Lansky (R) Harvey Keitel stars in this biopic as elderly mobster Meyer Lansky, looking back on his career as the head of Murder, Inc. Also with John Magaro, AnnaSophia Robb, Minka Kelly, David James Elliott, and Sam Worthington. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lat Mat 5: 48H (NR) The fifth film in this Vietnamese action series stars Le Ha Anh, Tiet Cuong, Huynh Dong, Mac Van Khoa, and Oc Thanh Van. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)
Summer of 85 (NR) François Ozon’s adaptation of Aidan Chambers’ novel stars Félix Lefebvre as a French teenager in 1985 who falls in love with the boy who saves his life (Benjamin Voisin). Also with Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Melvil Poupaud, Bruno Fernandez, Philippine Velge, and Isabelle Nanty. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Werewolves Within (R) The best part of this horror-comedy is the opening, which has an epigraph from Mr. Rogers accompanied by dire music. It’s all downhill from there. Adapted from a video game, the film is about a small New England town that’s attacked by a werewolf one night, as the new forest ranger (Sam Richardson) has to sort out whether any of the people hunkered down in the local hotel might be a lycanthrope. The attempt at political commentary fails because the characters are all loathsome and oppressively eccentric whether they’re a predator oil pipeline guy (Wayne Duvall), Trump-loving conservatives, or a rich hipster gay couple. The movie doesn’t play like a video game adaptation, but rather like a night of bad community theater. Also with Milana Vayntrub, Michaela Watkins, Cheyenne Jackson, George Basil, Michael Chernus, Catherine Curtin, Rebecca Henderson, Glenn Fleshler, Harvey Guillén, and Sarah Burns. (Opens Friday at Grand Berry Theater)
Witnesses (PG) This religious drama is about a man seeking scientific proof of the Mormon scriptures as historical fact. Starring Michael Zuccola, Caleb J. Spivak, Lincoln Hoppe, Paul Wuthrich, Scott Christopher, Lacy Hartselle, and Shawn Stevens. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (R) The filmmakers lose the plot something serious here. The horror series veers into third-rate courtroom drama as Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) try to prove demonic possession when a young man (Ruairi O’Connor) murders his boss and claims to have mistaken him for a demon. The big tracking shots by director Michael Chaves (who did the bad, English-language movie about La Llorona) are just empty stylistic flourishes here, and the attempts to hang the series on Ed and Lorraine’s matrimonial bond are limp at best. None of this would matter much if the movie had some effective scares, but this one trots out the same oogie-boogeymen (and women) as the previous films. Also with Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, Ronnie Gene Blevins, John Noble, and Eugenie Bondurant.
Cruella (PG-13) Emma Stone goes into high camp mode, and I’m so here for it. This origin story for the 101 Dalmatians villain follows her from her childhood in 1960s England to her rise to prominence in the face of a tyrannical fashion designer boss (Emma Thompson). The filmmakers are clearly immersed in fashion, Jenny Beavan’s costumes nicely merge traditional looks with a more punk-rock design, and the film shows its protagonist always working at her craft. The main character establishes Cruella de Vil as a supervillain alter ego to strike back at her boss, and her Banksy-like publicity stunts are quite cleverly staged by director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya). Paul Walter Hauser steals scenes left and right as a Cockney grifter, but Stone owns the show as someone whose genius won’t be kept down. This Disney film’s for all the weird little kids who aren’t well-behaved enough to be princesses and have bizarre creative visions running through their heads. Also with Joel Fry, John McCrea, Emily Beecham, Kayvan Novak, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Andrew Leung, and Mark Strong.
Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train (R) The newly crowned all-time box-office champion in Japan is this anime film that plays in Japanese- and English-language versions here. If you’re not familiar with the series of manga comics that this is based on, you may be confused by the lack of backstory and the weird continuity hiccups with extended flashbacks and dream sequences. However, the story still comes through about a young demon hunter (voiced by Natsuki Hanae in Japanese and Zach Aguilar in English) who is called on a mission with two other hunters and a mentor (voiced by Satoshi Hino and Mark Whitten) to catch an evil spirit preying on the passengers of a train out of Tokyo. If the dramatics are too lachrymose for you, the action sequences and the repulsively imagined demons are enough to give this movie traction. Additional voices by Akari Kitô, Abby Trott, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Bryce Papenbrook, Hiro Shimono, Aleks Le, Daisuke Hirakawa, Landon McDonald, Akira Ishida, and Lucien Dodge.
