Bruce!!! (NR) Eden Marryshow stars in and directs his own comedy about a narcissistic filmmaker who cons other people to survive in Los Angeles. Also with Jason Tottenham, Jade Eshete, Cesa Pledger, Gene Pope, James Dunn, and Brenda Thomas. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Captive State (PG-13) Set in Chicago 10 years after an alien takeover of the Earth, this science-fiction film stars Ashton Sanders and John Goodman as two people on opposite sides of the new regime. Also with Vera Farmiga, KiKi Layne, Alan Ruck, D.B. Sweeney, Kevin J. O’Connor, James Ransone, Kevin Dunn, and Machine Gun Kelly. (Opens Friday)
Chimera Strain (PG-13) This science-fiction film stars Henry Ian Cusick as a scientist who freezes his children alive so he can cure their deadly genetic disease. Also with Kathleen Quinlan, Erika Ervin, Jenna Harrison, and Karishma Ahluwalia. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Climax (R) The latest from shock artist Gaspar Noé is about a group of French dancers whose rehearsal turns into a bloody nightmare after their sangria is spiked with LSD. Starring Sofia Boutella, Romain Guillermic, Souheila Yacoub, Kiddy Smile, Claude Gajan-Maull, and Giselle Palmer. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Combat Obscura (NR) Miles Lagoze’s documentary concerns his work in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine making recruitment films from footage he shot there. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Finding Steve McQueen (R) How you take this true-life crime thriller may well depend on how you take lead actor Travis Fimmel, whose rugged good looks contrast with his pissy, milquetoasty comic stylings. Me, I found myself vacillating between amusement and annoyance, much as I did with the rest of this film. He portrays a 1970s Ohio factory worker whose mobbed-up Nixon-hating boss (William Fichtner) is tipped off to a bank in California containing $30 million in illegal campaign contributions for the president. A circle of crooks then schemes to steal the money that was stolen from taxpayers. There are plenty of car chases, but director Mark Steven Johnson doesn’t know how to depict these bumblers, and the script suffers from patches of overwriting and cutesiness. Also with Rachael Taylor, Lily Rabe, Rhys Coiro, Jake Weary, John Finn, and Forest Whitaker. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Five Feet Apart (PG-13) Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse star in this teen melodrama about two teenagers who meet and fall in love in a hospital despite immunodeficiency disorders that force them to stay apart physically. Also with Claire Forlani, Moises Arias, Ariana Guerra, and Parminder Nagra. (Opens Friday)
For the Love of Money (R) James Caan stars in this thriller as a retired gangster who has to revert back to his ways to protect his family. Also with Steven Bauer, Inbar Lavi, Edward Furlong, Oded Fehr, Jonathan Lipnicki, Paul Sorvino, and Jeffrey Tambor. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas)
Giant Little Ones (R) Josh Wiggins stars in this teen drama as a high-school student whose life is upended when he finds himself attracted to other boys. Also with Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello, Taylor Hickson, Darren Mann, Hailey Kittle, and Peter Outerbridge. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (PG) Katt Shea has been directing movies since the 1980s, so I can’t fathom why she makes this latest adventure of the girl detective look like something that two 10-year-old girls threw together. Sophia Lillis takes over the role, regrettably showing little of the vulnerability and dexterity that she displayed in It, as she moves to a small Illinois town and tries to make friends and figure out what’s inside the haunted house next door. The characters use smartphones and social media, and yet all of this feels like it was trapped in amber from the 1960s as Nancy’s case is regrettably denatured and her relationships with her new acquaintances don’t make any sense. This makes the programming on the Disney Channel look like hard-boiled fiction. Also with Sam Trammell, Andrea Anders, Laura Wiggins, Jesse C. Boyd, Mackenzie Graham, Zoe Renee, and Linda Lavin. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
No Manches Frida 2 (NR) The sequel to the Spanish-language comedy hit stars Omar Chaparro as an ex-convict who must win back his fiancée (Martha Higareda) after screwing up their wedding. Also with Aarón Diaz, Mario Morán, Regina Pavón, and Andrea Noli. (Opens Friday)
