Born in China (G) The latest Disney nature documentary follows the lives of a giant panda, a snow leopard, and a golden monkey. Narrated by John Krasinski. (Opens Friday)
Can’t Help Falling in Love (NR) Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo star in this Filipino comedy as two strangers who accidentally wind up married to each other. Also with Matteo Guidicelli, Cherry Pie Picache, Lito Pimentel, and Dennis Padilla. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Grow House (R) DeRay Davis and Li’l Duval star in this comedy as two stoners who decide to enter the medical marijuana business. Also with Malcolm McDowell, Faizon Love, Zulay Henao, Raquel Lee, Martin Starr, Lin Shaye, George Wallace, and Snoop Dogg. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Lost City of Z (PG-13) Charlie Hunnam stars in this biography of Col. Percival Fawcett, the British explorer who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925 while searching for evidence of a lost civilization. Also with Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Edward Ashley, Angus Macfadyen, and Ian McDiarmid. (Opens Friday)
Phoenix Forgotten (PG-13) This found-footage horror film stars Florence Hartigan, Luke Spencer Roberts, and Chelsea Lopez as teenagers from Phoenix who disappear following the appearance of mysterious lights above the city in 1997. Also with Justin Matthews, Clint Jordan, Cyd Strittmatter, Jeanine Jackson, and Matt Biedel. (Opens Friday)
The Promise (PG-13) Set during World War I and the Armenian genocide, this historical tragedy stars Charlotte Le Bon as a woman torn between an Armenian doctor (Oscar Isaac) and an American journalist (Christian Bale). Also with Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, Tom Hollander, Jean Reno, Numan Acar, Rade Serbedzija, and James Cromwell. (Opens Friday)
Their Finest (R) This British dramedy is about a group of filmmakers trying to make a film about Dunkirk to rally public morale during World War II. Starring Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin, Jack Huston, Paul Ritter, Rachael Stirling, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Richard E. Grant, and Jeremy Irons. (Opens Friday at Movie Tavern West 7th)
Truman (NR) This Spanish dramedy stars Ricardo Darín as a Madrid resident who receives an unexpected visit from an old friend (Javier Cámara). Also with Dolores Fonzi, Eduard Fernández, Alex Brendemühl, and José Luis Gómez. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Unforgettable (R) Rosario Dawson stars in this thriller as a wife and stepmother who finds herself being stalked and threatened by her husband’s unstable ex-wife (Katherine Heigl). Also with Geoff Stults, Whitney Cummings, Robert Wisdom, Jayson Blair, and Cheryl Ladd. (Opens Friday)
A Very Sordid Wedding (NR) Del Shores’ sequel to his 2001 comedy takes place in the same small Texas town, as a memorial service for a beloved citizen coincides with an anti-gay rally. Starring Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, Caroline Rhea, Dale Dickey, Kirk Geiger, Rosemary Alexander, Lorna Scott, Ann Walker, and Whoopi Goldberg. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
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.
The Case for Christ (PG) Marginally better than other Christian films. Mike Vogel portrays Lee Strobel, the real-life Chicago investigative journalist who looked into Christianity after his wife (Erika Christensen) started going to church and wound up converting from atheism to Christianity. The procedural nature of this story helps dry it out and keep it from some of the excesses of other movies preaching to the converted. The movie’s early 1980s setting looks right, but director Jon Gunn can’t build this up to any sort of dramatic climax. Also with Robert Forster, Frankie Faison, Kevin Sizemore, L. Scott Caldwell, and Faye Dunaway.
The Fate of the Furious (PG-13) Why do I get the sense that they’re running out of things to do? Maybe the next installment will have the crew fighting the zombie apocalypse in space. For now, the racers have to fight against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who has improbably been turned to the dark side by a dragon lady cyberterrorist (Charlize Theron) who spends way too much time talking about her philosophy of life. Actually, everybody spends too much time talking, and dialogue has never been the series’ strong suit. There’s one nice sequence through the streets of Manhattan when the villain turns every car into a self-driving car, but the climactic sequence in polar Russia with the cars being chased down by a submarine is just silly. Also with Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Luke Evans, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, and Helen Mirren.
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.
Gifted (PG-13) Not great art, but the acting keeps this dramedy just on this side of watchable. Chris Evans stars as a Florida boat repairman who’s raising his 7-year-old niece (Mckenna Grace) when word of her mathematical genius leaks out and he gets into a custody battle over the girl with his mathematician mother (Lindsay Duncan). Essentially, this is the plot of Little Man Tate all over again. The thing threatens to drown in sentimentality in the second half, but Evans’ customary low-key excellence and Grace’s bright incisiveness keep the thing above water. Evans also gets a nice romantic subplot with Jenny Slate’s first-grade teacher, as the two actors were a couple at the time of filming. Also with Octavia Spencer, Michael Kendall Kaplan, John M. Jackson, Glenn Plummer, John Finn, and John Sklaroff.
Going in Style (PG-13) A jittery criminal asks Michael Caine if he’s five-oh. He says, “We’re practically eight-oh.” If you find that hilarious, then this comedy that’s even more toothless than the senior citizens populating it is for you. Caine co-stars with Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin as laid-off New York City steelworkers who decide to rob the bank that’s dissolving their pensions and leaving them with nothing. I don’t know for sure if director Zach Braff (Garden State) took this as a paycheck job, but I do know it feels that way. His distinctive visual sense is nowhere in evidence, and even his sense of comic timing has deserted him. Hell or High Water, this isn’t. Also with Ann-Margret, John Ortiz, Joey King, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Serafinowicz, Kenan Thompson, Maria Dizzia, Josh Pais, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and Matt Dillon.
