El Cuartito (NR) Marcos Carnevale’s dramedy is about a group of five strangers detained by immigration authorities while traveling to Puerto Rico. Starring Claribel Medina, Isa Rodriguez, Fausto Mata, Mario de la Rosa, Liz Dieppa, Hector Escudero Lobe, and Ianis Guerrero. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (PG-13) Taylor Russell reprises her role from the 2019 film as a college student confronted with a new series of traps to get out of. Also with Logan Miller, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Indya Moore, and Deborah Ann Woll. (Opens Friday)
The Favorite (PG-13) Not the movie about 17th-century British lesbians, this autobiographical Christian drama written by Luke Benjamin Bernard stars Matthew Fahey as the budding Hollywood actor who finds God after suffering a traumatic brain injury. Also with Luke Benjamin Bernard, John Schneider, Uriah Hall, Amye Gousset, Michelle Feliciano, and Mollee Gray. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Lincoln Square)
Great White (NR) This thriller is about a group of strangers stranded on a life raft in shark-infested waters after a plane crash. Starring Katrina Bowden, Aaron Jakubenko, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Tim Kaho, Te Kohe Tuhaka, Jason Wilder, and Tatjana Marjanovic. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Gunpowder Milkshake (R) This action-thriller stars Karen Gillan as a contract killer forced to take refuge with a secret society of female assassins run by her estranged mother (Lena Headey). Also with Angela Bassett, Michelle Yeoh, Carla Gugino, Michael Smiley, Ralph Ineson, and Paul Giamatti. (Opens Wednesday in Dallas)
How to Deter a Robber (NR) Is this a Home Alone reboot? Vanessa Marano portrays a young woman defending her desolate house against some amateur burglars. Also with Benjamin Papac, Chris Mulkey, Leah Lewis, Abbie Cobb, and Gabrielle Carteris. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Lincoln Square)
Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (NR) Beth B’s documentary profiles the 1970s No Wave musician and artist. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Out of Death (R) Bruce Willis stars in this thriller as a crooked small-town sheriff whose reign is threatened. Also with Jaime King, Lala Kent, Kelly Greyson, Megan Leonard, and Tyler Jon Olson. (Opens Friday at Movie Tavern Hulen)
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (R) Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) directs this documentary about the famed chef and travel writer. Also with David Chang, David Choe, Eric Ripert, Josh Homme, and Ottavia Bourdain. (Opens Friday)
Space Jam: A New Legacy (PG) LeBron James stars in the sequel to the 1996 film as himself, leading a team of cartoon characters against an evil basketball team. Also with Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Wood Harris, and Lil Rel Howery. Voices by Zendaya, Gabriel Iglesias, Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis. (Opens Friday)
Summertime (R) This comedy by Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting) and written by the 25 spoken-word artists starring in it is about the intersecting lives of different citizens of Los Angeles. Starring Tyris Winter, Marquesha Babers, Maia Mayor, Austin Antoine, Bryce Banks, Amaya Blankenship, Bene’t Benton, Gordon Ip, and Jason Alvarez. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Black Widow (PG-13) The film doesn’t bring much closure to the story of Scarlett Johansson’s character, and it feels like Marvel never appreciated her. Even so, this thriller works well on its own. The film delves into Natasha Romanoff’s backstory and sees her reunite the members of her fake family of Soviet agents (Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour) to liberate an army of brainwashed assassins from the control of a Russian general (Ray Winstone). The idea of a male villain who can rob women of their ability to consent is a tantalizing idea that goes unexplored, as does Natasha’s past as a minion of evil. The better parts of the film are the ones dealing with the family getting back together, with a scene-stealing and hilarious turn by Pugh. Australian director Cate Shortland (Lore) assimilates well into the Marvel house style, too. If this doesn’t fit well into the Marvel canon, it’s still proudly female and the best blockbuster of the summer. That’s not nothing. Also with Olga Kurylenko, O-T Fagbenle, Ever Anderson, Violet McGraw, William Hurt, and an uncredited Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
The Boss Baby: Family Business (PG) This is seriously just insulting. The filmmakers acknowledge that the original 2017 animated film didn’t make any sense and wasn’t funny, then they throw the exact same lazy crap at us as the last time. The Templeton brothers (voiced by Alec Baldwin and James Marsden) are now grown-up and estranged from each other when Tim’s kids inform them that they need to take a magic potion so they can temporarily turn back into babies and infiltrate an evil corporation run by a bad baby (voiced by Jeff Goldblum). Plot developments and action sequences are thrown at us with zero regard for logic or continuity. Additional voices by Eva Longoria, Amy Sedaris, Ariana Greenblatt, James McGrath, Jimmy Kimmel, and Lisa Kudrow.
