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A Tale of Love and Darkness

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A Tale of Love and Darkness (PG-13) Natalie Portman co-stars, writes, and directs her first feature, this Hebrew-language adaptation of the memoir by the Israeli writer Amos Oz. Also with Amir Tessler, Gilad Kahana, Moni Moshonov, Ohad Knoller, and Makram J. Khoury. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Janatha Garage (NR) Junior NTR and Mohanlal co-star in this Indian action film. Also with Nithya Menen, Samantha, Brahmaji, Sai Kumar P, Vidisha Srivastava, and Sachin Khedekar. (Opens Friday at Cinemark North East Mall)

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Kickboxer: Vengeance (NR) Alain Moussi stars as a kickboxer who sets out to avenge his older brother. Also with Dave Bautista, Darren Shahlavi, Gina Carano, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine MIlls)

Klown Forever (R) Mikkel Nørgaard reunites with the stars/writers of his 2010 raunchy Danish comedy Klown for this sequel when the two friends (Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam) visit Los Angeles. Also with Mia Lyhne, Iben Hjejle, Lars Hjortshøj, Tina Bilsbo, Isla Fisher, Adam Levine, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Light Between Oceans (PG-13) Alicia Vikander acts up a storm in this period romantic weeper. She plays the wife of a lighthouse keeper (Michael Fassbender) on a remote New Zealand island in the 1920s who suffers two miscarriages and then finds a baby girl washed up alone in a rowboat. The couple raise the child as their own, but then the girl’s biological mother (Rachel Weisz) turns up years later. Based on M.L. Stedman’s novel, this film features great sound design and cinematography to capture the isolation on the windswept island, as well as director Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) keeping cheap sentiment at bay. Still, it’s Vikander who storms the heavens as a mother teetering on the brink of sanity by the turns of events. This tearjerker is quite effective. Also with Florence Clery, Jack Thompson, Jane Menelaus, Garry McDonald, Anthony Hayes, Caren Pistorius, and Bryan Brown. (Opens Friday)

Morris from America (R) Markees Christmas stars in this comedy as a 13-year-old African-American boy who tries to fit in after his family moves to Germany. Also with Craig Robinson, Patrick Güldenburg, Levin Henning, Leon Badenhop, Lina Keller, and Carla Juri. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

No Manches Frida (PG-13) Omar Chaparro stars in this Spanish-language comedy as a bank robber who poses as a substitute teacher to get at stolen money that’s been buried somewhere on a high-school grounds. Also with Martha Higareda, Mónica Dionne, Rocio Garcia, Regina Pavón, Mario Morán, and Fernanda Castillo. (Opens Friday)

The Sea of Trees (PG-13) Matthew McConaughey stars in Gus Van Sant’s latest film as a suicidal American who gets lost along with a Japanese man (Ken Watanabe) in the forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Also with Naomi Watts and Katie Aselton. (Opens Friday)

Skiptrace (PG-13) Jackie Chan stars in this comedy as a Hong Kong detective who teams up with an American con man (Johnny Knoxville) to battle organized crime in China. Also with Fan Bingbing, Eric Tsang, Eve Torres, Winston Chao, and Zhang Lanxin. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Zoom (NR) Alison Pill stars in this partially animated film as a comic-book artist who draws a book about a movie director (Gael García Bernal), who makes  a movie about a novelist (Maria Ximenes), who writes a novel about a comic-book artist. Also with Tyler Labine, Don McKellar, Claudia Ohana, and Jason Priestley. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

 

NOW PLAYING

Bad Moms (R) A profane blast of fresh air compared with the pap that Hollywood usually serves up to older women. Mila Kunis stars as a 32-year-old Chicagoan who snaps under modern parenting culture’s impossible demands of mothers and stages her own rebellion with two other mothers (Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn) against a PTA president (Christina Applegate) who represents everything they hate. Writer-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore previously wrote The Hangover, and while I wish they’d let their moms cut loose like the guys in that series, they’ve got three brilliant and personable comic actresses on their side, with Hahn giving every scene of hers an electric charge. Also with Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumolo, Emjay Anthony, Oona Laurence, David Walton, Jay Hernandez, Clark Duke, Wendell Pierce, J.J. Watt, and Wanda Sykes.

