The Bourne Legacy (PG-13) Jeremy Renner stars as a new secret agent who comes out of the same CIA program as Jason Bourne. Also with Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Corey Stoll, Zeljko Ivanek, David Strathairn, and Albert Finney. (Opens Friday)
Goats (R) Christopher Neil’s adaptation of Mark Poirier’s novel stars Graham Phillips as a 15-year-old boy who reckons with his dysfunctional upbringing before going off to an exclusive East Coast prep school. Also with Vera Farmiga, David Duchovny, Dakota Johnson, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell, and Keri Russell. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Hope Springs (PG-13) Meryl Streep stars in this comedy as a housewife who tries to revive her marriage by dragging her longtime husband (Tommy Lee Jones) to see a famous marriage counselor (Steve Carell). Also with Jean Smart, Ben Rappaport, Marin Ireland, Mimi Rogers, and Elisabeth Shue. (Opens Wednesday)
The Intouchables (R) This French dramedy was a huge box-office hit that swept every award in sight in its native country, but you’ll likely find it underwhelming. Omar Sy portrays a Senegalese immigrant who lands a job as a live-in nurse to a wealthy white Parisian (François Cluzet). The two men find themselves becoming best friends, despite their differences. The lead actors have a nice rapport, but Olivier Nakadache and Éric Toledano do a sloppy job writing and directing this, giving us hijinks instead of character. The movie’s sanitized, feel-good version of race relations has struck a chord with French audiences and critics, but it also shows what a long way France has to go. Also with Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, and Alba Gaïa Bellugi. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Killer Joe (NC-17) William Friedkin’s adaptation of Tracy Letts’ play stars Emile Hirsch as a young drug dealer who hires a hit man (Matthew McConaughey) to help him pay off a debt. Also with Juno Temple, Gina Gershon, and Thomas Haden Church. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Nitro Circus: The Movie (PG-13) Travis Pastrana and his buddies perform stunts on motorcycles, cars, speedboats, monster trucks, and other vehicles. (Opens Wednesday)
Nuit #1 (NR) Anne Émonds’ drama stars Catherine de Léan and Dimitri Storoge as a French-Canadian couple conversing after a one-night stand. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Queen of Versailles (PG) Lauren Greenfield’s documentary follows Florida real estate mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie as they prepare to build the largest mansion in America, only to see David’s fortune greatly reduced during the 2008 financial meltdown. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
2016: Obama’s America (NR) Dinesh D’Souza’s right-wing documentary anticipates where America will be in four years if the president is re-elected. (Opens Friday)
The Amazing Spider-Man (PG-13) The series goes back to its origins with this well-made blockbuster that’s neither transcendent nor in any way terrible. Andrew Garfield takes over the role of Peter Parker, whose search for the fate of his murdered parents intensifies when he’s bitten by that radioactive spider. The various plot strains are brought together gracefully by new director Marc Webb and his writers. The biggest difference between this movie and its predecessors is Garfield, who turns in a refreshingly uncomplicated performance as a scruffy kid bursting with emotions. This is a supremely competent and effective movie rather than a great one, and it makes an intriguing starting point for a new series. Also with Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Sally Field, Martin Sheen, Irrfan Khan, C. Thomas Howell, Embeth Davidtz, and Campbell Scott.
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.
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.
The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13) A clever tying up of loose ends. Christopher Nolan’s last Batman film finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) coming out of retirement to battle an uprising led by a populist demagogue (Tom Hardy) with concealed motives. The steady, low drumbeat of suspense is familiar from other Nolan films but not so much is the note of delicacy and grace provided by Anne Hathaway as a cat burglar, nor the emotional beats that come as Bruce, his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) are all forced to confront the lies they’ve told and the compromises they’ve made. The movie resolves plotlines that go all the way back to Batman Begins. If that’s not enough, Nolan’s action sequences are improved here, with greater clarity. It’s a hell of a way for the trilogy to go out. Also with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Ben Mendelsohn, Burn Gorman, Cillian Murphy, and Liam Neeson.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days (PG) Not as good as Moonrise Kingdom but more likely to appeal to the little ones. The third film in the series is an episodic account of summer vacation as experienced by Greg Heffley (Zachary Gordon), whose chief goals are to stay on his father’s good side, play video games, and win the heart of classmate Holly Hills (Peyton List). Needless to say, hijinks ensue, but things eventually work out, if not quite as Greg had imagined (and minus the video games). Steve Zahn turns in a decent but understated performance as the dad, while Rachael Harris goes under-utilized as the mother. The film won’t be especially enjoyable for adults, but it’s not terribly grating either, except for its random stereotype of a South Asian student, whose accent serves as an awkward punchline. Also with Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Grayson Russell, Laine McNeil, and Karan Brar. — Zack Shlachter
Ice Age: Continental Drift (PG) The well is long dry for this fourth installment, as Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) gets separated from his family and once again relies on the help of his buddies (voiced by John Leguizamo and Denis Leary) to reunite with them. The domestic drama fails to generate any emotional heat or make us invest in the main characters, and the addition of a villainous orangutan pirate (voiced by Peter Dinklage) and some hefty vocal talent in the cast accomplishes nothing. The wordless four-minute Simpsons short that accompanies the feature is a better piece of filmmaking than this. Additional voices by Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Wanda Sykes, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Josh Gad, Aziz Ansari, Nick Frost, Rebel Wilson, Alan Tudyk, Joy Behar, Patrick Stewart, Heather Morris, Nicki Minaj, and Drake.