Closer to God (NR) Billy Senese’s thriller stars Jeremy Childs as a scientist who succeeds in cloning a human baby. Also with Shelean Newman, Shannon Hoppe, David Alford, and Isaac Disney. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Faith of Our Fathers (PG-13) Kevin Downes and David A.R. White star in this Christian drama as two strangers who travel to the Vietnam War memorial to discover the truth about their fathers who served in the conflict. Also with Stephen Baldwin, Candace Cameron Bure, Rebecca St. James, Sean McGowan, Scott Whyte, and Ryan Doom. (Opens Wednesday)
In Stereo (NR) Micah Hauptman and Beau Garrett star in this romantic comedy as exes who reunite on the streets of New York. Also with Aimee Mullins, Mario Cantone, Maggie Geha, and Melissa Bolona. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Infinitely Polar Bear (R) Mark Ruffalo stars in this drama as a manic depressive man who tries to win back his wife (Zoë Saldana) by becoming a full-time caretaker of their two children. Also with Imogene Wolodarsky, Keir Dullea, Ashley Aufderheide, Beth Dixon, and Wallace Wolodarsky. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Overnight (R) More penises than Magic Mike XXL. Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling star in this comedy as a couple of L.A. transplants who go to a dinner party at the home of some new acquaintances (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) and discover the evening getting freakier and freakier. Writer-director Patrick Brice does a fair job piling on the momentum and layers of weirdness in the first half, but once the word “swingers” gets uttered, his movie has nowhere to go. He tries to bring out the buried issues in both marriages, but his treatment is skin-deep. Fortunately, the movie has enough laughs to recommend it. Don’t watch this with another couple unless you secretly want a foursome with them. Also with R.J. Hermes and Max Moritt. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Wolfpack (R) Crystal Moselle’s documentary about the seven Angulo siblings, who have seldom left their apartment in New York City and spend all their time re-enacting movies that they’ve seen. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Aloha (PG-13) Cameron Crowe’s artistic decline continues apace, and he takes down a fine bunch of actors with him in this sodden romance. Bradley Cooper plays a disgraced defense contractor who lands in Hawaii with an old employer (Bill Murray), an ex-girlfriend (Rachel McAdams), and an Air Force pilot (Emma Stone) who might represent a new start. Crowe goes round and round with Hawaiian religious mysticism and just refuses to get to any sort of point. Stone comes closest to emerging from this with some kind of credit, but this is the work of an overindulged hack, not the guy who made Say Anything… and Jerry Maguire. Also with John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Bill Camp, Danielle Rose Russell, Jaeden Lieberher, and Alec Baldwin.
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.
Dope (R) Will get you high. This exhilarating, terrifying, and terribly funny comedy stars Shameik Moore as a poor African-American high-school geek who wishes to go to Harvard, but when 20+ kilos of molly find their way into his possession, he has to get rid of the drugs without being arrested or killed. Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa captures the joys of his old neighborhood in Inglewood, Ca., without glossing over the squalor, and he concocts a dazzlingly ingenious plot that makes room for terror but also includes funny riffs on white people’s drugs and the phrase “slippery slope.” The whole thing plays like a cross between Boyz N the Hood and Risky Business, and it concludes with a rousing monologue mulling over the ways in which our hero fits and doesn’t fit the stereotypes of young black men. It and the movie will make you feel like pumping your fist. Also with Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, Chanel Iman, Roger Guenveur Smith, Quincy Brown, Kimberly Elise, Blake Anderson, Rick Fox, Keith Stanfield, Kap-G, and Tyga.
Entourage (R) This continuation of the HBO TV show made me want to go home and wash the stink of rich-white-guy entitlement off me. Adrian Grenier returns as the movie star who turns to directing his own Hollywood blockbuster vehicle while his buddies (Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, and Jerry Ferrara) party endlessly in Tinseltown. The acting is indistinct and the jokes aren’t funny, but the real problem is that these guys are wastes of space and don’t even know it, having done nothing to earn their awesome, hard-partying lives. At least This Is the End realized that its Hollywood bros needed some justification for existence. This movie just embodies the vapid celebrity culture it’s trying to satirize. Now I know why people hate the TV show. Also with Emmanuelle Chriqui, Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, Debi Mazar, Rhys Coiro, Constance Zimmer, Ronda Rousey, Emily Ratajkowski, Judy Greer, Richard Schiff, Piers Morgan, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Russell Wilson, Gary Busey, Bob Saget, Jon Favreau, Greg Louganis, Andrew Dice Clay, Pharrell Williams, Mike Tyson, David Spade, Warren Buffett, Armie Hammer, Common, Ed O’Neill, Kelsey Grammer, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, and Mark Wahlberg.
Inside Out (PG) After a dip in form during this decade, Pixar is now back to producing masterpieces. This animated film takes place mostly in the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), as her primary emotions Joy and Sadness (voiced by Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith) are stranded in the recesses of her brain and must find their way back to headquarters before remaining emotions Anger, Disgust, and Fear (voiced by Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader) ruin her life. Under Pete Docter’s direction, the animators’ imaginations run riot depicting Riley’s mindscape and invent brilliant gags about abstract thoughts and the subconscious. A deeper brilliance lies in the way Joy comes to realize that Sadness is an essential part of Riley’s life. Pixar tried making a movie about a girl before in Brave, and it failed. This time, they got it right. Additional voices by Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Paula Poundstone, Bobby Moynihan, Frank Oz, Rashida Jones, Flea, and John Ratzenberger.
Insidious: Chapter 3 (PG-13) The best film in the Insidious franchise so far, this prequel establishes the background of Lin Shaye’s spiritual medium character as she confronts the Man Who Can’t Breathe, an evil presence trying to absorb the soul of a teenage girl Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott). Most of the scares are jumpy moments spaced pretty far apart, so the film’s fright-factor mostly relies on atmosphere and the suggestion of unseen horror. Yet the pacing works, even with some clunky performances by Shaye and Dermot Mulroney as the girl’s dad. Like the previous movie, Insidious: Chapter 3 works more as a dark fantasy than a horror movie, but its cosmology and characters are worth revisiting if you’ve already crossed over as a fan. Also with Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell. — Steve Steward
Jurassic World (PG-13) The dinosaurs are fascinating and the people are boring, but then, why should this be any different from the 1993 original? In this fourth film, the dinosaurs are housed at a well-established theme park that turns to genetically engineering new dinosaurs to keep attracting customers, and it’s up to a raptor handler (Chris Pratt) and a scientist (Bryce Dallas Howard) with two so-cute-you’ll-barf nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) visiting the park to save everyone. Director/co-writer Colin Trevorrow is so busy shoehorning in references to Steven Spielberg’s original that he ignores how sexist this thing is. There’s no shame in Trevorrow’s inability to equal Spielberg’s flair, but the sense of wonder that pervaded his Safety Not Guaranteed is nowhere in evidence here. I was bored. Also with Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, Lauren Lapkus, and B.D. Wong.
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.
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.
Max (PG) Boaz Yakin directs this drama about a mine-sniffing dog who has served with the Marines in Afghanistan who’s adopted by the Stateside family of his handler. Starring Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank, Robbie Amell, Jay Hernandez, and Lauren Graham.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (PG-13) Like The Fault in Our Stars, this film based on Jesse Andrews’ novel tries to deal with tragedy through characters who have seen all the other movies about dying teens and think they suck. Thomas Mann stars as a wearyingly self-deprecating high-school kid who’s essentially forced to befriend a leukemia-stricken classmate (Olivia Cooke). Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon nails the “everybody sucks in high school” tone and litters the film with postmodern interludes, most notably a series of movie parodies shot by the characters, though he also knows when to get rid of all the tricks. Unfortunately, the changes have brought this movie closer to the Hollywood tearjerkers that the characters despise. The film’s self-awareness is welcome, but it can be done better. Also with RJ Cyler, Jon Bernthal, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, and Hugh Jackman.
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.
San Andreas (PG-13) The Big One hits the West Coast and kills millions of people just so The Rock can patch up his marriage. That’s the premise of this earthquake movie about an L.A. rescue pilot (Dwayne Johnson) who resolves to save his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and their college-age daughter in San Francisco (Alexandra Daddario) after a record tremor. The special effects are only fair. The writing is way worse, with the daughter saving a cute kid amid all the carnage. All the worst aspects of 1970s disaster-porn movies are brought back here. The scary thing is, Roland Emmerich could have done a better job with this material. Also with Paul Giamatti, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnston-Burt, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd, Will Yun Lee, and Kylie Minogue.
Spy (R) Melissa McCarthy finds the star vehicle she was looking for with this action-thriller spoof about a CIA analyst who goes into the field to catch an arms dealer (Rose Byrne) who finds out the identities of all the agency’s operatives. Instead of the expected “fat lady does spy stuff” gags, the movie is built on a far better joke — the heroine is a really good spy despite her lack of confidence and her size. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) stages explosions and car chases in a fair imitation of a thriller director, and he gets laughs out of everyone in his supporting cast, especially Jason Statham, gleefully sending himself up as a manlier-than-thou agent. McCarthy’s work makes this the most likable of the summer’s action films. Also with Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Bobby Cannavale, Morena Baccarin, Nargis Fakhri, Will Yun Lee, and an uncredited Allison Janney.
Ted 2 (R) Seth MacFarland, Mark Wahlberg, and the talking teddy bear all return, as the bear has to prove he’s human in court. Also with Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Warburton, John Slattery, John Carroll Lynch, Dennis Haysbert, Morgan Freeman, and Liam Neeson.
Big Game (PG-13) Samuel L. Jackson stars in this thriller as a U.S. President who must rely on a 13-year-old Finnish boy (Onni Tommila) after Air Force One is shot down by terrorists. Also with Ray Stevenson, Victor Garber, Ted Levine, Mehmet Kurtulus, Felicity Huffman, and Jim Broadbent.
Escobar: Paradise Lost (R) This movie does not star Vincent Chase but rather Josh Hutcherson as a 1990s surfer who discovers that his new Colombian girlfriend (Claudia Traisac) is related to the infamous drug lord (Benicio Del Toro). Also with Brady Corbet, Carlos Bardem, Ana Girardot, and Laura Londoño.
Gemma Bovery (R) Gemma Arterton stars in this comic present-day retelling of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Also with Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng, Isabelle Candelier, Niels Schneider, Mel Raido, and Edith Scob.
I’ll See You in My Dreams (PG-13) Blythe Danner stars in this comedy as a woman who moves on with her life after the death of her longtime husband. Also with Martin Starr, Sam Elliott, Malin Akerman, Mary Kay Place, Rhea Perlman, and June Squibb.
A Little Chaos (R) Alan Rickman co-stars in and directs this 17th-century romance about two landscape artists (Matthias Schoenaerts and Kate Winslet) who fall in love while designing King Louis XIV’s garden at Versailles. Also with Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Ehle, Rupert Penry-Jones, Helen McCrory, and Phyllida Law.
Testament of Youth (PG-13) Alicia Vikander stars in this adaptation of Vera Brittain’s memoir about coming of age in Britain during World War I. Also with Kit Harington, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan, Dominic West, Joanna Scanlan, Emily Watson, and Miranda Richardson.