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Friendsgiving opens Friday in Dallas. Image courtesy of IMDB.com

OPENING

 

The Addams Family (PG) With the cartoon family created by Charles Addams returning to its roots, and with Oscar Isaac voicing Gomez and Charlize Theron as Morticia, you’d think this would come to more. The Addamses deal with a gentrifying neighborhood and an evil home makeover TV host (voiced by Allison Janney) who’s bent on tearing down their eyesore of a house. The animation doesn’t match the weirdness of the subject matter. The only thing that does is the subplot in which Wednesday (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) starts attending public school. She’s the serene Goth heart of this thing, and there’s a nice Eighth Grade callback in the casting of Elsie Fisher as a girl at school who goes Goth with her. Additional voices by Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Tituss Burgess, Aimee Garcia, Jenifer Lewis, Pom Klementieff, Bette Midler, and Snoop Dogg. (Re-opens Friday)

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After We Collided (R) If you were craving a sequel to last year’s romance After, Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin reprise their roles. Also with Dylan Sprouse, Louise Lombard, Charlie Weber, Candice King, Shane Paul McGhie, Rob Estes, and Selma Blair. (Opens Friday)

The Empty Man (R) James Badge Dale stars in this horror film as an ex-cop who stumbles on a hidden cult trying to raise a supernatural entity from the dead. Also with Stephen Root, Joel Courtney, Marin Ireland, and Ron Canada. (Opens Friday)

Friendsgiving (R) Malin Akerman and Kat Dennings star in this comedy as two friends whose attempt to throw a large Thanksgiving party for their friends goes wrong. Also with Aisha Tyler, Christine Taylor, Chelsea Peretti, Ryan Hansen, Deon Cole, Jane Seymour, Margaret Cho, and Wanda Sykes. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Place of No Words (NR) Mark Webber writes, directs, and stars in this fantasy film as the terminally ill father of a 3-year-old son (played by his real-life son Bodhi Palmer), to whom he tries to explain the afterlife. Also with Teresa Palmer, Eric Christian Olsen, and Sarah Wright. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

A Rainy Day in New York (PG-13) Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning star in Woody Allen’s latest comedy as a couple who encounter misadventures during a weekend in the Big Apple. Also with Jude Law, Selena Gomez, Diego Luna, Suki Waterhouse, Liev Schreiber, Annaleigh Ashford, Cherry Jones, and Rebecca Hall. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

NOW PLAYING

 

Alone (R) Bear with us here: This is not the horror movie by the same title that came out five weeks ago, but a different horror film starring Tyler Posey as a survivalist who barricades himself in his apartment when a zombie outbreak hits. Also with Donald Sutherland, Robert Ri’chard, John Posey, Summer Spiro, and Eric Etebari.

The Call (NR) This horror film is about a group of teens who suffer a road accident only to encounter greater danger in the home of an older couple (Tobin Bell and Lin Shaye). Also with Chester Rushing, Erin Sanders, Mike Manning, Sloane Morgan Siegel, and Judd Lormand. 

Escape From Extinction (NR) A long-form commercial for the American Humane Society. Matthew R. Brady’s documentary is slickly produced but way too scattershot as it details the efforts of conservationists to prevent species from going extinct. There’s a fascinating bit about 3-D printed eggs to help bring back the population of kakapos in New Zealand. We could have used more of this instead of the heavy-handed defense of zoos and aquariums as well as how humans are threatening wildlife all over the world. You’re better off with the new Netflix documentary about David Attenborough, or even Finding Dory. Narrated by Helen Mirren. 

Heaven (NR) Angus Benfield stars in his own Christian drama as a man who dies and goes to the afterlife. Also with Eric Roberts, Michael Maclane, Michelle Fozounmayeh, Scott King, Ben Kientz, Juliet Rusche, Aaron Groben, and Brittany Mann. 

