The Meddler (PG-13) Susan Sarandon stars in this comedy as a New York widow who visits her daughter (Rose Byrne) in L.A. and tries to fix everything in her life. Also with J.K. Simmons, Jerrod Carmichael, Cecily Strong, Lucy Punch, Jason Ritter, Billy Magnussen, Casey Wilson, and Michael McKean. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Rio, I Love You (R) The producers of Paris, je t’aime, and New York, I Love You deliver this latest anthology of short films all set in Rio de Janeiro. Starring Harvey Keitel, Vincent Cassel, Fernanda Montenegro, Nadine Labaki, Emily Mortimer, Ryan Kwanten, John Turturro, Vanessa Paradis, Jason Isaacs, Wagner Moura, Regina Casé, and Rodrigo Santoro. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe (NR) After being found guilty of scientific fraud related to his research on the dangers of vaccines, Andrew Wakefield directs this documentary seeking to reclaim his reputation. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Barbershop: The Next Cut (PG-13) Admirable, but not as effective as it could have been. Ice Cube returns for this third installment as Calvin the Chicago barber who uses his shop to take a stand against his city’s worsening gun violence. The whole series has been about unhurried pacing and including multiple points of view, but on this subject, it needed more focus and precision. Too much of this is taken up with Calvin trying to keep his teenage son (Diallo Thompson) out of a gang and one of his new barbers (Common) trying to improve relations with his wife (Eve). Even the banter isn’t as spicy as it used to be. The trick this movie’s trying is hard to pull off, and it can’t do it. Also with Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, J.B. Smoove, Lamorne Morris, Deon Cole, Margot Bingham, Troy Garity, Tyga, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Nicki Minaj.
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 Boss (R) The ad-libbing of Melissa McCarthy and the other cast members bails out this comedy, but just barely. She portrays a disgraced, imprisoned finance guru who tries to rebuild her career with the help of her former assistant (Kristen Bell). McCarthy’s real-life husband Ben Falcone (who also shows up here as a lawyer) isn’t showing improvement as a director, as characters and plotlines disappear for long stretches and he never figures out the proper attitude toward his sociopathic antiheroine — she probably should have stayed as the improv character that McCarthy created. Fortunately, the one-liners from McCarthy, Bell, Tyler Labine as the assistant’s helpful boyfriend, and Annie Mumolo as a Type A housewife hit often enough to keep the thing watchable. Also with Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Kristen Schaal, Margo Martindale, Cecily Strong, and Kathy Bates.
Compadres (NR) This Mexican action-comedy stars Omar Chaparro as a cop who teams up with an American computer hacker (Joey Morgan) to gain revenge on a crime lord (Erick Elias). Also with Aislinn Derbez, Héctor Jímenez, Camila Sodi, Alejandra Guilmant, Kevin Pollak, and Eric Roberts.
Criminal (R) I’m not even sure what kind of movie this was supposed to be. Woefully miscast as a violent psychopath, Kevin Costner portrays a death row inmate who’s implanted with the memories of a murdered CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) in an attempt to recover the location of a source with intel on a Spanish anarchist (Jordi Mollà). This bad-looking film vacillates between science-fiction, spy thriller, and a twisted romance between the antihero and the dead agent’s wife (Gal Gadot), and none of it comes close to working. Gary Oldman also overacts as badly as possible in the role of a CIA handler. This is a disaster zone. Also with Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Antje Traue, Michael Pitt, Amaury Nolasco, and Colin Salmon.
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.
Elvis & Nixon (R) This dramatization of the real-life 1970 meeting between Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) and Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) would have been better on stage. Elvis goes to the White House to ask for a federal badge to combat the scourge of communists, hippies, drug addicts, Black Panthers, and the Beatles. Spacey, always a fine impressionist, has Nixon’s mannerisms down, and Shannon gets the nicest moments in the script, like when Elvis remembers his dead twin brother as he awaits the meeting. Still, director Liza Johnson can’t find any larger meaning in this encounter, and Alex Pettyfer has way too much screen time as a boring member of Elvis’ entourage who needs to return to his family. Had these two actors done this live in a theater, this might have seemed more than the inconsequential bit that it is. Also with Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters, Sky Ferreira, Tracy Letts, Ashley Benson, and Tate Donovan.
