Oculus (R) Karen Gillan (TV’s Doctor Who) stars in this horror film as a young woman who tries to exonerate her brother (Brenton Thwaites) of their parents’ murder by proving that a cursed mirror is responsible. Also with Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, and Miguel Sandoval. (Opens Friday)
Finding Vivian Maier (NR) John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s documentary profiles a nanny who earned posthumous fame for her street photographs. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Jodorowsky’s Dune (PG-13) Frank Pavich’s documentary profiles the 85-year-old Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and details his ambitious, doomed efforts to film Frank Herbert’s Dune in the 1970s. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Joe (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this film by David Gordon Green as a Mississippi lumberjack and ex-convict who becomes an unlikely mentor to a troubled 15-year-old boy (Mud’s Tye Sheridan). Also with Gary Poulter, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Adriene Mishler, and Brian Mays. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Rio 2 (G) Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway reprise their roles as the voices of the endangered parrots who discover that a flock of their species lives in the Brazilian jungle. Additional voices by Jamie Foxx, Andy Garcia, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, Miguel Ferrer, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Amandla Stenberg, Bebel Gilberto, Sergio Mendes, Janelle Monáe, Bruno Mars, and Rita Moreno. (Opens Friday)
Bad Words (R) Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut and stars in this foul-mouthed comedy as a 40-year-old man who takes advantage of a loophole in the rules to compete against middle-school children in a national spelling bee. The character is a real bastard, too, and the movie comes up with the perfect instrument to torture him in a 10-year-old boy (Rohan Chand) who keeps popping up in his way and never loses his good cheer no matter how many times the guy curses him out or insults him racially. The plotting is carried out reasonably well. The main problem with this is that it didn’t make me laugh once. Bateman needs to get hold of better material for his second effort. Also with Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Ben Falcone, Steve Witting, Beth Grant, and Philip Baker Hall.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13) Definitely better than Captain America’s first outing. Chris Evans returns as the superhero trying to deal with a coup inside SHIELD. The movie’s critique of the contemporary surveillance state doesn’t quite hold together, nor does the flirtatious turn in the character of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) make much sense. Yet directors Anthony and Joe Russo do lots of things well, including an assassination attempt on the road against Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the chilling casting of Robert Redford as a SHIELD executive with his own agenda. Captain America is still more interesting as a foil to the other Avengers than on his own, but this is a worthy excursion. Also with Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Frank Grillo, and Hayley Atwell.
Cesar Chavez (PG-13) Diego Luna makes his directing debut with this biography starring Michael Peña as the civil rights activist and labor leader. Also with Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Jacob Vargas, Gabriel Mann, Kevin Dunn, and John Malkovich.
Divergent (PG-13) Ideal viewing if you’re a teenager. For everyone else, not so much. Shailene Woodley stars in this science-fiction adventure as a girl making her way through a dystopian future society divided into factions. This is based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling novel, which makes a neat little metaphor about how teenagers choose cliques to sort themselves out. Too bad neither the book nor the film makes more of it. Director Neil Burger and his writers make hash out of introducing this future world and show little humor or phantasmagoric power. Woodley makes alert little choices, but the whole thing lacks rhythm, and the action sequences aren’t nearly good enough to make up for the flat tone. Also with Theo James, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Christian Madsen, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet.
50 to 1 (PG-13) Skeet Ulrich and Christian Kane star in this drama based on the true story of a group of New Mexico cowboys who enter a crook-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby. Also with William Devane, Madelyn Deutch, Todd Lowe, and David Atkinson.
Frankie & Alice (R) Halle Berry stars in this drama as a 1970s stripper battling multiple personality disorder. Also with Stellan Skarsgård, Chandra Wilson, Matt Frewer, Katharine Isabelle, and Phylicia Rashad.
God’s Not Dead (PG) Shane Harper stars in this Christian drama as a college student who’s challenged to prove God’s existence by an atheist professor (Kevin Sorbo). Also with David A.R. White, Marco Khan, Lisa Arnold, Jim Gleason, Willie Robertson, and Dean Cain.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (R) Wes Anderson’s strikes new depths in his latest film that stars Tony Revolori as an orphaned war refugee working as a “lobby boy” in a ritzy Alpine resort hotel for a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes). Anderson’s familiar cinematic vocabulary is here, but the current of pathos is brought unusually close to the surface by the pre-World War II setting, which we know will sweep away the hotel and the country that it’s in. The pathos is cut with Anderson’s bathetic and sometimes outrageous humor, and Fiennes gives the finest performance of his career as he plays this Old World romantic with a hard-headed practical streak. Also with Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Amalric, F. Murray Abraham, Léa Seydoux, Bob Balaban, Fisher Stevens, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, and Jude Law.
The Lego Movie (PG) The funniest movie so far this year is this animated spectacular about a Lego construction worker (voiced by Chris Pratt) who becomes the only figure capable of stopping a tyrant (voiced by Will Ferrell) from supergluing the universe into place. The movie isn’t short of action sequences, but filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street) prefer to generate their frenetic pace with the sheer number of exquisitely timed gags that they throw at us. With its subversive wit taking shots at consumer culture, this movie is almost avant-garde. The climactic live-action sequence goes on too long, but the enviable voice cast more than makes up for it. Listen for Tegan & Sara’s earworm of a techno jam “Everything Is Awesome.” Additional voices by Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman, Jake Johnson, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Billy Dee Williams, Cobie Smulders, Shaquille O’Neal, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (PG) In adapting Jay Ward’s series of cartoon shorts, the filmmakers turn the erudite, hyperintelligent, time-traveling dog (voiced by Ty Burrell) into a befuddled, emotionally distant, somewhat overwhelmed adoptive dad to Sherman (voiced by Max Charles). It works surprisingly well until the last 20 minutes or so. The script features surprisingly literate references amid the ear-meltingly bad puns that Peabody is given to. Additional points for a nifty 300 parody and some child-rearing advice from Leonardo da Vinci (voiced by Stanley Tucci): “But Peabody, a child is not a machine! I should know. I tried to build one once. Oh boy, it was-a creepy.” Additional voices by Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Tobolowsky, Lake Bell, Patrick Warburton, and Mel Brooks.