Ambition (NR) Katherine Hughes stars in this thriller as a musician who starts to detect a pattern in the homicides that happen around her. Also with Sonoya Mizuno, Giles Matthey, Kyanna Simone, and Bryan Batt. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Bloodline (R) This thriller stars Seann William Scott as a man who alleviates the stress of his new fatherhood by becoming a serial killer. Also with Mariela Garriga, Kevin Carroll, Christie Herring, Raymond Alexander Cham Jr., and Dale Dickey. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Chulas Fronteras & Del Mero Corazón (NR) Les Blank and Chris Strachwitz’ documentary about the history of norteña music. (Opens Friday at Movie Tavern West 7th)
Downton Abbey (PG) A classic example of a big-screen version of a TV show that tries to squeeze a season of plot developments into a movie’s paltry length. Set in 1927, the film concerns a visit by the king and queen of England (Simon Jones and Geraldine James) to Downton, where the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) are expected to play host. Everything looks good, the acting is solid, and the one-liners are polished to a sharp edge, but if you’re not already a fan of the show, this won’t mean very much to you. Despite the occasional nod to the fact that Edwardian England isn’t great for people who are gay or Irish or women with unconventional ideas, this is an exercise in nostalgia for the feudal system. Also with Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Imelda Staunton, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Joanne Froggatt, Robert James-Collier, Kate Phillips, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, Brendan Coyle, Stephen Campbell Moore, David Haig, Susan Lynch, Tuppence Middleton, and Penelope Wilton. (Opens Friday)
Edie (NR) Sheila Hancock stars in this drama as an 83-year-old Scottish woman who escapes from her nursing home to live out her dream of climbing Mt. Suilven. Also with Kevin Guthrie, Paul Brannigan, Amy Manson, and Wendy Morgan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (PG-13) This documentary by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk) profiles the singer. Also with Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Aaron Neville, Cameron Crowe, and David Geffen. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Luce (R) Amid all the Oscar nominees in this cast, Kelvin Harrison Jr. delivers the standout performance as a former African child soldier adopted by a wealthy white American couple (Tim Roth and Naomi Watts) who seems like a model student until the day he writes a school essay that disturbs a black teacher (Octavia Spencer). The film is adapted from J.C. Lee’s play, and there are elements of staginess about the way this movie hashes out all its issues. Still, the acting keeps you guessing about whether the parents are overcompensating here or whether the teacher is just a busybody. It’s good that the title character is no empty symbol. In Harrison’s rendering, he’s a guy who’s hyperaware of the impression he makes on white and black people and a skilled manipulator who’s a little too willing to flash his brilliant smile. Also with Norbert Leo Butz, Andrea Bang, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Astro, and Omar Brunson. (Re-opens Friday at Grand Berry Theatre)
Official Secrets (R) Keira Knightley stars as the real-life British intelligence analyst who blew the whistle on an NSA spy operation spreading lies about Iraq in the run-up to the Iraq war. Also with Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode, Matt Smith, Indira Varma, MyAnna Buring, Conleth Hill, Hattie Morahan, Kenneth Cranham, Shaun Dooley, and Rhys Ifans. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Promare (PG-13) Hiroyuki Imaishi’s anime film is about a force of pilots operating giant robots to protect the Earth from threats. Voices by John Eric Bentley, Steve Blum, Johnny Yong Bosch, Melissa Fahn, Crispin Freeman, and Billy Kametz. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Rambo: Last Blood (R) Sylvester Stallone stars in this final installment of the war film series. Also with Paz Vega, Yvette Monreal, Louis Mandylor, Joaquín Cosio, Sheila Shah, Óscar Jaenada, and Adriana Barraza. (Opens Friday)
Running With the Devil (R) This thriller stars Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne as two drug traffickers sent to find out who is hijacking their cocaine shipments. Also with Leslie Bibb, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Adam Goldberg, Natalia Reyes, Peter Facinelli, and Barry Pepper. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
7 Days to Vegas (NR) This comedy is about a group of Hollywood executives who make an increasingly wild series of wagers amongst themselves on the way to Las Vegas. Starring Vince Van Patten, Ross McCall, Paul Walter Hauser, Eileen Davidson, James Van Patten, Willie Garson, Lucas Bryant, Don Stark, Chad Lowe, and Jennifer Tilly. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)
Tazza: One-Eyed Jack (NR) Adapted from a graphic novel, this movie takes its title from the Korean word for a cardsharp, and it’s both a cross between Rounders and Ocean’s 11 and one of the best movies about gambling in a while. Park Jung-min stars as a young poker ace who bets his way into trouble and is scooped up by a legendary one-eyed gambler (Ryoo Seung-bum) who’s gathering a team of other con artists and casino cheats to run a scam on a crooked real-estate mogul (Woo Hyun). You’ll need multiple viewings to track all the betrayals and double-crosses in this 139-minute film, but director/co-writer Kwon Oh-kwang gives this thing film-noir lighting and lounge jazz music to give it that Vegas atmosphere. Yet he doesn’t glamorize the setting, showing us the gamblers’ grubby lives and deaths. This is actually the third film in a series, but because the director and actors are all new, there’s no sign of series fatigue here. Also with Choi Yu-hwa, Lee Kwang-soo, Lim Ji-yeon, Kwon Hae-yo, and Yoon Je-moon.