Everybody Wants Some!! (R) Really gosh-darned charming. Richard Linklater’s latest film stars Blake Jenner as a Texas college freshman and baseball player in 1980 who adjusts to the rhythms of collegiate life in the weekend before classes start. Jenner is softly appealing as a freshman who’s hardly callow, and he pairs well with Zoey Deutch as a theater student who catches his eye. As you’d expect, Linklater does well with the male bonding among the baseball team members. The movie is brimming with life under its easygoing exterior, and Linklater still knows how to evoke the young person’s quest to find his or her own purpose in the world and connect with another human being. This makes him a national treasure. Also with Ryan Guzman, Juston Street, Tyler Hoechlin, J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, Will Brittain, Austin Amelio, Tanner Kalina, and Wyatt Russell.
Eye in the Sky (R) The best movie about drone warfare so far is still rather frustrating. Helen Mirren plays a British Army colonel pursuing a ring of terrorists in Kenya and a U.S. Air Force drone pilot (Aaron Paul) who are faced with a decision whether or not to fire a missile that will take out a bunch of suicide bombers but also kill a little girl. Director Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game) somehow squeezes drama out of a string of scenes taking place in windowless rooms across the globe, but the consequences are too distant. If everybody in the story is powerless to create a better outcome, where’s the tragedy? You feel the emotional impact of this movie in your head, not your heart. Also with Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Monica Dolan, Iain Glen, Laila Robins, Phoebe Fox, Babou Ceesay, Richard McCabe, Kim Engelbrecht, and the late Alan Rickman.
Fan (NR) This Indian thriller stars Shah Rukh Khan as both a Bollywood movie star and the crazed fan who stalks him through Eastern Europe. Also with Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku, Waluscha de Sousa, and Indraneel Bhattacharya.
Finding Mr. Right 2 (NR) Tang Wei and Wu Xiubo return for this sequel to the 2013 Chinese romance that was also titled Beijing to Seattle. (Confusingly, the sequel is also titled Book of Love.) He plays an L.A. realtor selling houses to Chinese buyers, she’s a casino hostess in Macau with a gambling problem. They carry on an epistolary romance, exchanging letters across the ocean spilling out their problems and their mutual love for 84 Charing Cross Road. This expensive movie also films in locations in Las Vegas and London, but it can’t make up for the tepid romance here. Also with Kara Hui, Liu Zhihong, Paul Chun, Wang Zhiwen, and Ben Wilkinson.
God’s Not Dead 2 (PG) The belief that Christianity is under a cruel and calculated assault on its values is the through-line in God’s Not Dead 2, the first sequel to the 2014 faith-based hit. Melissa Joan Hart plays an Arkansas high school teacher on trial for telling her student (Hayley Orrantia) about Jesus outside of class, then quoting scripture as an historical source when Brooke asks her about Jesus’ teachings of non-violence during an in-class discussion. Ray Wise, as the ACLU lawyer prosecuting the case walketh about as a purring lion, seeking which scenery he may devour. He’s a metaphor for the Devil as envisioned by a Focus on the Family focus group, and while a couple non-believing characters are given a fair shake, the message is still pretty exclusionary: Christians are right, and it’s wrong to suggest otherwise. Oh, Pat Boone and Fred Thompson get wheeled out for this dreck, too, and it’s embarrassing af. Hopefully, some Christians will point out to their more strident, paranoid brethren that movies like this aren’t doing them any favors. Also with Jesse Metcalfe, Ernie Hudson, Trish LaFarche, and Robin Givens. — Steve Steward
Grandma’s House (NR) These Christian movies aren’t even trying to appeal to secular audiences any more, are they? Coco Jones stars in this autobiographical drama written by Kimberly Ziolkowski as a teenager who’s sent to live with her devout grandmother (Loretta Devine) while her mother (Wendy Raquel Robinson) dries out in rehab. There, she learns the value of respecting your elders, not swearing, and obeying a 9pm curfew. Grandma’s just a nonstop fount of wisdom and there’s nothing to do but learn from her, so this movie comes out dull. Also with Paige Hurd, Jazsmin Lewis, Flex Alexander, and Jordan Calloway.
