Corpus Christi (NR) Not a film about the Texas city, this Polish drama nominated for the Oscar for Best International Film stars Bartosz Bielenia as an ex-convict who tries to make a fresh start in a small town by impersonating a priest. Also with Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel, Tomasz Zietek, Leszek Lichota, Mateusz Czwartosz, and Lukasz Simlat. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Disappearance at Clifton Hill (NR) Tuppence Middleton stars in this thriller as a woman haunted by her unreliable memories of a kidnapping that she believes she witnessed. Also with Hannah Gross, Marie-Josée Croze, Eric Johnson, and David Cronenberg. (Opens Friday at Grand Berry Theater)
Emma. (PG) There’s a period in the title of this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, starring Anya Taylor-Joy as the meddling would-be matchmaker. Also with Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Callum Turner, Myra McFadyen, Josh O’Connor, Miranda Hart, Amber Anderson, Gemma Whelan, Rupert Graves, and Bill Nighy. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Guns Akimbo (R) The director’s public cyberbullying was not enough to stop this film’s release. Daniel Radcliffe stars in this action-comedy as an office worker who’s forced to take part in a reality show where contestants kill each other for the audience’s entertainment. Also with Samara Weaving, Rhys Darby, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ned Dennehy, and Mark Rowley (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Invisible Man (R) Not based on H.G. Wells’ story, this horror film stars Elisabeth Moss as a battered wife whose abusive husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) fakes his suicide and turns himself invisible to more effectively terrorize her. Also with Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman, and Sam Smith. (Opens Friday)
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band (R) Daniel Roher’s documentary profiles the career and lives of the legendary rock band. Also with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Martin Scorsese, Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, David Geffen, Taj Mahal, and Bruce Springsteen. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ordinary Love (R) Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville star in this drama as a longtime married couple trying to cope with her diagnosis of life-threatening breast cancer. Also with Amit Shah and David Wilmot. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Thappad (NR) This Indian film stars Taapsee Pannu as a woman who’s forced to consider divorce when her husband (Pavail Gulati) hits her at a party. Also with Ratna Pathak Shah, Tanvi Azmi, Dia Mirza, Ram Kapoor, and Kumud Mishra. (Opens Friday at Cinépolis Euless)
Tread (NR) Paul Solet’s documentary about Marvin Heemeyer, the welder who went on a violent rampage in a small Colorado town in 2004. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)
Bad Boys for Life (R) Michael Bay is no longer on this series as a director, and the result is a mild improvement. The Miami detectives are split when Marcus (Martin Lawrence) tells Mike (Will Smith) that he’s retiring and Mike takes it as a betrayal, especially after he’s personally targeted by a Mexican drug cartel queenpin (Kate del Castillo). The two stars seem invested in a way that they haven’t been in earlier installments, and the subplot with Mike being forced to work with a unit of tech-savvy younger cops (Vanessa Hudgens, Charles Melton, and Alexander Ludwig). The new directing team of Adil & Bilal can’t fix the flaws left over from the previous films, but they do a more than acceptable job with the action sequences. Also with Paola Nuñez, Jacob Scipio, DJ Khaled, Ivo Nandi, Rory Markham, Theresa Randle, and Joe Pantoliano.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (R) A lot more fun than Joker. This loose sequel to Suicide Squad has Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) gathering together a group of antiheroines to survive a murderous Gotham City crime boss (Ewan McGregor). Whether she’s contorting her face into clownish expressions or fracturing bad guys’ limbs, Robbie is a dynamo of energy. Working with major portions of the John Wick stunt team, first-time director Cathy Yan constantly finds creative elements to inject into the fight sequences and often films them in single takes to show that her actresses are doing their own stunts. She also stops to film the making of an egg sandwich that Harley orders as a hangover cure, with the sandwich’s subsequent death being treated more tragically than any person’s death. The movie is too scattered in terms of plot and theme, and not everyone will care for its nihilistic comic violence, but this endearing strange and funny film carves out a unique place among the DC comic films. Also with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Bojana Novakovic, and Chris Messina.
Black Wall Street Burning (R) Marcus Brown and Dekoven Riggins’ historical drama re-enacts the racially motivated genocide and burning of Tulsa’s predominantly African-American Greenwood neighborhood in 1921. Starring Robyn Carter, Day’Quann Ervin, Cordney McClain, Adam Modisette, and Mitch Yoder.