Ben-Hur (PG-13) Not much fun. Based on Lew Wallace’s novel (which also spawned the Oscar-winning 1959 film of the same name), this wooden Biblical epic stars Jack Huston as a Jewish prince who’s accused of treason and sent into slavery but returns to seek revenge on his Roman adopted brother (Toby Kebbell) who betrayed him to become a big shot in the empire. All the homoerotic subtext from the 1959 film is gone, and the film is a droning bore except for a spectacular battle sequence from the slaves’ point of view on a Roman trireme. As a traveler who takes in Ben-Hur, Morgan Freeman wears the worst fake dreadlocks ever. Also with Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbæk, Sofia Black-D’Elia, and Moises Arias.

Don’t Breathe (R) Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez re-teams with his star Jane Levy to make this rather good thriller about a small-time criminal who tries to get her younger sister away from their abusive mom and white-trash-hell Detroit by robbing a rich blind man (Stephen Lang), only to discover that he’s a ruthless killer. The characters’ emotional layers are brought up without being followed through on, but Alvarez builds up tension with some great sequences inside the blind man’s house, including one shot in total darkness, and a sickening one where he captures her and reveals what he intends to do with her. It’s not quite as good as 10 Cloverfield Lane, but it’s  an excellent bet. Also with Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto.

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.

Florence Foster Jenkins (PG-13) This biopic perversely casts Meryl Streep as one of recorded history’s worst opera singers, a New York City septuagenarian who deluded herself into thinking herself a great musician and made a private recording in the 1940s that found a not-always-appreciative audience in the wider world. The comic notes in her bad singing are rather predictable, and the movie doesn’t find anything of note in Florence’s English common-law husband (Hugh Grant) and his affairs with other women, necessitated by the syphilis that afflicted Florence since her teens. Nicholas Martin’s script does hit some marks when it comes to Florence’s unfulfilled dreams of musical glory, but there are better, funnier movies about the nobility of making bad art. Also with Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Stanley Townsend, Allan Corduner, Christian McKay, and Nina Arianda.

Ghostbusters (PG-13) Paul Feig’s reboot of the 1985 comedy isn’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.

Greater (PG) Christopher Severio stars in this biography of Brandon Burlsworth, who walked on to the University of Arkansas football team in 1994 and eventually got drafted by the NFL. Also with Neal McDonough, Leslie Easterbrook, Michael Parks, Nick Searcy, Quinton Aaron, Texas Battle, and M.C. Gainey.

Hands of Stone (R) The authentic Panamanian accents, locations, and music are the best thing about this otherwise rote biography of boxing champion Roberto Durán. Édgar Ramírez stars as the country’s greatest ever sports hero, while Robert De Niro plays the old trainer who came out of retirement to coach the great talent. The film doesn’t gloss over things like Durán’s marital infidelities, his boorish behavior, or the complacency that led him to the infamous “no más” fight against Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher). Still, writer-director Jonathan Jakubowicz (Secuestro Express) fills the biopic template too predictably and makes hash out of the boxing sequences. This effort dotted with Hollywood stars is a start for Panamanian cinema, but it must get better. Also with Rubén Blades, Ana de Armas, Ellen Barkin, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Reg E. Cathey, Óscar Jaenada, Pedro Perez, Yancey Arias, and John Turturro.

Hell or High Water (R) A great Western. This contemporary thriller stars Ben Foster and Chris Pine as two West Texas brothers looking to save their family ranch by robbing the rural branches of the very bank that owns the mortgage on their place. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan wrote Sicario, but unlike that film, this one has a sense of humor and earns its moral ambiguity by counting up the cost of the brothers’ crime spree and having them stand to become wealthy if they can clear their debt. Jeff Bridges contributes a magnificent turn as a crusty old Texas Ranger who’s chasing the outlaws down, and the final confrontation between him and Pine is one you won’t soon forget. Also with Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Mixon, John-Paul Howard, and Dale Dickey.

