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Mortal Kombat (R) A second film adaptation of the 1990s arcade video game, this martial-arts movie is about an evil overlord (Chin Han) who summons the world’s best fighters to a tournament. Also with Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Nathan Jones, and Mehcad Brooks. (Opens Friday)  Photo courtesy of YouTube.com

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Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train (R) A big-screen continuation of the anime TV series, this film features the continuing adventures of demon hunter Tanjiro Kamado (voiced by Natsuki Hanae and Zach Aguilar). Additional voices by Akari Kitô, Abby Trott, Satoshi Hino, Mark Whitten, Hiro Shimono, Aleks Le, Daisuke Hirakawa, and Landon McDonald. (Opens Friday)

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Mortal Kombat (R) A second film adaptation of the 1990s arcade video game, this martial-arts movie is about an evil overlord (Chin Han) who summons the world’s best fighters to a tournament. Also with Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Nathan Jones, and Mehcad Brooks. (Opens Friday) 

The Space Between (NR) This 1990s-set drama is about the friendship that blooms between an aging, creatively blocked rock star (Kelsey Grammer) and a young music executive (Jackson White) sent to force him out of his recording contract. Also with John Patrick Amedori, Julia Goldani Telles, Delon de Metz, Andrew Daly, and Paris Jackson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Together Together (R) Nikole Beckwith’s comedy is about a single middle-aged man (Ed Helms) who hires a surrogate (Patti Harrison) to have his baby. Also with Rosalind Chao, Nora Dunn, Fred Melamed, Julio Torres, Evan Jonigkeit, and Tig Notaro. (Opens Friday)

Wildcat (R) This thriller stars Khadija Young as an American reporter who is kidnapped for ransom while working in the Middle East. Also with Luke Benward, Ibrahim Renno, Mido Hamada, Ali Olomi, and Maz Siam. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

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Boogie (R) Celebrity chef Eddie Huang makes his debut as a filmmaker, and does he ever need more seasoning. Taylor Takahashi stars as a Chinese-American high-school basketball prospect in New York who has blue-chip talent but whose temper and ego scare away the top colleges. The movie tries to make points about growing up in a dysfunctional immigrant family and trying to be taken seriously as an Asian basketball player, but it fails on both fronts. First-time actor Takahashi is an uninteresting presence, and the romance between him and a Black classmate (Taylour Paige) fails to strike any sparks. Aside from Jorge Lendeborg Jr.’s performance as a teammate, the best thing here is the hip-hop soundtrack, which features a number of songs by the recently murdered Pop Smoke, who also shows up here as the main character’s basketball nemesis. Also with Perry Yung, Pamelyn Chee, Mike Moh, Steve Coulter, and Domenick Lombardozzi. 

Chaos Walking (PG-13) If this is going to be the next YA franchise, people may want to think about cutting their losses. Based on Patrick Ness’ novel The Knife of Never Letting Go, this is set on an alien planet in the 23rd century, where a human settler (Daisy Ridley) crash-lands as the sole survivor of her ship, only to discover that the women have all been killed off and she can hear the thoughts of all the men. Director Doug Liman too often comes up with a dud when he tries to tackle science fiction, and he can’t think of a way to handle the film’s premise gracefully. He assembles an enviable cast, and none of them seem to have quite connected with their characters. The loose ends in the plot hang from this like so much Spanish moss. Also with Tom Holland, Demián Bichir, Mads Mikkelsen, David Oyelowo, Cynthia Erivo, Kurt Sutter, Ray McKinnon, and Nick Jonas.

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 Courier (PG-13) Benedict Cumberbatch is magnificent in this British spy thriller based on real-life events. He portrays Greville Wynne, the London-based industrial machinery salesman sent by MI6 to contact a high-level Soviet official (Merab Ninidze) who wants to pass classified information to the West. Director Dominic Cooke (On Chesil Beach) does well as long as he sticks to the thriller element, but when Greville is thrown into a Soviet gulag, the movie becomes a prison drama and loses its effectiveness. Cumberbatch dazzles as an irreducibly ordinary man who is turned on and stressed out by the dangerous nature of the job that he isn’t trained for. The rest of the cast is great, too, with Rachel Brosnahan as a CIA agent, Jessie Buckley as Greville’s wife, and Ninidze as the crafty operator who bonds with the amateur who is his contact. Also with Angus Wright, Keir Hills, James Schofield, Vladimir Chuprikov, Maria Mironova, Petr Klimes, Anton Lesser, and an uncredited Željko Ivanek.

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.

French Exit (R) Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in this comedy isn’t Oscar-worthy, but it reminds us of what she can do when she’s focused on the task at hand. She plays a wealthy Manhattan widow who has frittered away her money and uproots herself and her son (Lucas Hedges) to a rich friend’s apartment in Paris. The movie is based on Patrick deWitt’s novel, and it’s similar to Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in its depiction of a woman who grows up wealthy and can’t cope when the money goes away. Pfeiffer’s performance is more resigned and less oppressive than Cate Blanchett’s Oscar-winning one, and Hedges is nice against type as someone who’s diffident, neurotic, and afraid to stand up to his mom. Director Azazel Jacobs (Terri) does this all up with a light touch, though he can’t redeem the plotline about the protagonist’s dead husband being reincarnated as a cat. Also with Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, Valerie Mahaffey, Susan Coyne, Isaach de Bankolé, and Tracy Letts.

