At Eternity’s Gate (PG-13) Maybe you thought a painter would be the best person to direct a movie about VIncent van Gogh, but Julian Schnabel plays right into the old stereotypes about insane artists in this biopic. Willem Dafoe, who’s actually almost 30 years older than van Gogh was at the time of his death, portrays the tormented Dutch artist in the last years of his life as he tries to cope with life in Arles. Schnabel blessedly doesn’t try to provide a conventional three-act structure, but he doesn’t have much to replace it with. His extreme subjectivity and obsession with the artist’s process yields up a lot of static shots and uncommunicative reverie. The movie has some remarkable moments, but van Gogh’s mystery remains uncracked. Also with Rupert Friend, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Niels Arestrup, Vincent Perez, Amira Casar, Anne Consigny, and Oscar Isaac. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Backtrace (R) This action thriller stars Matthew Modine as an amnesiac lone survivor of a bank heist who is sprung from prison and chased by a aged local sheriff (Sylvester Stallone). Also with Ryan Guzman, Meadow Williams, Colin Egglesfield, Baylee Curran, and Christopher McDonald. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mary Queen of Scots (R) Saoirse Ronan stars in this historical epic as the 16th-century Scottish monarch who leads her country in a doomed war against England. Also with Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Jack Lowden, Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan, Joe Alwyn, Martin Compston, Ian Hart, and David Tennant. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mortal Engines (PG-13) Based on Philip Reeve’s book, this post-apocalyptic thriller is about two people (Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan) trying to stop the mobile city of London from destroying the world. Also with Hugo Weaving, Leila George, Jihae, Caren Pistorius, Colin Salmon, and Stephen Lang. (Opens Friday)
The Mule (R) Clint Eastwood stars in his own thriller as a nonagenarian forced to work as a drug mule for the Mexican cartel to survive. Also with Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga, Michael Peña, Alison Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Andy Garcia, Laurence Fishburne, and Dianne Wiest. (Opens Friday)
Once Upon a Deadpool (PG-13) Ryan Reynolds stars in this more family-friendly edit of Deadpool 2, with new jokes and a cameo by Fred Savage. (Opens Friday)
Vox Lux (R) Natalie Portman headlines this drama as a pop music star trying to mount a comeback after a scandal. Also with Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Ehle, Stacy Martin, Maria Dizzia, and Willem Dafoe. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Ana y Bruno (NR) This Mexican animated film is about a girl (voiced by Galia Mayer) who breaks out of a mental institution to track down her father (voiced by Damián Alcázar). Additional voices by Marina de Tavira, Héctor Bonilla, Mauricio Isaac, Silverio Palacios, and Julieta Egurrola.
Bohemian Rhapsody (PG-13) That PG-13 rating is the first sign that something is wrong with this Queen biopic. Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury, who rebels against his Parsi family by embracing rock and roll. The story has all the continuity of a playlist on shuffle, as success seems to come out of nowhere for the band and hit follows hit with little insight into the odd creative process that the band went through. The project appeals to none of the strengths of X-Men director Bryan Singer. This bad movie is almost redeemed by a blazing performance by Malek, who plays the piano and struts around on the stage with Mercury’s particular swagger that’s manly and queeny at the same time. This actor deserves to headline better movies than this one. Also with Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Joseph Mazzello, Ben Hardy, Allen Leech, Aidan Gillen, Aaron McCusker, Tom Hollander, and Mike Myers.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (R) Melissa McCarthy does a fine dramatic turn in this film based on the memoirs of Lee Israel, the literary biographer who turns to creating forgeries of famous people’s letters after her career takes a downturn. Writer-director Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl) rigs up an efficient narrative that moves along at an unhurried pace and, more importantly, elicits strong supporting performances from a well-employed supporting cast. The role of an alcoholic lesbian who hangs out in gay bars so she won’t be disturbed isn’t a great departure for McCarthy, but she reaches true greatness in a late scene when Lee stands up before a judge and reflects that her flaws as a writer led her to her life of crime. Also with Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Stephen Spinella, Anna Deavere Smith, and Jane Curtin.
