Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (PG) Dav Pilkey’s children’s books are turned into an animated film about two troublesome schoolkids (voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas MIddleditch) who hypnotize their principal (voiced by Ed Helms) into thinking he’s a superhero. Additional voices by Jordan Peele, Nick Kroll, Kristen Schaal, Brian Posehn, and DeeDee Rescher. (Opens Friday)
Churchill (PG) Brian Cox stars in this biography as the British prime minister in the 48 hours before the D-Day invasion. Also with Miranda Richardson, John Slattery, Ella Purnell, Julian Wadham, and James Purefoy. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Dean (PG-13) Demetri Martin stars in his own comedy as a man trying to prevent his father (Kevin Kline) from selling the family home after his mother’s death. Also with Gillian Jacobs, Christine Woods, Kate Berlant, and Mary Steenburgen. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
God of War (NR) This Chinese period film stars Zhao Wenzhuo as a 16th-century general tasked with wiping out the Japanese pirates along the Chinese coast. Also with Sammo Hung, Regina Wan, Timmy Hung, Liu Junxiao, Michael Tong, Wang Ban, and Yasuaki Kurata. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Recall (R) This science-fiction thriller stars Wesley Snipes as a mysterious man who must lead five friends through the woods when aliens invade Earth. Also with RJ Mitte, Jedidiah Goodacre, Niko Pepaj, Hannah Rose May, Elisha Kriis, and Vicellous Shannon. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
3 Idiotas (PG-13) This Spanish-language comedy stars Martha Higareda, Alfonso Dosal, and Christian Vazquez as three college friends who try to discover the fate of a schoolmate who disappeared on graduation day. Also with Vadhir Derbez, German Valdez, Sebastián Zurita, and Paulina Dávila. (Opens Friday)
Vincent N Roxxy (R) Emile Hirsch and Zoë Kravitz star in this thriller as two misfits in love who are dogged by violence as they go on the run. Also with Zoey Deutch, Emory Cohen, Scott Mescudi, and Beau Knapp. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Wonder Woman (PG-13) Gal Gadot stars as the comic-book superheroine who leaves her island home to fight a threat from Nazis. Also with Chris Pine, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis, Doutzen Kroes, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Danny Huston. (Opens Friday)
Alien: Covenant (R) A big pile of eh. Ridley Scott returns to the series with an installment that supposedly focuses on horror instead of the backstory like Prometheus did. The trouble is, his horror-movie instincts seem to have deserted him here. The xenomorphs have no new dangers to reveal, and since the events here are taking place before the story of the first Alien movie, we know that the humans can’t just kill all the aliens. The crew members are underwhelming, with Katherine Waterston failing to impress in the lead role and Michael Fassbender playing two lookalike androids and managing not to be interesting as either one. Even Danny McBride gets few opportunities to wisecrack as a Stetson-wearing pilot. The most wrongheaded of the Alien films at least gave you something to think about. This one has nothing. Also with Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Callie Hernandez, and uncredited cameos by James Franco, Guy Pearce, and Noomi Rapace.
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (NR) Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Baahubali: The Beginning. The sequel is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, and you can see why in its spectacular crowd scenes that dwarf anything I’ve seen from an Indian film. It also has some cheesy special effects and a climactic battle sequence that’s frankly rather silly, but on the whole, this 167-minute epic goes down fairly smoothly. Prabhas stars as a prince of an ancient kingdom in India who gives up his crown to marry the woman he loves (Anushka Shetty), only to watch his brother (Rana Daggubati) become a cruel dictator as king. All in all, this movie gives you tons of attractive Indian stars emoting, singing, and pulling up trees as they fight one another. Also with Tamannaah Bhatia, Ramya Krishnan, Nassar, and Sathyaraj.
