Big Kill (R) Scott Martin writes, directs, and co-stars in this Western about a group of misfits meeting in a small town. Also with Jason Patric, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christoph Sanders, Michael Paré, and Danny Trejo. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Brampton’s Own (NR) Scott Porter stars in this drama as a failed baseball prodigy who returns to his hometown. Also with Rose McIver, Spencer Grammer, Riley Voelkel, John Getz, and Jean Smart. (Opens Friday)
Change in the Air (PG) Emmy-winning Best Actress Rachel Brosnahan stars in this drama as a mysterious woman who moves into a small town and changes everyone’s lives. Also with Aidan Quinn, Seth Gilliam, Olympia Dukakis, Mary Beth Hurt, Peter Gerety, Macy Gray, and M. Emmet Walsh. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn (R) This comic crime thriller stars Aubrey Plaza as a dissatisfied wife whose life is upset when a man from her past (Craig Robinson) comes to her town as a strolling entertainer. Also with Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, Matt Berry, Jacob Wysocki, and Maria Bamford. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Galveston (NR) Mélanie Laurent directs this thriller about a dying hit man (Ben Foster) who returns to his hometown to take revenge on the man who set him up to be killed. Also with Elle Fanning, Lili Reinhart, Maria Valverde, and Adepero Oduye. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Halloween (R) David Gordon Green’s sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher film ignores all the other sequels and stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, who has been waiting to take revenge on Michael Myers. Also with Will Patton, Judy Greer, Miles Robbins, Haluk Bilginer, Andi Matichak, Rhian Rees, and P.J. Soles. (Opens Friday)
The Happy Prince (R) Rupert Everett writes, directs, and stars in this biographical drama about Oscar Wilde’s life after his release from prison. Also with Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Anna Chancellor, Edwin Thomas, Julian Wadham, and Tom Wilkinson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Oath (R) Ike Barinholtz writes, directs, and stars in this comedy as a man whose Thanksgiving dinner with his politically divided family turns violent. Also with Tiffany Haddish, John Cho, Billy Magnussen, Max Greenfield, Jay Duplass, Nora Dunn, and Carrie Brownstein. (Opens Friday)
The Sisters Brothers (R) The first English-language film by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) is this Western comedy about a gold prospector (Jake Gyllenhaal) being hunted down by two infamous assassin brothers (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix). Also with Riz Ahmed, Allison Tolman, Carol Kane, and Rutger Hauer. (Opens Friday at Cinépolis Euless)
Tea With the Dames (NR) Roger Michell’s documentary about the decades-long friendship among Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Transformer (NR) Michael Del Monte’s documentary about Janae Marie Kroczaleski, a prize-winning bodybuilder who was outed as transgender. (Opens Friday at Silver Cinemas Denton)
Bad Times at the El Royale (R) Finally, a Pulp Fiction clone actually worthy of standing beside the original. Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) directs this thriller set during the Nixon administration at a once-grand resort hotel on Lake Tahoe, where a group of strangers and their criminal plots intersect during the offseason. Goddard is awfully clever about the way these different people intersect and in his use of music. (As a down-on-her-luck Motown singer, Cynthia Erivo sings numerous covers and makes an impression among better-known actors.) Perhaps the film doesn’t have enough of a payoff for its 141 minutes, but it wears that running time very lightly and throws in so many plot twists that you’ll have fun just following them. Also with Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Xavier Dolan, Shea Whigham, Nick Offerman, and Chris Hemsworth.
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.
Colette (R) A lot like Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, but with a lot more lesbian sex. Keira Knightley stars in this biopic of the 20th-century French novelist who wrote frankly about women’s sexual experiences, since she lived most of them. If you don’t know the writer’s life story, you’ll be enchanted by her open marriage to her literary editor (Dominic West), who signed off on her affairs with women so he could pursue his own and encouraged her to write, but also publicly claimed authorship of her best-selling books and recklessly spent her money. Director/co-writer Wash Westmoreland (in his first solo effort after the death of his life and filmmaking partner, Richard Glatzer) captures this unorthodox and complicated relationship well when he’s not trying to imitate paintings by Monet, Caillebotte, and Toulouse-Lautrec. As a pompous bon vivant and hustler who makes up poems when he’s happy, West darned near steals the movie away. Also with Eleanor Tomlinson, Denise Gough, Fiona Shaw, Aiysha Hart, Al Weaver, Robert Pugh, and Johnny K. Palmer.
