Paranormal Activity 4 (R) The series finally runs out of gas. The story picks up five years after the events of the second movie, with a teenage girl in Nevada (Kathryn Newton) recording the mysterious events around her after a new neighbor (Katie Featherston) and her son (Brady Allen) move in across the street. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman remain from the third installment, and they make creative use of an Xbox Kinect to detect invisible spirits. Yet the scares here are ham-fisted and obvious in ways that they weren’t in the last three films, and the characters are stupid in ways that are convenient for the plot. This series needs to come to a point and end. Also with Matt Shively, Stephen Dunham, Alexondra Lee, Brian Boland, Aiden Lovekamp, and Sprague Grayden.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (PG-13) Stephen Chbosky turns his beloved 1999 teen novel into a movie, and it’s well worth the 13-year wait. Logan Lerman portrays a kid navigating his freshman year of high school after a stint in a mental institution. The film is exceptionally well-cast, with Lerman doing magnificent work as a mentally fragile kid and Ezra Miller and Emma Watson forming a killer duo as a pair of senior stepsiblings who respond to the kid’s shyness and take him in. The sharpness of Chbosky’s comic dialogue keeps the movie’s pathos from overwhelming everything else, and as a director he captures the exhilarating feeling of teenage years to create some great lyrical moments, like Watson standing up in her pickup truck while it’s driven through a tunnel. This is one of the great teen movies of the last decade. Also with Mae Whitman, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Rudd, and Joan Cusack.
Pitch Perfect (PG-13) A total blast. Anna Kendrick stars in this musical comedy as a college freshman who joins an all-female a cappella singing group at her school and sets about dethroning the national champions, an obnoxious all-male group that’s also at her school. Kay Cannon’s script is full of quotable lines, and the punchlines come from all corners, including Hana Mae Lee as a chorister who can’t speak above a whisper and Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as a pair of cranky TV commentators. Kendrick’s singing makes up for her sluggish performance, as she leads the group in a rousing cover of “No Diggity” and does a YouTube-inspired solo on “Cups (You’re Gonna Miss Me),” while Rebel Wilson steals all manner of laughs and takes lead on “Turn the Beat Around.” It’s all enough to send you out of the theater singing. Also with Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, Joe Lo Truglio, Donald Faison, Har Mar Superstar, John Benjamin Hickey, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Seven Psychopaths (R) The second blood-soaked comedy by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) doesn’t come to much, but its characters are fun to be around for a couple of hours. Colin Farrell plays an alcoholic Irish screenwriter in Hollywood whose actor buddy (Sam Rockwell) drags him into a bloody caper after they kidnap a dog belonging to a vicious mob boss (Woody Harrelson). The action slows down radically in the second half as the main characters hide out in the desert, but McDonagh’s discursive writing style yields comic treasures (Gandhi’s “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” gets deconstructed here) that are well-delivered, especially by Rockwell and Christopher Walken as his partner in crime. Also with Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Tom Waits, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Christina Marzano, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Harry Dean Stanton, and Gabourey Sidibe.
Silent Hill: Revelation (R) Based on what was a pretty scary series of video games, this drearily uninventive sequel to the 2006 film stars Adelaide Clemens as a girl who must enter a horrific ghost town in another dimension to find her disappeared father (Sean Bean) and uncover the secrets to her childhood. Some of the faceless creatures she encounters are nicely conceived, but writer-director Michael J. Bassett doesn’t film them in any distinctive way. Australian newcomer Clemens may look like Carey Mulligan, but her American accent comes out all mushmouthed. Play the video games if you want a scare. Also with Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Malcolm McDowell, Martin Donovan, Deborah Kara Unger, and an uncredited Radha Mitchell.
