ALL IS LOST
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Stars: Robert Redford
At least there’s no Bengal tiger. That’s about the only break the unnamed hero gets, however, in this deeply affecting survival-at-sea drama. The 77-year-old Redford gives one of his best performances as the yachtsman struggling to keep his ship afloat after a crippling accident in the Indian Ocean, with ever-diminishing hopes for rescue. With one actor, one location, almost zero dialogue and minimal, old-school special effects, writer/director J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”) turns the man’s long ordeal into compelling drama as he keeps struggling through disaster after disaster. It’s the struggle that counts, “All is Lost” seems to be saying, and that’s a very personal matter. One that Redford expresses with a performance so personal it almost seems no performance at all.
ARGENTO’S DRACULA 3-D
No MPAA rating
Stars: Thomas Kretschmann, Asia Argento, Marta Gastini
The worst thing about the extraordinarily awful “Argento’s Dracula 3-D” is that it’s not quite eccentric enough to be unintentionally funny. It’s bad, make no mistake, jaw-droppingly bad. But it also seems to want to be taken seriously, even when that giant, cartoonish, paper-thin praying mantis comes creeping up the stairs. Directed by the ‘70s/’80s Italian horror-meister Dario Argento (“Suspiria”), “Dracula 3-D” is a surprisingly old-fashioned and flat-footed plod-through of the Bram Stoker classic. Despite occasional outbursts of gore and nudity, including a queasy-making ogle of the director’s daughter (frequently topless Euro-star Asia Argento) enjoying a sponge bath, tedium sets in quickly. And it doesn’t help that the whole production seems afflicted with terminal cheapness from the ookie-spooky score to the almost unbelievably lame computer-generated imagery, including the aforementioned over-sized insect — not only absurd, but smashed-flat 2-D.
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use
Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Spike Jonze, Georgina Cates
Octogenarian “Jackass” character Irving Zisman (Knoxville) makes a cross-country trip with his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Nicoll), trying to throw a shock into unsuspecting citizens along the way. Jeff Tremaine, director of all the “Jackass” hidden-camera stunt/prank films, returns.
Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz
A greedy attorney (Fassbender) finds that he’s gotten in over his head when he becomes involved in drug trafficking. Ridley Scott (“Prometheus”) directed the crime drama from novelist Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay.
12 YEARS A SLAVE
Rated R for violence/cruelty, some nudity and brief sexuality
Stars:Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch
An almost unimaginably harrowing depiction of slavery in the United States, “12 Years a Slave” is also an inspiring story of a man who refused to give in to despair despite extreme physical, emotional and spiritual suffering. In a profoundly affecting performance, a certain Best Actor contender, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped from Saratoga, N.Y. in 1841 and sold into slavery. “12 Years” is a showcase for a parade of white actors behaving abominably (especially Fassbender as a religious maniac plantation owner), but it’s the genuineness of Ejiofor’s performance, with its innumerable shadings of acute anguish, that gives film its devastating emotional impact. That and the terrible realism with which director Steve McQueen (“Shame”) presents the story’s nonstop cruelties.
Rated R for bloody violence, disturbing images, language and some sexual content
Stars: Julianne Moore, Chloe Grace Moretz
A cruelly mistreated teenage girl (Moretz), who has been abused by her religiously crazed mother (Moore), wreaks vengeance using telekinetic powers.
Rated R for violence and language throughout
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, 50 Cent
Sure, it’s fun to see the Governator and the Italian Stallion he-manning it up together feature length for the first time, but this dull prison break movie is unworthy of the momentous occasion. Stallone plays a consultant who’s hired to find flaws in prison security systems by busting out of them after being incarcerated. Not exactly nice work if you can get it, but it pays well. Things get out of hand, though, when he finds himself betrayed and locked away in a private super-hoosegow, with only one similarly aged, similarly muy-macho ally (Schwarzenegger).
THE FIFTH ESTATE
Rated R for language and some violence
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi
After exposing numerous corporate and government secrets in the interest of bringing the truth to light, the founders of Wikileaks (Cumberbatch, Bruhl) clash over how to handle a large number of particularly sensitive American intelligence documents.
Rated PG-13 for sustained intense sequences of menace, some violence with bloody images, and for substance use
Stars: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman
The captain (Hanks) of the U.S.-flagged MV Maersk Alabama contends with Somali pirates during the first hijacking of an American cargo ship in 200 years. Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy,” “United 93”) directed the fact-based drama.
ROMEO & JULIET
Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements
Stars: Hailee Steinfeld, Stellan Skarsgard, Paul Giamatti, Douglas Booth
It’s a pity, in the age of the casual hookup, that the “Romeo & Juliet” being served up to the present generation is, for the most part, such an overly pretty and artificial bore. From the first introduction of his two young leads (Steinfeld, Oscar-nominated for “True Grit,” and Booth), who stare at each other stricken with slow-motion, sparkly-eyed, love at first sight, this clichéd, excessively lavish doublet-and-hoser is a miserable chore to sit through — with the exception of a few strong supporting performances, especially Giamatti’s excellent turn as Friar Laurence. Shakespeare’s poetry also provides occasional compensation. This is an experience in exasperation that even seems to have affected Giamatti at one point, when he smacks the petulant Romeo on the side of the head — by far the film’s most satisfying moment.
