Armstrong (NR) David Fairhead’s documentary profiles the first astronaut to set foot on the Moon. Narrated by Harrison Ford. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable (PG) Aaron Lieber’s documentary profiles the competitive surfer and her recovery from a shark attack that cost her her left arm. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Between Me and My Mind (NR) Steven Cantor’s documentary follows musician Trey Anastasio as he works on his latest projects, both with and without Phish. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Crawl (R) Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner) stars in this thriller as a woman trying to save her father (Barry Pepper) from a flooding house and giant alligators during a severe hurricane. Also with Morfydd Clark. (Opens Friday)
Desolate (NR) Frederick Cipoletti’s thriller stars Will Brittain as a man who swears revenge on his father and older brothers after they leave him for dead during a catastrophic drought. Also with Callan Mulvey, Tyson Ritter, Bill Tangradi, Jonathan Rosenthal, Natasha Bassett, and James Russo. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
I Got the Hook Up 2 (R) The sequel to the 1998 comedy stars Master P and A.J. Johnson as two former hustlers trying to save their fast-food place in a gentrifying neighborhood. Also with Romeo Miller, Clifton Powell, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Luenell, K.J. Smith, Sheryl Underwood, Michael Blackson, D.C. Young Fly, Dorien Wilson, and John Witherspoon. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Arlington Heights)
Lying and Stealing (R) This crime thriller stars Theo James as an art thief who tries to go straight by teaming up with a disgraced Hollywood actress (Emily Ratajkowski). Also with Isiah Whitlock Jr., Evan Handler, Fred Melamed, John Gatins, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Maiden (PG) Alex Holmes’ documentary is about the first all-female yachting crew to enter the Whitbread Round the World race in 1989. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Miss Arizona (NR) Johanna Braddy stars in this comedy as a former beauty queen who takes a job as a life-skills coach at a center for abused women. Also with Missi Pyle, Steve Guttenberg, Robyn Lively, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, and Kevin Heffernan. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Super 30 (NR) Hrithik Roshan stars in this Indian film based on the true story of mathematician Anand Kumar, who founded a math and science school for poor children in his hometown of Patna. Also with Mrunal Thakur, Nandish Singh, Pankaj Tripathi, Virendra Saxena, and Johnny Lever. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)
Aladdin (PG) At last, a Hollywood movie where the Middle Eastern characters are the good guys. This live-action remake of the 1992 animated Disney musical fixes a good number (though not all) of the racial and class issues from the original. The decor helps differentiate the film from Disney’s other live-action remakes and forces Guy Ritchie out of his comfort zone to good effect. It isn’t all good, though, because Ritchie is rarely comfortable staging musical numbers and can’t match the wit of the animation in the original movie. (The new songs don’t add much, either.) However, the movie gives good roles to a cast full of Middle Eastern actors (Mena Massoud as Aladdin sings well and has the dance moves), and Will Smith avoids embarrassing himself as the genie and makes the part his own. We’ll take that much. Also with Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Numan Acar, and Billy Magnussen.
Anna (R) The work of a filmmaker stuck in the 1980s. This might seem to help for a movie largely set in 1990, but it doesn’t. Sasha Luss plays a Russian fashion model who is first recruited by the KGB to infiltrate the West, then by the CIA to become a double agent. Director Luc Besson jumps around in time to create the illusion that some narrative jiu-jitsu is being executed on us, but it’s all just window dressing. The latest in a long line of tall women in short skirts who headline Besson’s action-thrillers, Luss is pretty much a zero in the personality department. Some of the action sequences are done all right, but Besson is a filmmaker badly in need of a restart. Also with Helen Mirren, Luke Evans, Lera Abova, Alexander Petrov, Adrian Can, and Cillian Murphy.
Annabelle Comes Home (R) At this point, it’s basically a draw between these movies and the Goosebumps movies as to which is scarier. The Warrens (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) are out of town for most of the film, and their young daughter (McKenna Grace) carries most of the acting load as she and her teenage babysitters (Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife) try to cope on their own when they accidentally unleash the evil doll being kept in the basement. This film winds up aiming for a supernatural version of Adventures in Babysitting, and some of the jokes early on do indeed work, but eventually the need to conjure all the evil spirits from the previous movies drowns out the wit. Grace is an agreeable presence at the center. Also with Samara Lee, Michael Cimino, and Steve Coulter.
