Metalhead (NR) Ragnar Bragason’s drama stars Þorbjörg Helga Þorgilsdóttir as a 1980s Icelandic teenager whose grief over her dead brother leads her to become a fan of death metal music. Also with Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson, Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson, Pétur Einarsson, Halldóra Geirhardsdóttir, and Diljá Valsdóttir. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Accidental Love (PG-13) After being shelved for seven years, David O. Russell’s political satire comes out, with Jessica Biel starring as a woman who shakes up Washington’s political establishment after having a nail embedded in her head. Also with Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, Bill Hader, Tracy Morgan, Beverly D’Angelo, and Catherine Keener. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Deli Man (PG-13) Erik Anjou’s documentary traces the history of delicatessens in America. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Do You Believe? (PG-13) The writers of God’s Not Dead return with this movie about various people searching for faith. Starring Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Ted McGinley, Alexa PenaVega, Delroy Lindo, and Cybill Shepherd. (Opens Friday)
The Gunman (R) Sean Penn stars in this thriller as a sniper who becomes the target of a hit squad in the Congo. Also with Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, and Idris Elba. (Opens Friday)
It Follows (R) David Robert Mitchell’s horror film stars Maika Monroe as a teenage girl who is pursued by a murderous, shape-shifting demon that only she can see, all as a result of having sex with the wrong boy. Also with Keir Gilchrist, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lost and Love (NR) Peng Sanyuan’s film stars Andy Lau and Jing Boran as two Chinese men seeking their children who have been abducted by human traffickers. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Merchants of Doubt (PG-13) Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) directs this documentary exposé of pundits who hire themselves out to large corporations to sow false doubt about chemical toxicity and climate change. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Spring (NR) Lou Taylor Pucci stars in this horror film as an American hiker who goes backpacking in Italy and falls for a woman (Nadia Hilker) who may be a man-eating monster. Also with Vanessa Bednar, Shane Brady, Augie Duke, Jeremy Gardner, and Francesco Carnelutti. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Tracers (PG-13) Taylor Lautner stars in this thriller as a New York City messenger who must turn to his parkour-practicing friends after incurring the wrath of the Chinese mafia. Also with Marie Avgeropoulos, Rafi Gavron, and Adam Rayner. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Walking Deceased (NR) Yes, it’s about zombies. Tim Ogletree stars in this spoof as a police officer who wakes from a coma to find himself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Also with Joey Oglesby, Dave Sheridan, Sophia Taylor Ali, Danielle Garcia, and Troy Ogletree. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A La Mala (PG-13) Aislinn Derbez stars in this comedy as a struggling Mexico City actress named María Laura “Mala” Medina who hires herself out to women to entrap their cheating husbands and boyfriends. Derbez is the daughter of the celebrated comic Eugenio Derbez (who has a small role here), and she seems to have inherited her dad’s sure comic instincts. Still, when her character meets Sr. Perfecto (Mauricio Ochmann) — a tequila heir and philanthropist who loves Rachmaninov — and suddenly becomes conflicted about what she does, the farce turns into mushy romance and all the fun stops. Also with Papile Aurora, Luis Arrieta, Daniela Schmidt, Juan Diego Covarrubias, and José Ron.
American Sniper (R) Overrated. Bradley Cooper stars in Clint Eastwood’s biography of Chris Kyle, a sniper who recorded 160 confirmed kills in four tours in Iraq. Cooper is magnificent playing Chris when he gets home and tries to come to terms with his war experience, and everything the movie does to treat PTSD feels honest and true. The same can’t be said for the rest of the movie, which ignores both the context of the Iraq war and the false claims that Kyle made in his autobiography. Instead of addressing these, Eastwood and screenwriter include a lot of low-grade soap opera between Chris and his wife (Sienna Miller). This could have been a great war movie, but it’s undermined by the egregiousness of its omissions. Also with Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Kyle Gallner, Keir O’Donnell, and Navid Negahban.
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.
Chappie (PG-13) The tech looks amazing, but nothing makes sense in Neill Blomkamp’s futuristic science-fiction thriller about a police robot (Sharlto Copley) who is kidnapped and reprogrammed to think for itself. Blomkamp is back at home in Johannesburg and has a feel for the place’s multicultural, Wild West vibe, but neither the genius scientist (Dev Patel) nor the militaristic villain (Hugh Jackman) nor the robbers (played by Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser, a.k.a. the music group Die Antwoord) who take in the robot have the slightest bit of logic behind their motivations, and the movie loses track of all of them for long stretches of time. This prodigiously talented director needs better writers. Also with Jose Pablo Cantillo and Sigourney Weaver.
