After (PG-13) Adapted from Anna Todd’s novel, this teen drama stars Josephine Langford as a girl who falls for a boy (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) who harbors a dark secret. Also with Selma Blair, Meadow Williams, Samuel Larsen, Inanna Sarkis, Khadijha Red Thunder, Pia Mia, Jennifer Beals, and Peter Gallagher. (Opens Friday)
The Brink (NR) This documentary by Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry) follows Steve Bannon as he attempts to spread his brand of ultra-conservatism to voters around the world. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Crypto (R) Beau Knapp stars in this cyber-thriller as a Wall Street banker who discovers a global conspiracy involving a New York art gallery and cryptocurrency. Also with Kurt Russell, Luke Hemsworth, Jill Hennessy, Sean Cullen, Vincent Kartheiser, and Alexis Bledel. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A Dark Place (NR) This British thriller stars Andrew Scott as a garbage truck driver who tries to solve the disappearance of a little boy in his backwater town. Also with Denise Gough, Catherine Dyer, Jason Davis, Bronagh Waugh, and J.D. Evermore. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Hellboy (R) David Harbour stars in this reboot of the film series about the demon who fights on the side of good. Also with Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sophie Okonedo, Brian Gleeson, Milla Jovovich, Thomas Haden Church, and Ian McShane. (Opens Friday)
Kalank (NR) Sanjay Dutt stars in this drama set during the partition of India in the 1940s. Also with Varun Dhawan, Madhuri Dixit, Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, and Kiara Advani. (Opens Friday)
Little (PG-13) This comedy stars Regina Hall as a successful executive who’s magically transformed into her pre-pubescent self (Marsai Martin) during a stressful period in her life. Also with Issa Rae, Justin Hartley, Mikey Day, Rachel Dratch, and Tracee Ellis Ross. (Opens Friday)
Mary Magdalene (R) Rooney Mara stars in this Biblical film as the woman who follows Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix). Also with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tahar Rahim, Ariane Labed, Denis Ménochet, Lubna Azabal, and Tchéky Karyo. (Opens Friday at Premiere Cinemas Burleson)
Master Z: Ip Man Legacy (NR) A spinoff from the popular series of Chinese martial-arts films, this stars Zhang Jin as a kung fu master who stirs up further trouble while recovering from a defeat to Ip Man. Also with Dave Bautista, Yu Xing, Patrick Tam, Chrissie Chau, Tony Jaa, and Michelle Yeoh. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Mia and the White Lion (PG) This South African children’s movie stars Daniah de Villiers as an English girl who befriends a lion cub when she moves to Africa. Also with Mélanie Laurent, Langley Kirkwood, Ryan Mac Lennan, and Lionel Newton. (Opens Friday)
Missing Link (PG) The latest animated film from Laika Entertainment is about an English explorer (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who tries to help the missing link (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) find his relatives in Asia. Additional voices by Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, and Emma Thompson. (Opens Friday)
Relaxer (NR) This comedy by Joel Potrykus (The Alchemist Cookbook) stars Joshua Burge as a man who defies a coming apocalypse to conquer the final level of Donkey Kong. Also with David Dastmalchian, Andre Hyland, Mafuz Rahman, Adina Howard, and Amari Cheatom. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Sunset (R) This Hungarian film by László Nemes (Son of Saul) stars Juli Jakab as a girl in pre-World War I times searching for a link to her past. Also with Evelin Dobos, Vlad Ivanov, Levente Molnár, Judith Bárdos, and Susanne Wuest. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Aftermath (R) The dynamic presence of Keira Knightley is stifled in this frightfully stodgy World War II drama. She plays an English housewife who travels to a bombed-out Hamburg in the months after the war to join her emotionally constipated British Army husband (Jason Clarke), only to fall for the German architect (Alexander Skarsgård) whose spacious country house they’re staying in. The emotional beats are limited to the most obvious and manipulative kind, as all the British and German characters have solid reasons for hating the other side. There’s a scene at a piano between the main character and a German girl (Flora Thiemann) that’s just about unbearable. Director James Kent comes from British TV, which is probably where this stiff-upper-lip piece belongs. Also with Martin Compston, Pip Torrens, Anna Katharina Schimrigk, Jannik Schümann, Alexander Scheer, and Tom Bell.
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.
The Beach Bum (R) Matthew McConaughey slips into self-parody as a long-haired, shirtless drunken layabout in Florida who also happens to be one of America’s great writers. “Margaritaville” is played and Jimmy Buffett shows up, though not in connection with that. Some of the hijinks are funny (like the one with Martin Lawrence having his foot chewed off by a shark he mistakes for a dolphin), and some of the supporting turns are agreeable (Zac Efron as a devout Christian pyromaniac who robs old people to feed his drug habit). The film seems to want to critique a society that too readily forgives a conscienceless party monster because he’s talented at poetry, but writer-director Harmony Korine doesn’t have the focus to make that work. His movie unfortunately comes off as glorifying its protagonist when it wants to do the opposite. Also with Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Stefanie LaVie Owen, and Jonah Hill.
