Archenemy (NR) Joe Manganiello stars in this thriller as a man who claims to be a superhero from another dimension trapped on an Earth where he has no superpowers. Also with Skylan Brooks, Glenn Howerton, Paul Scheer, Zolee Griggs, and Amy Seimetz. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Arlington)
Bad Impulse (NR) This thriller stars Dan Lauria as a homeowner whose purchase of a high-end security system proves to be his undoing. Also with Sonya Walger, Grant Bowler, Stephanie Cayo, Rebecca Black, and Paul Sorvino. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Breach (R) Bruce Willis stars in this science-fiction film about a group of humans on their way to a new planet who must battle their own spaceship’s attempts to destroy them. Also with Cody Kearsley, Rachel Nichols, Kassandra Clementi, Johnny Messner, Callan Mulvey, and Thomas Jane. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Arlington)
A Christmas Carol (NR) This animated film is the latest re-telling of the Charles Dickens story. Voices by Simon Russell Beale, Martin Freeman, Carey Mulligan, Andy Serkis, and Leslie Caron. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Fatale (R) Michael Ealy stars in this thriller as a sports agent whose one-night stand (Hilary Swank) turns out to be the police detective investigating an attempt on his life. Also with Mike Colter, Danny Pino, Damaris Lewis, Sam Daly, Geoffrey Owens, and Kali Hawk. (Opens Friday)
Hunter Hunter (NR) This horror film is about a family trapped in a remote cabin by a rogue wolf. Starring Nick Stahl, Devon Sawa, Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, and Gabriel Daniels. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Monster Hunter (PG-13) Adapted from the popular video game, the latest film by Paul W.S. Anderson stars Milla Jovovich as the leader of a group of soldiers battling gigantic enemies in an alien world. Also with Tony Jaa, Meagan Good, Diego Boneta, Jin Au-yeung, and T.I. (Opens Friday)
The Rescue (R) The latest Chinese thriller by Dante Lam (Operation Red Sea) is about a Coast Guard team dealing with a plane crash and oil rig explosion at sea. Starring Eddie Peng, Wang Yanlin, Xin Zhilei, Lyric Lan, Wang Yutian, Xu Yang, Zhang Guoqiang, Guo Xiaodong, Zhang Jingyi, and Dale Song. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Sister of the Groom (R) Alicia Silverstone stars in this comedy as a woman who attempts to stop her brother from marrying a woman she thinks unsuitable. Also with Tom Everett Scott, Mathilde Ollivier, Mark Blum, Jake Hoffman, Charlie Bewley, Ronald Guttman, and Julie Engelbrecht. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Lincoln Square)
Skylines (R) This science-fiction thriller stars Lindsey Morgan as a mercenary leader who must save the Earth’s population after space aliens turn from friendly to hostile. Also with Rhona Mitra, James Cosmo, Alexander Siddig, Daniel Bernhardt, and Yayan Ruhian. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
All My Life (PG-13) The outsize charms and skills of the two lead actors elevate this standard weeper above the rest. Based on a true story, this film stars Jessica Rothe as a woman who becomes determined to give her fiancé (Harry Shum Jr.) his dream wedding after he’s diagnosed with liver cancer. Before the thing drowns in tears and platitudes about living life for today, Rothe and Shum’s spunk and sense of humor lighten the movie and make them believable as a couple. Rothe lathers up nicely, too, as her character copes with the possibility of losing her husband before they’re officially married. It’s a shame that the material isn’t up to the level of the two stars, but this is still better than Hollywood will usually give you in this vein. Also with Marielle Scott, Ever Carradine, Keala Settle, Kyle Allen, Mario Cantone, and Jay Pharoah.
Buddy Games (R) Josh Duhamel makes his directing debut and co-stars in this comedy about a group of friends who reunite for a series of absurd challenges. Also with Olivia Munn, Jensen Ackles, Nick Swardson, Neal McDonough, Kevin Dillon, and Dax Shepard.
