★ ★ 1/2
Rated PG for thematic elements, some language and brief smoking images
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sarah Gadon, James Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson
There’s a lot of fascinating historical fact in this handsomely produced, Merchant Ivory-style period drama about a mixed-race young woman (Mbatha-Raw) occupying a complicated place in the family of an English lord (Wilkinson) famous for judicial decisions damaging to the 18th-century slave trade. Unfortunately, “Belle” ultimately disappoints by developing into a bogus romance, while simultaneously attempting to resolve the issue of slavery. Amma Asante (“A Way of Life”) directed the historical drama.
Rated PG for thematic elements including smoking images, and brief mild language
Stars: Michele Simon
TV journalist Katie Couric executive-produced this investigation into why more Americans continue to gain weight and become seriously ill because of their diet, despite increased awareness of the issue. Stephanie Soechtig (“Tapped”) directed the drama.
LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN
Rated PG for some scary images and mild peril
Stars: Lea Michele, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, Kelsey Grammer
If you’re going to make a movie with “Oz” in the title, you’d better be prepared to kick in at least a little inspiration. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what’s missing in this painfully unimaginative musical animated adventure. After briefly touching base in Kansas, Dorothy (Michele) is whisked back to Oz to rescue her friends and save the kingdom from the menacingly manic Jester (Short). Who’s more than a little reminiscent of a certain comic-book super villain whose name also begins with a J.
MOMS’ NIGHT OUT
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Stars: Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins
A lot of effort clearly went into making this wholesome, middle-class suburban-nightmare comedy as appealing for a broad general audience despite its religious agenda. But it’s hard to imagine anyone other than an audience of true believers feeling good about sitting through the increasingly aggravating “Moms’ Night Out,” especially when it finally gets around to driving home its moral and spiritual lessons. Sarah Drew of “Grey’s Anatomy” stars as a stressed young mom desperate for a night out with her compadres, but of course things don’t go according to plan. The initially pleasant comic mood shifts from stressed to frantic, then strident, overbearing and wearisome.
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and drug use throughout
Stars: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco
A couple with a newborn baby (Rogen and Byrne) have neighbor problems after being forced to move in next door to a frat house. Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) directed the comedy.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx
Just as Peter Parker is settling into a pleasant routine with the Spider-Man gig and his girlfriend Gwen (Stone), he’s menaced by the ultra-powerful Electro (Foxx). Marc Webb (“ Days of Summer”) directed the $200-million superhero sequel.
★ ★ ★ ½
Rated R for strong bloody violence, and language
Stars: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
Long after the violent death of his father, a meek, emotionally devastated homeless man (Blair) decides to seek revenge when the killer is released from prison. Jeremy Saulnier (“Murder Party”) wrote and directed the crime drama.
Rated R language throughout
Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson
Nine months after having sex one time with a woman he barely knows, a man (Hardy) makes a long drive to the hospital where she’s giving birth, destroying his career and his marriage along the way. Screenwriter Steven Knight (“Redemption”) directed the drama.
WALK OF SHAME
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Gillian Jacobs
After an impulsive one-night stand, a TV reporter (Banks) is stranded without a phone, car, ID or phone before the most important interview of her career. Steven Brill (“Drillbit Taylor”) wrote and directed the comedy.
Rated PG-13 for frenetic gunplay, violence and action throughout, language, sexual menace and drug material
Stars: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA
An undercover cop (the recently deceased Walker) recruits an ex-con (Belle) to help him take down a crime lord (RZA) operating in a walled-off section of Detroit. Editor Camille Delamarre (“Taken 2”) makes his directorial debut with the thriller.
★ ★ ½
Rated R for some sexual content, language and brief nudity
Stars: John Turturro, Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara
Woody Allen pimps out John Turturro with Sharon Stone as a customer in Turturro’s oddball comedy romance, among even wilder unlikelihoods, but if you can set stuff aside there are things to enjoy here. It’s also a bit strange that Turturro casts himself, un-ironically, as a lady’s man supreme, but never mind. The emphasis is on old-fashioned romance, with Allen providing the comedy in a role written for him, as an aging New Yorker who turns to procuring when he’s forced to close his bookstore, figuring his middle-aged florist friend has always had a knack with the ladies. He gets in considerable trouble when he decides to add a lonely Hasidic rabbi’s widow (Vanessa Paradis) to the client list.