Villains (R) Maika Monroe shows an unexpected comic touch and steals away this black comedy as a dimwitted armed robber who decides to lay low with her boyfriend and partner in crime (Bill Skarsgård). They break into a seemingly empty house, only to discover that the prim-and-proper Southern couple who live there (Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick) have a little girl chained up in their basement (Blake Baumgartner). The writing-directing team of Dan Berk and Robert Olsen try to straddle the line between gory slasher film and satirical farce, and they miss the mark more often than they hit. The star of It Follows doesn’t have this problem — Monroe is surprisingly assured whether she’s doing slapstick or underplaying her worry that she and her guy have just been taken hostage by their hostages. Also with Danny Johnson. (Opens Friday at Regal Fossil Creek)
The Wedding Year (R) This comedy stars Sarah Hyland as a commitment-phobe who confronts her fears when she and her boyfriend (Tyler James Williams) go to seven weddings in one year. Also with Anna Camp, Jenna Dewan, Noureen DeWulf, Keith David, and Wanda Sykes. (Opens Friday at Harkins Southlake)
Angel Has Fallen (R) Less racist than the first two movies in this story, but still as dumb as ever. Gerard Butler’s Secret Service agent is in line to be the agency’s new director when he’s framed for a terrorist attack that kills a bunch of his comrades and leaves the new U.S. President (Morgan Freeman) in a coma. As always, the women are peripheral, Butler’s acting is all jaw-jutting machismo, and the hero survives attacks that leave body counts that would qualify for national disaster status. New director/co-writer Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch) at least has a background as a stuntman, so the stunts are done reasonably well, but when there’s so little creativity in the rest of the movie that you can sniff out the villains so easily, it doesn’t do much good. Also with Danny Huston, Tim Blake Nelson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Piper Perabo, Lance Reddick, and Nick Nolte.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (PG) Not nearly as objectionable as the first movie. The sequel to the 2016 animated hit has the birds and the pigs banding together when an eagle (voiced by Leslie Jones) starts hurling giant balls of ice at both of their islands. The second film sports an entirely new creative team, and they come up with some good stuff about Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) worrying about losing his war-hero status if there’s no more war and being forced to cede control to Chuck’s engineering genius sister (voiced by Rachel Bloom), as well as a running gag with some hatchlings losing and trying to recover some unhatched eggs. Maybe the enterprise lacks substance, but at least it has some out-loud laughs. Additional voices by Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage, Bill Hader, Awkwafina, Eugenio Derbez, Maya Rudolph, Tony Hale, Beck Bennett, Gaten Matarazzo, Lil Rel Howery, Pete Davidson, Zach Woods, Dove Cameron, Nicki Minaj, Sterling K. Brown, and Tiffany Haddish.
The Art of Racing in the Rain (PG) The best auto racing film of the year, though that doesn’t necessarily make it good. Based on Garth Stein’s novel, the story of an aspiring Formula One driver (Milo Ventimiglia) is narrated from the point of view of his golden retriever (voiced by Kevin Costner). This might seem like another unbearable film about a dog, but the auto racing stuff keeps the cute dog business from being overpowering, while the dog’s point of view prevents the series of tragedies that befall the protagonist from becoming too much. Still, Costner’s voiceover makes mush out of the humor in Stein’s writing, and the material (with its intimations about the next world) still emerges pretty soft-boiled. Then again, this could have been quite a bit worse. Also with Amanda Seyfried, Martin Donovan, Kathy Baker, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, McKinley Belcher III, Al Sapienza, and Gary Cole.
