They Will Have to Kill Us First (NR) Johanna Schwartz’ documentary about musicians in Mali who continue to make music despite Boko Haram’s mission to kill all musicians. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
God’s Not Dead 2 (PG) The sequel continues the saga of brave Christians fighting to keep evil secular society from banning God. Starring Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, Ray Wise, Ernie Hudson, Pat Boone, and Robin Givens. (Opens Friday)
Kill Your Friends (NR) Nicholas Hoult stars in this comic thriller as a recording industry A&R guy willing to go to extreme lengths to find the next great British band in 1997. Also with Ed Skrein, Rosanna Arquette, Joseph Mawle, Georgia King, Moritz Bleibtreu, and James Corden. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Marguerite (R) Catherine Frot stars in this biopic as a real-life Frenchwoman who became famous in the 1920s as a bad opera singer. Also with André Marcon, Michel Fau, Christa Théret, Sylvain Dieuaide, Aubert Fenoy, and Denis Mpunga. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Meet the Blacks (R) Mike Epps stars in this parody of The Purge and other horror movies. Also with Zulay Henao, Bresha Webb, Li’l Duval, George Lopez, Charlie Murphy, DeRay Davis, Michael Blackson, and Mike Tyson. (Opens Friday)
Midnight Special (PG-13) The latest film by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) stars Michael Shannon as a father of a boy with superpowers (Jaeden Lieberher) on the run from a religious cult and the federal government. Also with Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, and Adam Driver. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A Weekend With the Family (NR) Marques Houston stars in this comedy as a young lawyer trying to get ahead at his firm while dating the boss’ daughter (Karrueche Tran). Also with Wendy Raquel Robinson, Clifton Powell, Dorien Wilson, Suzanne Whang, Black Thomas, and Chantel Jeffries. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Allegiant — Part 1 (PG-13) These movies are getting worse. Shailene Woodley stars in the postapocalyptic YA saga’s third installment, as Tris Prior leads a small party of her friends out of Chicago and into a colony outside the city whose director (Jeff Daniels) has been running the place as a giant social experiment. Everybody, including Tris herself, is really bad at their jobs — security guards fail to hold people, computer systems get hacked, and people place trust in others who are clearly out for themselves. Miles Teller’s naked self-interest shines out amid the wreckage, but this is beyond his or anyone else’s power to save. Also with Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts, Zoë Kravitz, Keiynan Lonsdale, Daniel Dae Kim, Maggie Q, Bill Skarsgård, Jonny Weston, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer, Xander Berkeley, Rebecca Pidgeon, Janet McTeer, Ashley Judd, and Octavia Spencer.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13) Not terrible, just terribly dull. Ben Affleck steps into the Batman outfit, as the Gotham vigilante comes to see Superman (Henry Cavill) as a threat to the human race. Director Zack Snyder stages a couple of fight sequences well, but neither the overarching story nor the various subplots make any sense at all, and Snyder’s not the filmmaker to handle the introduction of real-world consequences into a superhero movie. Jesse Eisenberg’s overacting as Lex Luthor grows oppressive with screen time and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets a pallid introduction after so many failed attempts to bring her to the screen. This movie’s mostly grim, self-important, and too long. Also with Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Scoot McNairy, Tao Okamoto, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, and Holly Hunter.
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 Brothers Grimsby (R) Donald Trump contracts AIDS in this British comedy, and it’s not even any fun. Sacha Baron Cohen stars as an English welfare cheat who tracks down his estranged brother (Mark Strong), an MI6 spy who’s trying to foil an international terrorist plot. The villains here want to exterminate the poor people of the world, but said poor people are depicted as drunken soccer hooligans and sex criminals, so you wonder what the world would be losing. Director Louis Leterrier is an action guy with no flair for comedy, and the weakness of the material leads to interminable sequences with one brother getting shot in the scrotum with a poison dart and both brothers being trapped in an elephant’s vagina. (Don’t ask.) The supporting cast, thrown into their parts whether they fit or not, includes Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Ian McShane, Gabourey Sidibe, Barkhad Abdi, and Penélope Cruz.
