Detective Pikachu (PG) This live-action-and-animation film stars Justice Smith as a young man in a city filled with Pokémon who teams up with Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) to solve his father’s disappearance. Also with Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Rita Ora, Karan Soni, Diplo, Omar Chaparro, Bill Nighy, and Ken Watanabe. (Opens Friday)
General Magic (NR) Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude’s documentary chronicles the story of the defunct company that launched the first smartphone. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Arlington Heights)
Hail Satan? (R) Penny Lane’s documentary profiles the Satanic Temple and its increasing political efforts in the last six years. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Hustle (PG-13) This remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels stars Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson as con artists who team up to scam some toxic men. Also with Tim Blake Nelson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, and Francisco Labbe. (Opens Friday)
Maharshi (NR) Mahesh Babu stars in this Indian action-thriller Also with Pooja Hegde, Allari Naresh, Meenakshi Dixit, and Prakash Raj. (Opens Friday)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (NR) Not a film version of the Eugene O’Neill play, but a Chinese drama about a man (Huang Jue) who returns to his hometown and becomes obsessed with the memory of a woman (Tang Wei) whom he loved long ago. Also with Sylvia Chang, Lee Hong-Chi, and Chen Yongzhong. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Poms (PG-13) Diane Keaton stars in this comedy about a group of women who start a cheerleading squad in their retirement home. Also with Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, Celia Weston, Phyllis Somerville, Charlie Tahan, and Bruce McGill. (Opens Friday)
The Professor and the Madman (NR) This historical drama stars Mel Gibson as the professor putting together the first-ever Oxford English dictionary, and his correspondence with a mental patient (Sean Penn) who sends him thousands of words. Also with Natalie Dormer, Stephen Dillane, Jeremy Irvine, Jennifer Ehle, Eddie Marsan, Ioan Gruffudd, and Steve Coogan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Rafiki (NR) The source of much controversy in its native Kenya, this film is about two women (Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva) who fall in love and face threats to their lives from their family and friends. Also with Neville Misati, Muthoni Gathecha, Jimmi Gathu, Nice Githinji, Mellen Aura, and Charlie Karumi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Student of the Year 2 (NR) This Indian comedy stars Tiger Shroff as a college student who’s caught between two love interests while competing for the title of his school’s best student. Also with Tara Sutaria, Ananya Panday, Aditya Seal, and Alia Bhatt. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Tolkien (PG-13) The J.R.R. Tolkien estate doesn’t want you to see this biopic, and I’m finding no compelling reasons to defy them. Nicholas Hoult stars as the fantasy author in his younger days at Oxford and then serving in the British Army during World War I. Director Dome Karukoski (Tom of Finland) and his writers draw everything in straight lines pointing toward Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth: his interest in medievalism and ancient languages, his close friendships with other male students at school, his scarring war experiences, his introduction to Wagner’s epic storytelling by his music-loving future wife (Lily Collins). Hoult does fine work and Derek Jacobi spikes the energy levels as Tolkien’s Oxford mentor, but they can’t make this into any more than some dully genteel drama that will only speak to Tolkien completists. Also with Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, Tom Glynn-Carney, Harry Gilby, Colm Meaney, Craig Roberts, Genevieve O’Reilly, and Laura Donnelly. (Opens Friday)
The White Crow (R) Ralph Fiennes directs and co-stars in this historical drama about ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Oleg Ivenko) and his defection to the West. Also with Adèle Exarchopoulos, Louis Hofmann, Olivier Rabourdin, Raphaël Personnaz, and Sergei Polunin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Wine Country (R) Amy Poehler stars in her own directing debut as one of a group of middle-aged friends who travel together to Napa Valley. Also with Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Erskine, Paula Pell, Rachel Dratch, Jason Schwartzman, Liz Cackowski, Kate Comer, Cherry Jones, and Tina Fey. (Opens Wednesday in Dallas)
Avengers: Endgame (PG-13) Pays off in spades. Following the events of Avengers: Infinity War, our heroes travel through time to try to avert the mass death that occurred when Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers. The time-travel gambit is cleverly done, filling in backstory and making some of Marvel’s less essential previous films more important in retrospect. The film hits home emotionally, too, when you least expect it, as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) carry more emotional weight here than in other installments. Even if the massive climactic battle sequence is calculated to make you cheer when various superheroes enter the fray, it also brings an uncommon unity to the 21 movies that preceded it. Given what a heavy task this movie had to accomplish, it succeeds better than it had any right to. Also with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle, Brie Larson, Tessa Thompson, Danai Gurira, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoe Saldana, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Rene Russo, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Wong, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Winston Duke, Letitia Wright, Cobie Smulders, Linda Cardellini, Ty Simpkins, Ken Jeong, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernández, Jon Favreau, Hayley Atwell, John Slattery, Tilda Swinton, Marisa Tomei, Angela Bassett, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, William Hurt, Natalie Portman, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson. Voices by Kerry Condon, Taika Waititi, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper.
