Damascus Cover (R) Jonathan Rhys-Meyers stars in this spy thriller about an Israeli agent in the Cold War years who goes undercover into Syria. Also with Olivia Thirlby, Jürgen Prochnow, Navid Negahban, Igal Naor, Wolf Kahler, and the late John Hurt. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (R) Gus Van Sant’s biopic stars Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, a cartoonist who battles his alcoholism after a car accident makes him quadriplegic. Also with Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Beth Ditto, Mark Webber, Kim Gordon, Udo Kier, Carrie Brownstein, and Jack Black. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Equalizer 2 (R) Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua reunite for the further adventures of the New York City vigilante. Also with Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Jonathan Scarfe, Orson Bean, Sakina Jaffrey, and Bill Pullman. (Opens Friday)
The King (R) The latest documentary by Eugene Jarecki (Freakonomics) sees Elvis Presley’s career as a metaphor for the decline of America. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (PG-13) The sequel to the ABBA musical flashes back to Donna in her youth (Lily James) as she starts to make a new life in Greece. Also with Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Andy Garcia, Meryl Streep, and Cher. (Opens Friday)
Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (NR) Mari Okada’s anime film is about an immortal girl (voiced by Manaka Iwami) who befriends an ordinary boy (voiced by Miyu Irino). Additional voices by Yôko Hikasa, Hiroaki Hirata, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Yûki Kaji, and Ai Kayano. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Unfriended: Dark Web (R) There’s a conceptual problem at work that makes this horror sequel inferior to the original. As fears go, “someone will come after me for a stray remark I made on the internet” is much more potent than “someone will come after me because I found a laptop belonging to a dude who’s into snuff films.” Colin Woodell plays the unfortunate guy whom the latter happens to, and he manages to get himself, his deaf girlfriend (Stephanie Nogueras), and their circle of friends into the targets of an international ring of masked killers. Writer-director Stephen Susco (Red 2) ditches the original movie’s supernatural element and only succeeds in making his story less believable, and having the whole story play out on everybody’s laptop screens now looks more a gimmick and less of a device. Also with Andrew Lees, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Savira Windyani, Alexa Mansour, and Betty Gabriel. (Opens Friday)
Ant-Man and the Wasp (PG-13) Better and funnier than the first movie. The rest of the Marvel universe is mostly ignored for this stand-alone episode that returns Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, the man in the shrinking suit, now with Evangeline Lilly joining his side in a similar outfit with wings. The stuff with Scott’s family is still dull, and the subplot about Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) trying to find his long-lost wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) doesn’t add much. Still, this comic adventure zips along and plays cleverly with people, cars, buildings, and other things suddenly changing size, and the script gives more comic material to Rudd and Michael Peña, which is never a bad move. Sometimes, the art of cinema comes down to the hero throwing a 20-foot Hello Kitty Pez dispenser at the chasing bad guys. Also with Walton Goggins, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, T.I., Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, and Laurence Fishburne.
Avengers: Infinity War (PG-13) A mess, but perhaps inevitably given how many characters are stuffed in here. Unlike its predecessors, this omnibus superhero movie takes the necessary step of creating a single villain (Josh Brolin) so powerful that it takes everyone’s combined might to fight him. Not only do we get 22 superheroes, but also various members of their supporting casts, so this story gets even more gridlocked. It’s something of a miracle that the film works as well as it does, with most of the individual scenes accomplishing what they set out to do. Almost half the cast dies at the end, but we can expect at least some of it to be undone in next year’s Avengers movie. How it changes the game won’t be known until then. Also with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Anthony Mackie, Tom Hiddleston, Sebastian Stan, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Wong, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Benicio Del Toro, William Hurt, Carrie Coon, Terry Notary, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Michael Shaw, Gwyneth Paltrow, Peter Dinklage, and uncredited cameos by Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson. Voices by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.
Book Club (PG-13) The elderly crowd deserves better than this toothless comedy about four college friends (Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen) who have held a monthly book club for 40 years and are inspired to change their lives by Fifty Shades of Grey. The casting throws up some intriguing romantic pairings (Andy Garcia with Keaton, Don Johnson with Fonda), but the script by director Bill Holderman and his writing partner Erin Simms isn’t funny enough to give this affair something worthy of the star-studded cast here. This movie takes place in the same cocoon of wealthy straight white people that better, funnier films have already mined. Also with Richard Dreyfuss, Craig T. Nelson, Ed Begley Jr., Wallace Shawn, Katie Aselton, Mircea Monroe, and Alicia Silverstone.
