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Rent-a-Pal Opens Friday in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com

 

OPENING

All In: The Fight for Democracy (PG-13) Lisa Cortés and Liz Garbus’ documentary chronicles the history of voter suppression in America. (Opens Wednesday in Dallas)

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The Broken Hearts Gallery (PG-13) Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers) stars in this romantic comedy as a lovelorn New Yorker who founds an art gallery for people to deposit souvenirs from past relationships. Also with Utkarsh Ambudkar, Dacre Montgomery, Phillipa Soo, Molly Gordon, Suki Waterhouse, Ego Nwodim, Sheila McCarthy, and Bernadette Peters. (Opens Friday)

I Am Woman (NR) Tilda Cobham-Hervey stars in this musical biopic of the singer Helen Reddy. Also with Evan Peters, Danielle Macdonald, Matty Cardarople, Gus Murray, Jordan Raskopoulos, and Scout Bowman. (Opens Friday) 

Rent-a-Pal (NR) Brian Landis Folkins stars in this psychological thriller as a lonely 1990s bachelor who seeks companionship with a program on a VHS tape whose host (Wil Wheaton) promises to be his friend. Also with Amy Rutledge, Kathleen Brady, and Adrian Egolf. (Opens Friday in Dallas) 

NOW PLAYING

Cut Throat City (R) The rapper RZA directs this crime thriller about a group of New Orleansians who decide to pull off a heist in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Starring Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes, Terrence Howard, Eiza González, Kat Graham, Keean Johnson, Joel David Moore, Shameik Moore, Rob Morgan, Denzel Whitaker, Isaiah Washington, and T.I. 

The Eight Hundred (NR) Based on a real-life incident, this Chinese war epic stars Du Chun as a colonel who leads a group of 800 soldiers and holes up in a Shanghai warehouse to defend it against the Japanese invasion of 1937. As you’d expect, director Guan Hu too often gets misty-eyed paying tribute to the heroism of the Chinese military. He’s better when he’s capturing the odd details of the siege: The building had a giant Coca-Cola logo painted on the side and was located across the Suzhou River from the unaffected foreign sector of Shanghai, where Westerners could watch the battle at their leisure. (Much of the carnage was filmed from the Goodyear blimp.) Guan executes some neat tracking shots through the battlefield chaos, but the film is still held back by its toeing of the official line. Also with Huang Zhi-Zhong, Zhang Junyi, Ou Hao, Jiang Wu, Zhang Yi, Wang Qianyuan, Zhang Cheng, Lu Siyu, Tang Yixin, Zhang Youhao, and Vision Wei. 

Fatima (PG-13) Marco Pontecorvo’s Christian drama is about the three 19th century Portuguese children (Stephanie Gil, Jorge Lamelas, and Alejandra Howard) who see a vision of the Virgin Mary. Also with Harvey Keitel, Goran Visnjic, Joaquim de Almeida, Joana Ribeiro, and Sônia Braga.

42 (PG-13) A museum piece, not a movie. This biography of Jackie Robinson focuses on the three years leading up to the baseball star’s tumultuous 1947 season, when he integrated his sport as a player for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Writer-director Brian Helgeland tries to create scope by taking us through dead-end subplots with poorly characterized supporting roles. This is forgivable; less so is Helgeland’s failure to give us a sense of how widespread racism was among fans, the press, and executives. The racial slurs that Robinson (the late Chadwick Boseman, doing what he can with a plaster saint of a role) encounters seem to come from a few troublemakers. Had Helgeland been more willing to court controversy, this might have been the great American story it promised to be. Also with Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Andre Holland, Alan Tudyk, Hamish Linklater, T.J. Knight, and John C. McGinley. 

My Brothers’ Crossing (NR) Ricky Borba directs and co-stars in this Christian drama based on the true story of an African-American motorist who accidentally kills a white couple on a motorcycle. Also with James Black, Daniel Roebuck, Joe Estevez, Eliza Roberts, Marsha Dietlein, and Tyree Brown. 

The New Mutants (PG-13) It really exists! It’s also the gayest X-Men film ever, which is saying something. Even so, it’s still kinda meh. Blu Hunt plays a teen of Cheyenne extraction whose discovery of her powers destroys her reservation. She’s brought to a facility for other mutant kids controlled by a sinister doctor (Alice Braga), where she falls for a gay Scottish girl (Maisie Williams). Director/co-writer Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) tries to play this for horror, but neither the hallucinations that the kids have nor the discovery that our protagonist is causing them manages to raise the hair on the back of one’s neck. The romance gets lost amid all the substandard CGI, and the finale with a demon bear is too dopey to work. Anya Taylor-Joy walks off with the acting honors as a Russian mean girl who bullies the new arrival. Also with Charlie Heaton, Henry Zaga, and Adam Beach.

