Film Capsules

In theaters this week

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. So 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. Brolin brings some much-needed new blood to the franchise, but the movie plods along, time-warping the action back 40-plus years without much purpose. Rated PG-13. (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)

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)

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)

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. (Justin Strout)

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