Best Sellers (NR) This drama stars Michael Caine as a reclusive author who agrees to do one final book tour to save the publishing house owned by his friend’s daughter (Aubrey Plaza). Also with Cary Elwes, Ellen Wong, Veronica Ferres, and Scott Speedman. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Blue Bayou (R) Justin Chon’s previous films (Gook, Ms. Purple) were heavy on atmosphere and light on substance, and this one somewhat improves matters. He portrays an ex-convict and tattoo artist born in South Korea but adopted by a Louisiana family at an early age. After a run-in with some racist cops, he faces the prospect of being deported to his birth country, which he hasn’t seen since childhood. The film is beautifully photographed and Chon engineers some great set pieces, like when he and his family attend a Vietnamese family reunion. The story gives a casual audience more of a hook to hang onto, but Chon’s preachiness ruins things, especially during the cheaply sentimental end. Minari this isn’t. Also with Alicia Vikander, Mark O’Brien, Sydney Kowalske, Linh Dan Pham, Susan McPhail, Emory Cohen, and Vondie Curtis-Hall. (Opens Friday)
Collection (NR) Alex Pettyfer stars in this thriller as a grieving, self-destructive man who turns to a career in debt collection. Also with Shakira Barrera, Mike Vogel, Jacques Colimon, and Joseph Julian Soria. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Copshop (R) This thriller by Joe Carnahan (Narc) stars Gerard Butler as a con artist who has himself arrested to entrap the hit man (Frank Grillo) who is targeting him. Also with Toby Huss, Alexis Louder, Tait Fletcher, Keith Jardine, and Robert O’Nan. (Opens Friday)
Cry Macho (PG-13) Clint Eastwood stars in this drama about a washed-up former rodeo champion who ventures into Mexico to bring his ex-manager’s teenage son (Eduardo Minett) into the United States. Also with Dwight Yoakam, Fernanda Urrejola, Natalia Traven, and Alexandra Ruddy. (Opens Friday)
Gully Rowdy (NR) This Telugu-language romantic comedy stars Sundeep Kishan, Neha Shetty, Bobby Simha, Harsha Chemudu, Vennela Kishore, Rajendra Prasad, and Sneha Gupta. (Opens Friday at Cinemark North East Mall)
I Love Us (NR) Danny A. Abeckaser directs and stars in his comedy as a gangster who tries to go straight after falling in love. Also with Katie Cassidy, David James Elliott, Elya Baskin, Jasper Polish, and Robert Davi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lady of the Manor (R) Justin Long co-directs and co-stars in this comedy about an aimless woman (Melanie Lynskey) who becomes a tour guide at an estate and befriends the ghost who lives there (Judy Greer). Also with Ryan Phillippe, Luis Guzmán, Cassidy Reyes, and Patrick Duffy. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
My Name Is Pauli Murray (PG-13) Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s documentary profiles the life of the non-binary Black activist and lawyer. (Opens Friday at Grand Berry Theater)
The Nowhere Inn (NR) Music star St. Vincent portrays herself in this comedy as she hires fellow musician Carrie Brownstein (who also portrays herself) to make a documentary film about her life. Also with Drew Connick, Rya Kihlstedt, John Aylward, Casey Miller, and Dakota Johnson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Starling (PG-13) Melissa McCarthy stars in this drama as a bereaved woman who finds healing in her efforts to get rid of a troublesome bird outside her house. Also with Timothy Olyphant, Skyler Gisondo, Chris O’Dowd, Elisabeth Röhm, Daveed Diggs, Loretta Devine, Laura Harrier, Rosalind Chao, Jimmy O. Yang, Jenica Bergere, and Kevin Kline. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Vivo (PG) This animated musical is about a kinkajou (voiced by Lin-Manuel Miranda) who must deliver a long-lost love song from a famous singer (voiced by Gloria Estefan) to his master (voiced by Juan de Marcos González. Additional voices by Zoe Saldana, Ynairaly Simo, Michael Rooker, Katie Lowes, Danny Pino, and Brian Tyree Henry. (Opens Friday at Movie Tavern Hulen)
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.
Candyman (R) The sequel to the 1992 horror film is dense with ideas and a pleasure to look at. Taking place in a now-gentrified Cabrini Green neighborhood, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) finds out about the urban legend and becomes obsessed, making Candyman-inspired art and bringing back the hook-handed undead man who hacks people to death if they say his name into a mirror five times. The script co-written by Jordan Peele expertly skewers the academic jargon of pretentious artists and cuts it with poisonous barbs about race relations. The Candyman goes from boogeyman of the hood to symbol of the Black community’s anger at generations of victims of white brutality. Mateen gives a great performance as a man unraveling physically and mentally, and director/co-writer Nia DaCosta gives the whole thing a lush look appropriate to the art-world setting. Also with Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Kyle Kaminsky, Brian King, Miriam Moss, Rebecca Spence, Michael Hargrove, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Heidi Grace Engerman, and Vanessa Williams.
