Acceleration (R) This thriller stars Rhona Burn as an operative who’s blackmailed by a crime boss (Dolph Lundgren) into killing all his enemies. Also with Sean Patrick Flanery, Chuck Liddell, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Al Sapienza, Jason London, Sally Kirkland, and Danny Trejo. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Bala (NR) Ayushmann Khuranna stars in this Indian comedy as a young man dealing with premature baldness. Also with Yami Gautam, Bhumi Pednekar, Abhishek Banerjee, Javed Jaffrey, and Manoj Pahwa. (Opens Friday)
Better Days (NR) An object of controversy in China, this thriller stars Zhao Dongyu as a bullied high-school student who becomes a suspect in a murder case just before her university entrance exam. Also with Jackson Yee, Yin Fang, Huang Jue, Wu Yue, Zhang Yao, Zhao Runnan, and Zhou Ye. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Cold Brook (NR) Actor William Fichtner stars in his own directorial debut with this drama about two janitors who are inspired to go on an adventure after a supernatural experience at the college where they work. Also with Kim Coates, Robin Weigert, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Brad William Henke, and Harold Perrineau. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Cyrano, My Love (R) This French historical farce tells the story of aspiring writer Edmond Rostand (Thomas Solivérès) and how he writes Cyrano de Bergerac for a celebrated actor (Olivier Gourmet). Also with Mathilde Seigner, Tom Leeb, Lucie Boujenah, Clémentine Célarié, Alice de Lencquesaing, Dominique Pinon, Simon Abkarian, and Alexis Michalik. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Doctor Sleep (R) Stephen King’s sequel to his own novel The Shining is adapted into this dreary, scare-free horror film. Ewan McGregor plays a grown-up, recovering alcoholic Danny Torrance who is located by a little girl (Kyliegh Curran) with his powers of “shining” and who’s being hunted by a group of traveling demons who feed off the shine. Director Mike Flanagan has done some good work in Netflix thrillers (Hush, Gerald’s Game) that are set in enclosed spaces, but the far-flung plotlines of this movie defeat him. He’s too busy making callbacks to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror opus to give this thing the chills that it could have. Also with Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Zahn McClarnon, Alex Essoe, Carl Lumbly, Henry Thomas, Zackary Momoh, Jocelin Donahue, and Jacob Tremblay. (Opens Friday)
Frankie (PG-13) This drama by Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange) stars Isabelle Huppert as a matriarch who calls her extended family for a reunion in Portugal. Also with Marisa Tomei, Brendan Gleeson, Jérémie Renier, Pascal Greggory, Sennia Nanua, Ariyon Bakare, Vinette Robinson, and Greg Kinnear. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Last Christmas (PG-13) Emilia Clarke stars in this comedy as a directionless Londoner who finds purpose after she meets a man (Henry Golding) while working as a department-store elf. Also with Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Peter Serafinowicz, and Patti LuPone. (Opens Friday)
Midway (PG-13) This movie would have been better if it had been made in 2003. Fallen blockbuster specialist Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) helms this dramatic retelling of the events leading up to the Battle of Midway, which established American superiority in the Pacific theater during World War II. The film benefits from scenes set on the Japanese side demonstrating what their thinking was as their fleet sailed into a trap set by the Americans. Still, the writing is indistinct, Ed Skrein (as American pilot Dick Best) doesn’t have the charisma to carry such a large and far-flung plot, and the opening scene depicting the bombing of Pearl Harbor suffers from really bad CGI. The whole thing suffers from too much research obscuring the action. Also with Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Darren Criss, Nick Jonas, Jake Weber, Luke Kleintank, Keean Johnson, Alexander Ludwig, Etsushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Jun Kunimura, Aaron Eckhart, Woody Harrelson, and Dennis Quaid. (Opens Friday)
