Blue Is the Warmest Color (NC-17) The controversial top-prize winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival is Abdellatif Kechiche’s film about a 15-year-old French girl (Adèle Exarchopoulos) who has a torrid affair with an older woman (Léa Seydoux). Also with Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée, and Alma Jodorowsky. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
About Time (R) This science-fiction romantic comedy by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) stars Domhnall Gleeson as a young Englishman who discovers upon turning 21 that he can travel through time. Also with Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Lydia Wilson, Lindsay Duncan, Richard Cordery, Joshua McGuire, Margot Robbie, and Tom Hollander. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
All Is Lost (PG-13) Robert Redford stars in J.C. Chandor’s drama as a lone sailor who must fight to survive after a collision at sea. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Capital (R) This French corporate thriller directed by Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing) stars Gad Elmaleh as a new CEO who tries to prevent his investment bank from being taken over by an American firm. Also with Gabriel Byrne, Natacha Régnier, Liya Kebede, Céline Sallette, and Hippolyte Girardot. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Diana (PG-13) Naomi Watts stars in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s biography of Princess Diana, as the former royal turns toward human rights activism. Also with Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Cas Anvar, Art Malik, and Juliet Stevenson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ender’s Game (PG-13) Adapted from Orson Scott Card’s science-fiction novel, this film stars Asa Butterfield as a boy who’s recruited into the military to save the human race in a war with aliens. Also with Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Ben Kingsley, Aramis Knight, Suraj Partha, Moises Arias, Nonso Anozie, and Viola Davis. (Opens Friday)
Krrish 3 (NR) I must admit, I haven’t seen the first two films in this series. Hrithik Roshan returns as the Indian superhero who must battle a new supervillain (Vivek Oberoi) bent on world domination. Also with Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, and Rajpal Yadav. (Opens Friday at Rave North East Mall)
Last Vegas (PG-13) Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline star in this comedy as three senior citizens who gather in Vegas to throw a bachelor party for their single friend (Michael Douglas). Also with Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Roger Bart, Michael Ealy, Joanna Gleason, and 50 Cent. (Opens Friday)
Bad Grandpa (R) Total waste of time if you have an hour and a half to waste. A womanizing 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) finds himself playing the role of “daddy” after his crack-loving daughter (Georgina Cates) unexpectedly unloads his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) on him. Desperate to return to his single glory days (his wife mercifully passes away in the opening scene), Grandpa decides to return the boy to his estranged, pot-smoking dad. An awkward road trip ensues as he shamelessly attempts to sleep with any female he comes in contact with, often employing the unwitting kid in his ploys. The two somehow bond over the course of the movie despite any substantive interaction. Bad Grandpa expands a popular MTV Jackass character into a feature length film. The only problem is that it doesn’t expand anything else in the process. Beware: humorous moments occur about as frequently as gas stations on Route 66. Also with Spike Jonze. — Edward Brown
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.
Captain Phillips (PG-13) Tom Hanks’ shining performance as the captain of a real-life cargo ship that’s hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009 is the best thing about this thriller. Director Paul Greengrass is an expert at turning real-life incidents into taut, socially conscious thrillers (Bloody Sunday, United 93), but his documentary-style techniques have become repetitive and impersonal. The film scrupulously observes the pirates at work as closely as it does the captain and his crew, which is laudable but not as enlightening as you’d hope. Hanks blends in seamlessly with the deglamorized setting, never indulging in actorly flourishes even as the standoff’s end leaves him an incoherent wreck. His willingness to recede into this character’s ordinariness shows another dimension to this actor’s greatness. Also with Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmed, Mahat Ali, Michael Chernus, David Warshofsky, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, and Catherine Keener.
Carrie (R) The second big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel is highly flawed, but if you take it on its own merits (no easy feat), you’ll find it a much more thoughtful horror flick than most. Chloë Grace Moretz (good, but lacking Sissy Spacek’s freaked-out intensity) plays the bullied high-school girl who discovers she can move things with her mind. Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) has no flair for the supernatural, but she does well in casting this thing: Julianne Moore is the scariest thing here as Carrie’s crazy religious mother, especially when she turns her mania on herself. The female perspective and layered characters make this an interesting patch on the 1976 film. Also with Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Alex Russell, Zoë Belkin, Barry Shabaka Henley, and Judy Greer.
