Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (R) Michael Keaton stars in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film as a washed-up Hollywood star who stresses out as he prepares to star in his own Broadway play. Also with Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Lindsay Duncan, and Amy Ryan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Happy New Year (NR) Shah Rukh Khan stars in this Indian action-comedy as the leader of a team of jewel thieves who pretend to be dance contestants as a cover for their latest heist. Also with Deepika Padukone, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani, Vivaan Shah, Sonu Good, and Jackie Shroff. (Opens Friday at Rave North East Mall)
John Wick (R) A movie that’s directed by a former stuntman and feels like it — the action sequences are enviably smooth, but everything else is crap. Keanu Reeves plays a retired hit man. A Russian mob boss’ idiot son (Alfie Allen) kills his dog, so our hero kills about 50 people in response. The writing is terrible and so are the Russian accents on Allen and Michael Nyqvist as his dad. You’re better off waiting a few months and watching the fight sequences when they’re excerpted on YouTube, because the sequences with John taking down a death squad at his house and fighting a contract killer (Adrianne Palicki) in his hotel room repay multiple views. Also with Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Omer Barnea, Lance Reddick, Clarke Peters, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane. (Opens Friday)
Listen Up Philip (NR) Jason Schwartzman stars in this comedy as a self-absorbed writer who goes on a retreat while awaiting the publication of his long-anticipated second novel. Also with Elisabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter, Jess Weixler, Dree Hemingway, Kate Lyn Sheil, Daniel London, and Jonathan Pryce. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ouija (PG-13) This horror film is about a group of friends who investigate the connection between a friend’s death and a ouija board. Starring Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Bianca Santos, Douglas Smith, Shelley Henig, Lin Shaye, and Matthew Settle. (Opens Friday)
23 Blast (PG-13) Yet another inspiring real-life football story gets turned into a rote sports drama. Mark Hapka stars as Travis Freeman, a high-school football star who manages to come back to the team after suddenly and permanently losing his sight. The real Freeman went blind at age 12, but the movie takes big liberties with the facts. Dylan Baker makes his directing debut and co-stars as Travis’ dad. Hapka does good work, even though he and Bram Hoover (a screenwriter who co-stars as Travis’ best friend) are over 30 and look it. Still, a great story like Freeman’s deserved a better film. The real Freeman makes a cameo appearance as a minister. Also with Stephen Lang, Max Adler, Alexa PenaVega, Kim Zimmer, Becky Ann Baker, and Timothy Busfield. (Opens Friday)
22 Jump Street (R) Despite a lot of effort, the laughs in this sequel are more scattered than the ones in the original. Detectives Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) reunite for a pointedly similar caper, going undercover as college students to bust a drug ring. The filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller rely too heavily on treating Schmidt and Jenko’s relationship as if it were a romance for laughs. They also make too many jokes about sequels — they could have confined those to the terrific closing credits montage imagining sequels all the way past 39 Jump Street. Still, the movie is likable, and it sports a scene-stealing turn by Jillian Bell as a passive-aggressive roommate who’s way more layered than she seems. Also with Amber Stevens, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell, Peter Stormare, Nick Offerman, Dustin Nguyen, Richard Grieco, and uncredited cameos by Rob Riggle, Dave Franco, Bill Hader, Queen Latifah, and Seth Rogen. (Re-opens Friday)
Viktor (NR) Gérard Depardieu stars in this thriller as a French art forger who travels to Moscow after his release from prison to solve his son’s murder. Also with Elizabeth Hurley, Eli Danker, Evgeniya Akhramenko, Polina Kuzminskaya, Marcello Mazzarella, and Jean-Baptiste Fillon. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Whiplash (R) Miles Teller stars in this drama as an aspiring drummer who’s mentally and physically abused by his teacher (J.K. Simmons) at music school. Also with Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, and April Grace. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Addicted (R) Some of the worst acting and unsexiest sex scenes of the year are in this would-be erotic thriller that stars Sharon Leal as a wife and mother who’s drawn into a series of torrid extramarital affairs that jeopardize everything she holds dear, because what fun would the movie be if the affairs didn’t endanger everything? Actually, this movie isn’t fun, with its rickety plot (based on Zane’s novel) and clumsy attempts to handle anything psychological. The film’s only accomplishments are unintentional humor and beating 50 Shades of Grey to the screen. Also with Boris Kodjoe, William Levy, John Newberg, Tasha Smith, Kat Graham, and Tyson Beckford.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (PG) Judith Viorst’s children’s book about a whiny, self-centered brat of a kid becomes a movie in which his entire family is made up of whiny, self-centered brats. Ed Oxenbould is the titular Alexander, who feels neglected on his 12th birthday and curses his parents and three siblings into having a day’s worth of rotten luck. Miguel Arteta has been a good director (Cedar Rapids, The Good Girl), but his comic touch deserts him utterly here amid the movie’s Disneyfied slapstick gags and jokes that draw nothing but dead air. A career lowlight for pretty much everyone involved. Also with Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Bella Thorne, Sidney Fullmer, Donald Glover, Burn Gorman, Megan Mullally, Jennifer Coolidge, and an uncredited Dick Van Dyke.
Annabelle (R) The creepy doll from last year’s The Conjuring gets a spinoff/origin story. Newlyweds Mia and John (Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton) are living peacefully waiting for their baby to be born when their neighbors are murdered and they themselves are attacked by their neighbor’s cultist daughter, Annabelle Higgins (Tree O’Toole). After the girl is killed, her spirit possesses a doll purchased for John by Mia, and soon after the birth of their daughter, terrifying things begin to plague the family. Though the movie builds suspense well, avoids some clichés (the husband, for once, is not a disbelieving idiot), and has a few decent scares, it feels too derivative of atmospheric ’60s and ’70s horror films, often taking too long to go nowhere. The scariest thing about it may be its certainly unintended resemblance to A Haunted House 2. Also with Tony Amendola, Brian Howe, Kerry O’Malley, and Alfre Woodard. –– Cole Williams
The Best of Me (PG-13) Possibly the worst movie ever adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel and definitely the silliest. The story follows the doomed love affair between two teenagers (Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato) in a small Louisiana town in the 1990s, then picks up between their older selves (James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan) when they reunite in the present day. The female leads do some creditable work, but the villains are cardboard elitist snobs and white-trash reverse snobs, and the plot developments that keep the lovers apart are just ridiculous. The icky sentimentality here will send you running to the nearest screening of Gone Girl. Also with Sean Bridgers, Caroline Hebert, Caroline Goodall, Clarke Peters, Robby Rasmussen, Sebastian Arcelus, and Gerald McRaney.
The Book of Life (PG) A Día de los Muertos movie! It has more going for it than just novelty value, too. The story revolves around a wager by gods over whether a Mexican mayor’s daughter (voiced by Zoë Saldana) will choose to marry a brave but self-absorbed soldier (voiced by Channing Tatum) or a musician who’s pressured into being a bullfighter (voiced by Diego Luna). Writer-director Jorge F. Gutierrez takes liberal inspiration from Mexican folk art in creating the movie’s stylized look, and his inventiveness bursts forth from every corner of the frame. Despite some plotlines that don’t build properly, the movie is beautiful, funny, and unique, and its exuberance fits the spirit of the holiday it celebrates. Additional voices by Christina Applegate, Ron Perlman, Kate del Castillo, Ice Cube, Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Carlos Alazraqui, Ana de la Reguera, Eugenio Derbez, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez, Cheech Marin, Gabriel Iglesias, and Plácido Domingo.