Before I Fall (PG-13) Zoey Deutch is better than this teen flick that she’s headlining. She portrays a popular girl in high school who gets into a car accident and has to relive the same day Groundhog Day-style until she is kind to everyone and gets her clique of friends to stop bullying the suicidal social outcast (Elena Kampouris) in their class. Deutch is quite good, especially when her Sisyphean predicament gets to her and she spends one day snapping at random people with a thousand-yard stare on her face. However, director Ry Russo-Young bogs down in the movie’s preachy message, taken from the preachier Lauren Oliver novel that it’s adapted from. A lighter touch would have served this movie better. Where’s the scene we always get in these movies where the main character tries to prove to someone else that she’s stuck in a time loop by predicting the future? Also with Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Medalion Rahimi, Cynthy Wu, Kian Lawley, Erica Tremblay, Liv Hewson, Diego Boneta, and Jennifer Beals. (Opens Friday)
Headshot (NR) Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption) stars in this Indonesian thriller as an amnesiac whose violent past comes back to haunt him. Also with Julie Estelle, Very Try Yulisman, Sunny Pang, David Hendrawan, Chelsea Islan, and Zack Lee. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Kedi (NR) The title is the Turkish word for “cat.” Ceyda Torun’s documentary interviews ordinary people in Istanbul about their relationship with the city’s stray cats. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Shack (PG-13) Sam Worthington stars in this Christian drama as a father who is summoned to a meeting with God (Octavia Spencer) after his daughter is murdered. Also with Radha Mitchell, Alice Braga, Megan Charpentier, Amélie Eve, Avraham Aviv Alush, Graham Greene, and Tim McGraw. (Opens Friday)
Table 19 (PG-13) Anna Kendrick and a supporting cast of mismatched parts conspire to lift this modestly enjoyable comedy. Kendrick plays a woman who goes to her best friend’s wedding despite withdrawing as the maid of honor after being dumped by the best man. She’s exiled to a far table with a battling married couple (Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow), a convicted felon (Stephen Merchant), a pot-smoking old lady (June Squibb), and a virginal teen (Tony Revolori). The hijinks that these not-really-wanted wedding guests get up to is reasonably entertaining, and so is Kendrick’s turn as a woman who’s trying and failing to keep it together. However, director Jeffrey Blitz loses serious steam in the back half when things turn serious and everybody’s issues get plumbed. This would have been better if it had been directed by the screenwriters, Jay and Mark Duplass. Also with Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, Maria Thayer, Thomas Cocquerel, and Margo Martindale. (Opens Friday)
A United Kingdom (PG-13) The latest film by Amma Asante (Belle) tells the true story of a Botswanan prince (David Oyelowo) who caused an international uproar when he married a white Englishwoman (Rosamund Pike) in the 1940s. Also with Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Arnold Oceng, Jack Lowden, and Jessica Oyelowo. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Collide (PG-13) This sleepy thriller stars Nicholas Hoult as an American in Germany who goes back to his former job as a drug dealer to save his dying girlfriend (a bleached-blonde Felicity Jones), only to get caught up in a war between his Turkish employer (Ben Kingsley) and the boss’ German supplier (Anthony Hopkins). There’s an interesting dynamic between Hoult and Jones, but director/co-writer Eran Creevy doesn’t stage the car chases with any distinction, and he gives the two British knights license to overact as badly as possible. The movie doesn’t look good, either. It seems like they threw these big stars into a movie and then hoped something good would happen. Also with Marwan Kenzari, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Christian Rubeck, and Erdal Yildiz.
A Cure for Wellness (R) Gore Verbinski’s horror movie has lots of creepy moments that don’t add up to very much. Dane DeHaan stars in this as a corporate lawyer who visits a sanitarium in the Swiss Alps for business purposes and then finds evil doings at this idyllic place where patients disappear but no one ever leaves. The director of The RIng and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies knows how to incorporate unsettling details and generate an atmosphere that makes DeHaan seem downright normal, but he can’t resist the big set pieces. He pads this out to 146 minutes with a car accident, a massive fire, hallucinations, and offices with patients suspended in tanks of water. The movie looks great and has a scene with a dentist’s chair that’ll make you flee the theater in blind panic, but it can’t sustain its mood. Also with Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Ivo Nandi, Adrian Schiller, Harry Groener, Tomas Norström, Ashok Nandanna, and Celia Imrie.