Brahms: The Boy II (PG-13) The creepy doll is providing diminishing returns in this horror sequel, mostly because the filmmakers aren’t doing anything to supplement it. Katie Holmes plays an American who is moved to a manor in the English countryside after being assaulted in her London home. That’s where her similarly traumatized son (Christopher Convery) finds the doll buried on the grounds. The script makes some feeble attempts to tie the doll’s doings to everybody’s psychological issues, but it isn’t near intelligent enough to make that effective. I’d settle for a few good scares, but the movie doesn’t have those, either. Also with Owain Yeoman, Anjali Jay, and Ralph Ineson.
The Call of the Wild (PG) Technology finally allows for Jack London’s novel to be filmed properly, except that’s not what happens here. The film softens up the storylines about the humans around the dog, but thankfully not the harshness of life in the Yukon or the violence against animals in the story of a large dog who discovers his true nature while pulling sleds across the frozen north. However, to accomplish the latter, the movie resorts to an entirely CGI-generated dog as the protagonist, and the CGI dog carries the film straight into the uncanny valley, with facial expressions that are never surprising. Harrison Ford does fine work playing John Thornton as a man fleeing a family tragedy, but this film’s tech isn’t up to the challenge of fleshing out a great work of literature. Also with Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Bradley Whitford, Jean Louisa Kelly, and Karen Gillan.
Dolittle (PG) About as bad as you’d expect. Robert Downey Jr. plays the doctor who can talk to animals as a Welsh-accented misanthropic shut-in widower before he’s summoned to voyage to Africa to save the life of the young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). The Hugh Lofting novel has been pared away in favor of generic adventures with the doctor encumbered by numerous cute animal sidekicks as well as a cute kid (Harry Collett) just so that we can avoid looking at things that are not cute. The script isn’t funny, and the occasional wilder edges of Downey’s performance are the only things to engage a viewer over the age of 4. Also with Michael Sheen, Carmel Laniado, and Jim Broadbent. Voices by Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Craig Robinson, Frances de la Tour, Jason Mantzoukas, and Ralph Fiennes.
Downhill (R) I was never a big fan of the Swedish comedy Force Majeure, but this American remake is a mixed bag. Will Ferrell plays a father taking his family on a ski vacation in Austria, and when what looks like a deadly avalanche seems to threaten his wife (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and kids, he abandons them to save himself. Ferrell is perfectly cast as a dad who tries to pretend that everything is fine in the aftermath, and you won’t forget Louis-Dreyfus choking back her disbelief when her husband presents a version of events that exculpates himself. Why, oh why do writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take out the original film’s best scene, when the guy breaks down in horrifying fashion in front of his family? Also with Miranda Otto, Zoe Chao, Julian Grey, Giulio Berruti, Kristofer Hivju, and Zach Woods.
Fantasy Island (PG-13) It must have seemed like a clever idea on the page, but on the screen, it turns into a disaster. The escapist 1970s TV show becomes a horror film, as Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña, doing an entertaining impression of Ricardo Montalbán) welcomes a new group of tourists (Lucy Hale, Maggie Q, Austin Stowell, Ryan Hansen, and Jimmy O. Yang) who yearn to have their fantasies fulfilled, only for his tropical island paradise to then twist their fantasies into nightmares. Director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow can’t juggle the multiple plotlines without losing track of his characters for too long, and the incomprehensible ending has the feel of something hastily reshot without regard for what came before. Also with Michael Rooker, Kim Coates, Parisa Fitz-Henley, Nick Slater, Charlotte McKinney, Robbie Jones, and Portia Doubleday.
First Lady (PG) Nancy Stafford stars in this comedy as a woman not married to the U.S. president who nevertheless campaigns for the post of First Lady. Also with Corbin Bernsen, Joel King, Benjamin Dane, and Stacey Dash.
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.
