Muppets Most Wanted (PG) The plucky troupe is flailing for direction after their triumphant return to the big screen three years ago. The plot revolves around Kermit the Frog’s resemblance to a criminal mastermind who busts out of prison, has Kermit tossed in there in his place, and takes over the Muppets. Jason Segel is not involved here, and he’s sorely missed as an actor and writer. The new material (by director James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller) isn’t up to scratch, and the human talent falls down. This sequel features more songs than the original, and while some of them score (like the evil frog’s disco number wooing Miss Piggy), others fall flat (like Miss Piggy’s duet with Céline Dion). The troupe either needs new blood or Segel to return. Also with Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Christoph Waltz, Salma Hayek, Lady Gaga, Sean Combs, Tom Hiddlestone, Ray Liotta, Danny Trejo, Frank Langella, Toby Jones, Ross Lynch, Saoirse Ronan, Chloë Grace Moretz, James McAvoy, Usher, Miranda Richardson, Stanley Tucci, and Zach Galifianakis.
Need for Speed (PG-13) Based on the best-selling series of video games, this car chase movie just barely manages to be a viable piece of entertainment. Aaron Paul portrays a guy who’s out to avenge his brother’s death at the hands of a rival racer (Dominic Cooper) by beating him in an illegal road race in California. The script is terrible (Michael Keaton has a part that I still can’t figure out), but then, who’s going to this movie for the script? Paul has decent chemistry with Imogen Poots as a British car expert, and the racing sequences includes one with a silver Mustang tearing through gas stations and strip-mall parking lots at top speed. It’ll tide you over adequately until the next Fast & Furious installment. Also with Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Harrison Gilbertson, and Dakota Johnson.
Noah (PG-13) Darren Aronofsky’s Lord of the Rings movie. The Black Swan director’s reimagining of the biblical story stars Russell Crowe as an oddly unlikable Noah, who builds an ark to protect against a flood that will wash away the murderous descendants of Cain. This Noah becomes willing to kill members of his own family to carry out God’s will, which is weirdly at odds with the character as presented at the movie’s beginning. Even so, the movie has a lot to enjoy, such as the imaginative look (no robes!) that Aronofsky gives this story and the battle between the wicked king’s army and fallen angels made of stone. Literalists may take issue with this, but hey, it’s not as if they were there when the Flood happened. Also with Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Mark Margolis, Kevin Durand, Nick Nolte, and Anthony Hopkins. — Steve Steward