Baywatch (R) Is there an actor around who’s better at playing dumb than Zac Efron? He brings his act to this big-screen version of the 1990s babes-and-bikinis TV show as a disgraced Olympic swimming champion who joins the lifeguard corps and winds up helping bust a crime ring, protesting all the while (as no one did on the show) that it’s a job for the police. The comedy here is more self-aware than that dopey TV program and Efron’s comic interplay with Dwayne Johnson as the head of Baywatch is good, but the women are eye candy once again, even Priyanka Chopra as the villain. Also with Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Rob Huebel, Hannibal Buress, Oscar Nuñez, David Hasselhoff, and Pamela Anderson.
Beauty and the Beast (PG) Emma Watson fits the Disney princess role like it was made for her, which is the more remarkable because we know it wasn’t. This live-action remake of the 1991 animated Disney musical is still a mixed bag, though. Screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos insert some feminist touches around the edges when they needed a radical refocusing of the script to make the romance look less like Stockholm syndrome. Director Bill Condon can’t bring any new life to the famous numbers. This movie does get better singing from its supporting cast than the original film, with Luke Evans looking liberated in the role of the narcissistic meathead Gaston and Josh Gad matching him well as his gay toady. Watson is a cooling vocal presence who doesn’t hit the dizzying highs of other recent singing actresses from Disney films. She does stately as well as anyone, but she was made to do more interesting things. Also with Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Hattie Morahan, Kevin Kline, and Emma Thompson.
Berlin Syndrome (R) This thriller adapted from Melanie Joosten’s novel stars Teresa Palmer as an Australian woman who hooks up with a handsome new acquaintance in Berlin (Max Riemelt), only to discover the next morning that he’s holding her prisoner in his apartment. German-Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland has made some terrific films about teenage girls (Lore, Somersault), but she seems somewhat adrift with a main character who’s more settled. She has neither the instincts of a thriller director nor the ability to infuse the long hours of captivity with lyricism the way Lenny Abrahamson did in Room. The film still has Palmer’s quiet luminescence and some neatly turned sequences, but Shortland and the material seem a bad fit. Also with Lucie Aron, Matthias Habich, and Emma Bading.
Born in China (G) The latest Disney nature documentary doesn’t deviate from the template of the others, following the lives of a snow leopard, a giant panda, and a golden monkey, all living in different parts of China. The shots of the wildlife are gorgeous, but the movie discreetly cuts away from any bloodshed that the carnivores inflict, and the cutesy narration by John Krasinski will make you want to wipe out all the wild animals on the planet. You’re better off going to YouTube to observe the creatures that live in this far-off land.
The Boss Baby (PG) This watchable and instantly forgettable animated film is about a boy (voiced by Miles Bakshi) who discovers that his new suit-and-tie-wearing baby brother (voiced by Alec Baldwin) is secretly an operative for the corporation that makes babies who’s undercover to save his company from losing market share to puppies. The bizarre conceit is taken from Marla Frazee’s children’s book, and the filmmakers (including Tom McGrath, the director of the Madagascar movies) can’t make it any less so. There’s one clever reference to Baldwin’s role in Glengarry Glen Ross, and that’s it for the wit on display here. This isn’t anywhere as bad as it could have been, but it still needed to be better. Additional voices by Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, James McGrath, and Tobey Maguire.
The Case for Christ (PG) Marginally better than other Christian films. Mike Vogel portrays Lee Strobel, the real-life Chicago investigative journalist who looked into Christianity after his wife (Erika Christensen) started going to church and wound up converting from atheism to Christianity. The procedural nature of this story helps dry it out and keep it from some of the excesses of other movies preaching to the converted. The movie’s early 1980s setting looks right, but director Jon Gunn can’t build this up to any sort of dramatic climax. Also with Robert Forster, Frankie Faison, Kevin Sizemore, L. Scott Caldwell, and Faye Dunaway.
