Bloodsucking Bastards (NR) Fran Kranz stars in this horror-comedy as an office drone who tries to save his friends when his co-workers start turning into vampires. This film by the comedy troupe Dr. God does well with the workers with crappy attitudes and comes up with a nifty joke that getting turned makes the slacker employees more efficient. However, Kranz is neither suited to playing the grown-up middle manager nor the frenzied guy trying to warn everyone about the vampires, and the metaphor about corporate culture draining one’s life away is undercooked. After a bright start, the movie’s comic invention flickers out. Also with Pedro Pascal, Emma Fitzpatrick, Joey Kern, Joel Murray, Yvette Yates, Justin Ware, David F. Park, and Marshall Givens. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
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. (Re-opens Friday)
Dragon Blade (R) Jackie Chan stars in this martial-arts epic as a Chinese warrior who teams up with a defecting Roman general (John Cusack) to keep a corrupt emperor (Adrien Brody) from conquering the Silk Road. Also with Choi Si-won, Lin Peng, Mika Wang, Xiao Yang, William Feng, and Sharni Vinson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos (NR) The big-screen version of the animated TV show Huevo Cartoon, this Spanish-language film is about a chick (voiced by Bruno Bichir) who must stand up to an evil rancher. Additional voices by Carlos Espejel, Angélica Vale, Omar Chaparro, Maite Perroni, and Ninel Conde. (Opens Friday)
Grandma (R) Lily Tomlin stars in this comedy as an elderly lesbian who takes a road trip with her granddaughter (Julia Garner) to get her an abortion. Also with Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox, Nat Wolff, Sarah Burns, John Cho, Sam Elliott, and the late Elizabeth Peña. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Listen to Me Marlon (NR) Stevan Riley’s documentary profile of Marlon Brando uses audio footage recorded by the actor throughout his life. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (R) Not to be confused with the upcoming biopic, this documentary by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) profiles the Apple founder and CEO. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
American Ultra (R) This stoner action-comedy isn’t as good as Pineapple Express, but Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart’s acting makes it worth a hit. Eisenberg plays a pothead convenience-store clerk who has been preprogrammed to be a CIA sleeper agent and goes live when his own agency tries to put a hit on him, while Stewart plays his far-more-functional girlfriend. Director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) isn’t the most skilled, but he keeps things moving at a reasonable clip. The actors’ efforts to put a sane face on things while cars are blowing up around them and he’s killing bad guys at the drop of a hat are what gives this likable affair its comic juice. Also with Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, Tony Hale, Nash Edgerton, John Leguizamo, and Bill Pullman.
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.
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.
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.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (R) This jolt of truth hits you like a baseball bat across the face. Based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s autobiographical illustrated novel, this film stars Bel Powley as a 15-year-old girl growing up in San Francisco in 1976 when she has an affair with her mom’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård). First-time writer-director Marielle Heller, who previously adapted the novel to the stage, includes a number of animated interludes to imitate Gloeckner’s drawing style. She also casts a coolly nonjudgmental eye on the family dysfunction that leads our heroine to her poor choices. The British newcomer Powley acts up a storm, whether she’s lighting up with sexual desire, singing angrily to the Stooges, or dealing with the heartbreak that comes of her relationship. I don’t know if Heller has another movie like this in her, but I’m glad we have this one. Also with Kristen Wiig, Abby Wait, Margarita Levieva, Madeleine Waters, Austin Lyon, and Chris Meloni.
Fantastic Four (PG-13) The floor has been lowered for Marvel Comics adaptations, and by lowered, I mean dropped about 20 stories. Jamie Bell, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Miles Teller play four young scientists who travel to another dimension and return with superpowers. The character development and the sense of wonder that accompanies the powers are missing here, and it takes forever just to get going. Director Josh Trank (Chronicle) blamed the studio for the mess this is; for certain someone screwed it up. Somehow, after the two previous failed adaptations, they got this wrong again. Also with Toby Kebbell, Reg E. Cathey, Tim Blake Nelson, and Dan Castellaneta.