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 Croods: A New Age (PG) This sequel to the 2013 animated film has a message about learning to get along with different people, but the story is way too scattershot to bring that across. Our family of cavemen are on the point of starvation when they run across another family (voiced by Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann) who claim to be better evolved, a claim backed up by their plentiful food supply. This leads to a tangled plot with a giant monster, a sisterhood of warriors, and monkeys that communicate by hitting one another, and the material achieves something by making such a distinctive cast sound so bland. The best part of this is Tenacious D’s cover version of “I Think I Love You,” which plays at different junctures of the movie. Additional voices by Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, and Kelly Marie Tran.
Freaky (R) Christopher Landon’s latest slasher comedy isn’t as tidy as his Happy Death Day, but it has some compensatory pleasures. Kathryn Newton plays a high-school wallflower who switches bodies with a serial killer (Vince Vaughn) after he stabs her with a magical knife. The setup means that Vaughn spends most of the film portraying a teenage girl, admittedly not my idea of a good time. Newton gets the better of the switch playing the killer, but Landon doesn’t do much as you’d hope with the gender flip of his characters. Supporting characters who know the rules of slasher movies and some good writing turn this film into a modest treat. Also with Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Dana Drori, Melissa Collazo, Katie Finneran, and Alan Ruck.
Half Brothers (PG-13) Mexican comedies keep trying to bring in American audiences despite lagging behind their American counterparts. Luis Gerardo Méndez plays an uptight Mexican business magnate who hears that the father (Juan Pablo Espinosa) who abandoned him as a child is now dying in Chicago, and the old man’s last wish is to have him take a road trip through America with the doofus half-brother (Connor Del Rio) whom he never knew existed. Hollywood director Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door) takes charge of this comedy that’s about 60 percent in English, but this setup just leads him into soppy stuff about the importance of family. The screenwriters know that the main character holds stereotypical attitudes about fat, lazy, stupid Americans, but then they rely on those same stereotypes for humor. Unlike the country’s dramatic films, Mexican comedies haven’t proved that they can travel. Also with José Zúñiga, Vincent Spano, Bianca Marroquin, Ashley Poole, Ian Inigo, Nohelia Sosa, and Alma Sisneros.
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.
Let Him Go (R) Based on Larry Watson’s novel, this Western regrettably doesn’t measure up to other recent examples of the genre. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane play a retired couple in Montana who, three years after their adult son is killed in an accident, head to North Dakota to rescue their grandson from the clutches of an abusive family of criminals. The best part of this is Lesley Manville, the British actress who too seldom graces American films, playing the matriarch of the crime family as a compelling, blowsy, alcohol-soaked, vicious monster. However, writer-director Thomas Bezucha (The Family Stone) is miscast as the filmmaker for a slow-burn Western. The characterization is indistinct and the movie doesn’t build up effectively to its climactic shootout. The talent here deserved better. Also with Jeffrey Donovan, Kayli Carter, Will Brittain, and Booboo Stewart.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (R) The late Chadwick Boseman’s last performance turns out to be his greatest in this adaptation of August Wilson’s play. He portrays a trumpeter in 1927 who clashes with his fellow musicians at a recording session for a legendary blues singer (Viola Davis). George C. Wolfe, a theater giant whose efforts directing films have been sporadic, manages to keep this movie from staginess, and he and writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson add a wicked twist with the very last shot. Davis cannily underplays a character who could easily come across as too much on the big screen, but your eyes are ineluctably drawn to Boseman, breaking out of the heroic mold of his earlier characters to play a man whose grace comes with menace, sexuality, and an arrogance borne of knowing how talented he is. His performance gives the film its tragic power and makes sure that his character is etched indelibly in your memory. Also with Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Jonny Coyne, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown, and Glynn Turman.
