The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (NR) Ron Howard’s documentary about the band during the years 1963-66. Starring Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Izzard, Richard Lester, and Sigourney Weaver. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Blair Witch (R) This sequel to the 1999 horror film stars James Allen McCune as a filmmaker who leads a crew into the Maryland woods searching for his vanished sister. Also with Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, and Valorie Curry. (Opens Friday)
Bridget Jones’s Baby (R) Renée Zellweger returns as the now 40-something London publishing executive as she discovers she’s pregnant. Also with Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Shirley Henderson, Sally Phillips, Dolly Wells, Enzo Cilenti, and Emma Thompson. (Opens Friday)
Hillsong: Let Hope Rise (PG) Michael John Warren directs this documentary about the Australian Christian band. (Opens Friday)
Kicks (R) Like the black version of Winter’s Bone, which is to say it’s excellent. Jahking Guillory plays a 14-year-old boy growing up in a poor neighborhood of the Bay Area when some local gangstas jump him and take his new $200 pair of Air Jordan 1s. Christopher Meyer and Christopher Jordan Wallace are his stoner pals whose amusement turns to worry and then outright horror when they see that their short-statured buddy whose voice hasn’t changed yet is willing to spill blood to get those shoes back. Director/co-writer Justin Tipping’s forays into surrealism aren’t the best, but he conveys the financial and emotional investment in those shoes that makes our pint-sized hero willing to pad all over the city in his mother’s bedroom slippers, and how the macho code of the streets has trapped him into taking action as much as it trapped the thug (Kofi Siriboe) who took his Jordans. This low-budget indie deserves far more publicity than it’s getting. Also with Mahershala Ali, Kyndall Ferguson, Dante Clark, Donté Clark, Molly Shaiken.(Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)
Max Rose (NR) Jerry Lewis stars in this drama as a jazz pianist who goes searching for the truth about his marriage after his wife’s death. Also with Kerry Bishé, Kevin Pollak, Illeana Douglas, Fred Willard, Claire Bloom, Rance Howard, Mort Sahl, and Dean Stockwell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mr. Church (PG-13) Eddie Murphy stars in this drama as a man hired as a cook to a dying woman who then becomes attached to her family. Also with Britt Robertson, Lucy Fry, Xavier Samuel, Madison Wolfe, Jenica Bergere, and Natascha McElhone. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)
The People Garden (NR) Dree Hemingway stars in this suspense film as a woman who travels to Japan to break up with her rock-star boyfriend (François Arnaud), only to find that he has disappeared from his video shoot in a forest known for suicides. Also with James Le Gros, Jai West, Liane Balaban, and Pamela Anderson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Silicon Cowboys (NR) Jason Cohen’s documentary traces the history of the Compaq computer. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine MIlls)
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. (Re-opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Wild Oats (PG-13) Jessica Lange and Demi Moore star as two best friends who go out on a trip after an errant insurance company check makes them rich. Also with Billy Connolly, Judd Hirsch, Howard Hesseman, Stephanie Beacham, and Shirley MacLaine. (Opens Friday)G
The Disappointments Room (R) There’s one thing worth seeing in this otherwise negligible horror film, a spectacular late scene when its troubled heroine (Kate Beckinsale, with her hair dyed a weird shade of blonde) has an ugly, drunken meltdown at a dinner party held on what would have been her dead child’s first birthday. Elsewhere, this supernatural thriller set at a large, isolated rural house that she and her family bought to get a fresh start gives us nothing truly scary, despite the creepy architectural explanation for the title. Also with Lucas Till, Duncan Joiner, Celia Weston, Marcia DeRousse, Michaela Conlin, Michael Landes, and Gerald McRaney.
Don’t Breathe (R) Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez re-teams with his star Jane Levy to make this rather good thriller about a small-time criminal who tries to get her younger sister away from their abusive mom and white-trash-hell Detroit by robbing a rich blind man (Stephen Lang), only to discover that he’s a ruthless killer. The characters’ emotional layers are brought up without being followed through on, but Alvarez builds up tension with some great sequences inside the blind man’s house, including one shot in total darkness, and a sickening one where he captures her and reveals what he intends to do with her. It’s not quite as good as 10 Cloverfield Lane, but it’s an excellent bet. Also with Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto.
