The Road Within (R) Robert Sheehan stars as a young Tourette’s syndrome patient who escapes from a clinic so he can scatter his recently deceased mother’s ashes. Also with Dev Patel, Zoë Kravitz, Robert Patrick, Ali Hillis, and Kyra Sedgwick. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
After the Ball (NR) Portia Doubleday stars in this comedy as a fashion designer trying to make it on her own despite being the daughter of a manufacturer of designer knock-offs. Also with Chris Noth, Marc-André Grondin, Anna Hopkins, Natalie Krill, Carlo Rota, and Lauren Holly. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Age of Adaline (PG-13) Blake Lively stars in this romance as a woman rendered ageless by an accident in 1935 who tries to find love in the present day. Also with Ellen Burstyn, Michiel Huisman, Amanda Crew, Kathy Baker, Anthony Ingruber, and Harrison Ford. (Opens Friday)
Clouds of Sils Maria (R) Juliette Binoche stars in Olivier Assayas’ drama about a seasoned actress who prepares to co-star in a revival of the play that made her famous decades earlier. Also with Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz, Lars Eidinger, Johnny Flynn, Hanns Zischler, and Brady Corbet. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Dior and I (NR) Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary follows designer Raf Simons as he prepares to design his first haute-couture line as the artistic director of Christian Dior. Also with Anna Wintour, Marion Cotillard, Sharon Stone, and Jennifer Lawrence. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ex Machina (R) This science-fiction movie may not be as deep as it wants to be, but it’s a hell of a thing to look at. Domhnall Gleeson stars as a computer programmer who’s called to the mansion of his tech-mogul boss (Oscar Isaac) to evaluate the artificial intelligence on his new female robot (Alicia Vikander). Despite the flashy effects, first-time director Alex Garland (the screenwriter on Sunshine and 28 Days Later…) keeps the focus on the actors, and Vikander and Isaac both respond with tremendous performances. This movie can’t compete with the likes of Her and Under the Skin when it comes to questions of AI or how feminine identity gets constructed and controlled. Then again, Garland knows how to handle his actors, and his visual flair (check out the spectacular nature scenes shot in Norway) is undeniable. It’s an arresting piece of sci-fi. Also with Sonoya Mizuno. (Opens Friday)
5 to 7 (R) Anton Yelchin stars in this drama as an aspiring writer who has a romance with a married woman (Bérénice Marlohe) whom he can meet for only two hours every evening. Also with Olivia Thirlby, Lambert Wilson, Eric Stoltz, Frank Langella, and Glenn Close. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Kid Kulafu (NR) Robert Villar stars in this biography of boxing champion Manny Pacquiao. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Little Boy (PG-13) Alejandro Monteverde (Bella) directs this movie about a California boy (Jakob Salvati) in the 1940s whose desire to see his father (Michael Rapaport) return from World War II inspires him to work miracles. Also with Emily Watson, Antonio Banderas, Kevin James, Eduardo Verástegui, Ted Levine, Ben Chaplin, Ali Landry, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Tom Wilkinson. (Opens Friday)
Return to the Hiding Place (PG-13) A clunky but occasionally effective thriller about a group of Dutch resistance fighters who try to save the lives of Jews during the Nazi occupation. There are moments of gruesome import, like the heroes’ second sight of a huge birthmark belonging to a boy in the ghetto. That aside, the gobs of droning voiceover narration keep the story from building up any sort of momentum, and the acting is undistinguished. Examining the Holocaust from a Christian perspective is worth doing, but this movie fails to engage us. Starring John Rhys-Davies, Craig Robert Young, David Thomas Jenkins, Rachel Spencer Hewitt, Mimi Sagadin, Stass Klassen, and Joanie Stewart. (Re-opens Friday at Starplex Hulen)
See You in Valhalla (R) Sarah Hyland (TV’s Modern Family) stars in this comedy as a young woman who reunites with her estranged, eccentric family after her brother’s death. Also with Steve Howey, Odeya Rush, Bret Harrison, Emma Bell, Jake McDorman, Beau Mirchoff, Michael Weston, and Conor O’Farrell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Water Diviner (R) Russell Crowe stars in this drama as an Australian man who travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to locate his three missing sons. Also with Jai Courtney, Isabel Lucas, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Cem Yilmaz, Megan Gale, and Dylan Georgiades. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
Beyond the Reach (R) Michael Douglas stars in this rickety thriller as a business tycoon who accidentally kills a man while on a big-game hunting trip in the desert and then decides to eliminate his hunting guide (Jeremy Irvine), who’s the only witness. This setup, taken from Robb White’s 1972 novel Deathwatch, doesn’t hold up in a present-day context, so the plot developments come out unbelievable, and director Jean-Baptiste Léonetti doesn’t know how to handle the suspense in a plot that necessarily moves at a slow pace. Also with Hanna Mangan-Lawrence and Ronny Cox.
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.
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.
Furious 7 (PG-13) Let’s see, what is there new to report at this point? The car stunts and the fight sequences are even more spectacular and more ridiculous in this seventh installment, with the likes of Ronda Rousey and Tony Jaa playing bad guys. The movie still wallows in sentimentality about family, though Paul Walker’s untimely death last year excuses some of it. Jason Statham turns up here as the pissed-off brother of the vanquished villain from the last movie, and he makes a proper nemesis for Vin Diesel. The way this series is going, I expect a car to outrun a nuclear bomb explosion at some point in the future. Um, yeah. Also with Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot, Lucas Black, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, and Dwayne Johnson.
