Matthew McConaughey in “Mud”

“Oblivion” (PG-13) — Tom Cruise stars as a futuristic repairman on an abandoned Earth. After alien attackers messed up the environment, most of humanity evacuated the planet. Cruise zips around Earth in a little starship, fixing robots and keeping leftover aliens from attacking important equipment. He’s plagued by mysterious dreams about Earth before the attack — but the attack was before he was born, so its probably nothing …

This movie suffers from too much inspiration and not enough originality. There are plenty of parts that will remind you of great science-fiction films, but nothing about “Oblivion” compares with the classics. The visual effects are sophisticated, but just like the plot, many of the visual flourishes draw comparisons to better movies.

“Mud” (PG-13) — Two teen boys find a dirty stranger living on wooded island in the Mississippi river. The stranger (Matthew McConaughey) calls himself “Mud,” and he’s got some crazy stories to tell — he’s killed a man, he did it to protect his beautiful girlfriend, Juniper, and he’s only living in a washed-up river boat because he’s hiding from bounty hunters. Well gosh-darn if it don’t all come true. Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), the bounty hunters and the law all have an eye out for Mud.

This movie has been making a mess all over the film festivals — it’s sophisticated, understandable, literary, thrilling and sensitive all at once. McConaughey really delivers as the title character, though the film is really a coming-of-age story about the boys who find him. This movie succeeds because it gives audiences that sense of adventure people get from reading Huckleberry Finn.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” (R) — This intriguing and serious flick has two A-list actors at the top of their games. The story comes in three parts. The first follows, Luke (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stunt-driver with the traveling circus, who finds out that he has an infant son with a small-town girl. Luke takes up bank robbery to support his child. The movie then becomes about Avery (Bradley Cooper), a calculating young cop whose life hits a turning point when he encounters Luke. Finally, the movie skips ahead 15 years and focuses on two teenagers in that same small town.

“The Sapphires” (PG-13) — This comedy tells an inspired-by-a-true story about four Australian Aboriginal girls who are “discovered” as a Motown group by a drifting Irishman in the 1960s. It’s not serious, or intense, and there are plenty of plot holes — but it all just contribute to the fun. The four girls are innocent fishes out of water, as nobody expects soul music to come out of girls from some far-flung patch of Australia. Their manager (Chris O’Dowd from “Bridesmaids” and “The IT Crowd”) has the comedic skills to keep things breezy, and it’s all supported by lively and uplifting music.

© 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.