Night Moves (R) Jesse Eisenberg stars in this thriller by Kelly Reichardt (Meek’s Cut-Off) as a member of an ecoterrorist group planning to blow up a hydroelectric dam. Also with Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard, Alia Shawkat, Kai Lennox, Katherine Waterston, Matt Malloy, and Logan Miller. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Dance of Reality (NR) Alejandro Jodorowsky (Santa Sangre, The Holy Mountain) directs this free-associative film about his life growing up in Chile in the 1930s. Starring Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Jeremias Herskovits, and Bastian Bödenhofer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Fault in Our Stars (PG-13) John Green’s novel is adapted into this film starring Shailene Woodley as a teenage cancer patient who falls in love with a patient in remission (Ansel Elgort) at a support group meeting. Also with Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, Lotte Verbeek, Laura Dern, and Willem Dafoe. (Opens Friday)
Ping Pong Summer (NR) Mike Tully (Septien) directs this drama about a 13-year-old boy (Marcello Conte) who comes of age during a vacation in 1985. Also with Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah, Judah Friedlander, and Amy Sedaris. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
The Fatal Encounter (NR) This overstuffed, static historical epic stars Hyun Bin as a real-life 18th-century Korean king surviving the latest in a series of assassination attempts by power-hungry interests who want to stop his efforts to help the poor in his kingdom. Only students of Korean history will be able to keep all the players straight. Director Lee Jae-gyu sets up a ticking-clock plot as he tracks the 20 hours leading up to the attempted regicide, but then he fails to stick with it, getting sidetracked with wearisome flashbacks that go back years in an attempt to explain everyone’s motivation. Crack open a history volume instead. Also with Jung Jae-young, Jo Jung-sook, Cho Jae-hyun, Han Ji-min, Park Sung-woong, and Jung Eun-chae.
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.