Carrie (R) The second big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel stars Chloë Grace Moretz as the bullied high-school girl who can move things with her mind. Also with Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Zoë Belkin, Ansel Elgort, and Judy Greer. (Opens Friday)
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (R) A full seven years after being shown at festivals, Jonathan Levine’s long-delayed horror flick finally comes out in theaters, starring Amber Heard. Also with Michael Welch, Whitney Able, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes, and Anson Mount. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Beyond the Farthest Star (PG-13) Todd Terry stars as a once-famous preacher who must choose between his family or a second chance at fame. Also with Renée O’Connor, Cherami Leigh, William McNamara, Andrew Sensenig, and Barry Corbin. (Opens Friday at Harkins Southlake)
Chinese Zodiac (PG-13) Jackie Chan stars in and directs this thriller as an archeologist searching for 12 bronze heads of Chinese zodiac animals looted from Beijing in the 19th century. Also with Shu Qi, Laura Weissbecker, Wang Qingxiang, Ken Lo, and Oliver Platt. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Escape Plan (R) Sylvester Stallone stars in this thriller as a prison consultant who seeks the help of an inmate (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to escape from one of his own facilities. Also with Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, 50 Cent, and Amy Ryan. (Opens Friday)
I’m in Love With a Church Girl (PG) Ja Rule stars as a retired drug kingpin whose new girlfriend (Adrienne Bailon) leads him to God. Also with Michael Madsen, Stephen Baldwin, T-Bone, Galley Molina, and Vincent Pastore. (Opens Friday)
Seasons of Gray (PG-13) Andrew Cheney stars in this Christian drama as a man who must choose between revenge or forgiveness after being falsely accused of a crime. Also with Akron Watson, Megan Parker, Jonathan Brooks, Mark Walters, Spencer Harlan, Sean Brison, and Kirk Sisco. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Snitch Cartel (R) Manolo Cardona stars in this thriller as a low-level drug dealer who rises through the ranks of the Cali drug cartel. Also with Juana Acosta, Kuno Becker, Adriana Barraza, Diego Cadavid, Saúl Lisazo, Sandra Echevarría, Tom Sizemore, and the late Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (Opens Friday)
Baggage Claim (PG-13) Rampagingly mediocre comedy about a flight attendant (Paula Patton, too well-mannered for this doormat of a role) who becomes desperate to show up at her sister’s wedding with a man and enlists her fellow airline employees to help track down her exes over the holiday season. The funniest business comes from Adam Brody and R&B singer Jill Scott as the heroine’s best friends and fellow flight attendants, but a talented cast is wasted in cliché parts. David E. Talbert (adapting this movie from his own novel) also has no idea how to pace this thing or set up a gag. An airplane is probably the best place to watch this. Also with Derek Luke, Jenifer Lewis, Boris Kodjoe, Trey Songz, Taye Diggs, Lauren London, Affion Crockett, La La Anthony, Tia Mowry, and Djimon Hounsou.
Captain Phillips (PG-13) Tom Hanks’ shining performance as the captain of a real-life cargo ship that’s hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 is the best thing about this thriller. Director Paul Greengrass is an expert at turning real-life incidents into taut, socially conscious thrillers (Bloody Sunday, United 93), but his documentary-style techniques have become repetitive and impersonal. The film scrupulously observes the pirates at work as closely as it does the captain and his crew, which is laudable but not as enlightening as you’d hope. Hanks blends in seamlessly with the deglamorized setting, never indulging in actorly flourishes even as the standoff’s end leaves him an incoherent wreck. His willingness to recede into this character’s ordinariness shows another dimension to this actor’s greatness. Also with Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat Ali, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, and Catherine Keener.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (PG) Much like the 2009 original, this animated sequel is imaginative and clever in terms of visuals and utterly forgettable in terms of story. Bill Hader returns as the wacky inventor who goes to work for a fascist Steve Jobs-type tech mogul (voiced by Will Forte) and has to prevent his old food invention from overrunning the world. The movie has funny gags in the background of the frame and a whole bestiary’s worth of animals made out of food that will enthrall the small kids. The bigger kids will notice that the human characters are boring and the attempts at satire off the mark. It’s all yummy, empty calories. Additional voices by Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Don Jon (R) Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his writing and directing debut with this raunchy sex comedy. He stars as a Jersey bartender who admits to deriving more sexual satisfaction from porn than from actual women. As a filmmaker, Gordon-Levitt isn’t quite there yet; the jointures in his script are too easy to see, and some of the scenes (especially with Scarlett Johansson as his highly traditional new girlfriend) needed to be dialed back. Still, the movie is punchy, quick on its feet, and frequently funny, and Julianne Moore gives a great performance as an older woman who teaches Jon about the real meaning of sex. What could have been a rickety construct becomes the movie’s most compelling figure. Watch for a terrific running gag with Brie Larson as Jon’s sister, who is forever texting someone. Also with Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke, Meagan Good, Cuba Gooding Jr., Channing Tatum, and Anne Hathaway.
