Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (NR) Brett Morgen’s officially authorized made-for-TV biography of the Nirvana frontman. Also with Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Assassination (NR) Very confusing. This thriller set in 1933 is about a group of Korean freedom fighters in exile trying to kill the head of the occupying Japanese military (Sim Cheol-jong) in Shanghai. The film is a dizzying whirl of double crosses and betrayals, and that’s even without accounting for the three male leads who look alike and have similar hairstyles and the identical twins separated at birth. Gianna Jun gives an impressive performance as the twins, doing her own stunts and looking badass as a sniper heading up the mission. Director Choi Dong-hoon (Thieves) also assembles two superb action sequences, including one midway through when the assassination plot goes spectacularly wrong. Still, non-Koreans may find this hard to follow. Also with Ha Jung-woo, Lee Jeong-jae, Oh Dal-su, Jo Jin-woong, Choi Deok-moon, Park Byeong-eun, and Lee Kyeong-yeong. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Dark Places (R) Charlize Theron stars in this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel as a woman who suddenly has reason to doubt whether her imprisoned older brother (Corey Stoll) murdered the rest of the family when she was a little girl. Also with Nicholas Hoult, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks, Sterling Jerins, Tye Sheridan, Andrea Roth, and Drea de Matteo. (Opens Friday)
The End of the Tour (R) James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) directs this dramatization of a five-day interview of David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) conducted by David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) immediately after the publication of Infinite Jest. Also with Anna Chlumsky, Ron Livingston, Mickey Sumner, and Joan Cusack. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Fantastic Four (PG-13) Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Miles Teller star in this Marvel Comics adaptation as four astronauts whose attempt at interdimensional travel gives them superpowers. Also with Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson, and Dan Castellaneta. (Opens Friday)
The Gift (R) Joel Edgerton directs and co-stars in this thriller as a menacing man who starts stalking his former high-school classmate (Jason Bateman) and his wife (Rebecca Hall). Also with David Denman, Busy Philipps, Allison Tolman, Katie Aselton, Susan May Pratt, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, and Nash Edgerton. (Opens Friday)
Phoenix (R) Not a movie about the capital of Arizona but a post-World War II drama by Christian Petzold (Barbara) about a facially disfigured German woman (Nina Hoss) who searches for the husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who might have sold her out to the Nazis. Also with Nina Kunzendorf, Michael Maertens, Imogen Kogge, Felix Römer, and Frank Seppeler. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Runner (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this drama as a politician whose career is destroyed by the BP oil spill. Also with Connie Nielsen, Sarah Paulson, Wendell Pierce, Bryan Batt, and Peter Fonda. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Shaun the Sheep Movie (PG) This is not a Nick Park movie, but his fans should rejoice anyway. Mark Burton and Richard Starzak adapt their own animated TV series (itself spun off from Park’s A Close Shave) to make this big-screen adventure with only gibberish for dialogue. It’s about a markedly intelligent sheep who leads his fellow sheep and a dogged watchdog in a quest outside their farm to save the farmer, who is suffering from memory loss due to a head injury. From this setup, Burton and Starzak spin a number of literate gags, including references to everything from Banksy to The Silence of the Lambs. Perhaps this lacks the final ounce of ingenuity and feeling that Park’s movies have, but it’s still one of this year’s best movies for kids. (Opens Wednesday)
The Tribe (R) A dialogue-free film cast entirely with deaf actors, this Ukrainian thriller stars Grigoriy Fesenko as a teenager trying to fit in with the strange fellow students at his new boarding school. Also with Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy, and Ivan Tishko. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
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.
Jian Bing Man (NR) Da Peng stars in his own Chinese martial-arts comedy as a TV personality who gets into trouble with the mob while trying to make a superhero movie. Also with Mabel Yuan, Liang Chao, Charles Zhang, Yi Yunhe, Sandra Ng, Eric Tsang, and Jean-Claude van Damme.
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.
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.
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.