Honest Thief (PG-13) Yet another Liam Neeson thriller that’s hard to distinguish from the rest. In this one, he plays a Marine veteran-turned-safecracker who tries to atone for his misdeeds, only for two crooked FBI agents (Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos) to try to take his money for themselves. There’s some bad CGI here, but that’s not as harmful as the supporting characters taking turns being conveniently stupid so our hero can get out of all the jams that the plot sets up for him. The dramatic interludes where the protagonist reveals the truth to his new girlfriend (Kate Walsh) are soppy stuff, too. Also with Jeffrey Donovan and Robert Patrick. 

Infidel (R) Jim Caviezel stars in this thriller as an American journalist kidnapped by Iranian extremists during a trip to Cairo. Also with Claudia Karvan, Hal Ozsan, Aly Kassem, Bijan Daneshmand, Isabelle Adriani, Stelio Savante, and J.R. Cacia. 

Jiang Ziya (NR) Chinese animated movies have now reached the point where we can say that they look great, but the story is weak. That’s the case with this film about a legendary warrior god (voiced by Zheng Xi) who’s exiled from heaven after he refuses to kill a demon (voiced by Ji Guanlin) because doing so would result in the death of a little girl (voiced by Yang Ning). This is intended to be contiguous with last year’s animated film Ne Zha, as part of the studio’s effort to build up a Marvel-style cinematic universe based on Chinese mythology, but despite some spectacular visuals by directors Cheng Teng and Li Wei, this doesn’t have the strong characters or the humor that Ne Zha had. The film just sort of washes over you without leaving an impact. It was supposed to be released during Chinese New Year, but was delayed until now by the pandemic. Additional voices by Tutehameng, Yan Meme, and Jiang Guangtao.

Kajillionaire (R) Miranda July is an unlikely filmmaker to do a caper movie, and she puts her own distinctive spin on this one. Evan Rachel Wood plays a young con artist who lives and works with her parents (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) at a family crime business and is put out when they invite a grifter from outside the family (Gina Rodriguez) into their fold. Wood gives undoubtedly her strangest performance to date as a poorly socialized case, speaking in an unnaturally deep voice, mumbling and stumbling over her words, and looking lost when she has to say anything that isn’t part of a con. It’s a wondrous tonic to the delicate-flower roles that this actress has played throughout her career. July’s comic instincts remain sharp as ever, and her persistent concern with our yearning for human connection leads this film to an unexpectedly moving ending, as the protagonist is conned herself but finds a love that’s worth a million petty insurance scams. Also with Mark Ivanir, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Rachel Redleaf, Michael Twaine, and Diana Maria Riva.

The Kid Detective (R) This looks like a PG-rated kiddie movie, but there’s some majorly twisted stuff lurking here. Adam Brody plays an alcoholic, formerly famous child sleuth who’s finally handed a substantive case by a 17-year-old (Sophie Nélisse) who’s looking for her boyfriend’s killer. Writer-director Evan Morgan has the inspired idea of placing a hard-bitten, jaded private eye in the middle of a brightly lit, clean suburb, but he has trouble managing the tone of this piece. Even so, he has a good central mystery going here, with the detective running into some nicely seamy subplots. You won’t soon forget his gory confrontation with the veritable monster at the heart of the foul deeds here. If you have a taste for a mystery yarn that goes where Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys won’t, this is for you. Also with Sarah Sutherland, Peter MacNeill, Dallas Edwards, Isaac Kragten, Jesse Noah Gruman, Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato, Lisa Truong, Jonathan Whittaker, Wendy Crewson, and Tzi Ma. 

The Last Shift (R) The wrong person is the main character in this fiction debut from documentarian Andrew Cohn (Night School). Richard Jenkins stars as an assistant manager at a fast food place in Michigan who confronts the smallness of his life while spending his last week on the job training a Black juvenile offender (Shane Paul McGhie) to replace him. Our protagonist is a guy who’s incapable of making life happen for him, and his encounter with this young Black man is meant to give him some perspective on the exploitative nature of his work and his long-ago failure to intervene in a hate crime. Neither of those things comes off, and he ends up where he started while his trainee is the one who makes some much-needed changes in his life. Cohn doesn’t seem to realize where the focus of his drama should be. What should have been a small-scale gem is fatally undermined. Also with Allison Tolman, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Birgundi Baker, and Ed O’Neill. 

