Cats (PG) Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) adapts the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to film. Starring Francesca Hayward, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Jason Derulo, Laurie Davidson, Taylor Swift, and Jennifer Hudson. (Opens Friday)
Dabangg 3 (NR) Salman Khan stars in the latest from this series of Indian action-comedies about a police inspector battling organized crime. Also with Sudeep, Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan, Amole Gupte, Mahie Gill, Tinnu Anand, Warina Hussain, and Prabhu Deva. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
A Hidden Life (PG-13) This three-hour epic by Terrence Malick stars August Diehl as Franz Jägerstätter, the real-life Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazi cause during World War II. Also with Valerie Pachner, Franz Rogowski, Karl Markovics, Ulrich Matthes, Martin Wuttke, Matthias Schoenaerts, the late Michael Nyqvist, and the late Bruno Ganz. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ip Man 4: The Finale (NR) The last film in a series stretching back to 2008, this martial-arts film stars Donnie Yen as the legendary kung fu master who travels to America when he hears that former student Bruce Lee (Chan Kwok-Kwan) has opened a school there. Also with Scott Adkins, Chris Collins, Vanness Wu, Nicola Stuart-Hill, Kent Cheng, and Jim Liu. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Mickey and the Bear (R) A 26-year-old actress and daughter of a screenwriter, Annabelle Attanasio makes an impressive debut as a writer-director with this drama about a teenage girl (Camila Morrone) who is torn between leaving for college and staying home to take care of her Marine dad (James Badge Dale) who has an Oxy problem and simmers with anger at the entire world. The piece is a bit light on incident, but Attanasio has a good eye for atmosphere and a sense of the intractability of such problems, which tend to make it inconvenient for other people to live their lives. Morrone (who also starred in Never Goin’ Back) delivers a lovely, understated performance here as well. With some seasoning, Attanasio could be a filmmaker to watch. Also with Calvin Demba, Ben Rosenfield, and Rebecca Henderson. (Opens Friday at Grand Berry Theatre)
Only Cloud Knows (NR) The latest film by Feng Xiaogang stars Huang Xuan as a Chinese man who travels to New Zealand after his wife’s death to discover her secret life. Also with Yang Caiyu, Xu Fan, and Lydia Peck. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
She’s Missing (NR) Lucy Fry stars in this thriller as a young woman who investigates when her best friend (Eiza González) disappears after a rodeo. Also with Christian Camargo, Sheila Vand, Blake Berris, Christopher Jordan Wallace, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, and Josh Hartnett. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Varda by Agnès (NR) The last film by the late French director is this made-for-TV two-part series in which she gives insight into her filmmaking technique. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PG) The movie’s trailer doesn’t do the film justice, because this film is quite a bit weirder than that trailer makes it seem. Matthew Rhys plays a jaded, angry Esquire journalist who finds ways to cope with his new fatherhood and his broken relationship with his own drunken father (Chris Cooper) when he’s assigned to profile Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Casting Hanks as the ultra-nice children’s TV host is a bit on the nose, but the film is about the reporter anyway. Director Marielle Heller makes this more than just another touchy-feely drama by introducing transition shots made to look like the miniature sets on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, as well as a dream sequence in which the writer becomes part of the show’s set. Also with Susan Kelechi Watson, Enrico Colantoni, Wendy Makkena, Tammy Blanchard, Maryann Plunkett, Maddie Corman, Jessica Hecht, and Christine Lahti.
Black Christmas (PG-13) “Up in the frat house, click, click, click, / You slipped me a roofie and then your dick.” This feminist revision of the 1974 slasher film stars Imogen Poots as a college student who publicly calls out her date rapist (Ryan McIntyre) — via Christmas carol sung at a school function, no less — and then finds that his fraternity brothers are dabbling in black magic and murdering her sorority sisters one by one over the Christmas break. There are some nice ideas like the Christmas carol, but director/co-writer Sophia Takal doesn’t have the instincts for horror and seems to be hamstrung by the film’s PG-13 rating. The material could have used a well-thought-out remake for our era, but this affair comes out a mess. Also with Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Caleb Eberhardt, Simon Mead, Brittany O’Grady, and Cary Elwes.
Charlie’s Angels (PG-13) Poofy escapism packaged with shallow, rah-rah feminism doesn’t do much for me. This newest big-screen version of the 1970s TV show is about a computer programmer (Emily Scott) who enlists the help of Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) and her Angels (Kristen Stewart and Ella Balinska) to help destroy her own invention before it can be weaponized. Banks is also the writer-director here, and she has no instincts for filming action sequences. The male villains tend to be uninteresting, and the movie fails to invest us emotionally in the Angels. Stewart and Scott are funny, and there are nice supporting turns by Sam Claflin as a wimpy tech mogul and Luis Gerardo Méndez as a New Age wellness guru who can make spy gadgets and weapons. The director is miscast. Also with Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Noah Centineo, Chris Pang, Nat Faxon, Marie-Lou Sellem, and Jaclyn Smith.
