Arctic (PG-13) Mads Mikkelsen stars in this thriller as a man who tries to survive after a plane crash leaves him stranded in the polar north. Also with Maria Thelma Smáradóttir. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Donnybrook (R) Jamie Bell and Frank Grillo star in this film about two boxers competing in a bare-knuckle tournament for a $10,000 prize. Also with Margaret Qualley, James Badge Dale, Pat Healy, and Chris Browning. (Opens Friday)
Isn’t It Romantic (PG-13) Rebel Wilson stars in this film as a woman who hates romantic comedy movies before she is magically transported inside of one. Also with Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, and Jennifer Saunders. (Opens Wednesday)
Lords of Chaos (R) This crime drama stars Rory Culkin as a Norwegian teen in 1987 whose attempts to launch a Scandinavian death-metal band go violently wrong. Also with Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, Anthony de la Torre, Valter Skarsgård, and Jon Øigarden. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Never Look Away (R) Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, this epic by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others) tracks the progress of a young German artist (Tom Schilling) who comes of age during World War II and East Germany’s Communist aftermath. Also with Paula Beer, Sebastian Koch, Saskia Rosendahl, Oliver Masucci, Ina Weisse, and Lars Eidinger. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Patrick (NR) For everyone who found A Dog’s Purpose too hard-edged for their taste. Beattie Edmondson stars in this unendurable British comedy as the sort of messy, klutzy, hapless young single woman who exists only in movies, and who hates dogs but is nevertheless left to take care of her deceased grandmother’s ill-behaved pug. It’s hard to say who’s more annoying, the woman or the dog. Seriously, it’s like this movie was made by a computer that watched Bridget Jones’s Diary too many times. There’s so little wit or insight in this that even 5-year-olds will find this as appealing as dog poo. Also with Ed Skrein, Cherie Lunghi, Gemma Jones, Tom Bennett, Emilia Jones, Adrian Scarborough, Peter Davison, and Jennifer Saunders. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
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.
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.
Bumblebee (PG-13) The playful retro approach here is what the whole Transformers series should have taken from the start. Hailee Steinfeld plays a teenager in 1987 who comes across a giant alien robot disguised as a Volkswagen Beetle. Director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) and writer Christina Hodson smartly keep the movie’s focus narrow and turn the whole movie into a cute riff on E.T. The 1980s references are on point and the movie’s humor hits home more often than not, with John Cena chipping in as a bumbling federal agent trying to keep tabs on the robots invading the Earth. This series was in dire need of the restart that this movie gives it. Also with Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, and Len Cariou. Voices by Dylan O’Brien, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen, and Angela Bassett.
Cold Pursuit (R) Hans Petter Moland directs this English-language remake of his own Norwegian thriller In Order of Disappearance, starring Liam Neeson as a cop in a cold-weather small town pursuing the drug dealers he believes to have killed his son. Also with Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman, Julia Jones, David O’Hara, William Forsythe, and Laura Dern.
A Dog’s Way Home (PG) The sequel to A Dog’s Purpose tells the story of a dog (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) who travels 400 miles to find her owner. Also with Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Alexandra Shipp, Barry Watson, Wes Studi, and Edward James Olmos.
Escape Room (PG-13) The production design upstages everything else in this stupidly watchable thriller that’s a mash-up of Cube, Saw, and The Da Vinci Code. Taylor Russell is one of seven seemingly random people who gather in a Chicago building to escape a deadly series of rooms for a $10,000 prize and, more importantly, the chance to keep breathing. It is fun watching the survivors enter a library that turns into a giant trash compactor or an upside-down bar with all the furniture on the ceiling. Alas, director Adam Robitel (who also plays one of the shorter-lived contestants) can’t keep the thing turning fast enough. Also with Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Logan Miller, Nik Dodani, Jay Ellis, and Yorick van Wageningen.
