Reliable but rarely more than workmanlike director Clint Eastwood helms this biopic based on the biography of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. Bradley Cooper is excellent, running through all the emotions of our main character as he goes from front-line shellshocked to home-front rehabilitated. But Eastwood waffles too much between gung-ho patriotism and a more reasoned examination of the horrors our modern military men and women are asked to endure. It wants to tackle some big moral issues, but unlike Eastwood's Unforgiven, it can't break the Hollywood formula long enough to find the metaphorical weight behind the story. 132 minutes R.
Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams) directs Michael Keaton (Batman) in this winkingly meta farce about a washed-up action movie star who tries to mount a comeback on Broadway. Shot in what looks like a single, breathless take, the film swoops and soars through the corridors of a venerable Broadway theater watching its manic, self-loathing, hallucination-prone protagonist face crisis after crisis. Dark and funny, cynical and empathetic, this oddly experimental gem offers viewers this year's most original cinematic vision. 119 minutes R.
Kevin Costner stars as a widower lawyer fighting for custody of his biracial granddaughter. Octavia Spencer is the equally righteous paternal grandmother of the little girl, who wants her to be raised by African Americans and not the guy from Dances with Wolves. This is a seriously well-intentioned family drama, but the liberal-minded ideals of writer-director Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger, Reign Over Me) get lost in TV-movie-of-the-week courtroom melodrama. 121 minutes PG-13.
Jennifer Lopez stars in this time-wasting erotic thriller about a divorced teacher who has a torrid affair with the new boy across the street. Things get complicated when he turns up as a student in her high school class and then goes all Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction on her. Oops. 91 minutes R.
A young woman (Mae Whitman, "Arrested Development") shakes up the social order of high school after discovering she's been labeled a "DUFF" (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by her more popular pals. Naturally, this is accomplished though the time-honored magic of the cinematic makeover. As in all Pygmalion-inspired romcoms, this is easily accomplished, since our "fat" and "ugly" heroine is clearly neither. Think John Hughes with hashtags ... and you're trying a lot harder than this formulaic tween comedy is. 101 minutes PG-13.
Every couple of years, the publishing industry spits out an erotic novel to remind housewives that naughty sex is a good thing. From Fanny Hill to Story of O to Fear of Flying to Exit to Eden, these books have been snapped up and hidden in bedside tables for decades. Today, we've got E.L. James' smash hit novel Fifty Shades of Grey. This ripe bit of "mommy porn" started out life as a piece of Twilight fan fic written under the pen name "Snowqueen's Icedragon." The author changed the character names, got a better nom de plume, and the rest is history. The movie may be slightly more literate, but it's sadistically boring. Nothing happens. At some point nothing stops happening and the credits roll. 125 minutes R.
When their pal Lou (Rob Corddry) gets in trouble, Nick (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) fire up the old hot tub time machine. Unfortunately, they end up in the future with Adam Jr. (Adam Scott, replacing John Cusack) trying to fix their time-traveling screw-ups. Expect more raunchy humor with cameos from Gillian Jacobs, Chevy Chase and Thomas Lennon. 93 minutes R.
America's British boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch stars as famed mathematician Alan Turing in this real-life biopic about Turing's efforts to decipher the infamous German Enigma code during World War II. The film is very tasteful and "Masterpiece Theatre"-ish. But Turing's story of professional triumph and personal tragedy is terribly compelling stuff. Based on the book by Andrew Hodges. 114 minutes PG-13.
The filmmakers formerly known as the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) are responsible for this madly over-conceptualized, pulp sci-fi doohickey. Mila Kunis is a poor, Chicago house cleaner who finds out the Earth is just an "estate" built and populated by an ancient alien dynasty--and that she's the long-lost queen of the galaxy. The story is a transparent fairy tale about a missing princess in (frequent) need of rescuing and the dashing knight (Channing Tatum) who protects her from her evil royal family. On top of that familiar framework, the Wachowski siblings have added bits of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Dune, The Matrix, Brazil and The Fifth Element. It's entirely ridiculous, but damned if it isn't eye-poppingly pretty and filled with zippy, zappy entertainment. 127 minutes PG-13.
Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class) directs this fast, funny, impossibly kinetic action flick based on the comic book by Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Wanted). Newcomer Taron Egerton stars as a trendy British street kid who gets recruited to a top-secret spy agency that's, like, James Bond cranked up to 11. Colin Firth is the young spy's perfectly aloof bad-ass of a trainer. Samuel L. Jackson is the high-tech baddie. 129 minutes R.
This feature anime was made to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the popular Japanese franchise and is the first to be considered "official canon" in Masashi Kishimoto's original manga series. The plot concerns ninja-in-training Naruto Uzumaki's efforts to defeat a world-threatening adversary who is the last surviving member of an extraterrestrial clan. 112 minutes Unrated.
