Devil’s Due (R) Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett co-direct this found-footage horror movie about a young couple (Zach Gilford and Allison Miller) who are documenting her pregnancy when things start to go wrong. Also with Robert Belushi, Sam Anderson, Catherine Kresge, Aimee Carrero, and Griff Furst. (Opens Friday)
Back in the Day (R) Michael Rosenbaum (TV’s Smallville) writes, directs, and stars in this comedy as a man who wreaks havoc when he attends his high school reunion. Also with Morena Baccarin, Nick Swardson, Harland Williams, Jay R. Ferguson, Sarah Colonna, Isaiah Mustafa, and Emma Caulfield. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Invisible Woman (R) Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this biopic based on the love affair between Charles Dickens and Ellen Ternan (Felicity Jones). Also with Kristin Scott Thomas, Michelle Fairley, Joanna Scanlan, John Kavanagh, Perdita Weeks, Mark Dexter, and Tom Hollander. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (PG-13) Kenneth Branagh directs and co-stars in this spy thriller starring Chris Pine as a covert CIA agent trying to foil a terrorist plot while coping with his wife (Keira Knightley) learning of his real identity. Also with Kevin Costner, Gemma Chan, Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore, Karen David, and David Paymer. (Opens Friday)
Life of a King (PG-13) Cuba Gooding Jr. stars in this drama as an ex-con who starts a chess club for inner-city kids. Also with Dennis Haysbert, LisaGay Hamilton, Malcolm Mays, Richard T. Jones, Carlton Byrd, and Paula Jai Parker. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Nut Job (PG) For an animated movie released in January, I guess it isn’t too bad. Will Arnett provides the voice of a selfish New York-accented squirrel who plots to steal nuts from a nut store, planning to stuff himself while the other animals in his city park are in danger of starving to death. The way he gradually comes to an accommodation with the other animals should have been story enough, but the movie throws in a useless plotline about the people in the nut store who are planning to rob a bank. Not much memorable here, but the thing is short and fast-moving enough to keep the little kids entertained for a bit. Additional voices by Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, Stephen Lang, Jeff Dunham, James Rankin, Scott Yaphe, Sarah Gadon, and Liam Neeson. (Opens Friday)
The Past (PG-13) The latest film by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) is about an Iranian man (Tahar Rahim) who leaves his French wife (The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo) to return to his homeland. Also with Ali Mossafa, Pauline Burlet, Elyse Aguis, Sabrina Ouazani, and Babak Karimi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Reasonable Doubt (R) Samuel L. Jackson stars in this thriller as a district attorney who accidentally kills a man in a hit-and-run and sees another man charged with the crime. Also with Dominic Cooper, Erin Karpluk, Ryan Robbins, Dylan Taylor, and Gloria Reuben. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Ride Along (PG-13) Tim Story (Barbershop) directs this comedy about a police academy trainee (Kevin Hart) who spends a day on the job with his fiancée’s cop brother (Ice Cube) to receive his blessing. Also with Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Bryan Callen, Bruce McGill, Dragos Bucur, and Jay Pharoah. (Opens Friday)
American Hustle (R) David O. Russell’s chaotic, marvelously entertaining caper film lurches and veers out of control and features some of the best acting you’ll see all year. Christian Bale and Amy Adams portray 1970s con artists who are busted by a smarmy, fast-talking FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) and forced to help him catch other crooks. Cooper slips easily into his character’s growing megalomania, and Jennifer Lawrence is a comic whirlwind as Bale’s volatile, angry wife, but Adams comes off the best here, lighting up the movie with her sexuality. Russell captures the desperation of these people struggling to get ahead or get out of trouble, and underneath the luscious surfaces and ridiculously awesome costumes, he gives the movie an edge of fear and paranoia. Also with Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Shea Whigham, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Röhm, Paul Herman, Saïd Taghmaoui, and an uncredited Robert De Niro.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues (PG-13) This sequel to the 2004 comedy hit can’t match the original, but it delivers lots of big laughs anyway. Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, and Steve Carell reunite as the San Diego news team in the 1980s who join a nascent 24-hour cable news network. The movie gets in some satisfying digs at slanted partisan news coverage and wealthy media moguls, and the crew (especially Carell) generate some hugely funny lines. The movie bogs down near the end when it feels the need to call back to all the original’s most famous gags. Still, the musical number alone, with Ron singing a tender ballad to a baby shark, is worth the price of admission. Also with Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, Dylan Baker, Meagan Good, Josh Lawson, James Marsden, Fred Willard, Greg Kinnear, and uncredited cameos by Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Will Smith, Liam Neeson, Kirsten Dunst, Marion Cotillard, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kanye West, Vince Vaughn, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey.
Cold Comes the Night (R) Bryan Cranston stars in this thriller as a legally blind criminal who takes a motel owner (Alice Eve) hostage to get his money back from a crooked cop. Also with Logan Marshall-Green, Ursula Parker, Leo Fitzpatrick, and Erin Cummings.
Dallas Buyers Club (R) Matthew McConaughey gives an uncharacteristically ferocious performance in this powerful biopic. He portrays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician and rodeo cowboy who’s diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and winds up smuggling disease-fighting drugs into the country from Mexico and gaining a new perspective when the gays become his customers. Director Jean-Marc Vallée (Café de Flore) takes a no-frills approach to the story, and yet the movie still plays like a scruffy comedy as Ron dons disguises and forms a “buyers club” to get around restrictions. Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto both give terrific supporting performances, but it’s a skeletal McConaughey and his naked desire to live that you’ll remember, goofily grinning and agitating against government interference. Don’t look for local landmarks in this movie; it was shot in New Orleans. Also with Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Michael O’Neill, and Griffin Dunne.
47 Ronin (PG-13) The story here is part of Japanese folk tradition and has been subject of countless epic poems, novels, movies, TV shows, and manga comics, but possibly none of them are as silly as this one. Keanu Reeves stars as a half-Japanese exile who joins a group of masterless samurai bent on avenging their master’s death. The cast is mostly Japanese, but they’re all performing in English, and they look none too comfortable as a result. Then again, the special effects here are so cheesy, and the movie is so poorly plotted and paced, that it would probably fail even if they were performing in their own language. Also with Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Kô Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Yorick van Wageningen, Gedde Watanabe, and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa.
Frozen (PG) The best Disney musical in quite some time. Kristen Bell provides the voice of Anna, the orphaned younger daughter of the rulers of a fictitious Nordic kingdom who goes into the wilderness to persuade her older sister (voiced by Idina Menzel) to save their land from a curse of eternal winter. The songwriting team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez bring freshness and wit to the songs, and Bell not only finds the comedy in the socially awkward heroine but also unleashes her glorious soprano on “The First Time in Forever.” The animators put the Ice Age movies to shame by doing endlessly inventive things with the ice and snow in the setting, and the script manages to create a heroine who’s interested in more than just finding a handsome prince. Additional voices by Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Livvy Stubenrauch, Alan Tudyk, and Ciarán Hinds.
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.
Grudge Match (PG-13) Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone star in this comedy as two rivals, former champion boxers from Pittsburgh, who are coaxed out of retirement 30 years after their previous bout. It’s about as depressing as you might imagine, though not as depressing as this would be if it happened in real life. Kevin Hart (who plays the fight’s promoter) works hard to try to squeeze some laughs out of this thing, but he’s hopelessly overmatched by the dull material. The cameo at the end by Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson is the only thing remotely surprising here. Also with Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Jon Bernthal, Camden Gray, Barry Primus, Oscar Gale, Anthony Anderson, and LL Cool J.