Film Capsules

In theaters this week

Men in Black III

It's been 10 years since Agents J and K saved the world from a bunch of bug-eyed aliens. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return to save a younger Agent K (played by Josh Brolin) in the year 1969. Time travel, a decade's worth of new CGI, and 3D? We're guessing this is going to be the movie that will finally topple The Avengers from the No. 1 spot it's held for the past three weeks. You can read our review Friday at

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. (Michael Gallucci)

Bully (PG-13) — 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 schools, a why-can't-everyone-get-along attitude the movie suggests is actually giving bad kids a hall pass to harass more timid members of the herd. Bully never flinches, 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 this 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? (Gallucci)

Damsels in Distress (PG-13) — Fourteen years after The Last Days of Disco, writer-director Whit Stillman doesn't miss a beat, filling his long-awaited movie with self-indulgent, rapid-fire dialogue and pseudo intellectual mental masturbation. Damsels in Distress' characters are as fake as the fictitious school they attend. The boys are either pretentious assholes or stupid; the girls are as troubled as the people they counsel at their suicide-prevention center. There's no real plot to the movie. It's more like a character study centered on witty dialogue. Either you dig it or you don't. (Enrique Lopetegui)

Dark Shadows (PG-13) — Based on the 1970s soap opera about vampires — think Twilight, but without the pouty teens — Tim Burton's campy update dresses up Johnny Depp with fangs, makes the whole thing a fish-out-of-water story, and turns out another movie with great set direction and a grade-A cast but not much of a story. Dark Shadows is mostly an excuse for Depp to try on another accent and more period clothing. (Gallucci)

Darling Companion (PG-13) — Writer-director Lawrence Kasdan had a hand in two parts of Star Wars' holy trinity, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Chill, and Body Heat, but this is his third horrific film in a row. Diane Keaton stars as a shrill and manic housewife who can't stand her doctor husband (Kevin Kline). She and her daughter (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) find an abandoned dog by the freeway and name it ... Freeway. On a walk one day, Freeway bolts into the mountains in pursuit of a deer. Relish this moment: It will be the only action that doesn't involve fly fishing, kidney stones, displaced shoulders, and bad cellphone service. (Justin Strout)

The Dictator (R) — Unlike Borat and Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen's third movie as a writer and actor follows a more traditional narrative and conventional form of moviemaking. And unfortunately, it's not very funny. Cohen stars as Admiral General Aladeen, leader of the Republic of Wadiya, a fictional Middle Eastern country. A trip to the U.S. to ease tense relations ends disastrously when Aladeen is unwittingly left on his own on the streets of New York. Unlike Cohen's two mockumentaries, the jokes don't come easy in The Dictator. In fact, most of them are strained — the 911 jokes, the rape jokes, the masturbation jokes. Cohen tosses them off to offend, but mostly they misfire. (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. 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. (Gallucci)

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG) — The latest movie by Aardman — the British animation studio responsible for Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run — is another stop-motion bit of whimsy that puts more effort into its finicky craft than its mediocre story. A group of 19th-century pirates support their inept captain (voiced by Hugh Grant), who calls himself the Pirate Captain and covets the Pirate of the Year Award. Like in most Aardman productions, the jokes and sight gags come quick, but few last longer than the time they're onscreen. (Gallucci)

The Raven (R) — There are moments in director James McTeigue's The Raven — his attempt to enlist Edgar Allan Poe as a detective in 19th-century Baltimore to help police solve a string of murders in which the crime scenes pay homage to Poe's stories — where the whole production comes undone. The movie takes advantage of the mysterious circumstances of Poe's final days by bizarrely cobbling together a narrative that places him right in the public's eye. The broke, alcoholic, and newly engaged Poe (John Cusack with zero regard for believability or style) offers almost no insight. (Strout)

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