Creed II (PG-13) Everything in this sequel is tick-tock predictable, and yet the movie comes out as honest instead of insulting or pandering. Michael B. Jordan reprises his role as Adonis Creed, who wins the heavyweight championship of the world just in time to be challenged to a fight by Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the Russian boxer (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his dad. New director Steven Caple Jr. doesn’t do anything wildly creative, but all the principal actors remain dialed in to their characters. The movie also avoids staleness by throwing in some wrinkles with Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and her progressive hearing loss, as well as the events from the 1980s that still haunt Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and the Dragos. Also with Wood Harris, Russell Hornsby, Phylicia Rashad, Milo Ventimiglia, and Brigitte Nielsen.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (PG-13) I really wish this had been a novel. Eddie Redmayne (now more settled into his role) plays the socially inept Newt Scamander tracking the fugitive Credence (Ezra Miller) into Paris in the 1920s on the orders of a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). We have Zoë Kravitz doing an English accent and a hinted-at youthful romance between Dumbledore and fascist wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), but they’re not worth sitting through 134 minutes of clunky flashbacks and people standing around while declaiming expositional dialogue. J.K. Rowling does not have the same natural flair for screenwriting that she does for writing books. She needs a collaborator to iron stuff out for the big screen. Also with Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Claudia Kim, Callum Turner, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, William Nadylan, Kevin Guthrie, and Jamie Campbell Bower.
The Favourite (R) A delectable English trifle with enough liquor to knock you down. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne of England as a paranoid, gout-ridden, vain, emotionally unstable monarch having a lesbian affair with a duchess (Rachel Weisz) before a fallen aristocrat’s daughter (Emma Stone) starts dangling herself in front of her. Many of the crazy historical details here are true, but wacky Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos throws in his own absurdist touches anyway, like the court dance with some defiantly 20th-century moves. The actors here make delicious stuff out of the catty script — Stone is revelatory as a conniving character, and Colman gives a performance that’s as close as you’ll see to a woman playing King Lear. This cold-eyed study of royalpolitik at a time when women wield unusual power also doubles as a lesbian sex farce full of sinister slapstick. Also with Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, and Mark Gatiss.
Green Book (PG-13) Peter Farrelly takes an inspiring real-life story and turns it into a white version of Driving Miss Daisy. I didn’t need that in my life. Viggo Mortensen plays an Italian-American nightclub bouncer who takes a job driving an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a concert tour of the Deep South in 1962. And they both learn something from each other. There are some honest observations about the differences between racial experiences, but these are drowned out amid the canned morality and simplistic contrasts between the characters. Mortensen manages some funny moments but his performance is like the rest of the movie, about as authentic as a supermarket jar of spaghetti sauce. Also with Linda Cardellini, Don Stark, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jenna Laurenzo, Dimiter Marinov, Mike Hatton, and Iqbal Theba.
The Grinch (PG) And still no one has made a good full-length movie out of Dr. Seuss’ children’s books. Illumination Entertainment, which previously did The Lorax, tries to tackle this animated adaptation with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the green Christmas-hating being who tries to ruin the holiday for Whoville. Nobody seems to grasp that Seuss’ rhyming books don’t have enough story material for a 90-minute feature film, so they keep trying to pad out the running time. This movie has Cindy Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely) trying to trap Santa Claus while the Grinch is given a backstory explaining why he hates Christmas. None of it comes out interesting, enlightening, or more than mildly amusing. I actually miss Jim Carrey. Additional voices by Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, and Angela Lansbury. Narration by Pharrell Williams.
Instant Family (PG-13) Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne star in this comedy based on a true story as a couple who adopt three siblings at once. Also with Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz, Juliana Gamiz, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, and Joan Cusack.
