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Hector and the Search for Happiness opens Friday in Dallas.
Hector and the Search for Happiness opens Friday in Dallas.

OPENING:

Hector and the Search for Happiness (R) Simon Pegg stars in this comedy as a psychiatrist who travels the globe to find out what makes people happy. Also with Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Zhao Ming, Togo Igawa, Jean Reno, and Christopher Plummer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Believe Me (PG-13) A Christian comedy that’s actually rather funny. Alex Russell plays a not particularly religious college senior who ropes his three friends (Max Adler, Miles Fisher, and Sinqua Wells) into creating a fake Christian charity to solve their money problems. The plotting is clumsy, and so are the movie’s attempts to reconcile the laughs with the message. Still, the movie is markedly at ease depicting the nonbelievers, and uses their perspective to make some gentle but on-target jokes about pretentious Christian bands, revival-meeting stagecraft, and preachy Christian movies. If faith-based movies want to be taken seriously, this unserious piece shows a way forward. Also with Zachary Knighton, Johanna Braddy, Lecrae Moore, and Nick Offerman. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

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The Equalizer (R) Denzel Washington re-teams with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for this reboot of the 1980s TV series that plays a bit too much like other Denzel thrillers of late. He plays a former CIA hitman suffering from OCD and insomnia who pisses off the Russian mob when he takes retribution on a pimp who brutally beats an underage prostitute (Chloë Grace Moretz). The early scenes between Washington and Moretz are well-played, so it’s a shame when she leaves the movie. (Where does she go?) Fuqua tries for elegance and brutal efficiency in depicting the hero’s killings (accomplished, as in the TV show, without a gun), but those qualities aren’t in this director. This isn’t really bad. It’s just stuff we’ve seen before. Also with Marton Csokas, David Harbour, Haley Bennett, David Meunier, Johnny Skourtis, Alex Veadov, Bill Pullman, and Melissa Leo. (Opens Friday)

Good People (R) James Franco and Kate Hudson star in this thriller as a couple who take the money belonging to a dead tenant and become targets for criminals. Also with Anna Friel, Omar Sy, Diana Hardcastle, Sam Spruell, and Tom Wilkinson. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Jimi: All Is By My Side (R) Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) directs this biography of Jimi Hendrix, starring André Benjamin. Also with Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Burn Gorman, Ashley Charles, and Clare-Hope Ashitey. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Plastic (R) Ed Speelers and Will Poulter star in this thriller as British fraudsters forced to pull off a diamond heist after stealing from a gangster. Also with Alfie Allen, Sebastian de Souza, Emma Rigby, Graham McTavish, and Thomas Kretschmann. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Song (PG-13) Alan Powell stars in this drama as a songwriter whose life is overturned when a song he writes for his wife (Ali Faulkner) makes him into a star. Also with Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Danny Vinson, Kenda Benward, and Jude Ramsey. (Opens Friday)

Take Me to the River (PG) Martin Shore’s documentary chronicles the recording of an album featuring collaborations between present-day musicians and legends of blues music. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Tracks (PG-13) Mia Wasikowska stars in this drama based on a true story about an Australian woman who hikes for 1,700 miles through the outback accompanied by four camels and a dog. Also with Adam Driver, Emma Booth, Lily Pearl, Jessica Tovey, and Rainer Bock. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Two Night Stand (R) Miles Teller and Analeigh Tipton play a couple whose one-night stand is extended by bad weather. Also with Jessica Szohr, Leven Rambin, Scott Mescudi, and Michael Showalter. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING:

As Above, So Below (R) John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) directs this found-footage horror film about a team of archeologists who encounter bad things in the catacombs below the city of Paris. Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, François Civil, Marion Lambert, Ali Marhyar, and Hamid Djavadan.

Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? (PG-13) Does anyone still care at this point? Starring Kristoffer Polaha, Laura Regan, Peter Mackenzie, Larry Cedar, Joaquim de Almeida, Rob Morrow, and Greg Germann.

Begin Again (R) Like his previous movie Once, John Carney’s new film pulsates with music and unrequited love, and it’s awfully hard to resist. Keira Knightley plays a British musician recently dumped by her rock-star boyfriend (Adam Levine). Her songs inspire a burned-out record producer (Mark Ruffalo) to produce her first album. The larger scale of the story doesn’t suit Carney, and the songs (most of them by Gregg Alexander) include too much filler. Still, the filmmaker has a finely honed sense of comedy, and the actors are pleasingly uncorked here. Knightley has never been more charming or relatable as she sings “Lost Stars,” a ballad that also gets a more anguished and piercingly beautiful take by Levine. Unabashedly romantic and full of belief in the power of music, this is a great summer treat. Also with Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden, CeeLo Green, and Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey.