The Card Counter (R) The best poker movie since Rounders stars Oscar Isaac as a professional gambler and disgraced former soldier at Abu Ghraib whose past comes back on him when a young gambler (Tye Sheridan) whose father was also there reveals a plan to kill the ex-Army major (Willem Dafoe) who was running the Iraqi prison and escaped prosecution. This is yet another Paul Schrader film about lonely, tormented men pondering the nature of sin and the possibility of redemption in the eyes of God. Tiffany Haddish helps cut the suffering as a middle man who recruits gamblers and stakes them so they can enter big-money tournaments. Without Isaac’s chill mastery as a man who keeps that poker face away from the table, this film might turn mopey and indifferent. Also with Alexander Babara and Bobby C. King.
Cinderella (PG) The writer-director of Blockers tries a modernized musical version of the fairy tale, and it doesn’t work. Camila Cabello stars as the heroine, and the songs are mostly covers of pop numbers with a few original ones sprinkled in. The pop music star is flavorless in the title role, but then, the only actor who brings anything distinctive to this is Billy Porter as the fabulous godmother, singing Earth WInd & Fire’s “Shining Star.” The movie is littered with bad scenes that are livened up by one nice line. That’s not enough to make this work, and the CGI mice who are Cinderella’s friends will make you yearn for Disney’s special-effects wizardry. Also with Idina Menzel, Nicholas Galitzine, Tallulah Greive, Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer, Ben Bailey Smith, James Corden, Minnie Driver, and Pierce Brosnan.
Don’t Breathe 2 (R) The blind villain from the original film raped and forcibly impregnated one woman and tried to do the same to another, in addition to murdering several people. To make him palatable as a protagonist, the sequel pits him against people who are somehow even worse. The man has set up another secluded home outside Detroit with his young daughter (Madelyn Grace) when she’s targeted by a group of dishonorably discharged soldiers who are now working for a child organ trafficking ring. The premise’s novelty has worn off, but new director Rodo Sayagues does well staging the action scenes as this survivalist deals with a home invasion, and the script acknowledges that the little girl is traumatized by seeing her dad gruesomely kill the bad guys. Hard to see where a third movie would pick up, so this is a good place to end the series. Also with Brendan Sexton III, Rocci Williams, Stephanie Arcila, Adam Young, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, and Bobby Schofield.
Free Guy (PG-13) It’s like The Truman Show, but for video games. Ryan Reynolds stars as a bank teller inside an ultraviolent video game who discovers that he is just a non-playable character in a game and starts deviating from his programming. This movie is more attuned to gaming culture than most, with real-life YouTube and Twitch gamers making cameo appearances to comment on an NPC suddenly acting on his own. Neither of the movie’s romantic plots works, but the actors bring great energy, with Taika Waititi nailing the part of a T-shirt-wearing corporate tyrant, Jodie Comer switching gleefully between a blonde American gamer and her brunette British alter ego, and Reynolds doing well as a man who’s so square that he’s hip. Movies adapted from video games suck, but movies about video games and why people play them have better luck. Also with Lil Rel Howery, Joe Keery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Channing Tatum, and Chris Evans. Voices by Dwayne Johnson, Tina Fey, John Krasinski, and Hugh Jackman.
The Green Knight (R) David Lowery’s most complete film yet is this strange, mystical adaptation of the 14th-century poem about Sir Gawain. Dev Patel portrays the medieval knight, who beheads a knight (Ralph Ineson) who challenges him and then has to keep an appointment the next year to receive a return blow from the victim, who’s very much alive despite being decapitated. Lowery’s customary brand of mythic fantasy fits this story better than any of his previous ones, and he has a flair for the unexpected visual, like the Green Knight laying his axe down on a stone castle floor and grass immediately sprouting from the cracks. The borderline-abstract interiors and the blasted heaths and moors make for spectacular backdrops. At times Lowery needs to crack on with the story, but the overly long fake ending serves a purpose in tying the poem to the director’s ongoing concerns with human beings’ purpose on Earth. For a movie adapted from a 600-year-old poem, its weirdness is entirely appropriate. Also with Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Sarita Choudhury, Barry Keoghan, Erin Kellyman, and Kate Dickie.