THE OTHER WOMAN
Rated R some sexual references
Stars: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton
After discovering her boyfriend is married, a scorned woman (Diaz) plots revenge with his wife (Mann) and yet another girlfriend (Upton). Nick Cassavetes (“The Notebook”) directed the comedy.
THE QUIET ONES
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout
Stars: Jared Harris, Sam Clalfin, Olivia Cooke
A university professor (Harris) uncovers dark forces while conducting experiments on a young woman (Cooke) who believes she is possessed. John Pogue (“Quarantine 2”) directed the horror.
WALKING WITH THE ENEMY
Stars: Ben Kingsley, Jonas Armstrong, Hanna Tointon
A young man (Armstrong) who has been separated from his family during the Nazi invasion of Hungary disguises himself as an SS officer to find them. Mark Schmidt makes his directorial debut with the war drama.
Rated R for language, brief violence and nudity
Stars: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Tim Key
When a fired colleague (Meaney) holds everyone in their radio station hostage, a deejay (Coogan) exploits the situation for publicity. Declan Lowney (TV’s “Little Britain”) directed the comedy.
Stars: John C. Reilly
A year in the life of an Alaskan bear family is chronicled. Alistair Fothergill and Keith Scholey (“African Cats”) directed the Disney documentary.
A HAUNTED HOUSE 2
Rated R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violent images
Stars: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Cedric the Entertainer
After moving into a new dream house with a new girlfriend and her kids, a ghost-plagued guy (Wayans) endures more spectral shenanigans. Michael Tiddes return as director of the horror-comedy sequel.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
Rated R for language and brief nudity
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska
The centuries-long romance of a vampire couple (Swinton and Hiddleston) is disrupted by the arrival of her uncontrollable younger sister (Wasikowska). Jim Jarmusch (“Broken Flowers”) wrote and directed the horror drama.
THE RAILWAY MAN
★ ★ ★
Rated R for disturbing prisoner of war violence
Stars: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada
Though it’s handsomely made and very nicely acted, this frequently moving drama about a man tormented by his past doesn’t quite live up to potential in terms of ultimate emotional impact. Still, it’s a well story worth knowing. Firth is fine as English WWII vet Eric Lomax (the film is based on his memoir) who has been haunted for decades by memories of being tortured in a Japanese prison camp, until he finally has the chance to confront his interrogator (Sanada).
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Stars: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman
After being fatally wounded, a scientist uploads his consciousness onto a super-computer and becomes dangerously powerful. Cinematographer Wally Pfister (“The Dark Knight”) makes his directorial debut with the sci-fi drama.
★ ★ ½
Rated R for language and sexual references
Stars: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd
One of the best things about Simon Pegg sidekick Frost (“Shaun of the Dead,” etc.) is the suggestion that, deep down, an out-of-control beast is just waiting for the chance to get crazy. Unfortunately, in the mild, strictly formulaic dance romance “Cuban Fury,” Frost plays a repressed and apologetic type who more or less stays that way. After giving up his teenage dreams of salsa-dancing glory, Bruce lives a lonely lovelorn life until learning his attractive new boss (Jones) also loves to salsa — and decides to lace up his old dancing shoes. No surprises whatsoever, but a couple of decent laughs and a few charming moments make it okay.
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use.
Stars: Jude Law, Luca Franzoni, Richard Graham
After protecting his boss for 12 years by keeping his mouth shut in prison, safecracker Dom (Law) decides to collect some appreciation. Richard Shepard (“The Matador”) wrote and directed the crime comedy.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and sexual references
Stars: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner
Though mainly a baseball kind of guy (“Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams”) Costner acquits himself reasonably in this wannabe nail-biter about behind-the-scenes machinations leading up to the NFL draft. As the embattled general manager of the Cleveland Browns, he contends with a girlfriend (Garner) who announces she’s pregnant, a mom who wants to bury his dad’s ashes on the 50-yard line and other distractions while trying to decide whether or not to bet everything on a golden-boy first-round pick. Director Ivan Reitman (of “Ghostbusters” fame) emphasizes drama but uses a light touch trying to emulate the insider appeal of “Moneyball.”
