Man From Reno (NR) Ayako Fujitani stars as a Japanese mystery novelist who becomes entangled in a real-life mystery in Northern California. Also with Pepe Serna, Kazuki Kitamura, Yasuyo Shiba, Hiroshi Watanabe, Tetsuo Kuramochi, Yuki Matsuzaki, and Elisha Skorman. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Adult Beginners (R) Nick Kroll stars in this comedy as a burned-out entrepreneur who becomes a live-in nanny for his pregnant sister (Rose Byrne). Also with Bobby Cannavale, Joel McHale, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Paula Garcés, Bobby Moynihan, Mike Birbiglia, Jane Krakowski, and Josh Charles. (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)
The Age of Adaline (PG-13) Could have been worse. Blake Lively stars in this romance as a woman who suffers a freak accident in 1935 that leaves her impervious to the aging process into the present day. Despite one climactic plot development that can be seen coming miles away, director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste & Jesse Forever) does his part to keep sentimentality at bay and stages scenes in some pleasingly odd corners of San Francisco, where the movie is set. Still, the redeeming features here are a skillful turn by Lively as a woman older and more refined than she looks, and some of Harrison Ford’s best acting in years as an old boyfriend who crosses paths with her again. Also with Ellen Burstyn, Michiel Huisman, Amanda Crew, Anthony Ingruber, and Kathy Baker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monkey Kingdom (G) 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
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.
Unfriended (R) So much better than most movies about cyberbullying. Taking place entirely on one girl’s laptop computer, this horror film is about a circle of teenage friends who find themselves being harassed by someone using the Facebook, YouTube, and Skype accounts of their friend who killed herself after someone posted an embarrassing drunken video of her. The monster here is the Internet lynch mob itself come to sadistic, malevolent life, turning Facebook itself against the characters and bombarding them with messages to kill themselves until they actually do it. This gives this movie a distinctiveness that makes up for its lack of scares. This isn’t a great horror film, but it feels of the moment. Also with Shelley Henig, Moses Storm, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, and Renée Olstead.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.