Blockers (R) The movie that Neighbors 2 was trying to be. This raunchy sex comedy stars John Cena and Leslie Mann as parents who freak the hell out when they discover that their teenage daughters have a pact to lose their virginities on prom night and resolve to stop them, while Ike Barinholtz is a fellow parent whose daughter is in on the pact who tags along on the quest trying to convince the others that they’re acting like crazy people. Thankfully, director Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect 3) is with that guy and projects a healthy attitude towards the girls’ sexuality while getting terribly funny performances out of her leads and Geraldine Viswanathan, who’s the funniest of the girls here. Watch for Gary Cole and Gina Gershon as a married couple playing weird sex games with each other. Also with Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon, Miles Robbins, Graham Phillips, Colton Dunn, and Ramona Young. (Opens Friday)
Chappaquiddick (PG-13) John Curran’s film is based on the 1969 car crash involving Sen. Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) that kills Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara). Also with Bruce Dern, Ed Helms, Olivia Thirlby, Andria Blackman, Clancy Brown, Taylor Nichols, and Jim Gaffigan. (Opens Friday)
Final Portrait (R) Stanley Tucci’s latest film is based on the friendship between American writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) and Italian artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush). Also with James Faulkner, Clémence Poésy, Sylvie Testud, and Tony Shalhoub. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Finding Your Feet (PG-13) This British comedy stars Imelda Staunton as a middle-class snob who goes into exile after discovering that her longtime husband (John Sessions) has been cheating on her for years. Also with Joanna Lumley, Celia Imrie, David Hayman, Phoebe Nicholls, and Josie Lawrence. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Gemini (R) This neo-noir thriller is about a Hollywood star (Zoë Kravitz) and her personal assistant (Lola Kirke) who get caught up in a murder case. Also with John Cho, Greta Lee, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Todd Louiso, and Ricki Lake. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Leisure Seeker (R) Based on Michael Zadoorian’s novel, this dramedy stars Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland as an elderly couple going on a road trip in an old RV. Also with Janel Moloney, Dana Ivey, Christian McKay, and the late Dick Gregory. (Opens Friday)
The Miracle Season (PG) Based on a true story, this sports drama stars Helen Hunt as a high-school volleyball coach who has to pull her team together after her star player (Danika Yarosh) is killed. Also with Erin Moriarty, Tiera Skovbye, Jason Gray-Stanford, Rebecca Staab, Nesta Cooper, and William Hurt. (Opens Friday)
Never Not Love You (NR) James Reid and Nadine Lustre star in this Filipino romance. Also with Gab Lagman, Luis Alandy, Yayo Aguila, Sharmaine Suarez, Rez Cortez, and Josef Elizalde. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
A Quiet Place (PG-13) John Krasinski directs and stars in this horror film about a post-apocalyptic family living in the countryside, hunted by murderous creatures with hypersensitive hearing. Also with Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe. (Opens Friday)
Spinning Man (R) Guy Pearce stars in this thriller as a philosophy professor who tries to preserve his reputation after a student he had an affair with disappears. Also with Odeya Rush, Alexandra Shipp, Minnie Driver, Clark Gregg, Jamie Kennedy, and Pierce Brosnan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Acrimony (R) Tyler Perry tries to make a psychological thriller, and it turns out funnier than any of his comedies. Taraji P. Henson stars as a woman who becomes fabulously wealthy even though she violently lashes out at her husband (Lyriq Bent) every time he so much as looks at another woman. The actress playing the teenage version of her character (Ajiona Alexus) looks nothing like Henson. There are comic highlights galore here, from the main character addressing every other woman in the movie as “bitch” and somehow not only surviving being pushed off a yacht into the open sea, but swimming back onto the boat. Perry’s trying to sympathize with the crazy woman at the heart of so many of his other movies, but if you want to see a fair treatment of borderline personality disorder that’s intentionally funny, watch TV’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Also with Crystle Stewart, Jazmyne Simon, Ptosha Storey, Danielle Nicolet, and Nelson Estevez.