Hell or High Water (R) A great Western. This contemporary thriller stars Ben Foster and Chris Pine as two West Texas brothers looking to save their family ranch by robbing the rural branches of the very bank that owns the mortgage on their place. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan wrote Sicario, but unlike that film, this one has a sense of humor and earns its moral ambiguity by counting up the cost of the brothers’ crime spree and having them stand to become wealthy if they can clear their debt. Jeff Bridges contributes a magnificent turn as a crusty old Texas Ranger who’s chasing the outlaws down, and the final confrontation between him and Pine is one you won’t soon forget. Also with Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Mixon, John-Paul Howard, and Dale Dickey.
Kubo and the Two Strings (PG) Not a masterpiece, but still remarkable. The latest stop-motion animated film by Laika Entertainment is about a homeless boy in ancient Japan (voiced by Art Parkinson) who embarks on a quest to find his father’s suit of armor. As Kubo’s guardians, Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey seem less than uncomfortable in their roles, and the comic relief that they’ve been given isn’t as fresh as in other Laika films. Still, the look of this film is inspired by the angles and corners of origami, and its extravagantly imaginative visual touches make it a feast for the eyes. Additional voices by Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, and Ralph Fiennes.
No Manches Frida (PG-13) The title translates as “WTF, Frida.” Omar Chaparro stars in this Mexican farce as a bank robber who gets out of prison and poses as a substitute teacher to dig up a stash of stolen cash buried under what’s now the gym at a rowdy middle school named after Frida Kahlo. Some funny bits come out of Chaparro’s performance and the ex-con’s prison-honed ideas about keeping order among the students, but mostly the story hits predictable notes about the convict finding a purpose and love with a nerdy fellow teacher (Martha Higareda). If you aren’t already a fan of Mexican comedies, there’s not much for you here. Also with Mónica Dionne, Rocio Garcia, Regina Pavón, Mario Morán, Pamela Moreno, and Fernanda Castillo.
Pete’s Dragon (PG) David Lowery turns the near-unwatchable partially animated 1977 Disney musical into a gem of a live-action fable. Oakes Fegley stars as an orphaned boy who survives in the woods with a dragon that he meets living there. The North Texas filmmaker takes a huge gamble by bringing out the dragon early, and his animators conjure a creature that can look cuddly or fierce as required. Lowery assimilates into the Disney house style without surrendering his unique qualities, drawing lyrical performances from his actors and never losing control of the fragile tone. His mastery is awe-inspiring; this filmmaker has all the tools he needs to become one of cinema’s greats. Also with Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Robert Redford.
Sully (PG) In the hands of a lesser lead actor, Clint Eastwood’s dramatization of airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger and his heroic efforts to save the passengers on his US Airways flight in 2009 would likely crash. Instead, Tom Hanks has great chemistry with his sardonic co-pilot (Aaron Eckhart), and Eastwood films Sullenberger’s water landing effectively. That’s good, because the script is full of expositional dialogue given to an overqualified supporting cast, and it derails trying to give sketches of the passengers Sully saves. Despite some bumps, the crew lands this thing safely. Also with Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Mike O’Malley, Jerry Ferrara, Holt McCallany, and Jamey Sheridan. — Steve Steward
War Dogs (R) Jonah Hill obliterates everything else on screen as a boorish, psychopathic 20-something guy from Miami who teams with a school friend (Miles Teller, reduced to straight man) to win a $300 million weapons contract from the U.S government to equip soldiers in Iraq. This story based on real life could have been a bristling war satire, but Todd Phillips directs this like it’s another sequel to The Hangover, replete with strippers, a trip to Vegas, and Bradley Cooper. Hill’s energy as a greed-head who thinks he’s bulletproof is the only genuine thing about this film that splashes about in the shallows. Also with Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub, Patrick St. Esprit, and Wallace Langham.
When the Bough Breaks (PG-13) Everything in this tedious thriller is ripped off from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle — the filmmakers don’t even bother stealing from a good movie. Morris Chestnut and Regina King play a successful couple who hire a pretty young surrogate (Jaz Sinclair) to bring their fertilized embryo to term, only to discover that she’s an insane stalker who wants the husband for herself. The film flirts with creativity by making it look the surrogate’s being controlled by an abusive boyfriend (Theo Rossi) early on, but that gets drowned out in the indifferent performances and direction here. Also with Romany Malco, Michael K. Williams, Glenn Morshower, and Tom Nowicki.