Where to Invade Next (R) Michael Moore’s latest documentary has him invading other countries looking for answers to America’s social problems. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (NR) Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg star in this romantic comedy as two Americans who meet in Hong Kong. Also with Richard Ng, Sarah Lian, Linda Trinh, Jaeden Cheng, and Collin Leydon. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Bad Hurt (NR) Karen Allen and Michael Harney star in this drama about a Staten Island family dealing with mental illness and buried secrets. Also with Johnny Whitworth, Theo Rossi, Ashley Williams, and Barry Primus. (Opens Friday at Premiere Cinemas Burleson)
Boy and the World (PG) Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Film, this dialogue-free Brazilian film is about a little boy who goes off in search of his long-lost father. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Fitoor (NR) Aditya Roy Kapoor stars in this Indian adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Also with Katrina Kaif, Aditi Rao Hydari, Rahul Bhat, Akshay Oberoi, and Tabu. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
How to Be Single (R) Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson co-star in this romantic comedy about unattached people in New York City. Also with Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas, Colin Jost, and Alison Brie. (Opens Friday)
Tumbledown (R) Rebecca Hall stars in this dramedy as the widow of a short-lived folk-rock musician with a cult following who’s forced to open up when a would-be biographer (Jason Sudeikis) for her husband stops by her secluded house in upstate New York to do some research. Hall is a lively and sparkling presence as usual, but director Sean Mewshaw keeps things at an insistently low temperature and keeps Sudeikis’ comic skills on a tight leash for some reason. With a weakly predictable plot twist, this never acquires the urgency it aspires to. This was a selection at last year’s Lone Star Film Festival. Also with Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron, Griffin Dunne, Richard Masur, and Blythe Danner. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Zoolander 2 (R) Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprise their roles as male models who face new challenges to stay relevant. Also with Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Penélope Cruz, Olivia Munn, Justin Theroux, Christine Taylor, Billy Zane, Macaulay Culkin, and Benedict Cumberbatch. (Opens Friday)
The Big Short (R) Manages to be a fun movie about a subject that isn’t fun, the 2008 housing crash and recession. The film tracks the crisis through the viewpoints of several characters, including an eccentric money manager (Christian Bale), a perpetually angry hedge-fund guy (Steve Carell), and a smarmy investment banker (Ryan Gosling). Director Adam McKay (Anchorman) interpolates a number of interludes using celebrities like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to explain complicated financial concepts in layman’s terms. He’s less good at depicting the financial pain that the downturn caused, but he illuminates the stupidity and incestuous relationships among the major players in a way that the popcorn crowd can grasp. Also with Marisa Tomei, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Tracy Letts, Karen Gillan, Max Greenfield, Billy Magnussen, Melissa Leo, and Brad Pitt.
The Boy (PG-13) Much less than it promises. This horror movie stars Lauren Cohan as an American nanny who’s hired by an elderly British couple (Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle) to take care of the life-size porcelain doll that they treat as their son. Left alone with the doll, the nanny starts to hear strange noises when she fails to follow the couple’s instructions about feeding and dressing it. From this setup, director William Brent Bell (The Devil Inside) fails to generate anything scary, and when the movie finally reveals its cards, the results are truly laughable. The kid’s name is Brahms — you’d think the filmmakers would find something inventive to do with the music by the composer of the same name. Also with Rupert Evans, James Russell, and Ben Robson.
The Choice (PG-13) This Nicholas Sparks adaptation begins with the hero telling us that the meaning of life is all about decisions, and it all goes downhill from there. Benjamin Walker stars as a North Carolina veterinarian who falls hard for his uptight medical-student next-door neighbor (Teresa Palmer), only for their eternal love to take a tragic turn. Director Ross Katz (Adult Beginners) tries to inject some humor into the typical Sparksian molasses and somehow only makes things worse, as his actors seem to have downed 12 cups of espresso before every take. The filmmakers surround the hero with puppies and kittens at every turn to try to make him adorable, and the final plot twist is unforgivably cheap even by Sparks’ standards. Pick something else. Also with Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Welling, and Tom Wilkinson.