Love and Monsters (PG-13) Dylan O’Brien stars in this comedy as a man who must navigate a world full of monsters to rescue his girlfriend (Jessica Henwick). Also with Michael Rooker, Ellen Holman, Melanie Zanetti, and Arianna Greenblatt.

My People, My Homeland (NR) This anthology of short films pays tribute to the heroic spirit of the Chinese people. Starring Huang Bo, Ge You, Fan Wei, Deng Chao, Shen Teng, Wang Baoqiang, Xu Zheng, Yan Ni, Liu Haoran, and Celina Jade. 

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.

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. 

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. 

2 Hearts (PG-13) Lance Hool directs this romantic drama about two couples in different places and times whose fates are mysteriously tied together. Starring Jacob Elordi, Radha Mitchell, Tiera Skovbye, Adan Canto, Tahmoh Penikett, and Kari Matchett.

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. 

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. 

The War With Grandpa (PG) This kids’ comedy is so toothless that it could have been made 30 years ago. I wish it had been; then I would have forgotten it by now. Oakes Fegley (from the recent Pete’s Dragon remake) plays a borderline sociopath of a boy who initiates a war of practical jokes when his grandfather (Robert De Niro) moves into his parents’ house and forces him out of his bedroom. The parents (Uma Thurman and Rob Riggle) look brain-damaged for not noticing all the broken furniture and wild animals suddenly appearing in their house. Haven’t the adult cast members done enough paycheck films among them to not have to participate in these fourth-rate hijinks? This is adapted from Robert Kimmel Smith’s children’s book, which I can only hope is better than the movie. Also with Christopher Walken, Laura Marano, Juliocesar Chavez, T.J. McGibbon, Isaac Kragten, Cheech Marin, and Jane Seymour. 

Yellow Rose (PG-13) Filipino movies aren’t good enough at depicting their country’s culture, and unfortunately this American-made music drama misses its chance to improve on that record. Eva Noblezada stars as an undocumented immigrant in Bastrop who dreams of becoming a country singer. Based on a short film by the same name, Diane Paragas has little insight on the culture clash between these islanders and the Texas setting where they find themselves, and the protagonist’s love of country music unfortunately comes across as so much racial self-loathing. The saving grace here is Noblezada, a bright young light from Broadway making her film debut and singing some original country songs with a pleasant high soprano. She and the Filipino-American community deserved a better film. Also with Dale Watson, Princess Punzalan, Liam Booth, Gustavo Gomez, and Lea Salonga. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

The Devil Has a Name (R) Edward James Olmos directs and co-stars in this drama about an oil executive (Kate Bosworth) who’s determined to protect her family business from a persistent farmer. Also with David Strathairn, Haley Joel Osment, Pablo Schreiber, Katie Aselton, Tahmoh Penikett, Alfred Molina, and Martin Sheen.

Don’t Look Back (NR) Kourtney Bell stars in this horror film about a group of bystanders who are hunted by sinister forces after they fail to intervene in a stranger’s murder. Also with Will Stout, Skyler Hart, Jaqueline Fleming, Amanda Grace Benitez, Han Soto, Damon Lipari, Jeremy Holm, and Bryan Batt. 

Over the Moon (PG) This animated musical is about a little girl (voiced by Philippa Soo) who builds a rocket ship in order to meet a mythical goddess of the moon. Additional voices by Ken Jeong, Margaret Cho, Kimiko Glenn, John Cho, and Sandra Oh. 

Rebecca (PG-13) Adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s novel, this suspense film stars Lily James as a woman who discovers that her mysterious new husband (Armie Hammer) is harboring dangerous secrets. Also with Kristin Scott Thomas, Keeley Hawes, Mark Lewis-Jones, Sam Riley, Bill Paterson, Lucy Russell, and Ann Dowd. 

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (R) Jim Cummings (Thunder Road) writes, directs, and stars in his own horror-comedy as a small-town sheriff who suspects werewolves after a series of killings during full moons. Also with Riki Lindhome, Chloe East, Jimmy Tatro, and the late Robert Forster. 

 

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