Padre no hay más que uno 2 (NR) This Spanish comedy stars Santiago Segura as a tech entrepreneur who learns that his wife (Toni Acosta) is pregnant with their sixth child. Also with Luna Fulgencio, Martina Valeria de Antioquia, Calma Segura, Carlos González Morollón, Wendy Ramos, Silvia Abreu, and Loles León. 

Peninsula (NR) This sequel to the Korean zombie film Train to Busan winds up as a pallid knockoff of Mad Max: Fury Road. Gang Dong-won stars as an ex-soldier who returns to the zombie-ravaged Korean peninsula with some other mercenaries to recover a stash of unguarded cash without alerting the revenants. There’s a well-executed climactic car chase and some interesting business with a colony of survivors staging gladiator matches between their prisoners and captured zombies, but returning director Yeon Sang-ho remains clumsy with the human emotions in the story and can’t find any new notes in the zombie saga. This series probably should have died after the first film. Also with Lee Jung-hyun, Kim Min-jae, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Ye-won, Lee Re, Kwon Hae-hyo, Koo Kyo-hwan, and Bella Rahim. 

The Personal History of David Copperfield (PG) The British satirist Armando Iannucci (TV’s Veep) forgoes his obscenities and scathing insults for this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novels. Dev Patel plays the title character, a 19th-century young man who comes up from poverty to make his name as a writer. The colorblind casting has the unfortunate effect of making Victorian London seem like a more equal place than it was, but Patel is good whether he’s playing David as the dashing hero, the butt of a joke, or the clown doing comic impressions of other people. Iannucci underscores the theatricality of the effort with some postmodern storytelling devices that call attention to themselves, and his supporting cast embraces the Dickensian comic roles: Hugh Laurie underplaying as Mr. Dick, Ben Whishaw cast against type as Uriah Heep, Aneurin Barnard as a self-loathing Steerforth, and Peter Capaldi as the orotund Mr. Micawber. Lightening up does wonders for this Dickens adaptation. Also with Tilda Swinton, Morfydd Clark, Rosalind Eleazar, Benedict Wong, Daisy May Cooper, Paul Whitehouse, Bronagh Gallagher, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Darren Boyd, Anthony Welsh, and Gwendoline Christie.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (PG) Steven Spielberg and George Lucas took their shared love of the 1950s TV adventure serials that they grew up on and turned them into this rip-snorting 1981 adventure film that was easily the biggest box-office hit of its year. Harrison Ford’s natural swagger goes well with his fedora and bullwhip as he plays the world’s most dashing archeology professor trying to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling into Nazi hands. The casting of John Rhys-Davies as an Egyptian guide is a piece of whitewashing that wouldn’t fly today, but the film remains a masterclass in action sequences. Also with Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, Ronald Lacey, Wolf Kahler, Denholm Elliott, George Harris, and Alfred Molina.

Rocky (PG) The winner of the Best Picture Oscar for 1976, John G. Avildsen’s drama stars Sylvester Stallone as a Philadelphia boxer looking for a title shot. Also with Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Stallone. 

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. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home (PG-13) Underwhelming, obnoxious, goofy, derivative, and bad-looking. After spending 30 seconds on the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, this sequel quickly devolves into repetitive jokes as the resurrected web-slinger (Tom Holland) tries to go on a European vacation with his classmates and winds up dealing with a new superbeing (Jake Gyllenhaal) from another version of Earth. Director Jon Watts tries to keep everything grounded and self-contained, but it doesn’t work with so many superheroes floating in the wind. I wanted to love this film, but it left me feeling uneasy. Also with Zendaya, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Martin Starr, Numan Acar, J.B. Smoove, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, and an uncredited J.K. Simmons. — Chase Whale 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13) After a bunch of angst-ridden Spider-Men, Tom Holland headlines this relatively and invigoratingly carefree outing. Director/co-writer Jon Watts (Cop Car) keeps the whole thing from Peter Parker’s teenage perspective, where participating in the academic decathlon looms as large as battling the villain (Michael Keaton), a screwed-over salvage worker now making weapons for the supervillain. The supporting cast is subtly loaded, but the best parts go to Peter’s school friends, and the most rewarding scenes are him interacting with his Star Wars geek pal (Jacob Batalon), the pretty girl he wants to ask out (Laura Harrier), the cool loser chick (Zendaya), and the nerd bully (Tony Revolori). A predictable third-act twist notwithstanding, the web-slinger’s reboot is worthy of him. Also with Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, Kenneth Choi, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Chernus, Selenis Leyva, Abraham Attah, Angourie Rice, Tyne Daly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Evans, and Jennifer Connelly.

