90s with his girlfriend Lady Jaye. They dressed the same, got plastic surgery to look like each other, and both received breast implants. Despite the bounty of personalities, this documentary never quite takes off. Genesis is perceptive and analytical about his work, especially when it comes to the controversial performance-art shows he's presented throughout his career, but the movie focuses more on the couple's relationship. (Michael Gallucci)

The Hunger Games (PG-13) — The first story in Suzanne Collins' saga doubles as the series' setup: In a post-apocalyptic America, the government mandates that two kids from each of 12 districts fight to the death in a televised showdown. Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a resourceful coal miner's daughter who takes her younger sister's place in the brutal battle. But first there's training, backstories, and personal issues to get out of the way. By the time the movie brings on the games, you're ready for blood. The Hunger Games drags a bit in the second half, but there's more life here than in any of those bloodless vampire movies. (Gallucci)

John Carter (PG-13) — John Carter is a big, loud, and overlong sci-fi epic that aims for genre mythos but settles for super-caffeinated 3D spectacle. The title character (played by Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch) is a 19th-century cavalry captain who, thanks to a celestial medallion, ends up on Mars, where he gets caught up in a war between towering, four-armed CGI aliens and a race of people who look like they raided Flash Gordon's wardrobe. John Carter is a visual delight. But it's ultimately an empty experience. (Gallucci)

The Raid: Redemption (R) — Any action fan who watches Gareth Evans' new movie will recognize an epochal action prodigy/game changer at work. Young police officer Rama is a badass, a good man, and husband to a pregnant wife. He and his fellow SWAT officers have been tasked with taking down malignant crime lord Tama, who has turned a rundown apartment tower into his personal fortress. Once the raid goes down and the building is alerted to the cops' presence, Evans goes nuts. When two dudes beating the crap out of each other at length atop a table covered with cocaine residue is a grace note in your symphony of ass-kicking, you have arrived at a new level of over-the-top. (Gardner)

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (PG-13) — Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) is Britain's leading fisheries expert and is working on finding a suitably shocking cover for a fishing journal when his boss gives him an impossible task: bring wild salmon from British waters to the deserts of the Middle East. It's essentially a PR move to improve British-Arab relations after a bloody war incident. So Alfred begins working with a sheikh's representative, Harriet (Emily Blunt), but you know where the relationship is heading long before they do. The actors do their best to bring this love story to life, but ultimately this movie about restoring faith doesn't give you much to believe in. (Laura Dattaro)

21 Jump Street (R) — Based on the late-'80s TV show that launched Johnny Depp's career, this reload centers around newbie cops Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, police academy pals assigned to go undercover to find out who's supplying kids with a synthetic drug. The movie clicks not so much because of its two leads, but thanks to its great supporting talent, including Ice Cube and Rob Riggle. The finale unravels on prom night, picking up speed after a cameo that almost justifies the price of admission. (Kyle Swenson)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (R) — It's every parent's worst nightmare and something Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton) knows from the start: There's something wrong with her son. And early on we know it too, because a teenage Kevin went on a shooting spree at his school, killing several classmates. Eva is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life from the outset, distancing herself from the tragedy of her past and barely disguising how fragile she's become. Swinton doesn't say much — she doesn't have to. Her tear-stained eyes and anguished face carry all her emotions. In a career filled with terrific, subtle performances, this is one of her best. (Gallucci)