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.
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 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.
Smurfs: The Lost Village (PG) Marginally more watchable than the partially live-action films that have come before it, this wholly animated film features Smurfette (voiced by Demi Lovato) leading an unauthorized expedition into the Forbidden Forest to get to a village of lost Smurfs before Gargamel (voiced by Rainn Wilson) gets to it. There’s a development that takes some (but not all) of the weirdness out of the fact that Smurfette is the only female in her village, but the jokes aren’t funny and the story’s emotional hooks don’t hook us. The best that can be said here is that Lovato is an upgrade on Katy Perry in her role. Additional voices by Michelle Rodriguez, Ariel Winter, Mandy Patinkin, Ellie Kemper, Jake Johnson, Gabriel Iglesias, Jeff Dunham, and Julia Roberts.
Spark: A Space Tail (PG) There are a couple of genuinely frightening space monsters in this animated kids’ movie. If only the story was anywhere near as compelling. Jace Norman provides the voice of a 13-year-old monkey who’s been exiled from a distant planet and has to team up with some upright-walking foxes and pigs to retake his home planet from an evil overlord (voiced by A.C. Peterson). Why do these characters have to be animals at all? The thing gets some good voice work from Norman, and Patrick Stewart does his best Sean Connery impression as a military leader in exile, but it’s hard to see what could have attracted such a high-powered cast to such an ordinary film. Additional voices by Jessica Biel, Rob de Leeuw, Athena Karkanis, Susan Sarandon, and Hilary Swank.
Tommy’s Honour (PG) Movies about golf continue to have a wretched track record with this sleepy dramatization of the true story of the fractured relationship between Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan), the 1860s greenskeeper at St. Andrews who set many of the modern rules of the sport, and his golf champion son Young Tom (Jack Lowden, bearing an eerie resemblance to the photos of the man he’s playing), who had ideas above his station in life. Actor-turned-director Jason Connery (the son of Sean) maintains a somnolent tone throughout and lays out the tensions in the relationship in terms balder than a golf ball. Also with Ophelia Lovibond, Peter Ferdinando, Max Deacon, Paul Reid, Therese Bradley, and Sam Neill.
T2 Trainspotting (R) Danny Boyle and his cast reunite for this sequel to the 1996 film that shows these heroin addicts having somehow reached middle age. When Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to his native Edinburgh after a long absence, it triggers a bunch of events among his friends Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), not to mention Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who escapes from prison with the intent of killing Renton. The thing is haunted by these guys’ ghosts and squandered chances, but as with the original, Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge lace the dread with slapstick set pieces and a song performed for a crowd of violent Protestant sectarians. These boys may have more wrinkles and regrets, but they haven’t lost their rowdy energy and wit. Renton’s “choose life” rant gets updated for the new century, too. This isn’t just nostalgia. Also with Anjela Nedyalkova, James Cosmo, Bradley Welsh, Irvine Welsh, Shirley Henderson, and Kelly Macdonald.
Your Name (PG) The biggest animated box-office hit in Japan’s history is a rather interesting piece of work. Released in both English-subtitled and -dubbed versions, this teen flick is about a 15-year-old Tokyo boy (voiced by Ryûnosuke Kamiki and Michael Sinterniklaas) and a 15-year-old girl in the countryside (voiced by Mone Kamishiraishi and Stephanie Sheh) who switch bodies every few days while they sleep. This is not a Western-style examination of gender fluidity but rather a fable driven by a mystical confluence of events involving a comet passing overhead and the Shinto shrine that the girl’s family takes care of. The thriller-like conclusion feels pulled from an entirely different film, but there’s no doubting writer-director Makoto Shinkai’s talent and eye for beauty. This deserves a look, and not just from the anime fans. Additional voices by Masami Nagasawa, Laura Post, Ryô Narita, Kyle Hebert, Aoi Yuki, Cassandra Morris, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Ben Pronsky, Kanon Tani, Catie Harvey, Etsuko Ichihara, and Glynis Ellis.
The Zookeeper’s Wife (PG-13) The inspiring story of Antonina Zabinska, a zookeeper at the Warsaw Zoo who hid hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust, gets turned into this tepid biopic. Jessica Chastain stars, rendering some of her lines unintelligible with her Polish accent. The thing starts off reasonably well before bogging down in the second half, as Antonina tries to stay loyal to her husband (Johan Heldenberg) while leading on a Nazi officer (Daniel Brühl) to keep everyone alive. Despite a few inventive touches here and there from director Niki Caro (Whale Rider), this film never reaches the emotional critical mass that it’s aiming for. Also with Timothy Radford, Val Małoku, Efrat Dor, Iddo Goldberg, Shira Haas, and Michael McElhatton.
Frantz (PG-13) François Ozon’s remake of the 1932 Hollywood film Broken Lullaby is about a mysterious Frenchman (Pierre Niney) who catches the eye of a German village when he lays flowers at the grave of a German soldier shortly after the end of World War I. Also with Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bülow, and Anton von Lucke. (Opens Friday in Dallas)