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Elvis & Nixon (R) This dramatization of the real-life 1970 meeting between Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) and Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) would have been better on stage. Elvis goes to the White House to ask for a federal badge to combat the scourge of communists, hippies, drug addicts, Black Panthers, and the Beatles. Spacey, always a fine impressionist, has Nixon’s mannerisms down, and Shannon gets the nicest moments in the script, like when Elvis remembers his dead twin brother as he awaits the meeting. Still, director Liza Johnson can’t find any larger meaning in this encounter, and Alex Pettyfer has way too much screen time as a boring member of Elvis’ entourage who needs to return to his family. Had these two actors done this live in a theater, this might have seemed more than the inconsequential bit that it is. Also with Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters, Sky Ferreira, Tracy Letts, Ashley Benson, and Tate Donovan. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Born to Be Blue (R) Ethan Hawke stars in this bizarre biography of Chet Baker, as the heroin-addicted jazz trumpeter comes back from a savage beating that leaves him unable to play. Weirdly, there’s also a layer of metafiction as some of the scenes are staged as Baker portraying himself in a movie about his own life, with one actress (Carmen Ejogo) portraying all his wives and girlfriends. What writer-director Robert Budreau puts this in for is unclear. David Braid plays Baker’s solos on the soundtrack and does a reasonable impression of the great jazzman, but this movie meanders too much to say anything meaningful about its subject. Also with Callum Keith Rennie, Tony Nappo, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green, Dan Lett, Kevin Hanchard, and Kedar Brown. (Opens Friday at Premiere Cinemas Burleson)

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Compadres (NR) This Mexican action-comedy stars Omar Chaparro as a cop who teams up with an American computer hacker (Joey Morgan) to gain revenge on a crime lord (Erick Elias). Also with Aislinn Derbez, Héctor Jímenez, Camila Sodi, Alejandra Guilmant, Kevin Pollak, and Eric Roberts. (Opens Friday)

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (PG-13) The sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman stars Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain as warriors protecting a queen (Emily Blunt) against her evil sister (Charlize Theron). Also with Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Ralph Ineson, and Sam Claflin. (Opens Friday)

Miles Ahead (R) Underneath the insane fabrications, this Miles Davis biopic is just another overindulgent vehicle directed by its star. Don Cheadle is the filmmaker and lead actor, portraying the great jazz trumpeter during his late 1970s period of seclusion trying to fend off the attentions of a fictitious Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor). Cheadle invents a car chase and shootout with a music promoter that doesn’t remotely resemble anything in Davis’ life, but none of it sheds any light on the man’s artistry or his drive to reinvent himself. Davis’ music is heard on the soundtrack, and his impeccable control whether he’s playing cool jazz or hard bop says more than this movie ever could. Also with Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Keith Stanfield, Joshua Jessen, and Theron Brown. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Nina (NR) The controversy over this Nina Simone biopic has been over the use of prosthetics and skin-darkening makeup on lead actress Zoe Saldana, but that’s hardly the only issue here. The 37-year-old Saldana is playing Simone in her 60s as she lives in exile in southern France. Writer-director Cynthia Mort seems not to have the faintest idea who her main character is, ignoring Simone’s political activism, her musical influence, and the extent to which the singer cultivated her imperious façade as a way of dealing with the music world’s racism. Instead it concentrates on her relationship with her business manager (David Oyelowo, who surely has better things to do than play the worshipful fan). Saldana does her own singing, and she never approaches Simone’s intensity and magnetism except possibly in “Wild Is the Wind.” You may wonder how they messed up such a great subject. The answer is: Lots of ways. Also with Ronald Guttman, Mike Epps, Ella Thomas, Ella Joyce, and Keith David. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

The Rally — LA (PG-13) The sequel to The Rally: A Change Is Coming stars T-Bone as a criminal overlord who threatens a Christian activist (Rick Reyna). Also with Danny Martinez, Peter Vazquez, Kenneth Copeland, Curtis Taylor, and Eric Roberts. (Opens Friday at Harkins Southlake)

Sing Street (PG-13) The latest musical by John Carney (Once, Begin Again) stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as a teenage boy in 1980s Dublin who decides to form a rock band to impress a girl (Lucy Boynton). Also with Jack Reynor, Mark McKenna, Ben Carolan, Percy Chamburuka, Ian Kenny, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Aidan Gillen. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

