Film Capsules

In theaters this week


This straight-from-the-headlines look at bullying in U.S. schools will either make you bounce around options for surgical sterility or rage against the politically correct culture that's taken hold in public school administrations, a why-can't-everyone-get-along attitude the documentary suggests is actually giving bad kids a hall pass to harass more timid members of the herd. And bad they are. Did we punt our high-school recollections down a memory hole, or were kids always sadistic little punks boiling over with blood lust and a sociopathic inability to care about others? Bully tracks the lives of a handful of tormented kids and their families, including the Longs and Smalleys, who are dealing with suicides resulting from schoolyard harassment. The movie never flinches from looking at the problem, kindling tremendous sympathy for the kids who seem systemically stuck under a boot heel. (Kyle Swenson)

The Cabin in the Woods (R) – If its geek pedigree isn't enough to tip you off that The Cabin in the Woods isn't your typical slasher movie, it should become clear within the first few minutes that co-writers Drew Goddard (who also directs) and Joss Whedon have something else in mind for their pre-apocalyptic twist on The Evil Dead. The setup is familiar: Five college kids spend a weekend at an old summer house tucked deep in redneck country, doing everything you'd expect them to. They find a diary with an old Latin inscription in the creepy basement, and you know what happens next — or do you? The Cabin in the Woods spends a great deal of time lining up horror-movie conventions only to smack them down. Goddard and Whedon have made one of the most unconventional, self-conscious, and all-around enjoyable horror movies in recent years. (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)

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. (Lee 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)

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