The Circle (PG-13) The biggest disappointment of the spring. Emma Watson stars in this thriller as a California woman who gets her dream job at a Silicon Valley tech firm before she discovers that the CEO (Tom Hanks) is planning to subject everyone in the world to round-the-clock surveillance to force them into good behavior. Watson is loose and funny, Hanks nails the warm and fatherly bad guy part, and the late Bill Paxton shines in his last screen performance as the heroine’s MS-afflicted dad, but the movie shares flaws with the Dave Eggers novel that it’s based on, and James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour) directs this too smoothly, failing to conjure the paranoid atmosphere that this needs. Tech’s real-life dangers have outstripped the ones in this movie. Also with John Boyega, Ellar Coltrane, Karen Gillan, Nate Corddry, Ellen Wong, Patton Oswalt, Judy Reyes, and Glenne Headly.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (PG) Jason Drucker takes over the role of Greg Heffley as the series based on Jeff Kinney’s books reboots. Also with Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott, Charlie Wright, Owen Asztalos, and Dylan Walters.
Drone (NR) Sean Bean stars in this thriller as a U.S. drone pilot who is stalked by a widowed Pakistani doctor (Patrick Sabongui) seeking retribution for his family’s death. Also with Mary McCormack, Joel David Moore, Bradley Stryker, and Sharon Taylor.
Everything, Everything (PG-13) Nicola Yoon’s YA novel about a teenage girl whose immunodeficiency disorder forces her to spend her life indoors becomes this intermittently inspired film starring Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) as a girl who falls in love via text message with the cute guy (Nick Robinson) who moves in next door. The physical separation leads to some nice little touches in the early going by director Stella Meghie, but she loses her spark when the heroine risks her life to travel to Hawaii and the two lovers are finally together. As teen romances go, this one could have done with a bit fewer hearts and flowers and a bit more adversity. The big revelation in this story is some kind of messed-up. Also with Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, Danube Hermosillo, and Sage Brocklebank.
The Fate of the Furious (PG-13) Why do I get the sense that they’re running out of things to do? Maybe the next installment will have the crew fighting the zombie apocalypse in space. For now, the racers have to fight against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who has improbably been turned to the dark side by a dragon lady cyberterrorist (Charlize Theron) who spends way too much time talking about her philosophy of life. Actually, everybody spends too much time talking, and dialogue has never been the series’ strong suit. There’s one nice sequence through the streets of Manhattan when the villain turns every car into a self-driving car, but the climactic sequence in polar Russia with the cars being chased down by a submarine is just silly. Also with Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Luke Evans, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, and Helen Mirren.
Gifted (PG-13) Not great art, but the acting keeps this dramedy just on this side of watchable. Chris Evans stars as a Florida boat repairman who’s raising his 7-year-old niece (Mckenna Grace) when word of her mathematical genius leaks out and he gets into a custody battle over the girl with his mathematician mother (Lindsay Duncan). Essentially, this is the plot of Little Man Tate all over again. The thing threatens to drown in sentimentality in the second half, but Evans’ customary low-key excellence and Grace’s bright incisiveness keep the thing above water. Evans also gets a nice romantic subplot with Jenny Slate’s first-grade teacher, as the two actors were a couple at the time of filming. Also with Octavia Spencer, Michael Kendall Kaplan, John M. Jackson, Glenn Plummer, John Finn, and John Sklaroff.
Going in Style (PG-13) A jittery criminal asks Michael Caine if he’s five-oh. He says, “We’re practically eight-oh.” If you find that hilarious, then this comedy that’s even more toothless than the senior citizens populating it is for you. Caine co-stars with Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as laid-off New York City steelworkers who decide to rob the bank that’s dissolving their pensions and leaving them with nothing. I don’t know for sure if director Zach Braff (Garden State) took this as a paycheck job, but I do know it feels that way. His distinctive visual sense is nowhere in evidence, and even his sense of comic timing has deserted him. Hell or High Water, this isn’t. Also with Ann-Margret, John Ortiz, Joey King, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Serafinowicz, Kenan Thompson, Maria Dizzia, Josh Pais, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and Matt Dillon.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (PG-13) More goes right than wrong in this sequel, in which our band of ragtag space rogues crash-land on a distant planet that’s sentient, can take human form (Kurt Russell), and happens to be the long-lost father of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt). There’s tons more funny business, some involving baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) dancing and bringing the wrong items to Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) as they’re trying to break out of prison. I just wish the sequel had retained more of the original’s caper feel instead of making all its characters go through some hackneyed emotional arc — our Star-Lord was more fun as a common thief than as a guy with superpowers and daddy issues. Still, enough of the original’s jokey spirit remains to prime you for the third mix. Also with Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen GIllan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Chris Sullivan, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Sylvester Stallone, and an uncredited David Hasselhoff.
