Champion (PG) Gary Graham and Andrew Cheney star as rival dirt track racers whose lives are haunted by an accident. Also with Katherine Shepler, Faith Renee Kennedy, Robert Amaya, Isaiah Stratton, and Kristi Walker. (Opens Friday)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (PG) Jason Drucker takes over the role of Greg Heffley as the series based on Jeff Kinney’s books reboots. Also with Alicia Silverstone, Tom Everett Scott, Charlie Wright, Owen Asztalos, and Dylan Walters. (Opens Friday)
Everything, Everything (PG-13) Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games) stars in this adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s novel about a teenage girl whose allergies force her to spend her life indoors. Also with Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, and Françoise Yip. (Opens Friday)
Half Girlfriend (NR) Arjun Kapoor stars in this romantic film about an Indian man who can’t get his girlfriend (Shraddha Kapoor) to commit to him. Also with Anisa Butt, Seema Biswas, Vikrant Massey, and Adam Davenport. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The Lovers (R) Debra Winger and Tracy Letts star in this comedy as a longtime married couple who start cheating on their extramarital lovers with each other. Also with Aidan Gillen, Melora Walters, and Jessica Sula. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer (R) Richard Gere stars in this drama about a small-time operator whose life changes when the young politician (Dan Stevens) he befriended at a low point suddenly becomes a rising star. Also with Michael Sheen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lior Ashkenazi, Josh Charles, Ann Dowd, Isaach de Bankolé, Hank Azaria, and Steve Buscemi. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
A Quiet Passion (PG-13) The latest film by Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) stars Cynthia Nixon as the reclusive 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson. Also with Jennifer Ehle, Duncan Duff, Jodhi May, Emma Bell, Joanna Bacon, and Keith Carradine. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (NR) Full disclosure: I haven’t seen Baahubali: The Beginning. The sequel is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, and you can see why in its spectacular crowd scenes that dwarf anything I’ve seen from an Indian film. It also has some cheesy special effects and a climactic battle sequence that’s frankly rather silly, but on the whole, this 167-minute epic goes down fairly smoothly. Prabhas stars as a prince of an ancient kingdom in India who gives up his crown to marry the woman he loves (Anushka Shetty), only to watch his brother (Rana Daggubati) become a cruel dictator as king. All in all, this movie gives you tons of attractive Indian stars emoting, singing, and pulling up trees as they fight one another. Also with Tamannaah Bhatia, Ramya Krishnan, Nassar, and Sathyaraj.
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.
Born in China (G) The latest Disney nature documentary doesn’t deviate from the template of the others, following the lives of a snow leopard, a giant panda, and a golden monkey, all living in different parts of China. The shots of the wildlife are gorgeous, but the movie discreetly cuts away from any bloodshed that the carnivores inflict, and the cutesy narration by John Krasinski will make you want to wipe out all the wild animals on the planet. You’re better off going to YouTube to observe the creatures that live in this far-off land.
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 Circle (PG-13) The biggest disappointment of the spring. Emma Watson stars in this thriller as a California woman who gets her dream job at a Silicon Valley tech firm before she discovers that the CEO (Tom Hanks) is planning to subject everyone in the world to round-the-clock surveillance to force them into good behavior. Watson is loose and funny, Hanks nails the warm and fatherly bad guy part, and the late Bill Paxton shines in his last screen performance as the heroine’s MS-afflicted dad, but the movie shares flaws with the Dave Eggers novel that it’s based on, and James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour) directs this too smoothly, failing to conjure the paranoid atmosphere that this needs. Tech’s real-life dangers have outstripped the ones in this movie. Also with John Boyega, Ellar Coltrane, Karen Gillan, Nate Corddry, Ellen Wong, Patton Oswalt, Judy Reyes, and Glenne Headly.
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.
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.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (PG-13) More goes right than wrong in this sequel, in which our band of ragtag space rogues crash-land on a distant planet that’s sentient, can take human form (Kurt Russell), and happens to be the long-lost father of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt). There’s tons more funny business, some involving baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) dancing and bringing the wrong items to Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Rooker) as they’re trying to break out of prison. I just wish the sequel had retained more of the original’s caper feel instead of making all its characters go through some hackneyed emotional arc — our Star-Lord was more fun as a common thief than as a guy with superpowers and daddy issues. Still, enough of the original’s jokey spirit remains to prime you for the third mix. Also with Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Karen GIllan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Chris Sullivan, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Sylvester Stallone, and an uncredited David Hasselhoff.
How to Be a Latin Lover (PG-13) Mexican comedy superstar Eugenio Derbez has acted in English before, but this is the first English-language movie that he has starred in. He plays a trophy husband who gets ditched by his 80-year-old wife (Renée Taylor) for a younger man and has to learn how to make a living while moving in with his sister (Salma Hayek) and her science-nerd son (Raphael Alejandro). The story takes wearisomely predictable turns, and yet the change in language has done little to disrupt Derbez’ sense of comic timing or his gifts as a clown. With better material, he could make some noise on our side of the border. Watch for Kristen Bell’s cameo as an insanely cheerful yogurt shop manager who lives with about 50 cats. Also with Rob Lowe, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Mckenna Grace, Vadhir Derbez, Linda Lavin, and Michael Cera.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) Some neat montages and a couple of cool visuals can’t put the fun into Guy Ritchie’s take on the English legend, which stars Charlie Hunnam as a London street kid who discovers that his father was actually the king (Eric Bana) who was murdered by his usurping brother (Jude Law). Ritchie throws in 100-foot battle elephants and manages to make Excalibur seem like a magical sword, but undistinguished performances and fight sequences can’t lift this thing from the stone. Also with Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Craig McGinley, Tom Wu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Peter Ferdinando, Michael McElhatton, and an uncredited David Beckham.