The Girl Who Believes in Miracles (PG) This Christian drama stars Austyn Johnson as a girl who takes a sermon literally and starts praying to move a mountain. Also with Mira Sorvino, Kevin Sorbo, Tommi Rose, Darryl Cox, Burgess Jenkins, and Peter Coyote. 

Godzilla vs. Kong (PG-13) If you come to this movie for the monster-on-monster fights, this movie delivers on that. Three movies into the series, though, you’d think they’d be trying for more. This installment has a group of idiot scientists trying to lead King Kong to the hollow space at the Earth’s core to stop Godzilla after the big lizard starts attacking cities again. Adam Wingard takes over the helm of the series, and he stages the fights between Godzilla and Kong with a clarity that you don’t always have with kaiju fights. There are some humans in this thing, but they’re stupid and nobody cares about them. They’re played by A-listers, but Wingard could have cast the workers at his local Wal-Mart in these roles, and it would have had the same effect. This is the wrong kind of throwback, reminiscent of the bad old days of Michael Bay’s Transformers films. At least we’re spared Bay’s slavering over his actress’ asses. Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Rebecca Hall, Demián Bichir, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Eiza González, Lance Reddick, Shun Oguri, Kaylee Hottle, Julian Dennison, and Kyle Chandler. 

In the Earth (R) After his disappointing Netflix adaptation of Rebecca, Ben Wheatley is back to his weird self in this horror film shot during the pandemic under Britain’s COVID guidelines. When an agricultural scientist (Joel Fry) and a park ranger (Ellora Torchia) venture deep into a national forest, they’re targeted by a crazy homeless guy with an axe (Reece Shearsmith) who believes in the forest’s mystical powers. Wheatley deploys micro-flashbacks, flashing strobe lights, and Clint Mansell’s industrial score to create a psychedelic effect, appropriate for a movie where characters breathe in hallucinogenic mushroom spores. Yet this is another occasion when Wheatley’s less concerned with telling a story than with using his formidable arsenal of cinematic techniques, as his script is full of dead-end subplots that fail to comment on local folklore, climate change, or the foolishness of people who try to ride out a pandemic by going off the grid. Even so, his strangeness is worth taking in in a multiplex. Also with Hayley Squires, John Hollingworth, and Mark Monero.

Jakob’s Wife (NR) The latest horror film by Travis Stevens (Girl on the Third Floor) stars Barbara Crampton as a small-town minister’s wife who rediscovers her youth when she’s bitten by a vampire. Also with Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Nyisha Bell, Sarah Lind, Mark Kelly, and CM Punk.

Minari (PG-13) The great boom in Korean filmmaking is joined by a great movie about Korean immigrants in America. Veteran director Lee Isaac Chung draws on his own childhood for this story about a Korean farmer (Steven Yeun) who buys up 50 acres in northwest Arkansas in the 1980s to grow Asian vegetables for the other immigrants coming after him. The workload on him and his wife (Han Ye-ri) is too much to allow them to look after their kids (Noel Cho and Alan Kim), so her mother (Youn Yuh-jung) comes there from South Korea to look after the children. The hard-swearing, chain-smoking grandma is a presence as hot as gochujang, and much of the comedy comes from the unlikely friendship she forms with her 6-year-old grandson. Chung devotes a great deal of attention to the practical struggles of farming, and in so doing demonstrates how an immigrant takes root in American soil. The movie’s title comes from a parsley-like herb that the old woman plants, a symbol of the legacy she leaves in a short time. Also with Will Patton, Darryl Cox, Esther Moon, Ben Hall, and Eric Starkey.

Nobody (R) Wonderful as it is to see Bob Odenkirk star in an action thriller, the film doesn’t have much besides its novelty value. The comedy writer and star of Better Call Saul plays an anonymous suburban father of two who’s hiding a past as a government-licensed killer. When his past comes to light, he falls afoul of the Russian mob. The best scene here is a fight on a bus when he takes down five knife-wielding thugs, as director Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) makes good use of the setting and Odenkirk conveys the difficulty his character has in defending himself against all these bad guys. The other action set pieces don’t measure up to that one, though, and the script fails to do justice to the concept of a regular guy who tries to manage his family life while his past catches up with him. The humor is heavy-footed, too. The 58-year-old star fully merits his action vehicle, and could have used a better one. Also with Connie Nielsen, Alexey Serebryakov, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorath, Christopher Lloyd, and RZA. 