Blinded by the Light (PG-13) Sometimes this movie plays like a glorified fan letter, but the way it’s rooted in its time and place helps make it so accessible. Based on Sarfraz Mansoor’s memoir, this film stars Viveik Kalra as a Pakistani teenager growing up in Luton, England, in the 1980s who has a life-changing encounter with the music of Bruce Springsteen. Director/co-writer Gurinder Chadha has some trouble with pacing (as she did in Bend It Like Beckham), but she knows this South Asian-British territory, as well as Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain, with its austerity and white racists who don’t bother to be subtle. The film’s issues of craftsmanship are more than offset by the way it captures the hope that the America of The Boss’ songs used to offer the world. Also with Kulvinder Ghir, Nell Williams, Meera Ganatra, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman, Nikita Mehta, Tara Divina, Rob Brydon, Sally Phillips, and Hayley Atwell.
Brittany Runs a Marathon (R) Jillian Bell gets a well-deserved showcase in this flawed but crowd-pleasing comedy as an obese New Yorker who’s ordered to lose weight and decides to train for the New York City Marathon. Bell, the scene stealer from 22 Jump Street and Rough Night, delivers on the laughs in the scenes where she trains with her new running buddies (Michaela Watkins and Micah Stock). Better, both she and the film know that Brittany’s psychological issues don’t go away once the fat does. I wish every subplot didn’t end with a neat little homily about Brittany needing to take responsibility for her health and her life, but the film does well with both the struggles and the rewards of losing weight. Also with Utkarsh Ambudkar, Alice Lee, Lil Rel Howery, Patch Darragh, Sarah Bolt, and Mikey Day.
Chhichhore (NR) Probably best if you went to university in India. This dramedy stars Sushant Singh Rajput as a divorced man whose teenage son (Mohammad Samad) fails his university entrance exam and jumps out a window. The protagonist, his ex-wife (Shraddha Kapoor), and their college friends come together and try to bring the boy out of his coma by telling him stories about what losers they used to be when they were in school. Surely we all had that one classmate with the massive porn collection, but too much of the humor here is specific to its setting. While the raunchy humor does keep the proceedings from being a slog, 153 minutes of sentimental reminiscences about college life is too much. Also with Varun Sharma, Prateik, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Navin Polishetty, Tushar Pandev, and Saharsh Kumar Shukia.
Dora and the Lost City of Gold (PG) Adapted from the beloved animated TV show Dora the Explorer, this live-action movie isn’t exactly ground-breaking, but it has enough self-awareness to make it a different creature from the show. Isabela Moner plays the plucky explorer who’s packed off to high school in L.A. by her parents (Michael Peña and Eva Longoria) after she addresses a few too many imaginary cameras, only to be kidnapped by treasure hunters who suspect that her parents know the location of a lost Inca city. The story doesn’t come to much of a point and the young cast is a bit flavorless, but there are enough savory things on the fringes of the action (including Eugenio Derbez’ first English-language performance that shows what he can really do) to make this relatively pain-free. Also with Jeff Wahlberg, Madeleine Madden, Nicholas Coombe, Madelyn Miranda, Q’orianka Kilcher, and Adriana Barraza. Voices by Benicio Del Toro and Danny Trejo.
