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Kenan Thompson is puzzled by the size of "Clifford the Big Red Dog." Courtesy Paramount Pictures

OPENING

 

American Sniper (R) Overrated. Bradley Cooper stars in Clint Eastwood’s biography of Chris Kyle, a sniper who recorded 160 confirmed kills in four tours in Iraq. Cooper is magnificent playing Chris when he gets home and tries to come to terms with his war experience, and everything the movie does to treat PTSD feels honest and true. The same can’t be said for the rest of the movie, which ignores both the context of the Iraq war and the false claims that Kyle made in his autobiography. Instead of addressing these, Eastwood and his screenwriter include a lot of low-grade soap opera between Chris and his wife (Sienna Miller). This could have been a great war movie, but it’s undermined by its egregious omissions. Also with Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Kyle Gallner, Keir O’Donnell, and Navid Negahban. (Re-opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

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Clifford the Big Red Dog (PG) Darby Camp stars in this film based on Norman Bridwell’s beloved series of children’s books. Also with Jack Whitehall, Izaac Wang, Kenan Thompson, Sienna Guillory, Tony Hale, David Alan Grier, Horatio Sanz, Paul Rodriguez, Russell Peters, Tovah Feldshuh, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, and John Cleese. (Opens Wednesday)

C.S. Lewis: The Most Reluctant Convert (NR) Max McLean stars in this filmed version of his one-man stage show about the author and literary scholar who converted to Christianity as an adult. Also with Nicholas Ralph, Eddie Ray Martin, and Tom Glenister. (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 at Grand Berry Theatre)

Night Raiders (NR) This science-fiction thriller stars Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as a mother joining a group of vigilantes to rescue her child from a dystopian future government. Also with Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Shaun Sipos, Violet Nelson, and Amanda Plummer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Paper & Glue (NR) The artist known as JR directs this documentary about his efforts and those of other artists to create public art on unexpected canvases. Also with Ladj Ly. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Soulmate(s) (NR) Alexandra Case and Stephanie Lynn write and star in this comedy as two lifelong friends whose friendship is threatened when one of them becomes engaged. Also with Mark Famiglietti, Di Quon, Alice Barrett, and Zachary Spicer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Souvenir: Part II (R) Joanna Hogg and Honor Swinton Byrne re-team for this sequel to the 2019 drama about a film student trying to make her thesis film about her broken relationship. Also with Ariane Labed, Harris Dickinson, Charlie Heaton, Richard Ayoade, Lydia Fox, Jack McMullen, Anna Calvi, Joe Alwyn, and Tilda Swinton. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

tick, tick…Boom! (PG-13) Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his directing debut with this adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s musical about a young composer (Andrew Garfield) facing a thirdlife crisis. Also with Alexandra Shipp, Robin de Jesus, Vanessa Hudges, Joshua Henry, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Judy Kuhn, Christopher Jackson, Judith Light, Bradley Whitford, and an uncredited Joel Grey. (Opens Friday at Premiere Cinemas Burleson)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

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.

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. 

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.

Eternals (PG-13) This is like the Marvel Comics movies’ version of The Tree of Life, and it should be much worse than it is. The main characters are 10 ageless beings who came to the Earth 7,000 years ago to assist in developing human civilization. In the present day, they find out they’re meant to assist in humanity’s extinction, and some of them decide to prevent it instead. Fresh off her Oscar win for Nomadland, Chloé Zhao brings all of Disney’s resources to re-creating Babylon in the 6th century B.C. and the Aztec empire. This is amazing to look at, and she films a Bollywood dance number like it’s something she’s always wanted to do, but her transition from her previous films to the maximalism of this one has its rough patches. Even so, the movie has its moments of inspiration when its characters dwell on the human race’s accomplishments over time. Messy as the film is, it’s hard not to admire the crazy ambition of this effort by the world’s reigning movie franchise. Starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Lia McHugh, Barry Keoghan, Lauren Ridloff, Don Lee, Kit Harington, Harish Patel, Bill Skarsgård, Haaz Sleiman, Patton Oswalt, and Harry Styles.

The French Dispatch (R) A relatively minor work by Wes Anderson, this love letter to France won’t convert you if you don’t share his Francophilia, but it will entertain his fans. Bill Murray plays the publisher of a French-based magazine published for readers in Kansas, where he comes from. The story is structured like an issue of his magazine, divided into discrete stories narrated by various writers (Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Jeffrey Wright). The deadpan performances and the fastidiously arranged visuals are all brilliantly done, although here more than in other Anderson films, it feels like cleverness for its own sake. The best story is the one narrated by Wright about a police lieutenant and legendary chef (Stephen Park) who performs heroic feats on a night when his boss’ son is kidnapped. In addition to France, the movie is a tribute to The New Yorker and to writers who want to tell their readers a bit about the wider world. Also with Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Liev Schreiber, Mathieu Amalric, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Henry Winkler, Tony Revolori, Lois Smith, Denis Ménochet, Cécile de France, Guillaume Gallienne, Rupert Friend, Alex Lawther, Hippolyte Girardot, Winsen Ait Hellal, Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, Fisher Stevens, Griffin Dunne, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, and Christoph Waltz.

