Parkland (PG-13) Peter Landesman writes and directs this drama set at Dallas’ Parkland Memorial Hospital in the immediate aftermath of president John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Starring Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, James Badge Dale, Tom Welling, Colin Hanks, Jackie Earle Haley, Ron Livingston, Rory Cochrane, Bitsie Tulloch, Gil Bellows, David Harbour, and Jacki Weaver. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
All Is Bright (R) Phil Morrison (Junebug) directs this comedy about two French-Canadian friends (Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd) who travel to New York to sell Christmas trees. Also with Sally Hawkins, Amy Landecker, Tatyana Richaud, Halley Feiffer, and Colman Domingo. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Bad Milo (R) Ken Marino stars in this black comedy as a man who must cope with the damage to his relationships after a demon bursts forth from his intestines. Also with Patrick Warburton, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Stormare, Mary Kay Place, and Stephen Root. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Besharam (NR) Ranbir Kapoor stars in this comedy as an Indian garage mechanic and car thief who sets out to right all the wrongs in his life. Also with Pallavi Sharda, Rishi Kapoor, and Neetu Singh. (Opens Friday at Rave North East Mall)
Blue Caprice (R) Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond star in this thriller based on the D.C. sniper attacks of 2002. Also with Joey Lauren Adams and Tim Blake Nelson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Grace Unplugged (PG) AJ Michalka stars in this drama as a Christian musician whose faith is tested by success. Also with James Denton, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, and Kevin Pollak. (Opens Friday)
Pulling Strings (PG) Laura Ramsey stars in this romantic farce as a U.S. diplomat in Mexico who turns to a handsome mariachi (Jaime Camil) for help getting out of a professional crisis. Also with Tom Arnold, Omar Chaparro, Catherine Papile, Roberto Sosa, and Stockard Channing. (Opens Friday)
Runner Runner (R) Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) directs this thriller about a college student (Justin Timberlake) who takes a job with a shady online poker mogul (Ben Affleck) in Costa Rica. Also with Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Christian George, Yul Vazquez, David Costabile, Bob Gunton, Dayo Okeniyi, and John Heard. (Opens Friday)
Running Wild: The Life of Dayton O. Hyde (NR) Suzanne Mitchell’s documentary profile of the conservationist and author. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Wadjda (PG) A Saudi film! Directed by a woman! Haifaa al-Mansour’s drama is about a 10-year-old girl (Waad Mohamed) who resolves to win her school’s Quran-reciting contest so she can buy a new bicycle. Also with Reem Abdullah, Abdulrahman al-Gohani, Sultan al-Assaf, Dana Abdullah, Rehab Ahmed, Rafa al-Sanea, and Sara al-Jaber. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Baggage Claim (PG-13) Rampagingly mediocre comedy about a flight attendant (Paula Patton, too well-mannered for this doormat of a role) who becomes desperate to show up at her sister’s wedding with a man and enlists her fellow airline employees to help track down her exes over the holiday season. The funniest business comes from Adam Brody and R&B singer Jill Scott as the heroine’s best friends and fellow flight attendants, but a talented cast is wasted in cliché parts. David E. Talbert (adapting this movie from his own novel) also has no idea how to pace this thing or set up a gag. An airplane is probably the best place to watch this. Also with Derek Luke, Jenifer Lewis, Boris Kodjoe, Trey Songz, Taye Diggs, Lauren London, Affion Crockett, La La Anthony, Tia Mowry, and Djimon Hounsou.
Battle of the Year (PG-13) A hip-hop mogul (Laz Alonso) hires a burned-out former friend (the charmless and one-note Josh Holloway, who’s about as inspiring as a colonoscopy) to gather a dream team of b-boys to compete for USA in an international hip-hop dance competition. Director Benson Lee adapts this dance flick from his own documentary Planet B-Boy, managing to incorporate an extended commercial for the original film into the new one. All this and the hackneyed characterization of the b-boys would be fine if the movie just had some good dance sequences, but we don’t even get a sense of how good USA or any of the other teams are. You’d be better off spending 90 minutes watching dance clips on YouTube. Also with Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Ivan “Flipz” Velez, Jon “Do Knock” Cruz, Anis Cheurfa, and Chris Brown.
Blue Jasmine (R) One of the greatest performances of Cate Blanchett’s career enlivens Woody Allen’s weak rewriting of A Streetcar Named Desire. Blanchett plays a Wall Street trophy wife who moves in with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco after losing all her money in the wake of her husband’s imprisonment and suicide. The working-class characters here don’t ring true (a function of Allen being a celebrity for 40 years), and Louis C.K. is wasted in a straightforward role. However, this pales next to the furious energy brought by Blanchett, who dominates every scene by popping pills, drinking too much, and ignoring the sources of her problems. She draws a compelling portrait of a woman driven insane by her belief that she was destined for a better life. Also with Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alden Ehrenreich, and Andrew Dice Clay.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (PG) Much like the 2009 original, this animated sequel is imaginative and clever in terms of visuals and utterly forgettable in terms of story. Bill Hader returns as the wacky inventor who goes to work for a fascist Steve Jobs-type tech mogul (voiced by Will Forte) and has to prevent his old food invention from overrunning the world. The movie has funny gags in the background of the frame and a whole bestiary’s worth of animals made out of food that will enthrall the small kids. The bigger kids will notice that the human characters are boring and the attempts at satire off the mark. It’s all yummy, empty calories. Additional voices by Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Kristen Schaal, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Despicable Me 2 (PG) Like the original, this animated movie’s most creative touches can be found at its margins. The former supervillain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is sent undercover into the local shopping mall to foil the latest plot to take over the world. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud have gotten very good at inventing and crafting gags, especially regarding Gru’s army of yellow minions, but they throw too many subplots into what should be a neat spy thriller for kids. If only these visually talented filmmakers could find a good story, they’d really be onto something. Additional voices by Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier, Steve Coogan, Moises Arias, Nasim Pedrad, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, and Russell Brand.