BPM (NR) This French historical drama stars Arnaud Valois as a gay HIV-positive man in the 1990s who joins an activist movement to force the government to treat AIDS victims. Also with Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Félix Maritaud, Médhi Touré, and Aloïse Sauvage. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Daddy’s Home 2 (PG-13) Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg return for the sequel to the 2015 comedy as a stepfather and biological father who prepare for a Christmas with their own fathers (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson). Also with Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, and John Cena. (Opens Friday)
Dealt (NR) Luke Korem’s documentary profile of blind magician Richard Turner. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Last Flag Flying (R) Richard Linklater’s newest film is this adaptation of Darryl Ponicsan’s novel about three Vietnam War veterans (Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, and Laurence Fishburne) who take a road trip to bury one of their sons, a Marine killed in the Iraq invasion. Also with J. Quinton Johnson, Deanna Reed-Foster, Yul Vazquez, Graham Wolfe, and Cicely Tyson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mansfield 66/67 (NR) P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes’ documentary covers the last two years in the life of film star Jayne Mansfield. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mayhem (NR) This thriller stars Steven Yeun as an office worker trying to cope when a deadly virus spreads through his workplace. Also with Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, and Dallas Roberts. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Novitiate (R) Margaret Qualley stars in this drama as a young woman who resolves on becoming a Catholic nun during the social and doctrinal upheaval of the early 1960s. Also with Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron, Liana Liberato, Morgan Saylor, Maddie Hasson, Ashley Bell, and Denis O’Hare. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Square (R) The first English-language film by Ruben Östlund (Force Majeure) is this satire about a Danish art museum director (Claes Bang) who engages in ethically questionable behavior while promoting a controversial new exhibit. Also with Elisabeth Moss, Terry Notary, Christopher Læssø, Annica Liljeblad, and Dominic West. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
A Bad Moms Christmas (R) The comic inventiveness of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn is still fresh here, which is good, because this sequel following 16 months on the original’s heels has pretty much the same plot, with the moms rebelling against all the work they’re expected to do for the holidays. The thesis is laid out baldly and the different plotlines all follow the same track at the same time, but we do get Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon as the moms’ moms. Hines gives a creeptastic performance as a mother whose clinginess hits stalker levels, and Hahn gets the funniest set piece as a spa worker waxing the genitals of a gigantically endowed male stripper (Justin Hartley). Kenny G cameos as himself and says, “It’s not a flute, bitch.” All in all, these moms make a fine holiday guest. Also with Peter Gallagher, Jesse Hernandez, Oona Laurence, Emjay Anthony, Ariana Greenblatt, Wanda Sykes, and Christina Applegate.
Blade Runner 2049 (R) Visually, a triumph. In other respects, a letdown. Denis Villeneuve helms this sequel to the 1982 science-fiction cult classic, in which a replicant (Ryan Gosling) hunting down his own kind who don’t obey orders is commanded to track down an unknown person who’s linked to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Villeneuve reproduces the squalid, overcrowded, rain-soaked aesthetic from Ridley Scott’s old film while expand on it, showing the ruins of Las Vegas with 100-foot statues of naked women posing seductively in the desert. Unfortunately, the film falls flat attempting to expanding upon the original’s philosophical questions about being human, and portions of the film stop dead for exposition, while the relationship between the new blade runner and his hologram companion (Ana de Armas) never carries its emotional weight. Ideally, this movie should be projected on the back wall of a trendy nightclub, with the sound on mute. Also with Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, Wood Harris, Carla Juri, Hiam Abbass, Barkhad Abdi, Edward James Olmos, and Sean Young.
Boo 2! A Madea Halloween (PG-13) The first word in the title sums up my reaction. Tyler Perry puts on his old-lady makeup once more to make more sex and fart jokes as Madea has to rescue her granddaughter (Diamond White) and her idiot teenage friends when they bumble into ghosts and witches while partying at a secluded cabin by the lake. His filmmaking remains frozen in amber since 2002, with everything stopping dead so people can sit around and fire punchlines at one another that don’t land, and the girl’s lame dad (Perry once again) turns out to be way more twisted than he seems, and not in a good way (even though the movie thinks it is). I’d rather bring back the Scary Movie series than see another one of these. Also with Patrice Lovely, Cassi Davis, Brock O’Hurn, Lexy Panterra, Yousef Erakat, Andre Hall, Tito Ortiz, and Inanna Sarkis.
