Pacific Rim (PG-13) Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) directs this science-fiction thriller about a group of humans who build giant robots to battle alien invaders. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi, Clifton Collins Jr., Robert Maillet, Robert Kazinsky, Heather Doerksen, and Ron Perlman. (Opens Friday)
Berberian Sound Studio (NR) Peter Strickland’s horror film stars Toby Jones as a British sound engineer who loses his grip on reality while working on an Italian horror film. Also with Susanna Cappelaro, Tonia Sotiripoulou, Cosimo Fusco, Chiara D’Anna, Antonio Mancino, and Layla Amir. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Byzantium (R) Neil Jordan’s latest film stars Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton as vampires who take refuge in a run-down resort town on the southern coast of England. Also with Caleb Landry Jones, Thure Lindhardt, Sam Riley, Daniel Mays, Kate Ashfield, and Jonny Lee Miller. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Grown Ups 2 (PG-13) Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade reunite for this sequel. Also with Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello, Steve Buscemi, Nick Swardson, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Jon Lovitz, Allen Covert, Milo Ventimiglia, Shaquille O’Neal, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Akiva Schaffer, Paul Brittain, and uncredited cameos by Will Forte and Taylor Lautner. (Opens Friday)
The Hot Flashes (R) Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan) directs this comedy about a group of middle-aged Texas women basketball players who challenge the local girls’ team to a series of charity games. Starring Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen, Camryn Manheim, Wanda Sykes, Andrea Frankle, Jessica Rothe, Mark Povinelli, and Eric Roberts. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Killing Season (R) Robert De Niro stars in this thriller as a U.S. military veteran who retreats to a cabin in the Rockies where he’s stalked by a Serbian soldier (John Travolta). Also with Milo Ventimiglia and Elizabeth Olin. (Opens Friday in Mesquite)
Pawn Shop Chronicles (R) Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) directs this caper comedy about an Elvis impersonator (Brendan Fraser), two small-time crooks (Lukas Haas and Paul Walker), and a husband (Matt Dillon) searching for his missing wife who are all connected by a pawn shop. Also with Elijah Wood, Vincent D’Onofrio, Chi McBride, Thomas Jane, Rachelle Lefevre, Pell James, DJ Qualls, and Ashlee Simpson. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
After Earth (PG-13) Slight but tolerable, this only stinks if you go in expecting a good movie. Will Smith and Jaden Smith star as a human warrior and his son who crash-land on a post-apocalyptic Earth that’s now covered in jungle and filled with predators. With the father immobilized, the son has to negotiate hostile terrain to bring back their spaceship’s homing beacon. The movie has terrible dialogue, but it moves along with a video game’s single-minded pace, as the boy fights off dangerously evolved creatures against gorgeous backdrops. If director M. Night Shyamalan wants to take up B movies, this is a way to do it. Also with Sophie Okonedo, David Denman, Glenn Morshower, and Zoë Kravitz. — Steve Steward
The Bling Ring (R) Decadent and problematic, Sofia Coppola’s latest film is based on the real-life exploits of a group of SoCal high school kids who broke into celebrities’ houses and stole clothes, jewelry, and accessories. Aiming for a single, unbroken mood in this 87-minute jaunt, Coppola films the thefts in a detached way that captures the celebrity lifestyle’s seductiveness but threatens to tip over into label worship. The real problem is the lack of penetrating insight into these pathologically narcissistic teens who’ve been taught to value all the wrong things. As an amoral clotheshorse who spouts platitudes from The Secret, Emma Watson is lethally funny and makes her soulless character into the soul of this movie, for better and worse. Also with Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Carlos Miranda, Gavin Rossdale, Stacy Edwards, Marc Coppola, Paris Hilton, and Kirsten Dunst.