Annihilation (R) This flawed but fascinating science-fiction film stars Natalie Portman as part of an all-female team of scientists who venture into an environmental disaster zone where genetics and the laws of physics change at a dizzying rate. Writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) turns this into a brilliant remake of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, with the lush vegetation and the women venturing through a dangerous and mysterious zone seeking some cosmic redemption. Garland does great with the fast-mutating plant and animal life, and he conjures up a terrifying scene with the scientists being hunted by a giant bear-wolf-boar that cries like a human. It’s a shame that he botches the ending. Portman’s brittle intensity seems quite at home in this setting. Also with Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Sonoya Mizuno, Tuva Novotny, Benedict Wong, and Oscar Isaac.
Black Panther (PG-13) Not just a movie about a black superhero, but a superhero movie whose blackness is central to all its accomplishments. Chadwick Boseman stars as the king of a fictitious African nation that is secretly the richest and most technologically advanced in the world, though he faces a challenge in an African-American (Michael B. Jordan) who thinks the country has failed oppressed black people around the world. Purely from a design standpoint, this is miraculous to look at, as the architecture, production design, and costumes all reflect an Afrofuturism that we haven’t seen on such a scale. In addition, the movie has more and higher-quality female representation than all of Marvel’s other superhero movies combined, as well as the best villain, a sumptuous cast, a soundtrack curated by Kendrick Lamar, and thoughtful ideas about what a powerful country owes the rest of the world. Simply by shifting from a white male point of view, this opens up the superhero genre in radical and exhilarating new directions. Also with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Winston Duke, John Kani, Sterling K. Brown, Denzel Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and an uncredited Sebastian Stan.
The Death of Stalin (R) Yet another one of Armando Iannucci’s comedies of petty power games, only this one has people being shot in the streets. It’s set in the Soviet Union in 1953, when Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) has a cerebral hemorrhage and an unseemly tug-of-war begins between Communist Party deputy Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and spy chief Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale). Fans of TV’s Veep will drool at the possibility of the show’s creator tackling the shenanigans in the Kremlin, but Iannucci’s profane one-liners miss the mark more often than they hit. The movie essentially devolves into a bunch of middle-aged guys screaming at each other in hallways. Also with Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Paddy Considine, Olga Kurylenko, and Roger Ashton-Griffiths.
Death Wish (R) A faithful remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle, which means it’s bad. Bruce Willis takes up the mantel as a rich, white surgeon who can’t believe that his family is the victim of a violent crime, so he buys a gun and goes out to hunt down the bad guys in Chicago’s low-rent district. I would call this movie fascist, but it hates cops, too, so perhaps libertarian anarchist is more the label it deserves. Whatever it is, this is the sort of movie that an AR-15-carrying NRA member would love, and nobody else. Also with Elisabeth Shue, Camila Morrone, Dean Norris, Beau Knapp, Kimberly Elise, Len Cariou, and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Game Night (R) An amusing patch on David Fincher’s The Game. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play a hypercompetitive married couple famous for their neighborhood game nights until his richer, cooler older brother (Kyle Chandler) comes to town and holds his own game night where he tells everyone he’ll stage his own kidnapping and invites them to solve it. The trouble is, real kidnappers get hold of him while his guests think the game is still going on. Co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Vacation) execute a nifty one-take chase sequence involving a Fabergé egg, but this soars on its comic acting. McAdams, in particular, has never been funnier, and Jesse Plemons contributes a scene-stealing turn as a creepy neighbor who never smiles or takes off his police uniform. Also with Lamorne Morris, Sharon Horgan, Chelsea Peretti, Billy Magnussen, Kylie Bunbury, Michael C. Hall, and Danny Huston.
God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness (PG) An angry Facebook comment blown up into a movie. David A.R. White returns as the pastor whose church this time is burned to the ground by Christian-hating infidels. The preaching here is slightly less harsh than in the previous two movies, but that’s like saying that drinking gasoline is less harsh than drinking turpentine. Once again, we get boring visuals, bad acting, and a distinct lack of interest in understanding anyone who’s not white and evangelical. Also with John Corbett, Shane Harper, Ted McGinley, Tatum O’Neal, Jennifer Taylor, and Shwayze.