Boyhood (R) Richard Linklater’s most radical experiment yet stars Ellar Coltrane as a boy who experiences life between the ages of 6 and 18. The director filmed the same group of actors for a few days each year over the course of 12 years to tell his story, and the passage of time proves to be a dazzling special effect. Instead of focusing on the usual tropes of coming-of-age films, Linklater finds resonance in the boy’s smaller moments. The performances by Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette (as the boy’s parents) are remarkably consistent over time. Despite its small scale and clearly marked time periods, this movie still manages to feel epic and infinite. The movie was filmed throughout Texas, so watch for familiar locations. Also with Marco Perella, Lorelei Linklater, Zoe Graham, Brad Hawkins, Jenni Tooley, and Steven Prince.

Cantinflas (PG) This watchable biopic stars Óscar Jaenada as the legendary comedian, giving a mostly straight retelling of his life story but also flashing forward to 1955, when desperate Hollywood producer Mike Todd (Michael Imperioli) tries to cast him in Around the World in 80 Days. The script has some illuminating stuff on Cantinflas cleaning up the corrupt unions in Mexico’s film industry and traces the roots of his comic persona to the fast-paced banter of working-class Mexicans. Still, the main reason to see this is Jaenada’s performance, mimicking the star’s onscreen antics and differentiating him from the offscreen man. Stay for the closing-credit sequence, with Jaenada in character dancing to Ravel’s Bolero. Also with Ilse Salas, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Gabriela de la Garza, Eduardo España, Bárbara Mori, Ana Layevska, Julian Sedgwick, and Joaquín Cosio.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13) This science-fiction thriller is really a Western in disguise. Andy Serkis plays the leader of a community of super-intelligent apes who tries to make peace with a colony of humans who have survived the plague that created the apes. The coexistence is riven by cultural misunderstandings and troublemakers on both sides, and it’s awfully clever the way the apes and humans switch off the roles of the conquering cowboys and the oppressed natives. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) brings a light virtuoso touch to this thing, but the film works only intellectually, not emotionally. This sequel points toward a smarter direction for the series. It just doesn’t get it there. Also with Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Judy Greer.

Dolphin Tale 2 (PG) If you or your kids are having trouble sleeping, here’s a nice cure. Nathan Gamble returns for this sequel to the 2011 film as a kid growing up near a water park that needs to find a companion for its amputee dolphin or risk being shut down. Nothing that happens here comes as any sort of surprise, and the jokes will have trouble making a 2-year-old laugh. Save your money for a trip to the aquarium. Also with Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Cozi Zuehlsdorff, Harry Connick Jr., Charles Martin Smith, and Kris Kristofferson.

The Drop (R) Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini are the best reasons to see this thriller. They play a couple of mobbed-up bar owners whose lives spin out of control when some armed robbers steal the cash that the Mafia has been holding in their bar for safekeeping. Belgian director Michaël Roskam (Bullhead) lets the actors dictate the pace, and Gandolfini vividly plays a gangster gone to seed who’s simmering with rage without ever quite losing control. Still, it’s Hardy’s clenched, off-speed performance that winds up keeping the beat here and giving clues to his character’s soul. It’s the last screen role for the late Gandolfini, and it’s a fitting sendoff. Also with Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Michael Aronov, Morgan Spector, and Ann Dowd. –– Steve Steward

The Expendables 3 (PG-13) Sylvester Stallone’s all-star omnibus thrillers are like Valentine’s Day, except with a lot more explosions. He sends his gang into retirement, only to call on them again when his newer, younger crew is captured by his former partner-turned-bad guy (Mel Gibson). The villain casting is inspired, Wesley Snipes provides some of his old swagger, and Antonio Banderas drops in as an emotionally needy chatterbox of a killer. Despite their contributions, they can’t paper over how tired this whole gimmick has become. Also with Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammer, Jet Li, and Harrison Ford.

The Giver (PG-13) Lois Lowry’s novel took 20 years to reach the big screen, and the result is a big fat “meh.” Brenton Thwaites stars as an 18-year-old in a highly regimented dystopian future society who’s called upon to receive the community’s memories of war, pain, disease, color, music, and love so that everybody else can go about their business without feeling anything. The Australian newcomer Thwaites isn’t up to the challenge of playing someone feeling everything for the first time, and the more seasoned actors around him aren’t much better. Director Phillip Noyce uses colors in cheesily metaphoric ways to depict the hero’s awakening emotions, and misses the horror and tragedy in the story. This is supposed to be a celebration of emotions, but it feels like a drone. Also with Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Emma Tremblay, Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, and Taylor Swift.

Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13) The funniest Marvel Comics movie so far. Chris Pratt stars as an intergalactic thief who has to team up with a green-skinned assassin (Zoë Saldana), a revenge-minded alien (Dave Bautista), an insanely angry talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and his walking tree sidekick (voiced by Vin Diesel) to stop a blue-skinned overlord (Lee Pace) from doing bad things to the universe. The five main characters make a terrific comedy team, with Pratt anchoring the proceedings well and the raccoon stealing lots of scenes. Director/co-writer James Gunn (Slither) festoons the soundtrack with splendidly cheesy 1970s and ’80s rock anthems. Most superhero movies treat their characters with earnest reverence, and Gunn gleefully throws a pie in the face of it all. Also with Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Djimon Hounsou, Ophelia Lovibond, Wyatt Oleff, Benicio del Toro, and Glenn Close.

The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG) Yet another way-too-tasteful literary adaptation by Lasse Hallström. This one is adapted from Richard Morais’ novel about an Indian patriarch (Om Puri) who opens a family restaurant in the French countryside, incurring the wrath of the traditional chef (Helen Mirren) who owns the Michelin-starred restaurant across the street. One of the few actors who can stand up to Mirren, the sepulchral-voiced Puri walks away with the movie, though Manish Dayal (as Indian restaurant’s cooking savant who’s caught in the middle) does well just to hold his own in such company. All this talent should have come to more. Also with Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michel Blanc, and Rohan Chand.

If I Stay (PG-13) For once, Chloë Grace Moretz plays an ordinary teen who’s not going to kill anyone, and, well, she’s kinda boring in the role, but this weeper doesn’t give her much to work with. She plays a classical cello prodigy who’s in a car accident that kills the rest of her family, and her spirit wanders the halls of the hospital to observe her friends’ reactions while her body clings to life. Bad dialogue leads to one of the worst sex scenes I’ve seen in a while, R.J. Cutler botches his first attempt at directing a fiction film, and Moretz is fundamentally miscast as a shy girl who thinks everyone is cooler than her. The soundtrack has good cello music (played by Alisha Bauer) and a nice turn by British newcomer Jamie Blackley as the boyfriend. Still, this movie collapses into a pool of treacle. Also with Mireille Enos, Joshua Leonard, Liana Liberato, Jakob Davies, Ali Milner, Aisha Hinds, Lauren Lee Smith, and Stacy Keach.

Into the Storm (PG-13) The natural-disaster movie goes the found-footage route in this film that features two tornadoes converging on a small town in Middle America during a high-school graduation. Some people are in this thing, but they don’t do or say anything of any interest whatsoever. The special effects here are good, but they’re nothing we haven’t already seen before. Let’s face it: This thing is just Twister shot with smartphones. Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Alycia Debnam Carey, and Jeremy Sumpter.

Let’s Be Cops (R) A bad movie that comes out at a spectacularly bad time, this comedy stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as two L.A. losers who decide to impersonate police officers full-time after they’re mistaken for cops on their way to a costume party. The set pieces don’t work, and the two leads have astonishingly poor chemistry considering that they’ve worked together for more than a year on TV’s New Girl. This movie would be unfunny even if the events of Ferguson, Mo., hadn’t happened, but since they have, it’s really hard to laugh at a movie that gets laughs out of idiots in cop uniforms acting irresponsibly. Also with Rob Riggle, Nina Dobrev, James D’Arcy, Keegan-Michael Key, and Andy Garcia.

Lucy (R) Scarlett Johansson once again shows off her dynamism as an action heroine starring in this incredibly stupid thriller as an American student who becomes an unwilling drug mule for Korean gangsters in Taipei and then a super-intelligent reality-warping being when the drug accidentally gets into her system. Writer-director Luc Besson gets all manner of history and science wrong, but Johansson does an uncanny turn as a woman who seems to be hearing frequencies that nobody else can hear and can drop a corridor full of cops with a wave of her fingers. This movie is like Transcendence, except it’s actually fun at times. Also with Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Amr Waked, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Analeigh Tipton.

Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13) One of the most inept comedies of Woody Allen’s career, and that’s saying something. An overacting Colin Firth plays a 1930s spiritual debunker who sets out to discredit a pretty young American (Emma Stone) who claims to be a medium in the south of France. Allen tries to balance light farce with a disquisition on the purpose of spirituality in a godless universe, and he fails miserably in every phase. Stone is the only remotely palatable element here; let’s hope Allen makes better use of her in his next movie. Also with Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Shamos, Erica Leerhsen, and Jacki Weaver.

The Maze Runner (PG-13) The shadow of The Hunger Games looms heavily over this dystopian science-fiction thriller starring Dylan O’Brien as a boy who awakens without his memory in a community full of similarly amnesiac boys trapped in the center of a giant maze. The film’s look is derivative, and the acting is mostly anonymous, aside from the beauteous Kaya Scodelario as a girl who mysteriously shows up late in the proceedings. Still, the central mystery (taken from the James Dashner novel this is based on) is well-handled, and the plot’s twists and turns are handled dexterously to reveal enough information to keep up the intrigue. Other YA novels have been turned into far worse movies. Also with Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Blake Cooper, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Will Poulter, Jacob Latimore, and Patricia Clarkson.

My Old Lady (PG-13) Israel Horovitz adapts his own stage play about a penniless American (Kevin Kline) who inherits a Paris apartment, only to find an old woman (Maggie Smith) and her daughter (Kristin Scott Thomas) who are legally entitled to stay there. Also with Noémie Lvovsky, Stéphane Freiss, Stéphane de Groodt, and Dominique Pinon.

No Good Deed (PG-13) A movie so bad, it’s actually rather impressive. Taraji P. Henson plays a mom who’s stuck at home on a rainy night when an escaped serial rapist (Idris Elba), posing as a car-wreck victim, manages to terrorize her. Elba seems to appreciate playing a bad guy for once, but he’s vastly undercut by a nonsensical script. At one point, the woman’s young daughter somehow fails to notice the villain killing a cop 10 feet away from her. If that sounds unbelievable, try the climactic plot twist on for size. This is just putrid. Also with Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo, Mirage Moonschein, and Henry Simmons.

The November Man (R) Not good. Pierce Brosnan stars in this dreary thriller as an ex-CIA hit man who’s called out of retirement and finds himself in a life-or-death battle with his former star pupil (Luke Bracey) over a humanitarian worker (Olga Kurylenko) in Belgrade who has information that can bring down Russia’s next president. Director Roger Donaldson can still orchestrate a decent action sequence, but this story fails to make any sense at all, and the actors either have no idea what’s going on or can’t be bothered to care. The seriousness of this movie’s intentions kills off any joy. Also with Bill Smitrovich, Amila Terzimehic, Lazar Ristovski, Patrick Kennedy, Dragan Marinkovic, Mediha Musliovic, Caterina Scorsone, and Will Patton.

The Pirates (NR) A Korean comedy that even Westerners will find amusing, this historical piece stars Kim Nam-gil as a 14th-century former soldier-turned-bandit who strikes an uneasy alliance with a pirate queen (Son Ye-jin) to hunt down a whale that has swallowed a state emblem needed by the new ruling dynasty. The hijinks are heavily influenced by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but director Lee Seok-hoon handles it all with a light touch and even manages a moment of beauty early on when the pirate comes face to face with the whale. Son makes a dashing poker-faced foil for Kim, who’s equally at home with the swashbuckling and the slapstick comedy. The lightheartedness is a welcome contrast to the more serious historical Korean films of late. Also with Yoo Hae-jin, Kim Tae-woo, Lee Kyeong-yeong, Park Cheol-min, Sin Jeong-gyun, and Oh Dal-su.

Reclaim (R) Ryan Phillippe and Rachelle Lefevre star in this thriller as an American couple whose attempt to adopt a child in the Caribbean goes horribly awry. Also with John Cusack, Briana Roy, Luis Guzmán, Jandres Burgos, and Jacki Weaver.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PG-13) This might be the worst movie of the summer, and this is a summer that includes Hercules and the fourth Transformers movie. Never mind your nostalgia for the TMNT of the ’80s — this movie fails because it just isn’t fun. Director Jonathan Liebesman is so in love with a joke about the ridiculousness of the turtles’ backstory that that’s pretty much all there is. (For the record, it’s funny exactly twice in the course of 101 minutes.) Like a lie that has spun out of control, the new twists on the TMNT mythos require more exposition, which requires more talking, and talking in movies doesn’t play to the strong suits of star Megan Fox, cast here as the turtles’ reporter-friend April O’Neil. Fox is icily beautiful, but her acting can be summed up by a single facial expression: open-mouthed confusion. It’s a role that would be perfect for a talking doll, but, unfortunately, April is supposed to be a person. Of course, this movie is also supposed to be about crime-fighting turtles, but they’re just painful to watch and annoying. Also with Will Arnett, William Fitchner, and the voices of Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shalhoub. –– S.S.

