American Renegades (PG-13) J.K. Simmons headlines this thriller about a team of U.S. Navy SEALs who find a treasure sunken in a lake in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Also with Sullivan Stapleton, Charlie Bewley, Sylvia Hoeks, Joshua Henry, Diarmid Murtagh, Dimitri Leonidas, and Ewen Bremner. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Aquaman (PG-13) James Wan does great with the action and bad with everything else in this comic-book adaptation. Flashing a nice deadpan sense of humor, Jason Momoa plays the half-human, water-breathing superhero who visits Atlantis, the undersea kingdom of his ancestors, to prevent them from waging war against the unsuspecting land dwellers who have polluted the oceans. The director manages two nice one-take shots, one of Atlantis’ queen (Nicole Kidman) fighting off a strike team single-handedly and the other of Aquaman and an Atlantean princess (Amber Heard) being chased over the rooftops of Sicily. However, Wan also mishandles all the emotional beats in this story, and every time two characters stop to have a quiet conversation, they’re interrupted by an explosion. Wonder and beauty are beyond Wan’s capabilities. He’s been miscast as a horror director, and he should stick to action. Also with Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Temuera Morrison, Michael Beach, Randall Park, Graham McTavish, and Dolph Lundgren. Voices by Djimon Hounsou, John Rhys-Davies, and Julie Andrews. (Opens Friday)
Between Worlds (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this supernatural thriller as a man whose dying daughter (Penelope Mitchell) becomes possessed by a spirit from the next world. Also with Franka Potente, Garrett Clayton, Lydia Hearst, Brit Shaw, and David Lee Smith. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Bumblebee (PG-13) This prequel to the Transformers series stars Hailee Steinfeld as a teenager in 1987 who befriends a lost robot disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle. Also with John Cena, John Ortiz, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Kenneth Choi, Megyn Price, and Len Cariou. Voices by Dylan O’Brien, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen, and Angela Bassett. (Opens Friday)
Holmes & Watson (PG-13) Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly star in this comic take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s great detective. Also with Rebecca Hall, Kelly Macdonald, Hugh Laurie, Noah Jupe, Pam Ferris, Lauren Lapkus, and Ralph Fiennes. (Opens Tuesday)
If Beale Street Could Talk (R) Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) adapts James Baldwin’s novel about a young woman (KiKi Layne) in 1970s Harlem trying to clear her husband (Stephan James) of a crime he didn’t commit. Also with Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Brian Tyree Henry, Finn Wittrock, Ed Skrein, Pedro Pascal, and Diego Luna. (Opens Tuesday in Dallas)
Mary Queen of Scots (R) Otherwise known as the movie about British royalty that’s not as much fun as The Favourite, this historical epic stars Saoirse Ronan as the doomed 16th-century Scottish queen who’s outflanked by treacherous men in her court and forced into a war against England. The marketing campaign around the film is selling it as a showdown between Mary and Queen Elizabeth I of England (Margot Robbie), but the movie itself stacks the deck against petty, jealous, pockmarked Elizabeth from the start. Robbie does rise to the occasion in the climactic conversation between the queens, but it’s Ronan who walks off with this picture tucked under her arm, fleshing out an underwritten heroine with intelligence, hubris, and royal bearing. Also with Guy Pearce, Jack Lowden, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan, Joe Alwyn, Martin Compston, Ian Hart, and David Tennant. (Opens Friday)
On the Basis of Sex (PG-13) This biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg stars Felicity Jones and concentrates on the first case she ever argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. Also with Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Cailee Spaeny, Jack Reynor, Stephen Root, Chris Mulkey, Kathy Bates, and Sam Waterston. (Opens Tuesday in Dallas)
Second Act (PG-13) Jennifer Lopez stars in this comedy as a low-end retail worker who vows to snag herself a job at a big New York marketing firm. Also with Jennifer Hudgens, Leah Remini, Milo Ventimiglia, Freddie Stroma, Charlyne Yi, Dave Foley, Larry Miller, and Treat WIlliams. (Opens Friday)
Shoplifters (R) The latest film by Hirokazu Kore-eda (After the Storm) is about a group of small-time Japanese criminals who take in an abused girl (Miyu Sasaki) while living on the street. Also with Lily Franky, Sakura Andô, Mayu Matsuoka, and Jyo Kairi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Swing Kids (NR) Better than Green Book. This Korean film is based on a stage musical set at an American prison camp during the Korean war, where a troublemaking North Korean soldier (Do Kyung-soo) learns how to tap dance from an African-American serviceman (Jared Grimes) who’s been tasked with putting together a talent show with the P.O.Ws. The story is fascinating for the various kinds of racism at work here among the white American soldiers, the Koreans reluctant to take instruction from a black man, and one Chinese P.O.W. (Kim Min-ho) occupying a complicated position in the troupe. The actors here have some dance moves worth considering, though director Kang Hyeong-cheol could use some seasoning when it comes to filming them. Also with Park Hye-su, Oh Jung-se, Park Jin-joo, and A.J. Simmons. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Welcome to Marwen (PG-13) Robert Zemeckis’ latest film stars Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp, the real-life artist who suffered brain damage as the result of a hate crime and created a fictional world populated by dolls. Also with Leslie Mann, Janelle Monáe, Eiza González, Diane Kruger, Gwendoline Christie, and Matt O’Leary. (Opens Friday)
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.
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.
Mortal Engines (PG-13) A triumph of production design over actual filmmaking. Based on Philip Reeve’s novel, this science-fiction dystopian epic is set in a future world where major cities are mounted on wheels and go around eating up smaller cities. Hera Hilmar is a facially scarred orphan girl determined to revenge herself on London’s chief engineer (Hugo Weaving), who killed her mother, may also be her father, and is developing a weapon that will destroy the world. The film is out of Peter Jackson’s shop, and while its steampunk evocation of London is truly impressive, the indistinct acting and plot developments cadged from a dozen more interesting YA series help take this thing down. Also with Robert Sheehan, Leila George, Jihae, Caren Pistorius, Colin Salmon, Patrick Malahide, and Stephen Lang.
The Mule (R) People are talking this up as some sort of career resurgence for Clint Eastwood, but don’t believe the hype. The director stars in his own movie based on the true story of a 90-year-old man who went to work as a drug mule for the Sinaloa drug cartel, ferrying shipments of drugs across America and taking advantage of the fact that cops weren’t looking for an old white man. Eastwood does manage some nice self-critique by casting himself as that old dude in a world where Mexican drug lords and younger guys who are more technologically savvy have all the power, but he still gives us clunky staging and bad dialogue and the other faults that have plagued the worse movies he has made over the last decade. You’re better off seeing The Old Man & the Gun. Also with Bradley Cooper, Taissa Farmiga, Michael Peña, Alison Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Andy Garcia, Laurence Fishburne, and Dianne Wiest.
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.
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)
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.
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.
Vox Lux (R) I’m trying really hard to see the point of this one. Natalie Portman stars in this portentous, pretentious drama as a pop music star who survives a school shooting as a teenager (Raffey Cassidy plays both the star’s teenage self and her teenage daughter later on) and is trying to mount a comeback after a scandal-filled private life. First-time director Brady Corbet has the eye and the ear but not the storytelling brain, and while the movie seems like it’s going to make a broad statement about celebrity culture, psychological trauma, and the landscape of America, it never comes around to making any sort of point. To top it off, Portman gives an atrocious, mannered performance with a thick Long Island accent. Also with Jude Law, Christopher Abbott, Jennifer Ehle, Stacy Martin, and Maria Dizzia. Narrated by Willem Dafoe.
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.
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.
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.
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.