A Million Ways to Die in the West (R) Seth MacFarlane stars in his own comedy as a cowardly farmer who must save his Old West town from a killer (Liam Neeson). Also with Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Wes Studi, Gilbert Gottfried, Christopher Lloyd, and Ewan McGregor. (Opens Friday)
Alphaville (NR) Historical re-release of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 science-fiction film about an American secret agent (Eddie Constantine) who’s sent to outer space to free a city from its dictator. Also with Anna Karina and Akim Tamiroff. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ida (PG-13) Paweł Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love) directs this drama about a 1960s Polish novitiate nun (Agata Trzebuchowska) who is about to take holy orders when she learns a terrible secret about her family. Also with Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy Trela, Adam Szyszkowski, Halina Skoczynska, and Joanna Kulig. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Maleficent (PG) Angelina Jolie stars in this version of the Sleeping Beauty story as the vindictive fairy who curses a princess (Elle Fanning). Also with Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, and Kenneth Cranham. (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.
Blended (PG-13) Adam Sandler’s latest comedy actually doesn’t suck, which is a step up from his last three live-action movies. He plays a recently widowed father of three girls who buys an unused South African vacation, only to find that he’s stuck there with a mother of two boys (Drew Barrymore) whom he had a bad blind date with. The movie is too long and never ventures far beyond the resort hotel, and it really needed more of Wendi McLendon-Covey as Barrymore’s best friend. Still, the movie is only overtly offensive in spots and has a few decent gags like the one involving parasailing. Also with Bella Thorne, Emma Fuhrmann, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Braxton Beckham, Kyle Red Silverstein, Terry Crews, Zak Henri, Kevin Nealon, Jessica Lowe, Abdoulaye Ngom, Dan Patrick, Shaquille O’Neal, and Joel McHale.
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.
Chef (R) Jon Favreau stars in a not-so-veiled comment on his own filmmaking career as a star chef who restarts his career with a food truck after being fired from a job at an upscale L.A. restaurant. The filmmaker takes way too long to tell his story and doesn’t do well by the women, but he does capture the chaos and sweat and adrenaline of a high-end restaurant kitchen, and the subplot with him finally connecting with his young son (Emjay Anthony) is nicely done. The movie also boasts scrumptious food photography (the dishes were created by Roy Choi), and Favreau obviously has great respect for the care and attention to detail that chefs give to their work. It’s how the movie’s hero finds himself again, and possibly the filmmaker too. Also with John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey Jr.
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.