This Is Where I Leave You (R) Unsatisfying. Jason Bateman plays a guy who’s forced to spend seven days with his mother (Jane Fonda), siblings (Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Corey Stoll), and various assorted spouses and significant others after his father dies. The movie is based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel, and director Shawn Levy (from the Night at the Museum movies) seems to quail before the funnier, grosser edges of the material. The insights are reduced to greeting-card platitudes, and Fey seems ill at ease as a regret-ridden mom, while Bateman is rehashing the shtick he did on TV’s Arrested Development. The only actor who really brings his best is Driver as the uninhibited youngest sibling. This movie’s grown-up impulses get in the way of its comedy. Also with Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, Debra Monk, Abigail Spencer, Ben Schwartz, and Dax Shepard.

Tusk (R) One of the strangest horror movies of all time stars Justin Long as a podcaster who becomes the prisoner of an insane old sailor (Michael Parks) who wants to turn him into a walrus. Kevin Smith has long seemed like a brilliant comic writer in search of a subject, but this film (based on an idea floated in one of his own podcasts) is where he finally finds a place for his talent. The typically foul-mouthed yet erudite dialogue is refreshing in a genre with so much bad writing, and Parks delivers a stellar turn as a learned man who passes himself off as a subnormal redneck when he faces a cop (Johnny Depp, under heavy makeup and billed under his character’s name, Guy Lapointe). The movie reaches a pitch of absurdity during its climactic fight sequence that needs to be seen to be believed. Also with Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Harley Morenstein, Ralph Garman, and Ashley Greene.

A Walk Among the Tombstones (R) This movie’s different from all the Liam Neeson thrillers: It’s actually good, thanks to a witty script by writer-director Scott Frank and some tasty supporting performances. Neeson plays an ex-cop-turned-sleazy freelance fixer who’s hired by a drug trafficker (Dan Stevens) to track down a pair of psychopaths who kidnap and murder the wives and daughters of drug lords. The star partners up well with Brian “Astro” Bradley as a street kid who’s also a computer genius, and there’s a nice creepy turn from Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as a groundskeeper. Adapted from Lawrence Block’s novel, this makes for a pleasingly layered pulp thriller. Also with David Harbour, Boyd Holbrook, Sebastian Roché, Mark Consuelos, and Adam David Thompson.

When the Game Stands Tall (PG) The ungrammatical title is forgivable; the rest of the movie isn’t. Jim Caviezel stars in this completely unoriginal sports drama based on the story of Bob LaDouceur, the coach of the football team at California’s De La Salle High School, which had to cope with a player’s murder, LaDouceur’s heart attack, and the snapping of the team’s historic 151-game winning streak all at the same time. Michael Chiklis steals this thing away as a bespectacled, goateed assistant coach who steps in for his ailing boss, but he can’t begin to compensate for this movie that contains just about every cliché of football movies that there is. You’re better off watching Friday Night Lights, the movie or the TV show. Also with Laura Dern, Alexander Ludwig, Clancy Brown, Ser’Darius Blain, Jessie Usher, Matthew Daddario, Stephan James, and Maurice Jones-Drew.

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES:

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (NR) Originally made as two movies, each telling the story of a romantic relationship from a different character’s viewpoint, this is a single film condensing the two versions, starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. Also with Viola Davis, Nina Arianda, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Jess Weixler, William Hurt, and Isabelle Huppert.

A Five Star Life (NR) Margherita Buy stars in this comedy as an Italian hotel reviewer who reckons with being single and childless at middle age while traveling to luxury hotels across Europe. Also with Stefano Accorsi, Fabrizia Sacchi, Alessia Barela, Gianmarco Tognazzi, and Lesley Manville.

The Guest (R) Adam Wingard (You’re Next) directs this thriller starring Dan Stevens as a stranger who ingratiates himself with a family by claiming to have served in the military with their dead son. Also with Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, and Lance Reddick.

Love is Strange (R) John Lithgow and Alfred Molina star in this drama as a longtime gay couple who must look for new housing after they’re evicted shortly after they’re married. Also with Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Cheyenne Jackson, Charlie Tahan, and Harriet Sansom Harris.  

The Skeleton Twins (R) Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader star in this comedy as estranged siblings who try to mend their relationship after narrowly escaping death on the same day. Also with Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason, and Luke Wilson.

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