The Farewell (PG) Writer-director Lulu Wang bases this comedy on her experiences with her own Chinese family, and it plays like Ang Lee’s early domestic dramas from Taiwan, which is high praise. Awkwafina stars as a struggling American writer who returns to China when her beloved grandmother (Zhao Shuzhen) is diagnosed as terminally ill, and her family and doctors decide to hide the diagnosis from the old woman. Wang looks like a born filmmaker here, with sharp edits and a story that moves along despite its quiet subject matter. Like Lee, she knows how to spike a potentially grim story with funny bits, including a set piece at a wedding where the alcohol flows a bit too freely. Wang doesn’t offer any easy answers about whether the family’s deception is right or wrong, either. It’s quite a story. Also with Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Chen Han, Jim Liu, Jiang Yongbo, and Aoi Mizuhara.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (PG-13) More fun than any of the proper Fast and the Furious movies, mostly because it leaves the racing crew behind and cherry-picks the two funniest actors from the series for their own adventure. British outlaw Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is contacted after his MI6-agent sister (Vanessa Kirby) is framed as a traitor. However, to bring her in safely, he’s forced to work with the American DSS agent (Dwayne Johnson) whom he despises, and they’re both forced to fight the genetically enhanced supersoldier (Idris Elba) who framed her. Some of the macho posturing between Johnson and Statham is actually funny, but Kirby damn near steals the film as the spy who cuts through all the crap and gets on with the task at hand. Having director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) join the series is a plus as well. Also with Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Su’a, Cliff Curtis, Roman Reigns, Lori Pelenise Tuisano, Helen Mirren, and uncredited cameos by Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (PG-13) I must confess that I sat through the entire movie without it making any impression on me whatsoever. This sequel has only the sharks and director Johannes Roberts in common with the 2017 thriller. Two not-so-friendly teen stepsisters (Sophie Nélisse and Corinne Foxx) go scuba diving at an underwater archeological site with their cool friends (Sistine Stallone and Brianne Tju), only to discover themselves trapped in a maze of underwater tunnels to be preyed on by blind great white sharks with super-sensitive hearing. The actors (who include the daughters of Jamie Foxx and Sylvester Stallone) don’t make anything out of their underwritten roles, and Roberts can’t manage anything inventive with the setup. Then again, why would he succeed now when he failed with it the first time? Also with Nia Long, Khylin Rambo, Davi Santos, and John Corbett.
The Goldfinch (R) Donna Tartt’s exquisitely written Pulitzer Prize-winning novel isn’t so much adapted as entombed in this film version. The story begins with a New York boy (Oakes Fegley) who loses his mother in a terrorist bombing at an art museum and walks out with a priceless Dutch Renaissance painting without knowing what he’s doing. He then grows up into a shady antiques dealer (Ansel Elgort) who’s ridden with both guilt and an Oxy habit. The filming process reduces the complex story to a series of miseries and balky flashback sequences, dotted with famous actors who are mostly on screen too briefly to make much of an impression. Director John Crowley (Brooklyn) adds more grist to my theory that he’s only good when he’s making movies in Ireland. Also with Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wolfhard, Aneurin Barnard, Willa Fitzgerald, Ashleigh Cummings, Luke Kleintank, and Denis O’Hare.
Good Boys (R) Charming, but no Booksmart. Three 6th-grade boys (Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, and Brady Noon) cut class to go to a cool kid’s birthday party, only to become entangled with a teenage girl (Molly Gordon) and her backpack full of molly and be forced to embark on a surreal journey. The boys are game for this and first-time feature director Gene Stupnitsky films a shootout with a paintball gun as if it’s a scene from a drug thriller. The film doesn’t tell us anything about friendship that Superbad didn’t tell us, but it has enough laughs to earn it some goodwill. Also with Midori Francis, Izaac Wang, Millie Davis, Michaela Watkins, Will Forte, Retta, and Lil Rel Howery.
Hustlers (R) See, I told you Jennifer Lopez can act! This film based on a real-life story stars Constance Wu as a novice stripper who is taken under the wing of Lopez’ aging dancer who ropes her and other dancers into a credit card fraud scheme to keep themselves afloat after the 2008 financial crisis. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria drills deep into the specifics of the job that these women do, but she doesn’t forget to infuse this with a palpable, Scorsesean sense of glee as the strippers rip off Wall Street douches who can afford to lose the money. Wu and Lopez make an infectious comedy team, and they both bring the dramatic fireworks later on when their friendship is sundered by the crime ring unraveling. More than just a comedy featuring women wearing very little clothing, this is a crime saga that indicts the capitalist system in the starkest terms. That’s a nice trick. Also with Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Julia Stiles, Mercedes Ruehl, Madeline Brewer, Mette Towley, Wai Ching Ho, Trace Lysette, Devin Ratray, Frank Whaley, Steven Boyer, G-Eazy, Usher, Cardi B, and Lizzo.
