Filth (R) James McAvoy stars in this thriller about a crooked British cop who schemes to win himself a promotion at the expense of criminals, his colleagues, and his family. Also with Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Imogen Poots, Shauna McDonald, Shirley Henderson, John Sessions, Gary Lewis, Kate Dickie, Martin Compston, and Jim Broadbent. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
All Cheerleaders Die (NR) Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson collaborate on this horror film about four cheerleaders who are brought back from the grave to take revenge on the serial rapist who caused their deaths. Starring Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Amanda Grace Cooper, Reanin Johannink, Tom Williamson, and Felisha Cooper. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Alone Yet Not Alone (PG-13) Kelly Greyson stars in this Christian drama as a girl in colonial America who must escape after she’s abducted by an Indian tribe. Also with Jenn Gotzon, Clay Walker, Ozzie Torres, Tony Wade, Robert Pierce, Joanie Stewart, and Natalie Racoosin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Case Against 8 (NR) Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s documentary chronicles the five-year legal fight to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriages. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Grand Seduction (PG-13) Don McKellar directs this comedy about a small Canadian town that stages an elaborate series of deceptions to convince a big-city doctor (Taylor Kitsch) to move there permanently as the town physician. Also with Brendan Gleeson, Liane Balaban, Rhonda Rodgers, and Gordon Pinsent. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (R) Mike Myers makes his directing debut with this documentary profile of the legendary Hollywood talent manager and philanthropist. Also with Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas, Willie Nelson, Anne Murray, Alice Cooper, Tom Arnold, and Emeril Lagasse. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
22 Jump Street (R) Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reunite for this sequel as two detectives who go undercover to bust a college drug ring. Also with Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Peter Stormare, Wyatt Russell, Craig Roberts, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell, Dustin Nguyen, Richard Grieco, and uncredited cameos by Rob Riggle and Dave Franco. (Opens Friday)
Words and Pictures (PG-13) This is really dumb, which tends to be a hindrance for movies aimed at grown-up, literate audiences. Clive Owen plays a drunken English teacher at a wealthy prep school who clashes with a crotchety new art teacher (Juliette Binoche) over whether art or literature is superior. The debate somehow sweeps up the whole school even though it’s really stupid, conducted on stupid terms, and really involves only the 15 or so students in both teachers’ classes. The movie seems not to realize that its two main characters both suck at teaching, since they browbeat the students for failing to be brilliant and give off all the signs of not giving a crap about the kids. The actors perform at well below their best, too. Somewhere at this school, there’s a really sad music teacher wondering, “What about me?” Also with Valerie Tian, Navid Negahban, Bruce Davison, Adam DiMarco, Josh Ssetuba, Christian Scheider, and Amy Brenneman. (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.
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.
Edge of Tomorrow (PG-13) There’s a bit less to this than meets the eye, but it’s still terribly clever. In a post-apocalyptic world in which Europe has been overrun by future-foreseeing aliens, Tom Cruise plays a U.S. soldier who acquires the video game hero-like ability to go back in time whenever he’s killed and learn from his mistakes. Emily Blunt walks off with the picture with her unlikely performance as a battle-hardened veteran who understands what’s happening to him and trains him to fight. The movie never adds up to a statement about war or technology, but director Doug Liman (who was put on earth to make popcorn Hollywood thrillers) plays the time-looping effect for some solid comedy and brings great ingenuity to this disposable thriller. Also with Brendan Gleeson, Jonas Armstrong, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Charlotte Riley, Noah Taylor, and Bill Paxton.
The Fault in Our Stars (PG-13) Two superb lead performances anchor this above-average weeper based on John Green’s novel. Shailene Woodley plays a terminal teenage cancer patient who meets and falls for a patient in remission (Ansel Elgort) at her support group meeting. Elgort brings lightness and wit to the part of a teen who has lost his leg but not his zest for life, and yet the show belongs to Woodley, playing her role with no self-pity and a clear-eyed sense that she’s on borrowed time. First-time director Josh Boone doesn’t always put scenes in the right place, and the movie isn’t as subversive as it thinks it is, but these lead actors and the intelligence and humor in the story carry the day. Also with Laura Dern, Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, Lotte Verbeek, and Willem Dafoe.
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.
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.
Maleficent (PG) Angelina Jolie gives her best performance in years in this re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story, playing a fairy who’s jilted by a prince (Sharlto Copley) and responds by cursing his daughter (Elle Fanning) into falling into a death-like sleep. It’s good that she’s so powerful, because the rest of the movie is crap. Special-effects artist Robert Stromberg steps into the director’s chair for the first time. He makes the CGI look great, but the storytelling has no flow, the non-Maleficent characters are incomprehensible, and the dramatic parts, comic relief, and lyrical interludes all come willy-nilly on one another’s heels. It’s good to see movies about women and girls defy industry wisdom and sell lots of tickets, but we need better ones than this. Also with Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, and Kenneth Cranham.
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.
A Million Ways to Die in the West (R) I liked Seth MacFarlane a lot better when he was Mark Wahlberg’s cuddly teddy bear. He’s regrettably onscreen in this failed Western spoof as a cowardly sheep farmer who has to save his Arizona town from an evil gunslinger (Liam Neeson). As a director, MacFarlane comes up with a few inventive sight gags and a dance number in a saloon. The jokes, however, find a million ways to die, and the actors (barring Neil Patrick Harris as a self-satisfied fop) seem at sea. With all the talent assembled here, this movie really should have done more than make us pine for Blazing Saddles. Also with Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Sarah Silverman, Giovanni Ribisi, Wes Studi, Gilbert Gottfried, Christopher Lloyd, Ewan McGregor, and an uncredited Bill Maher.
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.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (PG-13) Director Bryan Singer rejoins the series and reminds us why the original movies struck such a chord. In a dystopian near future, Professor Xavier and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to prevent an assassination that started the chain of events. Wolverine has his sardonic mojo back, and the erotically tinged relationship between young Xavier and young Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) pays handsome dividends here, as does Xavier’s need to reclaim Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from the dark side. The world has changed much since the first movie, but the overarching story’s parallels with gay rights haven’t lost their power, and the final image of Xavier’s school restored to its former glory is deeply moving. This is the comic-book superhero movie to see this year. Also with Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Fan Bingbing, Evan Peters, Thai-Hoa Le, Josh Helman, Anna Paquin, and uncredited cameos by Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden, and Famke Janssen.
Fed Up (PG) Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary exposes the efforts of America’s food industry to defeat anti-obesity campaigns.
Ida (PG-13) Paweł Pawlikowski (Last Orders, 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.
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.
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.