Ice Age: Collision Course (PG) The prehistoric 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.

Jason Bourne (PG-13) The superspy has recovered all his memories now, and yet it’s the movie he’s in that’s forgettable. Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass return to the spy series, as Bourne tries to avenge the long-ago murder of his father (Gregg Henry) and the more recent murder of CIA analyst-turned-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). Greengrass brings his familiar proficiency to a riot in Athens and a high-collateral-damage car chase in Las Vegas, but Bourne’s search for the killer and his encounters with the changing face of spycraft don’t lead anywhere rewarding. Also with Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh, Bill Camp, and Tommy Lee Jones.

Kubo and the Two Strings (PG) Not a masterpiece, but still remarkable. The latest stop-motion animated film by Laika Entertainment is about a homeless boy in ancient Japan (voiced by Art Parkinson) who embarks on a quest to find his father’s suit of armor. As Kubo’s guardians, Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey seem less than uncomfortable in their roles, and the comic relief that they’ve been given isn’t as fresh as in other Laika films. Still, the look of this film is inspired by the angles and corners of origami, and its extravagantly imaginative visual touches make it a feast for the eyes. Additional voices by Rooney Mara, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, and Ralph Fiennes.

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.

Mechanic: Resurrection (R) The thoroughly forgettable 2011 Jason Statham thriller spawns an equally indistinct sequel, in which the retired hitman is brought out of retirement and forced to kill three individuals  or else watch his new girlfriend (Jessica Alba) get killed. Alba’s character is supposed to be a former soldier, but she gets reduced to a damsel in distress role anyway, and the action sequences are all boilerplate. The only thing memorable is Tommy Lee Jones as an arms dealer with a soul patch and earrings, looking like the guy at the bar who wants to know if you and your spouse are interested in swinging. Also with Sam Hazeldine, John Cenatiempo, Toby Eddington, Femi Elufowoju Jr., and Michelle Yeoh.

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.

Nine Lives (PG) Kevin Spacey stars in this comedy as an uptight businessman who becomes trapped in the body of his family’s cat. Also with Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Cheryl Hines, Mark Consuelos, and Christopher Walken.

Pete’s Dragon (PG) David Lowery turns the near-unwatchable partially animated 1977 Disney musical into a gem of a live-action fable. Oakes Fegley stars as an orphaned boy who survives in the woods with a dragon that he meets living there. The North Texas filmmaker takes a huge gamble by bringing out the dragon early, and his animators conjure a creature that can look cuddly or fierce as required. Lowery assimilates into the Disney house style without surrendering his unique qualities, drawing lyrical performances from his actors and never losing control of the fragile tone. His mastery is awe-inspiring; this filmmaker has all the tools he needs to become one of cinema’s greats. Also with Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Robert Redford.

Remember the Goal (PG) Allee Sutton-Hethcoat stars as a recent college graduate who takes over the cross-country program at an all-girls’ Christian high school. Also with Quinn Alexis, Sydney Marks, Jayla Palmer, Lacy Hartselle, Margaret Tant, and McKensie Miller.

Sausage Party (R) There’s something to offend just about everyone except atheists in this scattershot but occasionally inspired animated comedy about a supermarket hot dog (voiced by Seth Rogen) who thinks that food items go to a heavenly afterlife when they’re purchased, only to discover that their destiny is to be eaten. Too many of the sex jokes are obvious, but the movie does better when the humor comes from the visuals, as in the demented food-item sex orgy that climaxes this thing. Watch for the running joke that features bickering between a Jewish bagel (voiced by Edward Norton) and a Muslim lavash (voiced by David Krumholtz) over aisle space. Additional voices by Kristen Wiig, Michael Cera, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Salma Hayek, Nick Kroll, Lauren Miller, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Anders Holm, Craig Robinson, and Paul Rudd.

