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Monsters University -- Pixar’s prequel to 2001’s Monsters, Inc. is neither a bold return to form nor another misfire following Brave and Cars 2, but a charming, colorful coming-of-age tale that would be a less qualified success for all but Pixar. But this is nevertheless pleasant, amiably animated family entertainment. Our expert “scarers”-to-be — the wisecracking pipsqueak Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and the burly James B. Sullivan (John Goodman) — are college freshmen with high aspirations in Monster University’s prestigious Scare Program. Director Dan Scanlon, a veteran Pixar storyboard artist, populates the collegiate life with rich detail and sly but not forced references. Rated G, 103 minutes. — The Associated Press

Pandora’s Promise -- Director and environmentalist Robert Stone goes against his own grain in this advocacy documentary for the potential use of nuclear energy. The longtime skeptic has changed his mind and now more or less promotes his pro-nuclear stance, filling in with interviews of other notable converts: Stewart Brand, Gwyneth Cravens, Richard Rhodes, Michael Shellenberger and others. Stone provides history and plenty of facts to back his thesis. Not rated, 87 minutes. At the Angelika Dallas. — Boo Allen

World War Z -- Might there be a real zombie apocalypse one day? The way zombies have invaded our pop culture the last several years, it’s maybe a bit less implausible than it once was. What is increasingly quite plausible, alas, is a global pandemic, and World War Z cleverly melds that real-life threat into the more fanciful zombie premise. Despite the much-discussed production delays and budget overruns, this movie, based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks (son of Mel), is pretty much what you’d want in a summer blockbuster: scary but not-too-gross zombies, a journey to exotic locales, a few excellent action scenes, and did we mention Brad Pitt? As Gerry Lane, a former U.N. investigator called upon to save the planet, Pitt is a calm, intelligent presence amid the insanity. Rated PG-13, 116 minutes. — AP


After Earth -- This sci-fi adventure about a boy who must become a man to save himself and his wounded warrior father on a hostile world is a corny, generally humorless M. Night Shyamalan picture without his trademark surprises and twists. It’s a straightforward quest in which incapacitated Dad (Will Smith) sends guilt-ridden, fearful teen son Kitai (Jaden Smith) off to fetch a rescue beacon that broke free of the spaceship they just crashed in. Rated PG-13, 100 minutes. — McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Before Midnight -- The final scene of 2004’s Before Sunset was so romantic it drove moviegoers crazy — especially because it was so tantalizingly ambiguous. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), who had fallen in love in 1995’s Before Sunrise, had reunited at last. Before Midnight, the third movie in the Richard Linklater series, tackles weightier, trickier issues with wit, humor and breathtaking directness. Delpy gives Celine a new hardness here, and Hawke is extremely effective as a man who adores his partner but is increasingly frustrated with her. Rated R, 109 minutes. — AP

Epic -- Bright, colorful animated film about the little people who live among us even though we don’t know it. Their verdant forest-dwelling world is threatened when the Rot People aim to steal the magic bulb that brings perpetual life to the living forests. Several themes mix with a rousing adventure tale told with a 3-D flair for action. With a voice cast of Beyonce Knowles, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Chris O’Dowd, Aziz Ansari. Rated PG, 102 minutes. — B.A.

Man of Steel -- Director Zach Snyder (300) delivers a fresh interpretation on an old superhero, and the update proves worth it. This Superman (Henry Cavill) is a man searching for himself and his roots. But looking for him is General Zod (Michael Shannon), an old nemesis of his father (Russell Crowe) from Krypton. Snyder overloads the special effects in a succession of impressive action scenes that never seem to stop. Amy Adams plays Lois Lane. Rated PG-13, 143 minutes. — B.A.

This Is the End -- A gaggle of mostly male stars appear in this scatter-shoot yet ashamedly hilarious spoof. When Seth Rogen (who co-wrote), Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and others attend a party at James Franco’s house, the Apocalypse arrives. Or maybe it’s the Rapture. Plenty of potty, sexist and homophobic humor to offend all. Rated R, 107 minutes. — B.A.