Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language
Stars: Paula Patton, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott
Determined not to be the only woman in her family not to marry, a flight attendant (Patton) logs 30,000 miles in 30 days to check out ex-boyfriends as prospects. David E. Talbert (“A Fool and His Money”) wrote and directed the comedy.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2
Rated PG for mild rude humor
Stars: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Andy Samberg
The young inventor who made it rain meatballs in the 2009 original (Hader) returns to his hometown when he learns his food machine is now producing menacing food-animal hybrids. Cody Cameron (“Open Season 3”) and Kris Pearn co-directed the animated family comedy.
Rated R for strong graphic sexual material and dialogue throughout, nudity, language and some drug use
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
A young New Jersey lady’s man finds that unrealistic expectations from pornography (Gordon-Levitt) are standing in the way of happiness with his true love (Johansson). Gordon-Levitt also wrote and directed the comedy-drama.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Stars: Catherine Frot, Arthur Dupont, Jean d’Ormesson
The story of Daniele Delpeuch (Frot), an unknown regional cook who became the personal chef of French President Francois Mitterand — and the first woman ever to hold that post. Christian Vincent (“The Children”) directed the drama.
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde
Director Ron Howard’s great strength has always been his ability to orchestrate emotions while telling involving stories, but he’s stripped those narrative gears somewhat with this disappointing racetrack saga. The legendary rivalry between 1970s Formula 1 racers James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Brühl) was tailor-made for the movies, concluding as it did with a neck-and-neck showdown for the world championship. Yet there’s a strange quality of emotional detachment to “Rush,” combined with occasional confusion as the story jumps back and forth over time from race to nearly identical race, that prevents it from crossing the finish line in the expected blaze of glory. It doesn’t help that both of the main characters are hard to warm to, despite strong performances. All in all, Howard’s previous pedal-to-the-metal movie, his 1977 debut with “Grand Theft Auto,” was a lot more fun.
Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard
This grim, unnervingly suspenseful thriller wastes no time getting to its central moral dilemma. After his little girl is abducted and the initial suspect (Paul Dano as a vacant-eyed young man with the IQ of a 10-year-old) is released by police for lack of evidence, an enraged father (Jackman in a career-best performance) kidnaps him, takes him to an abandoned house and subjects him to tortures straight out of Abu Ghraib. Director Denis Villeneuve (Oscar nominated for 2010’s “Incendies”) delivers a complex and well-executed mystery that works equally well as a character study of the increasingly conflicted father (a devout Christian) and of the misleadingly mild-mannered detective assigned to the case (Gyllenhaal, also excellent), who has rage issues of his own. Most of all, though, “Prisoners” is intent on raising some of the same questions posed by “Zero Dark Thirty” about whether or not extreme means are justified by a crucially important end.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing war images, thematic elements and smoking
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal
The life of Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger certainly makes a fascinating story, but it’s only partially revealed by this superficial and ultimately disappointing documentary. In a sense, screenwriter Shane Salerno (“Savages,” “Shaft”), who spent 10 years writing and directing this film, was beaten before he started. There’s very little film footage of the author, who withdrew from public life long, long ago. Also, Salinger’s two grown children refused to participate and his estate refused permission to use any of the author’s writings. As a result, Salerno is forced to tell a story based on hearsay, drawing on comments from people at best one step removed from Salinger’s private world. Worse, he’s forced to rely on cheesy dramatic re-creations such as a Salinger look-alike typing furiously on an empty stage. “Salinger” does present big news with the revelation that the author has arranged for the posthumous publication of five new books beginning in 2015, though the only proof Salerno offers is verification by two unnamed sources.
Rated PG for thematic elements, brief mild language and smoking
Stars: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani
There’s a lot more going on in this first feature film from Saudi Arabia, where movie theaters are still banned, than the deceptively simple story of a girl who’s willing to do just about anything to buy her first bicycle. Even if that were all there was to it, though, “Wadjda” would still be a must-see. Female writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour finds a sneakily innocuous way to address the severe constraints placed on women in Saudi society with the story of 10-year-old Wadjda (Mohammed), a rebellious spirit who wears high-top sneakers under her abaya. She dreams of buying a beautiful green bike so she can race her friend Abdullah (Al Gohani), despite girls being strongly discouraged, if not quite forbidden, to ride them. It’s possible to discern grim undertones in this generally light and upbeat film, because while Wadjda pursues her vision of freedom, the restricting conventions of society are closing in on her. Yet the film’s young star, whose mischievous performance is a pure delight, conveys the impression that, come what may, Wadjda will be just fine.
BATTLE OF THE YEAR
Rated PG-13 for language and some rude behavior
Stars: Josh Holloway, Josh Peck, Caity Lotz
After 15 years of Americans failing to win an international hip-hop dance battle, a group of friends decide to do their patriotic duty by regaining the title. Directed by Benson Lee (“Planet B-Boy”).
