The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (PG-13) Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) prepares to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) from the clutches of Panem’s government. Also with Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Natalie Dormer, Mahershala Ali, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Julianne Moore, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Opens Friday)
Citizenfour (R) Laura Poitras’ documentary profile of Edward Snowden. Also with Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Food Chains (NR) Sanjay Rawal’s documentary about the role of supermarkets in keeping America’s farm laborers low-paid. (Opens Friday at Cinema Latino de Fort Worth)
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (PG) James Keach’s documentary of the singer’s 2011 farewell tour and his struggles with Alzheimer’s. Also with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Webb, The Edge, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, and Bill Clinton. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Low Down (R) Elle Fanning stars in this adaptation of Amy Albany’s memoir about growing up in the world of jazz in the 1960s and ‘70s with a drug-addicted father (John Hawkes). Also with Glenn Close, Taryn Manning, Tim Daly, Burn Gorman, Caleb Landry Jones, Flea, Lena Headey, and Peter Dinklage. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
Beyond the Lights (PG-13) This music-industry drama manages to be entertaining without degenerating into forced melodrama. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) stars as a pop music star under the thumb of her domineering momager (Minnie Driver) who falls for a cop (Nate Parker) after he talks her down from a suicide attempt. The story is strictly boilerplate and the movie has problems with pacing, but the characters are well-drawn. Parker makes a potentially saintly character into something human, and Mbatha-Raw makes her character’s evolution something powerful. Be sure to stay for Mbatha-Raw’s karaoke rendition of “Blackbird.” Also with Danny Glover, Richard Colson Baker, Darryl Stephens, Elaine Tan, Isaac Keys, India Jean-Jacques, and Aisha Hinds. –– Cole Williams
Big Hero 6 (PG) Disney’s beguiling latest animated film is about a 13-year-old genius inventor (voiced by Ryan Potter) who uses a giant, inflatable, healthcare-providing robot (voiced by Scott Adsit) to find out who’s responsible for the death of his older brother (voiced by Daniel Henney). The animators have great fun with the fat, huggable, slow-moving robot and the setting, a city that’s a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. The movie isn’t as deep as it would like to be, but it’s good fun. Additional voices by Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Genesis Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr., Alan Tudyk, Katie Lowes, James Cromwell, and Maya Rudolph.
Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (R) A hell of a ride. Michael Keaton stars in this theatrical satire as a washed-up Hollywood action star who risks the last of his fortune to mount a Broadway play that will get him taken seriously as an actor. This is easily the best work by director/co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu, who finally gets in touch with his sense of humor and stops trying to tell us about the state of the world in favor of telling us a story about a somewhat deluded showbiz guy. The long takes and cleverly disguised cuts create a hurtling sense of momentum that replicates its main character’s disintegrating sense of self. It also keeps the actors on their toes, with Keaton, Edward Norton (as a Method diva of a fellow actor), and Emma Stone (as the hero’s drug-addicted daughter) all delivering career-best performances. The movie’s ideas are undercooked, but at least González Iñárritu has discovered a sense of joy to go with his technical gifts. Also with Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Lindsay Duncan, Jeremy Shamos, and Amy Ryan.
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.