Stan & Ollie (PG) There are no better actors around to play Laurel and Hardy than John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan. Too bad the movie they’re in is such a marshmallow. The film takes in the legendary comedy duo as their storied career is winding down with bookings of second-rate venues on a 1953 tour of the U.K. and Ireland. The two stars (with Reilly under mounds of prosthetics to make him look fatter) do expert re-creations of classic Laurel and Hardy comedy routines, but the story of the friendship between these longtime comedy partners is filled with canned conflict and low-stakes decisions. The movie does have a touching portrait of Hardy insisting on performing even while his health gives way, but it could have been so much more powerful. Also with Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Rufus Jones, Stephanie Hyam, and Danny Huston. (Re-opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Transit (NR) The latest film by Christian Petzold (Phoenix) stars Franz Rogowski as a German who impersonates a dead man to flee the Nazi invasion of France. Also with Paula Beer, Godehard Giese, Lilien Batman, Maryam Zaree, Álex Brendemühl, Matthias Brandt, and Sebastian Hülk. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Wedding Guest (R) Dev Patel stars in Michael Winterbottom’s latest film as a mysterious and dangerous British Muslim traveling across Pakistan and India. Also with Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Harish Khanna, and Meherbaan Singh. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Wonder Park (PG) Yet another animated kids’ movie that assumes that the kids in the audience are brain-damaged. A young girl (voiced by Brianna Denski) abandons the amusement park she’s been designing after her mother (voiced by Jennifer Garner) becomes gravely ill, only to stumble into a magical forest where her amusement park is real and all the talking animals who populate it have come to life. The writers are all from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, and they conspicuously fail to create any interesting character developments or generate a sense of wonder in the setting of an amusement park where the laws of physics only spottily apply. The script isn’t funny and the atmosphere is oppressively cheerful. Additional voices by Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz, and Matthew Broderick. (Opens Friday)
Yardie (NR) Idris Elba’s directing debut stars Aml Ameen as a Jamaican man who comes of age in the 1970s and ‘80s while coming to terms with his brother’s murder. Also with Antwayne Eccleston, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Christopher Daly, Mark Rhino Smith, Everaldo Cleary, and Reshawna Douglas. (Opens Friday at Cinépolis Euless)
Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13) It was inevitable that Hollywood would eventually do right by an anime adaptation, and Robert Rodriguez takes the prize. Adapted from a series of graphic novels from the 1980s, this live-action-plus-CGI film stars Rosa Salazar as a cyborg revived in the middle of the 26th century, when Earth is the dystopian home of a permanent underclass and the only way to move up to the utopian city in the sky is to win a sport combining roller derby and the Hunger Games. Working from a script by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, Rodriguez makes this future world into a sun-streaked, ruined world unlike so many previous science-fiction movies that have ripped off Blade Runner. The 3D version isn’t worth the upcharge, but it’s still worth seeing the work of a flawed visionary who succeeds in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in cinema. Also with Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Eiza Gonzalez, Jeff Fahey, Idara Victor, Casper Van Dien, Lana Condor, Rick Yune, and an uncredited Michelle Rodriguez and Edward Norton.
Apollo 11 (G) A handy companion piece to First Man. Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary tells the story of the space program that put astronauts on the Moon, using only audio footage of interviews conducted at the time and extensive video footage shot inside NASA, some of it by the astronauts themselves. Miller may not be able to provide the uplift that Damien Chazelle did, but he dives into the technical details and limits his focus to the eight days between the mission’s launch and the safe return of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins. The film gives you a sense of the sheer scale of the achievement and the number of logistical and engineering problems that had to be solved to put men on the Moon’s surface.
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.
Arctic (PG-13) This nearly dialogue-free thriller stars Mads Mikkelsen as a scientist trying to keep both himself and his gravely injured pilot (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) alive after their plane crashes in the polar north. Joe Penna makes his feature filmmaking debut and shows some talent here, yet the whole exercise comes across as dour and more than a bit grim. Some of the tedium is baked into the setup here, as Penna concentrates on the minute details of how this man stays alive as he leaves the shelter of the downed plane to try to reach a place where he can be rescued. While this thing is watchable, the whole “lone survivor” genre of adventure filmmaking has been done with more flair and personality.