The Greatest Showman (PG) Much like its subject, a thoroughgoing fraud. Hugh Jackman stars in this musical biography of P.T. Barnum as he founds a circus in Manhattan. The film relentlessly whitewashes Barnum, presenting him as an enlightened soul who puts performers of color on stage and wants to transport his audiences to a better world for a while. In reality, the historical Barnum was a crook who paraded his racial “grotesques” for white audiences to gawk at. Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land) don’t come up with a single good song, and first-time director Michael Gracey strains mightily but can’t get any of these musical numbers to take flight. It’s a particularly bad time to glorify a big-talking con artist willing to racially exploit his performers for his customers’ money. Also with Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seeley, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Rebecca Ferguson.
I Can Only Imagine (PG) I’m torn on this one: Would a biography of a better Christian band have made a better movie, or would this still have been dull and thus unworthy of a better band? There’s a workable story in here about how MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley) stood up to his abusive dad (Dennis Quaid) to become a successful musician, but newcomer Finley has the liveliness of a damp sponge in the role, and the scenes with him playing a teenage Bart do him no favors. This might have worked better as a jukebox stage musical that could have covered MercyMe’s changing sound over time. There is a good performance by Trace Adkins as the band’s manager. Also with Cloris Leachman, Madeline Carroll, Jake B. Miller, and Nicole DuPort.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (PG-13) For better and worse, this feels like it was made in 1993. The sequel to the 24-year-old adventure film finds that the titular board game has morphed into a video game, which is then found in the present day by four bored teenagers who promptly get transformed into their game avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan) and sucked into the game’s world. The action sequences are fair and the movie only becomes unwatchable once it stops for these characters to work out their high-school issues. The little kids will be reasonably diverted for a couple of hours, but the main audience for this figures to be their parents nostalgic for the ’90s. Now when do we get the remake of Zathura? Also with Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, and an uncredited Colin Hanks.
Love, Simon (PG-13) It took too long for the big Hollywood studios to make a movie about a gay teenager, and it’s well that this one is as accomplished and likable as it is. Nick Robinson (Jurassic World) stars as a high-school student who has already figured out his homosexuality and is struggling with how to tell the world about it while falling in love via email with a mysterious fellow gay student who only identifies himself as “Bluegreen.” The snappy script’s pop-culture references are on point, and the comic business comes from many different places, including the depressing high-school theater scene that Simon’s a part of and a dad (Josh Duhamel) who’s tragically unhip but cool in other ways. This story has been done on TV before, but this is more than good enough to inspire better movies for teens. Also with Jennifer Garner, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Talitha Bateman, and Tony Hale.
Midnight Sun (PG-13) The actors carry off this teen soap opera, which stars Bella Thorne as a girl who suffers from a rare allergy to sunlight, wants to be a musician, and falls for a boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger) in her neighborhood. A remake of a Japanese movie from 2006, this thing is cast effectively, with Thorne proving an adept comic bumbler and Schwarzenegger (the son of Arnold) sliding into the heartthrob role without much effort. Rob Riggle contributes a nice dramatic turn as her dad, and Quinn Shephard brings some spark as her best friend. The film threatens to lose some steam at the end as the main character’s health worsens, but it does manage to come to a satisfying conclusion. Also with Ken Tremblett, Nicholas Coombe, and Jenn Griffin.
Pacific Rim: Uprising (PG-13) John Boyega’s star power carries this thing along for a while, until the monsters and robots start smashing each other into buildings again. The sequel takes place 10 years after the events of Guillermo Del Toro’s 2013 movie, as the kaiju manage to infiltrate the rebuilding human world and build even bigger monsters. Boyega’s a petty outlaw who has to straighten himself out and team up with a mechanically inclined girl (Cailee Spaeny) to save the world again. Longtime TV writer Steven S. DeKnight takes up this sequel as his filmmaking debut, and doesn’t bring a fresh outlook on the mix even though he turns Charlie Day’s scientist into a villain. This movie is made for Chinese audiences more than it is for ours. Also with Scott Eastwood, Max Zhang, Adria Arjona, Tian Jing, Burn Gorman, Karan Brar, Wesley Wong, Lily Ji, Ivanna Sakhno, and Rinko Kikuchi.