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation (PG-13) In its fifth installment, the spy series is as implausible and as gripping as ever. Tom Cruise returns as superagent Ethan Hunt, who discovers the existence of a rival spy agency just as IMF is being dismantled. Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) is the latest to take over the series, and he engineers terrific action sequences involving a backstage assassination plot at an opera performance and a motorcycle chase down the highways of Morocco. As a British agent who has an in with the rival agency, Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson is a blazing addition to the series as well. It’s a fine piece of summer escapism. Also with Jeremy Renner, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Sean Harris, Tom Hollander, Jens Hultén, Simon McBurney, and Alec Baldwin.
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.
Paper Towns (PG-13) In a limited amount of screen time, British fashion model Cara Delevingne lights up the screen as a Jewish girl from Florida in this movie based on John Green’s novel. Nat Wolff stars as a teenager who falls for his impossibly glamorous neighbor and becomes determined to track her down after she mysteriously disappears. This is supposed to be about a boy who discovers the real girl behind the idealized girl he imagined in his head, but the movie seems to have little idea who that real girl actually is. Delevingne has more, conveying her sense of mischief and emotional neediness. This is dispensable cinema, but it may have given birth to a new star. Also with Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair, Cara Buono, and an uncredited Ansel Elgort.
Pixels (PG-13) Video-game movies usually suck and Adam Sandler movies usually suck, so this one should be a rousing success, right? No, it’s pretty much the slapdash, brain-dead, more-than-casually sexist affair that you’d expect. Sandler plays a 1980s video game wizard who has to team up with other expert gamers (Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad) to defeat an invasion of space aliens who take the form of video-game monsters from the time period. Director Christopher Columbus and his effects team come up with some nice-looking visualizations of what Pac-Man and Centipede would look like in the real world, but the script is so witless and dependent on ’80s nostalgia that the fun is drained out. Also with Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Jane Krakowski, Affion Crockett, Lainie Kazan, Ashley Benson, Tom McCarthy, Sean Bean, Brian Cox, and Dan Aykroyd.
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.
Southpaw (R) Jake Gyllenhaal is fantastic, but this boxing drama is far less than that. He plays Billy Hope, an orphaned kid-turned-boxing champion who loses everything after his uncontrolled temper results in his wife (Rachel McAdams) being killed. Director Antoine Fuqua’s simplistic sense of drama is about as subtle as a right cross to the jaw, and about as much fun. Screenwriter Kurt Sutter gives us cliché after cliché, from the wise old trainer (Forest Whitaker) in a dingy gym to the cute kid (Oona Laurence) who needs to be saved to the redemptive title fight against the mouthy rival boxer (Miguel Gomez) who started it all. Gyllenhaal proves his range by playing this boiling rage case, but both he and we deserved a better vehicle than this movie that could have been made in 1935. Also with 50 Cent, Skylan Brooks, Victor Ortiz, Beau Knapp, Rita Ora, and Naomie Harris.
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.
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.
Vacation (R) Turn the car around. This continuation of the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies concerns the Griswolds’ grown son Rusty (Ed Helms), who takes his own family on a road trip from Indianapolis to Walley World. The film repeatedly makes Rusty look like an idiot and a petty tyrant, and Helms isn’t a savvy enough actor to realize it. The Griswold clan seems to actively detest one another, and the hijinks they get into are wearisomely predictable. Despite an impressive roster of comic talent, the only actor who emerges with any credit is Chris Hemsworth as an archconservative, hypermasculine TV weatherman from Plano, imbuing a potentially hateable part with a buoyant charm. Also with Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Leslie Mann, Charlie Day, Ron Livingston, Michael Peña, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Colin Hanks, Tim Heidecker, Kaitlin Olson, Beverly D’Angelo, and Chevy Chase.
The Stanford Prison Experiment (R) Kyle Patrick Alvarez directs this drama based on the 1971 mock-prison experiment conducted by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) on his students. Also with Ezra Miller, Tye Sheridan, Thomas Mann, Johnny Simmons, Michael Angarano, Ki Hong Lee, Keir Gilchrist, Moises Arias, James Wolk, Nelsan Ellis, and Olivia Thirlby.
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.