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Captain Fantastic opens Friday

OPENING

Captain Fantastic (R) Viggo Mortensen stars in this comedy as a hippie father of six in the rural Pacific Northwest whose unorthodox parenting style is forced to confront the outside world. Also with George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Steve Zahn, Kathryn Hahn, Missi Pyle, and Frank Langella. (Opens Friday)

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (R) Patsy and Edina are starting to look long in the tooth in this movie version of the 1990s British sitcom. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley reprise their roles as fashion mavens who become fugitives from justice after Edina accidentally kills Kate Moss (who plays herself) while trying to land the supermodel as a client. At only 90 minutes, the thing is padded out with international celebrities and celebs whose fame doesn’t extend beyond the U.K., and the set pieces like Patsy dressing up as a man to wed a superwealthy baroness (Marcia Warren) mostly land with a thud. Fans of the show may adore this., but non-fans may feel like they’re being ignored by everybody at a great party. Also with Julia Sawalha, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness, Jane Horrocks, June Whitfield, Mark Gatiss, Celia Imrie, Chris Colfer, Emma Bunton, Lulu, and Barry Humphries. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

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Jason Bourne (PG-13) Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass return to the series as the CIA agent burrows deeper into his past. Also with Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Bill Camp, and Tommy Lee Jones. (Opens Friday)

Nerve (PG-13) Emma Roberts stars in this watchable thriller as a straightedge Staten Island teen who gets roped into playing an online game in which she performs initially harmless but increasingly dangerous stunts for increasing amounts of money. Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman previously made the documentary Catfish, so they’re pretty savvy about depicting the interaction of the online world and the real world. The film motors along reasonably well until the end, when its condemnation of the internet lynch mob falls flat. Roberts’ acting remains like well-chosen house paint: just sort of there. Also with Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Kimiko Glenn, Marc John Jeffries, Colson Baker, Samira Wiley, and Juliette Lewis. (Opens Wednesday)

Nuts! (NR) Penny Lane’s documentary about John Romulus Brinkley, the con artist who became rich in the 1920s by selling goat testicles as an impotence cure. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Tickled (R) David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary about the cyberbullying and intimidation behind online tickling videos. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING

The BFG (PG) A Hook-level disaster from Steven Spielberg. This fantasy film based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book stars Ruby Barnhill as a London orphan who’s whisked away by a big friendly giant (Mark Rylance) and helps him keep his fellow giants from eating children. Like too many other cinematic Dahl adaptations, this one becomes bloated and lumbering, missing the small-scale, homespun charm of the original. The giant’s home is rendered without any sense of wonder, as is Dream Country where he goes to catch dreams to give to children, and the proceedings really go downhill when the giant comes out of hiding and visits the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton).  You expect better from Spielberg. Also with Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Jemaine Clement, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, and Bill Hader.

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.

Ghostbusters (PG-13) Paul Feig’s reboot of the 1985 comedyisn’t as funny as Bridesmaids or Spy, but it’s still quite a bit of fun.Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy play the leaders of this group of paranormal investigators who go into business just as a bullied bellhop (Neil Casey) tries to take over New York City at the head of a ghost army. Wiig and McCarthy seem hamstrung by their straitlaced characters and the PG-13 rating, so the hijinks fall to the other two Ghostbusters: Leslie Jones gets some good lines as an MTA worker who joins up, but Kate McKinnon walks away with the movie as a tech genius who takes a psychopath’s joy in causing spirit-world havoc and is scarier than some of the evil spirits that the group faces. Chris Hemsworth scores, too, as the Ghostbusters’ dim-bulb receptionist. The main actors from the original Ghostbusters all show up here in different roles from the ones they played. Also with Andy Garcia, Ed Begley Jr., Cecily Strong, Charles Dance, Matt Walsh, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nate Corddry, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and Bill Murray.

Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (PG-13) A federal judge recently ordered Dinesh D’Souza to undergo psychiatric counseling. Maybe the judge saw this film, or really, any of D’Souza’s others. The right-wing filmmaker and convicted felon’s documentary traces the history of slavery and genocide against Native Americans to Democratic presidents and lawmakers, while hailing the Republicans’ foundation as an anti-slavery party. The idea that the parties and voters might have shifted in the last 150 years doesn’t seem to occur to him. Some funhouse-style reenactments paint Hillary Clinton’s career as backed by murder and evil. If the Republican Convention didn’t give you your fill of conservative derangement, here’s more.

Ice Age: Collision Course (PG) The prehistorical animals go into space! Well, one of them, anyway. You may be surprised by that, but you won’t be surprised by the desperation that drives the makers of this fifth installment in the series to such a plot twist. Manny, Sid, and Diego (voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary) have to save the entire world this time by locating a meteor crash site while Manny also deals with his daughter (voiced by Keke Palmer) getting married. The movie ventures into musical numbers, a cameo by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and a utopian society with eternal youth. Nothing works. Additional voices by Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg, Adam Devine, Nick Offerman, Max Greenfield, Josh Peck, Seann WIlliam Scott, Wanda Sykes, Jennifer Lopez, Jessie J, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

The Infiltrator (R) Underneath all the seriousness, this is just like a hundred other better movies about undercover agents who get in too deep. Bryan Cranston stars as Bob Mazur, the real-life U.S. Customs agent who managed to get inside Pablo Escobar’s drug operations out of Colombia during the 1980s.. All the familiar signposts are here: the partner who breaks all the rules (John Leguizamo), the neglected wife at home (Juliet Aubrey), the pretty fellow agent whom the hero is attracted to (Diane Kruger), and the higher-up whom he gets close to (Benjamin Bratt). Yet director Brad Furman (Runner Runner) never seems to settle on how we should applaud the hero’s work or judge it. Also with Amy Ryan, Elena Anaya, Yul Vazquez, Rubén Ochandiano, Simón Andreu, Art Malik, Saïd Taghmaoui, Michael Paré, and Olympia Dukakis.

