The classic stage musical (based on the Depression-era comic strip by Harold Gray) gets a modern update. Mostly that means a lot of references to Twitter, Google, Facebook, Vine and YouTube. Quvenzhané Wallis (from Beasts of the Southern Wild) makes for a cute Annie, and Jamie Foxx is acceptable as Daddy Warbucks (here renamed "Bill Stacks"). Unfortunately, writer/director Will Gluck (Easy A) seems to have no talent whatsoever for musicals. Everything is staged in a dull, clunky fashion with no cool costumes, big production numbers, splashy fantasy sequences or anything much in the way of choreography even. 118 minutes PG.
When Disney took over Marvel, everyone wondered what that mash-up would look like. Now we know. Based (quietly) on the Marvel comic of the same name, this sci-fi cartoon feels like a Disneyfied (in the best sense) take on the superhero genre. Tech-savvy teenager Hiro lives in futuristic San Fransokyo with his brother and aunt. But when his bro is murdered and his greatest invention stolen, Hiro teams up with an inflatable robot named Baymax and a group of self-proclaimed "science nerds" to get revenge on the masked villain responsible. The story is your standard superhero origin tale. But the sci-fi flourishes are well conceived, and the unflappably kindhearted Baymax is easily the most lovable character of the year. 108 minutes PG.
Peter Jackson wraps up his monumental (perhaps a little too much so) adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Here we finally get to the closing action sequence, a war that pits five armies and a dragon against one another in a battle for the fate of Middle-earth. 144 minutes PG-13.
Hollywood is sick of trilogies. That's only three movies' worth of profits. The cool thing now is to take the final book in a trilogy and split it in two different movies (like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part 1 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn--Part 2). So apparently Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has destroyed the Hunger Games. She's hiding out, trying to rescue her boyfriend (Josh Hutcherson) from evil government forces when she gets a call from the rebel leader (Julianne Moore) asking her to become the face of the rebellion. It beats being the face of L'Oreal. 123 minutes PG-13.
At this point mashing up a bunch of fairy tales is nothing new in movies (Shrek) or TV ("Once Upon a Time"). Nonetheless, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's hit Broadway musical does some interesting work finding the "adult" undertones of the old Brothers Grimm tales. Disney has glossed over some of the darker material, and the perpetually moving ensemble cast was probably better suited to stage. Still, actors Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick and James Corden are fun to watch as they reinvent Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and the like. 124 minutes PG.
Ben Stiller and friends (and the monkey) are back in this third outing about wacky hijinks at a natural history museum after the lights go out. Seems the magic that causes all the displays to come to life at night is fading, and our security guard hero (Stiller) must travel the globe, uniting characters old (Robin Willams' Teddy Roosevelt) and new (Dan Stevens' Sir Lancelot) to save it. 97 minutes PG.
Following cameos in the Madagascar films and a successful TV series, the wannabe-super-spy penguins get their own feature spin-off. This CGI toon shows audiences how dimwitted waterfowl Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private got their start in the global espionage biz. 92 minutes PG.
Four Hispanic high school students form a robotics club. With no experience, no money and a bunch of old car parts, they challenge the country's reigning robotics champions at MIT. Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis, Esai Morales, George Lopez and Steven Michael Quezada star. Yup, it was shot here in Albuquerque, and it's based on one of those inspiring true stories you hear so much about. 83 minutes PG-13.
As a director, Angelina Jolie (who previously gave us In the Land of Blood and Honey) appears to like things as dark and depressing as possible. Here, she searches for uplift in the (true life) story of Olympic champ Louis Zamperini, who got shot down over the Pacific during World War II, spent 47 days on a raft and then went straight to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. The telling is dutiful and appropriately epic, and star Jack O'Connell (300: Rise of an Empire) does understated work. But even with a scripting assist from Joel & Ethan Coen, the film ends up wearing its good intentions on its sleeve a little to prominently. 137 minutes PG-13.