Deadpool (R) The humor in this hyperself-aware superhero movie is incredibly obvious, but it’s still explosively funny. Ryan Reynolds stars as an ex-soldier and low-rent mercenary whose attempts to find a cure for his terminal cancer leave him a horribly scarred but borderline unkillable vigilante. You may find all the meta jokes too much as the movie riffs on Reynolds’ acting career and the X-Men series that this is a tangential part of. Still, the star’s physicality and snotty sense of humor make him perfect as a compulsive wisecracker, and the movie doesn’t lose sight of Deadpool’s desire to fix his looks and reunite with his fiancée (Morena Baccarin). The fight sequences are also either properly brutal or hilariously slapstick, as when Deadpool tries to fight Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and just hurts himself hitting the metal giant. The filthy laughs in this superhero movie are energizing. Also with Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni, and Leslie Uggams.
Eddie the Eagle (PG-13) Cheery and inoffensive, this sports bio stars Taron Egerton as Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, the British ski jumper who became a cult hero at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Longtime actor Dexter Fletcher jumps into the director’s chair and does an acceptable job with this, though Egerton (from Kingsman: The Secret Service) sees the show stolen from him by Hugh Jackman as the alcoholic American former jumper who agrees to coach Eddie, mostly so that he doesn’t get killed. The scene where he breaks into the Norwegian’s training facility and expresses his disdain for all their fancy equipment is a marvelously inventive use of props. His energy puts the hop in this film. Also with Jo Hartley, Mark Benton, Tim McInnerny, Edvin Endre, Rune Temte, Christopher Walken, and an uncredited Jim Broadbent.
Gods of Egypt (PG-13) White actors fill all the major roles in this movie about the ancient Egyptian deities, but it’s consoling to note that no actors of color could have possibly salvaged this disaster. When the god Set (Gerard Butler) stages a coup and rules over Egypt as a dictator, it’s up to his nephew Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and a common street thief (Brenton Thwaites) to restore the former to his rightful place on the throne. The action sequences are lame, the attempts at comedy are lamer, and the juxtaposition of humans alongside gods who are twice their height is so dopey that you have to see it to disbelieve it. These gods deserve to die out. Also with Courtney Eaton, Abbey Lee, Elodie Yung, Chadwick Boseman, Bryan Brown, Rufus Sewell, and Geoffrey Rush.
Hello, My Name Is Doris (R) Regrettably high on quirk. Sally Field stars in this dramedy as a single, childless older woman who’s jolted out of her rut when she’s smitten by a much-younger new co-worker (Max Greenfield). We’re meant to find Doris lovable, but for too much of the movie, she’s just weird and lonely, and it takes more than that to get us on a character’s side. Director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) is ill-equipped to deal with Doris’ severe mental issues and manages to squander a fine supporting cast on comic material that isn’t up to scratch. Field deserved a sturdier vehicle than this. Also with Tyne Daly, Beth Behrs, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Stephen Root, Elizabeth Reaser, Jack Antonoff, Kyle Mooney, Natasha Lyonne, and Peter Gallagher.
How to Be Single (R) Rebel Wilson’s comic ad-libs are the only thing livening up this generic comedy about four unattached women trying to navigate the dating scene in New York City. She’s so much fun, it’s hard to fathom why the filmmakers make Dakota Johnson the main focus here, as a paralegal who goes on at excruciating length about how she doesn’t know who she is yet. Neither the movie’s complement of funny men nor the presence of Alison Brie as a woman trying to date by algorithm make much of an impression, so it’s up to Wilson to squeeze a few meager but genuine laughs out of her character as a single gal who loves her freedom unabashedly. Also with Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas, Nicholas Braun, and Colin Jost.
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.
