Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World (NR) Belinda Sallin’s documentary profile of the late artist, architect, and Oscar-winning production designer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Chronicles of Evil (NR) Baek Woon-hak’s thriller stars Son Hyun-joo as a Seoul homicide cop whose life spirals when he decides to cover up a murder of his own. Also with Ma Dong-seok, Park Seo-joon, Jeong Won-joong, and Daniel Choi. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
I’ll See You in My Dreams (PG-13) Blythe Danner stars in this comedy as a woman who moves on with her life shortly after the death of her longtime husband. Also with Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Malin Akerman, Mary Kay Place, Rhea Perlman, and June Squibb. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Poltergeist (PG-13) Gil Kenan (Monster House) directs this remake of Tobe Hooper’s 1982 horror film about a family haunted by an invisible ghost. Starring Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris, Saxon Sharbino, Kennedi Clements, and Jane Adams. (Opens Friday)
Saint Laurent (R) Gaspard Ulliel stars in this French biography of the great fashion designer. Also with Jérémie Rénier, Louis Garrel, Léa Seydoux, Amira Casar, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valérie Donzelli, Jasmine Trinca, Dominique Sanda, Brady Corbet, and Helmut Berger. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Slow West (R) Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) stars in this Western as a Scottish aristocrat who journeys across the American frontier with a mysterious companion (Michael Fassbender) to search for the woman he loves. Also with Caren Pistorius, Ben Mendelsohn, and Rory McCann. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
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.
Far From the Madding Crowd (PG-13) Carey Mulligan is playful and luminescent, but wields a steeliness that belies her delicate English-rose looks in this latest adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel about a woman who inherits a large farm in southwestern England in 1870 and determines to manage both it and her love life. Helming his first film in English, director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) eschews postcard prettiness, but can’t match the stunning visuals of the 1967 film version. Nor can he overcome the limitations placed on the material by Hardy, who fearfully reduced his heroine to wrangle her into a conventional Victorian ending. That’s too bad, but Mulligan’s exuberance and resolve are what stays with you when this film ends. Also with Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Jessica Barden, and Juno Temple.
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 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.
Hot Pursuit (PG-13) They thought they could just stick Reese Witherspoon and Sofía Vergara in the same movie, and something hilarious would happen. They were so, so wrong. This putative comedy has Witherspoon’s cop escorting Vergara’s trophy wife from San Antonio to Dallas to testify against a drug kingpin, with cartel hit men and crooked cops trying to kill them along the way. The cop is uptight and obsessed with regulations, and yet she still manages to suck at her job, so you sort of start rooting for the killers. Scene after scene drags well past the point where it becomes clear the comedy bit isn’t working. When the outtakes reel over the end credits is funnier than the actual movie, that’s a sure sign of failure. Also with Rob Kazinsky, Richard T. Jones, Vincent Laresca, Joaquín Cosio, and John Carroll Lynch.
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.
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.
Mad Max: Fury Road (R) This long-delayed new installment of the Australian action saga isn’t that compelling as a feminist text, but as a car chase movie, it’s off the chain. Tom Hardy takes over Mel Gibson’s role as a broken man who’s rescued by a warrior (Charlize Theron) who’s trying to get a harem of wives free of the clutches of the warlord (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who owns them. Director George Miller’s visual ingenuity encompasses men balancing on 20-foot poles mounted on cars, 1970s chassis mounted atop tank treads and monster truck tires, and a concert stage on wheels with a speed-metal guitarist playing an instrument that shoots flames. Cinematographer John Seale and the backdrop of the Namib Desert combine to make this breathtakingly beautiful, as well as the best piece of pure action filmmaking since The Raid 2. Also with Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Nathan Jones, Megan Gale, and Riley Keough.
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
Pitch Perfect 2 (PG-13) Like Avengers: Age of Ultron, this is a sequel to a 2012 movie that falls short of its predecessor’s awesomeness but lays intriguing groundwork for an inevitable future sequel. Anna Kendrick returns as a college senior who must rally her disgraced singing group to win the world a cappella championships. Screenwriter Kay Cannon is better at writing snappy one-liners than she is at plot or character development, but co-star Elizabeth Banks (who steps into the director’s chair) duplicates the vibe from the first film well enough. The sequel also picks up in Keegan-Michael Key as an autocratic boss and Hailee Steinfeld as a freshman legacy being groomed as a future leader of the group, and Kendrick duets with Snoop Dogg (as himself) on Christmas carols. Also with Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, Skylar Astin, Adam Devine, Ester Dean, Katey Sagal, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Chrissie Fit, Flula Borg, John Michael Higgins, and Anna Camp.
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.
Where Hope Grows (PG-13) Kristoffer Polaha stars in this Christian drama as a former baseball star who gets over his post-retirement blues by befriending a supermarket employee (David DeSanctis) with Down syndrome. Also with Danica McKellar, Kerr Smith, Brooke Burns, McKaley Miller, Alan Powell, and William Zabka.
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.
Black Souls (NR) Francesco Munzi’s drama stars Marco Leonardi, Peppino Mazzotta, and Fabrizio Ferracane as brothers trying to negotiate a rural Italy ruled the Calabrian organized crime syndicate. Also with Barbora Bobulova, Anna Ferruzzo, Giuseppe Fumo, Pasquale Romeo, and Carlos Bardem.
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.
Iris (PG-13) The last documentary from the late Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) is a profile of Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old New York City fashion icon.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared (R) Robert Gustafsson stars in this comedy as a Swedish man who celebrates his 100th birthday by escaping from his nursing home and getting into a series of misadventures. Also with Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Mia Skäringer, Jens Hultén, Bianca Cruzeiro, and Alan Ford.
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.