A Dog’s Purpose (PG) Don’t boycott this movie because a dog was mistreated on the set, boycott it because it sucks. Based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novel, this softer-than-soft-boiled drama has Josh Gad providing the voiceover for a dog who gets reincarnated through several lifetimes and owners. All the drama is predictable in the extreme, and director Lasse Hallström bathes everything in a golden glow of dog love and nostalgia. The irony is that some years ago, Hallström did a much better movie on the subject called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale. This shoddy piece of work is quite a comedown for a director who was nominated for an Oscar in this century. Spend a couple of hours watching puppy videos on YouTube instead. Starring Britt Robertson, K.J. Apa, John Ortiz, Luke Kirby, Logan Miller, Juliet Rylance, Peggy Lipton, and Dennis Quaid.
Everybody Loves Somebody (PG-13) Karla Souza stars in this comedy as a single L.A. doctor who asks a co-worker (Ben O’Toole) to pose as her boyfriend for a family event in Mexico. Also with José María Yazpik, Tiaré Scanda, Patricia Bernal, Samantha Neyland, and K.C. Clyde.
Fences (PG-13) Director Denzel Washington does only a workmanlike job adapting August Wilson’s play to the big screen, but fortunately, he gets career-best performances from star Denzel Washington and others. He portrays a Pittsburgh garbageman in the 1950s whose determination to hold on to what he’s made for himself blows apart his family. The qualities that have made Washington such a great movie star here make his character tragic: the handsome face, the athlete’s body, the verbal dexterity that lets him turn Wilson’s urban slang into fiery poetry all clue us into a man who would have had a bigger life if not for his skin color and the time of his birth. He’s complemented by a terrific supporting cast, especially Viola Davis, whose frustrations explode in a scene that’ll have you ducking down in your seat. Also with Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Saniyya Sidney, and Mykelti Williamson.
Fifty Shades Darker (R) Let’s see, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is still a creep, there’s still no chemistry between Dornan and Dakota Johnson, the sex scenes are still interminable, the back-and-forth negotiation about relationship boundaries is still even more so, and none of this is in any way dramatically effective yet. So, everything’s pretty much the same from Fifty Shades of Grey. Like the book it’s based on, this is soft-core porn, and it’s not even any good as that. Also with Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Max Martini, Marcia Gay Harden, and Kim Basinger.
Fist Fight (R) Oh, great, here’s 91 minutes of Charlie Day stuttering and dithering and bugging out his eyes. Somebody shoot me. Day stars in this depressing comedy as a milquetoasty English teacher who gets challenged to a bare-knuckle brawl by an enraged former fellow teacher (Ice Cube) on the last day of school. Day is sheer torture to be around as he spends an entire day trying to get out of the fight, but almost as painful is this movie’s depiction of the other teachers as slackers, psychopaths, drug addicts, and idiots. This movie will make you want to punch something, all right. Also with Christina Hendricks, Jillian Bell, Kumail Nanjiani, Dean Norris, Joanna Garcia Swisher, Dennis Haysbert, and Tracy Morgan.
Get Out (R) An early candidate for one of the best movies of 2017, this darkly funny horror film stars Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) as a young African-American man who travels with his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her parents, only to find that black people never seem to leave the family’s gated community. In his directing debut, comedian Jordan Peele scores direct hits on white liberal racism in the Northeastern enclave where the movie’s set, and he knows how to scare us through the accretion of creepy detail. He’s aided by terrific performances from his cast, and fans of TV’s Girls will definitely see Williams in a new light. Horror movies haven’t historically been a haven for black filmmakers. Here’s one good enough to start a tradition. Also with Keith Stanfield, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, Erika Alexander, and Stephen Root.
