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Keri Russell thinks her student's drawing is a sign of something wrong in "Antlers." Photo by Kimberley French

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Antlers (R) This horror movie starts out so promisingly and ends so limply. Keri Russell portrays a middle-school teacher in a small Oregon town who resolves to protect a student (Jeremy T. Thomas) whom she suspects of being abused at home. In fact, the boy is keeping his father and little brother chained up because they’ve been possessed by a wendigo. This is based on Nick Antosca’s short story “The Quiet Boy,” and director/co-writer Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) does great at capturing the atmosphere of this desolate rural backwater. His smooth scene transitions generate suspense early on, and he tracks how the teacher’s own history of childhood abuse makes her determined to intervene in the boy’s life. Sadly, the filmmakers can’t decide whether that wendigo is a metaphor for domestic violence or substance abuse or something else. The white filmmakers’ use of a monster from Native American folklore isn’t the most finely calibrated, either. Is that why the film isn’t scary enough? Also with Jesse Plemons, Scott Haze, Rory Cochrane, Sawyer Jones, Graham Greene, and Amy Madigan. (Opens Friday)

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Heart of Champions (PG-13) This sports drama stars Michael Shannon as an Army veteran who takes over an Ivy League college’s dysfunctional rowing team in the late 1990s. Also with Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Alex MacNicoll, Michael Tacconi, Lilly Krug, Lance E. Nichols, and David James Elliott. (Opens Friday)

Mass (PG-13) The filmmaking debut of actor Fran Kranz is about two couples (Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd, and Reed Birney) who meet years after the school shooting that linked them. Also with Breeda Wool. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

A Mouthful of Air (R) Amanda Seyfried stars in this drama as a children’s book author who is forced to confront her childhood trauma when she becomes a mother. Also with Britt Robertson, Jennifer Carpenter, Finn Wittrock, Amy Irving, Josh Hamilton, Alysia Reiner, Cate Elefante, and Paul Giamatti. (Opens Friday)

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ MIssion (NR) Available in both Japanese- and English-language versions, the latest anime installment features the heroes trying to stop a terrorist group seeking to end the world. Voices by Daiki Yamashita, Justin Briner, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Clifford Chapin, Yuki Kaji, David Matranga, Tetsu Inada, Patrick Seitz, Yuichi Nakamura, and Zeno Robinson. (Opens Friday)

Passing (PG-13) In her filmmaking debut, Rebecca Hall adapts Nella Larsen’s novel about two light-skinned Black schoolmates (Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga) in the 1920s, one of whom identifies as Black while the other one passes herself off as white. Also with André Holland, Bill Camp, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, and Alexander Skarsgård. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Spine of Night (NR) This animated feature is about heroes from different eras teaming up to battle a supervillain. Voices by Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel, Joe Manganiello, Patrick Breen, and Larry Fessenden. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

13 Minutes (PG-13) This ensemble drama is about four different families whose lives intersect after a tornado hits the small town where they live. Starring Anne Heche, Amy Smart, Thora Birch, Sofia Vassilieva, Peter Facinelli, Paz Vega, Yancey Arias, Will Peltz, and Trace Adkins. (Opens Friday)

Varudu Kaavalenu (NR) This Telugu-language comedy (whose title translates as Groom Wanted) stars Naga Shaurya, Ritu Varma, Murali Sharma, Nadhiya, Jayaprakash, and Vennela Kishore. (Opens Friday at Cinemark North East Mall)

 

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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.

Becoming Cousteau (PG-13) Jacques Cousteau’s life was too full to completely capture in a two-hour documentary, which is the main issue with this authorized film by Liz Garbus (All In: The Fight for Democracy). She traces the undersea explorer’s life and career from a naval officer to Oscar- and Golden Palm-winning filmmaker to international celebrity. She rather glosses over World War II (some of Cousteau’s family were Nazi supporters) but does mark how he neglected his family and married his mistress shortly after his wife’s death from cancer. He also took some vital funds from Middle Eastern monarchies to conduct oil research for them, a decision that he would later live to regret. All in all, this is a slick and inoffensive overview of the man’s numerous achievements. Excerpts translated into English from his letters and journal entries are read by Vincent Cassel. 

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.

Dune (PG-13) This second attempt at adapting Frank Herbert’s mammoth science fiction epic offers a much smoother storytelling experience than David Lynch’s 1984 film. Timothée Chalamet stars as the young prince who’s forced to flee into the desert on an alien planet after his father (Oscar Isaac) is overthrown as the installed governor there. Director/co-writer Denis Villeneuve ends the story well short of the end of the book, which makes the film’s alien cultures and worlds feel more lived-in, but also keeps it from being a satisfying stand-alone film. Villeneuve gives you buckets full of spectacular vistas, and at its best, the film is sublime in the old sense of making you feel small. Too bad he overdoes it, feeling the need to underscore the epic quality of every scene. Whatever intimacy he doesn’t beat out of the story, Hans Zimmer’s music takes care of. Ultimately, this is like a beautifully presented and cleverly conceived restaurant meal that leaves you wanting to hit the nearest McDonald’s afterwards. Also with Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Stellan Skarsgård, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Chang Chen, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Golda Rosheuvel, Roger Yuan, Charlotte Rampling, and Javier Bardem.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

 

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