Raya and the Last Dragon (PG) This Disney animated film is savvy enough to be set in Southeast Asia, which has a rich vein of folklore. If the results are somewhat underwhelming, the fact that the film is still watchable means something. Set in an ancient dragon-shaped kingdom that has broken off into five warring territories, the movie is about a teenage girl (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) who sees an opportunity to unite the land in peace by reviving the last dragon (voiced by Awkwafina). The film’s points about learning to get along were made by Zootopia with much greater wit and cogency, and Raya herself is so bland that the film surrounds her with six cute sidekicks. The movie badly needs Awkwafina, whose humor cuts through the movie’s reverence and pictorial beauty like a Thai chile through coconut milk. The picture serves an underserved audience and is better than last year’s live-action Mulan remake. Additional voices by Sandra Oh, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Benedict Wong, Sung Kang, François Chau, Ross Butler, Alan Tudyk, Lucille Soong, and Daniel Dae Kim.

SAS: Red Notice (R) This British thriller stars Sam Heughan as a special forces soldier who happens to be on a train in the Channel Tunnel when it’s hijacked by a group of terrorists. Also with Hannah-John Kamen, Ruby Rose, Andy Serkis, Tom Hopper, Jing Lusi, Anne Reid, and Tom Wilkinson. 

Tom and Jerry (PG) I get the feeling that a better movie could have been made about Itchy and Scratchy from The Simpsons. The cartoon cat and mouse remain animated as they take their rivalry into a live-action fancy New York hotel, where an unemployed millennial (Chloë Grace Moretz) cons her way into a job as a temporary event planner. Tom and Jerry’s mostly one-way slapstick violence against each other feels like it was taken straight from the 1940s cartoons, and the human characters around them have nothing to add to the proceedings. I’d blame the script for the lack of funny business, but I’m not sure there ever was one. When Michael Peña can’t inject anything into the comedy, you know things are dire. Also with Ken Jeong, Pallavi Sharda, Rob Delaney, Patsy Ferran, and Colin Jost. Voices by Bobby Cannavale, Lil Rel Howery, and Utkarsh Ambudkar.

The Unholy (PG-13) They’re running out of titles for religious horror films, aren’t they? This one is about a deaf teenage girl (Cricket Brown) in Massachusetts in the present day who miraculously recovers her hearing and speech at the site of a 19th-century witch burning, claiming to have visions of the Virgin Mary. Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays a disgraced journalist who covers the events and starts to suspect that something other than the blessed virgin gave her back her senses. First-time director Evan Spilitopoulos (who was a screenwriter on the Beauty and the Beast remake) has some sharp things to say about people’s need to believe in miracles and how that can be corrupted, but this movie fails utterly as a horror film. The newcomer Brown gives an impressive performance amid the wreckage. It’s not enough to recommend this movie that lands on “dopey” rather than “scary.” Also with Cary Elwes, Katie Aselton, Diogo Morgado, and William Sadler. 

Vakeel Saab (NR) This Telugu-language remake of the Hindi film Pink stars Pawan Kalyan as a lawyer representing an accused rapist in a criminal case. Also with Nivetha Thomas, Anjali, Prakash Raj, Naresh, Ananya Nagalla, and Shruti Haasan.

Voyagers (PG-13) This science-fiction film is a bunch of horny teenagers acting out Lord of the Flies in space, and it’s way less interesting than that sounds. Neil Burger’s movie is set in the 2080s, when a group of Earth colonists who have been in space since childhood are in the middle of an 86-year journey to a colonizable planet. The teens are drugged with a potion that turns off their emotions and sex drive, but when their adult supervisor (Colin Farrell) is killed in an accident and the truth comes out, a demagogue (Fionn Whitehead) stages a coup to overthrow the democratically elected new chief (Tye Sheridan). This is an allegory for the Trump era, and the issue is less the conceit’s lack of subtlety than the lack of wit that Burger brings to the story, not to mention the young cast not being up to what’s required of them here. When it comes to the dangers of mob rule, cinema can do better than this arid parable. Also with Lily-Rose Depp, Chanté Adams, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Archie Madekwe, Viveik Kalra, and April Grace.

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

The Man Who Sold His Skin (NR) Nominated for the Oscar for Best International Film, this Tunisian drama is about a Syrian refugee (Yahya Mahyani) who becomes a living art exhibit in a museum. Also with Dea Liane, Koen de Bouw, Saad Lostan, Christian Vadim, Darina al-Joundi, and Monica Bellucci. 

Night of the Sicario (R) Not related to Sicario or its sequel, this thriller stars Natasha Henstridge as a bodyguard trying to protect a young witness against the Colombian drug cartels. Also with Costas Mandylor, Manny Perez, Roberto “Sanz” Sanchez, Amanda Diaz, Addison Kendall, and Martin Peña. 

The Rookies (NR) This Chinese thriller stars Talu Wang as an extreme sports enthusiast trying to take down a ring of pirates in Budapest. Also with Milla Jovovich, Sandrine Pinna, Timmy Xu, David Lee McInnis, Danny Kwok-Kwan Chan, and Suet Lam. 

The Truffle Hunters (PG-13) Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s documentary chronicles the lives and work of foragers and their dogs in northern Italy as they search for valuable white truffles. 

 

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