Green Room (R) Brutal and harrowing. This siege thriller stars Anton Yelchin, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, and Callum Turner as the members of a punk band who become trapped in their green room by murderous neo-Nazis at the club where they’re playing. Writer-director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin) doesn’t spare on the gory deaths, but he laces the proceedings with a generous dose of black humor and keeps the story under remorseless control. He’s helped out by stellar turns by Patrick Stewart as the white supremacists’ soft-spoken, businesslike leader and Imogen Poots as a former neo-Nazi who’s equally cold-blooded under pressure as she helps the musicians. An excellent genre piece. Also with Mark Webber, Kai Lennox, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, and Macon Blair.
Hardcore Henry (R) An intriguing failed experiment. Ilya Naishuller shoots this entire action-thriller from the hero’s point of view, so you can see first-hand the exploits of this mute cyborg soldier try to recover his kidnapped wife (Haley Bennett) from the clutches of a Russian mob boss (Danila Kozlovsky) who, for some reason, has telekinetic powers. Stuff like that goes unexplained because Naishuller thinks the gimmick will paper over the cracks. The gambit does lend some spice to the chase scenes, but the final result has surprisingly little impact. Sharlto Copley co-stars as a Cole Porter-loving sidekick who manages to survive being shot in the head, stabbed in the neck, set on fire, and blown up. Also Andrei Dementiev and Tim Roth.
A Hologram for the King (R) A tourism ad for a repressive dictatorship. Tom Hanks plays a broke American businessman who tries to restart his career selling video technology to the king of Saudi Arabia. Director Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) eschews the existential humor of Dave Eggers’ novel in favor of comedy about figuring out the rules in a kingdom where nothing works like it should, as well as a redemptive romance with a beautiful Saudi doctor (Sarita Choudhury). This is pleasant as far as it goes, but the movie ignores the real hardships of life in the KSA for those with no money. The hero’s supposed to be seeking refuge from American capitalism, but I’m pretty sure the answer to its ills isn’t in a petroleum state that beheads political dissidents. Also with Alexander Black, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Tracey Fairaway, Tom Skerritt, and Ben Whishaw.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (PG-13) Kristen Stewart skipped this sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, which makes her smarter than the A-list actresses who got caught up in this fiasco. Chris Hemsworth returns as a hunter trying to reunite with his lost love (Jessica Chastain) while serving an ice queen (Emily Blunt) trying to reclaim a kingdom for her sister (Charlize Theron). A new director comes in, but the original’s formula of cool visuals married to idiotic, sluggish storytelling remains. These three actresses collaborating should be an epic event, but instead they barely seem to be in the same movie, leaving Hemsworth to come away with what crumbs of funny business there are. Also with Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Ralph Ineson, Sophie Cookson, and Sam Claflin.
The Jungle Book (PG) This live-action film of Rudyard Kipling’s stories looks nice, but it doesn’t uncover anything new. Neel Sethi plays the boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle when a man-hating tiger (voiced by Idris Elba) vows to kill him. This Disney movie incorporates two of the numbers from the 1967 animated musical version, but director Jon Favreau doesn’t have a flair for the genre, and his film relentlessly cutesifies the animals much like the older incarnation did. The movie does have a superb voice cast, especially a fairly terrifying Elba as the snarling villain. I suspect that in 50 years, though, this will look as dated as the 1967 Jungle Book does now. Additional voices by Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, Sam Raimi, and the late Garry Shandling.
