Bharat Ane Nenu (NR) Mahesh Babu stars in this Indian drama as a graduate of a Western college who returns home and decides to fight government corruption by running for office. Also with Kiara Advani, Prakash Raj, Yashpal Sharma, Sarath Kumar, Rama Prabha, Devaraj, Aamani, Sithara, and Posani Krishna Murali. (Opens Friday)
The Doctor From India (NR) Jeremy Frindel’s documentary profiles Dr. Vasant Lad and his quest to bring Ayurvedic medicine to the West. (Opens Friday in Plano)
Kodachrome (NR) Ed Harris and Jason Sudeikis star in this comedy as father-and-son photo enthusiasts who set off on a road trip to Kansas to visit the Kodachrome Lab before it closes. Also with Elizabeth Olsen, Bruce Greenwood, Wendy Crewson, Gethin Anthony, and Dennis Haysbert. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lean on Pete (R) This Western by Andrew Haigh (45 Years) stars Charlie Plummer as a teenage boy whose unstable childhood takes another turn at a horse-training farm in Portland. Also with Steve Zahn, Chloë Sevigny, Travis Fimmel, Lewis Pullman, Amy Seimetz, Alison Elliott, and Steve Buscemi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Super Troopers 2 (R) The members of the Broken Lizard comedy troupe (Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske) return for this sequel to their 2002 film about idiot state troopers. Also with Brian Cox, Rob Lowe, Jim Gaffigan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Marisa Coughlan, Will Sasso, Paul Walter Hauser, Lynda Carter, and Fred Savage. (Opens Friday)
Sweet Country (R) This Australian Western is about an Aboriginal man (Hamilton Morris) in the 1920s who kills a white man in self-defense and is hunted by a posse for his actions. Also with Bryan Brown, Matt Day, Ewen Leslie, Anni Finsterer, Thomas M. Wright, and Sam Neill. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Traffik (R) Omar Epps and Paula Patton star as a black couple trapped in a luxurious mountain cabin by a violent white biker gang. Also with Laz Alonso, Roselyn Sanchez, Missi Pyle, Dawn Olivieri, Luke Goss, and William Fichtner. (Opens Friday)
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.
Beirut (PG-13) This sluggish political thriller stars Jon Hamm as an alcoholic, burned-out diplomat who’s brought into war-torn Lebanon in 1982 to negotiate the release of his kidnapped former friend (Mark Pellegrino) who works for the CIA, only to discover that both the Americans and the Israelis are happy to let the hostage die for shady reasons. There’s a neat script by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton), but Brad Anderson’s direction is lacking in distinction, and Hamm only comes to life when his character snaps to and turns back into the ace negotiator that he once was. Better casting and more flair behind the camera could have turned this into something special. Also with Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Idir Chender, Kate Fleetwood, Leila Bekhti, Douglas Hodge, Jonny Coyne, and Larry Pine.
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.
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.
Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare (PG-13) Lucy Hale stars in this horror film as a teen who gets caught in a game where supernatural forces punish anyone who refuses a dare or tells a lie. Also with Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Sophia Ali, Landon Liboiron, Nolan Gerard Funk, and Hayden Szeto.
Borg vs. McEnroe (R) Shia LaBeouf stars in this drama based on the tennis rivalry between John McEnroe and Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason). Also with Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, Robert Emms, Tom Datnow, and David Bamber.
Chappaquiddick (PG-13) This dramatization of the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara) suffers from listless storytelling and an even lower-energy performance by Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy. The ensuing cover-up engineered by handlers sent in by old Joe Kennedy (Bruce Dern) has all the excitement leached out of it by director John Curran. There’s certainly a point to making a drama about cowards who cover up a politician’s flaws in the service of some greater cause, but that point will get lost when your movie puts people to sleep. I expected better from Clarke, but he might be one of those actors who’s better in supporting roles than as the lead. Also with Ed Helms, Olivia Thirlby, Andria Blackman, Clancy Brown, Taylor Nichols, and Jim Gaffigan.
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.
Flock of Four (NR) Gregory Caruso’s film stars Braeden Lemasters, Uriah Shelton, Isaac Jay, and Dylan Riley Snyder as four friends who search for a legendary jazz musician in Los Angeles in 1959. Also with Shane Harper, Connor Paolo, Coco Jones, and the late Reg E. Cathey.
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.
Isle of Dogs (PG-13) The best movie about what it is to love a dog. Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated film is set on a future Japanese island where the dogs have been exiled from human society out of fear of disease. Some of the story’s parallels with our own political situation are easy to spot, but Anderson’s sense of humor is often on a smaller scale, such as having Tilda Swinton’s voice emanate from a pug who’s revered for being able to foretell the future. Anderson treats the Japanese setting as an aesthetic, much as he has done in the past and with more sensitivity than he did in The Darjeeling Limited. Bryan Cranston gives perhaps his greatest film performance as a hard-bitten stray dog whose hatred of humans melts away under the attention of a 12-year-old boy (voiced by Koyu Rankin) who comes to the island to look for his own dog. Additional voices by Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Akira Ito, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Greta Gerwig, and Scarlett Johansson.