Enough Said (PG-13) This is a rare movie about middle-aged romance from a woman’s point of view, but even if you’re not interested in this subject, Nicole Holofcener’s comedy is still good enough to deserve to be seen. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a professional masseuse who discovers that her new boyfriend (James Gandolfini) used to be married to a former client (Catherine Keener). The plot mechanics are uncharacteristically clunky from the director of Please Give and Lovely & Amazing, but Holofcener’s dialogue and psychological insights are customarily sharp, and Louis-Dreyfus and the late Gandolfini make a thoroughly charming couple. Also with Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson, Eve Hewson, Amy Landecker, and Anjelah Johnson-Reyes.
The Face Reader (NR) One of the world’s greatest actors, Song Kang-ho, gives another terrific performance as a 15th-century traitor’s son whose ability to tell a man’s character by looking at his face embroils him in a power struggle for the throne of what would become Korea. The burly Song easily accommodates the character’s bawdy sense of humor, his wily negotiation of the treacherous court politics, and his desperation to save his only son (Lee Jeong-seok). The movie’s dramatics grow too heavy only in the last half hour or so of this 138-minute epic. Still, this handsomely decked out period piece is well worth seeing just for its lead performance. Also with Lee Jeong-jae, Baek Yoon-sik, Jo Jeong-seok, Kim Hye-soo, Ko Chang-seok, and Kim Kang-hyeon.
The Family (R) Confusing. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Luc Besson’s comic thriller as a Mafia boss and his wife who are relocated to the south of France along with their teenage children (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) by the American federal witness protection program. Besson has been on this turf before (La Femme Nikita), but he can’t seem to decide whether this is an action thriller, a high-school drama, a fish-out-of-water comedy, or a movie about a murderous mob boss writing his memoirs out of boredom. As a result, none of these characters make any sense, and Besson rides the “rude French people” stereotype into the ground whenever he runs out of ideas. There was probably a viable movie in here somewhere. Also with Jimmy Palumbo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Stan Carp, Jon Freda, Vincent Pastore, Dominic Chianese, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Grace Unplugged (PG) AJ Michalka stars in this sententious Christian drama as the daughter of a Christian music star (James Denton) who has to keep her eye on the path of righteousness as she tries to make her own way in the music world. This movie does show the well-intentioned dad behaving like a real jerk as he tries to keep his daughter in his own band, but nothing else in this snoozy film is remotely surprising, and the songs are an undistinguished bunch, too. Also with Kevin Pollak, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, Jamie Grace, and Pia Toscano.
Gravity (PG-13) The greatest 3D movie ever made. Alfonso Cuarón’s unremittingly intense space thriller stars Sandra Bullock as a novice astronaut who is caught outside the shuttle in a high-velocity storm of space debris and stranded in the blackness of space. The film is essentially a series of long takes, and Cuarón’s shooting of them in a simulated zero-gravity environment is an astounding technical feat. Yet the long takes also give us no chance to catch our breath; they turn this brief 90-minute film into a singularly harrowing experience, with our heroine narrowly escaping death from completely unforeseen yet logical dangers. Bullock rides over the script’s infelicities and gives this film a human center, helping to turn this movie into an exhilarating and emotionally draining ride. Also with George Clooney.