Drive Hard (NR) John Cusack takes a break from all the grim thrillers he’s been doing to co-star in this lighthearted caper comedy that somehow manages to be more depressing than the grim thrillers. He plays a tourist who kidnaps a fellow American, a former race car driver turned driving instructor (Thomas Jane), in Australia and forces him to act as a getaway driver while he commits various crimes. The various car chases aren’t filmed in any inventive way, and any tension is stripped away by the lame jokes and an unbelievable plot, with the driver ignoring several opportunities to ditch his outlaw passenger. Drive away from this. Also with Zoe Ventoura, Christopher Morris, Yesse Spence, Jerome Ehlers, and Andrew Buchanan. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Annabelle (R) This prequel to The Conjuring stars Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton as a couple who own the cursed doll in the 1960s. Also with Tony Amendola, Brian Howe, Kerry O’Malley, and Alfre Woodard. (Opens Friday)
Bang Bang! (NR) Hrithik Roshan stars in this Indian remake of Knight and Day as a rogue agent whose adventures sweep up an unassuming bank teller (Katrina Kaif). Also with Danny Denzongpa, Jaaved Jaffrey, Pawan Malhotra, Parth Akerkar, Kishan Gohel, and Préity Üupala. (Opens Friday at Rave North East Mall)
A Good Marriage (R) Joan Allen stars in this Stephen King adaptation as a woman who discovers that her husband of 25 years (Anthony LaPaglia) is a serial killer. Also with Kristen Connolly, Theo Stockman, and Stephen Lang. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Hector and the Search for Happiness (R) Simon Pegg stars in this comedy as a psychiatrist who travels the globe to find out what makes people happy. Also with Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Zhao Ming, Togo Igawa, Jean Reno, and Christopher Plummer. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Hero of Color City (G) Despite the talent in the voice cast, this animated movie should have gone direct to DVD. Christina Ricci provides the voice of a yellow crayon who has to overcome her fear of everything to save the other crayons in her box from an invasion by a black-and-white drawing. Neither the animation nor the script (ripped off from the Toy Story films) treats the story with any degree of imagination, and the songs slip out of your memory while they’re still going on. Bring your baby to this movie, because anybody older will be bored silly by it. Additional voices by Rosie Perez, Craig Ferguson, Wayne Brady, Jessica Capshaw, Jess Harnell, David Kaye, Jeremy Guskin, Sean Astin, and Owen Wilson. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Left Behind (PG-13) Nicolas Cage stars in this second film version of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ novel about a group of people trying to survive after the Rapture. Also with Lea Thompson, Chad Michael Murray, Nicky Whelan, Cassi Thomson, Martin Klebba, Quinton Aaron, William Ragsdale, Lolo Jones, and Jordin Sparks. (Opens Friday)
The Liberator (NR) Édgar Ramírez stars in this biography of Simón Bolívar, who freed much of South America from Spanish rule in the 19th century. Also with María Valverde, Erich Wildpret, Juana Acosta, Imanol Arias, Iwan Rheon, Juvel Vielma, Gary Lewis, and Danny Huston. (Opens Friday at Rave North East Mall)
Men, Women & Children (R) This ensemble drama by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) tracks the impact of technology and social media on an overprotective mother (Jennifer Garner), a sexually frustrated dad (Adam Sandler), and a teen with a gambling problem (Ansel Elgort). Also with Judy Greer, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dean Norris, Dennis Haysbert, Olivia Crocicchia, Kaitlyn Dever, Elena Kampouris, Shane Lynch, and Will Peltz. Narrated by Emma Thompson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
20,000 Days on Earth (NR) Nick Cave stars in this docudrama depicting the 20,000th day of his life. Also with Susie Cave, Warren Ellis, Ray Winstone, and Kylie Minogue. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
As Above, So Below (R) John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) directs this found-footage horror film about a team of archeologists who encounter bad things in the catacombs below the city of Paris. Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, and Hamid Djavadan.
The Boxtrolls (PG) Not as dark or deep as Coraline or ParaNorman, but this stop-motion animated movie continues the winning streak for the studio responsible for all three films. Based loosely on Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters!, the movie centers on a boy named Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright) who must find a way to make peace between the underground-dwelling creatures who raised him and the humans hunting them down. Neither Eggs nor the boxtrolls are particularly interesting, but writers Irena Brignull and Adam Pava bring sophisticated wit to this kids’ movie, and the animators match them with some inventive action sequences and a great, disgusting gag about the villain (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and his lactose intolerance. This is excellent light family entertainment. Additional voices by Elle Fanning, Jared Harris, Toni Collette, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan, Nick Frost, and Simon Pegg.