THANKS FOR SHARING
Rated R for language and some strong sexual content
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad
With sex addiction emerging as a topic recently in edgier films like “Shame” and “Choke,” it’s no surprise to see it show up in a comparatively safe, mainstream, dramedy like this directorial debut for screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (“The Kids are All Right”). “Thanks for Sharing” is fairly conventional stuff, with its characters following neat little arcs of crisis, disaster and redemption — though their issues are a bit more scandalous than usual. This must be the first major movie in which a character reaches a crucial turning point after being caught trying to film up his boss’s skirt with a shoe camera. Ruffalo nervously initiates his first post-sobriety relationship with Paltrow, Robbins contends with his past in the form of a former-junkie prodigal son (Patrick Fugit), and newbie Gad finds the best way to leave his past as a subway groper behind is to help addict (pop singer Pink in her movie debut) with her problems. Then it’s talk, talk, talk, for the most part, as they face their assorted demons.
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
Stars: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine
Fans of lean, mean, testosterone-steeped sci-fi action are likely to find “Riddick” a blast — even though it offers few surprises. “This ain’t nothing new” is one of the first statements uttered by the inter-planetary anti-hero (Diesel, back for his third installment in the series), when he finds he’s once again stranded and forced to fight for his life on an unnamed desert planet inhabited only by carrion birds, hyena-wolf hybrids and amphibious scorpion-serpent monsters. In other words, just his kind of hangout. Writer/director David Twohy throws in enough entertaining touches, as Riddick whittles down two teams of mercenaries hoping to collect the price on his head — and a fair amount of unexpected humor. In a movie like this, it never hurts to mix a little gratuitous comedy in with the gratuitous nudity and gore.
Rated R for violence, language and brief sexuality
Stars: Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Pfeiffer
A mafia boss (De Niro) who has testified against the mob is relocated with his family to a sleepy town in France under the protection of a CIA agent (Jones). Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element,” “The Professional”) directed the crime comedy.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey
The evil spirits who attempted to posses a comatose young boy in the 2010 original continue to plague the Lambert family. James Wan (“The Conjuring,” “Saw”) directed the horror.
Rated: Rfor violence and pervasive language
Stars: Liam Hemsworth, Emma Roberts, Dwayne Johnson
Two childhood friends (Hemsworth and Roberts) planning to rob an armored car depository must first deal with a New York City police officer who stands in their way. Dito Montiel (“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”) directed the crime drama.
Rated: R for language and brief violence
Stars: Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Jim Broadbent
We don’t get to see or hear the massive explosion that opens this complex courtroom/political thriller — only the tense moments leading up to it. Mainly because “Closed Circuit” isn’t a movie about stuff getting blown up. It’s a movie about the dramatic complications that follow. After a terrorist bombing that kills 120 people in London, two embittered hostile former lovers (Bana and Hall) on the defense team are forced into a dangerous situation after uncovering evidence of a government cover-up. Intelligent, increasingly suspenseful and full of bitter plot twists, this is one of those films where few of the characters are likable, but just about everyone is interesting enough to make that irrelevant. Especially since about half of them stand an equal chance of being killed at any given moment.
Rated: PG-13 for intense action, violence and mayhem throughout, some rude gestures, and language
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez, Jon Voight, Rebecca Budig
Even if car-crash movies are your cotton candy and you’re about to blow a gasket waiting for the next installment of “Fast and Furious,” don’t be tempted by this pointless exercise in high-speed ridiculousness. Failed race-car driver Brent Magna (Hawke, who should have been scared away as soon as he read that name in the script) is trying to start a new life in Bulgaria (yes, Bulgaria) when he’s given an ultimatum by a mysterious villain (Voight): Do as he’s told or his kidnapped wife will die. Soon, Magna’s racing through the streets of Sofia in a souped-up Mustang with a million police in pursuit and the car’s tough-talking, computer-genius, nefarious-scheme-foiling teenage owner (former Disney star Gomez) bickering with him in the front seat. That might have been fun if “Getaway” had been made with style and a tongue-in-cheek sensibility — or if it delivered the thrills it appears to promise. Unfortunately, it’s 90 minutes of drive, bicker, crash and crash, bicker, drive, with a handful of explosions to break the monotony.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, some smoking, brief drug use and language
Stars: Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Jin Zhang
Despite its dazzling pedigree and its visual splendor, “The Grandmaster” simply doesn’t get the job done, either as a biographical drama or a martial arts saga. It might be worth looking into, however, as a potent cure for insomnia. Directed by the celebrated Chinese auteur Kar Wai Wong (“Chungking Express,” “Ashes of Time”), with star performances by Leung (“In the Mood for Love”) and Zhang (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and action choreography by Yuen Woo-ping (“The Matrix”), “The Grandmaster” is an epic attempt to tell the life story of Ip Man — the Wing Chun master best known here as the mentor of Bruce Lee. The idea, apparently, was to place less emphasis on kung fu action and more on tragic drama. Unfortunately, after being cut by half, “The Grandmaster” provides just enough information to keep us frustrated while lulling us into somnolence with long, searching close-ups and far too much slow-motion — particularly in the infrequent martial-arts sequences.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US
Rated: PG for mild language
Stars: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson
The mega-popular British boy band looks back on its meteoric rise. Morgan Spurlock (“Supersize Me”) directed the documentary.