This Disney-produced "based on the inspirational true story" sports flick is pure formula. But it's a formula that works. Kevin Costner is a high school coach exiled to a dirtwater farming community in California. There, he creates a winning cross country running team with some of the ragtag local migrant worker kids. It's all very familiar, but director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) shows considerable sympathy to the impoverished farm workers depicted here. 129 minutes PG.
Mike Leigh (Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake) writes and directs this biopic covering the last quarter century in the life of eccentric British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter series) stars at the titular artist/womanizer. Even Turner's own biographer once admitted that the guy wasn't very interesting--but Leigh manages to find the drama in this very private man's personal life. Leigh is assisted immensely by Spall's born-to-play-it performance and by his glorious longtime cinematographer Dick Pope. 150 minutes R.
A reformed (read: "born-again") frat boy (first-time writer, director, star Rik Swartzwelder) and a free-spirited woman (Elizabeth Roberts from "Days of Our Lives") try "the impossible"--an old-fashioned, Jesus-approved courtship in modern-day America. If you're looking for a Valentine's Day romance that includes no sex and no premarital kissing and doesn't even allow men and women to be in the same room alone together, then Old Fashioned is the mood-killing cold shower for you. 115 minutes PG-13.
The beloved British picture book character gets the requisite CGI makeover for the movies. Ben Whishaw (Skyfall) voices the raincoat-wearing Peruvian bear who ends up lost and alone at a London train station. He gets adopted by a kindly family (led by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) and has some episodic adventures. Nicole Kidman plays the villain, an evil taxidermist. Because there has to be a villain in these sorts of things. 95 minutes PG.
Well, we've had found-footage monster movies (Cloverfield), found-footage zombie movies (the [REC] series), found-footage ghost movies (the Paranormal Activity series), found-footage devil movies (The Last Exorcism), found-footage mummy movies (The Pyramid), found-footage space movies (Apollo 18), found-footage comedies (Project X), found-footage superhero movies (Chronicle), found-footage kids' movies (Earth to Echo) and found footage disaster movies (Into the Storm). So why not a found-footage time machine movie? 106 minutes PG-13.
This epically troubled fantasy production shed countless cast members, production companies and release dates over the course of its creation. It's based on "The Wardstone Chronicles" books (known in America as "The Last Apprentice") by British fantasy author Joseph Delaney. Ben Barnes (from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) plays a young lad born with the magical ability to see ghosts and fight supernatural creatures. He's soon recruited by a crusty old knight (Jeff Bridges) for a big-ass training montage. Eventually, he gets to fight an evil witch (Julianne Moore). This looks like yet another failed attempt to launch a young adult fantasy series. (Sorry Eragon, Lemony Snicket, City of Ember, The Golden Compass, Inkheart, The Mortal Instruments, The Seeker, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Cirque du Freak, et al.) 102 minutes PG-13.
When the secret formula for Krabby Patties goes missing, SpongeBob and his pals (Patrick, Squidward, Sandy, Mr. Krabs) venture into the real world (featuring a mix of live-action and 3D animation) to recover it from a dastardly pirate (Antonio Banderas ... no, really). Also, they become superheroes. Yeah, SpongeBob doesn't make a lot of sense. But it's awesome. 93 minutes PG.
Julianne Moore gives an Oscar-nominated performance in this straightforward drama about an intellectual college professor learning to cope with early-onset Alzheimer's. Her family reacts in different ways, but it's her estranged daughter (a bohemian wannabe actress played surprisingly well by Kristen Stewart) who conjures up the most empathy for mom's plight. The film is smart, sensitive to its subject and exceedingly small in scope. 101 minutes PG-13.
It really does not pay to be friends or family with ex-government agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson). Everybody he knows has been killed or kidnapped by bad guys, whom he is then obliged to stalk and kill using his "particular set of skills." This time around his wife has been killed, and he's framed for murder. Oh, somebody's in for an old man ass-kicking! As before, French action king Luc Besson pens it, and the awesomely named Olivier Megaton directs it. 109 minutes PG-13.
'Tis the season for high-toned biopics. Eddie Redmayne (The Pillars of the Earth, Les Misérables) stars as world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking. This inspirational romantic drama concentrates on Hawking's pre-talking-wheelchair relationship with his college girlfriend-cum-wife Jane (Felicity Jones, Like Crazy). It's beautifully performed and perfectly bittersweet, but occasionally feels too expertly crafted for Academy Award appeal. 123 minutes Unrated.
Josh Gad (Frozen) plays a well-meaning, friendless schlub who hires a fake best man (comedian Kevin Hart) in order to impress his fiancée (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) at their wedding. As one does in contrived romantic comedies. 101 minutes R.
A shy young musician (Miles Teller from The Spectacular Now) dreams of becoming a world-famous jazz drummer. Attending a prestigious New York music academy, he gets the opportunity to learn from the school's most infamous instructor (J.K. Simmons from "Oz"). What follows is the musical equivalent of the training camp sequence from Full Metal Jacket. Simmons is perfect as the sadistic taskmaster, but Teller matches him beat-for-beat as the determined student. 107 minutes R.