Dark Waters (PG-13) Todd Haynes is about the last filmmaker you’d expect to direct a gritty, middlebrow corporate thriller set in modern times, and it doesn’t suit him. Mark Ruffalo portrays Robert Bilott, the real-life defense lawyer for chemical companies who joined the other side when he found out that the DuPont corporation was leaking toxic chemicals into the drinking water in his West Virginia hometown. Sporting extra weight and a bad haircut, Ruffalo mopes through the role, and his approach spreads to the rest of the cast and the director, whose grand cinematic style is completely absent here. The story this movie tells is important, and the importance is what turns this so dull. Also with Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, William Jackson Harper, Mare Winningham, Bill Pullman, and Victor Garber.
Ford v Ferrari (PG-13) Solid entertainment, whether you’re a racing fan or not. This film tells the real-life story of how retired Texan racer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and crusty English driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) were brought on by Ford Motors to build a race car that would defeat Ferrari’s five-time champions at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If you get all misty-eyed for the era when American industrial might and know-how always carried the day, this is your movie. If not, the film still traces how the work away from the racetrack contributes to victories on race day, as well as the clash between Ford’s corporate culture and the freewheeling spirits who drive the cars, all without dumbing down the car talk. The movie runs off the dynamic between Damon and Bale, who make an assured team. Also with Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone, Ray McKinnon, JJ Feild, and Tracy Letts.
Frozen II (PG) Not as awesome or ground-breaking as the original film, but then that was never going to happen. Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) journeys into a land shrouded by impenetrable mist to save her kingdom, accompanied by Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven (voiced by Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad). The songs are too close together, and both designated showstopper “Into the Unknown” and comedy number “When I Am Older” would have benefited from having more air on either side of them. Once the royal party goes on their journey, things pick up, with Olaf acting out the story of the first film and Kristoff singing “Lost in the Woods” in the manner of a 1990s boy band. This and the goodwill left over from the first film should satisfy the original’s fans. Additional voices by Evan Rachel Wood, Sterling K. Brown, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Jeremy Sisto, Ciarán Hinds, Aurora, and Alan Tudyk.
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.
Honey Boy (R) This autobiographical drama penned by Shia LaBeouf is 40 percent powerful memoir and 60 percent self-indulgent melodrama, but see this just to see LaBeouf play a fictionalized version of his own father, with glasses, receding hairline, pot belly, and an anger at the whole world. The fictionalized Shia is a Hollywood kid star (Noah Jupe) who is sent to rehab as a young man (Lucas Hedges). Director Alma Har’el gives the abusive father too much screen time, even though LaBeouf is excellent as a recovering addict who knows that he’s a piece of trash who owes his livelihood to his pre-teen son. We needed more of Hedges, but what’s here has the texture of being drawn from a troubled adolescent’s life. Also with Laura San Giacomo, Maika Monroe, Natasha Lyonne, Clifton Collins Jr., Martin Starr, and FKA Twigs.
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
Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13) Best you can say about this is that this is a slight improvement on the original. When Spencer (Alex Wolff) goes back into the video game, his friends go in to retrieve him, only a couple of older relatives (Danny DeVito and Danny Glover) are accidentally sucked into the game as well. Sadly, too much of the humor relies on Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart impersonating DeVito and Glover and not understanding how video games work. We’re supposed to be hooked by the young characters coping with college life and the older ones trying to repair their broken friendship, but why on earth don’t we just play these out with the original actors instead of their video game avatars? The next level seems to be distinctly the same as the last one. Also with Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Awkwafina, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Rory McCann, Rhys Darby, Dania Ramirez, Colin Hanks, Nick Jonas, and uncredited cameos by Bebe Neuwirth and Lamorne Morris.
Knives Out (PG-13) Rian Johnson revives the lost art of the cinematic murder mystery with this enormously entertaining whodunit. Armed with a thick-as-Nawlins gumbo accent and an array of “look at me” tics, Daniel Craig plays a private investigator who is hired by an unknown client to investigate the apparent suicide of a world-famous mystery novelist (Christopher Plummer) at a family gathering. The film is plotted within an inch of its life, as throwaway details resurface with grave implications, or simply to pay off some devastatingly funny jokes (as with the film’s final shot). A deluxe cast is used mostly efficiently, with Chris Evans standing out playing a real bastard in the victim’s grandson. The detective, who may or may not know what he’s doing, is a fun character, and the twists will keep even seasoned detective fiction fans guessing. Also with Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Frank Oz, K Callan, Noah Segan, M. Emmet Walsh, and LaKeith Stanfield.
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.
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.
Panipat (NR) This Indian historical epic dramatizes the 1761 battle between the Maratha Empire and the King of Afghanistan (Sanjay Dutt). Also with Arjun Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Mohnish Bahl, Padmini Kolhapure, and Sunasini Mulay.
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.
Playmobil: The Movie (PG) Somehow, I don’t think the makers of The Lego Movie will lose sleep over this. This animated film begins with a live-action prologue in which an orphaned teenager (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her little brother (Gabriel Bateman) are magically turned into Playmobil figures and have to save the Playmobil world from an evil Roman emperor (voiced by Adam Lambert) who is kidnapping people and forcing them into gladiator combat against his pet Tyrannosaurus rex. The jokes are painful and the animation is imagination-free. I’ll admit I didn’t expect musical numbers in this — Lambert has the best song with his villainous aria “Give the People What They Want.” This film is now a massive flop, and everybody who stayed away from the film was right to do so. Additional voices by Daniel Radcliffe, Jim Gaffigan, Meghan Trainor, and Kenan Thompson.