Cantinflas (PG) This watchable biopic stars Óscar Jaenada as the legendary comedian, giving a mostly straight retelling of his life story but also flashing forward to 1955, when desperate Hollywood producer Mike Todd (Michael Imperioli) tries to cast him in Around the World in 80 Days. The script has some illuminating stuff on Cantinflas cleaning up the corrupt unions in Mexico’s film industry and traces the roots of his comic persona to the fast-paced banter of working-class Mexicans. Still, the main reason to see this is Jaenada’s performance, mimicking the star’s onscreen antics and differentiating him from the offscreen man. Stay for the closing-credit sequence, with Jaenada in character dancing to Ravel’s Bolero. Also with Ilse Salas, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Gabriela de la Garza, Eduardo España, Bárbara Mori, Ana Layevska, Julian Sedgwick, and Joaquín Cosio.
Dolphin Tale 2 (PG) If you or your kids are having trouble sleeping, here’s a nice cure. Nathan Gamble returns for this sequel to the 2011 film as a kid growing up near a water park that needs to find a companion for its amputee dolphin or risk being shut down. Nothing that happens here comes as any sort of surprise, and the jokes will have trouble making a 2-year-old laugh. Save your money for a trip to the aquarium. Also with Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr., Charles Martin Smith, and Kris Kristofferson.
The Drop (R) Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini are the best reasons to see this thriller. They play a couple of mobbed-up bar owners whose lives spin out of control when some armed robbers steal the cash that the Mafia has been holding in their bar for safekeeping. Belgian director Michaël Roskam (Bullhead) lets the actors dictate the pace, and Gandolfini vividly plays a gangster gone to seed who’s simmering with rage without ever quite losing control. Still, it’s Hardy’s clenched, off-speed performance that winds up keeping the beat here and giving clues to his character’s soul. It’s the last screen role for the late Gandolfini, and it’s a fitting sendoff. Also with Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Michael Aronov, Morgan Spector, and Ann Dowd. –– Steve Steward
The Equalizer (R) Denzel Washington re-teams with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for this reboot of the 1980s TV series that plays a bit too much like other Denzel thrillers of late. He plays a former CIA hitman suffering from OCD and insomnia who pisses off the Russian mob when he takes retribution on a pimp who brutally beats an underage prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz). The early scenes between Washington and Moretz are well-played, so it’s a shame when she leaves the movie. (Where does she go?) Fuqua tries for elegance and brutal efficiency in depicting the hero’s killings (accomplished, as in the TV show, without a gun), but those qualities aren’t in this director. This isn’t really bad. It’s just stuff we’ve seen before. Also with Marton Csokas, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, David Meunier, Johnny Skourtis, Alex Veadov, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo.
Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13) The funniest Marvel Comics movie so far. Chris Pratt stars as an intergalactic thief who has to team up with a green-skinned assassin (Zoë Saldana), a revenge-minded alien (Dave Bautista), an insanely angry talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and his walking tree sidekick (voiced by Vin Diesel) to stop a blue-skinned overlord (Lee Pace) from doing bad things to the universe. The five main characters make a terrific comedy team, with Pratt anchoring the proceedings well and the raccoon stealing lots of scenes. Director/co-writer James Gunn (Slither) festoons the soundtrack with splendidly cheesy 1970s and ’80s rock anthems. Most superhero movies treat their characters with earnest reverence, and Gunn gleefully throws a pie in the face of it all. Also with Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Ophelia Lovibond, Wyatt Oleff, Benicio del Toro, and Glenn Close.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG) Yet another way-too-tasteful literary adaptation by Lasse Hallström. This one is adapted from Richard Morais’ novel about an Indian patriarch (Om Puri) who opens a family restaurant in the French countryside, incurring the wrath of the traditional chef (Helen Mirren) who owns the Michelin-starred restaurant across the street. One of the few actors who can stand up to Mirren, the sepulchral-voiced Puri walks away with the movie, though Manish Dayal (as Indian restaurant’s cooking savant who’s caught in the middle) does well just to hold his own in such company. All this talent should have come to more. Also with Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michel Blanc, and Rohan Chand.
Let’s Be Cops (R) A bad movie that comes out at a spectacularly bad time, this comedy stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as two L.A. losers who decide to impersonate police officers full-time after they’re mistaken for cops on their way to a costume party. The set pieces don’t work, and the two leads have astonishingly poor chemistry considering that they’ve worked together for more than a year on TV’s New Girl. This movie would be unfunny even if the events of Ferguson, Mo., hadn’t happened, but since they have, it’s really hard to laugh at a movie that gets laughs out of idiots in cop uniforms acting irresponsibly. Also with Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, James D’Arcy, Keegan-Michael Key, and Andy Garcia.