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.
Captain Marvel (PG-13) Brie Larson is everything you’d want in this first Marvel superhero movie with a woman at the center. She portrays Carol Danvers, a U.S. Air Force pilot who loses her memory, becomes caught up in an intergalactic racial war, crash-lands in L.A. in 1995, and tries to recover her past. Where other Marvel movies give us cool, futuristic tech, this one sticks to its time period and gives us superheroes working with dial-up internet and public pay phones. Larson looks capable of taking down a bunch of soldiers by herself and also looks convincingly shaken when she finds out her alien brethren have been lying to her. She also makes a neat comic duo with Samuel L. Jackson as a younger Nick Fury, who is better used here than in any previous Marvel films. Leading into Avengers: Endgame, this introduces a heroine who looks ready to pound Thanos into the ground. Also with Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Lashana Lynch, Djimon Hounsou, Clark Gregg, Gemma Chan, Rune Tente, Algenis Perez Soto, Akira Akbar, Lee Pace, McKenna Grace, and uncredited cameos by Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson.
Cold Pursuit (R) This English-language remake of the Norwegian thriller In Order of Disappearance is supposed to be funny, but someone forgot to tell Liam Neeson. He portrays a Colorado snowplow driver who investigates the death of his teenage son (Micheál Richardson) and starts killing his way up the food chain until he reaches the yuppie drug kingpin (Tom Bateman) responsible. Each character death is rung up like it’s on a cash register and director Hans Petter Molland inserts some piquant little jokes for the new setting such as a rival Native American drug cartel whose ranks include an actual Indian. Yet Molland strikes the wrong tone here (as he didn’t with the original film) and Neeson’s presence only weighs down what should be fleet and darkly amusing. Also with Emmy Rossum, Michael Eklund, Bradley Stryker, Wesley MacInnes, Michael Adamthwaite, Elizabeth Thai, David O’Hara, Tom Jackson, William Forsythe, and Laura Dern.
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.
Everybody Knows (R) The next great Spanish-language filmmaker turns out to be Iranian, as Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) goes to Spain to make this very Farhadian masterpiece. Penélope Cruz portrays a Spanish expat living in Argentina who returns home for her sister’s wedding in Madrid, only for her teenage daughter (Carla Campra) to fall victim to a recent spate of kidnappings in the area. Farhadi loves buried family secrets as much as Tennessee Williams used to, and he turns this into a gripping mystery tale with decades-old grudges being dredged up and spouses and siblings eyeing each other suspiciously. Cruz gives a fine, anguished performance and Javier Bardem does remarkable understated work as her ex-boyfriend whose financial help is needed to pay the ransom. Iran wouldn’t grant Farhadi his creative freedom, and now some of the best Spanish-speaking actors have reaped the benefits. Also with Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Ramón Barea, and Elvira Mínguez.
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.
Fighting With My Family (PG-13) Given that this is basically a movie-length recruiting commercial for the WWE, it’s actually pretty good. Based on the story of real-life wrestler Paige, this stars Florence Pugh (from TV’s The LIttle Drummer Girl) as the daughter of a wrestling family in Norwich, England who snags a coveted spot in the organization’s training camp in Orlando and tries to work her way up to the big time. First-time writer-director Stephen Merchant (who has a small role in the film as well) makes an assured debut behind the camera, giving time to the mechanics of choreographing wrestling bouts and to Paige’s brother (Jack Lowden) who struggles with his disappointment after he’s left behind in Norwich. The comedy and the performances make this all go down smoothly. Also with Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, Kim Matula, Ellie Gonsalves, Aqueela Zoll, Thea Trinidad, Julia Davis, and Dwayne Johnson.