Get Hard (R) This feels like it was made from a script from the 1970s that Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor rejected. Will Ferrell plays a rich white hedge-fund manager who’s sentenced to 10 years’ hard time and desperately turns to a black small-business owner (Kevin Hart) whom he mistakes for an ex-con to advise him on how to survive in prison. The stars are too funny not to score a few points, but the movie misses its opportunity to satirize clueless white privilege. Instead, it traps the stars in endless rounds of anal rape jokes that are so numerous that you get the sense that the gay panic is coming from the filmmakers rather than the characters. Somebody could conceivably make a funny movie about prison rape, but it would take far more macabre filmmakers than these. Spend your time watching Orange Is the New Black instead. Also with Alison Brie, Craig T. Nelson, Edwina Findley Dickerson, Erick Chavarria, Greg Germann, T.I., and John Mayer.
Home (PG) A random collection of gags with no story holding them together. On an earth where the entire human race to Australia 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.
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.
It Follows (R) The best teen horror flick in a long time. Maika Monroe plays a college girl who has sex with the wrong guy (Jake Weary) and is pursued relentlessly by a shape-shifting demon that only she can see. Writer-director David Robert Mitchell shoots this like a 1980s horror flick (replete with a synth-heavy score by Disasterpeace) and constantly directs your gaze to the background of the picture for any person walking slowly towards our heroine. Yet his script is also a keen psychological portrait of the effects of rape, which makes the heroine into a much more layered version of the final girl we’ve seen in so many slasher flicks. The ambiguous final shot is unexpectedly moving, and helps make this into a rare thing: a horror movie that improves on a second viewing. Also with Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Olivia Luccardi, and Lili Sepe.
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 Longest Ride (PG-13) The latest lethal dose of Nicholas Sparks is this romance, with a North Carolina college girl (Britt Robertson) falling for a severely injured rodeo bullrider (Scott Eastwood) and bonding with an old man (Alan Alda) who had his own doomed romance back in the 1940s. Aside from the older couple being Jewish, there’s nothing in here that hasn’t been covered in at least half a dozen other movies based on Sparks novels, and none of the principal actors does anything interesting with their roles. This movie feels like the longest something, all right. Also with Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Melissa Benoist, Gloria Reuben, and Lolita Davidovich.
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.
Monkey Kingdom (PG) The latest installment in Disney Nature’s documentary series looks and sounds gorgeous, but it’s just kind of boring. Focusing on a troop of macaques that inhabit an ancient, abandoned city in Sri Lanka, the film’s central character is a female named Maia, who’s at the bottom of the social strata and thus has a rough go at feeding herself and her infant son, Kip. The narrative theme about the hardships of single mothers negotiating a society that stacks the deck against them is probably a more interesting post-film discussion topic with kids than any single scene. Unfortunately, this being a Disney film and all, the humor is all but completely sanded away — narrator Tina Fey is wasted. But there are amusing scenes of the monkeys stealing things from a human birthday party and a marketplace, and you’ll find yourself cooing, “Awww” at least once. — Steve Steward
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (PG) The titular mall cop is back with more gags about hypoglycemia and obstacles to gratuitously somersault around. Blart (Kevin James) is staying at the Wynn Casino for a trade show and has to deal with both the usual rent-a-cop mockery and a team of thieves stealing the casino’s priceless art. Slapstick ensues, and when James is squirming and squeaking over a marble floor trying to find the safety behind a decorative planter, it’s hard not to laugh, even after the umpteenth time. If you think watching a hyperactive, keg-shaped man squeeze himself into a bulletproof roller suitcase sounds funny, then Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is a good way to burn 90 minutes, even though it’s stuffed with physical comedy that includes punching both a weird bird and an old lady. Also with Neal McDonough, Raini Rodriguez, Eduardo Verástegui, Daniella Alonso, D.B. Woodside, Nicholas Turturro, Ana Gasteyer, and Loni Love. — Steve Steward
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.
True Story (R) James Franco and Jonah Hill star in a serious drama based on a real incident, and they’re the best reason to see it. Hill plays a disgraced former New York Times reporter who decides to interview an accused murderer (Franco) who was using the reporter’s name while on the run. Coming from the British stage, director/co-writer Rupert Goold gets out of the way while the two stars engage in an absorbing cat-and-mouse game. The reporter tries to figure out whether he’s dealing with an innocent man or a psychopath. Sadly, the movie is only skin-deep when it isn’t focused on the performances. If this had been a stage play with these two actors, it would have been unforgettable. Also with Felicity Jones, Maria Dizzia, and Ethan Suplee.
Twenty (NR) Not for Western audiences. 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. With its complement of raunchy sex jokes, this aims to be the Asian version of American Pie (Korean Kimbap?), and some of the slapstick gags do land. However, this is too specific to the cultural norms of Korean society to say much to foreign viewers. Also with Jung So-min, Jung Joo-yeon, Lee Yoo-bi, Min Hyo-rin, and Park Hyuk-kwon.
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.
Woman in Gold (PG-13) Devoid of any genuine feeling or originality, this movie reduces an inspiring real-life story into hackneyed Hollywood fare. Helen Mirren plays an octogenarian Austrian émigré who hires a struggling L.A. lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) in the 1990s to help her win back Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I,” a family heirloom seized by the Nazis. Screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell provides us with cheap applause lines and director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) holds our hands at every turn so we’re never unsure as to how to feel, with the Austrian government reduced to cardboard villains. Buy a Klimt refrigerator magnet; it’ll be a better use of your money and a more meaningful artistic experience. Also with Katie Holmes, Daniel Brühl, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Elizabeth McGovern, Antje Traue, Frances Fisher, Moritz Bleibtreu, Allan Corduner, Justus von Dohnányi, Jonathan Pryce, and Charles Dance.
’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.
Seymour: An Introduction (PG) Ethan Hawke’s documentary profile of piano teacher Seymour Bernstein.
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.