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Maggie opens Friday

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Maggie (PG-13) Just when you thought every kind of zombie movie had already been made, here’s a zombie weeper! Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a farmer in Middle America who takes his infected daughter (Abigail Breslin) home to spend the last few weeks with her family before she turns into a flesh-eating monster. The mash-up of genres is something new, but director Henry Hobson turns it into an exercise in unremitting gloom, and only Breslin manages to inject a few notes of anything to relieve the depressive atmosphere. File this one under Promising Idea, Poor Execution. Also with Joely Richardson, Laura Cayouette, J.D. Evermore, Bryce Romero, and Douglas M. Griffin. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Black Souls (NR) Francesco Munzi’s drama stars Marco Leonardi, Peppino Mazzotta, and Fabrizio Ferracane as brothers trying to negotiate a rural Italy ruled by the Calabrian organized crime syndicate. Also with Barbora Bobulova, Anna Ferruzzo, Giuseppe Fumo, Pasquale Romeo, and Carlos Bardem. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

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Bravetown (R) Lucas Till stars as a delinquent New York DJ who’s forced to move back to his small town in North Dakota to perform community service. Also with Maria Bello, Josh Duhamel, Jae Head, Kherington Payne, Tom Everett Scott, and Laura Dern. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Far From the Madding Crowd (PG-13) Carey Mulligan stars in this adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel about a 19th-century Englishwoman determined to manage her own farm and life. Also with Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Jessica Barden, and Juno Temple. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Hot Pursuit (PG-13) Reese Witherspoon stars in this action-comedy as a Texas cop trying to protect a drug kingpin’s widow (Sofía Vergara) who’s a witness in a drug case. Also with Rob Kazinsky, Richard T. Jones, Vincent Laresca, Joaquín Cosio, and John Carroll Lynch. (Opens Friday)

Infini (R) This Australian science-fiction thriller is about a mining crew in outer space who are tasked with picking up the lone survivor (Daniel MacPherson) of an epidemic. Also with Grace Huang, Luke Hemsworth, Bren Foster, Luke Ford, Louisa Mignone, Dwain Stevenson, and Harry Pavlidis. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Kill Me Three Times (R) Simon Pegg stars in this comic thriller as a hit man who gets into three misadventures following a botched contract. Also with Teresa Palmer, Sullivan Stapleton, Luke Hemsworth, Callan Mulvey, Bryan Brown, and Alice Braga. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Lambert & Stamp (R) James D. Cooper’s documentary profiles Kit Lambert and Christopher Stamp, the 1960s aspiring documentarians who wound up managing a then-unknown band called The Who. Also with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and Terence Stamp. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Noble (PG-13) The subject notwithstanding, they really should have found a better title. Deirdre O’Kane stars in this biography of Christina Noble, the Irish activist who settled in Ho Chi Minh City in 1989 to build shelters for the starving street kids of Vietnam. The film switches back and forth between her efforts to acclimate to a new country and her harsh childhood and adolescence in Dublin. Director Stephen Bradley is married to the star, and despite their efforts, the film can’t help but feel like a vanity project about yet another white person who drops into a Third World country and saves everybody. The real-life Christina Noble undoubtedly deserves a better movie than this. Also with Sarah Greene, Gloria Cramer Curtis, Brendan Coyle, Mark Huberman, Nhu Quynh Nguyen, Kinh Quoc Nguyen, Ruth Negga, and Liam Cunningham. (Opens Friday)

Preggoland (NR) Sonja Bennett writes and stars in this comedy as a 35-year-old woman who fakes a pregnancy to fit in with her friends. Also with James Caan, Laura Harris, Paul Campbell, and Danny Trejo. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Ride (R) Helen Hunt directs, writes, and stars in this film about a mother who moves to California after her son (Brenton Thwaites) decides to become a professional surfer. Also with David Zayas, Leonor Varela, Robert Knepper, Richard Kind, and Callum Keith Rennie. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Sister Code (R) Eva Marcille, Amber Rose, and Drew Sidora star as three women trying to sort through their lives and relationships after the death of their foster mother (Anne-Marie Johnson). Also with Essence Atkins, Marcus T. Paulk, Don Hale Jr., Amin Joseph, and Rolonda Watts. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Welcome to Me (R) Kristen Wiig stars in this dramedy as a borderline personality disorder sufferer who wins the lottery and uses her winnings to produce her own TV talk show. Also with James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bentley, Alan Tudyk, Thomas Mann, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Joan Cusack, and Tim Robbins. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

 

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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.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (PG-13) Joss Whedon’s sequel is a worthy follow-up to his 2012 mega-smash, but he seems to be getting off the carousel at the right time. The superheroes must band together once more after Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) creates a superintelligent software program (voiced by James Spader, whose pissy menace is perfect) that tries to wipe out humanity. Just about everything is a little less sharp here, from the action sequences to the romance between Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) to Whedon’s trademark one-liners. Still, Chris Hemsworth flexes his comic muscles as Thor, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) reveals new depths to his character, and a demonic Elizabeth Olsen is a promising addition. The new, more diverse team of Avengers in place at the end leaves the series in good shape for the future. Also with Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Cobie Smulders, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Linda Cardellini, Claudia Kim, Andy Serkis, Julie Delpy, Samuel L. Jackson, and an uncredited Josh Brolin.

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.

Dior and I (NR) The best fashion documentary I’ve ever seen, Frédéric Tcheng’s film follows Belgian designer Raf Simons as he prepares to show off his first haute-couture line as a creative director at Christian Dior. Most other movies about fashion think showing you beautiful clothes is enough; this one takes you into the process of creating them, as Simons (a menswear designer and reputed minimalist going to work for a house famous for feminine extravagance) tries to communicate his ideas (mostly in English) to his staff, some of whom have been working for Dior longer than he’s been alive. Even if you don’t care about fashion, this film is still well worth appraising.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

 

Dallas Exclusives

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.

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.

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.

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.

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