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.
First Man (PG-13) Not great, but terribly impressive. The latest film by Damien Chazelle is this historical drama about Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), portraying the recessive astronaut as a taciturn loner tormented by his 2-year-old daughter’s death, throwing himself into his work to numb the pain. This is based on James R. Hansen’s exhaustively researched book, but the drama is provided by Chazelle, who makes sure we hear every creak in the metal ships as they fly through space and feel the terrifying danger of early space flight. Fans of Chazelle’s earlier films like La La Land and Whiplash may not respond to the emotional restraint shown here, but others may like his willingness and ability to do something else. We touch the stars here, just as we did in Chazelle’s last film. Also with Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll, Ethan Embry, Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Hamilton, Ciarán Hinds, Lukas Haas, Shea Whigham, Patrick Fugit, Cory Michael Smith, and Kyle Chandler.
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (PG) It’s the same plot! They used the same plot! Jack Black reprises his role as R.L. Stine (a much smaller part this time), as a couple of boys (Jeremy Ray Taylor and Caleel Harris) who weren’t interesting enough to make it into the cast of Stranger Things discover a book that unleashes all the monsters from Stine’s books on their small town. The movie gets a few stray laughs from the adults in the cast (particularly Ken Jeong as a neighbor who goes way overboard on his Halloween decorations), but cue a bunch of CGI monsters that aren’t scary and contrived hijinks. You’re much better off watching the other kiddie-horror film this season that stars Jack Black. Also with Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Bryce Cass, and Chris Parnell.
Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (PG-13) When they say “biggest,” do they mean physically? Earl Billings plays the Philadelphia abortionist who murdered babies born alive as well as one mother in his clinic. Also with Dean Cain, Janine Turner, Nick Searcy, Grace Montie, and Michael Beach.
Hell Fest (R) This horror film is about a masked serial killer who opens a horror amusement park and uses it to kill his friends. Starring Bex Taylor-Klaus, Reign Edwards, Amy Forsyth, Christian James, Matt Mercurio, and Tony Todd.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls (PG) What’s weirder, torture-porn director Eli Roth making a kids’ movie for Disney, or the fact that his movie kinda works? The Hostel filmmaker adapts John Bellairs’ novel about an orphaned boy in the 1950s (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his eccentric uncle (Jack Black) and discovers that he’s a warlock fighting the forces of evil. Black is well-matched with Cate Blanchett as a platonic next-door neighbor with similar magical powers, which makes up for Vaccaro’s weepy presence in the lead role. No matter, the real story here is how well Roth tones down his horror-movie skills for the younger set without losing his distinctiveness or his macabre sense of humor. His evocation of a white-bread American suburb haunted by terrors reminds you of Tim Burton during his glory days. Also with Kyle MacLachlan, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Lorenza Izzo, and Colleen Camp.
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.
Night School (PG-13) Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish are the surest bets in African-American comedy right now, and they don’t disappoint in this one, even if the material doesn’t really deserve their talents. Hart plays a high-school dropout who resolves to get his GED so he can feel worthy of his gorgeous, educated fiancée (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and Haddish plays his hard-nosed instructor who won’t accept his glad-handing attempts to skate through her course. The supporting players are wasted and some of the set pieces are creakily contrived, but the script’s honest handling of learning disabilities and the skills of its two lead actors are enough to earn it a gentleman’s C. Also with Taran Killam, Rob Riggle, Romany Malco, Al Madrigal, Ben Schwartz, Anne Winters, Keith David, Fat Joe, and Mary Lynn Rajskub.
The Nun (R) Yet another instance of filmmakers jumping out from behind a tree and saying “Boo!” when you already saw their clothes sticking out from behind the trunk. This prequel to The Conjuring takes place in 1952, when a Vatican investigator (Demián Bichir) and a young novice (Taissa Farmiga) are sent to a convent in rural Romania where a nun has recently hanged herself. There, they encounter the demon nun (Bonnie Aarons) in various disguises. Director Corin Hardy leans heavily on the Catholic imagery and the pre-modern setting to give all this a spooky atmosphere. It doesn’t work. Farmiga’s best efforts are wasted. Also with Jonas Bloquet, Ingrid Bisu, Sandra Teles, Lynette Gaza, and Charlotte Hope.