Rated R for violence, disturbing material, language and some strong sexual content
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Heather Kafka
A tough ex-con (Cage) reluctantly takes an abused teenage boy (Sheridan) under his wing and faces dangerous consequences. David Gordon Green (“Prince Avalanche”) directed the drama.
Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff
A woman (Gillan) attempts to prove that supernatural forces are to blame after her brother is convicted of murder. Mike Flanagan (“Absentia”) co-wrote and directed the thriller.
ON MY WAY
Rated: No MPAA rating
Stars: Catherine Denueve, Nemo Schiffman, Gerard Garouste
An aging former beauty queen (Denueve) facing a divorce and a failing business, leaves work for a quick drive that turns into a cross-country road trip. Emmanuelle Bercot (“Backstage”) co-wrote and directed the comedy-drama.
UNDER THE SKIN
Rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Lynsey Taylor McKay
Heavy on gorgeous avant-garde visual style and non-narrative storytelling technique, this determinedly baffling sci-fi anti-thriller is strangely effective as a mood piece. It’s just a shame the dominant mood is monotony. Director Jonathan Glazer (who also made the much more compellingly weird “Sexy Beast”) has held onto one commercial trump card, however — the frequently disrobed Scarlett Johansson. She plays an affect-less interplanetary seductress named Laura, who picks up random Scottish men (filmed with hidden cameras) and lures them back to her lair to become alien snack food. Not nearly as much fun as it sounds.
CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.
Stars: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson
You can’t fault this high-energy/high-drama, follow-up for being unambitious since it ups the ante on both adrenaline-pumping action and factoring serious socio-political issues into the plot. Ultimately, it goes a bit too far and bogs down in both areas, but if you can factor that out, “Winter Soldier” is as impressive as it is entertaining. Evans returns as the anachronistically wholesome, old-fashioned World War II hero thawed out after 70 years on ice and faced with major new challenges: His ethical opposition to a S.H.I.E.L.D. involvement in grand-scale surveillance and drone warfare, and a Cold War Soviet super-assassin with whom he has personal history.
IN THE BLOOD
Rated R for strong violence and language
Stars: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Luis Guzman, Danny Trejo
Kidnappers mess with the wrong lady when they abduct the husband of a professional underground fighter (Carano). John Stockwell (“Turistas”) directed the action thriller.
ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Patricia Wright
Hundreds of species of Madagascar lemurs, now all endangered, are the subject of this IMAX 3D documentary, narrated by Freeman. Veteran cinematographer David Douglas (“Rolling Stones Live at the Max”) makes his feature directorial debut.
NYMPHOMANIAC: VOL. II
Rated: No MPAA rating
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Willem Dafoe
The sexual misadventures of a lifelong lust addict (Gainsbourg) continue in part two of the erotic drama by writer/director Lars von Trier (“Melancholia”).
Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity
Stars: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Rohan Chand
Guy Trilby, full-grown adult, (Bateman, also in his feature directing debut here) who decides to win the national spelling bee. He’s also seething with anger which he channels into morally reprehensible, socially unacceptable behavior and language just as bad. Kathryn Hahn is a plus as a neurotic reporter determined to discover his motivation, and so is Allison Janney, the spelling bee director. The film’s secret weapon is Rohan Chand as a young contestant who turns Guy into his mentor in questionable macho pursuits. “Bad Words” is a little too eager to please the hard-R crowd with extraneous rudeness and raunchy bits and a bit too cautious hinting at some justification for Guy’s meanness. But it definitely establishes Bateman as a director to watch.
Rated PG-13 for some violence and language
Stars: Michael Pena, Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich
This typically reverential biopic about civil rights icon Cesar Chavez doesn’t offer much more than a simplistic overview of his life and work. Even so, it’s welcome and long-overdue if only as a reminder of the prominent place he deserves in modern history. While it’s apparently true that he wasn’t the sort of firebrand usually associated with radical activism, it’s a little hard to know what to do with a class-struggle hero as mild and unassuming as the Chavez we see here (character actor Pena in a rare leading role). A little more passion, even at the risk of making him seem a little less saintly, might have helped.
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Stars: Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, Jeff Goldblum
Long after their honeymoon, a British couple (Broadbent, Duncan) return to Paris to rejuvenate their marriage. Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) directed the romance from a script by Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Launderette”).