The Amazing Spider-Man (PG-13) The series re-starts with Andrew Garfield starring as high-school student Peter Parker as he first becomes the superhero and seeks to learn the fate of his missing parents. Also with Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Irrfan Khan, Embeth Davidtz, and Campbell Scott. (Opens Tuesday)
Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story (NR) Robert Bralver and David Ferino’s documentary profile of the frontman of the “low rock” band Morphine. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Madea’s Witness Protection (PG-13) Tyler Perry’s latest comedy has the old lady providing shelter to the family of a Wall Street executive (Eugene Levy) who’s informing on his firm’s corporate misdeeds. Also with Denise Richards, Romeo, Doris Roberts, Danielle Campbell, John Amos, Marla Gibbs, and Tom Arnold. (Opens Friday)
Magic Mike (R) Channing Tatum stars in Steven Soderbergh’s comedy as a stripper who teaches a young newcomer (Alex Pettyfer) the profession. Also with Cody Horn, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, Kevin Nash, Gabriel Iglesias, Riley Keough, Olivia Munn, and Matthew McConaughey. (Opens Friday)
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (R) The year’s best movie title goes to this appropriately strange but rushed and unmoving thriller adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, in which our nation’s 16th president (Benjamin Walker) is inspired to take up politics by his lust for killing vampires. A newcomer from the stage, Walker is a terrifically unself-conscious Lincoln, and director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) stages a few gonzo action sequences like the one in which Lincoln and a vampire fight while leaping on the backs of stampeding horses. Yet Grahame-Smith is glib enough to equate the evils of slavery with the evils of vampires, and Bekmambetov seems unsure whether to treat this as historical burlesque or with a straight face. Whole sections of the movie seem to be missing, and the inconsistent tone dulls the impact. Also with Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Rufus Sewell, and an uncredited Alan Tudyk.
The Avengers (PG-13) A payoff worth waiting four years and sitting through five movies for. Marvel Comics superheroes Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, and Thor (Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth) team up with two new assassins (Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner) to battle a fallen Norse god (Tom Hiddleston) with plans to invade the Earth. Writer-director Joss Whedon manages to give everyone enough to do, fill in intriguing character details, and pull off a couple of mind-bogglingly complex action sequences without any strain and without making the movie feel overstuffed. A few bobbles along the way notwithstanding, this surpasses all the other Marvel films while somehow making them all seem worthier in retrospect. Also with Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Alexis Denisof, Jerzy Skolimowski, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Bernie (PG-13) Jack Black’s quietly mesmerizing performance as a gentle, gay, God-fearing, emotionally needy East Texas man anchors this drama based on a real life murder case. He portrays a mortician involved with a wealthy old widow (Shirley MacLaine) who becomes so mean and possessive of him that he snaps. So great is Black, you wish director/co-writer Richard Linklater would stop distracting you with fake interview footage of townspeople (portrayed by actors) testifying to Bernie’s character. Still, the movie draws an absorbing portrait of a man whose niceness and burning desire for friends proves to be both his downfall and his salvation. Watch for the diner customer giving a hilarious explanation of Texas’ cultural geography. Also with Matthew McConaughey, Brady Coleman, Richard Robichaux, Merrilee McCommas, Brandon Smith, Matthew Greer, and the late Rick Dial.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13) A gasp-inducing lineup of veteran British actors makes some watchable moments but doesn’t elevate this slight comedy to anything more. Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, the movie concerns seven British seniors who retire to the city of Jaipur, India to a faded old hotel repurposed as an old-age home for British seniors by a young entrepreneur (Dev Patel). Judi Dench underplays nicely as a widow on her own for the first time in her life, while Tom Wilkinson demonstrates similarly easy mastery as a man harboring a long-held shameful secret. Yet director John Madden doesn’t go much deeper into the Indian setting than a travelogue, and the plotlines’ resolutions pile up near the end. For all its talent, this movie comes out like bland, over-processed curry. Also with Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Tena Desae, Lillete Dubey, Seema Azmi, Vishnu Sharma, and Diana Hardcastle.
Brave (PG) Pixar’s first real disappointment. Set in medieval Scotland, the story is about a tomboy princess (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) whose clashes with her mum (voiced by Emma Thompson) lead her to buy a magic spell that will change her fate. The heroine is basically a petulant teenager who isn’t nearly as moving a figure as previous Pixar characters, and the relationship with her mother is poorly sketched. The characters are conveniently unintelligent, and the plot developments can be seen coming yards away. Even much of the humor falls flat after the spell takes effect. The movie still looks good, but this marks a descent into mediocrity for the proud studio. Additional voices by Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson, Kevin McKidd, Peigi Barker, and John Ratzenberger.