Extreme Job (NR) If you like fried chicken, this is the cop thriller for you. This Korean comedy stars Ryu Seung-ryong as the leader of an incredibly unlucky unit of narcotics detectives who rent out a failing fried chicken joint in Seoul to spy on a Chinese meth importer (Shin Ha-kyun) whose headquarters are across the street. Unluckily and luckily, the cop assigned to do the cooking puts rib sauce on the chicken instead of the traditional sticky sweet sauce, and it makes the restaurant so popular that it jeopardizes the police operation. Besides lots of mouth-watering shots of fried chicken, this movie also has some pretty funny business with the bungling cops in the early going before giving way to a more action-oriented finale. Also with Lee Ha-nee, Jin Seon-kyu, Lee Dong-hwi, Gong Myung, Kim Eui-sung, Song Young-kyu, Kim Ji-young, and Oh Jung-se.
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.
Glass (PG-13) Not as bad as you’ve heard, though a long way from being good. The final installment of M. Night Shyamalan’s trilogy brings together the protagonists of Unbreakable and Split in a psychiatric ward, where Elijah Price a.k.a. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) engineers a public showdown between David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and The Beast (James McAvoy). The director puts in two plot revelations too many and too often stops to dissect the tropes of comic-book storytelling when he should be moving the plot along — it’s as if he wrote the script after a night of trawling Tvtropes.com. Still, his immense visual skills are everywhere in evidence, he stages the superhero fights as well as anyone, and he cleverly casts Sarah Paulson as a compassionate psychotherapist with a hidden agenda. Also with Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Luke Kirby, Adam David Thompson, and Charlayne Woodard.
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 Kid Who Would Be King (PG) The first movie about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table that didn’t unintentionally remind me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Joe Cornish’s highly enjoyable kids’ adventure is set in the present day, when a bullied 12-year-old boy (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) finds Excalibur, pulls it out of the stone, and discovers his destiny to save Britain from being enslaved by an evil sorceress (Rebecca Ferguson). Surprisingly, this movie works in Brexit parallels and has Patrick Stewart (as a reincarnated Merlin) spend his screen time wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. Cornish (who previously did Attack the Block) knows how to balance effects-heavy action sequences with character moments and some funny gags in this throwback to 1980s movies of its ilk. Also with Dean Chaumoo, Angus Imrie, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, and Denise Gough.
The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story (PG-13) This Christian film stars Sharman Joshi as an Indian journalist investigating the real-life Australian evangelist (Stephen Baldwin) for possible charlatanism. Also with Shari Rigby, Manoj Mishra, Prakash Belawadi, Aditi Chengappa, and Aneesh Daniel.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (PG) The sequel has everything the original had except for Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s frenetic energy. That quality makes a difference that’s not fatal but noticeable. When his friends are kidnapped by mysterious alien invaders, Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) has to plumb his own resources to rescue them. The jokes are still funny, the new characters are integrated well, the framing story is ingenious and possibly even better than the original’s. It’s new director Mike Mitchell who can’t keep up the pace set by the first movie. The film has enough out-loud laughs to recommend it; I just wish it had a little more chaos. The mesmerizingly terrible “Catchy Song” is a worthy heir to “Everything Is Awesome.” Additional voices by Elizabeth Banks, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Jimmy O. Yang, Will Forte, Jorma Taccone, Ike Barinholtz, Cobie Smulders, Jason Momoa, Will Ferrell, and Bruce Willis.
Mary Poppins Returns (PG) About as much fun as having someone throw glitter in your face and say, “Oooh, magical!” Emily Blunt stars in this sequel set 20-odd years after the events of the original Mary Poppins, as she comes to minister to a grown-up Jane and Michael (Emily Mortimer and Ben Whishaw) as they’re about to lose the house on 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Not a single moment in this loud, boisterous, overbearing musical feels like it’s spontaneous or unforced, and director Rob Marshall can’t seem to do anything without a giant swell from the orchestra. Songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are below their best, and the script hews so closely to the first movie that you wonder why they bothered with a sequel. An excellent cast is drowned out by the production design of this white elephant. Also with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, and Dick Van Dyke.
