Assassination Nation (R) This satirical high-school movie is about a group of girls (Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, and Abra) who are blamed when private information about various adults in their town leaks online. Also with Bella Thorne, Colman Domingo, Joel McHale, Anika Noni Rose, Maude Apatow, and Bill Skarsgård. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Beyond the Sky (NR) This science-fiction thriller stars Peter Stormare as a UFO debunking documentarian who encounters a young woman (Jordan Hinson) with some disturbing revelations. Also with Martin Sensmeier, Don Stark, and Dee Wallace. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Great Battle (NR) Kim Kwang-shik directs this historical war film dramatizing the 7th-century siege of Ansi Fortress, in which Korean troops held off Chinese invaders. Starring Jo In-sung, Nam Joo-hyuk, Park Sung-woong, Bae Sung-woo, Uhm Tae-goo, and Kim Seol-hyun. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The House With a Clock in Its Walls (PG) Based on John Bellairs’ novel, Eli Roth’s film is about an orphaned boy (Owen Vaccaro) who discovers that his uncle (Jack Black) is a wizard fighting the forces of evil. Also with Cate Blanchett, Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, and Colleen Camp. (Opens Friday)
Life Itself (R) Not based on Roger Ebert’s autobiography, this drama follows an expectant couple (Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde) and the impact of their domestic lives on people far from them. Also with Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Jean Smart, Laia Costa, and Samuel L. Jackson. (Opens Friday)
Little Italy (R) Hayden Christensen and Emma Roberts star in this romantic comedy about two people who fall in love and incur the disapproval of their feuding pizzeria-owning families. Also with Alyssa Milano, Andrea Martin, Jane Seymour, Gary Basaraba, and Danny Aiello. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lizzie (R) Kristen Stewart stars in this fictionalized account of the Lizzie Borden murders, told from the point of view of the Bordens’ maid. Also with Chloë Sevigny, Kim Dickens, Fiona Shaw, Denis O’Hare, and Jamey Sheridan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Love, Gilda (NR) Lisa Dapolito’s documentary profile of Gilda Radner. Also with Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Martin Short, Paul Shaffer, Lorne Michaels, Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong, Maya Rudolph, Bill Hader, and Melissa McCarthy. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Alpha (PG-13) The scenery in Canada and Iceland upstages everything else in this long-delayed film about a caveman in Paleolithic Europe (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is wounded and separated from his tribe and has to rely on an injured wolf to survive and get back to his people. This is supposed to be the story of the first human domestication of dogs, but really, it’s just a standard-bore survival story with actors from all over the globe conversing in a made-up language. This could have been a great deal worse than it is, but it’s mainly worth seeing for its nature photography. Also with Natassia Malthe, Leonor Varela, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Jens Hultén.
Another Time (NR) Justin Hartley (TV’s This Is Us) stars in this romance about a man who travels through time to be with the woman he loves. Also with Arielle Kebbel, James Kyson, Chrishell Hartley, Alan Pietruszewski, and Tucker Smallwood.
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 standalone 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.
A.X.L. (PG) This plays like one of those low-budget 1980s E.T. knock-offs about kids getting into wild adventures, right down to the crappy visuals. Alex Neustaedter (from TV’s Colony) stars as a teenage motorcycle racer who comes across a top-secret military robot dog that has gained sentience and escaped from its handlers. While the movie starts out like a racing film, it quickly becomes the story of a boy and his bad CGI robot dog, which helps him win races and the heart of a girl (Becky G) while taking revenge on bullies, but also getting him chased by the U.S. government. This will renew your appreciation for Isle of Dogs, a better film on every score. None of the actors out-acts the robot, either. Also with Thomas Jane, Ted McGinley, Dominic Rains, and Lou Taylor Pucci.
The Basement (NR) This horror film offers us a lot of sub-basement theatrics as it tells the story of a British musician in L.A. (Cayleb Long) who’s kidnapped by a serial killer (Jackson Davis) who either has multiple personalities or just likes to dress up as a clown, a cop, a doctor, and other things while he tortures the guy. Meanwhile, the victim’s American wife (Mischa Barton) makes all manner of fruitless efforts to find him. This movie sticks us in that dingy basement for long periods of time while the killer rants and raves like some frustrated and not very talented actor. This is for everyone who thinks that the Saw movies had way too much action and not enough boring monologues. Also with Tracie Thoms, Bailey Anne Borders, and Maria Volk.
Beautifully Broken (PG-13) This Christian film is about three fathers trying to save their respective families. Starring Benjamin Onyango, Scott William Winters, Emily Hahn, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Ditebogo Ledwaba, Sibulele Gcilitshana, and Michael W. Smith.