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.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (R) Loud, obnoxious, and unfunny, this sequel to the 2017 comedy stars Ryan Reynolds as a disgraced ex-bodyguard who is engaged to save his former client (Samuel L. Jackson) by the guy’s wife (Salma Hayek). She’s menopausal, which at least gives her a reason for being foul-mouthed, reckless, and violent. What’s the other guys’ excuses? Director Patrick Hughes spends entirely too much time with these loathsome characters, whole absorption in the tiny details of their lives is annoying rather than funny, and not enough time shooting up the place. Also with Gary Oldman, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Tom Hopper, Caroline Goodall, Rebecca Front, and Antonio Banderas.
The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 (R) Omar Epps reprises his role in this sequel to the horror parody as an author who thinks his new next-door neighbor (Katt Williams) may be a vampire. Also with Zulay Henao, Bresha Webb, Lil Duval, Michael Blackson, Danny Trejo, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dogg.
In the Heights (PG-13) Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical makes for a perfect summer movie. Anthony Ramos plays a man running a bodega in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights who observes what goes down on his heavily Caribbean block during a hot summer week while he plans to move back to the Dominican Republic, where he immigrated from. The movie is stuffed with characters and plotlines, and director Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) keeps them all in line with the help of screenwriter Quiara Alegría Hudes. The musical highlights are too numerous to list, but pay attention to Ramos rapping the opening title song, the ensemble number at a public swimming pool, and the delirious romantic dance on the side of a building. Also with Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Jimmy Smits, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, Olga Merediz, Gregory Diaz IV, Mateo Gómez, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Marc Anthony.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (PG) The sequel to the 2016 kids’ movie acknowledges the original movie’s flaws, though that somehow doesn’t make it more charming. Peter (voiced by James Corden) settles in with his new human keepers (Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne), but then runs off after a book publisher (David Oyelowo) tries to make him into the villain of the books being published about him. The proceedings pick up a bit when Peter falls in with a hardened big-city rabbit (voiced by Lennie James) who knew his dad, but it’s not near enough to lift this. The book publisher wants to turn the Peter Rabbit stories into some overly hip kids’ adventure, which is what the movie succeeds in doing to Beatrix Potter’s work. Additional voices by Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Aimee Horne, Colin Moody, Damon Herriman, Rupert Degas, Sia, and Hayley Atwell.
Queen Bees (PG-13) Ellen Burstyn stars in this comedy as a woman who encounters a clique of elderly mean girls when she moves into a nursing home. Also with James Caan, Jane Curtin, Loretta Devine, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Mitchell, French Stewart, and Christopher Lloyd.
A Quiet Place Part II (PG-13) A worthy successor to the 2018 horror hit, this sequel expands the world of the original, with the surviving family members (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, and Noah Jupe) abandoning their family farm to shelter with a neighbor (Cillian Murphy) and find a sanctuary on an island untouched by the alien invasion. Murphy’s presence is a nice touch, as he recalls his starring role in 28 Days Later and gives a nice performance as a survivor of the apocalypse who’s haunted by his lost loved ones. Besides telling us some things about our core characters that we didn’t know, writer-director John Krasinski also delivers on a couple of bravura sequences, one with a pre-credit extended flashback and another involving a pack of rapist-cannibals. The series continues to build character and suspense with a minimum of dialogue. Also with Djimon Hounsou, Dean Woodward, Scoot McNairy, and John Krasinski.
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.
Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (PG-13) The EGOT-winning entertainer who turns 90 this year looks back on her life and career as a Latina actress who won an Oscar and then didn’t make another movie for seven years because Hollywood had no idea what to do with her. The movie does not gloss over her early roles where she had darkened skin and played Polynesians, Asians, and Native Americans, nor does Moreno herself sugarcoat the experience of being raped by her agent or her tumultuous affair with Marlon Brando that led her to attempt suicide. You come away with an appreciation of the obstacles in her path and how much she achieved despite those. At her age, she still has a lucid mind and can bust out some dance moves. How can you not be inspired by that? Also with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria, Gloria Estefan, Justina Machado, Hector Elizondo, George Chakiris, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, and Morgan Freeman.
