Big Time Adolescence (R) This comedy stars Griffin Gluck as a teenager whose older best friend (Pete Davidson) starts to become a bad influence on him. Also with Sydney Sweeney, Machine Gun Kelly, Oona Laurence, and Jon Cryer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Bloodshot (PG-13) Adapted from the graphic novel, this action film stars Vin Diesel as a dead soldier who’s brought back to life via a secret experimental medical program. Also with Guy Pearce, Lamorne Morris, Eiza González, Sam Heughan, Talulah Riley, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Toby Kebbell. (Opens Friday)
Burden (R) Andrew Heckler’s drama is based on the true story of the friendship between an African-American preacher (Forest Whitaker) and a former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon (Garrett Hedlund). Also with Andrea Riseborough, Crystal Fox, Tess Harper, Usher, and Tom Wilkinson. (Opens Friday at Cinemark Tinseltown)
Cruel Peter (NR) This Italian horror film is about archeologists in Italy who are haunted by the ghost of an English boy (Aran Bevan) buried alive a century earlier for his cruelty to children and animals. Also with Henry Douthwaite, Rosie Fellner, Gabriele Greco, Katia Greco, Alberto Molonia, and Alessio Bonafini. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Extra Ordinary (R) “Have you ever had a nightmare after eating cheese? You may have eaten a ghost. Even the weakest ghost can easily possess cheese due to the living organisms inside it.” This peculiarly, delightfully Irish exercise in deadpan, off-kilter humor stars Maeve Higgins as a psychic and exorcist who must overcome her self-esteem issues to save a neighbor’s daughter (Emma Coleman) from being sacrificed to Satan by a washed-up American rock star (Will Forte). The comedy loses a bit of its snap near the end, but it does give us an extremely funny car chase, and Higgins somehow plays everything with a straight face no matter how ridiculous the proceedings become. I can think of worse ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day than by watching this. Also with Barry Ward, Claudia O’Doherty, Jamie Bearnish, Terri Chandler, and Risteárd Cooper. (Opens Friday at Grand Berry Theater)
Hope Gap (PG-13) This British drama stars Josh O’Connor as a man who discovers on a family trip that his father (Bill Nighy) is planning to leave his mother (Annette Bening). Also with Aiysha Hart, Rose Keegan, and Nicholas Burns. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Hunt (NR) After a delay caused by public controversy, Craig Zobel’s satirical horror film about 12 strangers being hunted down in a forest clearing comes out. Starring Hilary Swank, Emma Roberts, Ike Barinholtz, Ethan Suplee, Sturgill Simpson, Glenn Howerton, Betty Gilpin, Justin Hartley, Macon Blair, and Amy Madigan. (Opens Friday)
I Still Believe (PG) This musical biopic dramatizes the real-life story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp (K.J. Apa) as he goes to college in California in the late 1990s, falls in love with a fellow student (Britt Robertson), marries her even though she’s dying of cancer, and witnesses her Christian faith up until the end. Directors Andrew and Jon Erwin went through this territory already in I Can Only Imagine, and they can’t bring any odd corners to the story of a man in his early 20s watching his wife die. The New Zealander Apa performs Camp’s songs acceptably well, but that’s just window dressing on a tearjerker that has too much Christian comfort in it to be interesting. Also with Gary Sinise, Melissa Roxburgh, Reuben Dodd, Tanya Christiansen, Nathan Parsons, Abigail Cowen, and Shania Twain. (Opens Friday)
Lost Transmissions (NR) Simon Pegg stars in this drama as an L.A. music producer who goes off his psychiatric medications and has to be chased down during a schizophrenic episode. Also with Juno Temple, Alexandra Daddario, Tao Okamoto, Bria Vinaite, Jamie Harris, and Robert Schwartzman. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)
The Postcard Killings (NR) A thoroughly indifferent piece of work. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays an American homicide detective whose daughter and son-in-law fall victim to a serial killer who crisscrosses Europe, targets newlywed couples, mutilates their bodies, and sends cryptic postcards to local journalists as a way of taunting them about the murders. If you haven’t read the James Patterson-Liza Marklund novel that this is based on, the movie pulls a nifty bait-and-switch regarding the identity of the murderer. Even so, Morgan is mannered and low-energy as a man trying to avenge his only child’s death, and Oscar-winning Bosnian director Danis Tanovic goes sluggishly through the paces, treating this thriller like a paycheck job. The laughable ending does not help. Also with Famke Janssen, Cush Jumbo, Naomi Battrick, Ruairi O’Connor, Joachim Król, Eva Rose, Lukas Loughran, and Denis O’Hare. Opens Thursday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)