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.
The Lost City of Z (PG-13) Based on author David Grann’s non-fiction bestseller, this tells the story of British explorer and army officer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) and his ill-fated, life-long quest to find a lost city in the Amazon jungle. Alternately thrilling and plodding, talky and riveting, this portrait of Fawcett is neither exciting enough to serve as true-life, Victorian-era Indiana Jones tale nor grandiose enough to qualify as a serious period drama. We can’t tell what kind of film it’s supposed to be, and its 141 minute running time makes it feel bloated. Despite the film’s occasional slide into tedious Merchant Ivory pretensions, there are hallucinatory moments of Amazonian terror and World War I trench warfare that are completely captivating. Also with Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Tom Holland, Edward Ashley, Angus Macfadyen, and Ian McDiarmid. — Steve Steward
Lowriders (PG-13) Gabriel Chavarria stars as an East L.A. graffiti tagger who’s caught between his desire for self-expression and his father (Demián Bichir), who wants his son to take over his custom car business. Also with Theo Rossi, Tony Revolori, Melissa Benoist, Yvette Monreal, Franck Khalfoun, and Eva Longoria.
Meri Pyaari Bindu (NR) Ayushmann Khurrana stars in this Indian comedy as a creatively blocked writer who tries to contact an old flame (Parineeti Chopra) to get started writing again. Also with Abish Mathew, Aparajita Adhya, Malvika Sitlani, and Rajatabha Dutta.
Miles Between Us (NR) Dariush Moslemi and Anna Stranz star as an estranged father and daughter who are forced to take a road trip together. Also with Susan Chambers, Kelly Morton, Hannah Aslesen, and Josten Rositas.
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.
Sarkar 3 (NR) Amitabh Bachchan stars in the last film of the trilogy about a corrupt Indian politician fending off threats to his reign and his life. Also with Yami Gautam, Jackie Shroff, Ronit Roy, Manoj Bajpayee, Amit Sadh, Parag Tyagi, Rohini Hattangadi, and Shiv Sharma.
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.
Snatched (R) Amy Schumer plays another woman-child, and you get the uneasy feeling that she has a better handle on the type than the filmmakers do. She plays an American woman who goes through a bad breakup and decides to take her risk-averse mom (Goldie Hawn) with her to Ecuador, only for the two of them to be kidnapped by Colombians off the beaten path. The movie has too many funny actors not to yield the occasional wisecrack, but the temperamental match between Schumer and Hawn is wasted and nobody even bothers to ask whether this mother may have been the one who raised such dysfunctional kids. Schumer should get back to writing her own material. Also with Wanda Sykes, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman, Christopher Meloni, Óscar Jaenada, Randall Park, and Joan Cusack.
Unforgettable (R) A title like that just paints a big target on a movie’s back, and this one isn’t near nimble enough to avoid being hit. Rosario Dawson stars as a woman who marries her dream guy (Geoff Stults) only to find her life being made hell by his ex-wife (Katherine Heigl) who’s the mother of his child. The film has two good ideas in having the biological mother be the crazy, high-maintenance villain and casting Heigl in the part, but the retrograde script by Christina Hodson holds no surprises, and the whole thing eventually falls apart in the hands of longtime producer-turned-director Denise Di Novi. Thirty years after Fatal Attraction, this film seems to have stood in place. Also with Whitney Cummings, Isabella Kai Rice, Simon Kassianides, Robert Wisdom, Jayson Blair, and Cheryl Ladd.
The Wall (R) This little gem by Doug Liman stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as an American soldier in Iraq who’s patrolling in the desert when he gets pinned down behind an unsteady brick wall by a sniper (Laith Nakli) while his comrade (John Cena) lies wounded out in the open. Taylor-Johnson pretty much owns the show as an ex-sniper with a tortured past who has to use his expertise against the enemy marksman, and the movie sports a few good twists, most notably when the main character seems to get into radio contact with his fellow Americans. For the director of Edge of Tomorrow and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, it’s proof that he can work on a small scale just as well.
Chuck (R) Liev Schreiber stars in this biography of boxer Chuck “The Bleeder” Wepner, whose life inspired the film Rocky. Also with Naomi Watts, Ron Perlman, Jim Gaffigan, Morgan Spector, Jason Jones, and Elisabeth Moss.
Graduation (R) The latest film by Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days) stars Adrian Titeni as a Romanian doctor who ponders illegally helping his daughter (Maria Dragus) pass her college exams after she’s brutally attacked. Also with Lia Bugnar, Malina Manovici, Rares Andrici, and Vlad Ivanov.
Hounds of Love (NR) This Australian psychological thriller stars Ashleigh Cummings as a woman who’s kidnapped by a disturbed couple (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth) and must drive a wedge between them in order to escape. Also with Susie Porter, Damian de Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson, Fletcher Humphrys, and Steve Turner.
Risk (NR) Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) directs this documentary profile of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
3 Generations (PG-13) Naomi Watts stars in this drama as a mother who copes with her teenage daughter (Elle Fanning) beginning her transition from female to male. Also with Susan Sarandon, Linda Emond, Andrew Polk, Maria Dizzia, and Tate Donovan.
Urban Hymn (NR) This British ghetto drama stars Letitia Wright as a troubled teenage girl with a gift for singing that’s encouraged by a social worker (Shirley Henderson). Also with Ian Hart, Jack McMullen, Steven Mackintosh, and Shaun Parkes.