Deadpool 2 (R) Still funny, but not as good as the original. Ryan Reynolds returns as the fourth-wall-breaking Canadian for the sequel to his 2016 hit, this time trying to protect an angry superpowered teen (Julian Dennison) from a time traveler (Josh Brolin) seeking to kill the boy before he grows up to kill his family. This sequel goes overboard on the self-aware asides and pop culture references, and new director David Leitch (or, as the James Bond-parodying opening credits identifies him, “one of the guys who kills the dog in John Wick”) doesn’t do as good a job balancing the action with the comedy, nor does he come up with an action sequence as memorable as the stairway fight from Atomic Blonde. The movie gets a boost from Zazie Beetz as a girl whose superpower is incredible good luck, and the post-credits sequence alone is worth the admission price. Also with Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand, T.J. Miller, Karan Soni, Leslie Uggams, Terry Crews, Bill Skarsgård, Rob Delaney, Lewis Tan, and uncredited cameos by Nicholas Hoult, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt.
The First Purge (R) Watching this series evolve is like watching a 3-year-old spend six months learning how to bake a cake: There’s some definite improvement, but it isn’t worth all the mess. This origin story tells of how an offshoot of the Republican Party takes power, instigates the Purge in Staten Island as a way of getting people of color to kill one another, and finally sends soldiers into the poor neighborhoods to get the slaughtering rolling. A black drug kingpin (Y’Lan Noel) winds up protecting the neighborhood, but it’s all a good deal less clever than it sounds. Marisa Tomei also shows up as the social scientist who invents the idea as an experiment. There’s one nice sequence with the drug dealer fighting off a bunch of commandos on a stairway, but not enough thriller material to compensate for the undercooked script. Also with Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Luna Lauren Velez, Kristen Solis, Rotimi Paul, Patch Darragh, and Steve Harris.
Hereditary (R) The movie of your nightmares, especially if you have a kid with a nut allergy. Ari Aster’s hella impressive feature film debut stars Toni Collette as a mother whose family is upended by multiple tragedies and buried secrets lurking in her family’s past. Aster borrows M. Night Shyamalan’s trick of having the characters stare at something that’s out of camera range, leaving us to guess what it might be, and plays off the mother’s occupation of constructing miniatures by making the family house look like a dollhouse. There are great contributions from Alex Wolff as the stoner teenage son who can’t face what he’s done, Milly Shapiro as a creepy-ass 12-year-old girl, and Ann Dowd as a cheery neighbor who’s into spiritualism, but no one outdoes Collette’s terrifying turn as a woman driven hellishly forward to investigate her past and possibly on the verge of snapping. Also with Gabriel Byrne and Mallory Bechtel.
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (PG) The laziness of Adam Sandler’s live-action films finally seeps into the animated series, as Dracula (voiced by Sandler) and all his buddies and family members take a cruise to the Bermuda Triangle together. While this isn’t unendurable, the jokes are mostly unmemorable, save for one when Wayne and his wife (voiced by Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon) finally detach themselves from their hundreds of kids and find themselves at a loss about what to do. The plot about a cruise director (voiced by Kathryn Hahn) who’s secretly a descendant of Van Helsing only provides the barest whisper of a plot, and certainly nothing surprising. Additional voices by Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Chris Parnell, Chrissy Teigen, Joe Jonas, and Mel Brooks.
The Incredibles 2 (PG) Lives up to the original. Brad Bird returns for this Pixar animated film, in which brother-and-sister telecom moguls (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) try to legalize superheroes by making Helen (voiced by Holly Hunter) the face of the movement. The movie doesn’t significantly advance the ideas and characters who we met in the first movie, but Bird works a number of crackerjack action sequences, including Helen having to fight the supervillain blind in a room full of hypnotizing TV monitors and another with Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell) facing off with a zombified superheroine who can throw punches at her from other dimensions. An astonishing amount of this movie works, from Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) trying to adjust to life as a househusband to Violet’s courtship of a boy at school. The thing zips along quite well. Additional voices by Samuel L. Jackson, Huck Milner, Sophia Bush, Brad Bird, Phil LaMarr, Jonathan Banks, Barry Bostwick, Isabella Rossellini, and John Ratzenberger.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (PG-13) The best directed movie since the first one, and also the dumbest. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for this sequel, as they try to rescue the dinosaurs from a volcanic eruption on the island where they’ve been kept. You can admire the craftsmanship by new director J.A. Bayona (A Monster Calls) and still take in the gaping plot holes and boneheaded decisions by all the major characters. To make matters so much worse, there’s a cute little girl (Isabella Sermon) whom the heroes have to protect as the dinosaurs run loose on the mainland. Behind the first-rate production values, this movie is as tick-tock predictable as any low-budget slasher flick. Also with Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chaplin, Toby Jones, BD Wong, and Jeff Goldblum.