BlacKkKlansman (R) Spike Lee is back on his game with this film based on the incredible story of a black undercover cop (John David Washington) in the 1970s who successfully infiltrated the chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs. The movie suffers from Lee’s typical rhetorical excess, but it’s a negligible flaw compared with the superb ensemble acting, especially from Adam Driver as the Jewish cop who attends the face-to-face meetings with the Klan and a beautifully cast Topher Grace as David Duke. Lee’s formal skill kicks in powerfully at several junctures, such as when he intercuts between a Klan initiation and an old man (Harry Belafonte) recounting the lynching that he witnessed as a boy. The comic tone here is vital: The war on racism may be never-ending, but it sure is fun putting one over on the racists. Also with Laura Harrier, Corey Hawkins, Jasper Pääkönen, Paul Walter Hauser, Ashlie Atkinson, Ryan Eggold, Frederick Weller, Robert John Burke, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Alec Baldwin.
Christopher Robin (PG) At times quite powerful and at other times just bizarre, this movie set in London after World War II stars Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Christopher Robin who has Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) appear to him at a crisis point in his life. Director Marc Forster is at his unimaginative worst during the sequences in London, where Christopher’s a joyless efficiency expert working for corporate ogres. However, McGregor soldiers manfully acting opposite animatronic stuffed animals with visibly worn fur, and the film’s take on the characters retains their good-natured essence. There’s also a scene in a foggy Hundred Acre Wood that looks like it might have come out of a Beckett play. The unlikely team of heavyweight screenwriters includes Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) and Alex Ross Perry (Queen of Earth), and makes this work better than it should. Also with Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Adrian Scarborough, and Roger Ashton-Griffiths. Voices by Brad Garrett, Nick Mohamed, Sophie Okonedo, Toby Jones, and Peter Capaldi.
Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13) A romantic comedy that both you and your old Chinese grandmother can enjoy. Based on Kevin Kwan’s comic novel, the story is about a Chinese-American professor (Constance Wu) who suddenly learns that her handsome boyfriend of a year (Henry Golding) is from an incredibly wealthy family in Singapore, where he takes her for his best friend’s wedding. Director Jon M. Chu has some trouble accommodating a large canvas of relatives, and the subplot with the guy’s cousin (Gemma Chan) watching her perfect-seeming marriage fall apart is particularly balky. Still, the film uses its largely Mandarin soundtrack well and lovingly takes in Singapore’s premier tourist attractions. The deep supporting cast helps save the money from being more than wealth porn, with the rapper Awkwafina stealing the show as the heroine’s bleached-blonde best friend. Also with Michelle Yeoh, Chris Pang, Sonoya Mizuno, Ronny Chieng, Lisa Lu, Jing Lusi, Nico Santos, Remy Hii, Pierre Png, Kris Aquino, Harry Shum Jr., and Ken Jeong.
The Darkest Minds (PG-13) Man, you’d think a movie where the government forcibly takes kids away from their parents and puts them in prison camps would have more juice than this. Unfortunately, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Frozen) has major problems with pacing and tone as she adapts Alexandra Bracken’s novel about children who survive a global pandemic with superhero-like powers, and Amandla Stenberg is one girl who manipulates people’s minds and escapes from one of the camps to try to make her way to a rumored-about place run by kids like herself. Besides the dystopian YA tropes that we’ve seen from dozens of other movies, the quality of acting is pretty low here, and the whole enterprise lacks strangeness and wonder. Also with Mandy Moore, Harris Dickinson, Skylan Brooks, Miya Cech, Wallace Langham, Patrick Gibson, Bradley Whitford, and Gwendoline Christie.
The Equalizer 2 (R) For this sequel, Denzel Washington moves to Boston and takes a job as a Lyft driver while looking for wrongs to right. He winds up mentoring an at-risk teenager (Ashton Sanders from Moonlight) while trying to solve the murder of his CIA friend (Melissa Leo) in Brussels. The climactic shootout in an evacuated New England town during a nor’easter is pretty well managed, but the villains are boring and director Antoine Fuqua hopelessly tangles all the different plot strands here while moving at a molasses-like pace. Everybody’s just going through the motions in this sludgy exercise. Also with Pedro Pascal, Orson Bean, Sakina Jaffrey, and Bill Pullman.