Cinderella (PG) This new Disney live-action telling of the tale is miles better than the 1950 animated movie, but I’m still not sure what it’s for. Director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz go straight-up and traditional in detailing how Ella (Lily James) is oppressed by her wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett) until she snares the heart of a prince (Richard Madden). Everything looks fantastic, especially Sandy Powell’s sumptuous costumes and Dante Ferretti’s production design. Branagh seems comfortable in a story that’s uncharacteristically girly for him, but he misses the more delicate magic — the pumpkin changing into a carriage incites no wonder. The movie isn’t bad, but it doesn’t accomplish anything that many other versions of this story haven’t. Also with Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgård, Nonso Anozie, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, and Hayley Atwell.
Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island (NR) In this sequel, Kim Myung-min reprises his role as a brilliant but bumbling 18th-century Korean investigator and nobleman in exile who discovers that cases involving a missing girl and a ring of silver bullion counterfeiters are connected. The mix of comedy and seriousness (including a gruesome sex trafficking plot) doesn’t always sit well, but the swordplay, slapstick hijinks, and the mysterious presence of a Korean geisha (Lee Yeon-hee) working for Japanese interests makes the time pass well enough. Also with Oh Dal-su, Lee Chae-un, Hwang Chae-won, Woo Hyun, and Hwang Jung-min.
The DUFF (PG-13) This teen comedy barely scrapes by on the charm of Mae Whitman as a high-school senior who vows to upend the social order at her school after discovering that her proximity to hotter friends has earned her a nickname that stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend,” even though she’s neither ugly nor fat. The romance between her and a football-playing childhood friend (Robbie Amell) fails to come off because the guy’s too dumb, and while the movie never gathers much momentum, it occasionally comes up with inspiration, like the principal (Romany Malco) who intervenes on our heroine’s behalf and only makes things worse for her. Whitman’s intelligence and some decent support from the adult actors make this watchable. Also with Bella Thorne, Skylar Samuels, Bianca Santos, Nick Eversman, Ken Jeong, and Allison Janney.
Fifty Shades of Grey (R) Not as terrible as you might fear (or hope for) but still well short of being much good. The movie version of E.L. James’ wildly popular novel stars Dakota Johnson as a grad student who falls into a relationship with a young billionaire (Jamie Dornan) with a taste for S&M. This adaptation has a sense of humor that the book does not, but the actors have no chemistry, and Dornan fails to capture the weirdness and intensity that’s supposed to be in his character. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson tries to inject character developments in the endless, repetitive sex scenes, but they don’t take. Secretary was a much better film about BDSM sex. Also with Luke Grimes, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini, Victor Rasuk, Callum Keith Rennie, Rita Ora, and Marcia Gay Harden.
Focus (R) Much-needed proof that Will Smith can still make a good movie. He stars in this caper comedy as a con artist who mentors a young woman (Margot Robbie), works a con with her in New Orleans, beds her, drops her unceremoniously, and then runs into her years later while working a job in Buenos Aires. The Argentinian setting of the second half gives this movie a different feel, and while the plotting by writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Bad Santa) isn’t the best, the movie coasts on the chemistry between the rejuvenated Smith and a bright, lively Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). Also with Rodrigo Santoro, BD Wong, Adrian Martinez, and Gerald McRaney.
The Imitation Game (PG-13) Like The Social Network with British accents and Nazis, this biography of Alan Turing posits its hero as a computer genius who’s driven by memories of lost love. Brooding like Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Turing, who was persecuted by the British government for his homosexuality. His awkwardness and self-contained fury are the best reasons to see this movie. The rest of it isn’t nearly as substantive, despite Keira Knightley’s strong turn as Turing’s fiancée who knows about his orientation. Also with Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance.