Keanu (R) A disappointing film debut from the comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. They portray buppie cousins who pretend to be hardcore gangstas to recover an adorable kitten of theirs (named Keanu, and voiced in a dream sequence by Keanu Reeves) after it’s kidnapped by drug dealers. Key and Peele are too good not to score some laughs, but their subject is the specific pressures that African-American men feel to act tougher than they are, and they don’t go into it in near the same depths as they did with white racism on their brilliant TV sketch show. This script feels hastily tossed off. Watch for Anna Faris’ uncredited cameo, portraying herself as a coked-up party monster buying drugs. Also with Tiffany Haddish, Nia Long, Will Forte, Luis Guzmán, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Jamar Malachi Neighbors, Rob Huebel, and Method Man.
Miles Ahead (R) Underneath the insane fabrications, this Miles Davis biopic is just another overindulgent vehicle directed by its star. Don Cheadle is the filmmaker and lead actor, portraying the great jazz trumpeter during his late 1970s period of seclusion trying to fend off the attentions of a fictitious Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor). Cheadle invents a car chase and shootout with a music promoter that doesn’t remotely resemble anything in Davis’ life, but none of it sheds any light on the man’s artistry or his drive to reinvent himself. Davis’ music is heard on the soundtrack, and his impeccable control whether he’s playing cool jazz or hard bop says more than this movie ever could. Also with Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Keith Stanfield, Joshua Jessen, and Theron Brown.
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.
Mother’s Day (PG-13) Wow, the wheels just fly off this thing. Garry Marshall’s latest holiday-themed omnibus movie picks up the threads of a home-shopping guru (Julia Roberts), a divorced mom (Jennifer Aniston), a widower (Jason Sudeikis), a young mother (Britt Robertson), and two sisters (Kate Hudson and Sarah Chalke) hiding their marriages and children from their intolerant red-state parents. This last plotline is the most insulting, with the parents (Margo Martindale and Robert Pine) turning into redneck caricatures and the movie treating the family dynamic for breezy farce instead of acknowledging how truly messed-up it is. In this starry cast, Sudeikis is the only one who manages not to be excrucatingly boring. Also with Timothy Olyphant, Aasif Mandvi, Cameron Esposito, Jon Lovitz, Jessi Case, Ella Anderson, Hector Elizondo, and Jennifer Garner.
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.
Pali Road (NR) Michelle Chen stars as a woman who wakes up from a car accident to discover that she’s living another life entirely. Also with Jackson Rathbone, Sung Kang, Henry Ian Cusick, Tzi Ma, Elizabeth Sung, and Lauren Sweetser.
Ratchet & Clank (PG) The video-game series that introduced whimsical humor to the medium becomes only a mildly engaging animated movie about a space creature and a defective sentient robot (voiced by James Arnold Taylor and David Kaye) who team up to stop a supervillain (voiced by Paul Giamatti) from destroying the galaxy. The filmmakers can’t seem to make the game’s humor translate — a gun that turns enemies into sheep is a lot less fun in a movie than it is in a game where you can use it. Basically, this is a 94-minute commercial for the game’s latest version that just came out. You’re better off staying home and playing that game. Additional voices by John Goodman, Rosario Dawson, Bella Thorne, Jim Ward, Armin Shimerman, and Sylvester Stallone.
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.
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.
April and the Extraordinary World (PG) This English-dubbed animated steampunk movie from France is about a little girl (voiced by Angela Galuppo) who goes searching for her parents after they become the latest in a wave of disappeared scientists. Additional voices by Tony Hale, Paul Giamatti, J.K. Simmons, and Susan Sarandon.
Louder Than Bombs (R) Jesse Eisenberg stars in this film by Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st) as a young man grappling with the legacy left behind by his war photographer mother (Isabelle Huppert). Also with Gabriel Byrne, Amy Ryan, Devin Druid, Ruby Jerins, and David Strathairn.