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.

Southside With You (PG-13) If the presidential race doesn’t make you nostalgic for the Obama era, this movie will. Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers star in this dramatization of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in Chicago in 1989. Sawyers bears an astonishing resemblance to our president and delivers a great scene where he rallies a demoralized church congregation after their plans for a community center have been rejected. He and Sumpter (fairly dazzling in the less flashy role) have believable chemistry as two young people with the world before them. The African-American culture on display here brings home how the First Couple have put that before America. This may not be great art, but it’s a nice summer treat. Also with Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phillip Edward van Lear, and Tom McElroy.

Space Dogs: Adventure to the Moon (NR) This English-language sequel to a 2010 animated Russian film continues the adventures of the teenage dog astronauts. Voices by Alicia Silverstone, Ashlee Simpson, Sam Witwer, and Phil LaMarr.

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.

Suicide Squad (PG-13) Maybe Warner Bros. should get out of the superhero business entirely. What they’re doing sure isn’t working. Viola Davis stars as a U.S. government honcho who proposes to battle the next world-threatening baddie by forcing imprisoned supervillains to work for them, including a contract killer (Will Smith) and the Joker’s girlfriend (Margot Robbie). The plot is weak and writer-director David Ayer (Fury) has neither the sense of humor nor the flair for camp that this material demands. The group chemistry is nonexistent, and Jared Leto does little but rip off Heath Ledger’s old moves as the Joker. If this movie can’t lighten up, what chance to Warners’ more iconic superhero movies have? Also with Joel Kinnaman, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Adam Beach, Ike Barinholtz, David Harbour, Common, Ezra Miller, and an uncredited Ben Affleck.

Time Raiders (NR) Han Lu stars in this Chinese fantasy-adventure film as an architect who searches for his uncle (Wang Jingchun) after he disappears. Also with Jing Boran, Ma Sichun, Zhang Boyu, and Daniel Krauser.

The Tunnel (NR) Kim Seong-hoon’s disaster movie offers up some stinging commentary on South Korean institutions as he tells the story of a car salesman (Ha Jung-woo) who becomes trapped in his car after the road tunnel he’s traveling through collapses on him. The rescue effort stretches out more than a month and turns into a comedy of errors. That’s better than the third-rate melodrama that this film offers up when it comes to the salesman’s wife (Bae Doo-na) and a female motorist (Nam Ji-hyeon) in a different car. The most interesting thing here is the deep skepticism with which the movie views the country’s government and big businesses, looking out for their shared interests at the ordinary citizen’s expense. Also with Oh Dal-su, Kim Hae-sook, Shin Jung-keun, and Hwang Byung-gug. 

War Dogs (R) Jonah Hill obliterates everything else on screen as a boorish, psychopathic 20-something guy from Miami who teams with a school friend (Miles Teller, reduced to straight man) to win a $300 million weapons contract from the U.S government to equip soldiers in Iraq. This story based on real life could have been a bristling war satire, but Todd Phillips directs this like it’s another sequel to The Hangover, replete with strippers, a trip to Vegas, and Bradley Cooper. Hill’s energy as a greed-head who thinks he’s bulletproof is the only genuine thing about this film that splashes about in the shallows. Also with Ana de Armas, Kevin Pollak, Shaun Toub, Patrick St. Esprit, and Wallace Langham.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

Don’t Think Twice (R) Mike Birbiglia writes, directs, and co-stars in this comedy about an improv comedy troupe whose dynamic changes when one of their members (Keegan-Michael Key) lands a coveted spot on a national comedy TV show. Also with Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, Tami Sager, Emily Skeggs, and Richard Kline.

Little Men (PG) The latest film by Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange) is about two young boys (Michael Barbieri and Theo Taplitz) whose friendship is tested when their parents start feuding over a dress shop lease. Also with Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina Garcia, Arthur J. Nascarella, and Alfred Molina.

 

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