Krystal (NR) Absolute crap, fried up Southern-style by director and co-star William H. Macy. Nick Robinson (Love, Simon) stars as a teenager in the South who falls in love with a recovering drug addict and former hooker (Rosario Dawson) and immediately starts spouting florid sub-Tennessee Williams dialogue about the raptures of love sprinkled in with metaphors as high as a dragonfly in a Georgia spring. That might make sense for him, because he’s an infatuated teenager, but what excuse do the other characters have for doing this? We get bad poetry, too, courtesy of the main character’s mother (played by Macy’s wife, Felicity Huffman). All this serves to make the proceedings unbearably precious. Also with Grant Gustin, William Fichtner, Jacob Latimore, T.I., Rick Fox, and Kathy Bates.
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.
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.
The Miracle Season (PG) The best volleyball movie ever made, which unfortunately doesn’t say very much. This tells the true story about a high-school volleyball team in Iowa that has to defend their state title after their star player (Danika Yarosh) is killed in a road accident. Helen Hunt cuts an authoritative figure as the team’s coach who can only think to push the team harder in the wake of its grief, but the rest of the acting is nondescript and director Sean McNamara (Bratz) can’t give the volleyball sequences the excitement that they deserve. There isn’t a single emotional beat here that feels like it wasn’t taken from a thousand other sports dramas just like it. Also with Erin Moriarty, Tiera Skovbye, Jason Gray-Stanford, Rebecca Staab, Nesta Cooper, and William Hurt.
October (NR) This is grittier than most Bollywood exports and has fewer musical numbers, but that’s about the strongest selling point of this coming-of-age romance. Varun Dhawar stars as a trainee at a posh Delhi hotel who mysteriously gives up his future to carry on a vigil for a fellow employee (Banita Sandhu) who is in a coma following an accidental fall from the third floor. The whole affair is serious and lacking in the histrionics that mar other Indian films, but it doesn’t give us a great deal of dramatic material to chew on in recompense. Also with Gitanjali Rao, Sahil Vedoliyaa, and Ashish Ghosh.
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.
A Quiet Place (PG-13) Other films need to be seen on the big screen, but this one needs to be heard on a theater’s speakers to get the full effect. John Krasinski directs, co-writes, and co-stars in this horror film as a parent (along with real-life wife Emily Blunt) who live in complete silence with their two children on their corn farm after the world’s population is decimated by aliens with sharp teeth and hypersensitive hearing. Were there more dialogue than just a few lines, the domestic drama here might drown in sentimentality like it did in Krasinski’s insufferable The Hollars. Instead, the lack of speech forces the director to be economical and keep the action flowing. Maybe this thing is a bit literal-minded, and the music could be better, but Krasinski manages some hellacious silent action sequences and turns this into a piece of entertainment that rattles along well. Also with Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe.
Rampage (PG-13) Dwayne Johnson reunites with his San Andreas director Brad Peyton, and the result makes San Andreas look like a Christopher Nolan movie. Yet another movie based on a video game, this stars Johnson as an animal trainer who sees biological samples from outer space turn his beloved rescue gorilla into a giant city-destroying beast. Everybody has massive chunks of dialogue to deliver and nobody is a shred of fun, not Johnson, not the CGI gorilla, not the corporate villains (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy), not Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a government agent with a huge belt buckle laying down orders to high-ranking officers in a thick Southern accent. I don’t mind so much if my movies are this stupid, but at the very least I expect them to entertain me. Also with Naomie Harris, Will Yun Lee, Breanne Hill, Marley Shelton, and Joe Manganiello.
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.
Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (PG) This animated film about a dog is in theaters at the same time as Isle of Dogs, and it’s, uh, not as good. The story is based on the exploits of a real-life war dog that traveled along with an American infantry regiment in World War I and wound up saving the soldiers from mustard gas attacks and leading medics to the wounded. Unfortunately, director/co-writer Richard Lanni renders this true story in unbelievable terms and the computer animation turns this into yet another movie about a cute dog. There’s a cuddly turn by Gérard Depardieu as a French soldier who guides the dog and the soldier in charge of him (voiced by Logan Lerman) through the unfamiliar terrain, but that’s about all there is to recommend this. Additional voices by Helena Bonham Carter, Jordan Beck, Brian Cook, Jim Pharr, and Nicholas Rulon.
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.
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.
20 Weeks (NR) Amir Arison and Anna Margaret Hollyman stars as an expectant couple who discover a serious medical condition with their baby during the 20-week scan. Also with Richard Riehle, Michelle Krusiec, Jocelin Donahue, and Sujata Day.
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.
An Ordinary Man (R) Brad Silberling’s film stars Ben Kingsley as a Serbian war criminal in hiding who forms a relationship with his new maid (Hera Hilmar). Also with Peter Serafinowicz.
You Were Never Really Here (R) The latest film by Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) stars Joaquin Phoenix as a traumatized war veteran who now works tracking down missing teenage girls. Also with Dante Pereira-Olson, Alex Manette, Vinicius Damasceno, Judith Roberts, and Alessandro Nivola.