Nobody’s Fool (R) Tiffany Haddish stars in Tyler Perry’s latest comedy as a recently released ex-convict who determines to get revenge on the person who’s been catfishing her sister (Tika Sumpter). Also with Amber Riley, Mehcad Brooks, Omari Hardwick, Missi Pyle, and Whoopi Goldberg.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG) Like having a thousand-pound block of marzipan dropped on your head. Mackenzie Foy plays a teenage girl in the 19th century who is looking for her late mother’s Christmas present when she finds a gateway to a magical world full of flowers, candy, and gingerbread. This is co-directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, neither of whom have the capability to render this fantasy world as anything other than groaning under the weight of set decoration that upstages the waterlogged dramatics about finding your inner strength. A few minutes of Misty Copeland dancing can’t make up for that, nor can Keira Knightley playing a sugarplum fairy who’s weirdly turned on by her army of tin soldiers. (“Boys in uniform with weapons sends a quiver right through me!”) Also with Helen Mirren, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Richard E. Grant, Eugenio Derbez, Sergei Polunin, Matthew Macfadyen, Ellie Bamber, and Morgan Freeman.
Overlord (R) Not the latest Cloverfield movie in disguise, as you may have heard. Instead, this is a boilerplate zombie movie about an African-American World War II soldier (Jovan Adepo) whose advance work in France before the D-Day invasion hits an unexpected snag when he stumbles on a secret Nazi lab where the scientists are developing a death-curing serum that turns its recipients into bloodthirsty zombies. This storyline is straight out of the Wolfenstein series of video games, but playing any of those games will afford you more amusement than this woefully unimaginative horror film where the zombies leap out from all the places where you expect them to. This is a waste of a fine young actor in Adepo. Also with Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Olivier, Pilou Asbæk, John Magaro, Iain de Caestecker, Dominic Applewhite, and Bokeem Woodbine.
The Possession of Hannah Grace (R) Every well-worn trope of demonic possession movies and working-alone-at-night-in-a-morgue movies is deployed here. Shay Mitchell portrays an ex-cop with addiction troubles who tries to work her way back by taking the graveyard shift at a city hospital when a possessed girl’s corpse (Kirby Johnson) is wheeled into the place and starts creating bumps in the night that aren’t scary. Dutch director Diederik van Rooijen handles all this at a lugubrious pace without a single splash of color to liven things up, and he never delves into the issues that the script brings up about the heroine’s personal problems. Also with Grey Damon, Jacob Ming-Trent, Nick Thune, and Stana Katic.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (PG) A veritable orgy of product placement, and also quite a lot of fun. This sequel to Wreck-It Ralph has our lovable video-game villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) going into the internet to find a missing part for her game. The movie fires off some funny shots at the experience of being online, and it’s a better field for Easter egg hunting than Ready Player One. Still, two scenes demand to be seen: one in which Vanellope wanders into a dressing room with all 14 Disney princesses (voiced by the likes of Kristen Bell, Auli’i Cravalho, Mandy Moore, Idina Menzel, Irene Bedard, Kelly Macdonald, Ming-Na Wen, Paige O’Hara, and Jodi Benson), and another one in which she stars in her own musical number in a Grand Theft Auto-like video game that’s paradise for her. Additional voices by Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Alfred Molina, Ali Wong, Jason Mantzoukas, Tim Allen, Brad Garrett, Vin Diesel, Anthony Daniels, and June Squibb.
Robin Hood (PG-13) This movie wants to be contemporary so badly, it’s really quite pathetic. Taron Egerton stars in this latest reboot of the saga as an English lord who is drafted to fight in the Crusades and walks into some battle sequences straight out of an Iraq war movie (but with bows instead of guns). The costumes are all made to look like modern clothes as well, and it would be a lot less distracting if director Otto Bathurst and writers Ben Chandler and David James Kelly had anything like a coherent take on how the Robin Hood story applies to our times. Robin’s voiceover narration keeps hammering home that this isn’t your father’s Robin Hood. The rest of the movie will send you running back to your father’s Robin Hood. Also with Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Tim Minchin, and F. Murray Abraham.
