Rated: R for violence and pervasive language
Stars: Liam Hemsworth, Emma Roberts, Dwayne Johnson
Two childhood friends planning to rob an armored car depository (Hemsworth and Roberts) 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 strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
Stars: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine
A fugitive left to die on an arid planet (Diesel) is forced to contend with an alien race of predators. David Twohy (“Pitch Black”) directed the sci-fi thriller.
Rated: PG-13 for disturbing war images, thematic elements and smoking
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal
The private world of the reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye is explored in this documentary. Directed by Shane Salerno (“Sundown: The Future of Children and Drugs.”
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 likeable, 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 racecar 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 turns out to be 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 Wong Kar-wei (“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 (as in the recent “Ip Man” movies starring Donnie Yen) and more on tragic drama. Unfortunately, after being cut by half from its original four-hour running time, “The Grandmaster” is more baffling than illuminating, providing 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.
Rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and innuendo
Stars Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, J.J. Field, Bret McKenzie, Georgia King
A woman whose obsession with Jane Austen novels has limited her real-life romantic options (Russell) goes on an Austen-themed vacation in hopes of finding her dream man. “Napoleon Dynamite” co-writer Jerusha Hess makes her directorial debut with the comedy.
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
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.
Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking
Stars: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Though it’s buoyed to a certain extent by a heavyweight cast, “The Butler” is a superficial effort at best, showing none of the oomph of director Lee Daniels’ Oscar-nominated debut with “Precious.” The idea, basically, is to illustrate the painful progress of racial equality from the civil rights era to Obama. There’s a limit, though, to how much Cecil (Whitaker) can overhear while carrying a serving tray into the Oval Office and attempts to draw historic connections to his personal life (his son first joins the Freedom Riders, then the Black Panthers) are pretty desperately contrived.
Rated PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language
Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, Lesley Ann Warren
Undoubtedly, there's a really good movie to be made from the life story of Apple Computers co-founder Steve Jobs, but unfortunately this isn’t it. Sketchy and unrevealing, “Jobs” skims the surface of the first 20 years of Jobs career, from college dropout to Atari game designer to the excitement of Apple's early days, to subsequent corporate conflicts leading to his ousting in 1985 and his eventual return to power in the '90s—with sparse detail about his business dealings and even less about his personal life. That's a problem because without an understanding of what drives Jobs (Ashton Kutcher, fleshing out a modest personal resemblance with occasional flashes of glinty-eyed meanness), most of his character developments seem unmotivated and jarring.
Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mitz-Plasse
The 2010 comic-book semi-parody “Kick-Ass,” about a naïve high-school kid who reinvents himself as a costumed crime-fighter, was a lot of fun (in a hip, darkly comic, ultra-violent sort of way), because it was better than it had to be. This criminally disappointing sequel is a dispiriting downer because it’s worse. Kick-Ass (Johnson) and his much more lethal, much more interesting younger cohort Hit Girl (Moretz) have made promises to hang up their costumes—quickly set aside when copycats follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, the concept has been drained of all pizzazz in the absence of original director/co-writer Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”). KA and HG team up to defeat young mob scion (MIntz-Plasse. gussied up in bondage gear and sporting a name that can’t be printed here), Or that the off-the-hook violence that ensues is base, brutal and entirely lacking in the wit of the original.
IN A WORLD
Rated R for language including some sexual references
Stars: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Demetrius Martin, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins
As movies about Hollywood go, “In a World” does have the advantage of illuminating a seldom-seen, seldom-considered corner of the industry, which apparently has its share of swollen egos and self-importance. Writer-director Bell is the main attraction as Carol, a struggling vocal coach trying to break into the big-bucks world of movie-trailer voiceover despite resistance, and even competition, from her old-school sexist dad (Melamed) on the verge of retirement from his voiceover career. Bell’s low-key comic takes on the situation are pretty much on the money, as is her handling of the awkwardly developing romance between Carol and a secretly admiring audio-engineer buddy (Martin).
Rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout
Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharto Copley, Diego Luna
Neill Blomkamp’s big-budget followup to his Best Picture-nominated Apartheid allegory “District 9” also mixes lots of gritty sci-fi action and heavy social commentary, but with less emotional oomph. The thinly-veiled messages about illegal immigration and universal healthcare are secondary to the main business at hand. Namely, the urgent need of dystopian future factory worker Max (Damon in reluctant action-hero mode) to break into Elysium, an orbiting Valhalla of the super rich, to cure a lethal dose of radiation. Motivations don’t come much more basic and believable than that. But things get a bit more iffy when the writer-director tries to up the dramatic ante by mingling Max’s personal battle with a revolutionary power struggle, especially since the outcome of the latter is based on a disappointingly flimsy premise.
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language, drug use and some domestic violence
Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Chris Noth, Sharon Stone
The brief yet enduringly infamous career of the world’s first porn star gets superficial treatment in this so-so biopic that attempts to counterbalance hardcore exploitation with uplifting personal triumph and fails to convince at both extremes. Seyfried offers an effectively sympathetic performance as the “Deep Throat” star, who was reportedly forced into pornography (and prostitution) by her sleazoid hustler husband (Sarsgaard) before eventually escaping his clutches, writing a book about her Ordeal and becoming a happily re-married anti-porn crusader. Unfortunately, “Lovelace” is less than truthful about some of the grimmer details about the story of Linda Lovelace, no doubt realizing that full disclosure would have made it harder for audiences to walk away feeling uplifted and untroubled.
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.
Rated PG 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.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW
Rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality
Stars: Myles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler
It’s a rare pleasure to see a genre film that bothers — dares, actually — to run deeper than expected, so it’s a bit of a surprise to see this intelligent, emotionally complex teen romance pop up so soon after last year’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Teller (“Rabbit Hole,” “21 & Over”) and Woodley (“The Descendants”) make the most of breakout roles as popular, irresponsible Sutter and shy, serious Aimee, high-school seniors on opposite sides of the social spectrum, who become involved in an unlikely romance. All the predictable lessons about young love ensue, but director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed,” “Off the Black”) adds considerable emotional ballast by making it clear that Sutter is getting a running jump on alcoholism — and keeping us guessing about whether Aimee will save him or he will drag her down.
WE’RE THE MILLERS
Rated: R for crude sexual content, pervasive language, drug material and brief graphic nudity
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Ed Helms
Despite its transgressive trappings, this excruciatingly awful comedy has been designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience by defaulting to family values straight out of a ’50s sitcom. The utter bogusness of that strategy makes the whole thing fundamentally artificial and unfunny. “Saturday Night Live” alum Sudeikis stars as David, an aging, friendly neighborhood pot dealer who’s forced to smuggle a large shipment of weed out of Mexico to settle a debt with his sleazy boss (Helms). So he decides to hire a stripper and an abandoned teenager from his apartment building (Aniston and Poulter) and a homeless runaway girl (Roberts) to pose as his wholesome American family and drive the dope across the border in an RV. Nothing ever really clicks, though, because while the film tries to set up the faux Millers as the opposite of a loving family, it’s obvious that’s what they’re going to wind up being. Whether it’s the slightest bit believable or not.
Rated PG for some rude humor and action
Stars: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, Brendan Gleeson, Katy Perry
You probably already know how the you feel about the prospect of spending 105 minutes in the company of Smurfs and how that might compare, favorably or unfavorably, to being poked in the eye repeatedly with a sharp stick. So let’s just say this: “The Smurfs 2” probably isn’t any worse than you might expect. On the other hand, it’s almost certainly not any better. Harris returns as uptight nice guy Patrick, whose life is invaded once again by the little blue mushroom dwellers, this time on a mission to rescue distressed damsel Smurfette (Perry) from the clutches of the evil (yet goofy) wizard Gargamel (Azaria). There’s been a change of locale to Paris this time, for no good reason, but it’s still the same old smurfy stew of sentiment and slapstick.
Rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, Denzel Washington, Bill Paxton
The number of firearms in the title is the only bit of understatement on view in this enjoyably over-the-top action extravaganza. There’s so much going on and it all comes at you at such a rapid-fire pace that it’s almost overwhelming at times; but that’s part of the fun. While attempting to take down Mexican drug lord Papi (Edward James Olmos), undercover DEA agent Bobby (Washington) and Naval Intelligence agent Stig (Wahlberg) try to bust each other as well after breaking into a bank to steal $3-million of Papi’s money. The plan changes, though, when they find $40-million more than expected and have to contend with each other, Mexican gangster, crooked superiors and another interested party that even puts the fear into Papi. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (“Contraband”) has an entertaining knack for action that’s helped along here by Washington and Wahlberg’s natural, seemingly effortless chemistry.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content
Stars: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins
Woody Allen’s most serious—and painful—film in years has one thing going for it at least: a powerhouse performance by Cate Blanchett in the title role—though she’s working with very familiar material. Her Jasmine, a formerly wealthy Manhattan socialite rapidly losing touch with reality while forced to live with her working-class sister (Hawkins), is a less sympathetic variation on Blanche Dubois. Just as “Blue Jasmine” is a thinly disguised reworking of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” with little to add that’s new or improved. Most of the plot developments of the Tennessee Williams classic are present and accounted for, but less so. The characters are sketchy, the dialogue is prosaic and the tragedy, when it comes, is accompanied by the unpleasant feeling that Jasmine, unlike Blanche, has gotten what’s coming to her.
THE TO DO LIST
Rated R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language — all involving teens
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Rachel Bilson
It’s nice to see a movie acknowledge that girls can have the same questing spirit as boys when it comes to seeking carnal knowledge and that their misadventures along the way can be every bit as comically mortifying. Even if the quest is being undertaken strictly for educational purposes. Aubrey Plaza of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is hilariously gung-ho as Brandy, a brainy, uptight Midwestern high-school valedictorian circa 1993, who decides to take a self-designed crash course in human sexuality before heading to college. Writer/director Maggie Carey (making her feature debut after assorted sitcoms and Web comedies) goes to impressive lengths to make sure “The To Do List” is at least as raunchy as your average male-oriented teen horndog comedy. For the most part, though, this is a smart, witty, frequently funny film that has a surprisingly sweet quality despite its salaciousness. It even has a moral emphasizing the value of friendship and the comparative insignificance of sex for the sake of sex that could almost be described as wholesome. Almost.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee
A major improvement over 2009’s disappointing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” this nicely crafted follow-up by director James Mangold is atmospheric, exciting, amusing and even a bit tragic at times. In his sixth appearance in 13 years as the mutton-chopped, retractable-clawed, immortal soldier Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine), Jackman kicks the melancholy glowering up a notch to suggest a truly tormented soul. Part of the appeal of this installment in the Wolverine saga is that it’s more of a traditional Japanese action film than a superhero movie, with Logan battling ninjas, yakuza and etc. after being summoned by the dying patriarch of a powerful Japanese family, whose life he saved during the explosion of the atom bomb at Nagasaki — detailed in a spectacular opening sequence. “Woverine” has a complicated and not entirely logical plot that also has trouble figuring out when to end, one action crescendo stacked on top of another until weariness sets in before the overlong, overblown, ultimate mega-finale. It’s satisfying, nonetheless, because it’s more about character than carnage, proving for the first time that there’s more to this guy than an anger problem and a crazy set of sideburns.
Rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror
Stars: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor
Hard-core horror fans will no doubt find it ho-hum, but “The Conjuring” scores points for just saying no to gore (for the most part) and relying instead on old-fashioned chills and suspense. Wilson and Farmiga star as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (whose cases included the Amityville Horror haunting), trying to save a family from demon trouble. (Glencoe native Taylor is the mom.) The dialogue is a little clunky at times and the performances are sometimes a bit awkward, but it all builds to an effectively freaky climax despite its surprisingly wholesome vibe and explicitly religious moral.