Daddy’s Home (PG-13) A rather uninspired outing for Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Ferrell is a milquetoasty stepdad who’s struggling for acceptance from his wife’s kids when their alpha-male biological dad (Wahlberg) re-enters the picture. A few clever gags dot this thing, one with Ferrell getting drunk at an NBA game and trying to hit a halfcourt shot. Still, the material isn’t there, and director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2) can’t find a rhythm here. The whole thing passes over without making all that much of an impression. Also with Linda Cardellini, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Cannavale, and John Cena.
Dirty Grandpa (R) Unclean! Unclean! Zac Efron stars in this putrid comedy as a preppy douche who’s forced to drive his recently widowed grandfather (Robert De Niro) to Florida for spring break. I’m not sure what’s more grotesque: Efron as a henpecked corporate straight-arrow, De Niro as an oversexed party animal, or the relentless parade of unfunny sexist and homophobic jokes that run by with depressing regularity. Despite the presence of some nice comic actors, this is a disgrace to everyone involved. Also with Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney, and Danny Glover.
The 5th Wave (PG-13) The latest YA apocalyptic thriller stars Chloë Grace Moretz as a teenager trying to save her younger brother (Zackary Arthur) after an alien invasion wipes out most of the world’s population. This might have been okay if the filmmakers had stuck with their heroine, but instead the story (based on Rick Yancey’s novel) splits up into too many tangents, the coincidences pile up near the end, and Moretz is miscast as a girl who has become inured to horror and death. The failure here is fairly comprehensive. Also with Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Liev Schreiber, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Tony Revolori, Maika Monroe, and Maria Bello.
The Finest Hours (PG-13) The best in the narrow field of movies about the U.S. Coast Guard, though that’s not saying much. Chris Pine stars in this Disney drama based on the real-life rescue of 32 sailors trapped aboard a wrecked oil tanker during a nor’easter off the Massachusetts coast in 1952. Once the weather turns, the movie does well at depicting the scale of the storm and the frantic maneuvers made by the sailors and their rescuers to keep themselves alive. Unfortunately, the human beings in this movie are all made of cardboard, and the hero’s fiancée (Holliday Grainger) is only there to shed pretty tears at her man’s bravery. Director Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl) has become completely subsumed by the Disney house style. Also with Ben Foster, Casey Affleck, Kyle Gallner, John Magaro, Graham McTavish, Beau Knapp, Josh Stewart, Abraham Benrubi, John Ortiz, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Eric Bana.
Fifty Shades of Black (R) The whole Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon presents a huge target for satire, and yet this parody somehow contrives to miss it. Kali Hawk plays a dowdy geek journalist who interviews a hugely successful businessman (Marlon Wayans) with a kinky side. The thing devolves into predictable sex jokes that you could have gotten from any other comedy. There’s also a Whiplash parody embedded in here for reasons that pass understanding. The movie that this is spoofing is funnier than the actual spoof. Also with Jane Seymour, Mike Epps, Affion Crockett, and Fred Willard.
The Forest (PG-13) An intriguing premise and lead actress are completely wasted in this woefully uncreative horror movie that stars Natalie Dormer as an American who travels to Japan after her twin sister disappears in a real-life forest near Mt. Fuji where people sometimes go to kill themselves. Director Jason Zada can’t conjure any scares from either the forest or the angry spirits said to be dwelling within, and Dormer flails around as both the troubled twin and the determined heroine. The movie is padded out with lots of closeups of the wildlife — if lichens and snails scare you, you’re welcome to this movie. Also with Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Ibuki Kaneda, and Eoin Macken.