The Old Man & the Gun (PG-13) If this is Robert Redford’s last screen role, it’s a beautiful way to go out. David Lowery’s film dramatizes the true story of Forrest Tucker, the gentleman bank robber (whose last home was in Fort Worth) who robbed banks well into his 70s. Redford is a delight in every scene he’s in, capturing the thief’s good-natured charm that allows him to escape prisons and romance a rancher (Sissy Spacek). Somehow, this feels more streamlined than Lowery’s other low-budget films, even though the entire half with Casey Affleck as a burned-out Dallas cop is a drag on the proceedings. Just see this for Lowery’s devoted homage to 1970s caper films and Redford’s slick portrait of someone compelled to act as he does. Also with Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, John David Washington, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Elisabeth Moss.
Peppermint (R) Spit it out. Jennifer Garner plays a mom who watches her husband and daughter’s drug cartel-connected killers walk free thanks to corruption in the justice system, then spends five years training herself to take down everyone responsible. Garner does look the part, but director Pierre Morel has made a dumber female-oriented copy of his hit Taken, and he doesn’t even give the heroine a badass speech like Liam Neeson had for us to remember the movie by. This is a lunkheaded and unexciting thriller cut by interludes of sickening sentimentality. Also with John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Jeff Hephner, Juan Pablo Raba, 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) A massive improvement on the Darcey Bell novel that this is adapted from, this delicious and well-cast thriller stars Anna Kendrick as a mom blogger who spearheads the search when her glamorous, mysterious new best friend (Blake Lively) suddenly disappears. This is a canny career move for Paul Feig, allowing him to do something different without completely abandoning his strengths as a filmmaker after the flop of his Ghostbusters remake. He plays up the comedy in this mystery plot, and there’s a great comic rapport between Kendrick as a dork hiding a dark secret and Lively as a sociopathic seductress with a flair for withering put-downs. Everybody involved here comes out of it in a new light. Also with Henry Golding, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, and Andrew Rannells.
Smallfoot (PG) Astonishing just how little happens in this movie over such a long period of time. This animated film is set in a fundamentalist community of Himalayan yetis who are taught that humans don’t exist, until one yeti (voiced by Channing Tatum) encounters a ratings-hungry British nature TV host (voiced by James Corden) and throws both the yetis and the humans into chaos. Director/co-writer Karey Kirkpatrick has not brought his best material here, and the musical numbers only pad out the running time without contributing anything fresh. The title is appropriate, since the movie will leave a small footprint on your memory. Additional voices by Zendaya, Gina Rodriguez, Common, Yara Shahidi, Danny DeVito, and LeBron James.
A Star Is Born (R) There’s stuff in this remake that the previous versions of this story don’t have. Bradley Cooper stars in this show-business tragedy as a country-rock star on his way down who falls in love with and marries a pop star (Lady Gaga) on her way up. Making his filmmaking debut, Cooper directs this with more competence than flair, but he’s quite good with atmosphere (whether he’s in a cramped drag bar or on a dusty ranch in Arizona) and he sings well enough to be credible as a music star who fills up arenas. The movie misses a chance to comment on how stardom is different now than in previous years, but Lady Gaga turns out to be a trump card. Casting a first-time movie actor as a character much like herself is no guarantee of a good performance, but she delivers both on the humor and the tragedy of the role here, as well as the character’s musical chops. Also with Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Ron Rifkin, Eddie Griffin, and Dave Chappelle.
Sui Dhaaga: Made in India (NR) This inoffensive Indian musical stars Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma as a married couple who face the lack of economic opportunities in their rural village by launching their own garment-making business. You can pretty much predict every single plot point without seeing the film at all, but the acting by the leads and the musical numbers make this into passable entertainment. If you want any more than that, you probably need to be conversant with recent Indian history. Also with Raghubir Yadav, Namit Das, Pooja Swaroop, Sidharth Bhardwaj, and Yamini Das.
