The Hunger Games (PG-13) Gary Ross’ adaptation doesn’t accomplish nearly all the things that Suzanne Collins’ brilliant novels do, but it is a pretty good sci-fi action thriller. Jennifer Lawrence plays the teenage heroine in a future dystopian society who reluctantly volunteers to take part in a televised fight to the death with 23 other teens. The ruling city’s gaudy luxury in the middle section doesn’t come off, and the script loses many of the novel’s richer aspects, especially the commentary on reality TV. Yet the sun-dappled, indie-film look of the outer sections gives the movie a distinctive feel, and Ross turns the screws of suspense expertly. Lawrence’s dexterous and deeply felt performance keeps the movie on track. It’s not the most imaginative version, but it’s smart and reasonably well-made. Also with Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Liam Hemsworth, Amandla Stenberg, Alexander Ludwig, Isabelle Fuhrman, Willow Shields, and Donald Sutherland.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (PG) This noisy and inconsequential third installment has our animal heroes (voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, and David Schwimmer) becoming stranded in Europe, pursued by a fanatical Monaco animal control officer (voiced by Frances McDormand), and forced to take refuge amid a multinational troupe of circus animals. The movie doesn’t have any dead spots, and the plot isn’t as scattered as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’s, but the jokes are largely forgettable and the new characters don’t add much, aside from McDormand singing a credible “Non, je ne regrette rien.” It’s all professionally made, but it’s empty. Additional voices by Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Bryan Cranston, Martin Short, Paz Vega, and Jessica Chastain.
Men in Black III (PG-13) The fizz that made the 1997 original so much fun is completely gone in this third installment, which has Agent J (Will Smith) trying to save Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) by traveling back in time to the 1960s to prevent an evil alien (Jemaine Clement) from assassinating the young K (Josh Brolin). A few scattered jokes hit, and there’s a nice supporting performance by Michael Stuhlbarg as a sweet-natured alien who sees all possible versions of the future at once. Yet director Barry Sonnenfeld’s slime-joke aesthetic is long stale, and Smith can’t duplicate the comic chemistry with Brolin (doing a pretty good Jones impression). The tired hijinks here make 1997 seem like a very long time ago. Also with Emma Thompson, Mike Colter, Alice Eve, David Rasche, and Bill Hader.
Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13) This luminescent children’s fable from Wes Anderson is about 12-year-old kids in love (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who run off together to live in the woods, launching a massive childhunt on the New England island where they live. The director’s scrupulously composed visuals keeps things from becoming too syrupy. The kids take their wilderness adventure matter-of-factly, but their deeper emotions come out in oblique ways, such as a great montage with the openings of their letters to each other over the hellish moments of their lives. Anderson’s style is at its most scrupulous and typically Anderson, but it’s secondary to the delicate love story he crafts about two children carving out a space in the world where they can be themselves. The paradise they create is bewitching. Also with Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel.
Prometheus (R) Returning to the Alien series after 33 years seems to have jolted Ridley Scott out of his torpor. This prequel to the 1979 classic stars Noomi Rapace as a scientist leading an expedition to a distant planet to find the human race’s origins. Scott conjures up some glowering, volcanic, cloud-topped scenery for the planet as well as some moments of awe-inspiring beauty. (You’d do well to pay for the 3D upcharge.) The script doesn’t match the visual beauty, with too many ends left hanging. Still, the movie does have the rapport between the hyperintense Rapace and the inhumanly calm Michael Fassbender as an android on the mission, and there’s one scene involving a robot surgeon that matches the skin-crawling power of the original. The movie falls short of Alien in terms of thematic material, but its ambition makes it stand out amid the summer blockbusters. Also with Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Patrick Wilson, and Guy Pearce.
Snow White and the Huntsman (PG-13) First-time director Rupert Sanders turns the old fable into a big, dull swords-and-shields epic livened by some really cool visual touches. Charlize Theron (overacting with all her might) is the evil queen, Kristen Stewart is the imprisoned princess who escapes her clutches into an enchanted forest, and Chris Hemsworth is the hunter who’s sent into the forest to bring her back. Sanders gives us an anthropomorphic mirror, warriors who turn themselves into flying shards of black glass, some beautifully rendered fairies, and a breathtaking interlude with the spirit of the forest. Yet the dialogue is witless and the momentum dies way too often. Good-looking though this is, it goes in the loss column. Also with Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Sam Claflin, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost, and Toby Jones.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting (PG-13) Heidi Murkoff’s pregnancy guide becomes this omnibus comedy about a bunch of expectant couples in Atlanta. Director Kirk Jones stocks the roster here with comics and lets them ad-lib at will, with some funny results from Rebel Wilson as a baby-store employee, a pack of swaggering married dads, and one couple (Ben Falcone and Elizabeth Banks) suffering from inferiority complexes. The rest of the movie is perfectly predictable, and you can time down to the second when the celebrity fitness guru (Cameron Diaz) is going to suffer her first bout of morning sickness. The movie’s share of nifty wisecracks can’t disguise the rampant mediocrity on display. Also with Jennifer Lopez, Anna Kendrick, Chris Rock, Rodrigo Santoro, Matthew Morrison, Thomas Lennon, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Chace Crawford, Rob Huebel, Amir Talai, and Joe Manganiello.
Grand Illusion (NR) A 75th-anniversary re-mastered print of Jean Renoir’s film about two French prisoners (Jean Gabin and Marcel Dalio) during World War I who plot to escape from their German camp. Also with Pierre Fresnay, Dita Parlo, Werner Florian, Julien Carette, and Erich von Stroheim.
Hysteria (R) Tanya Wexler’s comedy stars Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a 19th-century British doctor and a female suffragette who invent the vibrator. Also with Jonathan Pryce, Felicity Jones, Ashley Jensen, Gemma Jones, Kim Criswell, Anna Chancellor, Tobias Menzies, and Rupert Everett.
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (R) Jane Fonda stars in this comedy as an unreconstructed hippie farmer who’s visited by her uptight daughter (Catherine Keener) and teenage grandchildren (Elizabeth Olsen and Nat Wolff). Also with Chace Crawford, Kyle MacLachlan, Rosanna Arquette, and Katharine McPhee.
Where Do We Go Now? (PG-13) Nadine Labaki (Caramel) directs and co-stars in this drama about a group of Lebanese women trying to defuse tensions between Christians and Muslims in their village. Also with Claude Baz Moussawba, Layla Hakim, Yvonne Maalouf, Antoinette Noufaily, Julien Farhat, Ali Haidar, Kevin Abboud, and Petra Saghbini.