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OPENING

The Duel (R) Liam Hemsworth stars in this Western as a Texas Ranger investigating a series of unexplained deaths in a small town. Also with Woody Harrelson, Alice Braga, Emory Cohen, William Sadler, Christopher Berry, and José Zúñiga. (Opens Friday)

Free State of Jones (R) Matthew McConaughey stars in this Civil War drama based on the true story of a former Confederate soldier who banded with slaves to rebel against the Confederacy. Also with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Sean Bridges, Jacob Lofland, Christopher Berry, and Keri Russell. (Opens Friday)

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Independence Day: Resurgence (PG-13) Roland Emmerich’s sequel to his 1996 hit has the Earth banding together once more to repel the alien invasion’s long-delayed second wave. Starring Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Sela Ward, Vivica A. Fox, William Fichtner, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Maika Monroe, Jessie T. Usher, Joey King, Angelababy, and Judd Hirsch. (Opens Friday)

The Music of Strangers (PG-13) This documentary by Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom) is about Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Shallows (PG-13) Blake Lively stars in this thriller as a surfer who is attacked by a shark and stranded on a rock outcropping 200 feet from shore. Also with Óscar Jaenada.(Opens Friday)

Three (NR) The latest Chinese thriller by Johnnie To stars Wallace Chung as a wounded crime lord who waits for his subordinates to break him out of a heavily guarded hospital. Also with Louis Koo, Vicky Zhao Wei, Michael Tse, Lo Hoi-Pang, and Suet Lam. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING

Alice Through the Looking Glass (PG) Tim Burton has been replaced as director, but this Disney-meets-Lewis Carroll adaptation remains loud, incoherent, garish, and stubbornly unmagical. Mia Wasikowska returns as the heroine who returns to Wonderland to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) by traveling back through time. New director James Bobin (from the Muppets movies) engineers an ingenious opening sequence with Alice captaining a warship through a narrow strait, but he fails to find any resonance in either her relationship with the Hatter or the maudlin subplot with the Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) making up with her sister (Anne Hathaway). Sacha Baron Cohen pilfers a few meager laughs as Time himself, but this is a CGI bore. Also with Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Andrew Scott, and Richard Armitage. Voices by Timothy Spall, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Matt Vogel, and the late Alan Rickman.

The Angry Birds Movie (PG) A cynical, sloppy cash-in on the video game’s popularity. Jason Sudeikis stars in this animated movie as a red bird with anger management issues who correctly suspects that the green pigs who’ve come to visit his island are really just a bunch of filthy immigrants who’ve come to steal their stuff. The action sequences are forgettable and the filmmakers don’t bother to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy anger, but the worst offense this movie makes is being unfunny, despite the wealth of comic talent in its voice cast. It’s all enough to make you want to fling missiles at some pig’s house. Additional voices by Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Keegan-Michael Key, Tony Hale, Hannibal Buress, Ike Barinholtz, Jillian Bell, Peter Dinklage, and Sean Penn.

Captain America: Civil War (PG-13) People are saying this is the best of Marvel’s Avengers series, and they’re pretty much right. The group splits when Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) disagree over the need for U.N. oversight of the Avengers. Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) do incredible work just to fit 12 superheroes into this piece without losing track of anyone, and they introduce both Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) into the proceedings in ways that pop. The action sequences are well-managed, too, even if the 12-superhero smackdown feels as obligatory as the orgy that concludes a porno movie. The balance of action, humor, character, emotion, and intellectual debate make this a compendium of the best the Marvel movies have had to offer. Also with Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Emily VanCamp, Frank Grillo, Daniel Brühl, Marisa Tomei, Martin Freeman, Hope Davis, John Slattery, Alfre Woodard, and William Hurt.

Central Intelligence (PG-13) They had all the right ingredients in this comedy except a script. A high school loser-turned-CIA agent (Dwayne Johnson) has to team up with his school’s BMOC-turned-accountant (Kevin Hart) to foil an espionage plot. The casting works well and Johnson creates a funny character as an ass-kicker who’s into unicorn T-shirts and Twilight movies and is completely oblivious to the accountant’s objections to being dragged into danger. If only there had been some actual material instead of director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) staging action sequences while winking at the audience. Also with Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Ryan Hansen, Danielle Nicolet, Thomas Kretschmann, and an uncredited Melissa McCarthy.

The Conjuring 2 (R) James Wan directs this sequel to his 2013 horror film with more flair than you usually find in the genre, but underneath the trappings this is really just the same crappy scare-free flick as the others. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson portray the spiritualist who travel to London in 1978 when an 11-year-old girl (Madison Wolfe) starts making bad things happen to her family. Wan executes some dexterous tracking shots inside their house (unusually large for a working-class family’s), yet he doesn’t have the knack for inventing demons that haunt your soul. He should do more action movies.  Also with Frances O’Connor, Lauren Esposito, Benjamin Haigh, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Franka Potente, and Simon McBurney.

