Demon Eye (NR) This British horror film stars Kate James as a woman who returns to her family’s country estate and opens a cursed amulet. Also with Darren Day, Liam Fox, and Ellie Goffe. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Family (R) Taylor Schilling is harried and all over the place and the best reason to see this formulaic comedy. She stars as a bitchy hedge fund manager who’s forced to babysit her 12-year-old niece (Bryn Vale) for a week, then chase after her when the misfit girl runs away to follow Insane Clown Posse on the road. First-time writer-director Laura Steinel can’t work anything new out of this setup, but she does come up with some good lines — one character describes the Gathering of the Juggalos as “Take the worst people you’ve ever met, multiply it by a thousand, and have them all eating funnel cake and vandalizing public property.” Schilling is uncorked here the way she never is on Orange Is the New Black, and it’s something to see. Also with Kate McKinnon, Brian Tyree Henry, Matt Walsh, Allison Tolman, Peter Horton, and Natasha Lyonne. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Girls of the Sun (NR) Golshifteh Farahani stars in this war film about a group of Kurdish female soldiers who aim to take their town back from Islamic extremists. Also with Emmanuelle Bercot, Zübeyde Bulut, Sinama Allevi, Mari Semidovi, and Roza Mirzoiani. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
J.T. LeRoy (R) A real-life literary hoax is dramatized in this film starring Kristen Stewart as the woman who spends six years impersonating her sister-in-law’s fictional alter ego. Also with Laura Dern, Jim Sturgess, Diane Kruger, Stella Maxwell, and Courtney Love. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Maze (NR) This Irish film dramatizes Europe’s biggest prison break since World War II, a mass escape by IRA prisoners in 1983. Starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward, Martin McCann, Aaron Monaghan, and Eileen Walsh. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ploey (PG) This Icelandic animated film is about a baby plover (voiced by Jamie Oram) who is stranded in the frozen north when the winter comes. Additional voices by Sean Astin, Debbie Chazen, Georgina Sutcliffe, Kaizer Akhtar, and John Stamos. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Stockholm (R) Ethan Hawke and Noomi Rapace star in this thriller based on the real-life 1973 Swedish bank heist that turned into farce. Also with Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl, Hanneke Talbot, Bea Santos, Thorbjørn Harr, and Shanti Roney. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
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.
Breakthrough (PG) Up until the kid’s near-death experience, this Christian drama isn’t too bad. Chrissy Metz stars as Joyce Smith, the real-life mother whose adopted son (Marcel Ruiz) miraculously recovered after falling through an icy river and being in a coma. The film’s portrayal of small-town life in Missouri is finely executed, and Topher Grace is terrific as a newly arrived pastor from California whose self-consciously cool manner causes friction with some of the locals. The domestic stuff is handled well, too, but once the kid falls into the ice, this degenerates into another well-intentioned hospital drama with Jesus being more powerful than any medicine. Also with Josh Lucas, Sam Trammell, Mike Colter, Rebecca Staab, Ali Skovbye, and Dennis Haysbert.
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.
The Curse of La Llorona (R) Underneath all the ethnic trappings, this is just the same old third-rate horror flick with the same old conjuring tricks. Linda Cardellini stars as a widowed Los Angeles social worker in 1973 who inadvertently causes the deaths of two Mexican boys, and their mother (Patricia Velasquez) calls down the child-snatching Mexican spirit to take revenge by taking the social worker’s two kids. There are other versions of the story of La Llorona that the movie could have used more profitably, and while first-time director Michael Chaves shows some talent, he doesn’t display any more invention or wit than a thousand other hack horror filmmakers. Cardellini gives everything she has to this performance, which is the best reason to watch. Also with Roman Christou, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Raymond Cruz, Marisol Ramirez, Tony Amendola, and Sean Patrick Thomas.
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.
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.
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.
Missing Link (PG) Is it me, or is 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.
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.
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.
Teen Spirit (PG-13) Elle Fanning’s star power shines amid this soggy music-industry morality fable. She portrays an English farmgirl of Polish descent who goes against her mother’s wishes by auditioning for a nationally televised singing competition. First-time filmmaker Max Minghella provides one predictable story beat after another as our heroine has to learn the value of loyalty to her old Croatian mentor (Zlatko Buric) and resist the temptations of the evil record labels. The movie works far better if it’s taken as a series of music videos. Minghella has an eye for striking visuals, and Fanning dominates the proceedings, singing well and storming the stage by the end so that you believe that she’s a teen pop star in the making. She overpowers the script’s weak dramatics. Also with Agnieszka Grochowska, Archie Madekwe, Millie Brady, Ruairi O’Connor, Clara Rugaard, Danny Dyer, and Rebecca Hall.
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.
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.
Amazing Grace (G) The late Sydney Pollack’s documentary chronicles a January 1972 performance in a Los Angeles church by the late Aretha Franklin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.