The Challenge (NR) Yuri Ancarani’s documentary about falconry and the wealthy Qatari sheikhs who practice the sport. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
City of Rock (NR) Dong Chengpeng writes, directs, and stars in this comedy as a Chinese musician who tries to save his city’s rock garden by organizing a rock concert. Also with Coulee Nazha. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lucky (NR) The late Harry Dean Stanton stars in this drama as a 90-year-old atheist who makes a spiritual journey. Also with David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Beth Grant, Barry Shabaka Henley, and Tom Skerritt. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
American Assassin (R) Dylan O’Brien continues to bore me to tears in this thriller about an American tourist who turns himself into a vigilante and gets scooped up by the CIA after his fiancée is murdered by Arab terrorists while they’re on vacation. We keep getting told that our hero is dangerously reckless and making his spy missions about himself, and yet nothing bad ever happens to him as a result. O’Brien is out-acted by just about everyone on the screen, including Michael Keaton as his sadistic instructor, Shiva Negar as the beautiful Iranian spy who works with him, and Taylor Kitsch as the rogue American who’s the alpha villain. This movie has an antihero and doesn’t seem to know it, and add that it’s not-so-casually racist into the bargain. Also with Sanaa Lathan, Charlotte Vega, Shahid Ahmed, Scott Adkins, Navid Negahban, and David Suchet.
American Made (R) The latest Tom Cruise movie is slickly entertaining without ever quite feeling like there’s anything at stake. He portrays Barry Seal, the real-life Louisiana pilot who started running guns for the CIA and drugs for Pablo Escobar while working as an informant for the DEA in the 1980s. Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) does all this up with his customary verve and energy, and Cruise is far better cast as a shifty antihero than as an action hero at this point. This thing could have used better performances from the supporting cast, but it won’t make you feel like it wasted your time. Also with Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Jesse Plemons, Caleb Landry Jones, Lola Kirke, Jayma Mays, Alejandro Edda, Mauricio Mejia, Robert Farrior, Benito Martinez, and Mickey Sumner.
Battle of the Sexes (PG-13) The greatest tennis movie ever, this would have been better if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, but then, you could say the same for a lot of things. The directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) are behind this rollicking account of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), also taking in King’s fight for equal pay on the tennis circuit and her struggle with her sexuality at the same time she was in the public eye. Simon Beaufoy’s script picks up all sorts of juicy ancillary details along the way, and the thing is anchored by Stone, who does a dead convincing impression of King’s game face but is also marvelously alert to the women’s champ’s need to hide her sexuality. If this movie is the first step in weaponizing Emma Stone, we should all look out. Also with Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales, Jessica McNamee, Bill Pullman, Austin Stowell, Fred Armisen, Martha MacIsaac, Mickey Sumner, Eric Christian Olsen, Alan Cumming, and Elisabeth Shue.
Brad’s Status (R) Ben Stiller stars in this comedy as a father who takes his son on a tour of colleges and meets an old friend (Michael Sheen) whose life seems better than his in every way.
Despicable Me 3 (PG) There are all sorts of things going on in this third installment, what with Gru meeting his long-lost twin brother (both voiced by Steve Carell), Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig) learning to be a mom, the minions (voiced by Pierre Coffin) exiled to their own subplot doing God knows what, and a 1980s kid actor-turned-supervillain (voiced by Trey Parker) trying to destroy Hollywood. All of it fails because the filmmakers behind this seem to have run out of ideas sometime during the last movie. It’s time for Gru to retire and spend more time with his family, away from our screens. Additional voices by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, and Julie Andrews.
Dunkirk (PG-13) Not a masterpiece, but it gets the job done. Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic tells the story of British civilians rescuing more than 300,000 soldiers from the French beach where they were trapped by the Nazis. Nolan tells the story in three overlapping timelines, from the viewpoints of an RAF pilot (Tom Hardy), a private (Fionn Whitehead), a boat owner (Mark Rylance), and others. Nolan probably should have gone with a more straightforward approach; the temporal dislocation doesn’t increase the chaos of the battle or the story’s forward drive. Luckily, this movie does much better at the small-picture level, conveying the analog nature of aerial combat back then and the private’s series of brushes with death as he tries to flee. This movie may not have the emotional impact that it’s looking for, but it succeeds thanks to Nolan’s assiduous application of his craft. Also with Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Tom Nolan, Harry Styles, and Kenneth Branagh.
Flatliners (PG-13) The 1990 supernatural thriller was trashy and maudlin, but this remake makes it look like a deathless masterwork, especially the last third. Ellen Page stars as a medical student who ropes some fellow students into subjecting themselves to near-death experiences so that they can report back from the afterlife. They come back from death as adrenaline junkies when they’re not hallucinating the worst memories from their childhood. This thing is mostly just dull until the hallucinations start killing them one by one. That’s when this medical thriller turns as preachy and sentimental as the worst religious films. Also with Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons, James Norton, and Kiefer Sutherland.