No MPAA rating
Stars: Nicholas Winton, the Dalai Lama, Ben Abeles
In the 1930s, responding to a friend’s request for help, British stockbroker Nicholas Winton took it upon himself to rescue 669 children from pre-World War II Czechoslovakia and find homes for them in England. And he then told no one about what he had done until his wife accidentally discovered his old records in 1988 and alerted the BBC. Very much alive at age 104 and honored with a much-deserved knighthood, Winton presents his own modest perspective on the story in Matej Minac’s inspirational documentary — which also employs archival footage and dramatic reenactments to keep things lively. It’s the now-aged children he rescued, though, who offer the most moving testament to Winton’s good work, along with the remarkable fact that their descendants now number almost 6,000.
THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE
Rated R for language, some drug use and sexual content
Stars: Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright
Director George Tillman Jr. (“Soul Food,” “Men of Honor”) doesn’t shy away from gritty details in this drama about kids from the Brooklyn projects trying to survive on their own after their junkie prostitute mothers are arrested. But he also imbues it with warmth and occasional humor. Outwardly tough 13-year-old Mister and younger, much more naive Pete (Brooks and Dizon, both excellent) are forced to fend for themselves one summer if they want to avoid a dangerous public group home, which means begging, hustling and ultimately stealing. Tillman keeps the mood remarkably light, though, largely because Mister has a plan. An aspiring actor, he’s certain he’s going to be flying to Beverly Hills after an upcoming TV series audition. Yet, as the title suggests, this isn’t a fairy tale.
Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content
Stars: Danny Trejo, Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen
The U.S. government hires renegade Federali officer Machete (Trejo) to track down an arms dealer planning to launch a weapon into space. Robert Rodriguez (“Machete,” “Planet Terror”) directed the action thriller.
WHEN COMEDY WENT TO SCHOOL
No MPAA rating
Stars: Robert Klein, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, Larry King
It was a heck of a place to be a busboy, theold Catskills resorts, if you were an aspiring comedian. Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Lenny Bruce, Sid Caesar, narrator Robert Klein and Larry King (Larry King?) all gotstarted that way during the golden age of the Jewish resort area outside of New York. This mostly entertaining documentary works hard, sometimes too hard, to explain how and why the Catskills came to be, why it had a huge effect on American culture, and how it fit intothe history of Jewish humor in general — too often meandering away from its real drawing card, reminiscences and performance clips from the likes of the above plus Alan King, Dick Shawn, Rodney Dangerfield, Joan Rivers, Woody Allen and Jackie Mason. There’s no denying you’ll hear some good jokes, though.
No MPAA rating
Stars: Brian Tee, Hye-jeong Kang, Bobby Lee
A young ad exec (Tee, of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”) who’s fallen in love with a woman he met briefly in Korea (Kang), flies her home to meet his Korean-American folks and discovers she’s not quite as he remembered her. Christine Yoo directed the romantic comedy.
Rated R for language and some sexual content
Stars: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton
This remarkably lackluster pseudo-crime thriller deals out one cliché after another involving the seductive allure of smooth operators, fast money and questionable ethics — this time in the borderline-illegal world of online poker. Timberlake, who seems woefully out of place in the world of high stakes hustlers, plays a morally malleable Princeton grad student who gets caught up in the schemes of an at-first-seemingly-legit Internet gambling kingpin (Affleck), who of course turns out to be a major league crook complete with a proclivity for feeding his enemies to crocodiles. If you’re desperate for distraction a couple of months from now, this might be marginally rent-worthy, but otherwise, keep your chips stacked in front of you.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2
Rated PG for mild rude humor
Stars: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Will Forte, Andy Samberg
The gastronomically surreal shenanigans continue in this similarly hyperactive follow-up to the 2009 animated family comedy hit, but with one big difference. This time around, the laughs have mostly been left off the menu. What did the original “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” have that its sequel doesn’t? Well, basically, that would be writer/directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who went on to create the surprisingly hilarious 2012 comedy “21 Jump Street.” It’s feckless young inventor Flint (Hader) vs. his out-of-control food replicator again, this time contending with a seemingly ferocious assortment of food-animal hybrids — shrimp-anzees and the like. Not a “Chance” worth taking.