The Legend of Tarzan (PG-13) So boring that it’s infuriating. Instead of an origin story, this new adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ stories picks up as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) has resumed his title as Lord Greystoke and married Jane (Margot Robbie) before he’s summoned back to the jungle to protect it from a Belgian slaver and diamond hunter (Christoph Waltz). Skarsgår’s performance is as flat as his abs, Waltz is stuck in a ridiculous role, the special effects are subpar, and the whole thing is dour and joyless. Also with Djimon Hounsou, Rory J. Saper, Sidney Ralitsoele, Osy Ikhile, Antony Acheampong, Ben Chaplin, Jim Broadbent, and Samuel L. Jackson. — Cole Williams

Lights Out (PG-13) This above-average horror film stars Teresa Palmer as a directionless young woman who acts to save her young half-brother (Gabriel Bateman) and her mother (Maria Bello) from the monster that haunts them all but disappears whenever lights come on, only able to hurt people where there’s darkness. Swedish director David Sandberg adapts this from his own short film, and the best thing here is how the monster works as a metaphor for the mother’s mental illness and the damage it wreaks on her family. If Palmer didn’t give such a flat performance, this would be excellent. Also with Alexander diPersia, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Andi Osho, Emily Alyn Lind, and Billy Burke.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (R) Four terribly attractive actors who are also excellent comic ad-libbers make this hilarious. Zac Efron and Adam Devine play hellraising brothers who advertise for respectable wedding dates on Craigslist, drawing two party-girl best friends  (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza) who pretend to be sensible professional women so they can get the free trip to Hawaii that comes with the date. Devine is a bit too cartoonish, but he and everyone else fire off terrific lines and riffs while writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (Neighbors) give their characters enough emotional underpinnings for this to stick. As the bride and the sister of the brothers, Sugar Lyn Beard steals a number of scenes, including a tantric massage you won’t soon forget. Also with Stephen Root, Sam Richardson, Alice Wetterlund, Kumail Nanjiani, Marc Maron, and Jake Johnson.

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

The Purge: Election Year (PG-13) Not terrible! The third sequel in the horror/action movie franchise sees Frank Grillo back as an ex-cop-turned-bodyguard in the employ of a presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell of ABC’s Lost) who saw her entire family murdered 18 years prior during the annual American Purge Night. Her election platform is built on eliminating the Purge, thereby setting herself up for the pro-purge party’s kidnapping/assassination attempt by both “the crazies” and a white supremacist mercenary team contracted by the ruling elite. Plotwise, the movie feels a lot like John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, and its social commentary is mostly on point, though the next time James DeMonaco writes some minority characters, he should first run his dialogue past some black and Hispanic people. But for a moderately engaging action movie, its narrative beats are suitable enough to include in the ongoing conversation about America and its co-dependent relationship with violence. Also with Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, and Betty Gabriel. — S.S.

The Secret Life of Pets (PG) Not as deep as Zootopia, but better than Finding Dory.Louis C.K. voices a neat-freak terrier in Manhattan whose jealousy over his owner bringing home a sloppy mutt (voiced by Eric Stonestreet) leads both of them to become stranded in Brooklyn and forced to cooperate to get back home. The lead characters are boring; Louis C.K. doesn’t adjust well to the kiddie environment. Still, there’s a funny subplot where the dogs fall into the hands of an underground movement of stray animals whose bunny rabbit leader (voiced in manic, scene-stealing manner by Kevin Hart) dreams of overthrowing the human race. He and the other supporting characters are funnier than the leads. Additional voices by Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan, and Albert Brooks.

Star Trek Beyond (PG-13) The U.S.S. Enterprise gets broken into pieces in this latest episode, which sees the crew stranded on an alien planet while trying to stop an enemy (Idris Elba) who has hacked all the Federation’s records and knows all their tricks. Even though Simon Pegg is now a co-writer in addition to portraying Scotty, the movie could badly use some humorous touches, and its layers on the familiar characters are mildly interesting rather than compelling. Still, Justin Lin (from the Fast & Furious franchise) is a steadying hand on the tiller. Oh, and Mr. Sulu (John Cho) is gay. Also with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim, and the late Anton Yelchin.

Train to Busan (NR) Yeon Sang-ho’s thriller stars Gong Yoo as a father who tries to save his daughter (Ma Dong-seok) when a zombie virus breaks out on the train that they’re riding on. Also with Jeong Yoo-mi, Choi Woo-sik, Ahn Soo-hee, and Kim Soo-ahn.

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

The Blackout Experiments (NR) Rich Fox’s documentary about devotees of BDSM sex practices.

For a Few Bullets (NR) Pan Anzi’s comic thriller about a Chinese government agent (Zhang Jingchu) and a con artist (Kenny Lin) who get together to recover an artifact from Japan. Also with Liu Xiaoqing, Kenneth Tsang, Tengger, Shi Yufei, and Vivian Dawson.

The Innocents (PG-13) Anne Fontaine’s World War II drama is about a French nun (Lou de Laâge) who finds several pregnant nuns while ministering to Holocaust survivors in Poland. Also with Agata Kulesza, Agata Buzek, Vincent Macaigne, Katarzyna Dobrowska, Eliza Rycembel, and Joanna Kulig.

One Night Only (NR) This Chinese drama stars Aaron Kwok as a bankrupt gambling addict who enlists a prostitute (Yang Zishan) to help him find his daughter. Also with Hao Lei, Jack Kao, and Andy On.

 

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