Alex Cross (PG-13) Tyler Perry stars in this adaptation of James Patterson’s novel about a homicide cop who confronts a serial killer (Matthew Fox). Also with Giancarlo Esposito, Edward Burns, Rachel Nichols, Jean Reno, John C. McGinley, Carmen Ejogo, Yara Shahidi, and Cicely Tyson. (Opens Friday)
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (PG-13) Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary profile of her grandmother-in-law and the influential fashion magazine editor. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Keep the Lights On (NR) Ira Sachs (Married Life) directs and co-writes this drama about a gay Danish filmmaker (Thure Lindhardt) who has a tumultuous affair with a closeted New York lawyer (Zachary Booth). Also with Julianne Nicholson, Paprika Steen, Stella Schnabel, Jodie Markell, and Souleymane Sy Savane. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Least Among Saints (R) Martin Papazian writes, directs, and stars in his debut film as a traumatized soldier who returns from the war and befriends a boy from a troubled home (Tristan Lake Leabu). Also with Laura San Giacomo, Azura Skye, A.J. Cook, Taylor Kinney, and Charles S. Dutton. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Paranormal Activity 4 (R) The series continues as a teenager (Kathryn Newton) records the suspicious goings-on around her after a mysterious woman (Katie Featherston) and her young son (Brady Allen) move in next door. Also with Matt Shively, Alisha Boe, and Tommy Miranda. (Opens Friday)
Tai Chi Zero (NR) Stephen Fung directs this steampunk martial-arts film about a student of tai chi (Yuan Xiaochao) who leads a group of Chinese villagers against a British railroad company that wants to destroy the village. Also with Tony Leung Ka Fai, Angelababy, Daniel Wu, Jade Xu, Eddie Peng, and Shu Qi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Wuthering Heights (NR) Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) adapts Emily Brontë’s novel about an orphan rescued from poverty (James Howson) who falls for his foster sister (Kaya Scodelario). Also with James Northcote, Nichola Burley, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Lee Shaw, Amy Wren, and Oliver Milburn. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Argo (R) Ben Affleck stars in and directs this expertly crafted, personality-light thriller. He portrays a real-life CIA exfiltration specialist who in 1980 spirited six Americans who had escaped from the U.S. embassy out of Iran by having them pose as a film crew for a nonexistent movie. The director superbly handles the latter half of the film when it comes to slowly tightening the grip of suspense. However, Chris Terrio’s script barely sketches in the characters, and Affleck’s performance in the lead role as a sad sack with a rocky marriage is undistinguished. The scenes that take place in Hollywood feel lifted from another film, but it’s the only part of the movie that lets the actors (notably Alan Arkin and John Goodman as movie-industry types) have fun. Also with Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Sheila Vand, Chris Messina, Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver, Kyle Chandler, Bob Gunton, Richard Kind, and an uncredited Philip Baker Hall.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II (PG-13) A whole new director, screenwriter, and cast take over this sequel to last year’s non-hit, and while the result flows considerably better than the original, its tendentious philosophizing (taken from Ayn Rand’s novel) will still wear you out. Samantha Mathis now plays the railroad executive trying to make her way in a nightmare future America where CEOs actually have to give some of their money to the government. Jason Beghe plays the mining company executive who helps her battle this evil state of affairs. In contrast to the original, this movie has a few action sequences and even some isolated stabs at humor. Even so, this movie’s joyless fidelity to the original will make you greet it with a shrug of your own. Also with Esai Morales, Patrick Fabian, Kim Rhodes, Richard T. Jones, Diedrich Bader, John Rubinstein, Robert Picardo, Paul McCrane, and D.B. Sweeney.
The Bourne Legacy (PG-13) New director Tony Gilroy and star Jeremy Renner take over the series and turn this installment into a deeply average spy thriller. Renner portrays another agent from the same program as Bourne who teams up with a virologist (Rachel Weisz) so he can get more of the magic pills that make him a superspy. Seriously, that’s the plot. The climactic foot and motorcycle chase through the streets of Manila is well-managed, but elsewhere Gilroy mangles the spy jargon and action sequences into incoherence. Renner is too expressive for what he’s given to do here; surely he has enough money by now to take a break from doing franchise pictures. Also with Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Oscar Isaac, Corey Stoll, Zeljko Ivanek, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, and Albert Finney.