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.
F9 (PG-13) Better late than never that the series goes all the way silly. Dom (Vin Diesel) has to go up against the younger brother (John Cena) he disowned who’s now an international superspy aiming to take over the world. Also, Han (Sung Kang) is brought back from the dead and Roman and Tej (Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris) go into outer space in a Pontiac Fiero. Both of those developments are ridiculous, and one of them is so in a pleasing way. The drama is soft-boiled, and Cena is wasted in a role that doesn’t let him be funny. Then again, the car chases — one involves cars with superpowered magnets that turn other cars into projectiles — are enough to keep the movie fresh for its fans. Also with Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lucas Black, Vinnie Bennett, Finn Cole, Thue Ersted Rasmussen, Shea Whigham, Michael Rooker, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, Cardi B, and an uncredited Jason Statham.
The Forever Purge (R) White supremacists in Texas start a violent revolution declaring that the Purge is now every day. It makes for the most watchable of the films in the series, mostly because a descent into total anarchy always made more sense than a system that includes just one Purge day. Director Everardo Gout focuses on one rich white family and the undocumented Mexican couple working for them as they flee the chaos by making a run for the Mexican border. Gout executes a nice one-take tracking shot as the main characters dash across the streets of El Paso with murder and carnage happening around them. The series should have done this sooner, as the ending sets up an interesting situation going forward. Starring Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Ana de la Reguera, Leven Rambin, Cassidy Freeman, Tenoch Huerta, Susie Abromeit, Alejandro Edda, Sammi Rotibi, Will Brittain, and Veronica Falcón.
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.
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.
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.
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (PG-13) At the same time that Woodstock was happening, another music festival took place in Harlem where the musical acts were filmed. However, no distributors were interested in the footage because all the aforementioned musicians were Black, even though the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival had an arguably better lineup than Woodstock’s. If you’re sick of Summer of Love nostalgia, this film will show you that it wasn’t just a white thing. Questlove is the director, and besides the galvanizing performances by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, Sonny Sharrock, and Mahalia Jackson, the movie also boasts enlightening interviews with Sheila E. analyzing the percussion techniques of the Latin musicians there and Charlayne Hunter-Gault describing how Simone’s albums helped her cope with the pressure of integrating an all-white university. The film is currently playing on Hulu, but the sound system at a movie theater will better do this film justice.
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.
Zola (R) Surely the first movie ever to be based on a Twitter thread, this comedy is based on the 148-tweet account written by Detroit stripper A’Ziah “Zola” King about her weekend moneymaking trip to Florida turned out way wilder than she expected or wanted. Funny, I wanted the movie to be wilder. Taylour Paige portrays Zola and Riley Keough is the white casual acquaintance who invites her along. She doesn’t tell Zola that she’s actually going to the Sunshine State to work as a prostitute, nor does she inform her that she has advertised Zola’s services as well as her own. First-time filmmaker Janicza Bravo chooses the right rough-and-tumble look for the movie, but she can’t generate a sense of danger as the women narrowly avoid assault and death on several occasions. The director clearly has talent, but her maiden feature can’t live up to the plot twists from King’s Twitter thread. Also with Colman Domingo, Nicholas Braun, Ari’el Stachel, Ts Madison, and Jason Mitchell.
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.
The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (PG) Joshua Zeman’s documentary is about the plight of a solitary whale whose calls go unrecognized by any other whales in the world.
Whitetail (NR) Shot in Joshua, Derek Presley’s thriller is about three relatives on a West Texas hunting trip who discover a wounded man with a bag full of cash. Starring Jason Douglas, Paul T. Taylor, Billy Blair, Tom Zembrod, Dash Melrose, and Ted Ferguson.