Más negro que la noche (R) A remake of Carlos Enrique Taboada’s 1975 Mexican horror film stars Zuria Vega as a teenager who invites her friends over for a party at the ancient house that she just inherited. Also with Adriana Louvier, Eréndira Ibarra, Ona Casamiquela, Margarita Sanz, and Miguel Rodarte.
The Maze Runner (PG-13) The shadow of The Hunger Games looms heavily over this dystopian science-fiction thriller starring Dylan O’Brien as a boy who awakens without his memory in a community full of similarly amnesiac boys trapped in the center of a giant maze. The film’s look is derivative, and the acting is mostly anonymous, aside from the beauteous Kaya Scodelario as a girl who mysteriously shows up late in the proceedings. Still, the central mystery (taken from the James Dashner novel this is based on) is well handled, and the plot’s twists and turns are employed dexterously to reveal enough information to keep up the intrigue. Other YA novels have been turned into far worse movies. Also with Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, and Patricia Clarkson.
My Old Lady (PG-13) Israel Horovitz adapts his own stage play about a penniless American (Kevin Kline) who inherits a Paris apartment, only to find an old woman (Maggie Smith) and her daughter (Kristin Scott Thomas) who are legally entitled to stay there. Also with Noémie Lvovsky, Stéphane Freiss, Stéphane de Groodt, and Dominique Pinon.
No Good Deed (PG-13) A movie so bad, it’s actually rather impressive. Taraji P. Henson plays a mom who’s stuck at home on a rainy night when an escaped serial rapist (Idris Elba), posing as a car-wreck victim, manages to terrorize her. Elba seems to appreciate playing a bad guy for once, but he’s vastly undercut by a nonsensical script. At one point, the woman’s young daughter somehow fails to notice the villain killing a cop 10 feet away from her. If that sounds unbelievable, try the climactic plot twist on for size. This is just putrid. Also with Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo, Mirage Moonschein, and Henry Simmons.
The Pirates (NR) A Korean comedy that even Westerners will find amusing, this historical piece stars Kim Nam-gil as a 14th-century former soldier-turned-bandit who strikes an uneasy alliance with a pirate queen (Son Ye-jin) to hunt down a whale that has swallowed a state emblem needed by the new ruling dynasty. The hijinks are heavily influenced by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but director Lee Seok-hoon handles it all with a light touch and even manages a moment of beauty early on when the pirate comes face to face with the whale. Son makes a dashing poker-faced foil for Kim, who’s equally at home with the swashbuckling and the slapstick comedy. The lightheartedness is a welcome contrast to the more serious historical Korean films of late. Also with Yoo Hae-jin, Kim Tae-woo, Lee Kyeong-yeong, Park Cheol-min, Sin Jeong-gyun, and Oh Dal-su.
The Skeleton Twins (R) Saturday Night Live alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader give excellent, low-key performances as estranged siblings struggling to cope with a family legacy of depression and suicide. Director/co-writer Craig Johnson knows that the subject threatens to be too gloomy, so he gives these comic actors opportunities like a big dance number set to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” For all that, the two leads are even better in the movie’s big dramatic explosions near the end. Their performances convey the love that drives these two damaged people to try to prop each other up, and that makes this dramedy into something deeply moving. Also with Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason, and Luke Wilson.
The Song (PG-13) Alan Powell stars in this drama as a songwriter whose life is overturned when a song he writes for his wife (Ali Faulkner) makes him into a star. Also with Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Danny Vinson, Kenda Benward, and Jude Ramsey.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13) This might be the worst movie of the summer, and this is a summer that includes Hercules and the fourth Transformers movie. Never mind your nostalgia for the TMNT of the ’80s — this movie fails because it just isn’t fun. Director Jonathan Liebesman is so in love with a joke about the ridiculousness of the turtles’ backstory that that’s pretty much all there is. (For the record, it’s funny exactly twice in the course of 101 minutes.) Like a lie that has spun out of control, the new twists on the TMNT mythos require more exposition, which requires more talking, and talking in movies doesn’t play to the strong suits of star Megan Fox, cast here as the turtles’ reporter-friend April O’Neil. Fox is icily beautiful, but her acting can be summed up by a single facial expression: open-mouthed confusion. It’s a role that would be perfect for a talking doll, but, unfortunately, April is supposed to be a person. Of course, this movie is also supposed to be about crime-fighting turtles, but they’re just painful to watch and annoying. Also with Will Arnett, William Fitchner, and the voices of Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub. –– S.S.
