Venus in Fur (R) Roman Polanski directs this French-language adaptation of David Ives’ play about a theatrical director (Mathieu Amalric) who holds an audition for an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) who wants to star in his play about the father of masochism. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Coherence (NR) James Ward Byrkit’s science-fiction film is about eight friends who get together for a dinner party and find the fabric of reality warped by a celestial event. Starring Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, Hugo Armstrong, and Lorene Scafaria. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13) Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) takes over the series, as the world’s population of superintelligent apes tries to make peace with the surviving humans. Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Judy Greer. (Opens Friday)
Rage (NR) Nicolas Cage stars in this thriller as a reformed criminal who rounds up the old gang after his daughter is kidnapped. Also with Rachel Nichols, Max Ryan, Michael McGrady, Peter Stormare, and Danny Glover. (Opens Friday)
Witching and Bitching (NR) Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus, 800 Bullets) directs this black comedy about a gang of Spanish jewel thieves who are taken prisoner by a coven of witches. Starring Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Pepón Nieto, Carolina Bang, Carlos Areces, Terele Pávez, Jaime Ordóñez, Santiago Segura, Gabriel Delgado, Secun de la Rosa, and Carmen Maura. (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.
America (PG-13) Just before making this movie, Dinesh D’Souza was convicted of felony campaign finance violations. Judging by his latest documentary, the experience seems to have made him even more paranoid, if you can imagine that. The conservative would-be thinker caricatures liberals as malcontents who want to destroy America and then dismisses them with specious arguments, waving away African-American slavery and the genocide of Native Americans as things that were bad, but don’t really affect us today. That’s just prelude to his real agenda of bashing President Obama as an ineffectual bumbler who’s also somehow a ruthless dictator. D’Souza knows how to cloak his opinions in pseudo-scholarly jargon and cherry-picked research, but he’s just a ranting intellectual poseur.
Begin Again (R) Like his previous movie Once, John Carney’s new film is pulsating with music and unrequited love, and it’s awfully hard to resist. Keira Knightley plays a British musician recently dumped by her rock-star boyfriend (Adam Levine) whose songs inspire a burned-out record producer (Mark Ruffalo) to produce her first album. The larger scale of the story doesn’t suit Carney, and the songs (most of them by Gregg Alexander) include too much filler. Still, the filmmaker has a finely honed sense of comedy, and the actors are pleasingly uncorked here. Knightley has never been more charming or relatable as she sings “Lost Stars,” a ballad that also gets a more anguished and piercingly beautiful take by Levine. Unabashedly romantic and full of belief in the power of music, this is a great summer treat. Also with Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, CeeLo Green, and Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey.
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.
Deliver Us From Evil (R) This horror film gets off to a promising start before collapsing into yet another bad genre exercise. Eric Bana plays an NYPD cop with a load of personal issues and an overly broad Noo Yawk accent who starts to see supernatural overtones in a string of cases and teams up with a chain-smoking priest (Édgar Ramírez) to exorcise the evil spirits. Director Scott Derrickson (Sinister, The Exorcism of Emily Rose) fails to do anything with the intriguing setup of armed, trained men dealing with the horror instead of the usual teenagers. The only surprise here is Joel McHale’s against-type turn as a thrill-seeking fellow cop. It could have easily featured in a different, much better movie. Also with Olivia Munn, Chris Coy, Dorian Missick, Sean Harris, and Lulu Wilson.
Earth to Echo (PG) This kid-friendly mashup of E.T., District 9, Chronicle, Super 8, and a few dozen other films wastes its chance. Brian “Astro” Bradley stars in this science-fiction adventure as a kid who recruits his friends (Teo Halm and Reese Hartwig) to investigate a series of mysterious signals in the Nevada desert the night before they move away. They find a crash-landed space alien who needs help getting back home. Director Dave Green adopts a found-footage technique for the film, but he needed somewhat less polish and a lot less cutesiness to tell this story. His mishandling of the tone and the poorly developed characters point up how derivative this thing is. Also with Ella Wahlestedt.