The Best of Enemies (PG-13) Based on the 1971 fight over school integration in Durham, N.C., this movie stars Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson as a Ku Klux Klan leader and a civil rights activist who become unlikely friends. Also with Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, John Gallagher Jr., Nick Searcy, Babou Ceesay, and Bruce McGill.
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.
Dumbo (PG) Yet another Disney animated film turned into a middling live-action movie, this one is directed by Tim Burton, with Danny DeVito as the circus troupe ringmaster and Colin Farrell as the trick rider who comes home from World War I having lost his left arm and his wife. The big-eared flying elephant is all CGI, and if it’s too cute by half, you can say the same about its hand-drawn counterpart. The bigger issue here is the cardboard villains (especially Michael Keaton as a rich financier) and the lack of any humor to cut the sentimentality. DeVito and Farrell both do fine work here, but they can’t save this. This story was done better when it was called The Shape of Water. Also with Eva Green, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Roshan Seth, Lars Eidinger, Deobia Oparei, and Michael Buffer.
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.
Five Feet Apart (PG-13) Haley Lu Richardson’s great, anguished performance is the main reason to see this teen weeper. She plays a girl with cystic fibrosis and control issues whose life is spent in and out of hospitals, and when she falls in love with a fellow CF patient (Cole Sprouse), their shared disorder keeps them from touching each other or standing within six feet of each other. The script is full of canned wisdom and cornball plot developments, but the performances of the two leads keep the film grounded. Richardson particularly lends a leavening sense of humor and a firm resolve to the proceedings. She should be starring in bigger and better movies than this one. Also with Claire Forlani, Moises Arias, Cynthia Evans, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Sophia Bernard, and Parminder Nagra.
Hotel Mumbai (R) This dramatization of the 2008 Taj Hotel terrorist attack is done up without enough distinction to justify its bobbles. The attack on the luxury hotel is seen through the eyes of various characters who are composites of real-life people, including a Sikh waiter (Dev Patel) and an American hotel guest (Armie Hammer). Australian first-time director Anthony Maras lays out the logistics of the coordinated attack well enough, but too often the subplots tip over into melodrama and stop the film’s momentum. The movie wants to be a monument to the courage of the guests and hotel staff during this crisis. It doesn’t have the power to pull that off. Also with Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Angus McLaren, Suhail Nayyar, Manoj Mehra, Dinesh Kumar, Alex Pinder, Amandeep Singh, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, and Jason Isaacs.
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 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.
The Mustang (R) This Western is a fine first effort for its director. Matthias Schoenaerts stars as a violent felon who’s transferred to a prison in the Nevada desert and given a chance to participate in a rehab program that domesticates wild horses. If you’ve never seen Schoenaerts’ French-language performances in Bullhead and Rust and Bone, this is a good English equivalent, as he plays a big, muscular, nonverbal guy trying to control his murderous rage. French comedienne Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre directs her first feature film and displays a feel for the rhythms of prison life as well as orchestrating a phantasmagoric scene when the horses are brought into the prison kitchen to protect them from a thunderstorm. The story of a man who tames the beast within by learning to tame another large, angry beast is rendered with grace and sensitivity. Also with Jason Mitchell, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Josh Stewart, Noel Guglielmi, and Bruce Dern.
No Manches Frida 2 (NR) The 2016 Mexican comedy hit spawns a formulaic sequel, as Omar Chaparro’s ex-convict-turned-teacher tries to make things up with his fellow-teacher fiancée (Martha Higareda) after he shows up to their wedding wasted and vomits all over the priest. At the same time, he takes his class beach volleyball team to a regional competition by the sea to win a dance contest, because somehow that’ll save their school back in Mexico City. You can see all the jokes coming, and whatever novelty the original movie had is lost in this high-school movie that imitates all its American forebears to dreary effect. Also with Aarón Diaz, Mario Morán, Regina Pavón, Memo Dorantes, Karen Furlong, and Andrea Noli.
Pet Sematary (R) For all the high-end talent and the pedigree of this project, it’s just another horror flick. Adapted from Stephen King’s novel, this stars Jason Clarke as a Maine doctor who attempts the unthinkable after an accident kills his daughter (Jeté Laurence). The team of screenwriters introduce a few plot twists, but none of them are clever enough to freshen up a book that has been widely read. The directing team of Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer don’t bring any wit to the story, either. One of King’s best and most horrifying books is turned into something disappointingly ordinary. Also with Amy Seimetz, Obssa Ahmed, and John Lithgow.