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 ladies’ man (Gordon-Levitt) finds that unrealistic expectations from pornography are standing in the way of happiness with his true love (Johansson). Gordon-Levitt also wrote and directed the comedy-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 PG-13 for brief strong language
Stars: Catherine Frot, Arthur Dupont, Jean d’Ormesson
If the dramatic content in this soufflé-light French biopic was as compelling as its menu highlights, it would be something savory indeed. Sadly, that’s not quite the case, though drool-worthy cameos by salmon-stuffed cabbage, truffles on toast, Sainte-Honore cake, etc., and a solid, stick-to-your-ribs lead performance by Catherine Frot (“The Page Turner”) manage to make it reasonably satisfying. Frot plays Hortense Laborie, a fictionalized version of the regional French cook who became French president Mitterand’s personal chef — and the first woman to do that job in the history of the Elysee palace. Very little happens the brief time she’s there, unfortunately, aside from clashes with bureaucratic bean counters and a sexist main-kitchen chef, forcing writer/director Christian Vincent (“Quatre Étoiles”) to set a good deal of the story in Laborie’s next job — a scientific base in the Antarctic. And nothing much is going on there either.
WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
Rated R for disturbing violence, bloody images, some sexuality, nudity and language
Stars: Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers
Meat is most definitely murder in this nicely textured, occasionally quite creepy, but very, very slow-moving horror outing. Might as well throw unappetizing in there as an adjective as well. Things are unraveling quickly for the Parkers, who have lost their mom in a freak accident just as their annual Lamb’s Day religious observance is rolling around, meaning her two daughters (Garner and Childers) will have to assume her rather unusual kitchen duties. Much more moody and atmospheric than horrific, right up until the must-be-seen-to-be-believed finale.
Rated PG-13 for bloody sequences of ER trauma procedures, some violent images and language, and smoking throughout
Stars: Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton
Fifty years after the traumatic event, the assassination of JFK is still capable of touching a raw nerve — even in a dramatization as flat-footed as this one. A drama focusing on collateral details the first few days after the shooting shouldn’t necessarily be dull and uninvolving but this one is — with the exception of a few revelations that would have been just as interesting in a documentary. “Parkland” begins well, with journalist turned filmmaker Peter Landesman capturing the shock and confusion of those first few moments, especially in the ER where Kennedy is operated on by a dismayed surgical resident (Efron).
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some language
Stars: Paula Patton, Taye Diggs, Jill Scott, Derek Luke
Sometimes you have to go really, really, really far out of your way just to discover that what you were looking for was right across the hall. That’s the blatantly telegraphed moral of this mildly diverting, but entirely predictable strictly-by-the-numbers romcom about a desperate flight attendant (Patton) sky-stalking ex-boyfriends in the hope one will have transformed into perfect husband material — her little sister’s upcoming wedding making her feel like an old maid at 30. It’s painfully obvious that she’s bound to wind up with lifelong best buddy and major dreamboat William Wright (Luke) — her across-the-hall neighbor. After all, the guy’s name is Mr. Wright. Adapted from his own novel by writer/director David E. Talbert (“First Sunday”), a successful theatrical writer/director/producer in the Tyler Perry vein.
BATTLE OF THE YEAR
Rated PG-13 for language and some rude behavior
Stars: Josh Holloway, Josh Peck, Caity Lotz, Laz Alonso, Chris Brown
If back-flipping, hand-walking, head-spinning, corkscrew-twisting, generally gravity-defying dance sequences are what you’re looking for, you could do worse than “Battle of the Year.” It’s just a shame that the actual on-screen dance content is so meager compared to the amount of time spent rehashing almost every conceivable underdog sports movie cliché. An attempt by director Benson Lee to fictionalize his 2007 documentary “Planet B-Boy” (modestly referred to at one point in this film as “the Bible of hip-hop”), “Battle of the Year” is the story of an alcoholic former championship basketball coach (Holloway) seeking redemption by assembling a crew of the country’s best, and most egotistical, b-boy dancers and turning them into a dream team just in time for the titular international hip-hop dance contest — which the USA has failed to win for 15 years. With inspirational messages along the way such as “There is no I in team.”
INEQUALITY FOR ALL
Rated PG for thematic elements, some violence, language and smoking images
Stars: Robert Reich
Comparisons are bound to be made between this enlightening/infuriating documentary on extreme income disparity in the United States (with its corollary marginalization of the middle class) and the Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.” It has an essentially liberal perspective and much of it is filmed live during a lecture by economist and longtime Washington insider Robert Reich, complete with a PowerPoint presentation. Reich is a livelier speaker than Al Gore, however, and many of the film’s statistical interludes have been entertainingly animated as insurance against eyeball-glazing. There’s no reason to fear you might slip into a coma while viewing “Inequality for All.” A fit of apoplexy might be another matter, though, for middle-class viewers, regardless of political persuasion.
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 and subjects him to tortures straight out of Abu Ghraib. Director Denis Villeneuve (Oscar-nominated for 2010’s “Incendies”) delivers a complex, well-executed mystery and character study of the increasingly conflicted father (a devout Christian) and of the misleadingly mild-mannered detective assigned to the case (Gyllenhaal, also excellent), with issues of his own. Most of all, though, “Prisoners” raises 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 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.
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 R for 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.
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.