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.
Three Words to Forever (NR) This Filipino romance stars Richard Gomez and Sharon Cuneta as a couple deciding to end their 25-year marriage just before a family reunion. Also with Kathryn Bernardo, Tommy Esguerra, Liza Lorena, Fredde Webb, and Joross Gamboa.
2.0 (NR) This Indian science-fiction film stars Rajinikanth as a scientist trying to solve a global crisis. Also with Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson, Sudhanshu Pandey, and Adil Hussain.
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.
Widows (R) Steve McQueen isn’t a natural at popcorn entertainment, but his attempt at a heist movie yields some fascinating things. Taking her way overdue first lead role in a film, Viola Davis plays a woman who’s left in debt to the mob after her husband (Liam Neeson) and his crew of robbers are killed by police. She gathers up the other men’s widows (Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) to help her retrieve $5 million that her husband stashed away. Davis is such a steely, authoritative presence that you don’t wonder at the other women lining up behind her despite not knowing her. McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and co-writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) adapt this from a 1980s BBC miniseries and stuff it with all manner of social commentary and local color, depicting Chicago as a political cesspool. Not everything works, but compared to the poofy and underthought escapism of Ocean’s 8, this balkier and darker creation makes better use of its cast. Also with Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry, Jacki Weaver, Garret Dillahunt, Lukas Haas, Adepero Oduye, Carrie Coon, Matt Walsh, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Robert Duvall.
The Wife (R) Glenn Close’s performance redeems this otherwise bland adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel about a woman who travels with her husband (Jonathan Pryce) to Sweden so he can receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Her marriage and the proceedings are upended when an unauthorized biographer (Christian Slater) confronts her with his theory that she actually wrote all the novels that her husband is famous for. Swedish director Björn Runge has a feel for his homeland and the pomp and ceremony accompanying the Nobel Prizes, but he can’t inject much energy into the proceedings, and the flashbacks to the 1960s are dead weight. The sole glint of humanity comes from Close as she conveys a lifetime of frustrations and compromises boiling over. Also with Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, and Elizabeth McGovern.
Asher (R) This action thriller stars Ron Perlman as an aged hit man who tries to redeem himself after a job goes wrong. Also with Peter Facinelli, Famke Janssen, Richard Dreyfuss, and Jacqueline Bisset.
Bernie the Dolphin (G) This family film stars Logan Allen and Lola Sultan as two siblings trying to save the life of a beached dolphin. Also with Kevin Sorbo, Stelio Savante, Jimel Atkins, Sean Michael Gloria, and Patrick Muldoon.
Head Full of Honey (PG-13) German actor Til Schweiger directs and co-stars in this drama about an Alzheimer’s patient (Nick Nolte) who takes one final road trip with his granddaughter (Sophie Lane Nolte). Also with Emily Mortimer, Matt Dillon, Claire Forlani, Greta Scacchi, Jacqueline Bisset, and Eric Roberts.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (PG-13) Andy Serkis directs this CGI adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, starring Rohan Chand. Voices by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Naomie Harris, Peter Mullan, Jack Reynor, Eddie Marsan, Tom Hollander, Matthew Rhys, Freida Pinto, and Christian Bale.
The Party’s Just Beginning (NR) Karen Gillan stars in her feature directing debut as a woman dealing with the consequences of her best friend’s suicide. Also with Lee Pace, Paul Higgins, Matthew Beard, Jamie Quinn, and Siobhan Redmond.
Revival! (PG) This musical tells the story of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Mali Music). Also with Harry Lennix, Chaka Khan, Dawnn Lewis, Paula Newsome, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, Anthony Azizi, Ahmed Ahmed, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Michelle Williams.
Roma (R) The latest film by Alfonso Cuarón chronicles one year in the life of a middle-class Mexican family in the 1970s. Starring Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, and Nancy García García.