London Has Fallen (R) And yet I’m the one who can’t get up. Gerard Butler reprises his role as a Secret Service agent who has to protect the President (Aaron Eckhart) during a terrorist attack in Europe. This sequel is somehow even more racist and lunkheaded than its predecessor, with Eckhart once again failing to be a remotely convincing president and Butler killing off an anonymous horde of Middle Eastern guys while making ill-timed wisecracks about how awesome America is. Iranian director Babak Najafi pulls off one nice sequence in a single take with Mike and a bunch of SAS soldiers fighting their way down a terrorist-controlled street, but it’s not worth sitting through all the xenophobia and bad acting for. Also with Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley, Alon Aboutboul, Walid Zouaiter, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Patrick Kennedy, Radha Mitchell, and Angela Bassett.
Miracles from Heaven (PG-13) From the title, you already know whether you’re going to find this movie an affirmation of your Christian faith or a slog through pablum. Jennifer Garner plays the real-life Burleson housewife who loses her faith in God and then gets it back when her middle daughter (Kylie Rogers) contracts a mysterious and excruciatingly painful life-threatening illness. Director Patricia Riggen has shown a less-than-delicate touch in movies about secular subjects, and her approach to this religious story proves no different. She has her lead actress weep endlessly in close-up, and Garner’s too well-mannered for a woman raging at God. The movie ends with her speaking about how we lose sight of God’s miracles in our banal lives. This film is part of the banality. Also with Martin Henderson, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez, and Queen Latifah.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (PG-13) It took 14 years for this sequel to hit the screen, which is less remarkable than the fact that the edgeless original was a big hit in the first place. Nia Vardalos reprises her role, her frumpy single gal now a mother dealing with separation anxiety as her teenage daughter (Elena Kampouris) considers going away for college, along with about a zillion other plotlines and characters that aren’t given enough attention. Vardalos’ jokes about how Greek people are hearty and have huge families were old hat back in 2002, and now they’re even more so. This a big hunk of pastitsio that’s been sitting around for too long. Also with John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Louis Mandylor, Ian Gomez, Andrea Martin, Rob Riggle, Mark Margolis, Rita Wilson, and John Stamos.
Oopiri (NR) This Indian remake of the French film The Intouchables stars Nagarjuna Akkineni and Karthi. Also with Tamannaah, Prakash Raj, Ali, Jayasudha, Vivek, Shriya Saran, Anushka Shetty, Adivi Sesh, and Gabriella Demetriades.
The Perfect Match (R) This stubbornly unmemorable romantic comedy stars Terrence J as a California talent agent who hooks up with a mysterious woman (Cassie Ventura). There’s some business involving a bet with the guy’s friends and an upcoming wedding, but that isn’t nearly as tiresome as the two people at the center of this, who have diametrically opposed views about relationships. The interest drops whenever these two are on the screen together. The supporting characters at least make for better company, but they still don’t do anything that will stick with you once you leave the theater. Also with Paula Patton, Donald Faison, Robert Christopher Riley, Kali Hawk, Lauren London, Dascha Polanco, French Montana, Joe Pantoliano, and Brandy Norwood.
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.
Risen (PG-13) It’s like an extremely dull episode of CSI set in Biblical Jerusalem. Joseph Fiennes portrays a Roman military tribune who oversees the execution of Jesus Christ and then has to take charge of the investigation when his body disappears from the tomb. Director Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) leaches out all the excitement in the story, while cinematographer Lorenzo Senatore makes everything in sun-drenched Jerusalem look so gray that it hurts my eyes. The actors seem like they’re muffled by linen, too. The proximity of Hail, Caesar! doesn’t do this movie any favors; you’ll inevitably be reminded of George Clooney emoting in his movie-within-his-much-better-movie. Also with Tom Felton, Peter Firth, María Botto, Antonio Gil, and Cliff Curtis.
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.
They’re Watching (R) A 94-minute found-footage horror film that should have been an 8-minute found-footage Funny or Die comedy sketch. The film crew for an American reality TV home-improvement show travels to the countryside in Moldova to document an artist (Brigid Brannagh) renovating her farmhouse, only to find that the locals are murmuring about a witch living in the forest. The middle has too much filler, with the actors bitching about the lack of Starbucks and bantering in search of a joke. You’re better off seeing the beginning, which parodies the TV show, and the ending, where it all descends into blood and gore in a very funny way. This would have been better as a segment in the V/H/S series. Also with Mia Faith, David Alpay, Kris Lemche, Dimitri Diatchenko, Carrie Genzel, Cristian Balint, and Mircea Constantinescu.