Playing With Fire (PG) This comedy is so defanged, it could have been a Disney movie from the 1960s. John Cena plays a promotion-obsessed California smoke jumper who rescues three kids (Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, and Finley Rose Slater) from a cabin fire and is forced to look after them in his immaculate fire station until their parents come to get them. That’s the occasion for obvious jokes, slapstick gags, oppressive overacting, and soppy drama about how the perfectionist firefighter has to learn to loosen up. If that’s not bad enough, the film throws a cuddly dog into the mix. Chalk up yet another kids’ movie that works as a torture device on any parents who accompany their children. Also with John Leguizamo, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer, Tyler Mane, and Dennis Haysbert. (Opens Friday)
Primal (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this thriller as a big-game hunter who becomes prey when an assassin (Kevin Durand) looses his illegally shipped exotic animals on the boat taking them to America. Also with Famke Janssen, LaMonica Garrett, Tommy Walker, Rey Hernandez, and Michael Imperioli. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Abominable (PG) For what it’s worth, a better animated movie about a yeti than Smallfoot. Chloe Bennett provides the voice of a Chinese teenager who discovers one of the legendary snowmen living on her roof and resolves to take him back to the Himalayas before he’s located by the rich captors whom he escaped from. The film does go all dopey when it reveals the yeti’s magical powers, but there are still moments of wit as the heroine and her two friends (Tenzing Norgay Trainor and Albert Tsai) crisscross the country. The film is also available in Mandarin, with different actors providing the voices. Additional voices by Eddie Izzard, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong, James Hong, and Sarah Paulson.
Ad Astra (PG-13) Can someone tell me what’s so great about James Gray’s films, because I’m at a loss. His latest is not a gritty New York drama but a space opera, and more watchable than those others tend to be. Brad Pitt portrays an astronaut whose father (Tommy Lee Jones) has gone insane on a mission to Neptune and is threatening to destroy the entire solar system. This is in the vein of stately, philosophical space movies, and Gray (without the benefit of experience) does reasonably well with sequences in zero-gravity, including a rover chase on the surface of the Moon. Some of the visuals are intensely beautiful, but Gray can’t impart any visceral excitement to the story of a man who travels 2.7 billion miles to discover that he doesn’t want to be alone. It’s supposed to be a movie about how we all need other people, and there isn’t a single memorable person in it. Also with Liv Tyler, Ruth Negga, Kimberly Elise, Loren Dean, Bobby Nish, LisaGay Hamilton, John Ortiz, John Finn, and Natasha Lyonne.
The Addams Family (PG) With the cartoon family created by Charles Addams returning to its roots, and with Oscar Isaac voicing Gomez and Charlize Theron as Morticia, you’d think this would come to more. The Addamses deal with a gentrifying neighborhood and an evil home makeover TV host (voiced by Allison Janney) who’s bent on tearing down their eyesore of a house. The animation doesn’t match the weirdness of the subject matter. The only thing that does is the subplot in which Wednesday (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) starts attending public school. She’s the serene Goth heart of this thing, and there’s a nice Eighth Grade callback in the casting of Elsie Fisher as a girl at school who goes Goth with her. Additional voices by Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Tituss Burgess, Jenifer Lewis, Aimee Garcia, Pom Klementieff, Bette Midler, and Snoop Dogg.
Arctic Dogs (PG) A lot of A-listers come together for an animated film that really isn’t worth the trouble. Jeremy Renner provides the voice of an Arctic fox who works for a package delivery service and dreams of being one of his company’s top sled dogs. There is a bizarre plot twist when he runs into a supervillain walrus (voiced by John Cleese) who wants to melt the polar ice caps because he fancies himself an unappreciated genius. This development should give the film more juice than it does, but neither the writing nor the animation are up to the job. Additional voices by Alec Baldwin, James Franco, Heidi Klum, Laurie Holden, Omar Sy, Heidi Klum, Michael Madsen, and Anjelica Huston.
Bigil (NR) Joseph Vijay stars in this Indian film as a women’s soccer coach who faces the biggest game of his career and the chance to avenge the murder of his best friend. Also with Jackie Shroff, Nayanthara, Yogi Babu, Indhuja, and Varsha Bollamma.