The Gentlemen (R) Guy Ritchie goes back to his British gangster film stomping grounds with less than attractive results. Matthew McConaughey stars as an American expat marijuana grower who tries to sell off his business while fighting off takeover attempts from a Chinese psychopath (Henry Golding) and a gay blackmailer (Hugh Grant). The story is framed by the blackmailer’s narration of his scheme to the American’s right-hand guy (Charlie Hunnam), and it doubles back on itself about every five minutes, to the point where it outsmarts itself. Ritchie casts a lot of actors against type, but the only instance where that works is Michelle Dockery as a Cockney gang wife trying to be posh. Ritchie stages bits like a gang of muscled-up bodyguards being introduced at length only to be promptly beaten up by a rival gang of teens who film themselves doing it and put the footage into their own rap video. Even so, the bad guys in this game are too overmatched by the good guys, who have too easy a path to victory. Also with Colin Farrell, Jeremy Strong, Tom Wu, Chidi Ajufo, Eliot Sumner, Samuel West, and Eddie Marsan.
Gretel & Hansel (PG-13) This trippy and highly flawed take on the fairy tale is for a specific subset of horror film fans. Sophia Lillis plays the teenage girl who takes her little brother (Samuel Leakey) into an enchanted forest only for them to be trapped by a witch (Alice Krige) with unaccountably good food. As he did with his previous horror movie The Blackcoat’s Daughter, director Osgood Perkins conjures up some nice slow burns and memorable visuals, and Krige is a terrifying presence as the hatchet-faced witch. I just wish there weren’t so many dead spots, and that screenwriter Rob Haley hadn’t made such clunky attempts at period dialogue. The film has some terrific cinematography and production design, but that only goes so far in this genre. Also with Charles Babalola and Jessica de Gouw.
Impractical Jokers: The Movie (PG-13) Unless you’re already a fan of the TV show starring these comedians who use hidden cameras to film the practical jokes they play on unsuspecting people, stay away from the film. Joseph Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn, and Salvatore Vulcano play four versions of themselves, Staten Islanders who take a road trip to Miami to play pranks on people and catch a Paula Abdul concert, even though the pop star (who portrays herself) is their mortal enemy. The Tenderloins’ lo-fi antics play better on the small screen, and they’re off their best anyway. Also with Jaden Smith, Joey Fatone, and Kane Hodder.
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
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.
Just Mercy (PG-13) This foursquare biopic manages to convey its point without hammering it. Michael B. Jordan plays Bryan Stevenson, the Harvard-trained lawyer who established a legal foundation in Alabama in 1989 to assist prisoners on death row. The film also has Brie Larson as the office manager who helps Stevenson set up his workspace, but somehow it’s Jamie Foxx who steals the show as the innocent and wrongly condemned prisoner who is among their first clients, a man whose faith and personality give strength not only to the other prisoners but also to his young lawyer. Director/co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton could use a bit of storytelling or visual distinctiveness to tell this story. There’s a fine supporting performance by Tim Blake Nelson as a prisoner who helped convict an innocent man and wants to undo it. Also with O’Shea Jackson Jr., Rob Morgan, Rafe Spall, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Tonea Stewart, and Michael Harding.
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.
Little Women (PG) Even intolerant partisans of Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 movie will have to admit that this new version is really good. Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel plunks us down in the middle of the story and uses flashbacks to tell the first part. This allows Gerwig to juxtapose different scenes to good effect, and even better, to cast Jo (Saoirse Ronan) as the New York writer who finally finds success by mimicking Alcott’s life story and writing about her sisters. All this freshens the story without going so far as a postmodern riff on the 19th-century book. The mix of personalities among the actors means the performances add up to more than the sum of their considerable parts, with Ronan’s rambunctiousness playing off Emma Watson’s cool radiance (as Meg) and Florence Pugh’s willfulness and exuberance (as Amy, who is handled in much greater depth here than in other versions of this story). Gerwig’s fidelity to the written word becomes something moving here. Also with Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Eliza Scanlen, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Louis Garrel, James Norton, Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep.
The Lodge (R) A good horror film and, strangely, a terrific Christian film, too. The first English-language movie by the Austrian filmmaking team of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy) is about two kids (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) trapped in a snowed-in cabin with their father’s new girlfriend (Riley Keough), despite the fact that they blame her for their mother’s suicide. Fiala and Franz play well with our expectations so that we’re unsure whether the threat is coming from the kids, the woman, or something outside. Besides the religious subtext (the would-be stepmother comes from an apocalyptic cult that committed mass suicide), the filmmakers bring their directing chops to their depiction of a dollhouse-like lodge that is an apt backdrop for a wintry domestic tragedy. Also with Richard Armitage and Alicia Silverstone.