Saint Frances (NR) Kelly O’Sullivan stars in this dramedy as a 34-year-old dead-end case dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and a job as a nanny to a 6-year-old girl (Ramona Edith Williams). Also with Charin Álvarez, Lily Mojekwu, Mary Beth Fisher, and Jim True-Frost. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Tuscaloosa (NR) This drama set in Alabama in the early 1970s stars Devon Bostick as a college graduate who falls in love with an inmate (Natalia Dyer) at the insane asylum that his dad runs. Also with Tate Donovan, Marchánt Davis, Ella Rae Peck, Nathan Phillips, and YG. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Wendy (PG-13) Benh Zeitlin’s follow-up to Beasts of the Southern Wild is this revisionist take on the story of Peter Pan, told through the eyes of Wendy (Devin France). Also with Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin, Ahmad Cage, Krzysztof Meyn, and Shay Walker. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Baaghi 3 (NR) The Indian action franchise blunders into the real-life Syrian civil war, and everybody loses. Tiger Shroff reprises his role as the superhumanly tough guy who forges a one-man offensive into the war-torn country after his brother (Riteish Deshmukh) is kidnapped by Muslim extremists. The movie was shot in Serbia instead of Syria, which is why you see so many people wearing jackets. Our superhero brings 50 tons of cars crashing down on some bad guys, leaps impossible distances, survives battle wounds that would kill normal people, and teams up with local police to stop the extremist threat. I would accuse this movie of being pro-Bashar al-Assad, but I’m not sure the filmmakers know who that is. Also with Shraddha Kapoor, Ankita Lokhande, Jameel Khoury, Jaideep Ahlawat, Disha Patani, and Jackie Shroff.
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.
Beneath Us (R) This thriller is about a group of undocumented day laborers who take a job that’s only a pretext for being hunted as game by their employers. Starring Lynn Collins, Rigo Sanchez, Josue Aguirre, Roberto Sanchez, Thomas Chavira, and James Tupper.
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.
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.
Emma. (PG) First-time filmmaker Autumn de Wilde directs this Jane Austen adaptation to within an inch of its life, which is mostly a good thing. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the would-be matchmaker in 19th-century England, and she’s fantastically funny when horror or amusement start to dawn on her. De Wilde bombards us with a panoply of eggshell colors and actors who are precisely blocked that they seem like they’re dancing. For all this, she also manages to put across a sense of what a mess Emma makes of everyone’s life and hilariously concentrates on their bodily processes, including Emma’s physical reaction to receiving a marriage proposal. This is both the messiest and the tidiest Jane Austen adaptation ever, and de Wilde looks like a talent to watch. Also with Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Callum Turner, Josh O’Connor, Miranda Hart, Amber Anderson, Tanya Reynolds, Gemma Whelan, Rupert Graves, and Bill Nighy.
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.
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.
Greed (R) Director Michael Winterbottom and comedian Steve Coogan have made some great movies together (24 Hour Party People), but this isn’t one of them. Coogan stars as an orange-colored British clothing retailer who behaves as he pleases because he’s stinking rich, heavy emphasis on “stinking.” This could be fun, but unfortunately the movie has very little to say about how society is set up to let the superwealthy get away with their hijinks and instead invites us to gawk at the main character planning his 60th birthday party, a celebration that includes gladiators fighting against live lions. This satire of wretched excess winds up being fairly wretched itself, as well as thin. Also with Isla Fisher, Shirley Henderson, David Mitchell, Sophie Cookson, and Asa Butterfield.
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.
The Invisible Man (R) This science fiction horror film derives its power from taking a familiar evil and using a simple twist to make it unimaginably worse. Elisabeth Moss plays a battered wife whose abusive husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) fakes his own suicide after she leaves him, then uses a new invention of his to make himself invisible so he can beat her without anyone believing her story. Writer-director Leigh Whannell makes us stare at the background of the picture for evidence of the invisible man, and he brings the hell of domestic violence to life in ways that few previous movies have managed. Moss electrifies every particle of this film with her fear and desperation for anyone to believe her theory that her husband is alive. The film has issues, but her performance is worth seeing it for. Also with Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, and Michael Dorman.
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.
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.
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.
