The Nightmare (NR) Rodney Ascher (Room 237) directs this documentary about sleep paralysis, a condition in which sufferers experience terrifying hallucinations while falling asleep or waking up. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Beyond the Mask (PG) Andrew Cheney stars in this historical thriller as an 18th-century British mercenary betrayed by the crown who vows to help the American colonies gain their independence. Also with Kara Killmer, Adetokumboh M’Cormack, Steve Blackwood, Thomas Mahard, and John Rhys-Davies. (Opens Friday)
The Cokeville Miracle (PG-13) T.C. Christensen directs this drama about miraculous survival during an elementary school bombing in Wyoming in 1986. Starring Jasen Wade, Sarah Kent, Nathan Stevens, and Kymberly Mellen. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Dawn Patrol (NR) Not to be confused with the similarly named Errol Flynn classic, this thriller stars Scott Eastwood as a Marine whose attempt to get revenge against his brother’s killer goes wrong. Also with Jeff Fahey, Rita Wilson, Kim Matula, Matt Meola, and David James Elliott. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Doomsdays (NR) Justin Rice and Leo Fitzpatrick star in this comedy as two squatters in off-season Catskills vacation homes whose routine is interrupted when a homeless young woman (Laura Campbell) joins them. Also with Brian Charles Johnson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Insidious: Chapter 3 (PG-13) Dermot Mulroney stars in this prequel to the previous two horror films. Also with Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, and Lin Shaye. (Opens Friday)
Love & Mercy (PG-13) Paul Dano and John Cusack star in this biography of Beach Boys founder Brian Wilson. Also with Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Kenny Wormald, Joanna Going, and Dee Wallace. (Opens Friday)
Sunshine Superman (PG) Marah Strauch’s documentary profile of Carl Boenish, the founder of BASE jumping. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
When Marnie Was There (PG) Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arietty) directs this animated adaptation of Joan Robinson’s novel about a girl (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) who befriends a mysterious girl (voiced by Kiernan Shipka) in the countryside. Additional voices by John C. Reilly, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, Geena Davis, Raini Rodriguez, Vanessa Williams, and Catherine O’Hara. (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.
Aloha (PG-13) Cameron Crowe’s latest film stars Bradley Cooper as an Air Force contractor who returns to Hawaii to recover his damaged career. Also with Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jaeden Lieberher, Edi Gathegi, Ivana Milicevic, Alec Baldwin, and Bill Murray.
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.
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.
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.
Poltergeist (PG-13) The lingering dread and sociopolitical subtext from Tobe Hooper’s 1982 classic is gone from this remake, leaving a horror movie that will move your pulse but fail to nudge your soul. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt star as Illinois suburbanites who find their house built on a cemetery and haunted by invisible spirits. Director Gil Kenan and writer David Lindsay-Abaire try to tie the film to the present age, but the stuff on modern-day parenting falls flat, and the tech toys (smartphone, drone) only clutter things up. If you haven’t seen the original, this is fine. If you have, it’s useless. Also with Jared Harris, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, and Jane Adams. — Steve Steward
San Andreas (PG-13) Dwayne Johnson stars in this disaster movie as a rescue helicopter pilot who tries to save his estranged daughter (Alexandra Daddario) after a massive earthquake levels Los Angeles. Also with Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Will Yun Lee, and Paul Giamatti.
Tomorrowland (PG-13) A full-fledged disaster. Brad Bird’s deliberately retro fantasy-adventure saga stars Britt Robertson as a 16-year-old Florida girl who discovers a key to another dimension and a way to avert the apocalypse that will destroy humanity. Bird’s storytelling instincts completely desert him as he gets bogged down in interminable scenes and fails to evoke the sense of wonder that he did in his animated films like The Iron Giant and Ratatouille. The heroine is stripped of any defining personality traits, and the actors look lost — even George Clooney gives a one-note performance as an embittered recluse. Worst of all is the contemptuous, hectoring tone that creeps in here, as the movie blames us for losing hope and poisoning our minds with dystopian fantasies. It’s like the movie shouts in your face, “What’s wrong with you! Why aren’t you inspired?” Also with Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Robinson, Pierce Gagnon, Judy Greer, and Tim McGraw.
The Connection (R) Jean Dujardin (The Artist) stars in this thriller as a French police magistrate trying to take down a drug ring. Also with Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Mélanie Doutey, Benoît Magimel, Guillaume Gouix, and Bruno Todeschini.
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.
In the Name of My Daughter (R) Catherine Deneuve stars in this drama by André Techiné about a 1970s casino owner on the Riviera who sees her daughter (Adèle Haenel) fall for the wrong man. Also with Guillaume Canet, Judith Chemla, Mauro Conte, and Jean Corso.
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.