Amazing Grace (G) The late Sydney Pollack’s documentary chronicles a January 1972 performance in a Los Angeles church by the late Aretha Franklin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Breakthrough (PG) Chrissy Metz stars in this Christian drama based on the real-life story of Joyce Smith, whose teenage son miraculously recovered after a fall through the ice. Also with Josh Lucas, Marcel Ruiz, Sam Trammell, Mike Colter, Rebecca Staab, Ali Skovbye, Dennis Haysbert, and Topher Grace. (Opens Wednesday)
The Chaperone (NR) Based on Laura Moriarty’s novel, this drama stars Elizabeth McGovern as an older woman from Kansas who accompanies Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson) on her journey to New York City to find fame in movies in the 1920s. Also with Campbell Scott, Victoria Hill, Géza Röhrig, Matt McGrath, Robert Fairchild, and Miranda Otto. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Curse of La Llorona (R) Linda Cardellini stars in this horror film as a social worker whose own family is endangered by an ancient child-stealing Mexican spirit. Also with Patricia Velasquez, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Tony Amendola, Paul Rodriguez, and Sean Patrick Thomas. (Opens Friday)
Daddy Issues (NR) This comedy stars Madison Lawlor as a gay artist who discovers that her girlfriend (Montana Manning) has a sugar daddy. Also with Andrew Pifko, Kamala Jones, Jodi Carol Harrison, Seth Cassell, and Monte Markham. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)
Drunk Parents (R) This comedy stars Salma Hayek and Joe Manganiello as an alcoholic couple who go to extreme lengths to hide their financial difficulties from their daughter and friends. Also with Alec Baldwin, Ben Platt, Bridget Moynahan, Sasha Mitchell, Aimee Mullins, Aasif Mandvi, Jim Gaffigan, Olivia Luccardi, Treat Williams, and Kid Cudi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Fast Color (PG-13) Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond the Lights) stars in this low-budget drama as a woman with superpowers on the run from the law in a climate-ravaged America. Also with Lorraine Toussaint, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Denham, and David Strathairn. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Finding Julia (PG-13) Igor Sunara’s drama stars Ha Phuong as a part-Vietnamese woman struggling with her English skills and a troubled past as she tries to become an actress in New York. Also with Andrew McCarthy, Kieu Chinh, Paula Devicq, Adam LaVorgna, Audrey Lynn Weston, Minh Ngoc Nguyen, and Richard Chamberlain. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Her Smell (R) Elisabeth Moss and writer-director Alex Ross Perry (Queen of Earth) re-team for this drama about a 1990s punk rocker who is trapped in a self-destructive spiral. Also with Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Amber Heard, Agyness Deyn, Ashley Benson, Dylan Gelula, Eka Darville, Lindsay Burdge, Eric Stoltz, and Virginia Madsen. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
High Life (R) Claire Denis’ first film in English is this science-fiction film about a colony of space prisoners who agree to become the subject of a horrifying experiment. Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, Agata Buszek, Lars Eidinger, Claire Tran, Jessie Ross, and André Benjamin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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 Woods (R) Lily James and Tessa Thompson star in this contemporary Western as sisters running an illegal business near the Canadian border in North Dakota. Also with Luke Kirby, Lance Reddick, James Badge Dale, Morgana Shaw, and Elizabeth Maxwell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Penguins (G) Yet another Disney nature documentary that makes you want to cheer for mass extinction. This one follows a male Adélie penguin named Steve over the course of breeding season in the Antarctic. Ed Helms narrates this for comic effect, and even if he were better suited to carrying out this task, the cliché-ridden material he’s given would be beyond saving. The cutesiness on display is simply agonizing, as the film glosses over the threats to this bird population, both from natural predators and from man-made climate change, which merits not a single mention at all. Walt Disney himself pioneered the cloying, dumbed-down, pandering strain of nature documentaries, but this might be enough to make even him gag. (Opens Wednesday)