Dredd (R) Faint praise: This is better than the 1995 Sylvester Stallone movie that also tried to bring John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s character to the big screen. Karl Urban takes over as the heavily armored judge, jury, and executioner who administers justice in a dystopian future society. He and a recruit in training (Olivia Thirlby, sadly miscast as a tough action heroine) are trapped in a 200-story apartment tower controlled by a drug lord (Lena Headey) and her murderous minions. It’s not unwatchable, and there are some surreally beautiful shots depicting the influence of a narcotic that slows down reality. You’d have to say, though, that The Raid: Redemption handled this whole premise better. Also with Wood Harris, Rakie Ayola, Deobia Oparei, Langley Kirkwood, and Domhnall Gleeson.
End of Watch (R) The chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña is the best thing in this buddy-cop thriller that thinks it’s more groundbreaking than it is. They portray L.A. beat cops who film themselves as they patrol the city’s meanest streets. Writer-director David Ayer adopts a found-footage look that’s little more than a gimmick, although it does encourage freer and more spontaneous performances from the actors. Gyllenhaal and Peña have an effortless rapport as best friends, and their relaxed banter in the squad car (about coffee, women, and the differences between the social lives of Anglos and Latinos) is even more compelling than the movie’s shootouts and chase scenes. Also with Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, Maurice Compte, Yahira Garcia, Cody Horn, and America Ferrera.
Finding Nemo (G) Nine years after opening in theaters, Pixar’s film is re-released in 3D. This exhilarating, exhausting film is about a clownfish (voiced by Albert Brooks) who searches the ocean after his young son (voiced by Alexander Gould) is scooped up by a scuba diver. The movie’s delirious comic highs exist alongside ingenious action sequences that place the characters in constant jeopardy, and the hectic pace swirls it all together into one big, disorienting vortex. The cast, led by the inspired pairing of Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres as his bubble-brained sidekick, is skilled comically but plays the material as seriously as needed. This fable about the importance of letting kids grow up strays into dark territory, but it’s the brightest thing out there. Additional voices by Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Brad Garrett, Vicki Lewis, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Barry Humphries, Andrew Stanton, Elizabeth Perkins, Eric Bana, Bruce Spence, John Ratzenberger, and Geoffrey Rush.
Frankenweenie (PG) Tim Burton returns to form with this animated remake of his 1984 live-action short film. Charlie Tahan voices a scientifically gifted middle school kid who uses an electrical storm to bring his beloved dog back to life after the animal is run over by a car. The animation firm of Mackinnon & Saunders provides some nice puppetry, and screenwriter John August makes some inspired additions to the original, like a provocative subplot involving a science teacher (voiced by Martin Landau). The climax shows Burton at his morbidly funny best. All in all, this is good enough to come off as an honest piece of entertainment instead of wheel-spinning pastiche. Additional voices by Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, James Hiroyuki Liao, Conchata Ferrell, and Martin Short.
Here Comes the Boom (PG-13) Ow! I saw it coming, but I still couldn’t get out of the way. Kevin James stars in and co-writes this comedy about a burned-out high-school teacher and former collegiate wrestler who rediscovers his passion when he turns himself into an MMA fighter to raise money to prevent a music teacher who inspires him (Henry Winkler) from losing his job. James remains charming, but the script is so lacking in comic inspiration that at one point the characters get into a food fight to get laughs. The movie is better than Won’t Back Down but nowhere near as good as The Warrior. Also with Salma Hayek, Bas Rutten, Gary Valentine, Charice, Jackie Flynn, Mookie Barker, Nikki Tyler-Flynn, and Greg Germann. (Opens Friday)
Hotel Transylvania (PG) One of the all-time top five Adam Sandler movies, this animated film has him voicing Dracula as an overprotective dad and hotel owner who operates a resort for his fellow monsters that protects them and his own hundred-plus-year-old daughter, a mere teenager in vampire years (voiced by Selena Gomez), from the world of humans. Everything he holds dear is threatened when a chilled-out American backpacker (voiced by Andy Samberg) finds his way through the hotel’s front door. The movie loses its way near the end, wandering into some soggy family melodrama, but Samberg gives the movie a shot of friendly energy, and director Genndy Tartakovsky finds all manner of funny details in life at the hotel. You can take your kids to this one without hating yourself too much. Extra points for a well-placed Twilight joke. Additional voices by Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Chris Parnell, and Cee-Lo Green.