Black and Blue (R) The premise of this cop thriller is creative. Too bad the creativity stops there. Naomie Harris plays an Army vet-turned-rookie New Orleans cop whose bodycam catches a bunch of crooked cops executing a bunch of unarmed drug dealers whom they’re working with. Her colleagues realize what’s up and frame her, so she spends a day being hunted down by the cops and criminals. Harris’ crisp presence is nice to have here and Deon Taylor (who did The Intruder earlier this year) makes this watchable without providing anything memorable. Perhaps we shouldn’t fault the movie for failing to comment on police shootings (then again, perhaps we should). Regardless, this film makes hackwork out of material that could have amounted to more. Also with Tyrese Gibson, Mike Colter, Reid Scott, Nafeesa Williams, James Moses Black, Beau Knapp, and Frank Grillo.
Countdown (PG-13) This horror film is about a smartphone app that tells people when they will die and a nurse (Elizabeth Lail) who tries to evade her scheduled death in three days. Also with Anne Winters, Charlie McDermott, Tabitha Eliana Bateman, Tichina Arnold, and Peter Facinelli.
The Current War: Director’s Cut (PG-13) More compelling than a story about warring 19th-century business interests should be. This film pits Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) against each other in a battle to provide electricity to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, with Edison stooping to underhanded methods and going against his humanitarian principles to try to win. It’s all smart and engaging, and director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) keeps the film light on its feet. Still, it’s hard to invest much in the story of two rich guys who are fighting to become richer, especially when we know that the loser will go on to invent the motion picture camera and be just fine. The acting here is strong, particularly by Shannon, and the photography is gorgeous. The movie was supposed to be released in fall 2017, but was delayed by the breakup of the Weinstein Company. Also with Tom Holland, Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, and Louis Ashbourne Serkis.
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.
Gemini Man (PG-13) Not as bad as its press. Will Smith stars as a retired government black ops operative who finds himself being hunted by a clone of himself that’s 25 years younger. The digital de-aging of Smith is just sort of there, and you wind up accepting it as part of the story. Too bad the story is so weak, as the main character’s reckoning with his younger self is too sketchily written to provide the drama. This plush, globe-trotting spy thriller feels like a paycheck job for director Ang Lee, though a few fluid action sequences (like a shootout and motorcycle chase in Cartagena and a Smith-on-Smith fight in Budapest) remind us that this is the guy who directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s far from a great action movie, but it has a few things worth watching. Also with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Douglas Hodge, Benedict Wong, Ilia Volok, Ralph Brown, and Linda Emond.
Harriet (PG-13) This biopic of Harriet Tubman is disappointingly conventional. Cynthia Erivo plays the slave who escapes to freedom and then works as the Underground Railroad’s greatest conductor to help more Southern slaves find their way north. Director Kasi Lemmons doesn’t have much feel for the action sequences, and the material (written by her and Gregory Allen Howard) is weak. At least it would be something if this movie succeeded in turning the wizened old woman from the photographs into a swashbuckling action heroine, but the film never brings her to life and stops dead every so often to give Harriet a speech about how she would give her life for the freedom of her people. These are the failings of a much lesser filmmaker. The movie fails despite the best efforts of Erivo, whose singing is something you can listen to all day. Also with Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Zackary Momoh, Omar J. Dorsey, Jennifer Nettles, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Janelle Monáe.
Housefull 4 (NR) As its title implies, this is the fourth film in a series. As its title does not imply, it reunites all the principal actors from the previous three Indian comic horror films. If you haven’t seen those other three, I’m not sure what you’ll get out of this. Three male friends (Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, and Bobby Deol) are about to marry three wealthy sisters (Kriti Sanon, Pooja Hedge, and Kriti Kharbanda), but when the wedding party travels to India, one of the men has a flashback to the 16th century and realizes that fate has decreed that all of them marry different sisters. There’s also a servant named Pasta (Chunkey Pandey) in the mix who dresses in Italian clothes because of his name, I guess. There is an opening musical number in London containing just about every British signifier possible, but the comic bits aren’t enough to justify your 145 minutes. Also with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Boman Irani, Rana Daggubati, and Sharad Kelkar.
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.
Inside Game (R) Eric Mabius stars in this drama based on the real-life story of Tim Donaghy, the NBA referee convicted of gambling on basketball. Also with Will Sasso, Scott Wolf, Piper Watts, Nick Cordero, and Arthur J. Nascarella.
