After the Storm (NR) The latest drama by Hirokazu Kore-eda stars Hiroshi Abe as a Japanese private detective with a gambling addiction trying to put his life back together. Also with Yôko Maki, Taiyô Yoshizawa, Kirin Kiki, and Lily Franky.
Aftermath (R) This drama stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a construction worker whose fate is tied to an air traffic controller (Scoot McNairy) following a deadly accident. Also with Maggie Grace, Kevin Zegers, Hannah Ware, Glenn Morshower, and Martin Donovan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Case for Christ (PG) Mike Vogel stars in this Christian drama as an investigative journalist and atheist who tries to disprove God’s existence after his wife (Erika Christensen) converts to Christianity. Also with Robert Forster, Frankie Faison, Kevin Sizemore, L. Scott Caldwell, and Faye Dunaway. (Opens Friday)
Gifted (PG-13) This dramedy by Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man) stars Chris Evans as a Florida boat repairman who discovers that the six-year-old niece (Mckenna Grace) whom he’s raising might be a mathematical genius. Also with Octavia Spencer, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Glenn Plummer, Keir O’Donnell, and John Finn. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Going in Style (PG-13) Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman star in this comedy as retired steelworkers who decide to commit a bank robbery after their pensions are frozen. Also with Ann-Margret, John Ortiz, Joey King, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Serafinowicz, Kenan Thompson, Maria Dizzia, Josh Pais, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and Matt Dillon. (Opens Friday)
Mine (NR) Armie Hammer stars in this thriller as a U.S. soldier who steps on a land mine in a Middle East war zone and must stay absolutely still until help arrives. Also with Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cullen, Clint Dyer, Geoff Bell, and Juliet Aubrey. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Queen of the Desert (PG-13) Nicole Kidman is livelier than usual, but just about everything around her is desperately wrong in this biography of Gertrude Bell, the explorer, archeologist, author, and spy who helped create the modern states of Jordan and Iraq for the British Empire after World War I. The great Werner Herzog directs this like a rank amateur, moving Gertrude across thousands of miles in arbitrary fashion and shunting major characters on and off the screen without proper introductions or goodbyes. Some nice shots of Petra and the natural wonders of the Middle East can’t compensate. On top of that, James Franco is insanely miscast as a British diplomat whom she falls for. Bell is fondly remembered by both the British and the Arabs today. Surely she deserved a better film than this. Also with Damian Lewis, Jay Abdo, Jenny Agutter, David Calder, Christopher Fulford, Nick Waring, and Robert Pattinson. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Smurfs: The Lost Village (PG) This entirely animated reboot of the movie series is about three Smurfs (voiced by Danny Pudi, Jack McBrayer, and Joe Manganiello) who stumble upon a missing map that might lead them to a big secret of their village’s history. Additional voices by Michelle Rodriguez, Ariel Winter, Mandy Patinkin, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Rainn Wilson, Demi Lovato, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, and Julia Roberts. (Opens Friday)
The Ticket (NR) This sludgy, moralizing drama stars Dan Stevens as a man who suddenly and improbably regains his eyesight after a near-lifetime of blindness and then just as improbably turns from a loving husband and father into a bastard who ditches his family and steps on his co-workers to get a promotion. Stevens’ American accent is faultless, but he can’t seem to decide whether he’s playing a decent guy dragged down by his ambitions or someone whose inner bastard was lurking the whole time. Director/co-writer Ido Fluk is trying to make some sort of point about how good fortune can change us. His half-cooked script and rhythmless pacing lose whatever point that was. Also with Malin Akerman, Kerry Bishé, Skylar Gaertner, Peter Mark Kendall, Liza J. Bennett, and Oliver Platt. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Void (NR) This horror film stars Aaron Poole as a policeman who encounters supernatural evil when he delivers an injured motorist to a nearby hospital. Also with Ellen Wong, Kathleen Munroe, Kenneth Welsh, Amy Groening, Art Hindle, and Evan Stern. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Badrinath Ki Dulhania (NR) This Indian musical stars Varun Dhawan as an obnoxious bro who becomes woke after he falls in love with a girl (Alia Bhatt) who’s determined to make her own way in the world before she gets married. Heaven knows that Indian society could use this message every bit as much as ours. This movie could have been oppressively message-y, but director Shashank Khaitan makes it all go down smoothly, his two leads have an easy rapport with each other, and the supporting cast brings great energy, especially Sahil Vaid as a best friend with a get-rich-and-married-quick scheme involving a matchmaking website. The musical numbers are lively, too. Also with Gauhar Khan, Shweta Prasad, Girish Karnad, Ritu Raj Singh, and Anuparna Kumar.
