Third Person (R) The latest film by Paul Haggis (Crash) is a series of interlocking romantic stories set in Rome, Paris, and New York. Starring Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, Kim Basinger, Maria Bello, Moran Atias, David Harewood, and James Franco. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
America (PG-13) Convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza directs this counterfactual documentary imagining a world in which American colonists lost the Revolutionary War and never established the United States. (Opens Wednesday)
Deliver Us From Evil (R) Not to be confused with the similarly titled 2006 documentary about child abuse in the Catholic Church, this horror film stars Eric Bana as an NYPD officer who investigates a series of supernatural crimes. Also with Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, and Joel McHale. (Opens Wednesday)
Earth to Echo (PG) This fantasy-adventure film is about a group of kids who help a stranded space alien get back home. Starring Teo Halm, Brian “Astro” Bradley, Reese Hartwig, Ella Wahlestedt, and Jason Gray-Stanford. (Opens Wednesday)
Life Itself (R) Steve James (Hoop Dreams) directs this documentary adapted from Roger Ebert’s memoir, tracing the life of the late film critic. Also with Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Ramin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay, and A.O. Scott. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Snowpiercer (R) The English-language debut of Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Mother, The Host) stars Chris Evans as a man leading a class-based revolt on a train carrying the last human survivors across an Earth suffering through another ice age. Also with Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Ko Ah-sung, and Song Kang-ho. (Opens Wednesday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
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.
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 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, 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 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.
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. 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.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG) Just like the original, this sequel is awe-inspiring on a visual level and irritating on a story level. With the Vikings now at peace with the dragons, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his trusty mount Toothless must protect their community against a warlord (voiced by Djimon Hounsou) commanding an army of dragons. The flying reptiles are rendered gloriously, as are the sequences with the humans riding them. Yet the script isn’t funny and the whole subplot involving Hiccup’s long-lost mother (voiced by Cate Blanchett) is dealt with way too easily. This could have been the best animated movie of the year if only the filmmakers had taken a little more care with the story. Additional voices by Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kit Harington, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig.
Jersey Boys (R) Clint Eastwood’s most purely enjoyable movie as a director is this adaptation of the Broadway musical. Based on the lives of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, the movie stars John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, and Erich Bergen as the young men in 1950s New Jersey who use music to escape their hardscrabble upbringing. With scant movie resumés, the singing actors (most of whom were in the Broadway show) do much to convey the group’s complex, shifting dynamics, and the Tony-winning Young has a falsetto that pops off the soundtrack. The movie is weaker on the musicians’ personal lives, and Eastwood’s visuals are drab as always, but he keeps the story moving forward, and the eternally fresh music carries the film. Also with Christopher Walken, Mike Doyle, Renée Marino, Freya Tingley, and Erica Piccininni.
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. 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.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (PG) Of course this movie is bad, and to make it worse, it’s almost three hours long. On top of that, the story doesn’t really even end, because a major plotline literally walks offscreen, and another literally flies into the sky. This Transformers is as incomprehensible as it is visually exhausting, but what’s really weird is that you wish director Michael Bay gave his characters even less of a thought, because all they do is occupy space between bouts of giant robots wrestling each other into buildings. Combined with corporate branding that has about as much subtlety as a rectal exam, you wonder why there’s even a story at all, rather than a title card that says, “Thanks for your money. Here are three hours of robots and dubstep noises as promised.” Bright spots: T.J. Miller’s skeezy techie buddy character and Stanley Tucci’s smarmy, conniving billionaire industrialist give you scattered moments of levity within the noxious cloud of CGI chaos, and the movie teases the revelation of the Transformers’ creators, which, despite the typical Bay bombast, is reason alone to sit through the next abysmal attack on the senses. Also with Mark Wahlberg, Kelsey Grammer, and the voices of John Goodman and Ken Watanabe. –– Steve Steward
22 Jump Street (R) Despite a lot of effort, the laughs in this sequel are more scattered than the ones in the original. Detectives Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) reunite for a pointedly similar caper, going undercover as college students to bust a drug ring. The filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller rely too heavily on treating Schmidt and Jenko’s relationship as if it were a romance for laughs. They also make too many jokes about sequels — they could have confined those to the terrific closing credits montage imagining sequels all the way past 39 Jump Street. Still, the movie is likable, and it sports a scene-stealing turn by Jillian Bell as a passive-aggressive roommate who’s way more layered than she seems. Also with Amber Stevens, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare, Nick Offerman, Dustin Nguyen, Richard Grieco, and uncredited cameos by Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Bill Hader, Queen Latifah, and Seth Rogen.
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.
Borgman (NR) Alex van Warmerdam’s thriller is about a homeless drifter (Jan Bijvoet) who turns the lives of an upper-class Dutch family into a waking nightmare. Also with Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Tom Dewispelaere, and Sara Hjort Ditlevsen.
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.
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.
La Bare (R) Actor Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike) directs this documentary about the dancers at male strip club La Bare Dallas.
We Are the Best! (NR) Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love, Together) directs this comedy about three 13-year-old girls (Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, and Liv LeMoyne) who form a punk rock band in Stockholm in 1982. Also with Johan Liljemark, Mattias Wiberg, Jonathan Salomonsson, Alvin Strollo, and David Dencik.