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. 

Last Night in Soho (R) Edgar Wright does a female acid head trip on the order of Black Swan, and if it’s not on the same level, it is enjoyably trashy. Thomasin McKenzie stars as a fashion student who starts experiencing terrifying hallucinations about a murdered aspiring singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) from the 1960s while renting a London flat and doesn’t know whether to solve the murder or seek psychiatric help. McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) is so strong that she holds the center against Taylor-Joy, giving a pitiable performance as a lonely student away from home for the first time and afraid that her mother’s mental illness is coming for her. Wright well evokes London during the Swinging Sixties, pulls off some intricate shots with the two actresses serving as each other’s reflection in mirrors, and (with the help of writer Krysty Cairns-Wilson) tracks the singer’s destruction through men who prey on her dreams of stardom. All this and the film’s visuals make this so retro chic. Also with Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Synnøve Karlsen, Elizabeth Berrington, Rita Tushingham, Terence Stamp, and the late Diana Rigg.

My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ MIssion (NR) I found myself admiring the great splashes of color in the action sequences more than anything in the story or characters in this anime film. Deku (voiced by Daiki Yamashita in the Japanese version and Justin Briner in the English version) has to team up with an orphaned thief (voiced by Ryô Yoshizawa and Ryan Colt Levy) in order to stop Flect Turn (voiced by Kazuya Nakai and Robbie Daymond) from releasing a poison that kills everyone in the world with superpowers. The action is flung very far indeed, with heroes in four different countries trying to stave off the apocalypse at once. The film has a great chase scene early on when Deku tries to apprehend the thief and recover his stolen briefcase. Much like the last installment in this series, this film will charm the audience who are already fans and leave newcomers on the outside looking in. Additional voices by Nobuhiko Okamoto, Clifford Chapin, Yuki Kaji, David Matranga, Tetsu Inada, Patrick Seitz, Yuichi Nakamura, and Zeno Robinson. 

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.

Red Notice (PG-13) This comedy stars Dwayne Johnson as an FBI profiler forced to team up with an art thief (Ryan Reynolds) to catch the world’s most wanted art thief (Gal Gadot). Also with Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos, Ivan Mbakop, and Vincenzo Amato.

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.

Sooryavanshi (NR) Akshay Kumar stars in this spinoff from Simmba as a police inspector seeking to thwart a terrorist plot in Mumbai. Also with Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgn, Ranveer Singh, Jaaved Jaaferi, Gulshan Grover, Abhimanyu Singh, Rajendra Gupta, and Jackie Shroff. 

Spencer (R) It’s entirely appropriate to cast an actress who has been famous since childhood to play Princess Diana in the royal fishbowl, and Kristen Stewart does not disappoint, even if the movie’s agonies are muted. The story is set over Christmas weekend 1991 but doesn’t depict the momentous events that happened during that time in her marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). Rather, director Pablo Larraín (Jackie) aims to create a single, sustained mood of unbearable tension. Cinematographer Claire Mathon gives the proceedings a gauzy, nostalgic glow that ironically points up the anti-nostalgia of the piece, as Diana is tormented by the proximity of her childhood home and fantasies of self-harm — you won’t forget her choking down the pearls off her necklace at dinner. The film ends with a better fantasy of ordering lunch at McDonald’s, pointing out that sometimes the only happy part of the fairy tale is escaping it. Also with Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins, Stella Gonet, Jack Nielen, Freddie Spry, Sean Harris, Laura Benson, and Amy Manson.

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.

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

Christmas vs. The Walters (PG-13) The first Yuletide comedy of the season stars Shawnee Smith as a pregnant mother of two who tries to hold her dysfunctional family together over the holidays. Also with Dean Winters, Chris Elliott, Caroline Aaron, Richard Thomas, Paris Bravo, and Bruce Dern. 

Dangerous (R) This action-thriller stars Scott Eastwood as a reformed psychopath who investigates his brother’s disappearance. Also with Kevin Durand, Famke Janssen, Brock Morgan, Leanne Lapp, Tyrese Gibson, and Mel Gibson. 

Hell Hath No Fury (R) This World War II drama stars Nina Bergman as a Frenchwoman accused of treason who must bargain with American soldiers to save her life. Also with Louis Mandylor, Andrew Bering, Daniel Bernhardt, and Josef Cannon. 

Ida Red (R) Melissa Leo stars in this thriller as an incarcerated, terminally ill woman who asks her family to pull one last job to spring her from prison. Also with Frank Grillo, Josh Hartnett, Beau Knapp, Deborah Ann Woll, William Forsythe, and Mark Boone Junior. 

Mark, Mary & Some Other People (R) Hannah Marks’ comedy stars Ben Rosenfield and Hayley Law as a married couple who decide to try an open marriage. Also with Nik Dodani, Matt Shively, Sofia Bryant, Esther Povitsky, Joe Lo Truglio, Haley Ramm, Gillian Jacobs, and Lea Thompson. 

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. 

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. 

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