Becoming Cousteau (PG-13) This documentary by Liz Garbus (All In: The Fight for Democracy) profiles the undersea explorer and environmentalist Jacques Cousteau. (Opens Friday)
De Gaulle (NR) Lambert Wilson stars in this French historical drama as Charles de Gaulle during his exile in London after the fall of France. Also with Isabelle Carré, Olivier Gourmet, Catherine Mouchet, Pierre Hancisse, Sophie Quinton, Laurent Stocker, Alain Lenglet, and Tim Hudson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (PG-13) This biographical drama stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the 19th-century British artist who became famous for his surreal cat paintings. Also with Claire Foy, Andrea Riseborough, Sophia Di Martino, Hayley Squires, Stacy Martin, Toby Jones, Adeel Akhtar, Nick Cave, and Taika Waititi. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Estate (R) Chris Baker and Eliza Coupe star in this black comedy as the son and wife of a billionaire (Ezra Buzzington) who decide to murder him for their inheritance. Also with Rocío de la Grana, Greg Finley, Lala Kent, Heather Matarazzo, Alexandra Paul, and Eric Roberts. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Every Last One of Them (R) This thriller stars Richard Dreyfuss as a man whose search for his missing daughter turns up a much larger criminal conspiracy. Also with Jake Weber, Taryn Manning, Paul Sloan, Mary Christina Brown, and Nick Vallelonga. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Harder They Fall (R) Jonathan Majors stars in this Western as an outlaw who reunites his old gang when he discovers that his enemy (Idris Elba) is being released from prison. Also with Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz, Edi Gathegi, Deon Cole, Julio Cesar Cedillo, and Delroy Lindo. (Opens Friday)
Ron’s Gone Wrong (PG) Acceptable tech satire for the kiddie crowd, this animated film is about a boy (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) from a poor Luddite family who begs them for the tech industry’s hot new toy, a robot that’s programmed to be its owner’s best friend. When he finally gets one (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), it turns out to be defective in ways both good and bad. It’s never too early for kids to learn that tech moguls don’t care about them and only want to sell them more stuff, though I wish the satire had been sharper and subtler. The film does boast a superb bit of chaos in the middle when the defective bot comes to class and causes all the other kids’ robots to misbehave and tear apart the school. This is the first feature by Locksmith Animation, and it’s a decent start for the outfit. Additional voices by Ed Helms, Rob Delaney, Justice Smith, Kylie Cantrall, Ricardo Hurtado, Ruby Wax, Liam Payne, and Olivia Colman. (Opens Friday)
Warning (R) Agata Alexander’s dystopian drama takes place in a near future when a global internet outage leaves people socially crippled. Starring Thomas Jane, Alice Eve, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Kylie Bunbury, Annabelle Wallis, Alex Pettyfer, Tomasz Kot, Garance Marillier, and Rupert Everett. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Addams Family 2 (PG) The animated films are engagingly weird and can indulge in the sort of large set pieces that the old TV show couldn’t. In this sequel to the 2019 film, Gomez (Oscar Isaac) drags the family on a cross-country road trip to conceal the revelation that Wednesday (voiced by Chloë Grace Moretz) might have been switched at birth with the baby of a Silicon Valley tech mogul (voiced by Bill Hader) who now wants to claim her. Moretz does well with Wednesday’s affectless demeanor but is missing the edge of creepiness that Christina Ricci brought to the part in the 1990s live-action movies. Even so, the film has set pieces like her being forced to compete in a child beauty pageant in Texas and a climactic brawl when Uncle Fester (voiced by Nick Kroll) is turned into a Lovecraftian monster and has to fight off a giant horse/pig/rooster/elephant. Additional voices by Charlize Theron, Javon “Wanna” Walton, Wallace Shawn, Brian Sommer, Cherami Leigh, Snoop Dogg, and Bette Midler.
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.
Dear Evan Hansen (PG-13) Yes, Ben Platt just turned 28 and is too old to be playing the teenage protagonist in the film version of the much-acclaimed Broadway musical. There’s still stuff to like. His Evan is a high-school senior with crippling social anxiety, and when a classmate with behavioral problems (Colton Ryan) kills himself, the other boy’s mother (Amy Adams) mistakes Evan for her son’s best and only friend. Director Stephen Chbosky has experience with teen drama (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), but he doesn’t have the instincts for a musical. Too often the camera simply sits there during the songs while the actors do the same, and it’s a major reason why the film loses its early momentum. This does a disservice to the cast, who sing the songs impeccably. The songs are by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the team that wrote the music for The Greatest Showman. This is a better film, because it doesn’t sell uplift in that cheap, toothy, believe-in-yourself way. Also with Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, and Danny Pino.