Now Playing

The Adderall Diaries (R) A movie that tries to be too many things at once. Adapted from Stephen Elliott’s memoir, this stars James Franco as an abused kid-turned-writer who suffers public disgrace when his supposedly dead father (Ed Harris) surfaces to denounce his son’s memoir as a pack of lies. Writer-director Pamela Romanowsky can’t decide whether this is supposed to be about Stephen’s drug addiction, his taste for S&M sex, his recovery of his literary reputation, or the murder trial that he’s covering. The father-son relationship keeps turning in the same circles, too. This is a better S&M movie than Fifty Shades of Grey, but it needs a lot more focus. Also with Amber Heard, Wilmer Valderrama, Timothée Chalamet, Jim Parrack, Christian Slater, and Cynthia Nixon.

Allegiant — Part 1 (PG-13) These movies are getting worse. Shailene Woodley stars in the postapocalyptic YA saga’s third installment, as Tris Prior leads a small party of her friends out of Chicago and into a colony outside the city whose director (Jeff Daniels) has been running the place as a giant social experiment. Everybody, including Tris herself, is really bad at their jobs — security guards fail to hold people, computer systems get hacked, and people place trust in others who are clearly out for themselves. Miles Teller’s naked self-interest shines out amid the wreckage, but this is beyond his or anyone else’s power to save. Also with Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts, Zoë Kravitz, Keiynan Lonsdale, Daniel Dae Kim, Maggie Q, Bill Skarsgård, Jonny Weston, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer, Xander Berkeley, Rebecca Pidgeon, Janet McTeer, Ashley Judd, and Octavia Spencer.

Barbershop: The Next Cut (PG-13) Admirable, but not as effective as it could have been. Ice Cube returns for this third installment as Calvin the Chicago barber who uses his shop to take a stand against his city’s worsening gun violence. The whole series has been about unhurried pacing and including multiple points of view, but on this subject, it needed more focus and precision. Too much of this is taken up with Calvin trying to keep his teenage son (Diallo Thompson) out of a gang and one of his new barbers (Common) trying to improve relations with his wife (Eve). Even the banter isn’t as spicy as it used to be. The trick this movie’s trying is hard to pull off, and it can’t do it. Also with Cedric the Entertainer, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson, Utkarsh Ambudkar, J.B. Smoove, Lamorne Morris, Deon Cole, Margot Bingham, Troy Garity, Tyga, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Nicki Minaj.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13) Not terrible, just terribly dull. Ben Affleck steps into the Batman outfit, as the Gotham vigilante comes to see Superman (Henry Cavill) as a threat to the human race. Director Zack Snyder stages a couple of fight sequences well, but neither the overarching story nor the various subplots make any sense at all, and Snyder’s not the filmmaker to handle the introduction of real-world consequences into a superhero movie. Jesse Eisenberg’s overacting as Lex Luthor grows oppressive with screen time and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) gets a pallid introduction after so many failed attempts to bring her to the screen. This movie’s mostly grim, self-important, and too long. Also with Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Scoot McNairy, Tao Okamoto, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, and Holly Hunter.

The Boss (R) The ad-libbing of Melissa McCarthy and the other cast members bails out this comedy, but just barely. She portrays a disgraced, imprisoned finance guru who tries to rebuild her career with the help of her former assistant (Kristen Bell). McCarthy’s real-life husband Ben Falcone (who also shows up here as a lawyer) isn’t showing improvement as a director, as characters and plotlines disappear for long stretches and he never figures out the proper attitude toward his sociopathic antiheroine — she probably should have stayed as the improv character that McCarthy created. Fortunately, the one-liners from McCarthy, Bell, Tyler Labine as the assistant’s helpful boyfriend, and Annie Mumolo as a Type A housewife hit often enough to keep the thing watchable. Also with Peter Dinklage, Ella Anderson, Kristen Schaal, Margo Martindale, Cecily Strong, and Kathy Bates.