The Great Wall (PG-13) In the end, Matt Damon is just window dressing designed to get white people to see this mediocre Chinese creature feature set in medieval times. He plays a European mercenary who winds up fighting for China in a battle against an army of giant flesh-eating lizard monsters who attack the Great Wall. Damon may be the main character here, but he’s mainly there to be outsmarted, outfought, and outphilosophized by the Asian warriors around him. Maybe that’s why he looks so bored with all of this; it’s hard to remember the last time he gave such a bad performance. Director Zhang Yimou (Hero) continues to decline artistically, seeming uncomfortable with the CGI monsters. Also with Andy Lau, Jing Tian, Zhang Hanyu, Han Lu, Kenny Lin, Eddie Peng, Pedro Pascal, and Willem Dafoe.
Hidden Figures (PG-13) Chalk up another incredible real-life story that gets reduced to a drearily conventional movie. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe portray three African-American mathematicians and scientists who worked at NASA in the 1960s, helping launch John Glenn into orbit. The movie is adapted from a book by Margot Lee Shetterly, whose father worked at the agency alongside those women. Director Ted Melfi (St. Vincent) seems at ease with the special-effects shots of rockets flying in space, but his script (co-written with Allison Schroeder) is all too boilerplate, including the romantic subplot involving Mahershala Ali as a National Guard colonel. The movie gets the small moments right but falls down in the big moments. The predictability of it all wastes some terrific actors here. Also with Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Olek Krupa, and Kirsten Dunst.
I Am Not Your Negro (PG-13) This documentary with the eye-catching title is nominated for this year’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar, and you can see why. Raoul Peck’s film profiles James Baldwin and imagines an ending to the book the author left unfinished at his death, Remember This House. Using only archival footage, Peck draws a compelling portrait of Baldwin during the years when his personal friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all assassinated. He also captures Baldwin’s fascination with movies, which was always laced with a critical eye on the ways Hollywood marginalized nonwhite people. “It comes as a great shock to see Gary Cooper, and although you are rooting for Gary Cooper, the Indians are you,” he said. Never were truer words spoke. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (R) Just as stupid as the original, this sequel returns Keanu Reeves as a hit man who now has to fight off all the assassins in New York after an Italian mob boss (Riccardo Scamarcio) forces him out of retirement and then betrays him. Contract killers fire shots at each other and miss in crowded places all over New York, and yet somehow no bystanders are hit and the police are somewhere offscreen for the entire movie. There’s a nicely down-and-dirty street brawl between Wick and another killer (Common), but Reeves is too reliant here on the jujitsu move where he grabs people’s arms and flips them over, and while Ruby Rose is a nice addition as a deaf assassin, she’s not given enough to do. Like the original, this will look better excerpted on YouTube. Also with Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Claudia Gerini, Bridget Moynahan, Peter Stormare, Peter Serafinowicz, Thomas Sadoski, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne.
La La Land (PG-13) Who needs antidepressants when there’s this movie? In the hands of writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), this love story about an aspiring Hollywood actress (Emma Stone) and a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) becomes a musical throwback to the likes of Singin’ in the Rain. Chazelle, choreographer Mandy Moore, and songwriters Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul make unabashedly romantic and technically astonishing set pieces out of numbers like “Another Day of Sun” and “Someone in the Crowd,” but Chazelle knows when to get out of his stars’ way, too. Gosling’s trademark cool is essential, but Stone makes the film deeply moving in her first great role in a great movie. This is enough to blow the doors off the multiplex. Also with John Legend, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Finn Wittrock, Tom Everett Scott, Rosemarie DeWitt, and J.K. Simmons.
The Lego Batman Movie (PG) Sing it with me: “Darkness! No parents!” The narcissistic poseur Batman from The Lego Movie (voiced by Will Arnett) here gets his own spinoff, where he’s left at a loose end after the Joker (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) turns himself into the authorities and leaves Gotham City with no more crime. The ratio of gags that score to filler isn’t quite as high as it was in the first Lego movie, but there are still more than a few great things here, including the gayest Robin ever (voiced by Michael Cera), the Joker recruiting a team of supervillains from other fantasy-adventure sagas, some expert jokes about the absurdities of the Batman universe, and a neat exploration of the superhero’s essential loneliness. This is way better than any of the recent live-action DC Comics movies. Additional voices by Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Jenny Slate, Jason Mantzoukas, Conan O’Brien, Hector Elizondo, Doug Benson, Billy Dee Williams, Riki Lindhome, Kate Micucci, Zoë Kravitz, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Jemaine Clement, Ellie Kemper, Mariah Carey, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill.