Half Girlfriend (NR) Arjun Kapoor stars in this romantic film about an Indian man who can’t get his girlfriend (Shraddha Kapoor) to commit to him. Also with Anisa Butt, Seema Biswas, Vikrant Massey, and Adam Davenport.
How to Be a Latin Lover (PG-13) Mexican comedy superstar Eugenio Derbez has acted in English before, but this is the first English-language movie that he has starred in. He plays a trophy husband who gets ditched by his 80-year-old wife (Renée Taylor) for a younger man and has to learn how to make a living while moving in with his sister (Salma Hayek) and her science-nerd son (Raphael Alejandro). The story takes wearisomely predictable turns, and yet the change in language has done little to disrupt Derbez’ sense of comic timing or his gifts as a clown. With better material, he could make some noise on our side of the border. Watch for Kristen Bell’s cameo as an insanely cheerful yogurt shop manager who lives with about 50 cats. Also with Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Mckenna Grace, Vadhir Derbez, Linda Lavin, and Michael Cera.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) Some neat montages and a couple of cool visuals can’t put the fun into Guy Ritchie’s take on the English legend, which stars Charlie Hunnam as a London street kid who discovers that his father was actually the king (Eric Bana) who was murdered by his usurping brother (Jude Law). Ritchie throws in 100-foot battle elephants and manages to make Excalibur seem like a magical sword, but undistinguished performances and fight sequences can’t lift this thing from the stone. Also with Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Craig McGinley, Tom Wu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Peter Ferdinando, Michael McElhatton, and an uncredited David Beckham.
The Lovers (R) Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star in this comedy as a longtime married couple who start cheating on their extramarital lovers with each other. Also with Aidan Gillen, Melora Walters, and Jessica Sula.
Lowriders (PG-13) Demián Bichir acts the living crap out of this formulaic drama as the head of an East L.A. car club who has fathered one son who’s an ex-convict (Theo Rossi) and another who wants to be an artist (Gabriel Chavarria). The younger son’s struggle to break free of his dad’s garage is so much stuff we’ve seen before, and the character’s voiceover narration is clumsier than clumsy. Still, director Ricardo de Montreuil lets us appreciate the work that goes into building lowrider cars and Bichir’s turn as a tormented recovering alcoholic who can’t get through to his sons jump-starts the proceedings whenever they threaten to flag. Also with Tony Revolori, Melissa Benoist, Yvette Monreal, Montse Hernandez, Noel Guglielmi, Franck Khalfoun, and Eva Longoria.
96 Souls (NR) This horror film stars Grinnell Morris as a research scientist whose lab accident causes him to see other people’s thoughts. Also with Sid Veda, Paul Statman, Toyin Moses, J. Michael Silver, Rob Locke, and Melanie Sutree.