It Chapter Two (R) This overlong, bombastic sequel to the 2017 film (both adapted from Stephen King’s novel) has all the original’s flaws and screws up almost everything it got right. Picking up 27 years after the original, this film has the grown-up version of the Losers (Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Bill Hader) reuniting in their Maine hometown after Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) returns and kills again. The filmmakers here seem to think that all the wrong things are scary, paying too much attention to the creatures that chase our heroes to bring all the stray subplots to any sort of conclusion or keep from losing track of these characters for huge chunks of the movie. All the flashbacks to the Losers as kids could have been lost, too. The movie acknowledges that King has trouble ending his books, and yet this one can’t come up with an ending that works. That’s damning. Also with Sophia Lillis, Wyatt Oleff, Jaeden Martell, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Andy Bean, Teach Grant, Nicholas Hamilton, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jess Weixler, Jake Weary, Xavier Dolan, Peter Bogdanovich, and an uncredited Stephen King.
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.
Ne Zha (NR) A relatively rare Chinese comedy whose laughs translate to a non-Chinese-speaking audience, and without losing its distinctive flavor. This animated film is about a baby boy in feudal China (voiced by Lü Yanting) who is cursed by an evil sorcerer to be a demon child who wreaks all manner of havoc before his parents (voiced by Chen Hao and Lü Qi) and fat sorcerer guardian (voiced by Zhang Jiaming) lie to him and tell him he’s destined to be a protector of the local village by fighting demons. Some of the jokes (like the boy realistically faking his own death by drowning as a prank) are gleefully darker than we’d see in a Hollywood animated movie, and if writer-director Jiaozi doesn’t do so well at investing emotional resonance into the epic battles that conclude the film, the movie is still strange and funny enough on its own to recommend. This film out-earned The Lion King in China, and it’s the better film. Additional voices by Han Mo, Cao Yalong, Wang Zheng, Zeng Hongru, and Yang Wei.
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.
Overcomer (PG) Alex Kendrick stars in his latest Christian film as a high-school basketball coach who is forced to train a single cross-country runner (Aryn Wright-Thompson) after massive unemployment in the area scuttles his team. Also with Shari Rigby, Priscilla Shirer, Ben Davies, Holly Morris, Kendrick Cross, and Cameron Arnett.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (PG) If you watch this and don’t like it, check your pulse. This small film has a big, beating heart. The film follows titular hero Zak (Zack Gottsagen) and his dreams of becoming a wrestler. He has Down Syndrome and lives in a retirement home, spending his time watching an old VHS of his favorite wrestler (Thomas Haden Church). Wrestling is Zak’s dream, so he escapes and inadvertently ends up on a boat with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who’s on the run from a group of no-goods he stole from. A bond is formed, and they make it a mission to track down Zak’s hero. The writers-director duo do not exploit Gottsagen’s condition and Tyler treats him as he does everyone: like a human being. LaBeouf disappears into this role, one of the best of his career. Also with Dakota Johnson, Jon Bernthal, Yelawolf, Mick Foley, John Hawkes, and Bruce Dern. — Chase Whale
Ready or Not (R) Samara Weaving turns this comic horror film into a morsel of evil fun. She plays a woman who marries into a wealthy family that traditionally plays a game whenever a new person joins the clan, not knowing that the object of her game (hide and seek) is to kill the hider. Perhaps this film doesn’t have the complexity or the creep factor of the similar Get Out, but directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett make sure that the visual gags land as a bunch of evil but incompetent rich people chase the heroine around with antique weapons they barely know how to use. The cast all gets into the swing of things (especially Adam Brody as an alcoholic brother-in-law who’s not so keen on the murdery parts of the ritual), while the Australian lead actress knows whether to overact or underplay, and does both with great panache. Also with Andie MacDowell, Mark O’Brien, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nick Guadagni, John Ralston, and Henry Czerny.