Lion (PG-13) An amazing real-life story gets a by-the-numbers treatment in this biopic. Dev Patel portrays Saroo Brierley, who was separated from his family as a small boy in India and adopted by an Australian family, but then started an obsessive search for his birth relatives when he grew up. Sunny Pawar is a tremendous kid actor as the young Saroo, and cinematographer Greig Fraser creates some stunningly beautiful visuals like an early shot of young Saroo surrounded by butterflies in a valley. Patel is good, too, but director Garth Davis hammers home the emotional beats so relentlessly that the film wears out its welcome well before the end. Also with Rooney Mara, Abhishek Bharate, Priyanka Bose, David Wenham, and Nicole Kidman.
Manchester by the Sea (R) Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) is fully back in form with this crusher of a drama about a miserable Massachusetts janitor (Casey Affleck) who unexpectedly finds himself appointed legal guardian to his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler). This movie doesn’t reveal until halfway through what made the protagonist so morose, but Lonergan is savvy enough to counter the heavy stuff with comedy and lively small talk. Affleck and Michelle Williams as his ex-wife give tremendous performances, while the supporting cast is consistently good. Lonergan’s emphasis on the bonds of family helps end this movie on a much-needed hopeful note. Also with C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton, Ben O’Brien, Tate Donovan, Heather Burns, Gretchen Mol, and Matthew Broderick.
Moana (PG) Not the most innovative Disney musical we’ve seen, but more than likable enough. Set on a Pacific island in the past, this is about a teenage girl (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) who defies her tribe’s orders and sails out into the wider ocean to find the trickster demi-god Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and restore the balance to the waters. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid) stick so closely to the Disney template that you can predict where the song about the heroine’s deepest desires will land. Still, the 16-year-old Cravalho is funny and a fine singer, Johnson may just have the role of his career as the full-of-himself deity, and the songs are by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. This one’s for all the Polynesians. Additional voices by Temuera Morrison, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk, and Jemaine Clement.
Moonlight (R) The great gay romance of African-American cinema. Barry Jenkins’ film tracks the life of its hero as a young boy growing up rough in Miami (Alex HIbbert), a high-school student (Ashton Sanders) falling in love for the first time, and a drug dealer (Trevante Rhodes) trying to heal all the scars from his past. The movie is stuffed with great performances from Rhodes, Sanders, Mahershala Ali as a kind drug dealer who acts as a father figure, Naomie Harris as a crack-addicted mother, and André Holland as an ex-lover who’s full of remorse. Jenkins’ control over this is absolute, as he knows when to be unfussy and when to be flamboyant, and makes the sun and waves of south Florida seem an integral part of these characters. The scene with the hero and his ex staring at each other while “Hello Stranger” plays in the background is as breathtaking as the rest of the movie. Also with Jharrel Jerome, Patrick Decile, and Janelle Monáe.
Rings (PG-13) The 1998 Japanese horror classic Ringu and its 2002 American remake The Ring are artifacts from an analog age, so this sequel tries to bring it into the digital era. It fails. Matilda Lutz stars as the latest unfortunate to be cursed to die seven days after watching a video. Director F. Javier Gutierrez has the 2002 movie’s moody gray look and Pacific Northwest setting down, but the magic of a crawling, black-haired faceless girl is gone, and having her emerge from a laptop or a handheld device doesn’t bring it back. The bad acting all around further helps sink this tired sequel. Also with Alex Roe, Aimee Teagarden, Johnny Galecki, Lizzie Brocheré, Bonnie Morgan, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Rock Dog (PG) Luke Wilson stars in this animated comedy as a dog who decides to become a rock musician. Additional voices by Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Sam Elliott, and Matt Dillon.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) Conceptually flawed from the start. Set before the events of the 1977 Star Wars, this prequel stars Felicity Jones as a small-time criminal who joins the Rebels to rescue her father (Mads Mikkelsen) from the Empire’s clutches and find the fatal flaw in the Death Star. The movie lacks the visual and verbal wit of previous entries (save for the deadpan droid voiced by Alan Tudyk), the extended climax has too many moving parts for director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), and we can guess these characters’ ultimate fate without even seeing the thing. Even the reappearance of Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) doesn’t accomplish much. Some nice efforts by the cast get wasted. Also with Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Jimmy Smits, and Forest Whitaker.