The Foreigner (R) Though this is set in the U.K., it plays more like a Hong Kong thriller. Jackie Chan stars as a half-Vietnamese businessman in London whose teenage daughter (Katie Leung) is killed in a terrorist bombing and targets a Northern Ireland deputy minister (Pierce Brosnan) with IRA ties. Chan looks old and slow by design here, and the movie shows his character relying more on tactics and technical expertise than straight-up fighting skills as he makes bombs, sets wilderness traps, and demonstrates other talents that were clearly wasted running a Chinese restaurant. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) does reasonably well sorting through the different subplots here and making this watchable. Also with Charlie Murphy, Rory Fleck Byrne, Orla Brady, Rufus Jones, Dermot Crowley, Ray Fearon, Niall McNamee, Lia Williams, and Michael McElhatton.
Geostorm (PG-13) They threw all the weather-related disaster movies into a blender — with a space movie, for good measure — and the results are somehow worse than you would expect. Gerard Butler plays the inventor of a network of weather-controlling satellites who has to go up to fix his invention before it sets off a chain of storms that engulf the entire world. The acting is terrible from everybody here, which isn’t surprising given how many gobs of expositional dialogue they have to recite while stuff is freezing or burning or flooding around them. They spent so much money on CGI effects for this, and yet everything feels like it’s been thrown together at the last minute. Also with Abbie Cornish, Jim Sturgess, Mare Winningham, Talitha Bateman, Richard Schiff, Alexandra Maria Lara, Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Wu, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Ed Harris, and Andy Garcia.
Happy Death Day (PG-13) Awfully clever. This comic horror film stars Jessica Rothe as a college student who gets caught in a time loop and is forced to repeatedly relive the day of her murder, which also happens to be her birthday, until she figures out her killer’s identity. Applying the Groundhog Day conceit to a slasher flick is a stroke of conceptual genius, allowing the protagonist to be the slutty first victim and the brave final girl at the same time. The tiny Rothe (La La Land) seizes the opportunity to be funny and show emotional depth, things that slasher movie heroines never get to do. A few dead ends in the plot nag at you, but this is still the best horror flick of the season. Also with Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Rob Mello, Rachel Matthews, Blaine Kern III, Phi Vu, and Jason Bayle.
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.
Ittefaq (NR) A remake of a 1969 Indian film by the same name, this crime thriller stars Sidharth Malhotra as a famous British novelist and Sonakshi Sinha as an Indian neighbor whose respective spouses are murdered on the same day and who tell a homicide detective (Akshaye Khanna) equally unbelievable stories absolving themselves and incriminating the other. With the exception of the detective, the cops are depicted as so incompetent that you wonder how any crimes get solved in Mumbai. There’s some interesting material here, but director/co-writer Abhay Chopra too often goes for soap-opera lather when this relatively short film needs more concision. Also with Bharat Jha, Himanshu Kohli, Pavail Gulati, and Kimberley Louisa McBeath.
Jigsaw (R) Between this and the new Madea film, I’d say 2004 has made an unwelcome return to our multiplexes. Once again a bunch of luckless victims are trapped on a set that looks like it cost $32 at Home Depot and is filled with death traps that take unnecessarily long to chop off their victims’ limbs, while a bunch of cops and medical examiners try to race against time to find them as well as Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), whom everyone thought was dead. Why bring back the series at all if they’re just going to do the same stuff as in the last 74 movies? The Spierig brothers are missing their trademark sense of humor here, and the acting is really bad here. Also with Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Clé Bennett, Paul Braunstein, Mandela van Peebles, Brittany Allen, and Laura Vandervoort.
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.
LBJ (R) Woody Harrelson’s acting is the one watchable thing about this dull biopic about our nation’s 35th president, taking in the few years leading up to and immediately after the assassination of John F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan). Harrelson is given ample latitude to show Lyndon Johnson as a compromiser and consensus builder steering a middle course between the Kennedy brothers and the Southern segregationists whom the Democrats need, but Rob Reiner’s direction and Joey Hartstone’s script are utterly lacking in distinction, and only seek to remind us that Jackie covered this same territory in much better style. Also with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bill Pullman, C. Thomas Howell, Rich Sommer, Michael Stahl-David, and Richard Jenkins.
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.
Let There Be Light (PG-13) Kevin Sorbo directs and stars in his own drama as an atheist who converts to Christianity after a serious car wreck. Also with Sam Sorbo, Daniel Roebuck, Donielle Artese, Travis Tritt, and Dionne Warwick.
Marshall (PG-13) The best legal thriller this year stars Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in a story taken from the future Supreme Court justice’s early career, when he defended a black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) against a rape charge by his employer (Kate Hudson). Of all the square biopics that he’s headlined, this one is the best showcase for Boseman. Even though the story robs him of the chance for florid courtroom theatrics, the star projects his subject’s quiet, relentless determination nevertheless. The direction by Reginald Hudlin (House Party) is old-fashioned but mostly solid, and Boseman is supported by nice turns from Josh Gad as a white lawyer whose internal crusader for racial justice is awakened and Dan Stevens as an entitled prosecutor. Also with James Cromwell, Keesha Sharp, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Magaro, Ahna O’Reilly, and Jussie Smollett.