Jungle Cruise (PG-13) Thuddingly mediocre Disney entry has none of the technical dazzle of Raiders of the Lost Ark nor any of the bracing weirdness of the better Pirates of the Caribbean films. This adventure film based on one of the Disneyland rides is set in 1916 and features Emily Blunt as a British archeologist who travels to Brazil and engages a rough riverboat captain (Dwayne Johnson) to take her on an Amazon expedition to find a lost treasure. The filmmakers are aiming for something like the Bogart-Hepburn chemistry from The African Queen, but it never materializes, and the only actor here who comes correct is Jesse Plemons as a German military officer who serves as a comic villain. This isn’t bad, necessarily. It’s just overwhelmingly Disney. Also with Edgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Veronica Falcón, Andy Nyman, and Paul Giamatti.
Malignant (PG-13) First there was Insidious, then there was Sinister, and now this. What’s next, Deleterious? Annabelle Wallis stars in this horror film as a battered wife who starts to experience visions of supernatural murders as they happen, starting when a demon kills her abusive husband (Jake Abel) and mangles the corpse. The whole film is like a straight-faced version of Venom, and did I ever miss the humor. There’s a cool sequence when our protagonist is jailed in general lockup and the demon tears through the other prisoners in her cell to get to her, but the affair is taken down by bad acting, bad writing, and a plot revelation that takes too long to explain. James Wan brings his typical visual flourishes to this thing. If only he had some discipline in using them, he’d be onto something. Also with Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Ingrid Bisu, Christian Clemenson, Jacqueline McKenzie, Jean Louisa Kelly, Paula Marshall, and McKenna Grace.
The Night House (R) The protagonist of this horror film sees a space between a wooden frame and a column that is shaped like a person. Then the negative space turns its head. Rebecca Hall portrays a schoolteacher whose architect husband (Evan Jonigkeit) has recently committed suicide. Alone in the lake house that he designed and built, she starts to hear strange noises and discover evidence that he was working on a whole other house that is the mirror image of the one she lives in. Director David Bruckner conjures up some effectively ooky scares and Hall is magnificent as a depressive who copes with her loss by cracking disturbingly dark jokes. The story works splendidly on a metaphorical level (with themes of mirrors, doubles, and empty spaces), but needs to be more believable when incorporating supernatural elements into a realistic story. Also with Sarah Goldberg, Stacy Martin, Christina Jackson, David Abelas, and Vondie Curtis-Hall.
Old (PG-13) M. Night Shyamalan remains great at putting the camera in the right place and moving it around, and also remains terrible at writing. Adapting Pierre Oscar Lévy and Frederik Peeters’ French graphic novel, the film stars Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps as parents of young children who take a vacation on a secluded beach and discover along with a few other groups of vacationers that the place is causing them to age rapidly. As always, Shyamalan creates enviable shots and goes easy on the sentimentality that has marred some of his previous work, but the film goes on too long and the trademark plot twist here (different from the one in the graphic novel) doesn’t pay off well enough. Ranking in the middle of the pack of Shyamalan’s films, this keeps you interested but no more. Also with Alex Wolff, Thomasin McKenzie, Abbey Lee, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Ken Leung, Eliza Scanlen, Embeth Davidtz, Aaron Pierre, Emun Elliott, Kathleen Chalfant, Gustaf Hammarsten, Francesca Eastwood, and Rufus Sewell.
Paw Patrol: The Movie (G) I think they just recycled the least creative scripts from the TV show and used it for this movie. The rescue puppies hit the big city, and the police dog (voiced by Iain Armitage) continually screws up as they try to rescue people from dangerous publicity stunts pulled by the Trump-like mayor (voiced by Ron Pardo). Not a single story beat of this thing registers as fresh, except perhaps the filmmakers’ unreasonable hatred of cats. The visuals are acceptable and the movie adds a bunch of celebrities as voices, but the whole affair has about as much energy as a sedated 14-year-old house pet. Additional voices by Marsai Martin, Will Brisbin, Yara Shahidi, Randall Park, Dax Shepard, Jimmy Kimmel, Kim Kardashian West, and Tyler Perry.
The Protégé (R) That title should be spelled “protégée,” but this movie has bigger problems than mixing up its French noun genders. Maggie Q stars in this thriller as a contract killer who seeks revenge when her adoptive father and mentor in the trade (Samuel L. Jackson) is murdered in his home on his 70th birthday. Her quest leads her to Vietnam, the country where she was orphaned as a girl. Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) executes the fight sequences reasonably well, but the script is way less clever than it thinks it is. Maggie Q can certainly deliver a roundhouse kick, and it would have helped if she could deliver a threat with any sort of aplomb. The only actor who shows what he can do is Michael Keaton as an enemy who is as skilled and resourceful as the antiheroine. You’re better off staying home and catching the movie streaming, or simply looking up the fight scenes on YouTube. Also with Patrick Malahide, Ray Fearon, Ori Pfeffer, David Rintoul, and Robert Patrick.