God Bless the Broken Road (PG) Lindsay Pulsipher stars in this Christian drama about a widow struggling with her faith after the loss of her husband. Also with Makenzie Moss, Andrew W. Walker, Robin Givens, Kim Delaney, Jordin Sparks, Patrika Darbo, and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Happytime Murders (R) I’m glad I didn’t call Mile 22 the summer’s worst movie, because this is measurably worse. Brian Henson takes a break from the Muppets to direct this rip-off of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? with a hard-bitten puppet detective in L.A. (voiced by Bill Barretta) being forced to team up with a human cop (Melissa McCarthy) to solve a string of puppet murders. These puppets smoke, curse, and ejaculate giant amounts of silly string (that last only applies to the male ones), but the premise only sits there as the jokes stubbornly refuse to achieve any sort of traction. The movie doesn’t work as a cop thriller, and its use of the puppets as an oppressed minority will only make you appreciate Zootopia the more. Also with Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks, Joel McHale, Michael McDonald, Jimmy O. Yang, and Ben Falcone.
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.
Juliet, Naked (R) Nick Hornby’s novel turns into a romantic comedy that’s a bit too innocuous. Rose Byrne plays a woman living in a small town in England’s southern coast who strikes up an unlikely email correspondence with the reclusive 1990s American rock singer (Ethan Hawke) whom her boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) just happens to idolize. The writing is sharp enough to maintain your interest, but director Jesse Peretz (Our Idiot Brother) doesn’t go in hard enough on the toxic side of music fandom, and we don’t hear enough of the rock singer’s one album to judge whether it’s worth the characters’ endless debates. While the romantic plot is resolved in a pleasing way, it doesn’t generate enough tension before it gets there. With a little more bite, this could have been memorable. Also with Azhy Robertson, Ayoola Smart, Phil Davis, Megan Dodds, and Jimmy O. Yang.
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.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (PG-13) Everybody’s orange. Why is everybody orange in this movie? The sequel/prequel to the 2008 jukebox musical stars Amanda Seyfried as a newly pregnant Sophie trying to reopen the family inn after her mother’s possible death and Lily James as a young version of her mother shown in flashbacks. James is a stellar addition, ABBA’s lesser songs are better than many other bands’ lesser songs, and the audience for this film likely won’t mind that continuity and timelines have gone completely out the window. Still, this thing is just as much a tacky monstrosity as the first movie, with more stars of questionable singing ability shoehorned in. Also with Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Andy Garcia, Meryl Streep, and Cher.
Mandy (R) A good movie starring Nicolas Cage, and also a movie where he stabs a demon while screaming, “Give me back my shirt!” He stars here as a man who becomes a vigilante after a religious cult ritually murders his wife (Andrea Riseborough). Between the painterly compositions by director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) and the synth-heavy musical score by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, this surreal horror film makes you feel like you’ve fallen into a corner of hell where slimy, scaly demons ride up to your house on ATVs. Cage’s typically unrestrained performance pays off, too, in a scene where he downs a whole bottle of vodka while grieving over his wife. The climactic chainsaw duel between the hero and a bad guy feels like the whole reason why the movie was made. This movie is glacially paced and compellingly weird. Also with Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, and Bill Duke.
The Meg (PG-13) This movie doesn’t know whether to smarten up a stupid idea or just double down on the stupidity, so it winds up doing neither successfully. Jason Statham plays a deep-sea diver who gets called in to battle a supposedly extinct species of 70-foot shark preying on marine biologists and oceanographers off the coast of China. This is a bad movie that missed a chance to be awesomely bad. Chalk up yet another Hollywood movie that’s intended for Chinese audiences more than for people who speak English. Also with Li Bingbing, Ruby Rose, Rainn Wilson, Jessica McNamee, Winston Chao, Shuya Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Robert Taylor, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Masi Oka, and Cliff Curtis.
Mile 22 (R) The partnership between Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg is suffering from diminishing returns, as this action-thriller is remarkably slapdash, badly written, and badly acted. Wahlberg plays the head of a CIA black ops team who take custody of an Indonesian cop (Iko Uwais from The Raid movies) with knowledge of a Russian terrorist attack and have to transport him through the streets of Jakarta while domestic and foreign agents try to assassinate him. The plot is completely incomprehensible, Wahlberg comes off like a massive tool, and even the action sequences, the saving of Berg’s weaker efforts, come out garbled to the point of incomprehensibility. Add the self-pitying framing device and the knucklehead patriotism of this piece, and you’ve got something thoroughly off-putting. Also with Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey, Carlo Alban, Terry Kinney, Nikolai Nikolaieff, Lauren Mary Kim, Poorna Jagannathan, and John Malkovich.
The Nun (R) The latest installment in the Conjuring series stars Demián Bichir and Taissa Farmiga as a priest and a young novice who are sent to Romania to investigate the supernatural goings-on at a convent. Also with Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons, Ingrid Bisu, Sandra Teles, Lynette Gaza, and Charlotte Hope.