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.
El Chicano (R) An interesting premise let down by its execution, this superhero film stars Raúl Castillo as an L.A. cop who becomes a masked vigilante to avenge the death of his twin brother at the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Some of the action sequences are professionally done by first-time film director and former stuntman Ben Hernandez Bray, but the dramatics are third-rate and Castillo is a leaden presence in the lead role. It takes too long for the antihero to become El Chicano, too. You can tell these stories on a small budget (see: Fast Color). This attempt at a Latin Batman origin story doesn’t fly. Kate del Castillo has a glorified cameo at the end of the film, and it is worth sticking around for. Also with Aimee Garcia, Armida Lopez, David Castañeda, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Emilio Rivera, and George Lopez.
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.
The Intruder (PG-13) There’s a surprising number of home-invasion thrillers about black families, and this one is nowhere near as inventive as Us. Michael Ealy and Meagan Good are a well-to-do San Francisco married couple who buy a house in Napa Valley from a friendly old guy (Dennis Quaid) who starts stalking them obsessively and acts as if the house is still his. Director Deon Taylor (Traffik) hammers home every action sequence without an ounce of cleverness or subtlety, and neither the racial angle nor the villain driving an emotional wedge between the husband and the wife generates anything interesting. The bad guy is a leering psychopath played clumsily by Quaid, and the other characters all act like idiots so that the plot can keep going. Also with Joseph Sikora, Alvina August, and Lili Sepe.
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.
Long Shot (R) For a comedy that aims to address politics and sexism today, this feels awfully beside the point. Charlize Theron stars as a U.S. Secretary of State who runs for president and hires a new speechwriter (Seth Rogen) who used to be her neighbor when she was a girl. The biggest problem here is that the script simply isn’t funny, concentrating too much on the guy’s stumblebum antics in the national spotlight. The movie doesn’t know how to confront Donald Trump and the virulent sexism that his presidency has unleashed, so it presents us with a fictional world without those things. That’s nice for the characters who live in that world, but it doesn’t do much for us. The wonkish heroine catches up on her pop culture by binging the Marvel movies and Game of Thrones. We’d rather be watching those, too. Also with June Diane Raphael, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Randall Park, Lisa Kudrow, Andy Serkis, and Alexander Skarsgård.
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.
Nuvvu Thopu Raw (NR) This Indian film stars Sudhakar Komakula as a young man who moves to America. Also with Nirosha, Nitya Shetty, Gemini Suresh, Cindy Perez, and Mahesh Vitta.
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.
UglyDolls (PG) About how you would expect an animated movie based on a line of toys to be. Kelly Clarkson is the voice of a malformed doll who believes that she and the other similar dolls in her magical land can find their way to “The Big World” and a child’s love. The proceedings do pick up in the middle when the dolls reach a place called The Institute of Perfection, a dehumanizing school where dolls are taught how to have no flaws. The place is funny, and so is the villain (voiced by Nick Jonas) running the place, who sings a Justin Bieber-style ode about how no other dolls can hope to be as beautiful or perfect as himself. This, though, can’t make up for the story or for the weak vocal acting by a cast full of singers rather than actors. Additional voices by Janelle Monáe, Blake Shelton, Pitbull, Gabriel Iglesias, Wanda Sykes, Charli XCX, Wang Leehom, Bebe Rexha, Emma Roberts, and Lizzo.
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 Convent (NR) This horror film set in the 17th century is about a young woman (Hannah Arterton) who is saved from execution only to be abandoned to a worse fate at a nunnery. Also with Clare Higgins, Rosie Day, Dilan Gwyn, Ania Marson, Ciarán McMenamin, and Michael Ironside.
Dead Trigger (R) Dolph Lundgren stars in this horror movie about a group of programmers who focus on developing a new video game while a zombie virus decimates the world’s population. Also with Autumn Reeser, Romeo Miller, Justin Chon, Oleg Taktarov, and Isaiah Washington.
Hesburgh (NR) This documentary by Patrick Creadon (Wordplay) profiles Theodore Hesburgh, the late priest, social activist, and former president of University of Notre Dame.
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.
JT 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.
Savage (NR) This Chinese thriller stars Chang Chen as a police officer defending a remote mountain small town against a gang of outlaws. Also with Liao Fan, Ni Ni, Huang Jue, Zhang Yicong, and Li Guangjie.