Love Aaj Kal (NR) This Indian romance is about a man (Saif Ali Khan) who receives advice about his love life from his past self (Rishi Kapoor). Also with Deepika Padukone, Giselle Monteiro, Rahul Khanna, Florence Brudenell-Bruce, Raj Zutshi, and Neetu Singh.
1917 (R) Remarkable though this is in stretches, this isn’t anything close to the best movie of the year. Sam Mendes’ World War I film stars Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay as two British lance corporals sent on a dangerous mission to relay a message to call off an attack by their own forces. The film is edited to look like a single unbroken take, and Mendes uses the tactic to come up with some remarkable incidents like one of the soldiers running down the British line perpendicular to the direction of the charging soldiers. It’s technically dazzling, yet Mendes never quite goes beyond his storytelling gimmick to bring home the emotional cost of war. This bland tribute to military heroism and the twilight of the British Empire is a war film for Downton Abbey fans. That doesn’t make it a great film. Also with Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, Daniel Mays, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Malang (NR) This Indian film stars Aditya Roy Kapoor as a young introvert who falls for a free-spirited young woman (Disha Patani), then becomes a serial killer who’s hunted down by a cop who’s also a serial killer (Anil Kapoor). Also with Kunal Kemmu, Devika Vatsa, Amruta Khanvilkar, and Elli Avrram.
My Boyfriend’s Meds (R) If you’re looking for a comedy with a nuanced portrayal of mental illness, look elsewhere. This Mexican film stars Sandra Echevarria as a San Francisco-based PR executive who goes on a tropical island vacation with her perfect new boyfriend (Jaime Camil), only to see another side of him when he forgets the medications that he needs to treat his 20-odd separate psychiatric ailments. Playing someone with that many conditions is an impossible task for an actor, so it’s no surprise that Camil resorts to broad clowning. The film has serious intentions in encouraging people to open up about their mental health, but the message is drowned out amid the hijinks that don’t provide the laughs they’re supposed to. Also with Jason Alexander, Luis Arrieta, Marco Antonio Aguirre, Mónica Huarte, and Brooke Shields.
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.
The Photograph (PG-13) Cast in a straightforward romantic role, Issa Rae proves she can play that, too, in this film about a New York museum curator who tries to reconcile with her recently deceased, emotionally distant photographer mother (played in flashbacks by Chanté Adams) while also navigating a new relationship with a journalist (LaKeith Stanfield) who’s about to land his dream job in the U.K. The material has some problems reaching a point, but writer-director Stella Meghie does great with the atmosphere as the story shifts to New Orleans and London. The acting is impressive, too, from the leads and also from Kelvin Harrison Jr. as an ambitious journalism intern and Rob Morgan as the mother’s regret-filled ex. Robert Glasper’s luxurious jazz piano score helps make this a romance worth investing in. Also with Chelsea Peretti, Teyonah Parris, Lil Rel Howery, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Y’lan Noel, and Courtney B. Vance.
Sonic the Hedgehog (PG) They delayed this film’s release by three months to make the video-game hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz) look less creepy on the big screen. They succeeded; now he just looks boring. The super-fast game hero sees his hiding place on Earth revealed and has to team up with a Montana sheriff (James Marsden) to escape the clutches of Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). The result is a lot of defanged hijinks centering on a dramatically inert CGI-generated presence on the road from Montana to San Francisco. Carrey’s hamming may be old hat by now, but it’s right for the part of a video game villain, and it’s the only thing here that’s within hailing distance of entertaining. This is yet one more video-game adaptation that fails. Also with Tika Sumpter, Adam Pally, Lee Majdoub, and Neal McCullough.