Furie (NR) Vietnamese martial-arts movies are officially a thing now. Former pop singer Veronica Ngô stars as a former big-city gangster whose attempt to live quietly in the countryside are interrupted when organ traffickers kidnap her young daughter (Cát Vy). The martial-arts discipline being showcased here is the Vietnamese fighting style of Vovinam, and while Arab-French fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh (who has done stunts in numerous big-budget Hollywood films) can’t bring out the form’s distinctive features, he orchestrates some difficult stuff that’s performed with aplomb by the cast here. Director Lê Van Kiêt films the action with the requisite smoothness and clarity. It’s good to have another player in Asian martial-arts cinema. Also with Thanh Nhiên Phan, Tran Thanh Hoa, and Pham Anh Khoa.
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.
Greta (R) Isabelle Huppert goes crazy in this English-language thriller where she plays a polite but lonely Frenchwoman in New York who starts stalking the recent college grad (Chloë Grace Moretz) who returns the bag she lost on a subway train. Irish director Neil Jordan is also listed as a co-writer, but he doesn’t seem to have the instincts for this sort of trashy potboiler. He can put together harrowing sequences like the one in which Greta texts a series of photographs to her victim to make it clear that she’s coming after her best friend (Maika Monroe), but he can’t build up a sense of dread throughout the picture, and Huppert is muted as she so often is when she acts in English. Moretz walks off with the acting honors here, and there’s a devilishly clever twist near the end, but the elements here don’t come together. Also with Colm Feore, Zawe Ashton, and Stephen Rea.
Gully Boy (NR) Bollywood goes hip-hop with this musical based on the lives of rappers Naezy and Divine. Ranveer Singh plays a dorky Muslim engineering student from the Mumbai ghetto who finds an outlet for his anger and frustration by spitting Hindi rhymes about the class, caste, and religious prejudice that he encounters on the streets, in his home, and at his job chauffeuring rich people around. None of the plot developments here will surprise anybody who has seen 8 Mile, but there is something to seeing those old plot developments applied to a specific, whole other setting. Singh performs cover versions of the original songs by the real-life rappers, and they’re catchy enough to make you want to hear more Indian rap. Also with Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Kalki Koechlin, Amruta Subhash, Ikhlaque Khan, Sheeba Chaddha, Vijay Maurya, and Vijay Raaz.
Happy Death Day 2U (PG-13) The sequel to the 2017 meta-slasher flick keeps staleness from setting in by blowing up its original setup. Jessica Rothe returns as the college student who is knocked into what initially appears to be her old time loop but in fact is a different one in a parallel universe where a different masked killer is stalking the campus. Writer-director Christopher Landon pushes the thing further into the realm of comedy, as our plucky heroine repeatedly kills herself Phil Connors-style to reset the loop while turning herself into a quantum physics geek. The hijinks reach new levels of absurdity, and Rothe turns her eminently killable protagonist into a female version of Deadpool, except she works better at a PG-13 rating. Also with Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, and Steve Zissis.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG) I was never a fan of this series, but I must say its final installment winds things up quite gracefully. Jay Baruchel plays the young chief of his Viking tribe whose island has become overcrowded with dragons, so when an evil overlord (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) targets them, he sets off for a hidden dragon utopia that has been rumored to exist off the edge of the world. The action sequences flow smoother than in either of the previous two installments. The jokes still aren’t funny, but the glimpse of the underworld where the dragons live is appropriately wondrous, and the way the humans say goodbye to their dragon pets is beautifully managed. Additional voices by America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, and Gerard Butler.
The Iron Orchard (R) This film is based on a 1960s novel by Edmund Van Zandt under the pen name of “Tom Pendleton.” The book gained a cult following among the very oil people it aimed to satirize, but the movie seems unlikely to, despite flaunting its Texas credentials. Lane Garrison plays a wildcatter in West Texas who strikes it rich until he can live it up in Fort Worth (which is portrayed by Austin). It is undeniably fascinating to see the film re-create our city as it existed in the 1930s, but the script is full of dull moralizing, and too much of the cast isn’t up to the job of livening it up. Midland native director Ty Roberts is so busy trying to be historically accurate that he forgets to conjure the heady atmosphere of an oil boom. There Will Be Blood, this isn’t. Also with Ali Cobrin, Austin Nichols, Hassie Harrison, Lew Temple, Allan McLeod, Temple Baker, and Ned Van Zandt.