Queen & Slim (R) A terrific scenario — what if an unarmed black man killed a white cop instead of the other way around? — proves fitfully powerful in this bracing road movie. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith play a Cleveland couple on their first date when a white cop (Sturgill Simpson) wounds her and the man shoots him during a struggle. First-time film director Melina Matsoukas seldom leaves the side of these two as they make a run for New Orleans, and it would have been better if she’d taken in the nationwide protest movement that seems to spring up around their flight from the law. However, she does excel in the film’s smaller moments, with our protagonists determined to snatch every small pleasure from life because they know it will probably end soon. The star turn comes from British newcomer Turner-Smith, who finds her character’s family dysfunction under her regal air. Also with Bokeem Woodbine, Indya Moore, Benito Martinez, Jahi D’Allo Winston, Flea, and Chloë Sevigny.
Richard Jewell (R) As the real-life security guard who was wrongly accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Paul Walter Hauser does admirable work portraying a law-and-order type who is a hero precisely because he’s a pain in the ass. It’s too bad that director Clint Eastwood uses him to pen an angry screed about how the FBI and the press are the enemies of us all. Cardboard villains abound here, and the whole thing suffers from a lack of energy like too many of Eastwood’s recent films. If this is what we can look forward to from him, he can’t retire soon enough. Also with Sam Rockwell, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Nina Arianda, Ian Gomez, and Kathy Bates.
21 Bridges (R) Two bad guys (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch) rob a Brooklyn restaurant where cocaine is being stashed and wind up murdering eight cops plus the restaurant’s owner, and a homicide detective with a reputation for killing perpetrators (Chadwick Boseman) shuts down all access to and from the island of Manhattan when he receives word that the criminals are there trying to unload the stolen coke. This is really just another boilerplate cop thriller, and you’ll have picked out the main villain long before the film points out that person. Still, Boseman does some good work, especially in a scene where he gets into a hostage situation with the last of the cop-killing armed robbers left standing. Also with J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Alexander Siddig, Louis Cancelmi, and Keith David.
Almost Home (NR) Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s drama is about a group of homeless teenagers in Los Angeles struggling to survive. Starring Hannah Marks, Rachel Zimmermann, Niko Guardado, and Max Burkholder.
Code 8 (NR) Robbie Amell stars in this science-fiction film about a man with superpowers who’s forced to earn a living as a street criminal. Also with Stephen Amell, Greg Bryk, Peter Outerbridge, Kari Matchett, and Sung Kang.
Dark Light (NR) Padraig Reynolds’ horror film is about a woman (Jessica Madsen) who takes possession of her family’s home only to find that it’s now inhabited by monsters. Also with Ed Brody, Opal Littleton, Christina Clifford, and Weston Meredith.
The Death and Life of John F. Donovan (R) The first English-language film by Xavier Dolan is about a young actor (Ben Schnetzer) who remembers his childhood idolization of a doomed TV star (Kit Harington). Also with Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Thandie Newton, Sarah Gadon, Kathy Bates, and Susan Sarandon.
Hell on the Border (R) David Gyasi stars in this Western based on the real-life story of the first African-American U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi. Also with Ron Perlman, Frank Grillo, Zahn McClarnon, Marshall R. Teague, and Rudy Youngblood.
I See You (R) Adam Randall’s crime thriller/alien invasion film stars Jon Tenney as a detective who finds strange occurrences while investigating the disappearance of a boy. Also with Helen Hunt, Judah Lewis, Owen Teague, Gregory Alan Williams, Erika Alexander, and Sam Trammell.
The Irishman (R) The latest film from Martin Scorsese is this gangster movie based on the memoir of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (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.
Marriage Story (R) Noah Baumbach’s drama is about a New York theater director (Adam Driver) and a Hollywood actress (Scarlett Johansson) going through an acrimonious divorce. Also with Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty, Azhy Robertson, Merritt Wever, Mickey Sumner, and Wallace Shawn.
Rabid (NR) Not to be confused with the David Cronenberg film by that name, this science fiction-horror film stars Laura Vandervoort, who suffers unexpected side effects after undergoing experimental surgery to repair damage to her face. Also with Benjamin Hollingsworth, Ted Atherton, Hanneke Talbot, Stephen Huszar, and Mackenzie Gray.
6 Underground (R) Ryan Reynolds stars in this action-thriller as the leader of a group of vigilantes who operate in the shadows after having been declared dead. Also with Mélanie Laurent, Dave Franco, Adria Arjona, Ben Hardy, Sebastien Roché, Payman Maadi, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.
The Two Popes (PG-13) Fernando Meirelles (City of God) directs this drama about an imagined conversation between Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) as the former prepares to give up power to the latter. Also with Juan Minujín.