Finding Dory (PG) The advance hype has been adulatory for Pixar’s latest, and I just can’t join in, much as I’d like. In this sequel to Finding Nemo, sweetly forgetful blue tang Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) remembers something about her family and dashes across the Pacific with Marlin and Nemo (voiced by Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence) in tow to make sure she doesn’t get lost. There’s a nicely ambivalent depiction of the California aquarium that they all become trapped in, but the plot machinery creaks audibly as it strives to separate Dory from everyone else who wants to help her. The story is supposed to be about Dory learning to survive on her own, and this isn’t accomplished in any convincing way. There’s much that’s genuinely entertaining here, but the slippage from Finding Nemo and other Pixar greats is noticeable. Additional voices by Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, John Ratzenberger, and Sigourney Weaver.

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.

The Lobster (R) If you’ve never seen a Greek movie, Yorgos Lanthimos’ first English-language film will introduce you to the weirdness. Colin Farrell stars as a man who has 45 days at a resort hotel to find true love or be turned permanently into an animal. This deadpan absurdist comedy features plentiful slapstick humor featuring characters who are so narcotized in their sadness that they make Wes Anderson characters look manic by comparison. He makes some barbed satire on the groupthink among singles and couples about their own ways of life, and his Beckett-like mix of existential despair and knockabout comedy is distinctively Greek. Also with Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Ariane Labed, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, and John C. Reilly.

Love & Friendship (PG) So refined and so much fun. Whit Stillman adapts Jane Austen’s unpublished novella Lady Susan into this comedy about an impoverished aristocratic widow (Kate Beckinsale) who schemes to find rich husbands for both herself and her teenage daughter (Morfydd Clark). Beckinsale is at her best portraying scheming, narcissistic know-it-alls like Lady Susan, and she turns her infuriating character into delightful company. Stillman’s exquisite dialogue comes closer than any other screenwriter to imitating Austen’s diamond wit, and makes this into the year’s most quotable movie. In this fizzy Mozartean farce, he seems to have finally found his milieu. Also with Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Tom Bennett, Justin Edwards, Emma Greenwell, Jemma Redgrave, James Fleet, Jenn Murray, and Stephen Fry.

Love Me Tomorrow (NR) This Filipino romance is about a DJ (Piolo Pascual) who gets caught between two women (Coleen Garcia and Dawn Zulueta). Also with Freddie Webb, Patrick Garcia, Carmi Martin, Maxene Magalona, and Lui Villaruz.

Me Before You (PG-13) Emilia Clarke overacts ferociously in this leaden adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ novel about a klutzy, quirky, small-town girl who gets a job taking care of a young man (Sam Claflin) from a rich family who’s been rendered quadriplegic by a spinal cord injury.  The controversy around this tearjerker has been about the guy’s determination to undergo an assisted suicide, but this issue is tastefully handled with a modicum of psychological realism. No, what ruins this is Clarke’s “look at me, I’m so adorable” act that proves as grating as her character’s loud wardrobe. Also with Janet McTeer, Matthew Lewis, Vanessa Kirby, Jenna Coleman, Joanna Lumley, and Charles Dance.

Money Monster (R) Jodie Foster gets the little details right in this thriller, but the big things seem to escape her. George Clooney stars as a Jim Cramer-like TV financial guru who gets taken hostage on the air by a disgruntled, bankrupt investor (Jack O’Connell).  The way the TV show shills for the companies it reports on, the way New York City copes with the crisis, and the way the show’s producer (Julia Roberts) and her staff are forced to do actual journalism all seem real enough, but the working-class gunman never comes to life as a character. He’s supposed to be a tragic figure who anchors this thriller, but you’re left unmoved. Also with Caitriona Balfe, Dominic West, Lenny Venito, Christopher Denham, Condola Rashad, Aaron Yoo,  Dennis Boutsikaris, Emily Meade, and Giancarlo Esposito.

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.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (R) A bunch of male writers try to make this sequel more feminist, with partial success. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne return as the suburban couple trying to sell their house when a new hard-partying sorority moves in next door. The filmmakers try to deal with the darker side of frat life and the gender inequities of college life, but the sorority girls feel synthetic, and as their leader, Chloë Grace Moretz doesn’t fit the role of a pot-loving party girl. The movie still has its share of funny lines, and Zac Efron steals this away as a frat boy trying to cope with the real world. Also with Ike Barinholtz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein, Dave Franco,  Jerrod Carmichael, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Hannibal Buress, Carla Gallo, Lisa Kudrow, Liz Cackowski, Selena Gomez, and Kelsey Grammer.