The Sparks Brothers (R) Edgar Wright edits his first documentary within an inch of its life, though it still comes off like a mash note from a fanboy. He profiles Ron and Russell Mael, the uncategorizable pop duo that have been dazzling and frustrating their fans since the 1970s. The brothers are intelligent, subversive, and endearingly zany both in their music and in their approach to the journalistic process, as they deadpan comic answers to serious questions. Even so, Wright stretches this film out to 140 minutes as he breaks down every one of Sparks’ 25 albums, and it comes off like a hyperventilating music nerd sitting you down and forcing you to listen to this cool band nobody knows about. Also with Beck, Flea, Jane Wiedlin, Mike Myers, Fred Armisen, Giorgio Moroder, Todd Rundgren, Jason Schwartzman, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Neil Gaiman, Patton Oswalt, Pamela Des Barres, Jack Antonoff, Mark Gatiss, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, and Weird Al Yankovic.
Spiral (R) This spinoff from the Saw series has more sophisticated ideas in its head than its predecessors, but still needed more. Chris Rock plays a homicide cop dealing with a Jigsaw copycat who is targeting police officers for his sadistic murders. The fact that it’s bad cops in the new killer’s torture devices doesn’t do all that much. The script does have an intriguing idea in making the Black protagonist a pariah inside his department for his honesty about police brutality, but this isn’t followed up on like you’d want. Rock does have loads more personality than any actor we’ve previously seen in the series, and his presence alone makes this into a flawed but unique presence in the burgeoning canon of Black horror movies. A sequel will need a lot more thought, though. Also with Max Minghella, Marisol Nichols, Dan Petronijevic, Richard Zeppieri, Patrick McManus, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Spirit Untamed (PG) Now that the property has heated up again thanks to a Netflix spinoff series of the original 2002 animated film, this sequel feels hastily thrown together. Isabela Merced voices a girl who tries to save Spirit and his herd of wild horses from a gang of outlaws determined to herd them and sell them off for meat. Given a chance to freshen up a dull original, the filmmakers can’t come up with any suspenseful set pieces or funny jokes, nor can they shed any light on the Latin cowboy experience. The voice cast is boring as well despite its A-listers. This movie needed to be on a streaming service, because it’s nowhere good enough to have seen the inside of a theater. Additional voices by Marsai Martin, Mckenna Grace, Jake Gyllenhaal, Walton Goggins, Eiza González, Andre Braugher, and Julianne Moore.
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.
12 Mighty Orphans (PG-13) A real-life Fort Worth story becomes a movie made in our own town. Luke Wilson plays “Rusty” Russell, the legendary football coach who arrives to teach math and take over the team at the Fort Worth Masonic Home for Orphans in the late 1920s. Director Ty Roberts and co-writers Lane Garrison and Kevin Meyer labor mightily to avoid the usual clichés of sports dramas with mixed results. The narrative suffers from too much voiceover narration from a doctor and assistant coach (Martin Sheen) explaining how the team became an inspiration to America during the Great Depression, but the hardscrabble setting of Fort Worth a century ago is well-evoked and the football games look ragged the way you’d expect a high-school game from that era to look. Watch for Wayne Knight, cast well against type and making a big impression as a sadistic school dean who believes in corporal punishment. Also with Robert Duvall, Vinessa Shaw, Lane Garrison, Jacob Lofland, Scott Haze, Ron White, Rooster McConaughey, Jake Austin Walker, Larry Pine, and Treat Williams.
Wrath of Man (R) If you want the familiar comforts of Jason Statham shooting people, this movie delivers. Considering it’s his reunion with Guy Ritchie, though, it’s a bit underwhelming. Statham plays an Englishman in L.A. who takes a job as a security guard for an armored truck company, only to prove to his colleagues that he’s not an ordinary working stiff. This remake of the 2004 French thriller Cash Truck sports an ingenious flashback structure that reveals why the protagonist is out for revenge and who he is seeking it from. The movie could have done without Christopher Benstead’s bombastic score and Ritchie’s Biblical imagery. Despite a nifty one-take opening shot depicting two guards being held up by armed robbers, the movie isn’t as thoughtful or skillful as Heat or The Limey. I like Statham better, too, when he’s allowed to display a sense of humor. Also with Jeffrey Donovan, Holt McCallany, Josh Hartnett, Deobia Oparei, Scott Eastwood, Laz Alonso, Raúl Castillo, Rocci Williams, Niamh Algar, Eddie Marsan, and Andy Garcia.
Censor (NR) Niamh Algar stars in this British horror film as a movie censor who starts to lose track of reality while investigating her sister’s disappearance. Also with Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Sophia La Porta, Adrian Schiller, and Clare Holman.