Criminal (R) I’m not even sure what kind of movie this was supposed to be. Woefully miscast as a violent psychopath, Kevin Costner portrays a death row inmate who’s implanted with the memories of a murdered CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) in an attempt to recover the location of a source with intel on a Spanish anarchist (Jordi Mollà). This bad-looking film vacillates between science-fiction, spy thriller, and a twisted romance between the antihero and the dead agent’s wife (Gal Gadot), and none of it comes close to working. Gary Oldman also overacts as badly as possible in the role of a CIA handler. This is a disaster zone. Also with Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Antje Traue, Michael Pitt, Amaury Nolasco, and Colin Salmon.

Deadpool (R) The humor in this hyperself-aware superhero movie is incredibly obvious, but it’s still explosively funny. Ryan Reynolds stars as an ex-soldier and low-rent mercenary whose attempts to find a cure for his terminal cancer leave him a horribly scarred but borderline unkillable vigilante. You may find all the meta jokes too much as the movie riffs on Reynolds’ acting career and the X-Men series that this is a tangential part of. Still, the star’s physicality and snotty sense of humor make him perfect as a compulsive wisecracker, and the movie doesn’t lose sight of Deadpool’s desire to fix his looks and reunite with his fiancée (Morena Baccarin). The fight sequences are also either properly brutal or hilariously slapstick, as when Deadpool tries to fight Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and just hurts himself hitting the metal giant. The filthy laughs in this superhero movie are energizing. Also with Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni, and Leslie Uggams.

Demolition (R) Better than it should be. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a New York City investment banker who goes numb and somewhat insane after his wife (Heather Lind) is killed in a car accident, analyzing his marriage exhaustively in letters of complaint to a vending machine company after he fails to get a bag of peanut M&Ms in the hospital. This cliché-ridden script probably would have been intolerable in many directors’ hands, but Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) dries out the material by underscoring the not-so-cuddly weirdness of the guy’s behavior, helped by deadpan performances from Gyllenhaal and Naomi Watts as a customer-service rep who gets the letters. When Gyllenhaal dances through the streets to “Mr. Big,” the movie feels like it’s earned it. Also with Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, C.J. Wilson, and Polly Draper.

Eye in the Sky (R) The best movie about drone warfare so far is still rather frustrating. Helen Mirren plays a British Army colonel pursuing a ring of terrorists in Kenya and a U.S. Air Force drone pilot (Aaron Paul) who are faced with a decision whether or not to fire a missile that will take out a bunch of suicide bombers but also kill a little girl. Director Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game) somehow squeezes drama out of a string of scenes taking place in windowless rooms across the globe, but the consequences are too distant. If everybody in the story is powerless to create a better outcome, where’s the tragedy? You feel the emotional impact of this movie in your head, not your heart. Also with Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Monica Dolan, Iain Glen, Laila Robins, Phoebe Fox, Babou Ceesay, Richard McCabe, Kim Engelbrecht, and the late Alan Rickman.

Fan (NR) This Indian thriller stars Shah Rukh Khan as both a Bollywood movie star and the crazed fan who stalks him through Eastern Europe. Also with Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku, Waluscha de Sousa, and Indraneel Bhattacharya.

God’s Not Dead 2 (PG) The belief that Christianity is under a cruel and calculated assault on its values is the through-line in God’s Not Dead 2, the first sequel to the 2014 faith-based hit. Melissa Joan Hart plays an Arkansas high school teacher on trial for telling her student (Hayley Orrantia) about Jesus outside of class, then quoting scripture as an historical source when Brooke asks her about Jesus’ teachings of non-violence during an in-class discussion. Ray Wise, as the ACLU lawyer prosecuting the case walketh about as a purring lion, seeking which scenery he may devour. He’s a metaphor for the Devil as envisioned by a Focus on the Family focus group, and while a couple non-believing characters are given a fair shake, the message is still pretty exclusionary: Christians are right, and it’s wrong to suggest otherwise. Oh, Pat Boone and Fred Thompson get wheeled out for this dreck, too, and it’s embarrassing af. Hopefully, some Christians will point out to their more strident, paranoid brethren that movies like this aren’t doing them any favors. Also with Jesse Metcalfe, Ernie Hudson, Trish LaFarche, and Robin Givens. — Steve Steward

Hardcore Henry (R) An intriguing failed experiment. Ilya Naishuller shoots this entire action-thriller from the hero’s point of view, so you can see first-hand the exploits of this mute cyborg soldier try to recover his kidnapped wife (Haley Bennett) from the clutches of a Russian mob boss (Danila Kozlovsky) who, for some reason, has telekinetic powers. Stuff like that goes unexplained because Naishuller thinks the gimmick will paper over the cracks. The gambit does lend some spice to the chase scenes, but the final result has surprisingly little impact. Sharlto Copley co-stars as a Cole Porter-loving sidekick who manages to survive being shot in the head, stabbed in the neck, set on fire, and blown up. Also Andrei Dementiev and Tim Roth.