This Is Where I Leave You (R) Unsatisfying. Jason Bateman plays a guy who’s forced to spend seven days with his mother (Jane Fonda), siblings (Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Corey Stoll), and various assorted spouses and significant others after his father dies. The movie is based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel, and director Shawn Levy (from the Night at the Museum movies) seems to quail before the funnier, grosser edges of the material. The insights are reduced to greeting-card platitudes, and Fey seems ill at ease as a regret-ridden mom, while Bateman is rehashing the shtick he did on TV’s Arrested Development. The only actor who really brings his best is Driver as the uninhibited youngest sibling. This movie’s grown-up impulses get in the way of its comedy. Also with Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer, Ben Schwartz, and Dax Shepard.
Tusk (R) One of the strangest horror movies of all time stars Justin Long as a podcaster who becomes the prisoner of an insane old sailor (Michael Parks) who wants to turn him into a walrus. Kevin Smith has long seemed like a brilliant comic writer in search of a subject, but this film (based on an idea floated in one of his own podcasts) is where he finally finds a place for his talent. The typically foul-mouthed yet erudite dialogue is refreshing in a genre with so much bad writing, and Parks delivers a stellar turn as a learned man who passes himself off as a subnormal redneck when he faces a cop (Johnny Depp, under heavy makeup and billed under his character’s name, Guy Lapointe). The movie reaches a pitch of absurdity during its climactic fight sequence that needs to be seen to be believed. Also with Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Harley Morenstein, Ralph Garman, and Ashley Greene.
A Walk Among the Tombstones (R) This movie’s different from all the Liam Neeson thrillers: It’s actually good, thanks to a witty script by writer-director Scott Frank and some tasty supporting performances. Neeson plays an ex-cop-turned-sleazy freelance fixer who’s hired by a drug trafficker (Dan Stevens) to track down a pair of psychopaths who kidnap and murder the wives and daughters of drug lords. The star partners well with Brian “Astro” Bradley as a street kid who’s also a computer genius, and there’s a nice creepy turn from Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as a groundskeeper. Adapted from Lawrence Block’s novel, this makes for a pleasingly layered pulp thriller. Also with David Harbour, Boyd Holbrook, Sebastian Roché, Mark Consuelos, and Adam David Thompson.
When the Game Stands Tall (PG) The ungrammatical title is forgivable; the rest of the movie isn’t. Jim Caviezel stars in this completely unoriginal sports drama based on the story of Bob LaDouceur, the coach of the football team at California’s De La Salle High School, which had to cope with a player’s murder, LaDouceur’s heart attack, and the snapping of the team’s historic 151-game winning streak all at the same time. Michael Chiklis steals this thing away as a bespectacled, goateed assistant coach who steps in for his ailing boss, but he can’t begin to compensate for this movie that contains just about every cliché of football movies that there is. You’re better off watching Friday Night Lights, the movie or the TV show. Also with Laura Dern, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, Ser’Darius Blain, Jessie Usher, Matthew Daddario, Stephan James, and Maurice Jones-Drew.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (NR) Originally made as two movies, each telling the story of a romantic relationship from a different character’s viewpoint, this is a single film condensing the two versions, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. Also with Viola Davis, Nina Arianda, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Jess Weixler, William Hurt, and Isabelle Huppert.
The Guest (R) Adam Wingard (You’re Next) directs this thriller starring Dan Stevens as a stranger who ingratiates himself with a family by claiming to have served in the military with their dead son. Also with Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, and Lance Reddick.
Jimi: All Is By My Side (R) Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) directs this biography of Jimi Hendrix, starring André Benjamin. Also with Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Burn Gorman, Ashley Charles, and Clare-Hope Ashitey.
Plastic (R) Ed Speelers and Will Poulter star in this thriller as British fraudsters forced to pull off a diamond heist after stealing from a gangster. Also with Alfe Allen, Sebastian de Souza, Emma Rigby, Graham McTavish, and Thomas Kretschmann.
Tracks (PG-13) Mia Wasikowska stars in this drama based on a true story about an Australian woman who hikes for 1,700 miles through the outback accompanied by four camels and a dog. Also with Adam Driver, Emma Booth, Lily Pearl, Jessica Tovey, and Rainer Bock.
Two Night Stand (R) Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton play a couple whose one-night stand is extended by bad weather. Also with Jessica Szohr, Leven Rambin, Scott Mescudi, and Michael Showalter.