Joker (R) What could have been a dark satire on society and its cruelty instead exploits mental illness. Joaquin Phoenix stars as an aspiring comedian with a socially inconvenient mental condition that makes him a target for bullies, which in turn makes him turn into the clown makeup-wearing supervillain. The film is angry, mean-spirited, plodding, joyless, depressing, and entirely derivative of Taxi Driver. Worse, it stigmatizes mental illness by taking one such character and raising him up as an antihero for killing rich people. Phoenix does give one of the best performances of his career, but everything else is just background noise. Also with Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Marc Maron, Josh Pais, Douglas Hodge, April Grace, and Brian Tyree Henry. — Chase Whale
Judy (R) Looking bleary, alcohol-soaked, and prematurely aged, Renée Zellweger does an uncannily precise imitation of Judy Garland in this biopic that takes in the singer as she plays five weeks in a London nightclub in the winter of 1968. The part shows off her gift for mimicry, and she’s probably a better singer than Garland was at the sadly diminished late-career stage that’s portrayed here. The film is based on Peter Quilter’s stage play End of the Rainbow, and it doesn’t have much to say about the traumas of child stardom lingering into adulthood. Beyond the lead performance, the film is rather indifferently cast. Zellweger’s performance deserves better than this lukewarm show business tragedy. Also with Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Bella Ramsey, Royce Pierreson, Phil Dunster, Darci Shaw, Andy Nyman, and Michael Gambon.
The Lighthouse (R) A trip. Robert Eggers follows up The Witch with this altogether stranger film about two 19th-century New England lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) who start to lose track of reality when a nor’easter traps them on their island. The virtuoso black-and-white cinematography by Jarin Blaschke, the outdated language, and the squarish frame all combine to make us less sure of what’s real in this fictional world. The script is based on the writings of Sarah Orne Jewett, but it feels more like one of Guy Maddin’s ferociously obscure retro exercises. Eggers cuts the pagan imagery and mental instability with more fart jokes than you’d expect. Pattinson is quite good in the latter scenes when the madness takes hold, and Dafoe is both hilarious and terrifying as the older seaman who may be an impostor, a Lovecraftian monster of the deep, or a malefactor trying to drive the younger man crazy. Do not miss his Tim the Enchanter-style curse after his cooking is insulted. Also with Valeriia Karaman.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG) The storylines are at least clearer in this sequel. Angelina Jolie returns as the dark fairy queen who has to deal with a warmongering, secretly evil human queen (Michelle Pfeiffer) after their respective children (Elle Fanning and Harris Dickinson) want to get married to unite the human and fairy kingdoms. The filmmakers give us one good scene with Jolie and Pfeiffer locking horns over a family dinner where the tension boils over into outright hostility. Other than that, there’s too much CGI, too many moving parts, and too many action sequences muddling this film’s message about dealing with the politics of fear. Also with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Jenn Murray, David Gyasi, and Robert Lindsay.
Motherless Brooklyn (R) Edward Norton writes, directs, and stars in this film based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel about a gangster with Tourette’s syndrome who must solve the murder of his boss (Bruce Willis). Also with Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Leslie Mann, Bobby Cannavale, Fisher Stevens, Ethan Suplee, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cherry Jones, and Alec Baldwin. (Opens Friday)
Parasite (R) This delirious, dark Korean farce helps make a case for Bong Joon-ho as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time — not today, all time. It’s about a family named Kim that lives in urban squalor until their teenage son (Choi Woo-shik) fakes his way into a job as an English tutor to a wealthy family’s daughter. He then conspires with the rest of his family (Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, and Park So-dam) to get the rich family to fire the rest of their domestic help and install the other Kims in those jobs, with everyone pretending not to know one another. Bong pulls some dazzlingly dexterous comedy from the Kims operating beneath the notice of their employers, with help from great comic performances across the board from his cast, and he takes the film into darker territory with one of the great “oh my God” plot twists in this year’s movies. The film’s indictment of capitalist society is savage, compassionate, and terribly funny. Also with Lee Sun-kyun, Jo Yeo-jeong, Jung Ji-so, Jung Hyun-jun, Lee Jeong-eun, Park Myeong-hoon, and Park Seo-joon.