Lola Versus (R) Greta Gerwig’s charm is the only redeeming feature in this wearisomely repetitive comedy about a young woman who goes into a tailspin after her fiancé (Joel Kinnaman) suddenly ditches her. The titular Lola copes by getting wasted, having bad sex with random guys, awkwardly running into her ex, and listening to gentle pep talks from her loved ones until she mysteriously finds some sort of closure. The script by director Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones (who also plays Lola’s best friend) is full of punchlines that miss. Unless you’re a diehard Gerwig fan, skip this one. Also with Hamish Linklater, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jay Pharoah, Cheyenne Jackson, Bill Pullman, and Debra Winger.
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.
Rock of Ages (PG-13) The cast is a better selling point than the music in this adaptation of the Broadway musical built around 1980s glam-rock hits. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are aspiring rock singers in love in 1987 Los Angeles, and even though the angelic-looking Boneta is a find, they’re part of a story that’s spread too thin among too many characters. The songs don’t lend themselves to Broadway-style dance, either. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand turn “Can’t Fight This Feeling” into a goofy gay love duet, but the only time the movie ignites is when Tom Cruise shows up as a charismatic rock star who sings “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and uses his fame to indulge in lunatic behavior. Cruise is perfectly cast, and when he’s on the screen, you can’t look anywhere else. Also with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte, T.J. Miller, Debbie Gibson, and Constantine Maroulis.
Safety Not Guaranteed (R) Aubrey Plaza is splendid in this science-fiction comedy as a magazine intern who chases a story about a grocery store clerk (Mark Duplass) who advertises for a time-traveling companion. Director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly make assured debuts, but the show belongs to Plaza, who displays colors we haven’t seen from her, as she gradually drops her air of disaffected sarcasm, becomes fired with a sense of purpose, and slowly begins to believe that the clerk might be for real. A sunnier lead actress would have sabotaged the movie, but Plaza’s hard-shelled presence makes it uniquely powerful. For all the failed movies about jaded cynics who need to open their hearts and have faith in something, this is a wondrous success. Also with Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Lynn Shelton, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kristen Bell, and Jeff Garlin.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (R) Set during the two weeks before an asteroid impact destroys all life on Earth, this mushy and scattershot romantic comedy stars Steve Carell as a harmonica-playing insurance salesman who takes a road trip with his pothead music geek neighbor (Keira Knightley) so they can see their loved ones before the world ends. Making her directing debut, writer Lorene Scafaria (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) comes up with a lot of fuzzy philosophizing and unfunny situations that waste the plethora of comic supporting actors who drift in and out of the movie. Better chemistry might have saved this movie anyway, but Carell and Knightley don’t have enough of it. Also with William Petersen, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Adam Brody, Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lynskey, Gillian Jacobs, T.J. Miller, Derek Luke, and Martin Sheen.
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.
That’s My Boy (R) Merciful God, please grant me the sweet release of death. Adam Sandler stars as a man who, having fathered a child at age 13 with his schoolteacher, turns up at the wedding of his now-grown son (Andy Samberg) to beg for money. Even though the dad has turned into an alcoholic sex maniac, the movie still frames his childhood tryst as something romantic and awesome. Then again, this movie does so many hideous things that making light of child molestation actually counts as one of its lesser sins. Everything that happens in the last half hour will make you want a hot shower. Is this worse than Jack and Jill? It just might be. Also with Leighton Meester, Milo Ventimiglia, Eva Amurri Martino, Vanilla Ice, Meagen Fay, Tony Orlando, Will Forte, Rachel Dratch, Nick Swardson, Ana Gasteyer, Rex Ryan, James Caan, and Susan Sarandon.
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.
The Intouchables (R) This award-winning French dramedy stars François Cluzet as a quadriplegic French billionaire who hires an ex-convict (Omar Sy) as his live-in nurse. Also with Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, and Alba Gaïa Bellugi.
The Woman in the Fifth (R) Pawel Pawlikowski’s adaptation of Douglas Kennedy’s novel stars Ethan Hawke as an American writer in Paris who becomes erotically obsessed with a possible serial killer (Kristin Scott Thomas) who lives in the building where he works. Also with Joanna Kulig, Samir Guesmi, Delphine Chuillot, Julie Papillon, and Geoffrey Carey.
Your Sister’s Sister (R) This comedy by Lynn Shelton (Humpday) stars Mark Duplass as a bereaved man who becomes romantically entangled while vacationing at a secluded cabin with his platonic best friend (Emily Blunt) and her gay sister (Rosemarie DeWitt). Also with Mike Birbiglia.