American Dharma (R) The latest documentary by Errol Morris (The Fog of War) is a profile of conservative political strategist Steve Bannon. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Feast of the Seven Fishes (NR) Robert Tinnell’s comedy is about a large Italian-American family reuniting on Christmas Eve. Starring Skyler Gisondo, Madison Iseman, Addison Timlin, Lynn Cohen, Josh Helman, Ray Abruzzo, and Joe Pantoliano. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Good Liar (R) Based on Nicholas Searle’s novel, this thriller stars Helen Mirren as a wealthy widow who is targeted by a con artist (Ian McKellen). Also with Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Mark Lewis Jones, Phil Dunster, and Patrick Godfrey. (Opens Friday)
The Irishman (R) The latest film from Martin Scorsese is this gangster movie based on the memoir of Frank “The Irishman” Sheehan (Robert De Niro), the real-life mobster who claims to have played a part in the death of Jimmy Hoffa. Also with Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Stephen Graham, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Jack Huston, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jesse Plemons, Dascha Polanco, Ray Romano, Sebastian Maniscalco, Aleksa Palladino, and Anna Paquin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Line of Duty (R) Aaron Eckhart stars in this thriller as a cop who accidentally kills a kidnapper and has to find the criminal’s latest abductee before she dies. Also with Dina Meyer, Giancarlo Esposito, Courtney Eaton, and Ben McKenzie. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Report (R) Smart, efficient, conscientious, and too dry by half. Maybe even two-thirds. Adam Driver stars in this thriller based on real life as a congressional staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) who investigates the CIA’s torture of detainees during the War on Terror and its lies to the White House, Congress, and the press to cover up how little information they got from it. Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (Contagion) directs this film, and his skipping around in the timeline is too clever, though it doesn’t seriously impede your ability to follow the story. Still, this film plays like an intelligence oversight report, lacking the entertaining qualities of Spotlight, The Post, or Zero Dark Thirty, the film it was clearly made to critique. There’s a nice tribute to Sen. John McCain (seen here in archival footage) as one of the heroes of this sordid chapter in American intelligence history. If you want to see a truly great Driver performance, wait for Marriage Story. Also with Jon Hamm, Michael C. Hall, Maura Tierney, Corey Stoll, Tim Blake Nelson, Ben McKenzie, Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Rhys, and Ted Levine. (Opens Friday)
The Shed (NR) Not a sequel to The Shack, this horror film stars Jay Jay Warren as a teenager who discovers a mysterious creature living in his grandfather’s tool shed. Also with Cody Kostro, Sofia Happonen, Frank Whaley, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and Timothy Bottoms. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Turkey Bowl (R) Brett Cullen stars in this comedy as a man in his 30s who returns to his small town and discovers that his school friends want to finish a high-school football game that was suspended by weather 15 years earlier. Also with Matt Jones, Alan Ritchson, Ashley Fink, Ryan Hansen, Kristen Hager, and John Beasley. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Warrior Queen of Jhansi (R) This Indian historical epic stars Devika Bhise as the real-life queen who led an uprising against British rule in 1857. Also with Rupert Everett, Nathaniel Parker, Jodhi May, Milind Gunaji, Arif Zakaria, Omar Malik, Nagesh Bhonsle, and Derek Jacobi. (Opens Friday)
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.
Bala (NR) Ayushmann Khuranna stars in this Indian comedy as a prematurely bald young man who wears a hairpiece so he can be confident enough to date a fashion model (Yami Gautam) who works for the cosmetics company where he’s an executive. Too much of the movie plays like an Indian version of boilerplate Hollywood comedies about learning to accept yourself, but the film does have an intriguing side plot with both the hero and India’s beauty industry as a whole ignoring his childhood friend (Bhumi Pednekar) because she has dark skin. Colorism is a thing in Indian society and culture, and it’s refreshing to have a film address the subject. Also with Abhishek Banerjee, Saurabh Shukla, Javed Jaffrey, Sunita Rajwar, Seema Bhargava, Manoj Pahwa, Sonam Bajwa, and Hardy Sandhu.