Miss Bala (R) Quite dull. Gina Rodriguez stars in this thriller as a Hollywood makeup artist who goes to Tijuana to visit her childhood friend (Cristina Rodlo), only for both of them to be kidnapped by the local drug cartel and forced to participate in mob hits. This is a remake of a 2011 Mexican film by the same name which was much more exciting. Having the heroine caught between the cartel and the DEA should be a source of tension, but Catherine Hardwicke directs this so lugubriously that she leeches all the fun out of this. Rodriguez deserves a better break into action-thrillers than this. Also with Anthony Mackie, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Aislinn Derbez, Thomas Dekker, and Matt Lauria.
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.
Pegasus (NR) Not to be confused with the other movie by this name currently out, this Chinese auto racing comedy stars Jack Kao as a retired racer who must win one last race to save all of humanity. Also with Dennis O’Neil, Aaron Ly, Sui Yongliang, Wang Longzheng, Tony Payne, and Sha Baoliang.
Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year (NR) The British TV show is dubbed into Mandarin with some live-action Chinese-language interludes to celebrate the holiday. There’s nothing in this for non-Chinese speakers or kids over the age of 5, I’m afraid.
The Prodigy (R) Starts out promisingly, peters out disappointingly. This horror film stars Taylor Schilling as a mother who finds that her sweet 8-year-old genius son (Jackson Robert Scott) is in danger of being possessed by the spirit of a Hungarian serial killer who likes chopping off women’s hands. Through the first half of this thing, director Nicholas McCarthy effectively builds up creepy detail, while Scott is genuinely terrifying as a boy whose nature is at war with the spirit, and Schilling is quite effective as the distressed mother. The contraption tips over into self-parody in the second half, as the horrors become more over-the-top and the spirit becomes a bore to be around. Also with Brittany Allen, Colm Feore, Peter Mooney, Olunike Adeliyi, and Paula Boudreau.
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.
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.
They Shall Not Grow Old (R) Peter Jackson’s documentary about World War I features black-and-white film footage filled in with computerized color and overdubbed sound, which draws your attention to some details you might miss, like the rueful expression on a serviceman playing an empty bottle as a musical instrument or a wounded soldier trying to shoo away a pigeon that’s perching on him. Still, the real value is the voiceover narration taken from interviews with veterans conducted in the 1960s and ’70s, which give unvarnished accounts of the grossness of war: lice-infested clothes, freezing water in the trenches that caused gangrene, mud made more viscous by corpses both human and animal. The limited scope of the footage available to Jackson means he can’t capture the worst aspects that the soldiers faced, but the film does succeed on the terms the director lays out in his preface, as a film “by a non-historian for non-historians.”
The Upside (PG-13) A movie made for backhanded compliments: This dramedy isn’t that bad. It’s not as pandering as Intouchables, the French comedy that it’s a remake of. It’s better than Green Book. Kevin Hart plays an unqualified ex-convict who’s hired to be a full-time caregiver to a wealthy quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston). Hart is deferential — probably too much so — to the high-powered cast around him, including Nicole Kidman as the boss’ Harvard-educated business manager. The film occasionally flirts with commenting meaningfully on the class and race differences in play, but too often it’s content to coast on its charm and likability. Also with Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan, Aja Naomi King, and Julianna Margulies.
Vice (R) I like Adam McKay better when he’s making comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers. Not that this scabrous biography of Dick Cheney doesn’t have some laugh-out-loud funny moments, but McKay too often tips over into angry polemic and chastising his audience for watching reality TV while the world burns. Christian Bale gives a fairly miraculous performance as Cheney, disappearing underneath a ton of extra weight (both gained and prosthetic) and capturing both the man’s droning speaking voice and his insatiable lust for power, but it’s too bad that the movie gives us scene after scene of this heartless bastard shanking people around him, including members of his own family. The casting is remarkable; Steve Carell is so well-cast as Donald Rumsfeld that you just want to cry. Also with Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Eddie Marsan, Justin Kirk, Alison Pill, Bill Camp, LisaGay Hamilton, Don McManus, Lily Rabe, Shea Whigham, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Tyler Perry.