Friend Request (R) Alycia Debnam-Carey (TV’s Fear the Walking Dead) stars in this horror film as a college student who finds her friends being killed after she accepts a friend request from a social outcast. Also with William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, and Sean Marquette.
Girls Trip (R) In the “raunchy summer female comedy” tournament, this one defeats Snatched and Rough Night. Regina Hall stars as an Oprah Winfrey-like lifestyle guru who invites her college friends (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish) for a weekend of partying at the Essence Festival in New Orleans. The raunchy summer female comedies tend to be for the white women, so it’s gratifying to see the black women get in on the action, and do it to hilarious effect. Some of the subplots play out predictably, but who cares when you’ve got set pieces like a zipline ride across Bourbon Street that goes wrong? Haddish winds up upstaging her more famous co-stars repeatedly, especially during a sex demonstration with a grapefruit and a banana. Also with Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Mike Epps, Lara Grice, and Kate Walsh.
Home Again (PG-13) Reese Witherspoon starring in a romantic comedy directed by the daughter of Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer should be terrific, and yet this sleepy affair seems to distill the worst aspects of Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s parents films. Witherspoon plays a newly separated mother who moves back to her hometown of L.A. and rents out her house to three struggling young filmmakers, falling in love with the handsome director (Pico Alexander) of those three. Comic subplots with a flaky socialite (Lake Bell) and a movie producer who’s a thinly disguised satire of Jason Blum (Reid Scott) don’t lead anywhere, and the heroine’s two meant-to-be-adorably neurotic daughters (Lola Flanery and Eden Grace Redfield) are simply intolerable. At least Shyer and Meyers’ films were funny; this isn’t. Also with Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff, Josh Stamberg, Jon Rudnitsky, and Candice Bergen.
It (R) A horror movie that’s everything you’d want, except scary. Based on Stephen King’s novel, this movie is about a group of kids in Maine (where else?) in the 1980s who band together against the scary clown (Bill Skarsgård) who has been murdering kids in their small town for decades. Argentinian director Andrés Muschietti (Mama) pulls off some sequences with great flair and gets some terrific performances from Jaeden Lieberher as the ringleader with a speech impediment and Sophia Lillis as the lone girl in the group. He also elicits commendable cinematography by Chung Chung-hoon and music by Benjamin Wallfisch, and the comic relief here is actually funny. Still, the clown’s antics don’t crawl under your skin like they should, and the whole affair lapses into regrettable sentimentality near the end. If you can’t wait for Season 2 of Stranger Things, this will tide you over nicely. Also with Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Rae Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Finn Wolfhard.
Judwaa 2 (NR) Salman Khan stars in this Indian comedy as twins trying to take over organized crime.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (R) Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is back from the dead, which seems to encapsulate everything that’s wrong with this sequel. Taron Egerton returns as the British secret agent who must team up with his American colleagues after a drug lord (Julianne Moore) kills most of his fellow Kingsmen. Director Matthew Vaughn has lost none of his flair for an action sequence, Egerton holds the center effortlessly, and Moore is a delight playing the supervillain as a demure Betty Crocker housewife with a 1950s fetish and legitimate points about the War on Drugs. Yet these too often get lost amid the movie’s myriad plotlines. This overstuffed, overlong affair shamefully wastes Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum as American agents. The parts where Eggsy tries to get the amnesiac Harry to remember his old self are the weakest, and the movie would have been better off letting Harry stay dead. Also with Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Hanna Alström, Pedro Pascal, Edward Holcroft, Emily Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Sophie Cookson, Poppy Delevingne, Michael Gambon, and Elton John.
Leap! (PG) This wildly misconceived animated film is supposed to take place in 19th-century France, but the characters wisecrack like contemporary American kids. Elle Fanning is the voice of an orphaned girl from Brittany who escapes from her orphanage with a friend (voiced by Nat Wolff), and they make their way to Paris, where she cottons on at a prestigious ballet school and fulfills her dream of becoming a dancer. This film was originally done in French, and maybe it was better in that language, but the American dub is so lame that you won’t be curious to find out. Additional voices by Kate McKinnon, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler, and Mel Brooks.