Hail, Caesar! (PG-13) The best Coen brothers’ movie of this century, and certainly their gayest. Josh Brolin stars as a 1951 fixer for a Hollywood studio who has to solve the kidnapping of an A-list star (George Clooney) from the set of a Biblical epic. The Coens’ pastiche of 1950s movies is infectiously winning, and their film feels most like itself when it bursts into song and dance, as during a homoerotic tap-dance number starring Channing Tatum. Amid all the famous people in the cast, Alden Ehrenreich steals the show as a cowboy actor who gets miscast in a sophisticated, highbrow romantic drama. It’s nice to see the Coens leave their nihilism behind and have some fun. Also with Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Veronica Osorio, Clancy Brown, David Krumholtz, Alison Pill, Christopher Lambert, Fisher Stevens, Alex Karpovsky, and Frances McDormand.
The Hateful Eight (R) Lesser Quentin Tarantino but still a lot of fun. Kurt Russell stars in this Western as a bounty hunter who’s stranded with his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) by a snowstorm in a remote store filled with killers. Tarantino’s too much in love with his own nasty dialogue in the first third of this epic, but the plot machinery that kicks in during the second half is quite clever. We also get tasty performances from a gleefully unhinged Leigh as well as Walton Goggins as a racist sheriff who’s smart enough to know when someone’s trying to play on his prejudices. The three-hour running time does include an intermission so you can stretch out. Also with Samuel L. Jackson, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks, and Channing Tatum.
Ip Man 3 (PG-13) The third chapter in the biography of the legendary kung fu master finds him (Donnie Yen) in Hong Kong in the 1950s trying to keep gangsters and crooked land developers from pushing out honest, hard-working folk. The movie goes softer on the xenophobia than the first two installments, but Yen can’t handle the dramatics when Ip Man loses his wife (Lynn Hung) to cancer. The martial-arts action isn’t up to the preceding films, though at least Yen gets to square off with an American gangster (Mike Tyson) and a popping final showdown with a would-be Wing Chun usurper (Zhang Jin). The action sequences don’t quite make up for the dramatic failures here. Also with Patrick Tam, Kent Cheng, Karena Ng, Leung Ka-Yan, and Chan Kwok-Kwan.
Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG) Better than Kung Fu Panda 2. Jack Black reprises his role as the roly-poly animated panda who must battle another villain (voiced by J.K. Simmons) while figuring out where he fits after his long-lost biological father (voiced by Bryan Cranston) turns up. The latter is handled deftly and with a gratifying lack of syrup, and the movie comes up with some neat slapstick as the hero tries to train his fellow pandas in kung fu. Sadly, the villain is boring and the martial-arts action isn’t as inspired as it was in the original. Still, it’s a nice little treat for Chinese New Year. Additional voices by Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim, Wayne Knight, Jean-Claude van Damme, and Kate Hudson.
The Monkey King 2 (NR) Gong Li stars in this continuation of the saga based on the ancient Chinese folk tale. Also with Aaron Kwok, Feng Shaofeng, Kelly Chen, Xiao Shen-Yang, and Kris Phillips.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PG-13) If you take the zombies out of this movie, it’s actually a pretty decent Jane Austen adaptation. That might be the funniest thing about this big-screen version of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel in which Elizabeth Bennett (Lily James) has to fight the undead as well as find true love with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley). Cinderella’s James makes a fine Elizabeth and looks good handling a sword, while writer-director Burr Steers pens some Austen-like dialogue and makes everything look right. Unfortunately, he can’t make those zombies either funny or scary, and action sequences aren’t his strong suit. The joke doesn’t come off the page. Also with Bella Heathcote, Suki Waterhouse, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Matt Smith, Aisling Loftus, Dolly Wells, Emma Greenwell, Charles Dance, and Lena Headey.
The Revenant (R) It looks amazing, but looks can be deceiving. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this Western based on the real-life story of a fur trapper in 1823 who gets mauled by a bear and left for dead by a colleague (Tom Hardy, upstaging the star as a murderous malcontent) before walking 200 miles through the wilderness in the dead of winter to get revenge. Cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki photographs the natural setting so that it makes a menacing backdrop, and director Alejandro González Iñárritu does great with the action sequences, especially the bear attack. Still, this can’t avoid the curdling self-importance that infects all of Iñárritu’s films. He seems to think he’s bringing these movies down from a mountaintop on stone tablets. This is a terrific 120-minute Western stuck in the body of a 150-minute epic. Also with Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Duane Howard, and Lukas Haas.