The Wandering Earth (NR) Chinese New Year is when the Chinese film industry puts out their giant blockbusters. This one is humongous, though it’s a pity the storytelling didn’t keep up with the special-effects. The story is set in a near-future Earth, where the scientists respond to news that the sun is about to go supernova by building 11,000 thrusters all over the planet’s surface and moving it to a nearby solar system on a journey that will take 3,000 years. As the citizens of one underground Chinese city work to keep the planet from falling into Jupiter, we have all the same sentimental interludes and heroic sacrifices that we’ve seen in a thousand similar Hollywood disaster movies. Starring Qu Jingjing, Li Guangjie, Qu Chuxiao, Zhao Jinmai, Li Hongchen, and Ng Man-Tat.
What Men Want (R) This remake of the 2000 Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want is better than the original, and better than I expected. Taraji P. Henson plays a sports agent at a sexist workplace who magically acquires the ability to hear men’s thoughts. She uses her newfound gift to try to romance a handsome bartender (Aldis Hodge) and sign an NBA prospect with a crazy Lavar Ball-like dad (Tracy Morgan). Director Adam Shankman can’t keep up the energy in the face of the familiar romantic comedy plot resolutions, but there’s some assured slapstick playing from Henson and a supporting cast full of current and former athletes. Most delightful and unexpected is a great comic turn by Erykah Badu as a kooky psychic with Uno cards in her tarot deck. Also with Josh Brener, Tamala Jones, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Phoebe Robinson, Max Greenfield, Pete Davidson, Jason Jones, Kellan Lutz, Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill, Brian Bosworth, and Richard Roundtree.
Beneath the Leaves (NR) This thriller stars Kristoffer Polaha as a cop who’s forced to catch the escaped convict (Doug Jones) who kidnapped him as a child. Also with Mira Sorvino, Melora Walters, Christopher Masterson, Jena Sims, Ser’Darius Blain, and Paul Sorvino.
Berlin, I Love You (R) Following similar films set in Paris, New York, and Rio de Janeiro, this anthology film consists of several short films connected by the city that they’re set in. Starring Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Luke Wilson, Jim Sturgess, Jenna Dewan, Hayden Panettiere, Dianna Agron, Diego Luna, Iwan Rheon, Charlotte Le Bon, Hannelore Elsner, and Mickey Rourke.
Capernaum (R) Nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, this movie by Nadine Labaki (Caramel) is about a 12-year-old Lebanese boy (Zain al-Rafeea) who sues his parents for neglect while in prison. Also with Yordanos Shiferaw, Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Kawsar al-Haddad, and Fadi Yousef.
Cold War (R) Nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, this black-and-white Polish drama by Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida) is about a composer and a singer (Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig) who live on both sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. Also with Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn, Adam Woronowicz, and Jeanne Balibar.
Darkness Visible (R) This Indian thriller stars Jaz Deol as a British expat who returns to his native country to solve the murder of his mother. Also with Sayani Gupta, Neil Bhoopalam, Seema Biswas, and Salóme Gunnarsdóttir.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (NR) The best movie title so far this year goes to this film starring Sam Elliott as a World War II veteran who’s called out of retirement to hunt for a Sasquatch. Also with Aidan Turner, Ron Livingston, Caitlin FitzGerald, Sean Bridgers, Larry Miller, and Ellar Coltrane.
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.
A Violent Man (R) Thomas Q. Jones stars in this thriller as an MMA fighter who is caught up in a murder plot. Also with Isaach de Bankolé, Chuck Liddell, Khalilah Joi, Felisha Terrell, Denise Richards, and Bruce Davison.