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.
Halloween Kills (R) This latest installment tries to turn Michael Myers into a metaphor for something or other, and sweet Lord, it doesn’t work. Taking place immediately after the events of the 2018 film, this sequel has Jamie Lee Curtis and a bunch of other actors from the original 1978 movie (Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, and Nancy Stephens) huddle to discuss the ways they’ve been traumatized by Michael’s murders. It all turns into a lynch mob that vows to hunt Michael down and chases a few innocent people to their deaths. Director David Gordon Green and his fellow writers try to balance the demands of a slasher movie with making Michael into a symbol of the divisions in American society, and they are the wrong filmmakers to try to pull something like that. At least the old Halloween movies were up-front about pandering to teens’ basest instincts. This movie wants to justify it intellectually. Also with Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, Jim Cummings, Dylan Arnold, Robert Longstreet, Scott MacArthur, Michael McDonald, Anthony Michael Hall, and Bob Odenkirk.
Hard Luck Love Song (R) Big surprise, a movie adapted from a song (specifically, Todd Snider’s “Just Like Old Times”) is too slender for a full-length feature. Michael Dorman portrays a drug-addicted Texas singer-songwriter who makes his living as a pool hustler. Passing through a town, he finds his old high-school girlfriend (Sophia Bush) working in the sex trade and calls her to his motel room to catch up. The resulting drama is just fine, if lacking in distinction. The New Zealand actor Dorman is a fine musician and an even better pool player, judging by a single take where he clears all the balls off the table without missing. If the movie’s pleasures are modest, so are its aims. Also with Dermot Mulroney, RZA, Melora Walters, Brian Sacca, Max Arciniega, and Eric Roberts.
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.
Lamb (R) The most badass Icelandic film you’ll see this year is this horror film about two sheep farmers (Noomi Rapace and HIlmir Snær Guđnason) in the remote countryside who see one of their ewes birth a lamb that’s, uh, a tad unusual and start raising the animal as their own child. First-time writer-director Valdimar Jóhannsson makes good use of his native country’s landscape, which seems an unremittingly hostile place that offers oppressive solitude. However, he loses control of his signifiers once he starts to show his cards. The story is best taken as a blasphemous parody of the Nativity story, and yet the conceptual joke doesn’t land. A former special-effects artist, Jóhannsson clearly has considerable talent behind the camera, but this movie falls short of what it sets out to do. Also with Björn Hlynur Haraldsson.
The Last Duel (R) I was going to review this, and then the studio told me not to spoil the outcome of a 635-year-old historical event, so my review is here instead. Ridley Scott’s account of the last officially sanctioned trial by combat in French history is better than his other historical epics like Kingdom of Heaven and Exodus: Gods and Kings, but not by much. Scott takes a Rashomon-style approach to the story of Sir Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), the 14th-century soldier who challenges his former friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) to a duel to the death after his wife (Jodie Comer) accuses Jacques of raping her. If the movie successfully makes its intellectual points, it’s sorely lacking where it comes to excitement. The only good parts are the duel itself, which is conducted in a messy and unchivalrous manner, and Ben Affleck’s performance as the duke who wants to deal with the case quietly so he can go back to his drinking and orgying. This is Affleck and Damon’s first script together since Good Will Hunting. You’d think it’d come to more. Also with Harriet Walter, Alex Lawther, Marton Csokas, Nathaniel Parker, Tallulah Haddon, and Zeljko Ivanek.
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 Many Saints of Newark (R) This prequel to TV’s The Sopranos flashes some potential for an expanded universe, but it’s a pale copy on its own. Teenage Tony Soprano (Michael Gandolfini) is a supporting character in the story of his uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who’s gearing up for war with the Black gangsters who work for him, led by the guy running his numbers racket (Leslie Odom Jr.). There’s enough subplots in here for a season of TV, yet the storytelling still feels slack, as the humorous interludes fall flat and Dickie is too uninteresting a character to carry the film’s tragic weight. The young Gandolfini, the son of the late James Gandolfini, is quite good in the role that his father made famous. Even so, this movie plays like a supermarket Sunday gravy next to the real thing that the show gave us. Also with Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Michela de Rossi, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro, Ed Marinaro, William Ludwig, Ray Liotta, and Michael Imperioli.
Monster Family 2: Nobody’s Perfect (PG) The sequel to the 2017 animated film has the titular family on another mission to save monsters from hunters. Voices by Emily Watson, Nick Frost, Jessica Brown Findlay, Catherine Tate, and Jason Isaacs.
