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Movies: April 4, 2014

Capsule reviews of ”300: Rise of an Empire,” ”Bad Words,” and more

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300: Rise of an Empire
R, 1 Hr., 43 Mins.
An ancient-Greece action sequel with the scene-stealing Eva Green as a bloodthirsty dominatrix. BChris Nashawaty

Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clercq
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 31 Mins.
A spooky, heartbreaking documentary about Tanny le Clercq, the solemnly intoxicating long-legged sylph of a ballerina (she was like Greta Garbo on stilts) who became one of the great muses of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins — until she was stricken by polio in 1956. It’s a hymn to her rapture and infinite resilience. A Owen Gleiberman

Bad Words
R, 1 Hr., 28 Mins.
In Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, it’s a hilarious shock to see him play a misanthropic SOB who enters the National Spelling Bee. A-Owen Gleiberman

Big Men
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 39 Mins.
Rachel Boynton’s gripping doc shows you what happens when the greed of oil companies meets the chaos of postcolonial Africa. In 2007 an oil field is discovered in Ghana, and the Dallas-based Kosmos Energy cuts a deal that initially gives Kosmos most of the profits. But in the end, who should (and will) lay claim to those billions of dollars? A U.S. company? The leaders of Ghana? The citizens? This moral-economic drama plays out in backroom deals that Boynton records in all their stunning and at times shameless candor. A-Owen Gleiberman

Breathe In
R, 1 Hr., 37 Mins.
Will Guy Pearce’s high school music teacher give in to temptation when a teenage British piano prodigy (Felicity Jones) moves in with his family? That dilemma drives Drake Doremus’ slow-burn domestic drama, which plays like a less pulpy, Chopin-infused Poison Ivy. Buoyed by some nicely nuanced performances (especially by Pearce and Amy Ryan as his dream-dashing wife), Breathe In never quite rises above its predictable potboiler premise. B Chris Nashawaty

Cesar Chavez
PG-13, 1 Hr., 38 Mins.
It should have been made 40 years ago, but this biopic about the Mexican-American leader who spearheaded the fight for farmworkers’ rights couldn’t be more timely. It arrives just as the clout of unions is crumbling, and it roots itself in the dynamic nuts-and-bolts tactics of how Chavez built a movement out of people who had no power. In the title role, Michael Peña has a no-nonsense fire: He captures how Chavez borrowed from Martin Luther King Jr. but also fueled the struggle with his own improvisatory brilliance. Keeping a strike going for years, he triumphed by fusing empathy and strategy. B+Owen Gleiberman

Divergent
PG-13, 2 Hrs., 20 Mins.
The heroine, Tris, learns to leap and toss knives like a badass. She’s a market-tested YA role model — but as played by Shailene Woodley, she’s also a relatable character. B+Owen Gleiberman

Finding Vivian Maier
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 23 Mins.
More connect-the-dots detective thriller than traditional doc, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s revelatory riddle of a film unmasks a brilliant photographer who hid in plain sight for decades working as an eccentric French nanny. Her name was Vivian Maier, and judging from her haunting, humorous, and long-unseen street portraits, she was like Mary Poppins living a double life as Diane Arbus. (Also available on VOD) A- Chris Nashawaty

The Grand Budapest Hotel
R, 1 Hr., 40 Mins.
Wes Anderson’s thrilling wartime chase movie, with Ralph Fiennes as a florid scoundrel. A-Owen Gleiberman

Jodorowsky’s Dune
PG-13, 1 Hr., 30 Mins.
A fantastic, dizzying doc about one of the strangest and most ambitious movies never made: Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune. AChris Nashawaty

Mistaken for Strangers
Not Rated, 1 Hr., 14 Mins.
The finest rock doc since Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Matt Berninger, lead singer of the National, is a 40ish indie-rock star who carries himself like a hip lawyer. When he asks his slacker brother, Tom, to come on tour as a roadie, Tom turns the gig into a film about crawling out from under his brother’s shadow. Imagine a rock psychodrama starring Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) A-Owen Gleiberman

Muppets Most Wanted
PG, 1 Hr., 47 Mins.
Our felt heroes get conned by a nasty manager (Ricky Gervais), and Kermit is replaced by an evil look-alike. BChris Nashawaty

Veronica Mars
PG-13, 1 Hr., 48 Mins.
It updates but preserves the Nancy Drew-meets-Buffy spirit of the teen-gumshoe series. Kristen Bell is better than ever. (Also available on iTunes and VOD) BOwen Gleiberman

Noah and Sabotage (both in theaters March 28) did not screen by our deadline, but you can find our reviews on EW.com