Nightcrawler (R) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this thriller as a creepy loner who becomes a freelance crime journalist taking videos of accidents, police chases, and crimes in progress. Also with Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Ann Cusack, and Bill Paxton. (Opens Friday)
The ABCs of Death 2 (R) This horror-comedy anthology consists of 26 more short films about death in its various forms. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Before I Go to Sleep (R) Nicole Kidman stars in this thriller as a woman who wakes up each morning having lost her memory of what happened the day before. Also with Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Adam Levy, and Anne-Marie Duff. (Opens Friday)
Force Majeure (R) A prize-winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Ruben Östlund’s drama is about a Swedish family that threatens to unravel after a nonfatal avalanche at a French ski resort. Starring Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren, and Brady Corbet. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Last Days in Vietnam (NR) Rory Kennedy’s documentary profiles the American soldiers and diplomats who defied orders and evacuated South Vietnamese along with Americans before the end of the Vietnam War. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG) “Kidnap the Sandy Claws / Throw him in a box! / Bury him for 90 years / Then see if he talks.” A reissue of Henry Selick’s 1993 animated musical about the spirit of Halloween trying to wreck Christmas. Voices by Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Ken Page, Paul Reubens, and Catherine O’Hara.
Saw (R) The 10th anniversary re-release of James Wan’s penny-ante Se7en rip-off is about two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell, the latter also serving as Wan’s co-writer on this film) who find themselves chained to a wall in the lair of a serial killer who wants them to do terrible things to each other and themselves in exchange for their freedom. This humorless, scareless, and extremely sadistic horror movie should spark your sense of moral outrage. However, the plot is so ridiculously convoluted and dependent on the two men and other characters acting like idiots that you’ll likely only feel the urge to make fun of this overwrought junk. Also with Monica Potter, Ken Leung, Dina Meyer, Shawnee Smith, Makenzie Vega, Ned Bellamy, and Danny Glover. (Re-opens Friday)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (PG) Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) directs this Japanese animated film about an enchanted princess (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) who’s discovered growing in a stalk of bamboo. Additional voices by James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Lucy Liu, Darren Criss, Beau Bridges, James Marsden, Oliver Platt, Dean Cain, Daniel Dae Kim, John Cho, and George Segal. (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.
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.
Dear White People (R) A vivid and funny reminder of how complicated it is to grow up black in America. Set at a fictitious Ivy League college, the movie takes in an African-American radio provocateur (Tessa Thompson), a girl who takes her on (Teyonah Parris), and a gay wallflower (Tyler James Williams). Writer-director Justin Simien uses these characters to express myriad viewpoints to dizzying effect, as your rooting interests and sympathies shift from moment to moment. The movie occasionally overloads with its ideas, but it does racial humor thrillingly right, with its riffs on stereotypes in pop culture. (On Tyler Perry movies: “Why are all educated people inherently evil?”) It’s an impressive debut by a distinctive comic voice. Also with Kyle Gallner, Brandon P. Bell, Brittany Curran, Justin Dobies, Marque Richardson, Malcolm Barrett, Peter Syvertsen, and Dennis Haysbert.
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.