Queenpins (R) Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste star in this comic thriller as two suburban mothers who start up a multimillion-dollar coupon fraud scheme. Also with Vince Vaughn, Paul Walter Hauser, Joel McHale, Stephen Root, Jack McBrayer, Annie Mumolo, Nick Cassavetes, Paul Rust, Dayo Okeniyi, and Bebe Rexha.
Un rescate de huevitos (PG) If you’ve never seen a Mexican animated movie for kids, you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t too shabby. The story begins on a farm where a rooster and hen (voiced by Bruno Bichir and Maite Perroni) have laid two golden eggs, which unfortunately attracts the attention of some Russian egg hunters who are searching for rare eggs to serve at a banquet in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The concept of eggs that walk and talk to one another may be too weird for you, but the computer animation is at an acceptable level, the plot has enough twists to keep the kids engaged, and the throwaway gags in the background might raise a chuckle or two from the grown-ups. This is the fourth film in a series, but the first one to make it to our theaters. Additional voices by Carlos Espejel, Mauricio Barrientos, Angélica Vale, Freddy Ortega, Germán Ortega, Miguel Rodarte, and Jesús Ochoa.
Respect (PG-13) If you’re going to make a biopic of Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson is the best you can do to cast as the Queen of Soul. Too bad this movie isn’t the best that can be done. Franklin’s eventful life is reduced to a series of episodes strung together indifferently and interspersed with Hudson’s cover versions of Franklin’s best-known hits, plus some from her abortive earlier career as a lounge jazz singer. The film has some great supporting work from Forest Whitaker as Franklin’s father and Marc Maron as Jerry Wexler, but these aren’t enough to knit this bloated exercise into a cohesive statement about its subject’s life and career, or even reveal much that’s new to casual fans. Also with Audra McDonald, Marlon Wayans, Tituss Burgess, Saycon Sengbloh, Brenda Nicole Moorer, Hailey Kilgore, Kimberly Scott, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Tate Donovan, and Mary J. Blige.
Small Engine Repair (R) John Pollono adapts his own stage play effectively to the big screen, portraying a divorced father in Manchester, N.H., who uses a gathering of his male buddies (Jon Bernthal and Shea Whigham) as a trap for a rich teen drug dealer (Spencer House) who slut-shamed his daughter on Instagram and drove her to attempt suicide. Pollono has a keen ear for the casual racism, sexism, and homophobia that goes into male bonding and the violence that’s in the air every time the men get together with alcohol. He does make some rookie mistakes with the flashback sequences, which would be more powerful if he had kept the camera on his actors as they told their stories, but he slots in well alongside his more seasoned co-stars, and Bernthal is particularly magnificent. The movie makes the most out of its condensed plot with a bunch of guys having another guy tied up and wondering how to dispose of him. Also with Ciara Bravo, Ashlie Atkinson, Josh Helman, Michael Redfield, and Jordana Spiro.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (PG-13) The superhero movie that the Chinese film industry has been trying to make for the last decade or so. The latest Marvel film stars Simu Liu as the son of a Chinese mob boss (Tony Leung) who has been lying low in San Francisco to escape that life. He’s forced to come out of hiding when he learns of his father’s plans to destroy a mythical Chinese village containing legendary beasts. Director/co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton skilfully imitates the pictorialism of Chinese martial-arts epics, gracefully imitates the flashbacks, and injects humor into the proceedings without strain. The fight sequences move at blinding speed, which helps compensate for Liu’s lack of distinction when it comes to depicting the hero’s damaged childhood. Leung is much better, as his mournful, haunted face keeps his villain from being one-dimensional. This is up to the standard of Marvel’s other superhero films, and its ties to Asian folklore set it apart. Also with Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Meng’er, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu, Andy Le, Yuen Wah, Ronnie Chieng, Tsai Chin, Benedict Wong, Tim Roth, Ben Kingsley, and uncredited cameos by Mark Ruffalo and Brie Larson.
Show Me the Father (PG) Rick Altizer’s documentary interviews Christians about their experiences with fatherhood bringing them closer to God.