Despicable Me 2 (PG) Like the original, this animated movie’s most creative touches can be found at its margins. The former supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is sent undercover into the local shopping mall to foil the latest plot to take over the world. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud have gotten very good at inventing and crafting gags, especially regarding Gru’s army of yellow minions, but they throw too many subplots into what should be a neat spy thriller for kids. If only these visually talented filmmakers could find a good story, they’d really be onto something. Additional voices by Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Steve Coogan, Moises Arias, Nasim Pedrad, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, and Russell Brand.
Epic (PG) This animated movie’s renderings of forest greenery are simply glorious. Too bad it trips over pesky minor elements like story and character. Adapted from William Joyce’s The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, this movie is about a teenage girl (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who’s magically shrunken down to a couple of inches tall and introduced to a world of tiny people and talking animals protecting the forest. The movie is overloaded with expositional dialogue and characters who are poorly introduced. You can’t even figure out why the bad guys are trying to reduce the forest to rot. A witless script wastes an enviable voice cast, and any sense of wonder here is broken every time somebody starts to speak. Additional voices by Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd, Jason Sudeikis, Pitbull, Steven Tyler, and Beyoncé Knowles.
Fast & Furious 6 (PG-13) The latest and most enjoyable in the series has Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, and the rest of the gang convening in London to stop a British baddie (Luke Evans) who has the resurrected-from-the-dead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in his clutches and working for him. Director Justin Lin gives up the pretense that any of this is to be taken seriously and orchestrates two impressive large-scale action sequences: the climax on a military airbase and a knock-down, drag-out brawl between Rodriguez and Gina Carano that’s intercut with a slapstickier fight between Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, and Joe Taslim. The comedy is still cringe-inducing and the dialogue is still bad enough to kill plants and small animals, yet there’s still some gas left in the tank. Also with Jordana Brewster, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky, Clara Paget, Kim Kold, and Ludacris.
The Heat (R) The chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy sustains this action-comedy through its many wobbly bits. They play an uptight FBI agent and a foul-mouthed Boston cop, respectively, who have to team up to take down a drug lord. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) has a lot of trouble switching between the comedy set pieces and the detective plot (which makes no sense anyway), but McCarthy’s toughness and brassy shtick has a salutary effect on Bullock, who responds in kind with a spunk we haven’t seen from her in a while. Get these two a sequel or at least a better vehicle. Also with Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Dan Bakkedahl, Tom Wilson, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Kaitlin Olson, Tony Hale, Joey McIntyre, Spoken Reasons, Nate Corddry, and Jane Curtin.
The Internship (PG-13) Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson re-team eight years after Wedding Crashers, and like most comebacks, this one falls short of the glory days. They play ace salesmen who are fired from their jobs and take internships at Google with a chance to land a permanent job with the tech giant. The rapport between the lead actors remains smooth, but the material just isn’t there, with too many scenes devolving into so much babbling. The romance between Wilson and a poorly served Rose Byrne comes out soggy, and the older guys are portrayed as so out-of-touch that they don’t understand their younger fellow interns’ references to Harry Potter and the X-Men. It’s time for these comic actors to start looking outside their familiar circle for new collaborators. Also with Aasif Mandvi, Max Minghella, Josh Brener, Tiya Sircar, Tobit Raphael, Jessica Szohr, Rob Riggle, Josh Gad, B.J. Novak, and an uncredited Will Ferrell.
Iron Man 3 (PG-13) An excellent finish to the series. Suffering crippling anxiety attacks, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) must deal with a terrorist bomber (Ben Kingsley) who leaves him without power for his suit. New director/co-writer Shane Black likes staging low-fi action sequences that force Tony to rely on his unaided wits and limbs. The banter between Tony and Rhodey (Don Cheadle) may be a bit worn, but robbing Tony of his armor re-establishes the character’s humanity in his love for his girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his best friend (Jon Favreau). We wouldn’t mind seeing this Tony every couple of summers. Also with Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Ty Simpkins, and an uncredited Mark Ruffalo. — Steve Steward