Operation Finale (PG-13) Some tasty exchanges between actors help lighten up this otherwise undistinguished Holocaust drama starring Oscar Isaac as the head of a team of Israeli secret agents who hunt down Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) in Argentina in 1960. Most of the movie takes place in a single house after the agents have grabbed him up but are stranded in South America, as the head agent cozies up to the fugitive so that the Nazi will willingly sign his transportation papers. The comic timing of Isaac and the other actors is nice, but it can’t overcome the staginess of the conceit or Chris Weitz’ pedestrian direction. This would have worked better as a stage play. Also with Mélanie Laurent, Joe Alwyn, Haley Lu Richardson, Lior Raz, Nick Kroll, Michael Aronov, Ohad Knoller, Greg Hill, Pêpê Rapazote, Peter Strauss, Simon Russell Beale, and Greta Scacchi.
Peppermint (R) The director of Taken directs another revenge thriller starring Jennifer Garner as a woman out to avenge the deaths of her husband and daughter. Also with John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Jeff Hephner, Annie Ilonzeh, Tyson Ritter, and Method Man.
The Predator (R) Just like all the other sequels, this one misses what made the original film so subversive. Set in the present day, this movie pits an Army Ranger sniper (Boyd Holbrook), a biology professor (Olivia Munn), a cute kid (Jacob Tremblay), and a group of mentally ill ex-soldiers against the aliens and a soulless CIA bigwig (Sterling K. Brown). The 1987 movie made the creature frightening enough to reduce big, strong men to quivering wrecks, but this one renders the Predators just another slasher-movie monster killing uniformed soldiers instead of hot teenagers. Director/co-writer Shane Black can’t handle all the myriad moving parts here, and the story brings out his bombastic, posturing tendencies. It defeats both him and the fun supporting cast. Also with Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Augusto Aguilera, Jake Busey, and Yvonne Strahovski.
Searching (PG-13) The best movie so far to use the “taking place entirely on computer screens” gimmick. John Cho stars as a Silicon Valley guy whose teenage daughter (Michelle La) suddenly goes missing after a late-night study session, forcing him to rummage through all her social media accounts to look for clues. First-time director Aneesh Chaganty uses the framing device cleverly, generating mordant humor as well as tension when the search for the girl becomes a citywide manhunt, and he’s able to skate over the wild implausibilities in the story. Cho gets the showcase he’s always deserved as a guy in a tough spot becoming increasingly desperate as he finds out his daughter’s online life was totally different from her real one. Also with Debra Messing, Sara Sohn, Joseph Lee, Briana McLean, Connor McRaith, and Dominic Hoffman.
A Simple Favor (R) Based on Darcey Bell’s novel, this thriller stars Anna Kendrick as a mom blogger who becomes caught up in the disappearance of her glamorous new friend (Blake Lively). Also with Henry Golding, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, and Andrew Rannells.
Slender Man (PG-13) So 2011. This horror film is about four teenage girls (Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, and Annalise Basso) who summon a being of urban legend one night because they’re bored, drunk, and chafing at the edges of their thickly forested small town. What started out as an internet meme turns out to be quite an underwhelming monster on the big screen, as director Sylvain White runs through a list of slasher flick cliches because nobody knows what to do with this meme whose time passed years ago. This movie so wants to be The Ring, and it’s way off the mark. Also with Javier Botet, Alex Fitzalan, and Taylor Richardson.
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (PG) A funnier superhero parody than Deadpool 2. The big-screen version of the Cartoon Network animated show has its five teen superheroes (voiced by Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Greg Cipes, Tara Strong, and Hynden Walch) trying to emulate the grown-up superheroes by starring in their own Hollywood blockbuster film, while simultaneously battling a supervillain (voiced by Will Arnett) looking to exploit the heroes’ desire for fame. The rapid-fire script dings Green Lantern, the musical numbers have Michael Bolton playing a psychedelic tiger, and Stan Lee portrays himself as a guy who’s so hungry for cameo appearances that he doesn’t mind switching over to the DC universe to do it. Also, the wonderteens travel back in time to undo the origin stories of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. This is a superhero movie for small children, but you may get more laughs out of the jokes than them. Additional voices by Kristen Bell, Patton Oswalt, Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel, Lil Yachty, and Nicolas Cage.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption (PG-13) This unsanctioned sequel to Unbroken continues the story of Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt) after his ordeal in World War II. Also with Gary Cole, Bob Gunton, David DeLuise, David Sakurai, and Will Graham.