Hello, My Name Is Doris (R) Regrettably high on quirk. Sally Field stars in this dramedy as a single, childless older woman who’s jolted out of her rut when she’s smitten by a much-younger new co-worker (Max Greenfield). We’re meant to find Doris lovable, but for too much of the movie, she’s just weird and lonely, and it takes more than that to get us on a character’s side. Director Michael Showalter (The Baxter) is ill-equipped to deal with Doris’ severe mental issues and manages to squander a fine supporting cast on comic material that isn’t up to scratch. Field deserved a sturdier vehicle than this. Also with Tyne Daly, Beth Behrs, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Stephen Root, Elizabeth Reaser, Jack Antonoff, Kyle Mooney, Natasha Lyonne, and Peter Gallagher.

The Jungle Book (PG) This live-action film of Rudyard Kipling’s stories looks nice, but it doesn’t uncover anything new. Neel Sethi plays the boy raised by wolves in the Indian jungle when a man-hating tiger (voiced by Idris Elba) vows to kill him. This Disney movie incorporates two of the numbers from the 1967 animated musical version, but director Jon Favreau doesn’t have a flair for the genre, and his film relentlessly cutesifies the animals much like the older incarnation did. The movie does have a superb voice cast, especially a fairly terrifying Elba as the snarling villain. I suspect that in 50 years, though, this will look as dated as the 1967 Jungle Book does now. Additional voices by Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, Sam Raimi, and the late Garry Shandling.

London Has Fallen (R) And yet I’m the one who can’t get up. Gerard Butler reprises his role as a Secret Service agent who has to protect the President (Aaron Eckhart) during a terrorist attack in Europe. This sequel is somehow even more racist and lunkheaded than its predecessor, with Eckhart once again failing to be a remotely convincing president and Butler killing off an anonymous horde of Middle Eastern guys while making ill-timed wisecracks about how awesome America is. Iranian director Babak Najafi pulls off one nice sequence in a single take with Mike and a bunch of SAS soldiers fighting their way down a terrorist-controlled street, but it’s not worth sitting through all the xenophobia and bad acting for. Also with Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Riley, Alon Aboutboul, Walid Zouaiter, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo, Patrick Kennedy, Radha Mitchell, and Angela Bassett.

Meet the Blacks (R) A horror parody that answers the lame social satire of The Purge with lame social satire of its own. The intolerable Mike Epps plays a Chicago inner-city dad who moves to Beverly Hills, only to find on Purge Night that everybody he stole money from or owes money to back home has followed him there to purge him and his family. Despite the presence of unwelcoming rich white neighbors and a George Zimmerman-like overzealous neighborhood watchman (Rafael Siegel), this thing misses an opportunity to comment on how violence follows African-Americans even into prosperous surroundings. There was half a good idea here, but we needed the other half. Also with Zulay Henao, Bresha Webb, Li’l Duval, Alex Henderson, George Lopez, Charlie Murphy, DeRay Davis, Michael Blackson, and Mike Tyson.

Miracles from Heaven (PG-13) From the title, you already know whether you’re going to find this movie an affirmation of your Christian faith or a slog through pablum. Jennifer Garner plays the real-life Burleson housewife who loses her faith in God and then gets it back when her middle daughter (Kylie Rogers) contracts a mysterious and excruciatingly painful life-threatening illness. Director Patricia Riggen has shown a less-than-delicate touch in movies about secular subjects, and her approach to this religious story proves no different. She has her lead actress weep endlessly in close-up, and Garner’s too well-mannered for a woman raging at God. The movie ends with her speaking about how we lose sight of God’s miracles in our banal lives. This film is part of the banality. Also with Martin Henderson, Brighton Sharbino, Courtney Fansler, John Carroll Lynch, Eugenio Derbez, and Queen Latifah.