Chinese Zodiac (PG-13) The plot is completely incomprehensible in what’s widely supposed to be Jackie Chan’s last action-thriller. The star directs himself as the leader of a crew of archeologists and researchers who seek 12 bronze sculpture heads looted from Beijing’s destroyed Summer Palace. As usual with Chan movies, the characters are cardboard, the humor is often cringe-inducing, and the fight sequences are inventively thought out by the star. It’s past time for him to move on from this, but here’s wishing him well as he visits the next phase of his movie stardom. Also with Shu Qi, Laura Weissbecker, Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Lanxin, Ken Lo, and Oliver Platt.
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.
The Counselor (R) “The truth has no temperature.” Cormac McCarthy makes his screenwriting debut with this thriller, and it’s like he set out to parody his own worst writing. Michael Fassbender plays an El Paso lawyer who turns to high-level drug trafficking as a way out of financial difficulties. Director Ridley Scott drenches everything in sex, drugs, and blood to distract us from the script’s lack of meaningful insight into the U.S.-Mexico drug trade. McCarthy’s self-indulgent dialogue drowns all the actors except for Javier Bardem as a flamboyant, spiky-haired drug kingpin and Brad Pitt as a sleazy, cautious middleman. Very little actually happens in this movie. The atmospherics aren’t worth your time. Also with Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, Édgar Ramírez, Toby Kebbell, Goran Visnjic, Natalie Dormer, Rubén Blades, and an uncredited John Leguizamo.
Enough Said (PG-13) This is a rare movie about middle-aged romance from a woman’s point of view, but even if you’re not interested in this subject, Nicole Holofcener’s comedy is still good enough to deserve to be seen. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a professional masseuse who discovers that her new boyfriend (James Gandolfini) used to be married to a former client (Catherine Keener). The plot mechanics are uncharacteristically clunky from the director of Please Give and Lovely & Amazing, but Holofcener’s dialogue and psychological insights are customarily sharp, and Louis-Dreyfus and the late Gandolfini make a thoroughly charming couple. Also with Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson, Eve Hewson, Amy Landecker, and Anjelah Johnson-Reyes.
Escape Plan (R) Not too bad, but Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger really should have done this 20 years ago. Stallone plays a prison security consultant who’s imprisoned in a secret facility by a sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel, signifying evil by brushing lint off his clothes) and seeks the help of a fellow inmate (Schwarzenegger) to escape. The only really memorable detail here is the prison guards wearing creepy black eyeless plastic masks. Director Mikael Håfström (1408) keeps things moving, and the action becomes unbelievable only during the big shootout at the end. Also with Faran Tahir, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, 50 Cent, and Amy Ryan.
The Face Reader (NR) One of the world’s greatest actors, Song Kang-ho, gives another terrific performance as a 15th-century traitor’s son whose ability to tell a man’s character by looking at his face embroils him in a power struggle for the throne of what would become Korea. The burly Song easily accommodates the character’s bawdy sense of humor, his wily negotiation of the treacherous court politics, and his desperation to save his only son (Lee Jeong-seok). The movie’s dramatics grow too heavy only in the last half hour or so of this 138-minute epic. Still, this handsomely decked out period piece is well worth seeing just for its lead performance. Also with Lee Jeong-jae, Baek Yoon-sik, Jo Jeong-seok, Kim Hye-soo, Ko Chang-seok, and Kim Kang-hyeon.
The Family (R) Confusing. Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer star in Luc Besson’s comic thriller as a Mafia boss and his wife who are relocated to the south of France along with their teenage children (Dianna Agron and John D’Leo) by the American federal witness protection program. Besson has been on this turf before (La Femme Nikita), but he can’t seem to decide whether this is an action thriller, a high-school drama, a fish-out-of-water comedy, or a movie about a murderous mob boss writing his memoirs out of boredom. As a result, none of these characters make any sense, and Besson rides the “rude French people” stereotype into the ground whenever he runs out of ideas. There was probably a viable movie in here somewhere. Also with Jimmy Palumbo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Stan Carp, Jon Freda, Vincent Pastore, Dominic Chianese, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Grace Unplugged (PG) AJ Michalka stars in this sententious Christian drama as the daughter of a Christian music star (James Denton) who has to keep her eye on the path of righteousness as she tries to make her own way in the music world. This movie does show the well-intentioned dad behaving like a real jerk as he tries to keep his daughter in his own band, but nothing else in this snoozy film is remotely surprising, and the songs are an undistinguished bunch, too. Also with Kevin Pollak, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, Jamie Grace, and Pia Toscano.
