Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (NR) Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) stars in David Zellner’s drama as a Japanese woman who travels to Minnesota to search for the buried treasure from Fargo, believing that the Coen brothers’ film is real. Also with Nobuyuki Katsube, Nathan Zellner, Kanako Higashi, Brad Prather, and Ayako Ohnishi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Barber (R) Not nearly as smart as it thinks it is, this thriller stars Chris Coy as an aspiring serial killer who tracks down a small-town barber and suspected serial murderer (Scott Glenn) to ask for professional advice. We’re supposed to be fascinated by the cat-and-mouse game played by two men who may both be misrepresenting themselves, but Basel Owies’ lugubrious direction and the increasingly less believable plot twists make this into a movie that’s easy to shrug off. Also with Kristen Hager, Lydia Hearst, Olivia Dudley, Jessica Lu, and Stephen Tobolowsky. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)
Danny Collins (R) Al Pacino stars in this dramedy as an aged rock star who makes changes in his life after discovering an unopened letter written to him by John Lennon more than 40 years ago. Also with Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale, Josh Peck, Melissa Benoist, and Christopher Plummer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A Girl Like Her (PG-13) Lexi Ainsworth stars in this drama as a 16-year-old girl who uses a hidden camera to make a documentary about her bullying former best friend (Hunter King). Also with Jimmy Bennett, Christy Engle, Stephanie Cotton, and Amy S. Weber. (Opens Friday)
Home (PG) A random collection of gags with no story holding them together. On an earth where the entire human race has been forcibly relocated to Australia by an invading race of cuddly aliens, one misfit alien (voiced by Jim Parsons) has to team up with an escaped girl (voiced by Rihanna) to save the planet from a warlike alien race. Despite Rihanna’s better-than-expected job at portraying a little girl (and the savory irony of Jennifer Lopez voicing the role of her mom), the movie relies too heavily on its fish-out-of-water premise and uninspired silliness to stick in the memory for any length of time. Additional voices by Steve Martin and Matt Jones. (Opens Friday)
Serena (R) Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this adaptation of Ron Rash’s novel about a married couple in 1920s North Carolina whose marriage and business empire are torn apart by a long-buried secret. Also with Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones, David Dencik, Sean Harris, and an uncredited Sam Reid. (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.
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.
Do You Believe? (PG-13) The sort of movie where an African-American criminal is named Kriminal. That’s an island of hilarity in this drama that’s like a Christian version of Crash and proves to be every bit as tiresome. It tells the story of 12 Chicagoans who are well on their way to burning in hell forever and ever until they accept Jesus as their lord and savior. A good dose of intolerance toward non-Christians and the disastrous casting of Ted McGinley as a pastor will put you off this piece of junk. Also with Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, Alexa PenaVega, Delroy Lindo, Joseph Julian Soria, Brian Bosworth, Madison Pettis, Arthur Cartwright, Lee Majors, and Cybill Shepherd.
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 Gunman (R) This movie tries to be a Taken-style “middle-aged guy kills everyone” thriller with a social conscience. It fails on both counts. Sean Penn stars as a private security contractor who carries out a political assassination in the Democratic Republic of Congo and then finds himself targeted for it years later as a result. Penn looks the part and the movie breaks some new ground in having its hero battle post-concussion syndrome, but this is still a wan action thriller blended with too much limp romance between the hero and his aid-worker girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca). A high-powered supporting cast gets wasted in this one. Also with Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Peter Franzén, and Idris Elba.
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.
Insurgent (PG-13) If Hollywood gave these girl blockbusters the same respect as the boys’ club at Marvel, maybe series like these would be better. This sequel to Divergent follows our heroes Tris and Four (Shailene Woodley and Theo James) as they seek refuge among society’s outcasts, whose leader (Naomi Watts) just happens to be Four’s estranged mother. Watts is dry and cagey as a revolutionary who may be even more dangerous than the genocidal dictator (Kate Winslet) that she’s trying to overthrow. Still, director Robert Schwentke is no good with dream sequences, there’s no chemistry between the two leads, and the big revelation is the same as the one at the end of The Maze Runner. This isn’t good by any stretch, but its success should help pave the way for better tentpole movies about women. Also with Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Maggie Q, Zoë Kravitz, Daniel Dae Kim, Ashley Judd, Janet McTeer, and Octavia Spencer.
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.
Deli Man (PG-13) Erik Anjou’s documentary traces the history of delicatessens in America.
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.
’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.
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.
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.
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.