Child 44 opens Friday


Child 44 (R) Tom Hardy stars in this thriller adapted from Tom Rob Smith’s novel about a Soviet military intelligence officer in 1953 who finds evidence of a serial killer murdering children across the countryside. Also with Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinnaman, Jason Clarke, Fares Fares, Paddy Considine, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and Vincent Cassel. (Opens Friday)

Alex of Venice (R) Chris Messina stars in his own directing debut about a workaholic lawyer (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who has to put her life back together after her husband suddeny leaves. Also with Don Johnson, Derek Luke, Julianna Guill, Marin Hinkle, Beth Grant, and Troy Garity. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

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Beyond the Reach (R) Michael Douglas stars in this thriller as a rich man who lures a young guide (Jeremy Irvine) into the desert for the purpose of hunting him down as prey. Also with Hanna Mangan-Lawrence and Ronny Cox. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Desert Dancer (PG-13) Reece Ritchie stars in this biography of Afshin Ghaffarian, the Iranian choreographer who defied his country’s ban on dancing to start his own dance troupe. Also with Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Cullen, Marama Corlett, Simon Kassianides, Akin Gazi, and Freida Pinto. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Monkey Kingdom (G) Disney’s latest nature documentary follows a newborn monkey and his mother surviving amid a troop in the jungles of South Asia. Narrated by Tina Fey. (Opens Friday)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (PG) Kevin James returns as the bumbling mall cop who must foil a heist at the Las Vegas casino where he’s staying on vacation. Also with Raini Rodriguez, Eduardo Verástegui, Daniella Alonso, Neal McDonough, D.B. Woodside, Nicholas Turturro, Ana Gasteyer, Adhir Kalyan, and Shirley Knight. (Opens Friday)

Seymour: An Introduction (PG) Ethan Hawke’s documentary profile of piano teacher Seymour Bernstein. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Squeeze (PG-13) Apparently, if you wager on golf, you’re going to hell. That’s the viewpoint of this golf comedy that somehow manages to be preachy. Jeremy Sumpter is a promising young golfer who hands over his career to an inveterate gambler with the preposterous name of Riverboat (Christopher McDonald), competes in matches where the sport’s standard rules don’t apply, and makes easy cash before getting in trouble with the mob. Sumpter makes some fun trick shots and demonstrates some serious game as well, but writer-director Terry Jastrow (who comes from directing golf broadcasts on TV) can’t invent a credible story or even make the golf matches into compelling drama. Take the mulligan. Also with Jillian Murray, Jason Dohring, Katherine LaNasa, and Michael Nouri. (Opens Friday at AMC Palace)

Twenty (NR) Lee Byeong-hun’s comedy is about three Korean high-school friends (Kim Woo-bin, Lee Joon-ho, and Kang Ha-neul) who face the challenges of adulthood once they graduate. Also with Jung So-min, Jung Joo-yeon, Lee Yoo-bi, Min Hyo-rin, and Park Hyuk-kwon. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

While We’re Young (R) Noah Baumbach’s satire has some hard edges without losing its sparkle. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a middle-aged Brooklyn couple who feel rejuvenated when they meet a younger married couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) who remind them of their own fun, spontaneous younger selves. The satire of hipsters sometimes verges on caricature, but Baumbach makes sure to parcel out the jabs between the generations, the new parents and the childless couples, the creative types and not-so-creative ones, and his sympathies keep the material from curdling into meanness. All this comes with plentiful laugh lines, a spectacular set piece where everyone trips out on ayahuasca, and the funniest performance of Watts’ career. These characters may not have grown up, but Baumbach seems to have done so, and it looks good on him. Also with Adam Horovitz, Maria Dizzia, Dree Hemingway, Brady Corbet, Ryan Serhant, and Charles Grodin. (Opens Friday)

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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.

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.

Danny Collins (R) If you’re going to see only one movie where Al Pacino plays a broken-down, regretful old man, this is probably it. He stars in this comedy as a rock star who’s jolted into re-connecting with his grown son (Bobby Cannavale) after learning that John Lennon once wrote him a handwritten letter in 1971 that he never received. Pacino can’t sing, and the music gives no clue as to the arc of his character’s life, but you can still savor the finely tuned comic playing of a high-powered cast. They turn what could have been a cheap piece of hackwork into a pleasing little trifle. Also with Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Josh Peck, Melissa Benoist, Katarina Cas, and Christopher Plummer.

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.