Sinister (R) Silly plot contrivances and gloomy atmosphere blunt the scares in Scott Derrickson’s horror film. Ethan Hawke plays a true-crime novelist whose lust for his lost fame leads him to move his family into a house where a series of murders took place. The writer’s personal demons are fairly compelling, but the movie stumbles once it introduces a soul-eating Babylonian deity who gets to people by appearing in home videos that they watch. Despite that, the film makes for a watchable horror flick. Also with Vincent D’Onofrio, Juliet Rylance, Michael Hall D’Addario, James Ransone, Clare Daley, and Fred Dalton Thompson. — Steve Steward
Taken 2 (PG-13) Liam Neeson kills more of them dirty, swarthy, godless foreigners in this sequel that’s even more paranoid, xenophobic, and all-encompassingly stupid than the 2010 original. This time, Neeson’s retired CIA agent and his family are vacationing in Istanbul — you’d think that family would avoid international travel for a while — when they’re targeted by the relatives of the men killed in the first movie. The agent makes all manner of mistakes that would result in death in the real world, but that’s OK, because the gangsters he’s up against are idiots who let the hero make a lengthy cell phone call while they have him at gunpoint and forget to check to see if he has another phone stashed in his sock. Even the racist, overprotective dads to whom this movie is pitched will be offended by this. Also with Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, and Rade Serbedzija.
The Thieves (NR) In Choi Dong-hoon’s convoluted caper film, a bunch of Korean high-end robbers with names like Popeye, Pepsi, Zampano, and Chewing Gum team up with a group of Chinese gangsters to steal a $30 million diamond from a hotel casino in Macao. What ensues are a lot of silly disguises, professional and romantic betrayals between and within both groups, an insane shootout among robbers rappelling down the side of an apartment building, and scenes played out in five different languages. It’s all frenetic, confusing, and highly entertaining in spots. Starring Lee Jung-jae, Gianna Jun, Oh Dal-su, Kim Yun-seok, Simon Yam, Kim Hae-suk, Kim Hye-su, Kim Soo-hyun, Angelica Lee, Derek Tsang, Ki Gug-seo, and Shin Ha-kyun.
Wreck-It Ralph (PG) Derivative and yet likable. This Disney animated comedy is about a 1980s video game villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) who gets sick of his job and jumps into other games to become a hero. The movie will be required viewing for gamers of a certain age, thanks to cameo appearances by iconic video game characters and a universe where characters from the different games freely intermingle after the arcade closes. Yet the movie is more than just nostalgia, as evidenced by a fraught plotline when Ralph befriends a little girl created by a programming glitch (voiced by Sarah Silverman) in a girly kart racing game and tries to help her compete in the race. With its funny voice cast and animation inspired by the looks of various video games, this is well worth your quarters. Additional voices by Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Adam Carrolla, Horatio Sanz, Ed O’Neill, and Dennis Haysbert.
Amber Alert (NR) Kerry Bellessa’s horror film about a group of friends who come across and follow a car that has been described in an Amber Alert as having been involved in a crime. Starring Jasen Wade, Summer Bellessa, and Chris Hill.
The Details (R) Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) writes and directs this black comedy about an unscrupulous doctor (Tobey Maguire) whose marriage and career are destroyed when a family of raccoons invades his backyard. Also with Elizabeth Banks, Kerry Washington, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, and Laura Linney.
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.
The Other Son (PG-13) Lorraine Levy’s French-language dramedy is about a young Israeli (Jules Sitruk) and a young Palestinian (Mehdi Dehbi) who discover that they were switched at birth. Also with Emmanuelle Devos, Pascal Elbé, Areen Omari, Khalifa Natour, and Mahmoud Shalabi.
Pusher (R) Luis Prieto’s English-language remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Danish thriller stars Richard Coyle as a small-time London drug dealer who disastrously tries to move up the food chain. Also with Bronson Webb, Agyness Deyn, Mem Ferda, Daisy Lewis, and Zlatko Buric.
The Sessions (R) Ben Lewin writes and directs this drama about a 36-year-old man (John Hawkes) in an iron lung who contacts a sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity. Also with William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, Adam Arkin, Robin Weigert, Rusty Schwimmer, and Rhea Perlman.
Sister (NR) Ursula Meier’s drama is about a young Swiss boy (Kacey Mottet Klein) who supports his sister (Léa Seydoux) by stealing from guests at a ski resort. Also with Martin Compston, Jean-François Stévenin, Yann Trégouët, and Gillian Anderson.
Smashed (R) James Ponsoldt’s drama stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an alcoholic who tries to get sober while her husband (Aaron Paul) keeps drinking. Also with Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Kyle Gallner, Bree Turner, and Mary Kay Place.
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.