Peterloo (PG-13) The latest film by Mike Leigh is this historical epic re-creating the 1819 massacre in which British Army troops fired on a crowd of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in London. Starring Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, Pearce Quigley, Martin Savage, David Bamber, Rachel Finnegan, Karl Johnson, and Kenneth Hadley. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Stuck (PG-13) This low-budget musical is a great showcase for Giancarlo Esposito’s singing skills. The trouble comes when he’s not singing, which is most of the time. He plays a homeless man and possible deity who is marooned inside a New York City subway car that’s stuck on the tracks with five strangers from various walks of life who all have their own problems going on. The five people are so clearly conceived to get on one another’s nerves that the whole exercise becomes oppressive. The title number with the lights going out is a nice coup de théâtre left over from Riley Thomas’ stage musical, which this is adapted from. Even so, you’ll be pounding on the doors trying to get away from these people. Also with Amy Madigan, Omar Chaparro, Gerard Canonico, Arden Cho, and Ashanti. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Teen Spirit (PG-13) Actor Max Minghella makes his directing debut with this drama starring Elle Fanning as an English girl who enters the pop music industry after winning a singing competition. Also with Agnieszka Grochowska, Archie Madekwe, Zlatko Buric, Millie Brady, Vivian Oparah, and Olive Gray. (Opens Friday)
Wild Nights With Emily (PG-13) Madeleine Olnek’s comedy stars Molly Shannon as Emily Dickinson, who is conducting a passionate secret lesbian affair with her brother’s wife (Amy Seimetz). Also with Brett Gelman, Susan Ziegler, Jackie Monahan, Joel Michaely, Kevin Seal, and Robert McCaskill. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
After (PG-13) I liked this movie better 20 years ago, when it was called She’s All That. That teen film was a comic masterpiece compared with this unintentionally funny romance about a straitlaced girl (Josephine Langford) who falls inexplicably for some moody English boy (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) at school who’s harboring some sort of secret. It seems like every other scene is some dreamy longueur with our heroine staring at the ceiling or into her boyfriend’s eyes while a different callow love song plays on the soundtrack. Selma Blair shows up as the girl’s mother, who wants to keep her daughter away from all male contact for no discernible reason. This is adapted from Anna Todd’s novel, which can’t possibly be as bad as this. Also with Meadow Williams, Samuel Larsen, Inanna Sarkis, Khadijha Red Thunder, Pia Mia, Jennifer Beals, and Peter Gallagher.
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 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.
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.
Hellboy (R) The exhausting and unwatchable reboot of the graphic novel series has David Harbour stepping into the de-horned demon’s shoes. The incomprehensible plot has evil forces trying to kill Hellboy while simultaneously trying to use him to destroy or take over the world, I’m not sure which. Also, Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table get involved somehow. The signature style of director Neil Marshall (The Descent) is muffled here because the studio can’t strike any sort of balance between the blood and gore and the jokes. The story feels like it’s been taken from five different movies, and Harbour never has a chance to show his charisma, because the writers lose sight of the character’s ability to be a charming dick. Delicious visuals can’t save this. Also with Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sophie Okonedo, Brian Gleeson, Milla Jovovich, Thomas Haden Church, and Ian McShane. — Chase Whale
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.
Little (PG-13) Good acting can’t save this woeful comedy that makes very little out of a promising setup. Regina Hall stars as a bullying tech executive who wakes up one morning to find herself magically transformed into her 12-year-old self (Marsai Martin). Issa Rae contributes a keen supporting turn as the office assistant who becomes the only person to find out about the transformation, and Martin is a particularly bright newcomer. Still, there’s no ignoring how scene after scene here misfires. Not only does the comic potential here go untapped, the movie gets its messages about gender roles and women having power in the workplace hopelessly snarled. If you’re going to see one movie that’s a patch on Big, go with Shazam! Also with Justin Hartley, Mikey Day, Rachel Dratch, and Tracee Ellis Ross.
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.
Missing Link (PG) Is it me, or are Laika Studios going downhill? The stop-motion animation outfit burst onto the scene with great films such as Coraline, The BoxTrolls, and ParaNorman, but lately, they seem to have lost an indefinable something from their films. This latest one is about an English explorer (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who meets a Sasquatch (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) in the Pacific Northwest who can speak and write, and who asks the explorer to take him to Asia to meet up with a colony of yeti. The concept of an 8-foot-tall ape-man trying to pass himself off as a human would seem to be an easy one, and yet writer-director Chris Butler can’t do anything with it except make this tepid version of Around the World in 80 Days without the fine insight and complex characterization of Laika’s previous films. Something’s missing. Additional voices by Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Fry, Matt Lucas, David Walliams, and Emma Thompson.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.