The Midnight Sky (PG-13) This space opera has moments of great power balanced by moments of great tedium. George Clooney directs and stars as a terminally ill astronomer at the North Pole in 2049 who frantically tries to contact the crew of a space mission to warn them not to return to Earth after an unspecified apocalyptic event wipes out all life. Adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel Good Morning, Midnight, this film has better acting than other movies in this line and a remarkable speech by Felicity Jones describing the exoplanet that the astronauts have managed to colonize. However, Clooney the director is too scattershot in his approach to this. The flashbacks only pad out the running time, and the bits with his character being forced to take care of a little girl (Caoilinn Springall) don’t pay off like they should. Also, you can discern where Clooney is copying Gravity. This is a Netflix film, but seeing it on the big screen gives you a better idea of what it does well. Also with Kyle Chandler, David Oyelowo, Tiffany Boone, Sophie Rundle, Ethan Peck, and Demián Bichir.
The Prom (PG-13) It’s better to see this Netflix film on the small screen, since it’ll be less overbearing there. Adapted from the recent Broadway musical, Ryan Murphy’s film is about a group of Broadway actors (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, and Andrew Rannells) who descend on a small Indiana town after the PTA cancels the prom rather than let the one openly gay student (Jo Ellen Pellman) attend with her girlfriend. The best performances are on the fringes of this: Kerry Washington shows some unsuspected musical-theater chops, Keegan-Michael Key finds understated charm in his role as the school principal, and the newcomer Pellman has a lovely reedy voice and manages to be one of the few performers not straining for effect. Even so, the movie fails utterly at satirizing the clueless East Coast liberals who don’t understand Middle America, the show suffers from a lack of memorable songs, and Murphy isn’t actually that good at directing musical numbers. This isn’t an unmitigated disaster, just a mitigated one. Also with Ariana DeBose, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Chamberlin, Logan Riley, Sofia Deler, Nico Greetham, Nathaniel J. Potvin, and Mary Kay Place.
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.
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.
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.
Wild Mountain Thyme (PG-13) The only way this romance could contain more Irish stereotypes is if it had a leprechaun with a pot of gold. Adapted by John Patrick Shanley from his own play Outside Mullingar, this late candidate for worst movie of 2020 stars Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan as neighboring farmers who’ve been carrying a torch for each other since childhood while also being embroiled in a dispute over a strip of land sold from one of their fathers to the other. Blunt’s red hair is even less convincing than her Irish accent, and the blarney about fairy folk and local superstitions culminates in a truly insane psychological reveal. The movie’s producers must have thought they were getting the Shanley who wrote Moonstruck. Instead, they got the one who did the last third of Joe Versus the Volcano. Also with Jon Hamm, Don Wycherley, Clare Barrett, Jon Tenney, Danielle Ryan, Dearbhla Molloy, Barry McGovern, Lydia McGuinness, and Christopher Walken.
Don’t Click (NR) This horror film stars Valter Skarsgård and Mark Koufos as two men who log onto an extreme porn website and are trapped in a dungeon of violent sexual horrors. Also with Catherine Howard, Ry Barrett, and May Grehan.
Farewell Amor (NR) Ekwa Msangi’s drama stars Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine as an Angolan immigrant in America who’s reunited with his wife and daughter after 17 years of separation. Also with Zainab Jah, Jayme Lawson, Nana Mensah, Marcus Scribner, and Joie Lee.
Lady of Guadalupe (NR) Pedro Brenner’s drama tells the story of Mexico’s patron saint (Paola Baldion). Also with Guillermo Iván, Christopher Phipps, Kimberly Asia Peterson, Jesús Lloveras, Eric da Silva, and Glenn Craley.
Parallel (NR) Isaac Ezban’s science-fiction film is about a group of friends who discover a portal to parallel universes and use it to improve their own lives. Starring Carmel Amit, Alyssa Diaz, Georgia King, Martin Wallström, Mark O’Brien, Aml Ameen, and Kathleen Quinlan.
The Stand In (R) This comedy is about a burned-out Hollywood actress (Drew Barrymore) who decides to switch places with her stand-in (Ellie Kemper) in real life. Also with T.J. Miller, Holland Taylor, Andrew Rannells, Michelle Buteau, Adrian Martinez, and Lena Dunham.
Wander Darkly (R) Diego Luna and Sienna Miller star in this drama as a couple trying to repair their marriage after a traumatic accident. Also with Beth Grant, Dan Gill, Aydan Mayeri, Brett Rice, and Vanessa Bayer.