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 feels so 2009. This “your smartphone will kill you” horror film deals with an app that tells you when your death will be. When a young registered nurse (Elizabeth Lail) finds out her death is in three days, she tries to avert it. Lail is ethereally beautiful, Jordan Calloway injects some humor as another young man who discovers his death is soon, and the film has some jokes about how no one ever reads the terms of service before they download another app. Still, this underthought rote exercise comes off as much less scarier than either version of The Ring. Also with Anne Winters, P.J. Byrne, 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.
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.
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.
Jojo Rabbit (PG-13) A strange and compelling failure. Based on Christine Leunens’ much more serious novel Caging Skies, this satirical film stars Roman Griffin Davis as a 10-year-old boy in Nazi Germany who is such a fanatical Nazi that Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) appears to him as an imaginary friend. Waititi also writes and directs this film, and the early scenes at Hitler Youth camp play like Moonrise Kingdom with more swastikas. Waititi’s hand for comedy makes this more watchable than other films that try to take in the Nazi horror from a child’s limited perspective, but the filmmaker loses his footing when the proceedings turn serious and characters start dying. As failures go, this is brave, ambitious, somewhat insane, and aiming at a worthy target. You can see the better film that Waititi was trying to make. Also with Scarlett Johansson, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Archie Yates, and Sam Rockwell.
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.
Last Christmas (PG-13) A movie with too much on its plate. Emilia Clarke (working a bit too hard to show that she can be funny) portrays an aspiring singer who has been in a downward spiral ever since she received a life-saving heart transplant. She’s given a new sense of purpose when she meets a manic pixie dream guy (Henry Golding) whose only purpose is to make her rediscover her zest for life. Emma Thompson both portrays the main character’s Croatian mother and writes the script, and she gives it sidebars on Brexit, the Bosnian genocide, and a plot twist that even M. Night Shyamalan would be ashamed to use. The film is inspired by George Michael’s songs, which dot the soundtrack. Some of them are sung by Clarke, who is quite comfortable singing them. Also with Michelle Yeoh, Lydia Leonard, Peter Mygind, Peter Serafinowicz, and Patti LuPone.
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.
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.
Motherless Brooklyn (R) Edward Norton has made drastic changes to Jonathan Lethem’s novel, yet manages to make it cohere quite well and avoid making it seem like a vanity project. In addition to directing and writing the script, he stars as a 1950s detective with Tourette’s syndrome who is driven to solve the murder of his mobbed-up boss (Bruce Willis). Norton cobbles together a whole new mystery plot involving gentrification and an evil land developer (Alec Baldwin) who hates blacks and Latinos and wants to kick them out of Brooklyn. This complicated plot holds together and is unraveled patiently by a detective whose mental condition (which comes with a side helping of OCD) gives him the tenacity to see it through to the end. Also with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Leslie Mann, Bobby Cannavale, Dallas Roberts, Fisher Stevens, Ethan Suplee, Michael Kenneth Williams, Cherry Jones, and Willem Dafoe.
Pain and Glory (R) This superior effort from Pedro Almodóvar stars Antonio Banderas as an extremely Almodóvar-like world-famous filmmaker who looks back on his childhood while dealing with physical ailments that have stopped him from making films. The movie has two great scenes, first when the director pens an anguished autobiographical monologue about a heroin-addicted boyfriend for an actor friend (Asier Etxeandia) to deliver, and then when the boyfriend in question (Leonardo Sbaraglia) happens to be at the performance and reunites with the filmmaker. Banderas’ performance reminds you of what a great actor he was for Almodóvar, showing the shrinking of a man holed up in his Madrid mansion with his books and artworks as well as a guy who’s too ashamed to tell his recovering heroin addict friends that he’s on the stuff himself to alleviate his pain. The layer of metafiction as the protagonist recovers his health enough to make films gives this the feel of an intricate puzzle. Also with Penélope Cruz, Nora Navas, César Vicente, Asier Flores, Cecilia Roth, Susi Sánchez, and Julieta Serrano.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.