Sing (PG) An uninspired mashup of Zootopia and Pitch Perfect. This animated film is about a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who decides to save the theater that he owns by staging a singing contest for the animals who live in his city. Writer-director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow) spreads his script too thin by flitting among so many different characters, storylines, and songs that we can’t get a purchase on what’s going on. The koala isn’t interesting enough to hold the center, and the montage of failed auditioners is a golden comic opportunity that the movie speeds over. The final round features some nice musical performances by voice actors like Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, and Seth MacFarlane, but they come too late to save this. Additional voices by Taron Egerton, John C. Reilly, Tori Kelly, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, Leslie Jones, Nick Offerman, Rhea Perlman, Laraine Newman, Jennifer Saunders, and Jennifer Hudson.
The Space Between Us (PG-13) In space, no one can hear you gag. Asa Butterfield stars in this sodden romance as a boy born on Mars during the first manned mission to the planet, who travels to Earth for the first time to find his long-lost father and a troubled high-school girl (Britt Robertson) whom he’s been corresponding with by video chat. This thing is cursed with Butterfield’s typically charisma-free presence, a script that ignores basic cause and effect in drawing up a conspiracy to cover up the boy’s existence, and Gary Oldman as the head of the space exploration company, giving one of his performances where he shouts all his lines. This is basically a Nicholas Sparks movie in space. Who wants that? Also with Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Colin Egglesfield, and Janet Montgomery.
Split (PG-13) Some of the worst and a lot of the best of M. Night Shyamalan are on display in his latest thriller. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) stars as one of three teenage girls who are kidnapped by a man with multiple personalities (James McAvoy) and imprisoned for mysterious purposes. The supernatural twist ending is way crazier than the villain, but Shyamalan executes slow-burn dread as well as ever and induces shivers during the interpolated flashbacks to the heroine’s childhood. The performances make gripping stuff out of scenes where the heroine tries to figure out which of the villain’s personalities she’s talking to and get some of them to help her and her friends. The comic bits mostly work, too. Shyamalan’s tales seem to creep us out best on a small scale. Also with Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Sebastian Arcelus, Brad William Henke, Neal Huff, Betty Buckley, and an uncredited Bruce Willis.
XXX: Return of Xander Cage (PG-13) Age hasn’t improved the series. Vin Diesel reprises his role as an extreme athlete who goes back to work for the government after his former boss (Samuel L. Jackson) is murdered while trying to recruit Neymar (who portrays himself) into the CIA program. Sometimes the movie is intentionally funny when it gives us dossier files on characters that include irrelevant information (“Go To Karaoke Song: ‘What a Wonderful World’”), but mostly this thing is self-consciously hip dialogue and characters falling over at the sight of the legendary Xander, with Diesel way too self-satisfied in the role. To top it off, director D.J. Caruso makes hash out of the action and wastes a personable cast. Also with Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Toni Collette, Tony Jaa, Kris Wu, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, and Ice Cube.
The Salesman (PG-13) Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, this drama by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) stars Shahab Hosseini as an Iranian actor who tries to solve the mystery of who assaulted his wife (Taraneh Alidoosti) while also starring in a theatrical production of Death of a Salesman. Also with Babak Karimi, Mina Sadati, Farid Sajjadi Hosseini, and Emad Emami.
You’re Killing Me Susana (NR) Gael García Bernal stars in this comedy as a narcissistic Mexican telenovela star who follows his wife (Verónica Echegui) when she suddenly leaves him and moves to Iowa. Also with Ashley Hinshaw, Jadyn Wong, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, and Daniel Giménez Cacho.