The Killer Inside Me (R) Michael Winterbottom’s adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel stars Casey Affleck as a sheriff’s deputy who is revealed to be behind a string of psychopathic murders in West Texas in the 1950s. Also with Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas, Tom Bower, Bill Pullman, Brent Briscoe, and Simon Baker. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (R) The documentary team of Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback) profile the standup comic as she turns 75. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Kids Are All Right (R) Annette Bening and Julianne Moore star in Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy as a lesbian couple whose lives are upended when their teenage children (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) track down their biological father (Mark Ruffalo). Also with Yaya DaCosta, Kunal Sharma, Eddie Hassell, Zosia Mamet, and Joaquín Garrido. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Restrepo (R) Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s documentary spends one year with a platoon of U.S. Army soldiers trying to establish an outpost in a heavily contested valley in Afghanistan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Servant (NR) Kim Dae-woo’s comedic take on the ancient Korean story of Chunhyang, starring Jo Yeo-jeong as the geisha’s daughter. Also with Ryu Seung-beom, Kim Ju-hyuk, Jeong Yang, Kim Sung-ryeong, and Oh Dal-su. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (PG) Nicolas Cage re-teams with Jon Turteltaub, who directed him in those dopey National Treasure movies, to make this ultra-lite fantasy-adventure. Cage plays a centuries-old disciple of Merlin who discovers that a geeky NYU physics grad student (Jay Baruchel) is the chosen one whose untapped magical powers can prevent a similarly aged evil wizard (Alfred Molina) from raising the dead and taking over the world. The special effects look really good here, but the writing is lame, and Baruchel — who can be a terrific supporting actor, especially in comedies — doesn’t have the charisma to carry a movie. Despite an homage to Fantasia, this movie feels distinctly un-magical. Also with Teresa Palmer, Toby Kebbell, Omar Benson Miller, Jake Cherry, Alice Krige, and Monica Bellucci. (Opens Wednesday)
Standing Ovation (PG) Kayla Jackson, Pilar Martin, and Alanna Palombo star in this comedy as a group of middle-school friends who enter a national music-video contest. Also with Ashley Cutrona, London Clark, Erika Corvette, Devon Jordan, Jeana Zettler, Austin Powell, Mario Macaluso, and Al Sapienza. (Opens Friday)
The A-Team (PG-13) This stupid but occasionally enjoyable big-screen version of the 1980s TV show moves the setting to the present day and describes how Iraq war soldiers Hannibal (Liam Neeson), Face (Bradley Cooper), Murdock (Sharlto Copley) and B.A. (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) become wrongly convicted fugitives on the lam. Director/co-writer Joe Carnahan stages some ambitious action scenes that don’t quite come off. What juice there is here comes from the cast, who seem to be genuinely having fun. District 9’s Copley isn’t convincing as an American redneck, but he steals all his scenes with his live-wire comic energy. Also with Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, Henry Czerny, Brian Bloom, Yul Vasquez, Gerald McRaney, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz, and an uncredited Jon Hamm.
Despicable Me (PG) Slight but agreeable animated film features Steve Carell voicing a wannabe supervillain named Gru who adopts three unwanted girls from an orphanage (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, and Dana Gaier) to help him gain access to a rival villain and ultimately steal the moon from the sky. The girls help Gru get in touch with his feelings, and it’s thankfully not anywhere near as mushy as it could have been. Gru’s chattering yellow minions are a terrific comic creation, but there’s not enough good material to go around them and a great supporting voice cast. The closing credit sequence uses 3-D better than any other recent film. Additional voices by Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Kristen Wiig, Will Arnett, Danny McBride, Jack McBrayer, and Mindy Kaling.
Get Him to the Greek (R) Nicholas Stoller writes and directs this spinoff of his 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, with Russell Brand reprising his role as a bad-boy British rock star and Jonah Hill portraying a music-label flack who runs into myriad difficulties transporting him from London to L.A.’s Greek Theater for a concert. The pairing of Hill and Brand proves to be inspired, leading to all manner of comic situations and verbal riffs. The most miraculous thing is the way the movie squeezes laughs even out of the cameo appearances (by Lars Ulrich and Paul Krugman, among many others) and makes supporting actors with no track record in comedy look downright hilarious (especially Sean Combs as the record label’s president). This is the funniest comedy so far this year. Also with Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne, Colm Meaney, Aziz Ansari, Carla Gallo, Kali Hawk, and Kristen Bell.
Grown Ups (PG-13) Yet another dreary, sloppily made Adam Sandler comedy, this one stars him as one of a bunch of middle-school buddies (along with Chris Rock, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, and David Spade) who reunite for the funeral of a beloved basketball coach. They wind up spending an entire weekend making limp wisecracks about how young they used to be while you spend the entire movie waiting for anything to happen. If you’re similar in age to Sandler and his pals, there’s a small chance you’ll find this wildly funny. Everybody else can just make like Sandler’s fictional kids, staying inside and playing video games. Also with Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Joyce Van Patten, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Norm Macdonald, and Steve Buscemi.