Isn’t It Romantic (PG-13) This is like the romantic-comedy version of Scream: not as subversive as it thinks it is, but still enjoyable. Rebel Wilson stars as a romcom-hating single Australian expat in New York who hits her head and is magically transported inside such a movie, where musical numbers spontaneously break out, her apartment is suddenly much bigger and more stylishly decorated, and all manner of handsome men look her in the eye when they talk to her. Maybe this movie’s message is every bit as canned as the romantic comedies it’s supposedly lampooning, but director Todd Strauss-Schulson keeps things moving and the star’s charisma keeps this watchable. It helps that Liam Hemsworth has some of his brother’s flair for physical comedy. Also with Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones, and Jennifer Saunders.
The Kid (R) Vincent D’Onofrio directs and co-stars in this Western about a boy who witnesses the deadly encounter between Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke). Also with Chris Pratt, Adam Baldwin, Leila George, Tait Fletcher, Jenny Gabrielle, and Ben Dickey.
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.
A Madea Family Funeral (PG-13) The series ends the way it began: with cheap jokes, amateur theatrics, and Sunday-school sermonizing. Tyler Perry puts on the dress and the granny wig one last time to portray the old lady, as she attends a family reunion that turns into a funeral when a relative (Derek Morgan) suffers a fatal heart attack while having sex with a woman other than his wife. The old lady promptly takes charge of funeral preparations, resulting in a nine-hour service, even though she cuts off everyone’s speeches and kicks them offstage. Buried family secrets come to light, tears are shed, everyone shuttles back and forth between the hospital, the funeral home, and various houses. The film drags somewhat less than Perry’s others, but this series should have died 15 years ago. Also with Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Ciera Payton, KJ Smith, Quin Walters, and Mike Tyson.
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 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.
Run the Race (PG) Tanner Stine and Evan Hofer star in this family drama as teenage brothers coming of age in a small Southern town. Also with Mykelti Williamson, Frances Fisher, Kristoffer Polaha, Kelsey Reinhardt, Eddie George, and Mario Van Peebles.
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.
Total Dhamaal (NR) In this rip-off of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, a bunch of Indians from different walks of life hear about buried treasure and race across the country to find it. Cue badly CGI-ed animals, vehicles falling off cliffs and being swept away by rivers, actors screaming in panic, GPS systems cursing at people, and other hijinks that looked old even 50 years ago. This bulky vehicle is laden with stars, but there are much better Indian films playing right now. Starring Ajay Devgn, Madhuri Dixit, Anil Kapoor, Arshad Warsi, Javed Jaffrey, Riteish Deshmukh, Esha Gupta, Sanjay Mishra, and Boman Irani.
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.
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.
Beers of Joy (NR) David Swift and Scott Owen’s documentary profiles four individuals in the world of craft brewing.
The Invisibles (NR) Claus Räfle’s drama is about the true stories of four Jews who concealed their identities in plain sight in Berlin during World War II. Starring Max Mauff, Alice Dwyer, Ruby O. Fee, Aaron Altaras, Victoria Schultz, and Florian Lukas.
Ruben Brandt, Collector (R) This Hungarian animated film is about a psychiatrist (voiced by Iván Kamarás) who convinces his art-thief patients to steal famous works of art for him. Additional voices by Gabriella Hámori, Zalán Makranczi, Csaba Márton, Máté Mészáros, and Gábor Nágypal.
Triple Frontier (R) Ben Affleck and Charlie Hunnam star in this thriller about five ex-Special Forces operatives who go on a rogue mission in South America. Also with Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund, Adria Arjona, Sheila Vand, and Oscar Isaac.
We Die Young (R) Elijah Rodriguez stars in this drama as a 14-year-old gangster who tries to steer his little brother into a better life. Also with Jean Claude Van Damme, Kerry Bennett, David Castaneda, and Uriel Emil.