The Immigrant (R) Marion Cotillard stars in this drama by James Gray (Two Lovers, We Own the Night) as a Polish woman who is forced into prostitution in New York in 1921. Also with Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Angela Sarafyan, and Dagmara Dominczyk. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Chinese Puzzle (R) The third film in Cédric Klapisch’s ongoing coming-of-age saga (following L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls) is about a French writer (Romain Duris) who follows his ex-wife (Kelly Reilly) to New York City to be near his kids. Also with Cécile de France, Audrey Tautou, Sandrine Holt, Benoît Jacquot, Adrian Martinez, and Zinedine Soualem. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Cold in July (NR) Michael C. Hall stars in this thriller as an East Texas man in 1989 who becomes targeted for revenge after he kills an intruder in his house. Also with Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell, Nick Damici, Kristin Griffith, and Sam Shepard. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Fatal Encounter (NR) Lee Jae-gyu’s historical drama depicts 24 hours leading up to an assassination attempt on an 18th-century Korean king (Hyun Bin). Also with Jung Jae-young, Jo Jung-sook, Cho Jae-hyun, Han Ji-min, Park Sung-woong, and Jung Eun-chae. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Hornet’s Nest (R) David Salzberg and Christian Tureaud’s documentary about photojournalist Mike Boettcher and his son Carlos, who try to reconnect while working in the war zone in Afghanistan. (Opens Friday)
The Love Punch (PG-13) Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson star in this comedy as a divorced couple who team up to steal their retirement money back from the man who defrauded them. Also with Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, Tuppence Middleton, and Marisa Berenson. (Opens Friday)
Palo Alto (R) James Franco co-stars in Gia Coppola’s adaptation of his short story about a high-school girl (Emma Roberts) who’s torn between her crush on her soccer coach and her affection for her best friend (Jack Kilmer). Also with Zoe Levin, Nat Wolff, Chris Messina, Talia Shire, Olivia Crocicchia, Claudia Levy, Marshall Bell, Colleen Camp, Janet Jones, Emma Gretzky, Bailey Coppola, and Val Kilmer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Railway Man (R) Colin Firth stars in this drama based on Eric Lowe’s novel about a former British World War II POW who vows to hunt down the Japanese officer (Hiroyuki Sanada) who tortured him in prison. Also with Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Tanroh Ishida, Michael McKenzie, and Sam Reid. (Opens Friday)
This Is Where We Live (NR) Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca’s drama stars Menchaca as a handyman in Texas’ Hill Country who befriends a young man with cerebral palsy (Tobias Segal) after being hired to build a wheelchair ramp at his house. Also with C.K. McFarland, Barry Corbin, Frankie Shaw, Marco Perella, and Katherine Willis. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (PG-13) In the latest installment Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time to help Professor Xavier and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) avert a civilization-destroying catastrophe. Also with Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Fan Bingbing, Evan Peters, Lucas Till, Peter Dinklage, and uncredited cameos by James Marsden and Famke Janssen. (Opens Friday)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (PG-13) Better than the last movie, but everybody here could have been doing something more worthwhile. This overstuffed sequel features Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) trying to deal with one too many bad guys in Electro (a too cartoonish Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan, very well cast), but the real heart is his need to keep Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) from being hurt by Spider-Man’s enemies. Director Marc Webb keeps aiming for wonder and terror in the big action set pieces and missing; he hits the right notes without understanding the music. He’s much better in the quieter scenes with Peter and Gwen, as Garfield and Stone make a loose and funny couple. This director and these stars should be making the next great heart-melting romantic comedy, not a Spider-Man movie. Maybe the success of this will let that happen. Also with Sally Field, Colm Feore, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Felicity Jones, B.J. Novak, Paul Giamatti, and uncredited cameos by Denis Leary and Chris Cooper.
Belle (PG) A movie that would need to exist even if its historical subject had never lived. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate child of mixed race who was raised on the English estate of her granduncle (Tom Wilkinson) in the late 18th century and may have influenced some key court rulings against the slave trade. The drama is stilted, and it often feels like director Amma Asante and writer Misan Sagay are checking off boxes with all the racial, class, and gender issues in play here. Still, they find much rewarding material in their heroine’s singular and often uncomfortable social position. At its best, this movie plays like a Jane Austen marriage comedy with race thrown into the mix as a volatile element. It makes this film unique. Also with Sam Reid, Sarah Gadon, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode, Penelope Wilton, Emily Watson, and Miranda Richardson.