The Nice Guys (R) Ryan Gosling gives the funniest performance of his career as a bumbling weenie of a private eye in 1977 Los Angeles who teams up with a thug-for-hire (Russell Crowe) to solve a string of murders connected to a porn film. Director/co-writer Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3) is at his best making shaggy comedic crime thrillers like this one, and he engineers all manner of delightful gags as well as conceiving a complex character in the detective’s 13-year-old daughter (Angourie Rice) who’s easily the best detective of the three of them. Still, your eyes gravitate to Gosling, who seizes the role’s doofiness and pulls off one virtuoso comedy bit after another in a tour de force. Also with Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Matt Bomer, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Ty Simpkins, and Hannibal Buress.

Now You See Me 2 (PG-13) A vast improvement on the first movie. The magicians from the first movie (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco) plus one newcomer (Lizzy Caplan, subbing in for Isla Fisher) get into trouble as they try to take on the system, personified by a tech magnate (Daniel Radcliffe) peddling user info. Having the heroes expose corporate mischief is a far better plot than the original’s confusing one, the movie is much funnier, and Eisenberg’s character is made quite a bit less douchier. Don’t miss the slide show that introduces the villain. Also with Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Jay Chou, Sanaa Lathan, David Warshofsky, Tsai Chin, and Morgan Freeman. — Cole Williams

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (R) Less a movie and more of a Lonely Island sketch writ large, but still pretty funny for that. Andy Samberg stars in this mockumentary as Conner 4 Real, who broke from his boy band (whose members are played by fellow Lonely Islanders Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) for a successful solo pop music career that crashes on the rocks as he releases his second album. The shadow of This Is Spinal Tap looms heavily over this, and the gaggle of real-life music stars portraying themselves doesn’t add much. Still, the movie features a heartening takedown of TMZ on TV, a tasty bit part by an uncredited Justin Timberlake as Conner’s personal chef, and some hilariously awful songs for Conner, including a gay-rights anthem in which he says “I’m not gay” at least 20 times. Also with Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows, Imogen Poots, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Will Arnett, and Joan Cusack.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (PG-13) The director of this sequel, Dave Green, was 5 years old in the 1980s. This seems appropriate, because his movie looks like something that was made in the 1980s by a 5-year-old. The muscle-bound amphibians (voiced by Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, and Alan Ritchson) try to foil yet another plot by Shredder (Brian Tee) to take over the world, this time by turning everyone into a mutant beast. The movie makes some efforts at portraying dissension within the group, but they’re lost amid the generally crappy visuals and an amateurish turn by Tyler Perry as a Sherman Klump-like scientist. Also with Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Laura Linney, Will Arnett, and Tony Shalhoub.

Warcraft (PG-13) Duncan Jones seems like he’s merely setting the table for what’s appears to be a multi-course prix fixe of epic fantasy movies, but the meal offers little sustenance, despite a promising beginning. Based on a series of video games, the film looks like a cartoon. The CGI slathered on the orcs is mostly tolerable, but the humans’ costumes look like they’re from a Power Rangers episode. Despite these flaws (not to mention a “horde” of one-dimensional main characters who are barely more memorable than the CGI mobs that fill the backgrounds), Warcraft is entertaining in its own right, merely because fans will have a certain anticipation for movie versions of now-classic game characters. Also, it underscores the breakdown of communication between two different forms of storytelling. As a sorcerer, Ben Foster does his due diligence in a role that makes him look like Jesus in a comedy sketch about him and the Apostles dressing up for Scarborough Faire. Also with Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbell, Dominic Cooper, Ben Schnetzer, Ruth Negga, Daniel Wu, Callum Keith Rennie, and Clancy Brown. — Steve Steward

X-Men: Apocalypse (PG-13) Bryan Singer finally loses the plot in this installment set in 1983 that features the mutants being forced to band together to fight an all-powerful villain (Oscar Isaac) bent on destroying the world, just like every other supervillain in these movies. This film has its share of incidental pleasures like Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) taking to a leadership role with the students and the relationship between Jean Grey and Scott Summers (Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan) being reimagined as a teen romance. Still, Singer’s action sequences are weak, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is reduced to a mere pawn, and the whole thing feels overstuffed. The series needs new blood behind the camera. Also with James McAvoy, Evan Peters, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Olivia Munn, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Lucas Till, and Josh Helman.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

Maggie’s Plan (R) Greta Gerwig stars in this comedy as a young woman who tries to repair the relationship between her ex-boyfriend (Ethan Hawke) and his ex-wife (Julianne Moore). Also with Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel, Bill Hader, and Wallace Shawn.

A Monster with a Thousand Heads (NR) Jana Raluy stars in this Argentinian thriller as a woman who creates a hostage situation when her insurance company refuses to pay for treatment for her severely ill husband. Also with Sebastián Aguirre, Hugo Albores, Emilio Echevarría, Verónica Falcón, and Daniel Giménez Cacho.

 

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