The Karate Kid (PG) Why isn’t this movie called The Kung Fu Kid? This remake of the 1984 hit stars Jaden Smith as a 12-year-old who’s relocated from Detroit to Beijing, where he’s bullied by the locals until he meets a maintenance man (Jackie Chan) who teaches him kung fu. Director Harald Zwart does well with the Chinese setting, but the real attraction is Chan, who knows how to play this laconic character for laughs and does just as well with the character’s private grief. (If you’ve only watched his Hollywood stuff, you may be surprised to see that Chan can act.) The movie manages to capture the electric charge of the famous “wax on, wax off” scene, and enough of the original’s inspirational punch to make it a worthy successor. Also with Taraji P. Henson, Han Wenwen, Wang Chenwei, and Yu Rongguang.
Killers (PG-13) It’s hard to pull off marital comedy and action-thriller at the same time. Mr. and Mrs. Smith showed you how it’s done. This movie shows you how not to do it. Katherine Heigl stars as a woman who suddenly discovers that her new husband (Ashton Kutcher) is a secret government hit man who’s being targeted for assassination. The material isn’t the best, but the movie still could have worked if the fatally lightweight lead actors had a better feel for how to pitch their performances or if director Robert Luketic hadn’t lost control of the tone every time the movie shifted gears. Sadly, that is the case, and the result is shrill and annoying. Also with Catherine O’Hara, Tom Selleck, Katheryn Winnick, Kevin Sussman, Alex Borstein, Lisa Ann Walter, Rob Riggle, Martin Mull, Casey Wilson, and Usher.
Knight and Day (PG-13) The terrible pun in the title isn’t explained until late in this piffling comedy-thriller, and it’s not much of a payoff. Tom Cruise stars as a CIA hit man wrongly being hunted down by his fellow agents, and Cameron Diaz is the garage owner who gets dragged into the plot. Cruise plays the role with a flippancy that’s funny and mildly disturbing in context, as if his character from Risky Business had grown up to be a government assassin. Yet the script is lame, there’s no chemistry between the leads, and Diaz’ character spends most of the film as a shrieking liability. With exotic locations ranging from Salzburg to Seville, this plush film isn’t bad, necessarily. It’s just that … wait, what was it about again? Also with Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, Jordi Mollà, Marc Blucas, Celia Weston, and Maggie Grace.
The Last Airbender (PG) In theory, this is a great idea. In practice, it doesn’t go well at all. M. Night Shyamalan tries to escape his creative rut with this fantasy-adventure about an enchanted boy (Noah Ringer) who must use his mystical powers over the four elements to prevent the warlike Fire Nation from conquering the other three. Based on an animated cable TV show, this movie mangles the story into an indecipherable mess of political alliances, tribes, and personality-free leaders. The romantic subplot is sodden, the pace is lumbering, the actors are off, and even Shyamalan’s visual flair is nowhere in evidence except for some well-executed martial-arts sequences. Less philosophy and more ass-kicking would have been the way to go here. Also with Jackson Rathbone, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, and Randall Duk Kim.
Predators (R) A motley crew of badasses (led by merc Adrian Brody) are taken to a “game preserve” planet and stalked by three of the interplanetary hunters. The first hour builds spectacularly, making the Predators threatening again, introducing new twists to the mythos. The shiny, likable cast fits together well, but the slower second half doesn’t deliver on the first, the cast and plot twists aren’t fully utilized, and 23 years of SFX evolution can’t top the original Stan Winston-designed Predator. Still, a mostly successful return to form after the fumbled Aliens vs. Predator films. Also with Alice Braga, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Danny Trejo, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, and Laurence Fishburne. — Cole Williams
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (PG-13) Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a prince of the Persian empire who’s forced to flee along with a dethroned princess (Gemma Arterton) after they’re drawn into political intrigue involving a dagger that can turn back time. Based on a popular video game, this movie would be fine if it simply concentrated on the action, which involves the prince doing acrobatic leaps in high places. Instead, it forces us to sit through a lot of blather about time and destiny and an infantile romantic subplot with no chemistry between the leads. Also with Ben Kingsley, Steve Touissant, Toby Kebbell, Ronald Pickup, Richard Coyle, Reece Ritchie, and Alfred Molina.
Sex and the City 2 (R) Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon) go to Abu Dhabi to deal with their issues and dress fabulously. The movie stays true to the show’s focus on friendship, but the movie runs about 700 years and features tons of bad writing and self-congratulation about its feminist accomplishments, which aren’t as significant as the movie seems to think. Even the acting is off. This is for Carrie completists only. Also with Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Mario Cantone, Willie Garson, Jason Lewis, John Corbett, Kelli O’Hara, Alice Eve, Lynn Cohen, Ron White, Omid Djalili, and Penélope Cruz.