The Public (PG-13) In the small field of movies about libraries, this is stellar. Emilio Estevez writes, directs, and stars in this drama as a senior librarian in Cincinnati who is caught when homeless people refuse to leave his library due to freezing temperatures outside. The carefully researched film aims to break the stigma of mental illness among the homeless and does a good job, wearing its big, beating heart on its sleeve. Illustrating what sort of services a library provides to those who have nothing, the movie shines a light on truths whether they’re ugly or beautiful. Also with Alec Baldwin, Gabrielle Union, Christian Slater, Jeffrey Wright, Michael K. Williams, Jena Malone, Taylor Schilling, Richard T. Jones, Susanna Thompson, Ki Hong Lee, Jacob Vargas, Spencer Garrett, and Rhymefest. — Chase Whale
Romeo Akbar Walter (NR) This Indian spy thriller stars John Abraham as Ravindra Kaushik, the real-life Indian spy who worked undercover in Pakistan and passed on classified information to his country. Also with Mouni Roy, Boman Irani, Jackie Shroff, Alka Amin, Govind Namdeo, and Sivander Kher.
Shazam! (PG-13) The decision makers at Warner Bros. and DC Comics finally lighten up, to the relief of all of us. Asher Angel stars as a 14-year-old foster kid who gains powers that allow him to transform into a flying, bulletproof superhero (Zachary Levi) when he says the magic word. The movie has issues with pacing and a dull supervillain (Mark Strong), but horror-film director David F. Sandberg doesn’t screw up the comic material. All the other kids in the foster home have their distinct personalities, and Jack Dylan Grazer is a standout as a handicapped friend and comic-book nerd who helps the hero navigate his new life. The tone of this retro exercise is on a par with Marvel’s enjoyably dizzy exercises. This breath of fresh, lightning-singed air is the first DC movie I want to see again. Also with Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Faithe Herman, John Glover, Meagan Good, Michelle Borth, Ross Butler, D.J. Cotrona, and Adam Brody.
Storm Boy (PG) A strange creature, this Australian film has a central story that’s quite good and a framing story that’s no good at all. Adapted from Colin Thiele’s novel, this movie is set in the 1950s in rural Western Australia, as a little boy (Finn Little) bonds with his taciturn dad (Jai Courtney) by deciding to take care of three pelican chicks whose parents have been killed by hunters. This is the part of the movie that works. The part that doesn’t is the framing story set in the present day, as the grown-up version of the boy (Geoffrey Rush) re-tells the story to his granddaughter (Morgana Davies). This part is laden with heavy-handed symbolism and gestures at the power of Nature that we’ve seen from too many other Aussie films. The presence of the great Aboriginal actor David Gulpilil helps tremendously. Also with Erik Thomson, Chantal Contouri, Trevor Jamieson, and Simone Annan.
Unplanned (R) This Christian film stars Ashley Bratcher as a Planned Parenthood clinic director who comes to see the error of her ways. Also with Brooks Ryan, Robia Scott, Jared Lotz, Emma Elle Roberts, and Robin DeMarco.
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.
Us (R) Jordan Peele’s second horror film isn’t as good as Get Out, but it shows his talent as a director. Lupita Nyong’o stars as a woman who goes with her husband and children on a beach vacation, only for them to be hunted by murderous demons who look like them. The metaphors in this script don’t track so well, but Peele’s rigor and virtuosity are evident in many places, whether the son (Evan Alex) is investigating a scarecrow-like man standing and bleeding on a crowded beach or whether he’s cutting the horror with humor, as when the husband (Winston Duke) tries to sound “ghetto” when he’s trying to intimidate the monsters. Nyong’o gives a great performance here, utterly terrifying as the evil version of her character and excelling as the mother forced to confront her childhood demons. It’s not fair that Peele has to make all the horror films from a black point of view, but it’s well that he’s as good at it as he is. Also with Shahadi Wright Joseph, Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Anna Diop, Madison Curry, Tim Heidecker, and Elisabeth Moss.
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.
La Boda de Mi Mejor Amigo (NR) This Spanish-language adaptation of My Best Friend’s Wedding stars Ana Serradilla as the lovelorn journalist who tries to break up a wedding. Also with Carlos Ferro, Natasha Dupeyron, and Miguel Ángel Silvestre.
The Haunting of Sharon Tate (R) Hilary Duff stars in this horror film as the Hollywood actress who has visions of her imminent death in the days leading up to her murder. Also with Jonathan Bennett, Lydia Hearst, Pawel Szajda, Ryan Cargill, and Ben Mellish.