The Mountain Between Us (PG-13) This thriller stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two passengers forced to rely on each other when their small plane crashes high in the Rocky Mountains during the winter. Also with Beau Bridges and Dermot Mulroney.
My Little Pony: The Movie (PG) The voice talent in the cast of this musical animated movie might lead you to believe that this might be good. Don’t be fooled, though, because this is every bit as slapdash and dumb as you’d expect a movie based on a beloved line of toys to be. When a fallen unicorn (voiced by Emily Blunt) invades the ponies’ homeland and takes it over for an overlord (voiced by Liev Schreiber), the kingdom’s remaining princess (voiced by Tara Strong) has to lead a small party to save the kingdom. If you’re new to the whole Pony universe, you’ll be hopelessly lost as to which pony is which. Even if you’re not, the songs by Daniel Ingram and Michael Vogel evaporate instantly from your mind while they’re being sung. For all the time that’s been put into this, it feels like a cynical cash-in, and not a terribly smart one at that. Additional voices by Ashleigh Ball, Andrea Libman, Tabitha St. Germain, Taye Diggs, Uzo Aduba, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Peña, Zoe Saldana, and Sia.
Only the Brave (PG-13) A boilerplate drama about the heroics of white working-class trained professionals, this watchable film nevertheless is a useful primer on the work that wildlife firefighters do to protect cities and towns. This is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, all but one of whom lost their lives in 2013 fighting a wildfire close to their hometown of Prescott, Ariz. Miles Teller plays a drug addict who joins the unit, while Josh Brolin plays his tough but fair boss with an addiction in his own background, as the unit works to be certified to engage with fires directly. The acting and characterizations are barely sketched in, but director Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion) does best when he’s focusing on the job’s procedures and hazards, and the script thankfully doesn’t dumb down the jargon for us. Also with Andie MacDowell, James Badge Dale, Geoff Stults, Alex Russell, and Jennifer Connelly.
Same Kind of Different As Me (PG-13) All these Oscar winners and nominees in the cast, you’d think the filmmakers could afford some decent lighting for them. This long-delayed adaptation of Ron Hall and Denver Moore’s co-authored memoir details how Dallas-based art dealer Hall (Greg Kinnear) befriended the homeless Moore (Djimon Hounsou) while working at a church soup kitchen and eventually got Moore to take over the ministry after Hall’s wife (Renée Zellweger) became gravely ill. The storytelling by first-time director and TCU graduate Michael Carney doesn’t offer much in the way of excitement, but the real obstacle here is Hounsou’s sorely misguided attempt at a Louisiana accent. That torpedoes any chance this unremarkable film might have had. Also with Dana Gourrier, Lara Grice, Olivia Holt, and Jon Voight.
Secret Superstar (NR) This 150-minute Indian film could have easily been cut down, but there’s a worthy story at the heart of this. Zaira Wasim stars as a 15-year-old Muslim girl in Gujarat who dreams of becoming a singing star but has to keep her ambition secret from her abusive dad (Raj Arjun), so she posts YouTube videos of herself wearing a burqa while strumming a guitar and singing. There’s too much melodrama, and the father is a one-dimensional troll, but Aamir Khan delivers a funny performance as a Simon Cowell-like music mogul who helps her achieve her dream. Wasim has one hell of a voice, too, and her early song “Main Kaun Hoon” (“Who Am I?”) is quite catchy. Also with Meher Vij, Tirth Sharma, Farrukh Jaffer, Mona Ambegaonkar, Kabir Shaikh, and Monali Thakur.
Seven Sundays (NR) This Filipino drama stars Ronaldo Valdez as a patriarch whose adult children must settle accounts when he’s revealed to be terminally ill. Also with Dingdong Dantes, Enrique Gil, Cristina Reyes, Donita Rose, Ketchup Eusébio, and Aga Muhlach.
Suburbicon (R) A nasty, nihilistic little thriller that gives a bunch of unappetizing people their just desserts. Noah Jupe plays a boy growing up in a suburb in 1959 when he finds reason to believe that his father (Matt Damon) and his aunt (Julianne Moore) conspired to murder his mother (also Moore) and are now in deep with the killers. George Clooney adapts this from a Coen brothers’ script from the 1980s, and makes the ill-advised decision to weld on a subplot about an African-American family trying to integrate this white enclave. The early going has all sorts of problems with pacing and tone, but the movie picks up steam in the latter half as the not-so-bright conspirators find ingenious ways to snuff one another. This is a minor work, but it sent me from the theater chuckling evilly to myself. Also with Oscar Isaac, Leith M. Burke, Karimah Westbrook, Glenn Fleshler, Alex Hassell, Gary Basaraba, Richard Kind, Jack Conley, and Tony Espinosa.