— Cole Williams
Shrek Forever After (PG) More satisfying than the second or third Shrek movies, this concluding film isn’t as invigoratingly weird as the movie that started it all. However, it recovers some of the first movie’s mojo. The big ogre (voiced by Michael Myers) is conned by Rumpelstiltskin (voiced by Walt Dohrn) into an alternate reality where everything is as if Shrek never existed. The film has a few dead spots and wastes a talented supporting voice cast, but Shrek’s midlife crisis is handled lightly enough and Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) is hilariously reimagined as a coddled, morbidly obese kitty. The laughs are sustained better than in the previous sequels and give our jolly green friends a warm sendoff. Additional voices by Cameron Diaz, Jon Hamm, Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson, Kathy Griffin, Lake Bell, and Meredith Vieira.
Solitary Man (R) Not to be confused with A Single Man. Michael Douglas portrays a former Tri-State car-dealership king who’s near the bottom of a self-destructive spiral caused by the loss of his youth. The screenwriting team of David Levien and Brian Koppelman, who also direct the film, take a scattershot approach to this story that occasionally catches fire, as in all the scenes between the main character and Danny DeVito as the owner of a college-town diner. Douglas is excellent, but the film doesn’t build properly toward his character’s ultimate realization about why he cheats on girlfriends and businesses. Just a bit more craftsmanship could have made this into a small gem. Also with Susan Sarandon, Mary-Louise Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots, Richard Schiff, and an uncredited Olivia Thirlby.
Toy Story 3 (G) Yet another fantastic piece of work from Pixar. When their now-grown owner heads off to college, Woody and Buzz (voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen) and the other toys are accidentally shipped off to a local day care center, where the toys are run by a strawberry-scented teddy bear (voiced by Ned Beatty) who acts like a cruel warden. The filmmakers turn this into a prison-break movie but cut the action with just the right amount of cutesy humor. Esoteric references abound, and the script includes a deliriously funny encounter between Barbie (voiced by Jodi Benson) and a morally shady clotheshorse Ken (voiced by Michael Keaton) among its wealth of rich comic material. Additional voices by Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Blake Clark, Teddy Newton, Bud Luckey, Javier Fernández Peña, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, Timothy Dalton, Whoopi Goldberg, and R. Lee Ermey.
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (PG-13) The best one so far, for what that’s worth. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is targeted by a vengeful vampire (Bryce Dallas Howard) with an army of new vampires, so her two boyfriends (Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner) have to team up to save her. There’s less static here than in the previous Twilight films, but there’s still too much, and the romance stubbornly refuses to spark. Still, the script has its moments of insight and wit, and the movie is blessedly unafraid to lighten up every once in a while. The series still needs improvement, but it’s headed in an encouraging direction. Also with Xavier Samuel, Billy Burke, Jackson Rathbone, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Elizabeth Reaser, Peter Facinelli, Julia Jones, Gil Birmingham, Jodelle Ferland, Cameron Bright, Dakota Fanning, and Anna Kendrick.
Winter’s Bone (R) This frigid, flavorful thriller set in the Ozarks stars Jennifer Lawrence as a 17-year-old girl named Ree who’s forced to track down her long-gone meth-manufacturing dad to keep their house from being foreclosed on. Non-actors from the area fill out the supporting cast and augment Lawrence’s fine performance as the flinty, determined Ree. Director Debra Granik treats the material (based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel) with a stark, naturalistic feel and slowly tightens the suspense plot around your neck as Ree’s search for the truth turns up increasingly twisted specimens of humanity. With many scenes feeling straight out of a horror flick, this is a draining, enlightening piece of storytelling. Also with John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Dale Dickey, Garrett Dillahunt, Tate Taylor, Valerie Richards, and Sheryl Lee.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (R) Adapted from Christopher Greenhalgh’s novel, this film imagines a love affair between the French fashion designer (Anna Mouglalis) and the Russian composer (Mads Mikkelsen). Also with Yelena Morozova, Natasha Lindinger, Grigori Manukov, Radivoje Bukvic, and Anatole Taubman.
The Girl Who Played With Fire (R) The sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo stars Michael Nyqvist as a Swedish journalist who finds his investigative partner (Noomi Rapace) the accused party in a high-profile murder case. Also with Lena Endre, Sofia Ledarp, Peter Andersson, Georgi Staykov, Yasmine Garbi, Mikael Spreitz, Tehilla Blad, and Michalis Koutsogiannakis.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (NR) Before the inevitable Hollywood version, this Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling mystery novel stars Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace as a disgraced investigative reporter and a computer hacker who must team up to solve a decades-old series of murders linked to a powerful family. Also with Lena Endre, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Ingvar Hirdwall, Marika Lagercrantz, Björn Granath, and Ewa Fröling.
I Am Love (R) Luca Guadagnino’s romance stars Tilda Swinton as a Russian emigré in turn-of-the-century Italy who embarks on a tragic adulterous love affair. Also with Flavio Parenti, Edoardo Gabriellini, Alba Rohrwacher, Pippo Delbonno, Waris Ahluwalia, and Marisa Berenson.