My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising (PG-13) After numerous manga comics, four seasons of TV episodes, and one feature film, the anime saga continues with Deku (voiced by Justin Briner) leading a group of student superheroes on a distant island. They’re stuck doing little jobs until a supervillain (voiced by Johnny Yong Bosch) arrives to take the superpower of a small boy (voiced by Maxey Whitehead). If you’re new to this movie’s fictional universe where 80 percent of Earth’s population has a superpower, this new installment lays out enough to make you understand. The visuals are quite impressive on the big screen, but the characterization barely rises to the level of one of Marvel’s lesser installments. This one’s for fans of the series more than newcomers. Additional voices by Clifford Chapin, David Matranga, Luci Christian, Monica Rial, Josh Grelle, Justin Cook, Joel McDonald, Brina Palencia, Dani Chambers, and Christopher Sabat.
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.
Onward (PG) The latest Pixar film is set in a realm of magical beings that’s nevertheless much like ours. Two teenage elf brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) find a spell that will resurrect their deceased father for one day, but have to go on a quest through their neighborhood to find a gem that will allow them to actually cast the spell. This is a good deal more prosaic than most Pixar movies, which might be a commentary on how the mythical beings have mostly lost their own magical abilities. Even so, the movie has a manticore (voiced by Octavia Spencer) who’s the manager of a medieval-themed restaurant, a motorcycle gang of tough-talking 6-inch sprites, and a montage near the end that will reduce every man who has had a brother to tears. The title seems emblematic; onward Pixar goes. Additional voices by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mel Rodriguez, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Tracey Ullman, and John Ratzenberger.
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.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (NR) India’s cinematic closet door nudges open a bit further with this gay romance about a straitlaced, dutiful son (Jitendra Kumar) who’s on track to get married when he falls for a more flamboyant sort of man (Ayushmann Khuranna). The uproar this causes the former’s family will be predictable to Western viewers, but the formula is probably necessary to appeal to mainstream audiences on the subcontinent. There is one amusing bit when the two men kiss during a family gathering, and a scandalized uncle (Gajraj Rao) demands that something be done. Twenty years ago, an LGBT-themed movie in India was cause for a riot. Now we’re starting to see these films filter to us in the West. The trend bears watching. The title translates as Extra Careful of Marriage. Also with Neena Gupta, Manu Rishi Chadha, Sunita Rajwar, Maanvi Gagroo, Pankhuri Aswathy, and Neeraj Singh.
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.
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.
The Way Back (R) Less a movie than an extended therapy session for Ben Affleck. In fairness, the man seems to need one. He plays an alcoholic construction worker in southern California who’s hired to coach the sad-sack high-school basketball team where he once starred. Affleck is quite good with the character’s drunken misbehaviors and the lies that addicts tell people around them so they can keep indulging. Unfortunately, neither the basketball plot nor the addiction plot go anywhere unpredictable, and the scene in which the protagonist grovels in front of his ex-wife (Janina Gavankar) feels too close to real life. It’s possible to be glad that Affleck is facing his demons, while also wishing that the movie he did that in was better. Also with Michaela Watkins, Al Madrigal, Brandon Wilson, Will Ropp, Fernando Luis Vega, Charles Lott Jr., Melvin Gregg, Ben Irving, Jeremy Radin, Glynn Turman, T.K. Carter, John Aylward, and Jeremy Ratchford.
The Banker (PG-13) Delayed by sexual abuse charges against the producer, this drama stars Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie as African-American businessmen in the 1960s who hire a white man (Nicholas Hoult) to be their frontman so that they can secure a bank loan. Also with Nia Long, Jessie T. Usher, Michael Harney, and Colm Meaney.
Foxtrot Six (NR) This Indonesian action-thriller stars Oka Antara as a soldier-turned-congressman who embarks on a mission to save his country’s political leaders in the year 2031. Also with Verdi Solaiman, Chicco Jerikho, Rio Dewanto, Arifin Putra, Mike Lewis, and Julie Estelle.
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
Only (NR) Leslie Odom Jr. and Freida Pinto star in this science-fiction film about a couple trying to survive a mysterious plague that only kills women. Also with Chandler Riggs, Jayson Warner Smith, Joshua MIkel, Mark Ashworth, and Tia Hendricks.
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.
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.
Run This Town (R) Set in 2013, this Canadian political drama is about city staffers and journalists who watch Toronto mayor Rob Ford (Damian Lewis) implode. Also with Ben Platt, Mena Massoud, Nina Dobrev, Scott Speedman, Jennifer Ehle, and Gil Bellows.
The Times of Bill Cunningham (NR) Mark Bozek’s documentary profiles the New York street photographer. Narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker.