Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13) Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham star in this thriller tangential to the Fast and the Furious series, as the lawman and the outlaw team up to stop a genetically enhanced supervillain (Idris Elba). Also with Vanessa Kirby, Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Su’a, Cliff Curtis, and Helen Mirren. (Opens Friday)
15 Minutes of War (NR) Fred Grivois’ thriller re-enacts the 1976 hostage crisis in Djibouti when Somali insurgents took a bus full of French children for political ends. Starring Alban Lenoir, Olga Kurylenko, Sébastien Lalanne, David Murgia, Guillaume Labbé, Josiane Balasko, and Vincent Perez. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Mike Wallace Is Here (PG-13) Avi Belkin’s documentary profiles the late journalist and the ways in which he changed his profession. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Operative (NR) Diane Kruger stars in this spy thriller as a Westerner recruited by Mossad to execute an undercover mission in Tehran. Also with Martin Freeman, Cas Anvar, Yoav Levi, and Ohad Knoller. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A Score to Settle (NR) Nicolas Cage stars in this thriller as an ex-convict who must choose between rebuilding his relationship with his family or taking revenge on the mob bosses who sent him to prison for 22 years. Also with Benjamin Bratt, Noah Le Gros, Mohammed Karim, Karolina Wydra, and Ian Tracey. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Spy Behind Home Plate (NR) Aviva Kempner’s documentary about Moe Berg, the major league baseball player who led a double life as a U.S. government spy during World War II. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Sword of Trust (R) The latest comedy by Lynn Shelton stars Jillian Bell as a woman who puzzles over an antique Civil War sword left to her by her late grandfather. Also with Marc Maron, Jon Bass, Michaela Watkins, Toby Huss, and Lynn Shelton. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Above the Shadows (NR) Olivia Thirlby stars in this magical-realist fable about a woman so overwhelmed by grief that she threatens to disappear. Also with Megan Fox, Justine Cotsonas, Maria Dizzia, and Jim Gaffigan.
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.
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.
The Art of Self-Defense (R) This sour, subversive treat stars Jesse Eisenberg as a meek accountant and assault victim who takes karate lessons and falls into the hands of a sensei (Alessandro Nivola) who runs his dojo more like a religious cult. It so happens that writer-director Riley Stearns knows cults well after his debut feature Faults, but his comic touch has improved considerably, as our protagonist notices things becoming weirder and more violent as he advances through the master’s training program. Eisenberg is perfectly cast as a defective male who comes to believe violence is the way to attain manhood. The movie’s satire of manlier-than-thou teachers could be finer, but it’s funny that the antihero prevails by twisting his teacher’s hyper-masculine wisdom to his own ends. The film’s happy ending is disturbing in the right way. Also with Imogen Poots, Steve Terada, Phillip Andrew Botello, Hauke Bahr, David Zellner, and Leland Orser.
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.
Booksmart (R) Olivia Wilde proves a major comic talent in her directing debut, an instant classic of a teen comedy. A high-school valedictorian (Beanie Feldstein) and her openly gay best friend (Kaitlyn Dever) grow tired of being wallflowers and decide to cram four years’ worth of partying into the night before graduation. The story veers between episodes as the girls are repeatedly sidetracked on their way to a party, but Wilde sustains the anarchic energy as the movie barrels through one hectic, surreal night. Dever’s springiness contrasts well with Feldstein’s bulldozer-like force, and the script is chockablock with vivid supporting characters and funny lines. Billie Lourd steals all her scenes as an indestructible classmate who keeps improbably popping up along the girls’ journey and spends the entire film stoned. Also with Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Mason Gooding, Diana Silvers, Victoria Ruesga, Skyler Gisondo, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga, Mike O’Brien, Will Forte, and Lisa Kudrow.
Crawl (R) Alexandre Aja just loves a thriller that puts a beautiful woman through tortuous abuse of every kind, and this is the best one he’s done. Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner and its sequels) plays a University of Florida varsity swimmer who travels south during a severe hurricane to rescue her father (Barry Pepper), who’s been injured by an attack from an oversize alligator. The French director keeps things simple, as father and daughter have to avoid the rising floodwaters in their house to keep from being eaten. The simplicity gives the film a momentum that has been missing from some of Aja’s forays into horror. As for the ethereally beautiful Scodelario, she keeps her American accent on and looks good dragging herself through mud and wading through waist-deep water. Actresses don’t act in Aja’s films, they survive them. Also with Morfydd Clark and Ross Anderson.
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
The Lion King (PG) The original Disney animated musical sucked, and this remake is somehow worse. This new film replaces the hand-drawn characters from the 1994 movie with realistically rendered CGI African creatures, and it winds up working against the film because the new characters are less expressive than their cartoon counterparts. Simba (voiced by JD McCrary and Donald Glover) is as boring as ever as he is ousted from his pack by a coup engineered by his uncle (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and has to take his rightful place as king. Director Jon Favreau continues to have no flair for a musical number, and he sticks so slavishly to the original story that you wonder why he bothered. In addition, the A-list voice cast is dull. You’re better off watching the stage version. Additional voices by James Earl Jones, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Alfre Woodard, John Kani, John Oliver, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Amy Sedaris, and Chance the Rapper.
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.
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (R) What I like: the deliberate pace, Margaret Qualley as a hippie cultist, Leonardo DiCaprio as a fading movie star who can still bring it as an actor, the occasionally beautiful notes about aging in a youth-driven industry, the crazed slapstick of the historically inaccurate ending. What I don’t like: the deliberate pace, the loose ends, the general lack of a point, the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s fetish about women’s feet has finally gotten out of control. The latest Tarantino film is set in Hollywood in 1969, where the aforementioned film star lives next to the house where the Manson murders are supposed to take place. As always with Tarantino, there are tasty scenes and great production design, but here he rather loses himself in nostalgia and re-creations of obscure 1960s TV Westerns. Also with Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Timothy Olyphant, Margaret Qualley, Damian Lewis, Emile Hirsch, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Scoot McNairy, Clifton Collins Jr., Lena Dunham, Dreama Walker, Brenda Vaccaro, Mike Moh, Austin Butler, Nicholas Hammond, Lorenza Izzo, Rumer Willis, Zoë Bell, Al Pacino, and the late Luke Perry.
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
Stuber (R) The pairing of Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani lifts this buddy-cop thriller above the level of the pedestrian. Bautista plays a monomaniacal L.A. detective with temporarily compromised vision who hires Nanjiani’s Uber driver to chase a drug lord (Iko Uwais) around the city. We know who the mole inside the police department will be, and that the tough, macho cop will teach the fussy driver to stand up for himself while the driver will teach the cop to get in touch with his feelings. Director Michael Dowse does have a talent for escalating mayhem, but the gruff Bautista and the neurotic Nanjiani squeeze more laughs than they should out of this boilerplate material. Also with Mira Sorvino, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Steve Howey, and Karen Gillan.
Super 30 (NR) This inspirational teacher film from India follows the template pretty closely, though it’s based on a true story. Brilliant mathematician Anand Kumar (Hrithik Roshan) wins nationwide prizes and admission to Cambridge in the 1990s because of his skills, but can’t find the money to go, then briefly sells out to become a math teacher to rich kids before seeing the light and founding his own free school for poor kids in his hometown of Patna. The musical numbers here are the only big departure from the sort of stuff Hollywood used to make, and the songs aren’t strong enough to add much. The main thing to take away from this is that it’s not only in America that educators cut deals with rich elites. Also with Mrunal Thakur, Nandish Singh, Pankaj Tripathi, Virendra Saxena, and Johnny Lever.
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.
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.
The Farewell (PG) Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) stars in Lulu Wang’s autobiographical drama as an American who travels to China to say goodbye to her terminally ill grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen), but under strict orders not to tell the old woman that she’s dying. Also with Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Jim Liu, Chen Han, Jiang Yongbo, and Gil Perez-Abraham.
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.