Ocean’s 8 (PG-13) If this pleasant but wifty caper comedy had been just a little cleverer, it might have merited the deluxe cast adorning it. Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett headline this sequel to Ocean’s 11 as partners in crime who head up an all-female group of thieves to steal a diamond necklace from a bitchy movie star (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Gala. Director Gary Ross (The Hunger Games) will never be mistaken for an imaginative filmmaker, but he keeps the thing moving along well enough. Unexpected notes come from the sexual tension between the two lead actresses and a funny turn from Helena Bonham Carter as a down-on-her-luck fashion designer who thinks her acting’s better than it is. A bevy of celebrity cameos (including Anna Wintour and members of her staff) help make the film seem like it’s really at the Met Gala. Also with Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Awkwafina, James Corden, Richard Armitage, Dakota Fanning, Marlo Thomas, Dana Ivey, Elizabeth Ashley, Mary Louise Wilson, Shaobo Qin, and Elliott Gould.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado (R) Emily Blunt is gone, and so is any sense of direction in this sequel to the 2015 hit. Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro return here, trying to start an internecine war among the Mexican drug cartels by kidnapping a kingpin’s teenage daughter (Isabela Moner). Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has also returned here, but the plot has entered a black hole in which nothing that anybody does makes the slightest bit of difference. Del Toro is still awesomely icy as the vigilante lawyer wreaking havoc on the drug traffickers, and new director Stefano Sollima (from Italian TV) does fine by the action sequences. Still, their talents are wasted on distinctly substandard material. Also with Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Elijah Rodriguez, and Catherine Keener.
Skyscraper (PG-13) This popcorn thriller wants to be dumb fun, and it manages the “dumb” part pretty well. Dwayne Johnson plays a security consultant whose family is trapped in a burning supertall structure in Hong Kong. The script makes some nice use of the fact that the main character is an amputee with a prosthetic left leg, but director Rawson Marshall Thurber can’t keep the movie from getting waterlogged with the domestic drama as the skyscraper burns down around them. The film has delusions of Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno, and even though the titular building is bigger, the movie itself feels smaller. Also with Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Roland Møller, McKenna Roberts, Hannah Quinlivan, Byron Mann, and Tzi Ma.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) This just, uh, okay. The prequel bears no signs of its reported production troubles, and stars Alden Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo, escaping his home planet and joining a band of thieves with an eye toward springing his girlfriend (Emilia Clarke) from prison. The movie gives us a glimpse of the Empire’s seedy underbelly (it runs on slave labor), but we know that Han’s going to meet Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and win the Millennium Falcon off Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Ultimately, this is held back by the same constraints as Rogue One, and director Ron Howard doesn’t give us any highlights or surprises. This is never less than watchable and efficient entertainment, but it’s never any more, either. Also with Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Warwick Davis, Ray Park, and Thandie Newton. Voices by Jon Favreau, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Linda Hunt.
Sorry to Bother You (R) If this isn’t the comedy of 2018, I’d like to see the one that is. Rapper Boots Riley makes his feature filmmaking debut with this satire about an African-American telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) who starts rocketing up the corporate ladder when he learns to talk in a “white voice” (dubbed by David Cross). Riley delivers visual gags like an experienced hand, but he doesn’t take his eye off his corporate targets, as the world is ruled by a company that offers its workers free housing and food in exchange for lifetime wage-free labor. The movie features the buggiest plot development of the year and perhaps the decade in the last half hour, and it reminds us that not only was our nation’s economy built on slavery, but our captains of industry will revert to it if we let them. A master class in comic outrage, this is a cinematic act of bomb-throwing, and it made me laugh and laugh. Also with Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Steven Yeun, Omari Hardwick, Jermaine Fowler, Kate Berlant, Forest Whitaker, and Danny Glover. Additional voices by Patton Oswalt, Rosario Dawson, and Lily James.