10 Cloverfield Lane (PG-13) This quasi-sequel to Cloverfield stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a car accident victim who comes to in an underground bunker with two strangers (John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr.) after an apocalyptic event. First-time director Dan Trachtenberg ditches the found-footage look of the first movie and does this up as tautly as a Roman Polanski psychological thriller with a few characters trapped in an enclosed space. He turns Goodman loose, and the actor responds with a terrifying performance as the angry, unstable paranoid case who built the bunker. He’s counterweighed by Winstead’s turn as a woman who keeps getting into abusive situations and now must get herself out of one. Also with Suzanne Cryer and Bradley Cooper.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (R) Tina Fey stars in this mildly engaging film (loosely based on a real-life journalist’s memoir) as a TV news writer who travels to Afghanistan in 2003 to provide coverage for her network. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) and writer Robert Carlock (TV’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) strike precisely the right tone here: The movie is funny chronicling its heroine’s life and the foul-mouthed camaraderie among the foreign journalists, but the backdrop of suffering is always hovering near. Christopher Abbott does well as an Afghan street guide and fixer, but did this part really have to go to a white actor? This amounts to a breezy character study of unserious people driven to do a serious job. Also with Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Nicholas Braun, Sheila Vand, Evan Jonigkeit, Cherry Jones, Alfred Molina, Josh Charles, and Billy Bob Thornton.
The Witch (R) Where other horror movies just traffic in trappings of Satan worship, this one feels like the first genuinely Satanic movie ever. Superb newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy stars as a teenage girl in 1631 New England who sees supernatural bad things happen to her family after they’re banished from civilization. Her parents and younger siblings may blame their misfortunes on witches, but we can recognize the domestic pressures that are causing this family to fracture. The actions that people take when they’re unhinged by fear are more terrifying than some child-snatching old crone in the woods. First-time director Robert Eggers eschews the old horror-movie tricks for psychological terror, and composer Mark Korven generates scares all by himself with his antique-flavored score. It has the feel of a campfire story, and you’ll get permanent chills when our heroine tries to conjure the Devil. Also with Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, and Wahab Chaudhry.
Zootopia (PG) A Disney animated movie about a cuddly bunny rabbit that’s so relevant to our current political situation, it’ll give you chills. In a world where predators and prey co-exist peacefully in an urban environment, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is the first rabbit on the big city’s police force, an affirmative-action hire who tries to distinguish herself by teaming up with a fox con artist (voiced by Jason Bateman) to crack a string of animal disappearances. This is no canned morality tale, but a layered look at how prejudice seeps into everyone’s thinking, including Judy’s. Amid some delightful gags (including a DMV staffed by sloths that must have been fun to animate) and atmosphere that evokes film noir thrillers, there’s a powerfully slippery parable about discrimination and the politics of fear. Additional voices by Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Alan Tudyk, Tommy Chong, Kristen Bell, Shakira, Octavia Spencer, and J.K. Simmons.
City of Gold (R) Laura Gabbert’s documentary profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold and his relationship with his native Los Angeles. Also with David Chang, Roy Choi, Ruth Reichl, and Calvin Trillin.
Get a Job (R) Miles Teller and Anna Kendrick star in this comedy as two recent college graduates who have trouble adjusting to professional life. Also with Bryan Cranston, Alison Brie, Greg Germann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicholas Braun, John C. McGinley, Jorge Garcia, John Cho, Brandon T. Jackson, and Marcia Gay Harden.
Krisha (R) Trey Edward Shults directs and co-stars in his drama about an addict (Krisha Fairchild) who returns to her family for Thanksgiving after an estrangement of 10 years. Also with Robyn Fairchild, Victoria Fairchild, Alex Dobrenko, Billie Fairchild, Bryan Casserly, Olivia Grace Applegate, Augustine Frizzell, and Bill Wise.