Paul, Apostle of Christ (PG-13) Because this is bankrolled by Sony, this looks better than other Biblical epics. Unfortunately, that’s about all to recommend this Christian film that suffers from many of the same basic filmmaking flaws as its fellows. Jim Caviezel makes his return to the genre, this time portraying St. Luke, sneaking into Rome to visit its persecuted community of Christians and the apostle Paul (James Faulkner), who’s awaiting execution in prison. Once again, we get stilted dialogue, and director Andrew Hyatt can’t make anything interesting out of the lengthy conversations between Luke and Paul in that prison cell. As a Roman administrator, Olivier Martinez speaks barely intelligible English and is forced into an unflattering bowl cut. Also with Joanne Whalley and John Lynch.
Peter Rabbit (PG) A fresh layer of fertilizer on Beatrix Potter’s grave. Her charming children’s book has been turned into a graceless, thuddingly unimaginative contemporary movie, in which a CGI rabbit (voiced by James Corden) takes up arms against Farmer McGregor’s nephew (Domhnall Gleeson), who moves into his late uncle’s house and is hellbent on killing all the cuddly bunny rabbits. Director/co-writer Will Gluck’s idea of kid humor is to have the bad guy step on a bunch of rakes in his bedroom, and he turns Peter into a reckless jerk who’s willing to risk his fellow rabbits’ lives over a personal vendetta. A few stray lines hit home, but not nearly enough to justify the waste of a sumptuous cast. Somebody stop Gluck before he gets to The Wind in the Willows. Also with Rose Byrne, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Sam Neill. Additional voices by Elizabeth Debicki, Sia, Bryan Brown, Rachel Ward, David Wenham, Daisy Ridley, and Margot Robbie.
Ready Player One (PG-13) Better than the book, I’ll say that. Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 1980s geek explosion stars Tye Sheridan as a future teenager who has to team up with some gaming buddies to prevent a corporate behemoth from taking control of the virtual-reality cyberuniverse that most people escape into. This movie practically begs you to wind the DVD back and forth so you can catch all the 1980s references in the background, but for a film that wants to tell us to look up from our screens every once in a while, this makes virtual reality look way cooler than real life. Every fan of The Shining needs to see Spielberg’s extended homage to it in the middle of the film. Also with Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance.
Red Sparrow (R) Kinda refreshing to see a Hollywood movie hate on Russia again, even if it’s this overlong spy thriller. Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian spy who’s been educated against her will at an academy teaching spies to use sex to get information out of people, so no wonder she wants to betray her country and work for the CIA. Director Francis Lawrence and screenwriter Justin Haythe (adapting this from Jason Matthews’ novel) seem to want to get their heroine from a place where she has no agency to becoming her own person, but they have little idea how to do that. There are a couple of set pieces that strike a properly cold and unerotic tone, and Mary-Louise Parker contributes some looseness as an alcoholic gay American traitor, but this movie is a steel trap that takes entirely too long to close. Also with Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ciarán Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Thekla Reuten, Douglas Hodge, Sebastian Hülk, Charlotte Rampling, and Jeremy Irons.
7 Days in Entebbe (PG-13) A rather meh dramatization of the 1976 hijacking of Air France Flight 139 by German and Arab terrorists, who landed the plane in Uganda until Israeli soldiers launched a counterstrike to free the hostages. There’s too much story material here for Brazilian director José Padilha, who keeps switching among the Germans (Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike), Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi), and a modern dance performance that’s supposed to comment on the military operation somehow, and he never settles into a groove. Among an indistinct cast, Nonso Anozie (as a narcissistic Idi Amin) and Denis Ménochet (as a stalwart French flight engineer) stand out in particular, but the film never adds up to the grand statement about dealing with terrorism that it so wants to be. Also with Eddie Marsan, Ben Schnetzer, Angel Bonanni, Mark Ivanir, Michael Lewis, and Zina Zinchenko.
Sherlock Gnomes (PG) The sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet finds the titular couple (voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt) moving to London and having to team up with Sherlock Gnomes and Watson (voiced by Johnny Depp and Chiwetel Ejiofor) when their fellow gnomes and kidnapped by a mysterious serial gnome thief. The cast’s energy is undimmed (especially Blunt’s), and the script is still laden with Elton John references, but it’s lacking the cleverness of the 2011 original, and neither the London setting nor the plotline with both Gnomeo and Watson being taken for granted by their respective partners offers up much. Additional voices by Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Mary J. Blige, Matt Lucas, Julie Walters, James Hong, Dexter Fletcher, Jamie Demetriou, Stephen Merchant, and Ozzy Osbourne.