Most Eligible Bachelor (NR) This Telugu-language comedy is about the romance between an Indian expat (Akhil Akkineni) and a standup comic (Pooja Hegde). Also with Eesha Rebba, Faria Abdullah, Aamani, Murali Sharma, Vennela Kishore, and Rahul Ravindran.
No Time to Die (PG-13) Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond proves to be a fitting send-off. James breaks up with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) after she appears to set him up for an ambush, but he’s forced to work with her again along with Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) after one of Blofeld’s enemies (Rami Malek) gets hold of a biological weapon that could wipe out billions. The first-ever Bond film with a non-British director (specifically America’s Cary Joji Fukunaga) has the big action set pieces the fans are looking for, though the better ones are smaller scenes like the one in the Norwegian forest. The writers put a greater emphasis on psychological depth, but there’s still too much fat and fanservice in this 163-minute film. Even so, Craig finds some new notes to play as the secret agent who’s broken inside, and brings the character to a wholly logical conclusion. Also with Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Lashana Lynch, David Dencik, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, and Ana de Armas.
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.
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.
The Rescue (PG) If you need a documentary to lift your spirits, here’s your best bet. Fresh off their Oscar win for Free Solo, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin turn to the cave divers from various European countries who came to Thailand in 2018 to free 12 youth soccer players and their coach from a cave that had flooded due to unexpected monsoon rains. The filmmakers fill out their interviews with computer animation and re-enactments that were filmed in a London studio, which help illustrate the conditions inside the cave that was filling up with water. Chai Vasarhelyi and Chin are fascinated by the kinds of people who are drawn to such a solitary and dangerous pastime, and they also acknowledge how these men with such a strange hobby wound up saving so many lives.
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.
The Velvet Underground (R) Todd Haynes’ documentary profiles the legendary rock band.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (PG-13) The series continues to be a useful odd entry in the world of superhero comic adaptations. Tom Hardy returns as Eddie Brock, San Francisco reporter with an alien symbiote inside him that eats people. When an imprisoned serial killer (Woody Harrelson) bites his hand, the being reproduces itself inside him, allowing him to massacre everyone who attends his execution. Andy Serkis takes over as director and has a tough time balancing between the action and the elements of dark humor, as the protagonist tries to keep the murderous thing inside him from coming out. There’s a funny interlude when Venom separates from Eddie, hits a costume party, and finds kinship among the out-and-proud gays there. The script also has a firmer grasp on the fact that Eddie is an idiot and a bad journalist. If only the series could find greater consistency in the non-Venom parts of these movies, they’d be awesome. Also with Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Stephen Graham, Reid Scott, and Peggy Lu.
Bergman Island (R) Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps star in this drama as a couple taking a vacation together on a Swedish island. Also with Mia Wasikowska, Anders Danielsen Lie, Joel Spira, Melinda Kinnaman, and Clara Strauch.
The Blazing World (NR) This science-fiction drama stars Carlson Young as a woman haunted by her twin sister’s death who finds a possible gateway to a parallel universe where her sister is still alive. Also with Udo Kier, Dermot Mulroney, Liz Mikel, and Vinessa Shaw.
Demigod (NR) This horror film stars Rachel Nichols as a woman who is hunted by the locals when she travels to Germany’s Black Forest to claim her grandfather’s inheritance. Also with Jeremy London, Yohance Myles, Elena Sanchez, Manon Pages, Christian Stokes, and Chukwuma Onwuchekwa.
The Grand Duke of Corsica (NR) Timothy Spall stars in this comedy as an architect commissioned to build a mausoleum for a dying eccentric billionaire (Peter Stormare). Also with Matt Hookings, Alicia Agneson, Lucy Martin, Noeleen Comiskey, and Tim Cullingworth-Hudson.
Held for Ransom (NR) Esben Smed stars in this thriller based on the true story of Danish news photographer Daniel Rye, who was kidnapped and held for ransom by ISIS for more than a year. Also with Toby Kebbell, Amir el-Masry, Charlie Carrick, Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Jens Jørn Spottag, Fady Elsayed, and Anders W. Berthelsen.
Koati (PG) This animated film is about animals of the rainforest who try to save their habitat from an evil serpent (voiced by Sofia Vergara). Additional voices by Joe Manganiello, Adriana Barraza, Eduardo Franco, Evaluna Montaner, and De La Ghetto.
Needle in a Timestack (R) Leslie Odom Jr. and Freida Pinto star in this science-fiction comedy as a couple whose relationship is threatened when her ex-husband (Orlando Bloom) warps the fabric of space-time to get her back. Also with Cynthia Erivo, Jadyn Wong, Hiro Kanagawa, and Alessandro Juliani.