The Gift (R) The Australian actor Joel Edgerton makes an impressive debut as a writer-director in this Hollywood thriller. At first it seems like the story of a well-to-do Los Angeleno (Jason Bateman) and his wife (Rebecca Hall) being stalked by his former high-school classmate (played by Edgerton himself) after returning to SoCal, but then the filmmaker pulls a nicely executed bait-and-switch on us and reverses our sympathies. It’s hard to discuss this further without giving too much away, but Bateman and Hall are close to their best here. This feels like one of those French chillers that packs a nasty sting at the very end. Also with Allison Tolman, David Denman, Busy Philipps, Katie Aselton, Susan May Pratt, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce, and Nash Edgerton.
Go Away, Mr. Tumor (NR) Han Yan’s comedy stars Bai Baihe as a real-life Chinese cartoonist who deals with her terminal cancer diagnosis by drawing funny stories about it. Also with Daniel Wu, Li Yuan, Lui Ruilin, Cheng Yi, and Zhang Zixuan.
Hitman: Agent 47 (R) Apply any pejorative you want to this video-game adaptation: cynical, rote, lazy, forgettable, mean-spirited. They’ll all be true. Rupert Friend stars as a shaven-headed superhuman killing machine who turns on the corporation that created him and others of his kind. Dozens of people get killed here, and somehow it all feels bloodless. Polish director Aleksander Bach has won young filmmaker awards from the Cannes and New York film festivals, but from this shiny piece of hackwork, you’d be hard pressed to figure out why. Also with Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Kretschmann, Rolf Kanies, Sebastian Hülk, Ciarán Hinds, and Jürgen Prochnow.
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.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (PG-13) It looks fantastic, but what is it for? Guy Ritchie’s movie version of the spoofy 1960s British spy TV show stars Henry Cavill as a suave CIA agent who teams up with a KGB rival (Armie Hammer) and a Nazi scientist’s daughter (Alicia Vikander) to prevent a group of former Nazis from building a nuclear weapon. The cast, the Roman setting, the Kodachrome colors, and Joanna Johnston’s costumes all look absolutely groovy, but the movie is neither funny enough as a comedy nor works as a spy thriller. Ritchie’s sense of action is off, and only rarely does he achieve the insouciant, carefree vibe that he’s aiming for. Also with Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Christian Berkel, Jared Harris, and Hugh Grant.
Memories of the Sword (NR) Some of South Korea’s best actors bail out this otherwise uninspired martial-arts epic about a teenage girl (Kim Go-eun) trying to avenge herself on her parents’ killers (Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon). Director Park Heung-sik draws heavily from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Kill Bill movies, and Zhang Yimou’s swordfighting films but only rarely attains the fluidity of those movies. There’s also a howler of a plot development when a character who’s been run through with a sword is cured by acupuncture. Still, Lee is both commanding and traitorous as the bad guy, Jeon is as comfortable handling a sword as she is playing a guilt-ridden teacher, and newcomer Kim looks comfortable in their presence. They’ll all probably make better movies at some point. Also with Lee Kyeong-yeong, Kim Tae-woo, Kim Yeong-min, and Bae Soo-bin.
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.
No Escape (R) Just terrible. Owen Wilson plays an American engineer who uproots his family to an unnamed Southeast Asian country where there’s a coup on the day that they arrive. Why is this impoverished land overthrowing its government and executing Westerners? The movie doesn’t care. It just focuses on this white family escaping their ritzy hotel while Asian people get killed all around them. Director/co-writer John Erick Dowdle tries to direct this like his horror movies Quarantine and As Above, So Below. The results are calamitous, squeezing out the social commentary for soppy melodrama and unbelievable coincidences mixed in with the casual racism. You’d think that these Americans would be smart enough to learn the new country’s language or at least read up about it online before they went there. Also with Lake Bell, Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare, Sahajak Boonthanakit, and Pierce Brosnan.