Thank You for Your Service (R) The second half of a double dip of Miles Teller playing working-class heroes, this is better than Only the Brave. He plays Sgt. Adam Schumann, a decorated Iraq veteran who returned from service only to find PTSD plaguing him and his buddies once they tried to reintegrate into civilian life. Writer-director Jason Hall previously wrote the script for American Sniper, and this film goes even deeper into the troubles that veterans with post-traumatic stress face when they come back home, as well as the bureaucratic hurdles involved in getting help and the pressures from military brass not to seem weak by seeking counseling. The first-time director Hall could use some seasoning, but this is still one of the best movies to date on its subject. Also with Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Joe Cole, Kate Lyn Sheil, Erin Darke, Scott Haze, Brad Beyer, and Amy Schumer.
Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13) A grand comic showcase for Oceania’s funniest filmmaker. Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) takes over the Marvel comics series and concocts a story that strands Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on an alien planet, enslaved as a gladiator, and needing to get back to Asgard to prevent the destruction of his world by his disowned elder sister (Cate Blanchett). Hemsworth carries this comedy exceptionally well, playing well of his plethora of supporting actors and no longer having to serve as a fish out of water on Earth. Waititi’s playful mood loosens up the entire cast and turns the alien planet into a funny dystopia, and the director also shows up as an alien warrior whose fearsome appearance belies his bashful temperament. The least interesting of Marvel’s series explodes joyously to life with this shaggy and enormously likable film. Also with Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Rachel House, Zachary Levi, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, and an uncredited Matt Damon.
Victoria and Abdul (PG-13) Stephen Frears’ drama details the real-life friendship between an elderly Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and a young Indian clerk (Ali Fazal). Also with Tim Pigott-Smith, Eddie Izzard, Adeel Akhtar, Olivia Williams, Fenella Woolgar, and Michael Gambon.
Wonderstruck (PG) A remarkable film, for deaf audiences and hearing ones. Todd Haynes (Carol) adapts Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel about a deaf girl in 1927 (Millicent Simmonds) and a boy who becomes mostly deaf 50 years later (Oakes Fegley) whose lives wind up intersecting in New York at the American Museum of Natural History. Haynes keeps a looser grip on the steering wheel than in his other films, perhaps because Selznick’s book is so chockablock with coincidences, which Haynes makes seem like a mystical confluence of events. Despite the Oscar laureates in the supporting cast, the load falls mainly on these two child actors, and both Fegley (from Pete’s Dragon) and Simmonds (a newcomer who’s deaf in real life) bear up well, and the director does great work evoking the city and the museum in distinct eras, especially a climactic sequence at the Queens Museum. Also with Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael, Cory Michael Smith, James Urbaniak, Morgan Turner, Amy Hargreaves, Tom Noonan, and Michelle Williams.
Battlecreek (NR) Bill Skarsgård (It) stars in this drama as a man with a sunlight allergy who sees a chance to escape his sheltered life after meeting a woman (Claire van der Boom). Also with Paula Malcomson, Toby Hemingway, Dana Powell, Jeremy Sande, and Delroy Lindo.
Faces Places (PG) French filmmaker Agnès Varda and outsider artist J.R. collaborate on this documentary about their road trip through rural France and their unusual friendship.
The Florida Project (R) The latest film by Sean Baker (Tangerine) stars Brooklynn Prince as a 6-year-old girl experiencing an upheaval in her life at a cheap motel outside Disney World. Also with Willem Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Christopher Rivera, Macon Blair, and Caleb Landry Jones.
Goodbye Christopher Robin (PG) Domhnall Gleeson stars in this biography of author A.A. Milne and his creation of Winnie the Pooh. Also with Margot Robbie, Alex Lawther, Will Tilston, Stephen Campbell Moore, and Kelly Macdonald.
Jane (NR) Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture) directs this documentary profile of ape researcher Jane Goodall, with decades of footage taken by Goodall’s husband Hugo von Lawick.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (R) Colin Farrell re-teams with director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) in this thriller about a surgeon whose life starts to disintegrate after he takes in a sinister young teenager (Barry Keoghan). Also with Nicole Kidman, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp, and Raffey Cassidy.
Loving Vincent (PG-13) Animated entirely with oil paintings, this film takes the viewpoint of various characters who knew Vincent van Gogh in life. Voices by Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Helen McCrory, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Douglas Booth.
78/52 (NR) Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary examines the cultural and historical impact of the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Also with Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bret Easton Ellis, Neil Marshall, Karyn Kusama, Elijah Wood, and Guillermo Del Toro.