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.
Venom (PG-13) Terrible, but also kinda fun. Tom Hardy stars in this Marvel Comics adaptation as a disgraced journalist who becomes infected with an alien organism that allows him to change into a bulletproof beast that bites off people’s heads. The plot makes no sense and director Ruben Fleischer can’t do much with all the CGI in this thing, but Hardy gives the funniest performance of his career in slapstick sequences where he’s not in control of his body. The moments with the alien speaking to him in a voice only he can hear are pretty funny, too. This would have been awesome if the filmmakers had only had the courage to go the full Deadpool with this material. Also with Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Melora Walters, and Woody Harrelson.
White Boy Rick (R) Yet another ponderous gangland morality tale. This thriller is based on the true story of Richard Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt), the 15-year-old juvenile delinquent who’s recruited by the FBI to infiltrate Detroit’s crack trade in the 1980s and uses his position to establish himself as a drug kingpin for real. French director Yann Demange tries to avoid glamorizing the drug business by making everything look like crap, and White Boy Rick’s abuse-ridden home life is slogged through in all too many interludes. The only member of this much-feted supporting cast who pops off the screen is Eddie Marsan, cast way against type as a Miami drug lord who wears animal prints. Also with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane, Bel Powley, Brian Tyree Henry, Piper Laurie, and Bruce Dern.
Ya Veremos (PG-13) The title of this Mexican drama translates as “we’ll see.” It stars Emiliano Aramayo as a boy faced with the loss of his sight who compiles a list of things he wants his separated parents (Mauricio Ochmann and Fernanda Castillo) to do together. Also with Erik Hayser, Rodrigo Cachero, Paco Rueda, and Ariel Levy.
All About Nina (R) Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars in this dramedy as a stand-up comic whose career is taking off even while her personal life is headed for disaster. Also with Common, Camryn Manheim, Jay Mohr, Clea DuVall, Mindy Sterling, Melonie Diaz, Kate del Castillo, Victor Rasuk, Sonoya Mizuno, and Beau Bridges.
Free Solo (PG-13) Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary follows rock climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to scale the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without ropes or gear.
I Still See You (PG-13) Bella Thorne reteams with Midnight Sun director Scott Speer for this supernatural thriller about the survivors of a postapocalyptic event that has left the world haunted by ghosts. Also with Richard Harmon, Louis Herthum, Sara Thompson, Shaun Benson, and Dermot Mulroney.
Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. (NR) Steve Loveridge’s documentary profile of the musician M.I.A.
Monsters and Men (R) Reinaldo Marcus Green’s drama is about the police shooting of an unarmed black man, seen from the point of view of a witness (Anthony Ramos), an African-American cop (John David Washington), and a teen baseball star (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Also with Jasmine Cephas Jones, Cara Buono, Christopher Jordan Wallace, and Nicole Beharie.
Museo (NR) Gael García Bernal stars in this thriller based on the real-life 1985 heist of more than 100 pre-Columbian artifacts from Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology. Also with Simon Russell Beale, Lynn Gilmartin, Ilse Salas, Alfredo Castro, and Leticia Brédice.
Ride (NR) This thriller is about an Uber driver (Jessie T. Usher) and a passenger (Bella Thorne) who are taken hostage and forced to participate in criminal acts by a passenger with a gun (Will Brill).
Summer ‘03 (NR) Joey King stars in this film as a 16-year-old girl whose family is overturned when her grandmother (June Squibb) spills a ton of secrets on her deathbed. Also with Andrea Savage, Paul Scheer, Erin Darke, Jack Kilmer, Kelly Lamor Wilson, and Logan Medina.
Thunder Road (NR) Jim Cummings writes, directs, and stars in this dramedy about a police officer coming to grips with his mother’s death. Also with Jocelyn de Boer, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Bill Wise, and Macon Blair.
22 July (R) Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) directs this Norwegian film dramatizing the right-wing terrorist mass shooting of 2011 by Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie). Also with Jon Øigarden, Thorbjørn Harr, Seda Witt, Anja Maria Svenkerud, Trim Balaj, and Ingrid Enger Damon.