Brick Mansions (PG-13) The 2006 French martial-arts film District B13 had some problematic but still ahead-of-the-curve social commentary about French society at the time. This American remake tries to do the same, but it comes out as just so much gobbledygook. The late Paul Walker stars as a Detroit cop who teams with a good-hearted convict (David Belle) to infiltrate a housing project so crime-ridden that it’s walled off from the rest of the city. Their purpose is to disarm a nuclear bomb in the possession of a kingpin (RZA). Belle, who played the same role in the French original, still has some impressive parkour moves. Without its context, though, this is just another crappy Hollywood thriller. Also with Gouchy Boy, Catalina Denis, Ayisha Issa, Carlo Rota, Robert Maillet, and Bruce Ramsey.
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.
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.
Draft Day (PG-13) Better than Moneyball. Kevin Costner stars in this throwback movie as an embattled Cleveland Browns GM who makes a flurry of trades to get the player he wants during the NFL draft. The NFL trappings make a nice backdrop for a huge cast of sharply written characters who are well-played by both the famous and unknown actors, even if the GM’s personal life is noticeably weaker than the rest of the movie. The film is much better at depicting the behind-the-scenes dealings, and though Costner misses the desperation of a man who knows his dream job is on the line, his underlying coolness helps with a character who keeps his head amid the pressure. His struggle to get the best out of a losing situation is what makes this movie’s end so exhilarating. Also with Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Pence, Frank Langella, Griffin Newman, Brad Henke, W. Earl Brown, Arian Foster, Terry Crews, Tom Welling, Sam Elliott, Sean Combs, Rosanna Arquette, and Ellen Burstyn.
Godzilla (PG-13) It barely seems to have a script, but those monsters look good. This American remake features the Japanese monster reappearing after decades of hiding, following two other beasts called MUTOs to the West Coast to restore nature’s balance. The characters are flimsy, the dialogue between the scientists and the U.S. government is so much gibberish, and estimable actors like Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe overact to try to make an impression. Still, the MUTOs are powerful enemies, and director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) knows exactly how to stage-manage their appearances as well as Godzilla’s, using indirection and obscured sightlines to delay our full view of them until the moment of maximum impact. These creatures are terrible and splendid in a way that no other recent monster blockbuster has achieved. See this movie on the biggest screen you can find. Also with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, David Strathairn, Sally Hawkins, Carson Bolde, CJ Adams, Akira Takarada, and Juliette Binoche.
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.
A Haunted House 2 (R) “There’s something wrong with my house,” Marlon Wayans’ character says. Yeah, you’re making a movie in it. Having barely survived the events of the last movie, Wayans marries a new woman (Jaime Pressly) and moves into her house with her kids. The problem? It’s haunted by unfunny parodies of recent horror films. There are maybe three chuckle-worthy jokes in an hour and a half of unfunny, unyielding torture. Wayans murders every laugh by pathetically mugging and screaming. The gags go on and on, as funny as a slowly dying hospice patient. There’s a five-minute scene of Wayans having sex with the doll from The Conjuring. The “found footage” conceit isn’t even consistently employed. Gabriel Iglesias is wasted. It’s just plain awful. For the love of God, watch something else. Also with Essence Atkins, Missi Pyle, Ashley Rickards, Affion Crockett, and Cedric the Entertainer. — Cole Williams
Heaven Is for Real (PG) In this adaptation of Todd Burpo’s memoir, Greg Kinnear portrays a Nebraska pastor and volunteer fireman whose 4-year-old son (Connor Corum) has a near-death experience and comes back talking about seeing heaven. Two things are wrong here: First, Corum is a standard-issue cute Hollywood kid without the weird edge that would have made his revelation as unsettling as it should be. Second, director Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) brings zero inventiveness or sense of wonder to the boy’s vision of heaven. The resulting movie works fairly well as an account of the day-to-day life of a small-town pastor, but it comes up fatally short as a vision of the afterlife. Also with Kelly Reilly, Thomas Haden Church, Lane Styles, Jacob Vargas, and Margo Martindale.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (PG) Yet another failed attempt at building on L. Frank Baum’s Oz saga, this animated musical stars Lea Michele as Dorothy, who’s whisked back to the land of Oz the day after she gets back to Kansas (though it’s many years later in Oz), where the Wicked Witch of the West’s downtrodden brother (voiced by Martin Short) is causing havoc. The animation has some creative visual touches like a courthouse made of candy (with a waffle ceiling and a floor made of graham crackers), but they can’t make up for the lame script or the eminently forgettable songs. What’s the point of casting Bernadette Peters as Glinda if she’s not going to sing? Additional voices by Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Kelsey Grammer, Hugh Dancy, Megan Hilty, and Oliver Platt.