Tenet (PG-13) Either Christopher Nolan has gone up his own ass, or he’s made an avant-garde masterpiece too intelligent and sophisticated for my puny little brain to comprehend. John David Washington stars as a nameless CIA agent who is assigned to trace objects moving backwards through time to their source before they cause a time crunch that destroys the universe. This movie exists in the future perfect tense; everywhere our protagonist and his investigating partner (Robert Pattinson) look, they find evidence of things that will have happened. The film is structured as a palindrome, with the hero going through the looking glass and moving backwards through the story he just experienced. This leads to some cool action sequences, but there are a suspicious number of loose ends hanging, and the actors are swallowed up by the conceit except for a terrifying Kenneth Branagh as a wife-beating Russian arms dealer. Without the element of human emotion, this thing just sows confusion. Also with Elizabeth Debicki, Himesh Patel, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Dimple Kapadia, Martin Donovan, and Michael Caine.

Trolls World Tour (PG) Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return to this animated sequel, as they try to save the other troll kingdoms from being taken over by a hard-rock troll (voiced by Rachel Bloom). Additional voices by James Corden, Ron Funches, Kelly Clarkson, Anderson .paak, Kenan Thompson, Mary J. Blige, Ester Dean, Jamie Dornan, Ozzy Osbourne, Anthony Ramos, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Zooey Deschanel, and Sam Rockwell. 

Unhinged (R) Russell Crowe is really fat in this movie, and it’s hard to tell how much of it is padding, weight he gained for the role, or just the way his body is now. The extra pounds work to make him menacing as a murderous motorist who targets a divorcing mother (Caren Pistorius) after an altercation at an intersection. In a better version of this thriller, this would be terrific, but this one can’t overcome the weak performance by Pistorius or the uninventive direction by Derrick Borte (The Joneses). Don’t risk your health for this C-level trash. Also with Gabriel Bateman, Anne Leighton, Austin P. Mackenzie, and Jimmi Simpson. 

The Vanished (R) The Emily Dickinson epigraph to this kidnapping thriller is a pretentious mistake. Thomas Jane and Anne Heche play a couple who take a camping trip at a remote lake in Alabama with their 10-year-old daughter (played by K.K. and Sadie Heim) when she mysteriously disappears. Their determination to recover their daughter leads them to kill at least one of the people they suspect to be involved. Writer-director Peter Facinelli (who also shows up here as a sheriff’s deputy) comes up with a clever plot revelation, but he doesn’t build up to it skilfully enough. Jason Patric unexpectedly walks away with the acting honors here as the sheriff who’s harboring his own private grief. Also with Alex Haydon, Aleksei Archer, Kristopher Wente, and John D. Hickman. 

Words on Bathroom Walls (PG-13) The acting saves this teen mental illness drama based on Julia Walton’s novel. Charlie Plummer plays a student transferring to a new Catholic high school after suffering a schizophrenic breakdown and runs into trouble after falling for the class valedictorian (Taylor Russell) and going off his meds. Director Thor Freudenthal (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) often renders the main character’s hallucinations in overly cutesy terms, and having three actors personify the voices in his head (AnnaSophia Robb, Devon Bostick, and Lobo Sebastian) is a mistake. Even so, the script holds occasional insights about mental illness, and Plummer is good whether he’s on the pills and suffering from the side effects or off them and raving at his family. His chemistry with Russell means this works better as romance than as drama. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Critical Thinking (NR) John Leguizamo directs and stars in this drama based on the true story of the Miami inner-city high-school chess team that won the national championship. Also with Michael Kenneth Williams, Rachel Bay Jones, Corwin C. Tuggles, Angel Bismarck Curiel, Will Hochman, Jeffry Batista, Zora Casebere, and Jorge Lendeborg. 

Feels Good Man (NR) Arthur Jones’ documentary profiles Matt Furie, the artist who created Pepe the Frog and now wants to take his creation back from the political conservatives who have appropriated it. 

Still Here (NR) Johnny Whitworth stars in this thriller as a journalist who becomes obsessed with the case of a missing girl. Also with Zazie Beetz, Afton Williamson, Maurice McRae, Jeremy Holm, Gia Crovatin, Steven Hauck, and Larry Pine. 

 

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