The Vatican Tapes (PG-13) Michael Peña and Djimon Hounsou star in this supernatural thriller as two priests trying to exorcise a demonically possessed girl (Olivia Dudley). Also with Kathleen Robertson, Dougray Scott, John Patrick Amedori, Cas Anvar, and Michael Paré. (Opens Friday)
Dark Was the Night (NR) Kevin Durand from TV’s The Strain stars in this regrettable horror film as a small-town sheriff whose community is suddenly visited by a mysterious being that leaves cloven-hooved tracks and appears to be spying on people and making animals disappear. Director Jack Heller builds up with a degree of skill, but when the monster actually appears, the results are laughable. With the sheriff suffering from his own personal loss, the whole thing rather resembles M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, but it’s nowhere near as finely wrought or as scary. Also with Bianca Kajlich, Nick Damici, Ethan Khusidman, and Lukas Haas. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Jimmy’s Hall (PG-13) Ken Loach’s latest film stars Barry Ward as an Irishman who returns to his homeland during the Great Depression and determines to re-open the dance hall that forced him to leave. Also with Francis Magee, Aileen Henry, Simone Kirby, Stella McGirl, Jim Norton, and Brían F. O’Byrne. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Paper Towns (PG-13) Based on John Green’s novel, this film stars Nat Wolff as a Florida teen who determines to solve the mysterious disappearance of his glamorous next-door neighbor (Cara Delevingne) whom he’s always had a crush on. Also with Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair, and Cara Buono. (Opens Friday)
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (PG-13) The latest film by Roy Andersson (Songs From the Second Floor, You, the Living) stars Holger Andersson and Nils Westblom as hapless Swedish novelty salesmen who get into a series of surreal comic adventures. Also with Charlotta Larsson, Viktor Gyllenberg, Lotti Törnros, Jonas Gerholm, and Ola Stensson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Pixels (PG-13) Adam Sandler stars in this comedy as a stellar player of 1980s video games who must band with other gamers to save the Earth from an alien invasion. Also with Peter Dinklage, Kevin James, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Krakowski, Affion Crockett, Lainie Kazan, Ashley Benson, Tom McCarthy, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, and Dan Aykroyd. (Opens Friday)
Tangerine (R) Shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, this film by Sean Baker (Starlet) stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor as two transgender prostitutes who spend Christmas Eve in L.A., searching for an unfaithful pimp. Also with James Ransone, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, and Clu Gulager. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Amy (R) For everyone who only saw the emaciated, drug-addled wreck that Amy Winehouse became shortly after becoming famous, Asif Kapadia’s documentary shows us the human being who was inside all that. As he did in his previous documentary Senna, Kapadia layers audio interviews with the people who knew her over extensive footage of the singer performing, rehearsing, giving press conferences, cracking jokes, and fleeing from paparazzi. Despite Winehouse’s wicked sense of humor, we see her personal problems cropping up well before she grew famous, and the scrutiny proved to be the worst possible environment for dealing with her problems. The singer’s father and husband both act like right bastards in front of the camera. Her story here is of a musician destroyed by the same impulses that drove her to create her music, which makes this documentary fit the mold of classical tragedy.
Ant-Man (PG-13) The weakest Marvel movie since The Incredible Hulk. The film stars Michael Douglas as a scientist who secretly invents a suit that shrinks its wearer to insect size while keeping his or her strength, and Paul Rudd as a cat burglar he recruits to help him keep his former protégé (Corey Stoll) from weaponizing the technology. The movie isn’t funny, and Rudd’s performance is atypically off; he seems too nice to be a criminal. The villain is uninteresting, the shrinking is done without any sense of wonder, and the subplot involving the burglar’s young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) is sloppy sentimentalism. There are moments of visual wit here, but the storytelling and characterization aren’t up to the standards that Marvel has set for its comic book movies. Also with Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Anthony Mackie, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, T.I., David Dastmalchian, Martin Donovan, Hayley Attwell, John Slattery, and uncredited cameos by Sebastian Stan and Chris Evans.
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.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan (NR) Salman Khan stars as an Indian man who vows to get a mute Pakistani girl (Harshaali Malhotra) back to her family across the border. Also with Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Adnan Sami, and Om Puri.
The Gallows (PG-13) Not great, but brutally effective in some stretches. This found-footage horror film stars Reese Mishler, Ryan Shoos, and Cassidy Gifford as three teens who break into their high school’s theater to sabotage the set of the school play when they find themselves trapped inside with the lead actress (Pfeifer Brown) and something that doesn’t like them. The darkened theater makes for a nice menacing backdrop and the whole issue of why the characters continue to film when they’re in danger is worked around nicely. The thing falls apart in the second half, though, with a villain that isn’t particularly scary. Neither as ingenious as the first Paranormal Activity nor as resonant as Unfriended, this is yet more evidence that horror filmmakers should go some way other than found-footage. Also with Travis Cluff and Price T. Morgan.
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.
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.
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.
Magic Mike XXL (PG-13) Turns out this sequel didn’t need Matthew McConaughey or even Channing Tatum to work. It just needed to focus on dance, which it does. Tatum plays the former stripper who gets back in the game one last time when his old buddies rope him into performing with them at a male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. This new movie is too long at 115 minutes, and it hammers home its message relentlessly that these strippers spread happiness and self-esteem to lonely women. Fortunately, Alison Faulk’s choreography makes the numbers here better than they were in the original, with a hilarious convenience-store strip by Joe Manganiello and an inventive climactic bit with two strippers mirroring each other’s movements. If this survives as a series, it will be as a series of dance movies. Also with Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Glover, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, Gabriel Iglesias, Elizabeth Banks, and Andie MacDowell.
Max (PG) Movies that star dogs don’t have the best track record, and this one doesn’t improve it. Boaz Yakin’s drama is about a bomb-sniffing Belgian malinois whose Marine handler (Luke Kleintank) is killed in Afghanistan, so the dog is sent to live with the soldier’s family. The movie gets into some interesting territory with the suggestion that dogs suffer PTSD as much as humans in war zones do, but then the psychology is abandoned in favor of the soldier’s younger brother (Josh Wiggins) and the dog foiling an illegal arms dealer. Leave this movie by the side of the road. Also with Thomas Haden Church, Robbie Amell, Jay Hernandez, and Lauren Graham.
Minions (PG) The yellow, gibberish-spouting beings were always the best thing about the Despicable Me movies, but can they carry their own film? Sort of. The bulk of the story is set in 1968, when three of the minions venture to America to look for an evil job and find a supervillainness (voiced by Sandra Bullock) who wants to take over the British crown. The film is padded out with predictable jokes about England, the 1960s, and the music of the time — when the minions surface on Abbey Road, guess who walks over them? Fortunately, enough of the focus is on the minions and their slapstick gags that the movie remains watchable. Additional voices by Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan, Jennifer Saunders, Geoffrey Rush, Hiroyuki Sanada, Pierre Coffin, and Steve Carell.
Mr. Holmes (PG) Ian McKellen is the reason to see this drama about a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes trying to solve a 30-year-old cold case in post-World War II Britain. This is based on Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, and director Bill Condon’s toggling between the present and the past (not to mention an ill-fitting interlude set in Japan) will frustrate fans who are in this for the detective story. However, McKellen is tremendous both as the sharp younger detective seen in flashbacks and as the old man battling his own memory loss and trying to solve one last case before he dies. He’s the soul of this flawed mystery story. Also with Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Roger Allam, Phil Davis, Frances de la Tour, and John Sessions.
Northern Limit Line (NR) Kim Hak-soon’s war film dramatizes a real-life naval battle that took place when a North Korean warship deliberately incurred into South Korean waters in 2002, while the latter country was co-hosting the World Cup soccer tournament. Lee Hyun-woo stars as a green young medical officer who transfers to the patrol boat that takes on the ship. All the action at sea is filmed crisply, from the battles to the preparedness drills that the sailors go through. However, everything that takes place on land is drearily boilerplate, with one officer becoming a new father and another one pondering retirement. You can skip a good 45 minutes in the middle and not miss anything of note. Also with Jin Gu, Kim Moo-yeol, Lee Wan, Lee Chung-ah, Chun Min-hee, and Kim Hee-jung.
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.
Self/less (PG-13) This science-fiction thriller starts off as merely boring, and then it goes kablooey halfway through. Ben Kingsley plays a dying New York City real estate mogul who goes to a shady doctor (Matthew Goode) to have his mind transplanted into a healthy young body (Ryan Reynolds). The trouble comes when the hero discovers where the body has come from, at which point it degenerates into a mawkish family drama that’s clumsily mixed with an action film. Director Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror, Immortals) manages a few nice small-scale action sequences, but this thing is brain-dead. Also with Natalie Martinez, Victor Garber, Melora Hardin, Michelle Dockery, and Derek Luke.
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.
Terminator Genisys (PG-13) Just stop, OK? It’s simply not working. In this fifth film, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother (Emilia Clarke) all over again. In this instance, time traveling from 2029 to 1984 to 2017 just creates massive confusion and yards of expositional dialogue about electromagnetic physics and why the T800 robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) now looks in his 60s. With at least three bulletproof, regenerating robots running around, the characters are still stupid enough to fire off enough bullets and explosive rounds to defeat a small nation. This series once offered intellectual fodder and mind-blowing special effects, but now its time has passed. Also with Lee Byung-hun, Matt Smith, Dayo Okeniyi, Courtney B. Vance, Sandrine Holt, and J.K. Simmons.
Trainwreck (R) Maybe this isn’t the unfiltered Amy Schumer, but it is terribly funny. The comedian writes and stars in this comedy as a hard-partying, bed-hopping New York journalist who ponders settling down when she falls for a sports surgeon (Bill Hader) whom she’s assigned to profile. The movie stumbles badly in the second half when it tries to turn serious, even though the star gives it everything with the dramatics. Still, the Schumer sense of humor comes through. There are not one but three hilariously awkward sex scenes, plus unexpected comic support from John Cena as a boyfriend with unacknowledged homoerotic tendencies and LeBron James as a gossipy, Downton Abbey-obsessed version of himself. Schumer has never headlined a movie before; I’m intrigued to see the next one. Also with Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Ezra Miller, Randall Park, Vanessa Bayer, Mike Birbiglia, Dave Attell, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, and Marisa Tomei.
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.
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.
Lila & Eve (R) Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez star in this thriller as two mothers who take justice into their own hands after their children are killed in a drive-by shooting. Also with Aml Ameen, Shea Whigham, Andre Royo, Chris Chalk, and Michole Briana White.
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.