Midnight Special (PG-13) The more you think about this thriller, the less there seems to be. Jeff Nichols’ latest film stars Michael Shannon as the father of a boy with superpowers (Jaeden Lieberher) who takes his son on the run from both the federal government and a religious cult. Befitting the guy who directed Take Shelter and Mud, Nichols is great with moody Southern Gothic atmosphere and the collision of the uncanny with the mundane, and he gets nice performances out of his actors. However, the cheap uplift at the end unfortunately recalls Tomorrowland or M. Night Shyamalan’s lesser works. Nichols is a great talent who wields his bigger budget without strain, but he could use a co-writer. Also with Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton, Sam Shepard, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, and Adam Driver.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (PG-13) It took 14 years for this sequel to hit the screen, which is less remarkable than the fact that the edgeless original was a big hit in the first place. Nia Vardalos reprises her role, her frumpy single gal now a mother dealing with separation anxiety as her teenage daughter (Elena Kampouris) considers going away for college, along with about a zillion other plotlines and characters that aren’t given enough attention. Vardalos’ jokes about how Greek people are hearty and have huge families were old hat back in 2002, and now they’re even more so. This a big hunk of pastitsio that’s been sitting around for too long. Also with John Corbett, Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Louis Mandylor, Ian Gomez, Andrea Martin, Rob Riggle, Mark Margolis, Rita Wilson, and John Stamos.

10 Cloverfield Lane (PG-13) This quasi-sequel to Cloverfield stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a car accident victim who comes to in an underground bunker with two strangers (John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr.) after an apocalyptic event. First-time director Dan Trachtenberg ditches the found-footage look of the first movie and does this up as tautly as a Roman Polanski psychological thriller with a few characters trapped in an enclosed space. He turns Goodman loose, and the actor responds with a terrifying performance as the angry, unstable paranoid case who built the bunker. He’s counterweighed by Winstead’s turn as a woman who keeps getting into abusive situations and now must get herself out of one. Also with Suzanne Cryer and Bradley Cooper.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (R) Tina Fey stars in this mildly engaging film (loosely based on a real-life journalist’s memoir) as a TV news writer who travels to Afghanistan in 2003 to provide coverage for her network. Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) and writer Robert Carlock (TV’s The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) strike precisely the right tone here: The movie is funny chronicling its heroine’s life and the foul-mouthed camaraderie among the foreign journalists, but the backdrop of suffering is always hovering near. Christopher Abbott does well as an Afghan street guide and fixer, but did this part really have to go to a white actor? This amounts to a breezy character study of unserious people driven to do a serious job. Also with Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Nicholas Braun, Sheila Vand, Evan Jonigkeit, Cherry Jones, Alfred Molina, Josh Charles, and Billy Bob Thornton.

Zootopia (PG) A Disney animated movie about a cuddly bunny rabbit that’s so relevant to our current political situation, it’ll give you chills. In a world where predators and prey co-exist peacefully in an urban environment, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is the first rabbit on the big city’s police force, an affirmative-action hire who tries to distinguish herself by teaming up with a fox con artist (voiced by Jason Bateman) to crack a string of animal disappearances. This is no canned morality tale, but a layered look at how prejudice seeps into everyone’s thinking, including Judy’s. Amid some delightful gags (including a DMV staffed by sloths that must have been fun to animate) and atmosphere that evokes film noir thrillers, there’s a powerfully slippery parable about discrimination and the politics of fear. Additional voices by Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Alan Tudyk, Tommy Chong, Kristen Bell, Shakira, Octavia Spencer, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Dallas Exclusives

Embrace of the Serpent (NR) Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, this Colombian drama is about an Amazon River shaman (Antonio Bolívar) who works with two European scientists (Jan Bijvoet and Brionne Davis) to search for a sacred healing plant. Also with Nilbio Torres, Yauenkü Migue, Nicolás Cancino, and Luigi Sciamanna.

The First Monday in May (PG-13) Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times) directs this documentary about the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit on Chinese-inspired Western fashions. Starring Andrew Bolton, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano, Rihanna, Baz Luhrmann, and Wong Kar-Wai.

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