Spies in Disguise (PG) It’s not saying much to call this the best film that Blue Sky Animation has ever made, but it did make me laugh out loud on occasion. A superspy (voiced by Will Smith) finds himself having to work with a tech geek (voiced by Tom Holland) who advocates using his nonlethal gadgets to achieve his aims without hurting people. When the spy is framed as a traitor, he tests out one of the gadgets and is turned into a pigeon. The metamorphosis works better than it should. The movie plays the James Bond-like gadgetry for laughs better than other animated films like the Despicable Me series has done. Additional voices by Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, DJ Khaled, Masi Oka, and Reba McEntire.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (PG-13) For reasons that are never fully explained, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) returns from the dead and quickly becomes the subject of manhunts by both the good guys and by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who wants to protect his own power. The problems here seem to stem from Palpatine, who is as uninteresting as he was 36 years ago in Return of the Jedi. His attempt to turn Rey (Daisy Ridley) to the Dark Side falls flat, and the massing of forces against him is weak compared with the equivalent scene in Avengers: Endgame. The movie does have a lightsaber duel on a wrecked spaceship with both combatants being soaked by ocean surf, but it suffers in director/co-writer J.J. Abrams’ rush to get through the proceedings. Also with John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Ackie, Kelly Marie Tran, Billie Lourd, Dominic Monaghan, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Billy Dee Williams.
Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior (NR) For the 450th anniversary of the Battle of Sinhagad, this Indian film dramatizes the events as the legendary warrior Tanhaji Malusare (Ajay Devgn) vows to hold southern India for the Marathi people against the Mughal rulers of the north. The drama never transcends the Indian archetype of superheroes battling mustache-twirling villains and killing hundreds of people as collateral damage. However, Devgn is a swashbuckling hero and Saif Ali Khan makes a fearsome bad guy as the Mughals’ sadistic main military commander in the south. Director Om Raut does a fine job with the battle scenes, too. Also with Kajol, Arush Nand, Ajinkya Deo, Vipul Gupta, Nitesh Kalbande, Nissar Khan, Devdutta Nage, Trishia Patel, and Luke Kenny.
Underwater (PG-13) This movie isn’t sure whether it wants to be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Poseidon Adventure, Alien, or Gravity, but it’s watchable thanks to Kristen Stewart. Sporting a bleached buzz cut, she plays a mechanical engineer working on an oil drill seven miles underneath the ocean surface when it’s suddenly compromised by causes unknown. The character beats are less convincing than the bits of science that director William Eubank and his writers drop on us about the extreme water pressure on the ocean floor. If they had concentrated on that instead of veering off into dopey plots about merfolk, this might have been good. Also with Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr., Jessica Henwick, Mamoudou Athie, Gunner Wright, and T.J. Miller.
And Then We Danced (NR) The cause of a full-scale riot in the country of Georgia, Levan Akin’s drama is about a traditional Georgian folk dancer (Levan Gelbakhiani) who realizes his attraction to other men while preparing for another performance. Also with Bachi Valishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Kahka Gogidze, Ana Makharadze, and Nino Gabisenia.
The Assistant (R) Julia Garner stars in this drama as an assistant at a film studio who realizes that her boss is a sexual predator. Also with Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh, Kristine Froseth, and Dagmara Dominczyk.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (R) Céline Sciamma’s lesbian romance stars Noémie Merlant as an 18th-century French painter who travels to a secluded estate to paint a portrait of an aristocrat (Adèle Haenel) so she can be married off to a wealthy man. Also with Luàna Bajrami and Valeria Golino.
Redoubt (NR) Matthew Barney’s latest art project is a mythological story told through dance in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho.
Spy Intervention (NR) Drew Van Acker stars in this comedy as an international superspy who tries to settle into the life of an ordinary suburbanite after marrying his soulmate (Poppy Delevingne). Also with Dave Sheridan, Blake Anderson, Natasha Bassett, Brittany Furlan, and Lane Garrison.
Standing Up, Falling Down (NR) Matt Ratner’s comedy stars Ben Schwartz as a struggling standup comic who befriends an old doctor (Billy Crystal). Also with Grace Gummer, Eloise Mumford, Nate Corddry, Debra Monk, Kevin Dunn, and Jill Hennessy.
True Fiction (PG) Kim Jin-mook’s thriller stars Oh Man-seok as a Korean politician who is caught up in a crime during a weekend getaway. Also with Ji Hyun-woo, Lee Na-ra, Kim Hak-cheol, Jo Eun-ji, and Goo Bon-woong.