The Strangers: Prey at Night (R) The sequel to the 2008 horror film starts out promisingly enough before falling apart. Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson are the parents of two teenagers (Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman), and they all stay at an uncle’s trailer home by a lake, where the rest of the community has either gone for the season or been killed by the same masked killers from the original. Or maybe different ones, I don’t know. The director of the original, Bryan Bertino, is still on board as the screenwriter here and provides some interesting family dynamics, but new director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) turns the whole thing into slasher-movie hash, ruining the mystique that surrounded the killers and the subtlety with which they went after the last cast.
Tomb Raider (PG-13) In sick shape, Alicia Vikander is exactly the right actress to play Lara Croft. The trouble is, they forgot to make a movie around her. The British heiress and adventuress from the video games gets her latest incarnation, searching for her long-lost father (Dominic West) on a deserted island off Japan. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) re-creates some famous sequences from previous iterations of the game, but everything lands with a thud whenever the characters stop to deliver huge chunks of expositional dialogue. As the villain of the piece, Walton Goggins gives a dull performance, which I didn’t think was possible. Proper casting is half the battle won, but this movie only won half the battle. Also with Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, and an uncredited Nick Frost.
Unsane (R) Steven Soderbergh comes up with another low-key winner with this thriller that stars Claire Foy as a woman harrassed by a stalker (Joshua Leonard) who gets thrown into a mental hospital where the stalker just happens to be working, or maybe she’s just seeing things. This iPhone-shot film takes advantage of the technology, with the shaky camera and uncomfortably close close-ups seeming to reflect the protagonist’s disordered mind. Soderbergh takes in the shadier side of the mental health industry without breaking stride, and Foy manages to strip herself of any likability (if not quite of her British accent) playing a woman turned into a paranoid wreck by her experiences with male predators. Don’t let Unsane go unseen. Also with Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, Polly McKie, and Amy Irving.
A Wrinkle in Time (PG) I hate to pronounce this a failure, especially since black women so seldom get to make ambitious science-fiction extravaganzas like this one, but this is a failure. Ava DuVernay adapts Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved children’s novel, with Storm Reid as the 13-year-old heroine who’s guided by three benevolent spirits (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling) to find her father (Chris Pine) millions of light-years away. Once the action leaves Earth, the movie takes off, as DuVernay and her production team create wondrous worlds full of Day-Glo foliage, creepy suburban neighborhoods, and forests that spring up instantaneously. However, the movie’s focus on defeating the darkness in the universe plays as naive in our modern context, and the narrative flow tends to stutter at the simplest of human interactions, despite a few successes on that front. For all its cool special-effects, this plays like a secular sermon disguised as a film. Also with Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, André Holland, Michael Peña, and Zach Galifianakis.
All I Wish (NR) Sharon Stone stars in this romantic comedy as a fashion designer seeking love and business success. Also with Tony Goldwyn, Liza Lapira, Caitlin FitzGerald, Famke Janssen, Leonor Varela, and Ellen Burstyn.
Back to Burgundy (NR) Sadly, not a sequel to The Duke of Burgundy. This French film by Cédric Klapisch (L’Auberge Espagnole) stars Pio Marmol as a young man who returns to his estranged family when his father (Éric Caravaca) falls ill. Also with Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot, Maria Valverde, and Yamée Couture.
Caught (NR) This horror film stars Ruben Crow and Mickey Sumner as journalists who invite a local couple into their home and find themselves trapped there. Also with Cian Barry, April Pearson, and Ruben Crow.
Foxtrot (R) Samuel Maoz’ black comedy stars Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler as parents of a son (Yonaton Shiray) who is killed while manning a post in a deserted part of Israel. Also with Shira Haas, Yehuda Almagor, and Aryeh Cherner.
Journey’s End (R) This World War I thriller is about a group of British soldiers whose commanding officer (Sam Claflin) is losing his mind while they’re fighting in the trenches. Also with Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Asa Butterfield, Tom Sturridge, Robert Glenister. and Toby Jones.