Jupiter Ascending (PG-13) Like Guardians of the Galaxy with much worse jokes. Mila Kunis stars as a Chicago cleaning lady who discovers that she’s actually an alien princess being targeted in an intergalactic war, from which a disgraced flying former soldier (Channing Tatum) has to save her. The Wachowski siblings still have a great flair for eye-catching costumes and action set pieces (like the spaceship battle over the Chicago skyline), but their characters drone on about the workings of their societies without ever coming to a point. I’d say it’s time for the Wachowskis to do smaller, less ambitious movies, but that time was really about 10 years ago. Also with Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, James D’Arcy, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Bae Doo-na, Christina Cole, Kick Gurry, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Terry Gilliam.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (R) Puerile entertainment done with great skill and verve, though a bit more conscientiousness would have helped. Welsh newcomer Taron Egerton stars as a London street hooligan who gets recruited by his dead father’s friend (Colin Firth) into a secret international spy agency. Not associated with action-thrillers, Firth nevertheless makes a lean, efficient fighter in the movie’s plentiful hand-to-hand combat sequences, and the movie savvily casts him, Michael Caine as the agency’s head, and Samuel L. Jackson as a billionaire supervillain. Adapting Mark Millar’s comic book, director/co-writer Matthew Vaughn lets his twisted sense of humor come out to play, though he fumbles the tone of the piece at the end, and all the heroes are white while all the people of color are villains. For better and for worse, this is a throwback to the unserious spy thrillers of old. Also with Sophie Cookson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Strong, Michelle Womack, Jack Davenport, and Mark Hamill.
The Lazarus Effect (PG-13) A somewhat intriguing horror movie before things fall apart in the second half. Mark Duplass stars as the head of a medical research team who uses his experimental serum on his wife (Olivia Wilde) after she’s electrocuted and brings her back from the dead. The story is riddled with unaddressed plot developments and blind alleys, and the only time it even achieves creepiness is when the wife starts giving her husband’s pep talk to her while he’s still thinking it. The movie wastes a way overqualified cast and some nice work by Wilde as the woman who comes back from the other side altered. Also with Sarah Bolger, Evan Peters, Amy Aquino, and Donald Glover.
McFarland, USA (PG) Kevin Costner stars in this story of Jim White, a football coach with anger issues who went to a heavily Latino high school in rural Southern California and turned it into a champion cross-country running team. The characters here are very much aware that the only white teacher at the school is named “White.” So is director Niki Caro (Whale Rider), who does much work to prevent this from being just another movie where the white guy comes in and saves everyone. Seeing this man incorporate himself into a new community and see what his new neighbors go through is what gives this sports movie its power. Also with Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Michael Aguero, Morgan Saylor, and Maria Bello.
Paddington (PG) Michael Bond’s beloved children’s stories are adapted into this harmless live-action movie. The talking, marmalade-loving, unfailingly polite but accident-prone bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) makes his way from Peru to move in with a London family. The comic hijinks are entirely predictable except for a few throwaway lines, and watching a sterling cast go through them is like watching bodybuilders lift toothpicks. Still, director/co-writer Paul King makes a few pointed and entirely appropriate parallels between Paddington’s situation and those of other immigrants in the U.K. This movie probably means more if you’re British. Watch for Bond’s cameo as a loiterer in Paddington Station. Also with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Peter Capaldi, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Matt Lucas, Samuel Joslin, and Madeleine Harris. Additional voices by Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon.
Run All Night (R) Liam Neeson’s whole “middle-aged guy who can kill everyone in the world” act needs to end now. He plays a former mob hit man who kills his boss’ bad-apple son (Boyd Holbrook) to save the life of his own son (Joel Kinnaman) and fights to keep himself and his family alive for one night. For some reason, the movie spoils its own big twist in its opening shot, and director Jaume Collet-Serra takes a lackadaisical approach to material that should be lean and tight. The action sequences are the most embarrassing thing here, because they’re obviously overcut to hide the fact that Neeson can’t do his stunts any more. The exhaustion Neeson projects is his own and not the character’s. He seems too old for this. Also with Ed Harris, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Lois Smith, Vincent D’Onofrio, Common, and an uncredited Nick Nolte.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG) Second best is unfortunately an apt description. Dev Patel reprises his role in this sequel as a retirement home operator in India who’s now looking to expand his business while managing his wedding to his girlfriend (Tina Desai). All the seniors in the home get their own plotline, and sorting through it all is quite tedious, especially with Bill Nighy and Judi Dench being made to circle each other like 14-year-olds. The movie is beautifully photographed. The material isn’t there, however, and the starry cast seems to have left their A game back in the U.K. Also with Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Penelope Wilton, Lillete Dubey, Tamsin Greig, Vikram Singh, and David Strathairn.