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (PG-13) This comic tragedy takes neat turns. Richard Gere exudes needy desperation as a self-styled Jewish business consultant who buys a pair of shoes for a lowly Israeli politician (Lior AshkenazI) to cheer him up. When the politician becomes Israeli prime minister three years later, Norman cashes in but also crashes and burns. Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar brings the same marvelous cleverness to his first American film as he did to his Oscar-nominated Footnote, and Gere makes this pathetic hustler a palpable presence in his craving for the approval of the rich and powerful and his pitiable lack of cool. Also with Steve Buscemi, Michael Sheen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Josh Charles, Ann Dowd, Jonathan Avigdori, Yehuda Almagor, Neta Riskin, Harris Yulin, Hank Azaria, and Dan Stevens.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (PG-13) The same goes for dead franchises. Much like its three predecessors, the fifth film in the series goes madly in circles as it brings on a new pair of young lovers (Kaya Scodelario and the flavorless Brenton Thwaites) to join Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he’s pursued by an undead Spanish captain (Javier Bardem) seeking revenge on Jack for his death. The story is powered by rote action sequences and so much mumbo-jumbo about a magical gadget that controls the seas. It’s harder to laugh at Depp’s comic drunk act now, when you’re wondering whether it’s really an act. The Norwegian directing team of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg (Kon-Tiki) fail to bring anything in the way of originality to this. Also with Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Golshifteh Farahani, Paul McCartney, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley.
Smurfs: The Lost Village (PG) Marginally more watchable than the partially live-action films that have come before it, this wholly animated film features Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) leading an unauthorized expedition into the Forbidden Forest to get to a village of lost Smurfs before Gargamel (voiced by Rainn Wilson) gets to it. There’s a development that takes some (but not all) of the weirdness out of the fact that Smurfette is the only female in her village, but the jokes aren’t funny and the story’s emotional hooks don’t hook us. The best that can be said here is that Lovato is an upgrade on Katy Perry in her role. Additional voices by Michelle Rodriguez, Ariel Winter, Mandy Patinkin, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, and Julia Roberts.
Snatched (R) Amy Schumer plays another woman-child, and you get the uneasy feeling that she has a better handle on the type than the filmmakers do. She plays an American woman who goes through a bad breakup and decides to take her risk-averse mom (Goldie Hawn) with her to Ecuador, only for the two of them to be kidnapped by Colombians off the beaten path. The movie has too many funny actors not to yield the occasional wisecrack, but the temperamental match between Schumer and Hawn is wasted and nobody even bothers to ask whether this mother may have been the one who raised such dysfunctional kids. Schumer should get back to writing her own material. Also with Wanda Sykes, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman, Christopher Meloni, Óscar Jaenada, Randall Park, and Joan Cusack.
The Wall (R) This little gem by Doug Liman stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as an American soldier in Iraq who’s patrolling in the desert when he gets pinned down behind an unsteady brick wall by a sniper (Laith Nakli) while his comrade (John Cena) lies wounded out in the open. Taylor-Johnson pretty much owns the show as an ex-sniper with a tortured past who has to use his expertise against the enemy marksman, and the movie sports a few good twists, most notably when the main character seems to get into radio contact with his fellow Americans. For the director of Edge of Tomorrow and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, it’s proof that he can work on a small scale just as well.
Black Butterfly (R) Antonio Banderas stars in this thriller as a writer who goes to a secluded mountain cabin to write, unaware that the area has been hit by a serial killer. Also with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Piper Perabo, and Abel Ferrara.
Buena Vista Social Club: Adiós (PG) Seventeen years after Wim Wenders’ documentary, Lucy Walker returns to revisit the surviving jazz musicians and looks at their contributions to Cuba’s history.
Paris Can Wait (PG) Eleanor Coppola’s filmmaking debut stars Diane Lane as an American woman who drives from Budapest to Paris with her husband’s friend (Arnaud Viard). Also with Alec Baldwin.
A Quiet Passion (PG-13) The latest film by Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) stars Cynthia Nixon as the reclusive 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson. Also with Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff, Jodhi May, Emma Bell, Joanna Bacon, and Keith Carradine.
The Wedding Plan (PG) The latest film by Rama Burshtein (Fill the Void) stars Noa Koler as an Orthodox Jewish Israeli woman who refuses to cancel her wedding plans after her fiancé leaves her, confident that God will provide a husband before the wedding date. Also with Dafi Alferon, Oded Leopold, Ronny Merhavi, and Irit Sheleg.