Ride Along 2 (PG-13) A movie that gives not one but two major roles to Asian-American actors, even if one of them is playing a Latina. That’s pretty much the only mark of distinction for this lame sequel that features Ice Cube and Kevin Hart as Atlanta cops and soon-to-be brothers-in-law who travel to Miami to help a narcotics detective (Olivia Munn) and a computer hacker (Ken Jeong) take down a drug lord (Benjamin Bratt). The crime plot actually isn’t bad, but the movie stubbornly refuses to raise a laugh despite the frantic efforts of Hart and Jeong. Also with Tika Sumpter, Bruce McGill, Michael Rose, Nadine Velazquez, Sherri Shepherd, and Tyrese Gibson.
Room (R) Brie Larson dominates the year’s best prison movie as a woman who tells her 5-year-old son (Jacob Tremblay) that the 120 square-foot room that they live in is the whole world, when actually she’s been imprisoned there for his whole life by a rapist. Like the Emma Donoghue novel that this is based on, this does a wondrous job of telling the story from the boy’s point of view, and director Lenny Abrahamson eschews flourishes in the room’s cramped space while capturing the slow flow of time in captivity. Tremblay holds up well in a demanding role, but it’s Larson who brings great warmth and kindness to the showy part of a mother who’s always on the verge of snapping both before and after she gets free. Despite their extraordinary circumstances, these characters are remarkably similar to other mothers and sons in their devotion to each other. Also with Sean Bridgers, Cas Anvar, Tom McCamus, William H. Macy, and Joan Allen.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PG-13) J.J. Abrams carries George Lucas’ legacy forward better than Lucas could have ever done. Picking up the saga some decades later, this seventh installment sees the disappearance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) bring together an ace pilot (Oscar Isaac), a defecting stormtrooper (John Boyega), and a local scavenger (Daisy Ridley) together on a desert planet. Abrams slips into Lucas’ narrative rhythms, restores the breezy sense of fun that made the first trilogy such hits, and writes far better dialogue than Lucas. No wonder Harrison Ford seems energized reprising his role as Han Solo. The younger cast members are up for this, and the plentiful callbacks for older fans don’t get in the way of the story’s forward movement. The Force is with J.J. Abrams. Also with Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Simon Pegg, Greg Grunberg, and Max von Sydow.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (R) Michael Bay tries to make Zero Dark Thirty. It doesn’t work. His account of six private security contractors who try to fight back during the 2012 attack on the temporary diplomatic facility in Libya degenerates into a squalid exercise in white guys mowing down faceless hordes of Arabs. The action sequences aren’t that good, the movie expends no thoughts on America’s role in the Middle East (or much of anything else), anyone who doesn’t carry a gun is worthless here, and the patriotic sentimentality that Bay wraps these American characters in is like a dollop of rancid whipped cream on top of this foul concoction. Starring John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, Toby Stephens, Max Martini, James Badge Dale, David Denman, David Costabile, Dominic Fumusa, Matt Letscher, and Peyman Moaadi.
The Lady in the Van (PG-13) Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings star in this movie based on Alan Bennett’s memoir about the homeless woman who lived in his driveway for several months. Also with Jim Broadbent, Roger Allam, Richard Griffiths, Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, and James Corden.
Regression (R) This horror film by Alejandro Amenábar (The Others) stars Ethan Hawke as a detective who stumbles onto a Satanic cult while investigating a rape allegation. Also with Emma Watson, David Thewlis, Devon Bostick, Aaron Ashmore, Dale Dickey, Lothaire Bluteau, Kristian Bruun, and David Dencik.
Southbound (R) This five-part anthology horror film takes place along the same deserted stretch of highway. Starring Larry Fessenden, Hannah Marks, Maria Olsen, Justin Welborn, Kate Beahan, and Chad Villella.