Million Dollar Arm (PG) Ever hear the one about the benevolent rich white guy who drops into a Third World country and gives some lucky underprivileged people a chance to make it in America? That’s how this Disney sports flick plays out, despite the wealth of talent that went into it. Jon Hamm plays a desperate sports agent who sets up a reality TV show in India to find baseball players to take back to America. Writer Tom McCarthy (Win Win) and director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) are both swallowed up by the Disney house style, and the lack of any insight into the Indian characters only adds to this film’s nauseating air of self-congratulation. Also with Suraj Sharma, Aasif Mandvi, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash, Darshan Jariwala, Lake Bell, Bill Paxton, and Alan Arkin.
Moms’ Night Out (PG) The white people’s version of The Single Moms’ Club. That’s not a compliment, if you’re wondering. Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton, and Logan White star in this strenuously unfunny comedy about three suburban mothers who leave the children at home with their husbands for a night on the town. Andrew and Jon Erwin’s script is nowhere near as offensive as the one for their anti-abortion drama October Baby, but the material just isn’t here, and the actors either sleepwalk or over-emote to try to make something funny happen. It doesn’t. Also with Sean Astin, Harry Shum Jr., Robert Amaya, Kevin Downes, Alex Kendrick, Lou Ferrigno, and Trace Adkins.
Neighbors (R) Possibly the greatest fraternity comedy ever. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play the proud parents of an adorable baby girl who are horrified to find a fraternity moving into the house next door and throwing wild parties. The movie makes hay out of making the parents into young people not far removed from their hard-partying pasts who care about seeming cool to the college boys. The setup fits Rogen nicely, but it’s Byrne who gets the best showcase of her career, and Zac Efron slides so easily into the raunchfest that you’ll forget he ever starred in High School Musical. Comic highlights abound, but watch for the “bros before ho’s” verbal riff, the breast-feeding sequence, and the climactic fistfight between Rogen and Efron, a great piece of physical comedy. Also with Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Jerrod Carmichael, Craig Roberts, Liz Cackowski, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson, Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone, Adam Devine, and Lisa Kudrow.
The Other Woman (PG-13) Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann enact the cheating husband’s worst nightmare as a mistress and a wife who discover each other’s existence at the same time and conspire to punish the husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who’s cheating on both of them. Diaz is miscast as the buttoned-up, cynical, high-powered businesswoman half of this pair, but she does well with the physical comedy that results from the setup, and Mann gives a compelling performance as a wife who comes unhinged when she finds out what her husband has been up to. The movie crashes and burns in the last 30 minutes or so, but up until that point it’s an agreeable comedy. Also with Kate Upton, Don Johnson, Taylor Kinney, David Thornton, and Nicki Minaj.
Rio 2 (G) I watched this whole thing without once being clear on exactly what was going on or why it needed to go on. Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway reprise their roles as rare blue macaws who discover the existence of a flock of more of their species living deep in the Brazilian jungle. The parrots’ old nemeses (voiced by Jemaine Clement and Kristin Chenoweth), three parrot chicks, and a bunch of ranchers bent on deforestation all pop up here, as do even more musical numbers. The sloppiness of this loud, overstuffed sequel only underscores the cynicism of this movie designed to cash in on parents whose kids liked the original. Additional voices by Jamie Foxx, Andy Garcia, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Miguel Ferrer, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Amandla Stenberg, Bebel Gilberto, Sergio Mendes, Janelle Monáe, Bruno Mars, and Rita Moreno.
Fed Up (PG) Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary exposes the efforts of America’s food industry to defeat anti-obesity campaigns.
For No Good Reason (R) Charlie Paul’s documentary profiles gonzo artist Ralph Steadman. Also with Johnny Depp, Terry Gilliam, Richard E. Grant, Jann Wenner, and Hunter S. Thompson.
The German Doctor (PG-13) Lucía Puenzo directs this thriller about an Argentinian family in 1960 who takes in a mysterious German émigré (Álex Brendemühl), unaware that he is Dr. Josef Mengele. Also with Natalia Oreiro, Diego Peretti, Florencia Bado, Elena Roger, and Guillermo Pfening.
Particle Fever (NR) Mark Levinson’s documentary about the team of physicists who discovered the Higgs boson particle.