Selma (PG-13) This civil rights drama is a tad square and conventional, but is it ever so timely. Ava DuVernay’s film tracks the efforts of Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and his fellow ministers to enshrine voting rights for African-Americans by demonstrating in Selma, Ala. The movie succeeds gloriously at its hardest task — making King come alive as a dramatic character — by focusing on the details of his life and by a grand performance from Oyelowo. DuVernay succeeds both at epic sequences like the re-creation of the “Bloody Sunday” march and at small, domestic scenes. She also pays tribute not just to King but to the movement around him, with its other leaders and philosophical differences. After a year when America has been roiled by racial issues, this movie is a rousing call to thought and action. Also with Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, André Holland, Colman Domingo, Common, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tessa Thompson, Lorraine Touissant, Dylan Baker, Niecy Nash, Wendell Pierce, Stephan James, Trai Byers, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Roth, and Oprah Winfrey.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (PG) The last SpongeBob SquarePants movie back in 2004 tried to be an episode of the TV show writ large. Instead, this film embraces the big screen as a way of changing things up. As SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) and Plankton (voiced by Douglas Lawrence Osowski, who’s billed as Mr. Lawrence) journey to the surface to recover the recipe for Krabby Patties, the movie shifts visual registers to take in a traumatizing journey into SpongeBob’s brain; a conversation with a persnickety, universe-controlling dolphin (voiced by Matt Berry); and the heroes becoming 3D superheroes on the surface. The jokes are just stupid enough to raise a laugh, and it all keeps you from boredom even if you’re neither a small child nor stoned. Additional voices by Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown, Paul Tibbitt, Carolyn Lawrence, Riki Lindhome, and Kate Micucci. Also with Antonio Banderas.
Still Alice (PG-13) Julianne Moore won a long-overdue Oscar for what is nevertheless one of her least effective performances. In this overly cozy drama, she plays a linguistics professor in New York struggling with her mental decline after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland adapt this from Lisa Genova’s novel and don’t bring any sort of insight into the mechanics of living with mental decline at such an early age. Nor do they find much meaning in their heroine’s struggle to keep hold of her faculties. Moore’s reduced to an exercise in technique as she captures the stages of her character’s decline. This movie could have been more. Also with Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Shane McRae, Hunter Parrish, and Alec Baldwin.
Taken 3 (PG-13) Everybody is an idiot in this movie. Yes, that includes indestructible hero Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and the supposed genius cop (Forest Whitaker) who pursues him after Bryan is framed for his wife’s murder. Once again, Bryan uses his particular set of skills to take revenge on a bunch of faceless tattooed bad guys — Russian, this time — and while the movie tries to make use of the villain’s knowledge that Bryan is a mindless killing machine who can be pointed in the wrong direction, the filmmakers here aren’t nearly clever enough to make something meaningful out of it. Oh, and Bryan’s hovering over his daughter (Maggie Grace) is starting to look downright creepy. Also with Dougray Scott, Leland Orser, David Warshofsky, Jon Gries, Don Harvey, Dylan Bruno, Sam Spruell, and Famke Janssen.
Unfinished Business (R) This excruciating comedy stars Vince Vaughn as a scrap metal salesman who travels to Berlin with the only other employees in his firm — an old lecher (Tom Wilkinson) and a young idiot (Dave Franco) — to close a deal that will save his struggling small company. Rank sentimentality competes with a parade of raunchy jokes that fail to land, and Franco (not nearly as nimble a comedian as his older brother James) is just terrible. This doesn’t possess a single redeeming trait. If you want to leave this movie unfinished, you have my blessing. Also with Sienna Miller, June Diane Raphael, Nick Frost, and James Marsden.
’71 (R) Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) stars as a British soldier who becomes separated from his unit during a deadly riot in Belfast in 1971. Also with Sam Reid, Richard Dormer, and Paul Anderson.
What We Do in the Shadows (NR) Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi co-write, co-direct, and co-star in this mockumentary comedy as vampires who get on each other’s nerves when they’re forced to share an apartment. Also with Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, Stuart Rutherford, Ben Fransham, and Rhys Darby.
Wild Tales (R) Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Damián Szifrón’s anthology film tells six short stories about Argentinian people gaining revenge on people who wrong them. Starring Darío Grandinetti, Ricardo Darín, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Walter Donado, Érica Rivas, Óscar Martínez, Rita Cortese, and Julieta Zylberberg.