Saaho (NR) The hero of this Indian thriller (Prabhas) is a cop who drives a Lamborghini, reads romance novels and obsessively plays foosball while on duty, makes people fly backwards 25 feet when he punches them, fights a panther barehanded and wins, and single-handedly exterminates half the criminals and crooked cops in Mumbai. Then there’s a plot twist halfway through that makes all that look relatively sane, resulting in our hero being chased through Tibet, Italy, Hungary, and Burning Man by Indian, Chinese, Russian, and African gangsters, accompanied by a fellow cop (Shraddha Kapoor) whose hair dramatically blows backward every time she enters a room. With all this, did this 170-minute film really need its musical numbers? I’m not sure whether writer-director Sujeeth meant this to be funny, but it’s grotesquely watchable. The only thing more absurd than the bad CGI is everything else about the movie. Also with Mandira Bedi, Jacqueline Fernandez, Jackie Shroff, Evelyn Sharma, Neil Nitin Mukesh, and Mahesh Manjrekar.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (PG-13) This horror film takes too long to get going, but once it does, look out. Based on Alvin Schwartz’ series, this is about a group of teenagers who find a storybook in a haunted house in their small town and find themselves the subject of gory stories that come true. Zoe Colletti does some fairly heroic work in the main role, a girl with abandonment issues who is now watching her friends vanish from sight. Still, the main attraction here are the innovative monsters, owing more than a bit to Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for the books. When a racist jock suddenly starts vomiting straw in the middle of a cornfield, that’s something horror movies haven’t given us before. Director André Øvredal (Trollhunter) does a fair job of knitting these disparate short stories into a cohesive whole. Just try forgetting the Jingle Jangle Man (“Me tie dough ty walker!”). Also with Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, Austin Abrams, Natalie Ganzhorn, Lorraine Toussaint, Dean Norris, and Gil Bellows.
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
Tod@s Caen (PG-13) Omar Chaparro and Martha Higareda star in this Mexican comedy as two single people who have bet their friends that their respective seduction techniques can work on anyone. Also with Mauricio Barrientos, Miriam Higareda, Francisco de la Reguera, and Alejandro Cuétara.
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.
Can You Keep a Secret? (NR) Adapted from Sophie Kinsella’s novel, this comedy stars Alexandra Daddario as a woman who tells her life secrets to a stranger on a plane (Tyler Hoechlin) that she thinks is about to crash, only to discover that he is her new boss. Also with Laverne Cox, Judah Friedlander, Sunita Mani, Sam Asghari, and Kimiko Glenn.
D-Day (NR) This World War II film is about a group of American soldiers tasked with taking out a series of German machine gun nests in advance of the 1944 Allied invasion. Starring Weston Cage Coppola, Jesse Kove, David Tom, Martin Kove, Geoff Meed, Isaac J. Cruz, Kellan Rhude, Sam Gipson, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell.
Freaks (R) This science-fiction thriller stars Lexy Kolker as a girl who escapes her paranoid, controlling father (Emile Hirsch) only to find a strange, sinister world outside the walls of her house. Also with Bruce Dern, Amanda Crew, Aleks Paunovic, Michelle Harrison, and Grace Park.
Satanic Panic (NR) Filmed in Dallas, this horror-comedy stars Hayley Griffith as a pizza delivery worker who discovers that the house she’s delivering to is home to a group of Satan worshippers who need her as a virgin sacrifice. Also with Rebecca Romijn, Arden Myrin, Ruby Modine, AJ Bowen, Maya Perkins, Michael Polish, Jordan Ladd, and Jerry O’Connell.
Spider in the Web (NR) This Israeli spy thriller stars Monica Bellucci as a Mossad agent sent to tail an older agent (Ben Kingsley) to keep tabs on his suspicious behavior. Also with Itay Tiran, Itzak Cohen, Filip Peeters, Hilde van Mieghem, and Luk Wyns.
Strange but True (PG-13) This horror film stars Margaret Qualley as a woman who shows up at a family’s house to tell them that she is pregnant with the baby of their dead son. Also with Brian Cox, Amy Ryan, Mena Massoud, Nick Robinson, Blythe Danner, and Greg Kinnear.
3 Days With Dad (NR) Larry Clarke (Kids) stars in his own comedy as a man who returns to visit his dying father (Brian Dennehy) and dysfunctional family. Also with Lesley Ann Warren, Amy Landecker, Jon Gries, David Koechner, Mike O’Malley, Sam Trammell, Mo Gaffney, and J.K. Simmons.
The Weekend (R) This comedy stars Tone Bell as a standup comic who goes on an uncomfortable vacation with his current girlfriend (DeWanda Wise) and his ex (Sasheer Zamata). Also with Kym Whitley, Josefina Landeros, and Y’lan Noel.