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.
Ricki and the Flash (PG-13) Jonathan Demme and Diablo Cody collaborate on this cozy domestic drama, and it’s not the nicest fit for either of them, but it’s far more interesting than most other films in this vein. Meryl Streep stars as the lead singer of a SoCal rock band who returns to the family she walked out on in Indianapolis when her daughter (played by Streep’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer) implodes during a personal crisis. Cody’s dialogue is best when the razor blades come out, but the movie loses its balance in the second half and the ending comes too easily. The best reason to see this is Streep’s singing, as she sounds like a rocker who has been at the same bar for 20 years, knocking back beers between sets. Her living-room performance of “Cold One” is spellbinding. Also with Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate, Bill Irwin, and Audra McDonald.
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.
Sinister 2 (R) James Ransone reprises his role as the menacing sheriff’s deputy in this prequel about a house whose inhabitants are marked for death. Also with Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan, Juliet Rylance, and Ethan Hawke.
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.
Straight Outta Compton (R) Musical thrills and good timing carry this rickety biopic over its many rough patches. F. Gary Gray’s bio details how Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), and Ice Cube (played by the rapper’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.) came together to form N.W.A. in the 1980s. The movie glosses over the group’s casual misogyny and homophobia, and the latter half sags as the music stops and the rappers’ life stories get turned into soap opera. Still, the young cast perform thrilling cover versions of N.W.A.’s greatest hits, and the recent wave of police shootings of unarmed black men have put the country in just the mood to hear “Fuck Tha Police” right now. Also with Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., R. Marcos Taylor, Keith Stanfield, and Paul Giamatti.
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.
War Room (PG) If your husband abuses you, lock yourself in a room and pray until God makes him stop. That’s the advice that this movie gives out, and it is so jaw-droppingly awful that I almost admire it. Priscilla C. Shirer plays a realtor who’s counseled by an all-wise elderly seller (Karen Abercrombie) about dealing with her cheating, possessive, wealthy husband (T.C. Stallings). Director/co-writer Alex Kendrick tells women in the audience to be good little submissive wives in such a patronizing way that he makes Tyler Perry look enlightened by comparison. For all its blather about God, this movie writes domestic abusers a blank check. I can’t think of anything worse that any recent movie has done. Also with Beth Moore, Alena Pitts, Tenae Dowling, Michael Jr., and Jadin Harris.
We Are Your Friends (R) I need more interesting friends, then. Some interesting bits about the art of the DJ are mired in this tedious, boilerplate drama about an up-and-coming San Fernando Valley spinner (Zac Efron) who has to choose between a burgeoning career and his loyal circle of friends. The EDM aside, this is exactly like the other movies about young musicians that we’ve been watching for the last several decades, and Efron looks like he’d rather be off watching one of those other movies. I think I might join him. Also with Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston, Shiloh Fernandez, and Jon Bernthal.
Meru (R) Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary about three climbers’ attempts to scale one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.
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.
Pod (R) Mickey Keating’s horror film is about a family intervention at a snowbound cabin that goes badly wrong. Starring Lauren Ashley Carter, Larry Fessenden, Dean Cates, Brian Morvant, John Weselcouch, and Forrest McClain.
She’s Funny That Way (R) Peter Bogdanovich’s latest film is about a playwright (Owen Wilson) who gets ensnarled in a farce with his wife (Kathryn Hahn), her ex (Rhys Ifans), and his new lead actress (Imogen Poots). Also with Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, Lucy Punch, Joanna Lumley, Richard Lewis, Debi Mazar, Illeana Douglas, Tovah Feldshuh, Austin Pendleton, Jennifer Esposito, Michael Shannon, Quentin Tarantino, Tatum O’Neal, and Cybill Shepherd.
Z for Zachariah (PG-13) Craig Zobel (Compliance) adapts Robert C. O’Brien’s novel about three people (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, and Chris Pine) who may be the last survivors of an apocalyptic event.