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.
Child’s Play (R) You know exactly where this is going 45 seconds in, when the movie sets up Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) as a home assistant à la Siri or Alexa, but as a doll that murders people. That’s not a bad idea, but unfortunately, that’s all the filmmakers think they need. Gabriel Bateman is the boy whose overworked single mother (Aubrey Plaza) brings home a returned doll from the big-box retailer where she works, and realizes that the doll is killing people by accessing the wi-fi in phones, computers, and cars. Director Lars Klevberg and writer Tyler Burton Smith seem to be going for some satire on late capitalism, but they’re not near sharp enough to pull this off, and the Donald Trump-looking doll isn’t scary enough to compensate for it. Also with Brian Tyree Henry, David Lewis, Beatrice Kitsos, Carlease Burke, Marlon Kazadi, and Tim Matheson.
Dark Phoenix (PG-13) Parts of this movie are not terrible. That’s the best I can say for Fox’s disappointing final installment to its X-Men series, in which Charles Xavier and Magneto (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) are forced to team up to stop Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) from destroying the world with her repressed childhood traumas and teenage angst. Turner is capable of carrying a big vehicle like this, but first-time director Simon Kinberg doesn’t know how to generate suspense or emotional weight when a major character dies. The villainous race of space aliens that wants Jean’s gifts are just so much waste as well. Had the series ended with Logan, it would have been a much more satisfying end to things. Disney’s people can’t get on this soon enough. Also with Jessica Chastain, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Brian D’Arcy James, Ato Essandoh, Halston Sage, and Jennifer Lawrence.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (PG-13) Michael Dougherty and his co-writers try to make the humans more interesting in this installment of the series. Big mistake. While Godzilla battles a bestiary’s worth of giant creatures rising up from the depths of the Earth, there’s all manner of cringe-worthy dialogue (“Oh my God!” “Zilla.”) and even more intolerable family drama between two estranged scientists (Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) and their teenage daughter (Millie Bobby Brown). Dougherty graduated from low-budget subversive horror flicks like Trick ‘r Treat and Krampus, but a big epic like this blunts everything interesting about him. It’s a bridge too far. Also with Zhang Ziyi, Sally Hawkins, Bradley Whitford, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aisha Hinds, Anthony Ramos, CCH Pounder, Joe Morton, David Strathairn, and Ken Watanabe.
John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum (R) 55-year-old Keanu Reeves moves and fights like he’s 22 in this third installment of the martial-arts series. His hit man is now wounded and on the run after breaking the rules of his society of contract killers, so now his colleagues are all after him for the money and the notoriety. Director Chad Stahelski keeps up the accumulation of detail in this fictional universe full of colorful decor and sleek clothing. Also with Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos, Jason Mantzoukas, Asia Kate Dillon, Saïd Taghmaoui, Randall Duk Kim, Boban Marjanovic, Cecep Arif Rahman, Yayan Ruhian, Tobias Segal, and Laurence Fishburne. — Chase Whale
Late Night (PG-13) The best of the recent comedies about women at the top of their profession, which doesn’t make it good, exactly. Emma Thompson plays the only woman late-night TV talk show host in America, who gets called out for having a writing staff of all white guys and responds by hiring the first woman of color (Mindy Kaling) who walks in the door. The film makes a rocky start, with the insults by Kaling (who doubles as screenwriter here) not pointed or funny enough and director Nisha Ganatra failing to capture the atmosphere of a flailing old show. The comedy does turn for the better after the host starts embracing the new writer and saying what’s really on her mind. The film is a nice re-introduction to Thompson’s considerable comic skills. If it had more edge, it would have been great. Also with John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Hugh Dancy, Reid Scott, Max Casella, Paul Walter Hauser, Annaleigh Ashford, Ike Barinholtz, and Amy Ryan.
Ma (R) Octavia Spencer has a grand old time playing her matronly image for scares in this horror film. Diana Silvers (from Booksmart) stars as a teenager who moves back to her mother’s hometown, falls in with a group of partying teens, and runs into a middle-aged woman who opens up her basement as a party venue for them. Messy as this is, it’s also the best film ever directed by Tate Taylor (The Help, The Girl on the Train). He and Spencer create a pitiable monster out for revenge on the kids’ parents who tormented her when she was a teen. Spencer’s unhinged turn is the best reason to see this, and proof that she can do more than just the roles she’s been given so far. Also with Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo, Missi Pyle, Luke Evans, and Allison Janney.