THE WORLD’S END
Rated: R for pervasive language including sexual references
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman
The third film in writer/star Simon Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright’s trilogy of wild, action-centric genre spoofs (after 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead” and 2007’s “Hot Fuzz”) ably sends up the sort of alien sneak attack best exemplified by “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” But the most interesting thing about it is the way it makes dredging up thepast much more harrowing. Pegg plays Andy King, a developmentally delayed 40-something layabout, who decides to reunite with his old high-school mates for the epic pub crawl they failed to complete in 1990. Though frequently funny, “World’s End” is surprisingly dark, given that Andy’s old pals are now responsible, middle-aged men who regard him with varying degrees of pity and/or disdain. And that they’re all more or less unhappy with how their lives have turned out, disillusioned by the world in general and soured on the future. Alien invaders are really the least of their worries.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action, and some suggestive content
Stars: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Robert Sheehan
There’s nothing in this first adaptation of novelist Cassandra Clare’s six-book fantasy adventure series that hasn’t been seen before, the author having swiped big hunks of plot from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Twilight” along with a certain well-known shocking revelation from the “Star Wars” saga. But everything chugs along briskly and reasonably entertainingly until running off the rails a bit with a wildly over-complicated finale. Collins is appealing as 15-year-old Clary, who discovers she is in reality a Shadowhunter, a hereditary half-angel/half-human clan devoted to fighting demons and maintaining the cosmic balance of good and evil. Though her attention is somewhat distracted by a love triangle involving her boy BFF Simon (Sheehan) and Jace (“Twilight” veteran Bower), a blonde, bad-boy Shadowhunter in low-slung leather pants.
THE WORLD’S END
Rated: R for pervasive language including sexual references
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman
The third film in writer/star Simon Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright’s trilogy of wild, action-centric genre spoofs (after 2004’s “Shaun of the Dead” and 2007’s “Hot Fuzz”) ably sends up the sort of alien sneak attack best exemplified by “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” But the most interesting thing about it is the way it makes dredging up the past seem much more harrowing. Pegg plays Andy King, a developmentally delayed 40-something layabout, who decides to reunite with his old high-school mates and have another go at the epic pub crawl they failed to complete in 1990. Though it’s frequently funny, “World’s End” is also surprisingly dark, given that Andy’s old pals are now responsible, middle-aged men who regard him with varying degrees of pity and/or disdain. And that they’re all more or less unhappy with the way their lives have turned out, disillusioned by the world in general and not looking forward to the future. Alien invaders are really the least of their worries.
Rated: R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Stars: Nicolas Tucci, Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg
This low-budget, shot-on-video, no-thrills throwback to the slasher movies of the late-’70s and ’80s is basically a cavalcade of old-school, straight-ahead, skull-splitting, throat-slashing, brain-bashing splatter. It’s got just enough plot twists and twisted humor to elevate it, slightly, above the level of mindless slaughter. The kills — a dozen or so spread out over the 95-minute running time — get under way as a trio of psychos in cute animal masks rudely interrupt a family reunion at an isolated country mansion with machetes, axes and crossbows. The reason all this is happening, revealed halfway through the attack, ups the suspense ante somewhat. But the only really interesting development is that one of the girlfriends at the celebration (Australian actress Vinson) turns out to have been raised in a survivalist compound (no kidding), where she picked up a skill set that enables her to fight back. With extreme psycho-killing prejudice.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
Rated PG for fantasy action violence, some scary images and mild language
Stars: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Douglas Smith
The modern-day, half-mortal, teenage son of Poseidon (Logan Legman, looking appropriately half-embarrassed) gets suckered into another insanely dangerous quest—this time to the Bermuda Triangle in search of the Golden Fleece. Unfortunately, insanely dangerous barely translates to even mild excitement in this tepid second adaptation from the best-selling, mythology-raiding young-adult novel series. The big action set -pieces fizzle for the most part. And that’s not good for a fantasy adventure movie. Especially when the fantasy component is frequently undercut by sub-standard special effects.
RatedPG for some mild action and rude humor
Stars: Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Cleese, Val Kilmer
Disney intended this low-flying “Cars” knockoff to be released direct to DVD (produced by the same sequels unit that turned out “The Lion King 1 ½,” “Bambi II,” “Cinderella III,” etc.) and it certainly plays that way. Mildly enjoyable, but second rate in all particulars, “Planes” is the story of Dusty Clodhopper (Cook), a small-town crop duster who gets the chance to live his dream of competing against the world’s fastest propeller-driven racers in an around-the-world rally. You can pretty much imagine most of what’s going to happen, from Dust’s crash-course training in high-speed flying with a crusty old mentor plane, to the dirty tricks employed by obnoxious champion racer, to the photo-finish finale. It’s the sort of thing you can snooze through with no loss, in other words, if you wind up taking a tyke to see this one at a multiplex. But you’re hereby advised to wait until this one winds up where it belongs after a month or two, pop it into a player and find something better to do for 92 minutes.