Tag (R) This unintentionally depressing comedy is based on a Wall Street Journal story about a group of adult male friends who get together for one month a year to play tag. Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, and Jake Johnson play the members, who are hellbent on tagging their friend (Jeremy Renner) who has never been tagged in 30 years of the game. First-time director Jeff Tomsic wants to be funny while at the same time depicting how the group’s obsession with tagging one guy has turned them into paranoid, stunted headcases, and he can’t strike the proper balance. Renner walks off with the film, turning in his funniest performance ever as a guy who excels at the game because he’s a psychopath. Stay for the closing credit sequence, a soulful black-and-white music video with Renner overemoting as he leads the cast in a rendition of Crash Test Dummies’ “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.” Also with Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Nora Dunn, and Brian Dennehy.
Uncle Drew (PG-13) What a surprise, a character created for a series of Pepsi commercials can’t carry a whole movie. NBA star Kyrie Irving gets into his old-age makeup to play a septuagenarian playground legend who reunites with his former teammates (Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Reggie Miller, and Nate Robinson) to win a pickup basketball tournament at Rucker Park and teach his hustler nephew (Lil Rel Howery) some lessons about life. Uncle Drew doesn’t reveal any other facets of his character other than he’s an old dude with a young man’s basketball moves. More importantly, nobody bothered to write a script for this thing, so we’re stuck with too much screen time given to ex-players who can’t act. Lil Rel and the other non-ex-player actors here work overtime to get something out of this, but even Tiffany Haddish’s presence can’t get things going. Also with Erica Ash, Lisa Leslie, Nick Kroll, J.B. Smoove, and Mike Epps.
Whitney (R) This documentary about Whitney Houston reminds us of what a force she was in her day and what it cost her personally. Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void) directs this film sanctioned by her family’s estate, tracing her history back to a middle-class childhood in New Jersey with a mother who drilled her ruthlessly and a father who cheated relentlessly in his business and his marriage. The film interviews a maddening parade of people close to her who refuse to take responsibility for her welfare, but it also does not gloss over the drug use that permeated her house from an early age or the fact that she was molested by a family member. This terribly sad documentary makes clear that Houston may have been her own worst enemy, as she said in an interview, but she also had plenty of help. Also with Bobby Brown, Cissy Houston, Clive Davis, L.A. Reid, Gary Houston, and Kevin Costner.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (PG) This warmly humane documentary by Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) unspools the story of how Fred Rogers, a skinny ordained Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh, became an unlikely TV star through his musical talent and his faith that children were wiser than we gave them credit for. The film includes interviews with surviving family members, friends, and people who worked with him on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and offers up convincing evidence that the man really was the same offscreen as on TV. At a time when Sesame Street catered to kids with punchy visuals, his show drew them in with silence and slowness. The film cannily ties Rogers’ habit of telling all kids they were special with his Christian faith that God’s love encompasses us all. The movie shows how he and his show made the world a better place.
The Cakemaker (NR) This Israeli drama stars Tim Kalkhof as a German baker who travels to Israel to locate the family of his dead gay lover. Also with Sarah Adler, Zohar Shtrauss, Roy Miller, Sandra Sadeh, and Stephanie Stremler.
Leave No Trace (PG) This drama by Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) stars Ben Foster as a war veteran with PTSD who tries to raise his teenage daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) off the grid in the Oregon wilderness. Also with Dale Dickey and Dana Millican.
7 Splinters in Time (NR) Austin Pendleton stars in this thriller as a homicide detective who discovers clones of himself turning up murdered. Also with Emmanuelle Chriqui, Al Sapienza, Akiva Schaffer, Edoardo Ballerini, and Lynn Cohen.
Siberia (R) Keanu Reeves stars in this romantic thriller about an American diamond trader who travels to Russia in search of his missing partner. Also with Ana Ularu, Aleks Paunovic, Pasha D. Lychnikoff, Ashley St. George, and Molly Ringwald.
Three Identical Strangers (PG-13) Tim Wardle’s documentary explores the story of three 19-year-old strangers who discovered that they were triplets separated at birth in the 1980s.