Men in Black: International (PG-13) If you thought that a mostly new cast would energize this science fiction-comedy series, think again. Tessa Thompson plays a civilian who tracks down MIB so she can join the agency and is immediately teamed with a troubled veteran agent (Chris Hemsworth) to ferret out a mole in the organization. The plush Thompson acquits herself better than any of her famous co-stars and looks ready to star in her own films, but director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) has no aptitude for the whimsy and humor that leavened the original film. The action sequences are put together with a modicum of professionalism and a much larger dose of meh. Kumail Nanjiani as a two-inch-tall alien who embraces the new agent as his queen can’t liven things. Also with Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, and Emma Thompson.
Midsommar (R) A romantic comedy wrapped in a psychedelic horror flick, this superbly creepy film is about a group of American anthropology grad students who visit a remote rural Swedish village for a midsummer festival, only to discover their jolly hosts are into ritual sacrifices and spiking their guests’ food and drink with mood-altering substances. Ari Aster follows up his horror film Hereditary with something more ambitious and funnier; the one woman on the trip (Florence Pugh) discovers amid all of the bloody violence that her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) sucks and needs to be dumped. Cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski does wonders generating scares in the wide-open spaces and near-constant sunshine of the place and production designer Henrik Svensson conjures some wondrous wooden sets where the terrors play out. The short-statured Pugh injects much nuance into a role where she’s either chemically altered or ugly crying most of the time, and turns this into a twisted parable of getting out of a bad relationship. Also with William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Vilhelm Blomgren, Archie Madekwe, Ellora Torchia, and Anna Åström.
Rocketman (R) Better than Bohemian Rhapsody. This other musical biopic of a shy, gay, working-class British pianist who becomes a debauched rock star features Taron Egerton as Elton John. Though it’s officially sanctioned by Elton John, it doesn’t gloss over or glamorize Sir Elton’s drug- and sex-fueled excesses. Director Dexter Fletcher (who also did uncredited work on Bohemian Rhapsody) can’t escape the confines of the musical bio genre, but he does pull off some nice full-scale dance numbers, and Egerton (despite being too tall and good-looking for the part) holds up his end by doing his own singing and dancing. The further this movie dives into fantasy, the better it is. Also with Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden, Tom Bennett, Steven Mackintosh, Matthew Illesley, Kit Connor, Ophelia Lovibond, Tate Donovan, and Gemma Jones.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (PG) Not unendurable, but it does make you wonder why they bothered. The sequel to the 2016 hit has Max and Duke (voiced by Patton Oswalt and Eric Stonestreet) being taken to a farm in the countryside and trying to adjust to rustic life. The new movie brings in Tiffany Haddish as a terrier seeking help and Harrison Ford as a country dog who’s not having it with Max’s city-bred neuroses, but the various plotlines (many of them involving the dogs’ city friends having their own adventures) aren’t written with enough distinction to make the movie stick. Even Kevin Hart’s bunny rabbit and his megalomaniac delusions have been effectively neutered here. Additional voices by Jenny Slate, Hannibal Buress, Dana Carvey, Ellie Kemper, Nick Kroll, Bobby Moynihan, and Lake Bell.