Gravity (PG-13) The greatest 3D movie ever made. Alfonso Cuarón’s unremittingly intense space thriller stars Sandra Bullock as a novice astronaut who is caught outside the shuttle in a high-velocity storm of space debris and stranded in the blackness of space. The film is essentially a series of long takes, and Cuarón’s shooting of them in a simulated zero-gravity environment is an astounding technical feat. Yet the long takes also give us no chance to catch our breath; they turn this brief 90-minute film into a singularly harrowing experience, with our heroine narrowly escaping death from completely unforeseen yet logical dangers. Bullock rides over the script’s infelicities and gives this film a human center, helping to turn this movie into an exhilarating and emotionally draining ride. Also with George Clooney.
I’m in Love With a Church Girl (PG) Ja Rule stars as a retired drug kingpin whose new girlfriend (Adrienne Bailon) leads him to God. Also with Michael Madsen, Stephen Baldwin, T-Bone, Galley Molina, and Vincent Pastore.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (PG-13) The second part of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s 2011 haunted house/demon possession/astral traveling hit combines so-so scares and wooden acting into a set of diminishing returns, but there’s still a certain amount of fun to be had here. Patrick Wilson’s trip to the netherworld of the dead gives the sequel an entertaining fantasy element that strays from the story’s hair-raising ambitions and almost into family-friendly territory. Curiously, that element is }what makes the flick worth watching, besides the fact that it picks up where its predecessor left off. If you liked the first one, you might as well find out what happens next. Also with Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Ty Simpkins, Leigh Whannell, Lin Shaye, and Angus Sampson. –– Steve Steward
Instructions Not Included (PG-13) Eugenio Derbez is a terrific comic actor, but his work as the director and co-writer of this soppy Spanish-language comedy yields much less happy results. He stars as an Acapulco playboy who’s forced to settle down after his American hookup (Jessica Lindsey) literally abandons their baby on his doorstep. The movie comes up with some sly satire on the movie business after our hero gets a job as a Hollywood stuntman, but when the child’s mother re-enters the picture and tries to claim custody of the now-7-year-old girl (Loreto Peralta), the proceedings become intolerably weepy. Derbez gives a fine performance despite his own self-inflicted script; he needs to stay in front of the camera. Also with Daniel Raymont, Alessandra Rosaldo, Sammy Pérez, Agustín Bernal, and Hugo Stiglitz.
Machete Kills (R) This sequel has a few huge laughs, but for the most part, the Latin-inflected black humor that drove the Robert Rodriguez’ 2010 original is missing here. Danny Trejo reprises his role as the indestructible Mexican badass who is assigned by the president of the United States (Carlos Estevez, a.k.a. Charlie Sheen) to go south of the border to stop a mad scientist (Mel Gibson) from launching a weapon into space. Alas, the satire of the original has been replaced by sillier jokes, over-the-top action (not one but two deaths by helicopter rotor) and stunt casting that barely raises a laugh (like the master-of-disguise assassin who’s played variously by Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas). Until Rodriguez can reapply his wit to American culture’s relationship to Latinos, Machete should lay down his machete. Also with Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Amber Heard, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, William Sadler, Marko Zaror, Tom Savini, Demián Bichir, and an uncredited Jessica Alba.
Prisoners (R) The pieces fit together just a little too neatly in this war-on-terror allegory that stars Hugh Jackman as a dad who reacts to the disappearance of his daughter and another girl by kidnapping and torturing the neighborhood’s creepy mentally retarded guy (Paul Dano), convinced that he knows where the girls are. Director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) is scrupulous about the ethical questions raised, and the cast is very good, including Jake Gyllenhaal as seemingly the only cop in this mid-sized Pennsylvania city. Yet there isn’t enough background on the Jackman character, and Villeneuve can’t quite disguise the whiff of exploitation about this project. Also with Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Soul, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla Drew Simmons, David Dastmalchian, Wayne Duvall, and Len Cariou.
