20 Feet From Stardom (PG-13) Morgan Neville’s documentary profiles five women (Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer, and Tatá Vega) who have spent their careers as backup singers in the music industry. Also with Chris Botti, Sheryl Crow, Mick Jagger, Gloria Jones, Darlene Love, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, and Stevie Wonder. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Copperhead (PG) Ronald F. Maxwell (Gods and Generals, Gettysburg) directs this adaptation of Harold Frederic’s novel about an 1850s New York farmer (Billy Campbell) who is ostracized by his neighbors for opposing the Civil War. Also with Angus Macfadyen, Augustus Prew, Lucy Boynton, Casey Brown, François Arnaud, Josh Cruddas, Geneviève Steele, and Peter Fonda. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Dirty Wars (NR) Rick Rowley’s documentary follows investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill as he explores the truth about America’s covert wars. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Heat (R) Sandra Bullock stars in this comedy as an uptight FBI agent who’s forced to team up with a foul-mouthed Boston cop (Melissa McCarthy) to battle a local drug lord. Also with Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Taran Killam, Michael McDonald, Tony Hale, Joey McIntyre, Spoken Reasons, and Jane Curtin. (Opens Friday)
Unfinished Song (PG-13) Terence Stamp stars in this comedy as a grumpy old Englishman whose wife (Vanessa Redgrave) persuades him to join an unconventional local choir. Also with Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Barry Martin, Elizabeth Counsell, and Anne Reid. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
White House Down (PG-13) Roland Emmerich (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) directs this thriller about a Washington D.C. cop (Channing Tatum) who must save the U.S. president (Jamie Foxx) after the White House is invaded by a paramilitary group. Also with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Jimmi Simpson, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre, Matt Craven, Garcelle Beauvais, and James Woods. (Opens Friday)
After Earth (PG-13) Slight but tolerable, this only stinks if you go in expecting a good movie. Will Smith and Jaden Smith star as a human warrior and his son who crash-land on a post-apocalyptic Earth that’s now covered in jungle and filled with predators. With the father immobilized, the son has to negotiate hostile terrain to bring back their spaceship’s homing beacon. The movie has terrible dialogue, but it moves along with a video game’s single-minded pace, as the boy fights off dangerously evolved creatures against gorgeous backdrops. If director M. Night Shyamalan wants to take up B movies, this is a way to do it. Also with Sophie Okonedo, David Denman, Glenn Morshower, and Zoë Kravitz. — Steve Steward
The Bling Ring (R) Decadent and problematic, Sofia Coppola’s latest film is based on the real-life exploits of a group of SoCal high school kids who broke into celebrities’ houses and stole clothes, jewelry, and accessories. Aiming for a single, unbroken mood in this 87-minute jaunt, Coppola films the thefts in a detached way that captures the celebrity lifestyle’s seductiveness but threatens to tip over into label worship. The real problem is the lack of penetrating insight into these pathologically narcissistic teens who’ve been taught to value all the wrong things. As an amoral clotheshorse who spouts platitudes from The Secret, Emma Watson is lethally funny and makes her soulless character into the soul of this movie, for better and worse. Also with Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Carlos Miranda, Gavin Rossdale, Stacy Edwards, Marc Coppola, Paris Hilton, and Kirsten Dunst.
Epic (PG) This animated movie’s renderings of forest greenery are simply glorious. Too bad it trips over pesky minor elements like story and character. Adapted from William Joyce’s The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, this movie is about a teenage girl (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who’s magically shrunken down to a couple of inches tall and introduced to a world of tiny people and talking animals protecting the forest. The movie is overloaded with expositional dialogue and characters who are poorly introduced. You can’t even figure out why the bad guys are trying to reduce the forest to rot. A witless script wastes an enviable voice cast, and any sense of wonder here is broken every time somebody starts to speak. Additional voices by Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd, Jason Sudeikis, Pitbull, Steven Tyler, and Beyoncé Knowles.
Fast & Furious 6 (PG-13) The latest and most enjoyable in the series has Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, and the rest of the gang convening in London to stop a British baddie (Luke Evans) who has the resurrected-from-the-dead Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in his clutches and working for him. Director Justin Lin gives up the pretense that any of this is to be taken seriously and orchestrates two impressive large-scale action sequences: the climax on a military airbase and a knock-down, drag-out brawl between Rodriguez and Gina Carano that’s intercut with a slapstickier fight between Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, and Joe Taslim. The comedy is still cringe-inducing and the dialogue is still bad enough to kill plants and small animals, yet there’s still some gas left in the tank. Also with Jordana Brewster, Gal Gadot, Elsa Pataky, Clara Paget, Kim Kold, and Ludacris.
The Hangover Part III (R) This crew should have put down the bottle after the first hangover. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis reunite after their buddy (Justin Bartha) is kidnapped by a crime lord (John Goodman). The anarchic glee of the first movie (and the second, if you’re feeling generous) has now soured into going through the motions, and you don’t care about tying up the few loose ends from the earlier installments. Goodman can’t inject his line readings with any menace, and the Asian kingpin Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) has devolved into a huge hassle. Even the gap-filling photo reel over the end credits isn’t funny this time out. Good riddance to this series. Also with Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Epps, Sasha Barrese, Jamie Chung, Gillian Vigman, Sondra Currie, Melissa McCarthy, and Heather Graham. — Steve Steward