Shaft (R) The third film by this name brings in Richard Roundtree to reprise his role as the original John Shaft. He and Samuel L. Jackson might as well have stayed away rather than appear in this klutzy, unfunny buddy-cop comedy. Too much of this is devoted to Jackson’s Shaft critiquing his FBI analyst son (Jessie T. Usher) and his unmanly gentrified ways — the kid’s even philosophically opposed to handling guns, which to his dad is the same as going around in a miniskirt and stiletto heels. What was a genuinely subversive black-power statement 48 years ago has now become a totally retrograde thing that plays right into the hands of The Man. Also with Regina Hall, Luna Lauren Velez, Alexandra Shipp, Titus Welliver, Matt Lauria, Isaach de Bankolé, and Method Man.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (PG-13) Underwhelming, obnoxious, goofy, derivative, and bad-looking. After spending 30 seconds on the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, this sequel quickly devolves into repetitive jokes as the resurrected web-slinger (Tom Holland) tries to go on a European vacation with his classmates and winds up dealing with a new superbeing (Jake Gyllenhaal) from another version of Earth. Director Jon Watts tries to keep everything grounded and self-contained, but it doesn’t work with so many superheroes floating in the wind. I wanted to love this film, but it left me feeling uneasy. Also with Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Martin Starr, Numan Acar, J.B. Smoove, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, and an uncredited J.K. Simmons. — Chase Whale
Toy Story 4 (PG) Pixar’s flagship series continues to be good and gets much weirder. The toys are ensconced with a new owner (voiced by Madeleine McGraw), and a now largely-ignored Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) decides to protect a toy created by the child named Forky (voiced by Tony Hale), who thinks his destiny is as a piece of trash. It all leads to a surreal adventure on a road trip, during which Woody encounters a doll with a broken talking mechanism (voiced by Christina Hendricks), a Canadian motorcycle daredevil action figure (voiced by Keanu Reeves), and a stuffed duck and bunny (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) with delusions of grandeur, all of them funny and creepy in distinctive ways. It ends with Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) returning to convince Woody that he deserves a bit of time to himself, an ending that is wrenchingly perfect. Additional voices by Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Ally Maki, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris, Jeff Garlin, Bill Hader, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, John Ratzenberger, and Patricia Arquette.
Yesterday (PG-13) A lovely tribute to the Beatles, this comedy is set in the present day, when a struggling British musician (Himesh Patel) is hit by a bus and wakes up in a world that seems like his own, but all trace of the Beatles and their work has disappeared from everyone’s memory, so he records his own versions of the Fab Four’s songs and passes them off as his work. The satire of the music industry could be sharper, and the script by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) misses a huge opportunity to depict how we might view the songs differently if we thought an Asian guy had written them. However, Patel (a newcomer from British TV) brings a ton of musical chops to his part and Lily James (as his love interest) is at her most charming. Director Danny Boyle makes Liverpool look like an enchanted place and brings a shape to Curtis’ script that Curtis himself couldn’t do. Also with Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran, Joel Fry, Harry Michell, Sophia Di Martino, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Lamorne Morris, and an uncredited Robert Carlyle.
Breaker (NR) Chantz Marcus stars in this drama as a haunted war veteran who forms a friendship with an older neighbor (Peter O’Brien). Also with Alice Barrett, Richard Brevard, Eddie Baacus, Jonathan Galetto, and William Bloomfield.
Echo in the Canyon (PG-13) Andrew Slater’s documentary interviews many of the musicians involved in the Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles. Starring Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, David Crosby, Fiona Apple, Jackson Browne, Michelle Phillips, Cat Power, Regina Spektor, Graham Nash, Jakob Dylan, Norah Jones, and the late Tom Petty.
Euphoria (R) Not to be confused with the HBO TV series of the same name, this period drama stars Alicia Vikander and Eva Green as sisters who travel through Europe towards a mysterious place. Also with Charles Dance, Adrian Lester, Mark Stanley, and Charlotte Rampling.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (R) Joe Talbot’s drama stars Jimmie Fails as a young man trying to reclaim possession of a magnificent house that his grandfather built 73 years ago. Also with Jonathan Majors, Tichina Arnold, Mike Epps, Rob Morgan, Finn Wittrock, Jamal Trulove, Maximilienne Ewalt, Jello Biafra, Thora Birch, and Danny Glover.
My Days of Mercy (R) This lesbian romance stars Ellen Page as an anti-capital punishment activist who falls in love with a woman (Kate Mara) whose family was murdered by a death-row inmate. Also with Elias Koteas, Brian Geraghty, Amy Seimetz, Beau Knapp, and Tonya Pinkins.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (PG-13) Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ documentary profile of the Nobel Prize-winning author. Also with Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Russell Banks, Walter Mosley, Robert Gottlieb, Fran Lebowitz, and Peter Sellars.
Wild Rose (R) Jessie Buckley (Beast) stars in this drama as a Glasgow single mother and ex-convict who dreams of moving to Nashville to become a country music star. Also with Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, James Harkness, Craig Parkinson, and Kacey Musgraves.