Space Jam: A New Legacy (PG) A worthy successor to the 1996 movie, which is to say it’s just as loud, stupid, cynical, and bereft of any value (entertainment or otherwise) as the original. LeBron James portrays himself as a crappy dad who pushes his teenage son (Cedric Joe) to play basketball when the kid would rather be designing video games. They both get digitized and forced to suit up against an evil basketball team made up of real-life NBA and WNBA stars as well as a whole bunch of characters from Warner Bros.’ intellectual property ranks. The movie’s too busy name-checking characters from Looney Tunes and the DC Comics universe to attempt a coherent story or even fire off any stray jokes that hit. The only way this could be a bigger disgrace to everyone involved is if it had a soaring ballad by R. Kelly over the end credits. Also with Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Khris Davis, Wood Harris, Lil Rel Howery, Sarah Silverman, Steven Yeun, and Michael B. Jordan. Voices by Zendaya, Rosario Dawson, Gabriel Iglesias, Diana Taurasi, Nneka Ogwumike, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, and Anthony Davis.
Stillwater (R) Matt Damon plays an Oklahoma roughneck whose college-student daughter (Abigail Breslin) is caught up in a murder heavily reminiscent of the Amanda Knox case in Marseille. When he finds a lead toward clearing his daughter’s name, he resolves to stay in France and have her freed from prison. Director/co-writer Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) is best when he focuses on the main character’s efforts to adjust to a new country and become a father figure in a new French family. However, the story takes an unforgivably melodramatic and sensationalistic turn about 45 minutes from the end, one which seems to come from a different film altogether. The film is supposed to be about how living in a new place changes you. Had it stuck to that, it might have been really good. Also with Camille Cottin, Lilou Siauvaud, Idir Azougli, Anne Le Ny, and Deanna Dunagan.
The Suicide Squad (R) Let’s all just pretend that the original Suicide Squad movie never happened, okay? A whole new squad of villains is sent to rescue the original squad’s commander (Joel Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in a fictitious Caribbean island nation where the new anti-American government is threatening to take possession of an American secret weapon. James Gunn’s madcap sense of humor is a vast improvement over the original’s complete humorlessness, with Harley’s scatterbrainedness reaching Brick Tamland levels and a funny pissing match ongoing between the squad’s two alpha males (Idris Elba and John Cena). Gunn knows how to play the gory deaths for both laughs and pathos as needed, and the team winds up facing a kaiju that’s mightily impressive. If this and Birds of Prey are indications of a raunchy direction for the DC movies, I’m all for it. Also with Viola Davis, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Jai Courtney, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Storm Reid, Alice Braga, Juan Diego Botto, Joaquín Cosio, Flula Borg, Sean Gunn, Steve Agee, Jennifer Holland, Peter Capaldi, and Taika Waititi. Voice by Sylvester Stallone.
The Alpinist (PG-13) Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen’s documentary profiles Canadian mountain climber Marc-André Leclerc, who scales mountains all over the world by himself without seeking publicity.
Catch the Bullet (R) This Western stars Jay Pickett as a U.S. marshal who discovers that his son (Mason McNulty) has been kidnapped by a gang of outlaws. Also with Gattlin Griffith, Cody Jones, Tucson Vernon Walker, and Peter Facinelli.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (PG-13) Adapted from a stage musical, this film stars Max Harwood as a teenager from Sheffield who wants to be a drag queen. Also with Richard E. Grant, Sharon Horgan, Lauren Patel, Sarah Lancashire, and Ralph Ineson.
The Gateway (R) Shea Whigham stars in this thriller as a social worker trying to protect a single mother (Olivia Munn) from her violent ex-husband (Frank Grillo) after he’s released from prison. Also with Keith David, Taryn Manning, Mark Boone Junior, Taegen Burns, and Bruce Dern.
Language Lessons (NR) Natalie Morales makes her filmmaking debut in this comedy about a Spanish teacher who forges an unexpected friendship with a new student (Mark Duplass). Also with DeSean Terry.
Wild Indian (NR) Michael Greyeyes and Chaske Spencer star in this thriller as two Native Americans bound together by the secret of a murder committed years before. Also with Kate Bosworth, Colton Knaus, Scott Haze, and Jesse Eisenberg.
The Year of the Everlasting Storm (NR) This anthology of seven short films was entirely shot during the 2020 COVID lockdown, directed by David Lowery, Jafar Panahi, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Laura Poitras, Anthony Chen, Malik Vitthal, and Dominga Sotomayor.
Zone 414 (R) Guy Pearce stars in this science-fiction thriller as a private detective trying to solve a missing persons case in a colony of future humanoid robots. Also with Travis Fimmel, Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Colin Salmon, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, and Ned Dennehy.