Beauty and the Beast (PG) Emma Watson fits the Disney princess role like it was made for her, which is the more remarkable because we know it wasn’t. This live-action remake of the 1991 animated Disney musical is still a mixed bag, though. Screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos insert some feminist touches around the edges when they needed a radical refocusing of the script to make the romance look less like Stockholm syndrome. Director Bill Condon can’t bring any new life to the famous numbers. This movie does get better singing from its supporting cast than the original film, with Luke Evans looking liberated in the role of the narcissistic meathead Gaston and Josh Gad matching him well as his gay toady. Watson is a cooling vocal presence who doesn’t hit the dizzying highs of other recent singing actresses from Disney films. She does stately as well as anyone, but she was made to do more interesting things. Also with Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Hattie Morahan, Kevin Kline, and Emma Thompson.
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.
The Belko Experiment (R) What could have been a tasty satire on office life and corporate globalism instead turns into a squalid slasher flick where everybody’s the slasher. Directed by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek), this film is about a group of 80 mostly American workers for a human resources firm who are locked into their office tower in Bogotá, where a mysterious voice (Gregg Henry) forces them to start killing one another. The script by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) doesn’t have his usual wit, and the murder sequences have no wit at all. This makes those Purge movies look like Quentin Tarantino films by comparison. Starring John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn, Melonie Diaz, John C. McGinley, Owain Yeoman, Josh Brener, Brent Sexton, David Del Rio, Rusty Schwimmer, James Earl, Sean Gunn, David Dastmalchian, Abraham Benrubi, and Michael Rooker.
The Boss Baby (PG) This watchable and instantly forgettable animated film is about a boy (voiced by Miles Bakshi) who discovers that his new suit-and-tie-wearing baby brother (voiced by Alec Baldwin) is secretly an operative for the corporation that makes babies who’s undercover to save his company from losing market share to puppies. The bizarre conceit is taken from Marla Frazee’s children’s book, and the filmmakers (including Tom McGrath, the director of the Madagascar movies) can’t make it any less so. There’s one clever reference to Baldwin’s role in Glengarry Glen Ross, and that’s it for the wit on display here. This isn’t anywhere as bad as it could have been, but it still needed to be better. Additional voices by Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, James McGrath, and Tobey Maguire.
CHIPS (R) When it comes to ironic action-comedy big-screen remakes of old TV shows, this one would rank towards the low end of the scale. The California Highway Patrol gets two new members in a former motocross champion (Dax Shepard) who’s seeking gainful employment and an undercover FBI agent (Michael Peña) who’s looking to bust a ring of crooked cops inside the department. Shepard is also the writer-director, and while he assembles a cast full of the right talent, he neither gives them much useful material to play nor inspires them to make their own funny ad-libs. Bit after bit just sits there, and even the motorcycle chases aren’t any fun. This is Shepard’s step up to the big time, and he whiffs badly. Also with Adam Brody, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kristen Bell, Ryan Hansen, Maya Rudolph, Justin Chatwin, Jessica McNamee, Richard T. Jones, Jane Kaczmarek, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and an uncredited Erik Estrada.
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.
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.
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.
Ghost in the Shell (PG-13) Motoko Kusanagi is dead, and her brain has been transplanted into Scarlett Johansson’s body. That’s the takeaway from this terrific-looking but no more than proficient live-action adaptation of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime film. Johansson plays the series’ cybernetically enhanced soldier heroine, who works to take down the most dangerous criminals in a futuristic Tokyo. Director Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) keeps the thing from any lulls in momentum, though he and his screenwriters can’t replicate the philosophical underpinnings of the original. Good thing Johansson is in terrific form. Cult filmmaker Takeshi Kitano portrays her boss, barking out orders in Japanese while everyone else responds to him in English. Also with Pilou Asbæk, Michael Pitt, Chin Han, Peter Ferdinando, Danusia Samal, Anamaria Marinca, and Juliette Binoche.
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.
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.
Life (R) This derivative and pointlessly bleak space opera wants so badly to be a mix of Alien and Gravity, and it doesn’t get near that territory. It starts when the crew of multinational astronauts at the International Space Station study a drone-collected sample of Martian soil and find an organism that they nurture until it grows into a superintelligent flesh-eating octopus swimming through the air. The plot reduces actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds to fodder waiting to be picked off one by one by the alien. Director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) is technically proficient, executing a nice Gravity-style extended tracking shot to open the proceedings, but he can’t bring any life to this stale script by Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Also with Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, and Ariyon Bakare.
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 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.
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.
Personal Shopper (R) Kristen Stewart is nothing short of astonishing in this highly unusual French film about a personal shopper for a Parisian supermodel who spends her spare time trying to contact her recently deceased twin brother. Writer-director Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria) somehow makes this character’s supernatural encounters and her earthly travels through the world of high fashion to seem like they’re of the same piece, and he makes spooky business out of a ghost that sends threatening text messages in broad daylight. Stewart infuses the role with her trademark nervous intensity, showing the toll of grief on this character and her desperate desire for closure. She’s so good that she pulls off a scene where she walks through a haunted house ranting at empty air. The film is ambiguous right down to its troubling final touch, and its star’s ambiguity makes its achievements possible. Also with Lars Eidinger, Nora von Waldstätten, Sigrid Bouaziz, Ty Olwin, and Anders Danielsen Lie.
Power Rangers (PG-13) I spent the first half of this movie preparing to say that it wasn’t half bad. Then I saw the second half. A new crop of teenagers finds the old power suits and is forced to work together to protect the planet from a former ranger (Elizabeth Banks) who wants to destroy all life on Earth. The first half does a fairly good job of drawing together these kids from screwed-up backgrounds, including a black kid with autism (RJ Cyler) and a Latina (Becky G.) whose bisexuality is referred to in the obliquest of ways. When the rangers have to face off against a giant town-wrecking golden demon, that’s when this movie falls apart. Director Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) isn’t good with the special effects and seems to think that realism means making everything look like crap. Also with Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, David Denman, Anjali Jay, and Bryan Cranston.
The Prison (NR) This brutal Korean thriller stars Kim Rae-won as a cop who voluntarily goes undercover inside a prison to bust a crime lord (Han Suk-kyu) who’s running his syndicate from inside, bribing the prison officials to let him and his gangsters come and go as he pleases. First-time director Na Hyun stages some creditable prison brawls and Han gives a fine understated performance as the crime boss, but there are far too many scenes that we’ve seen from similar movies where the undercover cop has to prove his loyalty and get emotionally attached to the guy he’s spying on. This genre exercise never does more than scratch the surface, again and again until it draws blood. Also with Jung Woong-in, Kim Sung-kyun, Shin Sung-rok, Jo Jae-yun, and Lee Kyoung-young.
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.
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.
The Zookeeper’s Wife (PG-13) Jessica Chastain stars in this biography of Antonina Zabinski, the Warsaw zookeeper who sheltered hundreds of Jews during the Nazi invasion. Also with Daniel Brühl, Johan Heldenbergh, Timothy Radford, Efrat Dor, Iddo Goldberg, Shira Haas, and Michael McElhatton.
The Devotion of Suspect X (NR) This Chinese adaptation of the Japanese murder mystery novel by Keigo Hashino about a battle of wits between a homicide detective (Wang Kai) and his college classmate, a math professor (Zhang Luyi) covering up a murder. Also with Ruby Lin, Hou Minghao, Xu Jiayi, Lin Xinru, Ye Zuxin, and Ding Guansen.
For Here or To Go? (NR) Ali Fazal stars in this drama as an Indian tech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley fighting against deportation so he can stay in America. Also with Melanie Chandra, Rajit Kapur, Amitosh Nagpal, Omi Vaidya, Samrat Chakrabarti, and Keith Stevenson.
Here Alone (NR) Lucy Walters headlines this science-fiction thriller about a woman forced deep into the wilderness to escape a pandemic that has decimated most of society. Also with Gina Piersanti, Adam David Thompson, and Shane West.
Raw (R) Julia Ducournau’s horror film stars Garance Marillier as a French veterinary student whose brutal hazing at school turns her into a cannibal serial killer. Also with Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Joanna Preiss, and Laurent Lucas.
Song to Song (R) Terrence Malick’s latest film stars Rooney Mara as a rock guitarist who encounters romantic betrayal when her band travels to Austin. Also with Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Cate Blanchett, Holly Hunter, Bérénice Marlohe, Val Kilmer, Lykke Li, Linda Emond, and Natalie Portman.