Saand Ki Aankh (NR) This Indian film tells the true story of Prakashi and Chandro Tomar, two real-life sisters-in-law from a repressive Hindu village who discovered a talent for target shooting in their 60s and won numerous prizes for it. The film has received flak in its native country for casting two actresses in their 30s (Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar) as the elderly Tomars, and yeah, it’s more than a bit weird. That’s not as big a drag on this sports film as the lethargic direction by Tushar Hiranandani, which takes entirely too long to get to the part where the women take up their new sport after initially only accompanying their daughters to the firing range. Also with Prakash Jha, Vineet Kumar Singh, Shaad Randwa, Pawan Chopra, Vicky Kadian, and Navneet Srivastava.
Terminator: Dark Fate (R) Just like Logan and Rambo, this series heads south of the border to retire. Ignoring all the previous Terminator films except the first two, this one has an aged Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) teaming up with a cyborg operative (Mackenzie Davis) from the future who has been sent to protect a young Mexican woman (Natalia Reyes) who will be the new savior of humanity. Tim Miller (Deadpool) takes over the series and engineers a cool car chase and shootout on a bridge, and Davis is in fearsome fighting trim. However, there are too many flashbacks, flash-forwards, and callbacks littering the action, and the filmmakers can’t make us invest in the closure of Sarah and the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is now a curtain installer named Carl. It wasn’t worth the effort to recharge this battery. Also with Gabriel Luna, Ferran Fernández, and Diego Boneta.
Western Stars (PG) This documentary features live concert footage of Bruce Springsteen singing songs from his latest album.
Zombieland: Double Tap (R) Ten years after the first film, all four of the principal cast members return with their enthusiasm undimmed, a principal reason why this sequel is so watchable. The group holes up inside the remains of the White House, but Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) goes chasing after a boy her age, and Wichita (Emma Stone) runs after her in a panic after Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) proposes marriage to her. Eisenberg and Stone are the engines that drive this comedy, and the film adds a scene-stealing Zoey Deutch as a dumb blonde who joins the group and a delicious interlude with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) and Columbus meeting copies of themselves (Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch). The original’s subtext might be lost, but who cares when returning director Ruben Fleischer is on hand to stage more inventive zombie kills? Also with Rosario Dawson, Avan Jogia, and Bill Murray.
Adopt a Highway (NR) Actor Logan Marshall-Green makes his directing debut with this drama about an ex-convict (Ethan Hawke) who finds a live baby in a dumpster. Also with Elaine Hendrix, Chris Sullivan, Christopher Heyerdahl, Anne-Marie Johnson, and Betty Gabriel.
Badland (NR) Kevin Makely stars in this Western as a detective who hunts down ex-Confederate war criminals. Also with Mira Sorvino, Wes Studi, Trace Adkins, Jeff Fahey, Tony Todd, James Russo, and Bruce Dern.
The Gallows Act II (R) The sequel to the 2015 horror film stars Ema Horvath as an acting student who is haunted by an evil spirit at her new school. Also with Chris Milligan, Brittany Falardeau, Pfeifer Brown, Erika Miranda, and Dennis Hurley.
Girl on the Third Floor (NR) C.M. Punk stars in this horror film as a father whose attempts to renovate his house run into sinister opposition. Also with Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks, Elissa Dowling, Karen Woditsch, Marshall Bean, and Bishop Stevens.
Greener Grass (NR) Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe write, direct, and star in this comedy as two suburban housewives who become increasingly competitive with each other in all aspects of their lives. Also with Beck Bennett, Neil Casey, Jim Cummings, Mary Holland, and Dot-Marie Jones.
Miss Virginia (NR) This drama stars Uzo Aduba as one of the mothers who looks to integrate Arkansas’ public schools in 1957. Also with Matthew Modine, Aunjanue Ellis, April Grace, Niles Fitch, Adina Porter, and Vanessa Williams.