Badrinath Ki Dulhania (NR) Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt star as mismatched lovers in this Indian romance. Also with Gauhar Khan, Shweta Prasad, Girish Karnad, Sahil Vaid, and Anuparna Kumar. (Opens Friday)
Brimstone (R) Dakota Fanning stars in this Western as a young woman being stalked by her community’s violent new preacher (Guy Pearce). Also with Kit Harington, Paul Anderson, Adrian Sparks, Emilia Jones, Ivy George, Carla Juri, and Carice van Houten. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Land of Mine (R) Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, Martin Zandvliet’s post-World War II drama stars Roland Møller as a Danish sergeant who oversees a group of German P.O.W.’s who are forced to work as minesweepers on a Danish beach. Also with Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Oskar Bökelsmann, Mads Riisom, Laura Bro, and Zoe Zandvliet. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Last Word (R) Shirley MacLaine stars in this dramedy as an elderly control freak who hires a young journalist (Amanda Seyfried) to write her obituary in advance. Also with Ann’Jewel Lee, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall, Gedde Watanabe, Tom Everett Scott, Yvette Freeman, Steven Culp, Todd Louiso, and Anne Heche. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
My Life as a Zucchini (PG-13) Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Claude Barras’ film is about an orphaned French boy (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter) who learns to make new friends in his orphanage. Additional voices by Sixtine Murat, Pauline Jaccoud, Michel Vuillermoz, Raul Ribera, Estelle Hennard, and Elliot Sanchez. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Other Half (NR) This romance stars Tatiana Maslany as a bipolar waitress who tries to find happiness with a grieving man (Tom Cullen). Also with Diana Bentley, Henry Czerny, Suzanne Clément, and Mark Rendall. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Ottoman Lieutenant (R) A lot of stunning shots of the Turkish countryside are the most this movie has to offer. Hera Hilmar stars as an American nurse who volunteers at a medical clinic in eastern Anatolia in 1916, just in time for World War I and the Armenian genocide, and just to be romantically torn between the idealistic doctor (Josh Hartnett) who runs the clinic and the dashing Turkish army officer (Michiel Huisman) from the title. There are a couple of decent action sequences with Huisman at the center, but the apple-cheeked Icelandic newcomer Hilmar is as dynamic as a glop of skyr at the center of this. Try as he might, director Joseph Ruben (Return to Paradise) can’t infuse this romantic epic with any of the urgency that the subject requires. Also with Ben Kingsley, Affif ben Badra, Selçuk Yöntem, Eliska Slansky, Hasan Say, and Haluk Bilginer. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
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)
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.
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.
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.
Logan (R) Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine is 1) a Western, 2) a Latino film, and 3) way better than I expected. In a near-future dystopia, the once-fearsome superhero is now a gray-haired alcoholic who heals much slower and has to take transport his long-lost daughter (Dafne Keen), a Mexican girl with his claws and raging temper, to safety. The R rating allows for much more brutal action sequences and pricklier banter between Logan and Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a gibbering old man who regains his lucidity when he finds another mutant to take care of. Westerns seem to fire the imagination of director James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma), and he puts in all sorts of clever touches around the edges of this thing as well as a thematically apt reference to Shane. The excellent supporting cast provides a great setting for Jackman to shine in his last turn as this memorably flawed hero. Also with Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Eriq LaSalle, Elise Neal, Quincy Fouse, and Richard E. Grant.
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.
Rock Dog (PG) Very little of import happens in this animated comedy about a guitar-strumming dog (voiced by Luke Wilson) who wants to be a rock star when he has a fateful encounter with a British-accented rock-star cat (voiced by Eddie Izzard) who’s having trouble with the mob. This thing is too dull to be truly terrible, but the least you’d expect are some nice songs. Songs are forthcoming, performed by singers who are different from the actors, but those are every bit as forgettable as the rest of the movie. This is the cinematic equivalent of elevator music. Additional voices by 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.
The Shack (PG-13) Sam Worthington continues to be a wretched actor at the center of this Christian drama as a man from a tortured background who’s coping with the aftermath of his daughter’s abduction and murder by receiving a visit from God (Octavia Spencer), taking the form of a kindly childhood neighbor. Time stops during the meeting, and so does the movie’s plot as we get more than two hours of calming salve for all of the main character’s many psychic wounds. Spencer is a properly God-like presence, but director Stuart Hazeldine can’t convey God’s grace in anything but the cheesiest terms, and his wooden lead actor keeps losing the handle on his American accent. It’s a pretty bad time all around. Also with Radha Mitchell, Alice Braga, Megan Charpentier, Amélie Eve, Avraham Aviv Alush, Sumire, Graham Greene, and Tim McGraw.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.