Chuck Leavell: The Tree Man (NR) Allen Farst’s documentary profiles the legendary rock keyboardist. Also with Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, John Mayer, Miranda Lambert, Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts, Bruce Hornsby, Paul Shaffer, and Billy Bob Thornton. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Dark and the Wicked (NR) Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr. star in this horror film by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) as siblings who sense evil taking over their secluded family farm when they visit for their father’s death. Also with Xander Berkeley, Lynn Andrews, Julie Oliver-Touchstone, and Tom Nowicki. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Donut King (NR) Alice Gu’s documentary profiles Ted Ngoy, the Cambodian immigrant who built a massively successful chain of donut shops in California. (Opens Friday at Grand Berry Theater)
The Informer (R) Joel Kinnaman stars in this thriller as an ex-convict who goes back into prison undercover to infiltrate a mob operation from the inside. Also with Rosamund Pike, Clive Owen, Common, Eugene Lipinski, Sam Spruell, and Ana de Armas. (Opens Friday)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Story (PG) This animated film is about a legendary toymaker (voiced by Forest Whitaker) who must rely on his granddaughter (voiced by Madalen Mills) to re-awaken his magic. Additional voices by Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, and Ricky Martin. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Jungleland (R) Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell star in this drama as brothers who travel across the country for a fighting contest. Also with Jonathan Majors, Jessica Barden, John Cullum, and Fran Kranz. (Opens Friday)
Mortal (R) Nat Wolff stars in this supernatural thriller directed by André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) about a young man who derives godlike powers from ancient Norse mythology. Also with Priyanka Bose, Iben Akerlie, Arthur Hakalahti, and Per Egil Aske. (Opens Friday)
True to the Game 2 (R) The sequel to the 2017 film stars Erica Peeples as a journalist who finds her violent past following her as she moves across the country. Also with Vivica A. Fox, Andra Fuller, Rotimi, Jeremy Meeks, Darius McClary, Faith Evans, and Columbus Short. (Opens Friday)
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.
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.
Come Play (PG-13) Something we haven’t seen before: a horror movie about a kid with autism. Azhy Robertson plays an 8-year-old who can’t speak and relies on speech apps to communicate with his parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher Jr.). A demon named Larry tries to reach our world by communicating with the boy through a tablet. Jacob Chase adapted this from a short film and effectively uses the fact that people can’t see Larry unless they’re looking through the cameras in phones and laptops. Alas, the film falls apart definitively in the final third, with the tension in the parents’ marriage going unexplored and the boy recovering his speech at precisely the moment you’d expect. Even so, this is a necessary step that changes the outlines of the genre by placing an autistic character at the center of the story. Also with Winslow Fegley, Jayden Marine, Gavin MacIver-Wright, and Eboni Booth.
The Empty Man (R) This horror film starts off promisingly, then turns into a morose exercise in brain-dead teenagers testing an urban legend. Then, it somehow becomes worse than that. James Badge Dale plays an ex-cop whose friend’s daughter (Sasha Frolova) vanishes after invoking the titular demon along with a bunch of her friends. Despite Dale’s mighty efforts, the story devolves into nonsense as the detective wades into the doings of a religious cult that believes it can transcend reality. The best part of the movie is the opening sequence with four American hikers becoming trapped in the mountains of Bhutan, which has only the most tenuous connection to the rest of the story. Writer-director David Prior adapted this from Cullen Bunn’s graphic novel, which according to all accounts is better than this. Also with Stephen Root, Joel Courtney, Marin Ireland, Samantha Logan, Aaron Poole, Evan Jonigkeit, Virginia Kull, and Ron Canada.
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.
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.
Love and Monsters (PG-13) An unexpectedly nimble comic performance from Dylan O’Brien is the main distinguishing feature of this horror-comedy that owes too great a debt to Zombieland. The Maze Runner star plays a cowardly sad sack in a postapocalyptic world where genetically mutated monsters have killed 95 percent of the human population. The only single person in an underground bunker full of survivalists, he leaves the safety of the place to make an 85-mile trek to the bunker where his girlfriend (Jessica Henwick) is holed up. Some nice-looking creature effects don’t make up for the lack of memorable comic set pieces by director/co-writer Michael Matthews. Even so, O’Brien shows loads more personality here than in his action films, and he needs to do more comedy. Also with Michael Rooker, Dan Ewing, Ellen Holman, Melanie Zanetti, and Arianna Greenblatt.
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.
Spell (R) Omari Hardwick stars in this horror film as an airplane pilot who crash-lands in rural Appalachia and falls into the clutches of a Hoodoo practitioner (Loretta Devine). Also with Lorraine Burroughs, Andre Jacobs, Tumisho Masha, and John Beasley.
Synchronic (R) A better time travel movie than either Tenet or the last Bill & Ted film. Anthony Mackie plays a drug-addicted New Orleans paramedic who investigates a new designer drug that can transport people through time, to which his partner’s teenage daughter (Ally Ioannides) apparently falls victim. The filmmaking team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless) make thoughtful, intelligent science-fiction with good-looking special effects despite the low budgets they work with, and they’re savvy enough to know that a Black man traveling through time is going to find places where he’s not welcome. The drug trips are well-executed, but it’s Benson and Moorhead’s skill at delineating character that distinguishes them from the herd. Mackie seizes a rare showcase role and expresses the filmmakers’ wonder at our existence on this planet. Also with Jamie Dornan, Ramiz Monsef, and Katie Aselton.
Tar (NR) Aaron Wolf’s thriller is about a mysterious creature who rises from the La Brea Tar Pits to wreak havoc on Los Angeles. Starring Timothy Bottoms, Graham Greene, Emily Peachey, Nicole Alexandra Shipley, and Max Perlich.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.