The Lego Ninjago Movie (PG) The series finally stretches itself too thin with this entry about a high-school reject (voiced by Dave Franco) who is secretly a ninja along with his fellow rejects, fighting to take down an evil overlord (voiced by Justin Theroux) who just happens to be his estranged dad. The movie does manage to make the hero’s daddy issues funny, and there’s an inspired bit where the weapon of mass destruction turns out to be a flesh-and-blood cat that knocks over the Lego skyscrapers. However, you may be lost if you aren’t already familiar with the Ninjago mythology, and even if you are familiar, the visual and verbal wit of the previous two films is largely missing here. Pump the brakes on this series before we get to The Lego Architecture Movie. Additional voices by Jackie Chan, Olivia Munn, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Ali Wong, Randall Park, Charlyne Yi, and Constance Wu.
mother! (R) Ranks higher on the WTF meter than any of Darren Aronofsky’s other films, and that’s saying a mouthful. Jennifer Lawrence stars as a nameless woman married to a famous writer (Javier Bardem) and living in their secluded mansion until some mysterious houseguests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) show up and start the process of her life unraveling into a nightmare. On one level, this is a parable about the tragic costs of living with an artist who loves his own creative genius more than he can ever love anyone else, but the movie’s Biblical parallels also make it into an obscene and horrifying parody of the stories of the creation of man and Jesus. Lawrence is too imprecise here to give this the tragic import that it’s looking for, but Aronofsky’s craftsmanship makes this an effective haunted house film. The late sequences with the writer’s fans mobbing the house are as convincing a depiction of hell as anything. Also with Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Stephen McHattie, Jovan Adepo, and Kristen Wiig.
A Question of Faith (PG) This Christian drama is about two accidents that leave three families in a state of spiritual crisis. Starring Richard T. Jones, C. Thomas Howell, Jaci Velasquez, Kim Fields, Renée O’Connor, Amber Thompson, Karen Valero, and Gregory Alan Williams.
Stronger (R) Solid rather than brilliant work by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), this biopic stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, a deli worker who lost his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. Based on Bauman’s memoir, the movie is honest about the difficulties he faces not only adjusting to life as an amputee but also being tagged as a hero by the public and press in the attack’s aftermath. The movie has the benefit of terrific, raw performances by Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany as Jeff’s girlfriend, but the proceedings really turn on a deeply moving monologue by the Costa Rican bystander (Carlos Sanz) who saved Jeff’s life. This is a better monument to Boston Strong than Patriots Day. Also with Miranda Richardson, Richard Lane Jr., Nate Richman, Lenny Clarke, and Clancy Brown.
Til Death Do Us Part (PG-13) Annie Ilonzeh stars in this thriller as a woman trying to hide from her abusive ex-husband (Stephen Bishop). Also with Taye Diggs, Malik Yoba, Robinne Lee, and Jessica Vanessa DeLeon.
Wind River (R) Screenwriter and Fort Worth product Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) shows some promise in his directing debut. Jeremy Renner stars as a U.S. Fish & Wildlife ranger who finds a teenage girl’s frozen body on an Indian reservation and has to assist the FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) in charge of the murder case. Sheridan’s particularly strong on the script’s procedural elements, depicting the logistical challenges of investigating in such a remote and inhospitable place, and the performances are hard to fault. This movie could have been shorter, and the extended flashback placed just before the climax is a regrettably clumsy misstep. Still, this is a solid Western. Also with Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Martin Sensmeier, Tantoo Cardinal, Apesanahkwat, and Graham Greene.
Chasing the Dragon (NR) This Chinese gangster movie stars Donnie Yen as an illegal immigrant who rises to become the king of the drug trade in British-ruled Hong Kong in 1963. Also with Andy Lau, Philip Keung, Bryan Larkin, Kenneth Tsang, and Philip Ng.
Columbus (NR) John Cho headlines this drama as a Korean man who’s stuck in Indiana when his father falls into a coma. Also with Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Michelle Forbes, and Rory Culkin.
Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards (NR) Michael Roberts’ documentary profile of Manolo Blahnik.
The Sound (NR) Rose McGowan stars in this horror film as a supernatural skeptic who encounters the paranormal in an abandoned subway station. Also with Christopher Lloyd, Michael Eklund, and Stephen McHattie.
Stopping Traffic (NR) Sadhvi Siddhali Shree’s documentary about law enforcement agents and activists trying to halt the worldwide sex trafficking trade.
Super Dark Times (R) This thriller is about two teenage friends (Owen Campbell and Charlie Tahan) whose friendship unravels after they cover up a deadly accident. Also with Elizabeth Cappuccino, Max Talisman, Sawyer Barth, Ethan Botwick, and Amy Hargreaves.
Year by the Sea (NR) Based on Joan Anderson’s novel, this drama stars Karen Allen as a newly divorced retiree who seeks freedom moving to a small town on Cape Cod. Also with Yannick Bisson, Celia Imrie, Monique Gabriela Curren, and S. Epatha Merkerson.
Youth (NR) The latest film by Feng Xiaogang is about the lives of a group of students during China’s Cultural Revolution. Also with Huang Xuan, Miao Miao, Yang Caiyu, Li Xiaofeng, and Wang Tianchen.