Pulling Strings (PG) A simple but touching comedy about a Mexican mariachi (Jaime Camil) who falls in love with a workaholic American diplomat (Laura Ramsey). After she rejects his visa application, he finds her lost laptop containing sensitive diplomatic info and uses the promise of finding the “lost” computer as a way to get his visa approved. After several days searching Mexico City, (big surprise) love ensues as well as some memorable music performances by Camil and his band. Despite the use of mariachi singers and flamboyant depictions of Hispanics, this film manages to capture subtle cultural nuances of life in Mexico using humor and relatable family depictions. Brush up on your Spanglish before going — half the film is in español. Also with Omar Chaparro, Tom Arnold, Roberto Sosa, Aurora Papile, Renata Ybarra, and Stockard Channing. –– Edward Brown
Runner Runner (R) Justin Timberlake’s slick, unmemorable performance headlines this slick, unmemorable thriller about a Princeton math grad student who takes a job with a shady online poker mogul (Ben Affleck) in Costa Rica. Screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Rounders) know their stuff when it comes to gambling, but the story is boilerplate and Affleck seems to be the only actor having any fun. Timberlake flashes his charisma in a scene at a casino table when he goads an obnoxious dice shooter into crapping out, but that’s only once and only for a few minutes. Mostly, this movie’s a bore. Also with Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Oliver Cooper, Michael Esper, Christian George, Yul Vazquez, Sam Palladio, Bob Gunton, and John Heard.
Rush (R) Ron Howard’s blazing film dramatizes the real-life 1970s Formula One rivalry between the flamboyant, hard-living, thrill-seeking Englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and the brusque, sour-faced, businesslike Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). The two actors do terrific work as enemies who gradually gain respect for each other, with Hemsworth showing the burning ambition behind Hunt’s playboy façade and Brühl making Lauda’s humorless arrogance into something entertaining. The movie features crackling dialogue by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and a uniquely thrilling scene at the Italian Grand Prix when fans swarm the track to hail Lauda’s courage in coming back from crippling injuries. This intelligent piece of adult fare just happens to be an exhilarating sports movie, too. Also with Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Pierfrancesco Favino, David Calder, Stephen Mangan, Christian McKay, Alistair Petrie, and Natalie Dormer.
Seasons of Gray (PG-13) The second feature put out by Rick Santorum’s EchoLight Studios is this modest drama with much to be modest about. A modern-day update of the biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, this stars Andrew Cheney as a man who’s forced off his family ranch by his brothers, starts his life fresh in Dallas, and is framed for a crime that he’s innocent of. The hero’s fortunes zigzag wildly, but somehow that never translates to any energy in the hands of director Paul Stehlik and his screenwriter and wife Sarah Stehlik. The movie’s message of Christian forgiveness winds up buried in the featurelessness of the drama. Also with Akron Watson, Megan Parker, Jonathan Brooks, Mark Walters, Spencer Harlan, Sean Brison, Al Garrett, Roderick Lang, Marcus Estell, and Kirk Sisco.
The Snitch Cartel (R) Manolo Cardona stars in this thriller as a low-level drug dealer who rises through the ranks of the Cali drug cartel. Also with Juana Acosta, Kuno Becker, Adriana Barraza, Diego Cadavid, Saúl Lisazo, Sandra Echevarría, Tom Sizemore, and the late Pedro Armendáriz Jr.
12 Years a Slave (R) Even more significant than Schindler’s List. Steve McQueen’s epic tells the story of Solomon Northup, a real-life free black New Yorker who was abducted in 1841 and forced to work as a slave on a Louisiana plantation. McQueen directs this with his typical austerity and rigor and pulls off an extraordinarily powerful long take in which Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is strung up from a tree branch and suspended on his tiptoes while the other slaves go about their work, afraid to offer help. Screenwriter John Ridley draws a vivid, panoramic view of all the twisted human specimens that the slave economy produces, and McQueen and his actors flesh them out beautifully, with a terrifying Michael Fassbender as a sadistic slavemaster and Ejiofor giving the performance of his career. This wrenching film is crucial to understanding America’s heritage. Also with Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Michael K. Williams, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Adepero Oduye, Garret Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt, and Quvenzhané Wallis.
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.