Aadavallu Meeku Johaarlu (NR) Sharwanand and Rashmika Mandanna star in this Indian romantic comedy. Also with Khushbu, Raadhika Sarathkumar, Urvashi, and Vennela Kishore. (Opens Friday)
After Yang (PG) The YouTube vlogger known only as Kogonada directs his second film about a future family trying to cope with the sudden loss of their AI helper. Starring Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Haley Lu Richardson, Ritchie Coster, Sarita Choudhury, and Clifton Collins Jr. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Asking for It (R) Kiersey Clemons stars in this thriller as a rape victim who discovers an all-female gang of vigilantes who hunt down sexual predators. Also with Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Ezra Miller, Gabourey Sidibe, Radha Mitchell, Casey Cott, and Luke Hemsworth. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Dear Father (NR) This Gujarati-language drama stars Chetan Dhanani and Manasi Parekh as a couple whose relationship is shaken when his father (Paresh Rawal) reveals some family secrets. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Jhund (NR) Amitabh Bachchan stars in this Indian movie about Vijay Barse, the real-life retired teacher who founded a soccer team for underprivileged kids. Also with Akash Thosar, Rinku Rajguru, Kishor Kadam, Vicky Kadian, and Abhinay Raj Singh. (Opens Friday)
Nightride (NR) Shot in a single take, this thriller stars Moe Dunford as a drug dealer trying to score one last sale before leaving the business. Also with Joana Ribeiro, Gerard Jordan, John Travers, Ciaran Flynn, and Stephen Rea. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America (PG-13) Early in this documentary, civil-rights attorney Jeffery Robinson stops to talk to some Confederate flag-waving redneck who says that slavery was actually great for Black Americans. Leaving the encounter, Robinson says, “I don’t know if he can be reached, but if no one tries, he won’t change.” This movie does try, but whether it changes anyone remains to be seen. Emily and Sarah Kunstler direct this film based on Robinson’s PowerPoint presentation detailing our nation’s history of racism. Basically, this is like An Inconvenient Truth for racism instead of climate change. Robinson is a lucid explainer of his material, not much of which will come as a surprise to anyone with a passing knowledge of America’s founding. This film played at the Lone Star Film Festival last fall. (Re-opens Friday at Grand Berry Theater)
Belfast (PG-13) Kenneth Branagh mines his autobiography for this coming-of-age story, and it’s charming rather than overbearing. His fictional stand-in (Jude Hill) grows up in Northern Ireland in 1969, where sectarian religious violence is forcing his dad (Jamie Dornan) to consider moving the family somewhere out of harm’s way. The young Hill is the real deal whether he’s deconstructing his cousin’s theories about Catholics or staring in awestruck wonder at the movies he watches at the local theater. The cast is mostly from Norn Iron, and Ciarán Hinds is particularly good as an ethically shady but lovable old grandfather. If the climactic confrontation is over-the-top, the film is better when it shows its kids being kids even amid the street uprisings and the turmoil in their homes. This is an appropriate companion piece to Brooklyn. Also with Caitríona Balfe, Lewis McAskie, Josie Walker, Freya Yates, Michael Maloney, Colin Morgan, Mark Hadfield, John Sessions, and Judi Dench.
Bheemla Nayak (NR) This Indian thriller stars Pawan Kalyan, Rana Daggubati, Nithya Menen, Samyuktha Menon, Rao Ramesh, and Murali Sharma.
Blacklight (PG-13) Liam Neeson looks almost as tired as this sleepy action thriller. He portrays an OCD-suffering fixer who is targeted for death by the FBI director (Aidan Quinn) who’s employing him off the books to retrieve agents who’ve gone too deep undercover. Aside from a chase sequence involving a garbage truck, nothing works here, not the action scenes, not the mental illness angle, not the main character’s attempts to connect with his young granddaughter (Gabriella Sengos), and not the showdown between Neeson and Quinn (who could stand up to Neeson under ordinary circumstances but here looks even more exhausted). This isn’t worth the effort to put on your shoes to go out. Also with Taylor John Smith, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Andrew Shaw, Zac Lemons, Tim Draxl, Georgia Flood, Yael Stone, and Claire van der Boom.
The Cursed (R) Another horror movie that’s long on mood and low on payoff, this takes place in rural France in the late 1880s, as a genocide of Romani Gypsies causes a town to see its people killed by a werewolf. As a big-city pathologist passing through who has experience as a werewolf hunter, Boyd Holbrook is the best reason to see this, radiating calm authority and using a British accent to match the rest of the cast. Writer-director Sean Ellis (Anthropoid) generates some nice creepiness early on, but the framing story during World War I makes no sense, and all internal logic disintegrates in the movie’s final third. Also with Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Max Mackintosh, Amelia Crouch, Áine Rose Daly, Roxane Duran, Stuart Bowman, and Nigel Betts.
Cyrano (PG-13) This terribly misconceived musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac stars Peter Dinklage as the warrior-poet who secretly writes poems to his beloved Roxanne (Haley Bennett) because he thinks she could never love a dwarf. The film’s locations in Sicily look great, but director Joe Wright (Bennett’s husband) botches the musical numbers in every possible way, and he isn’t helped by a bad batch of songs. This is a shame, since Dinklage, Bennett, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (as the soldier who takes credit for Cyrano’s poems and woos Roxanne in his place) all have pleasurable singing voices. The attempt at re-imagining the story for modern sensibilities fails miserably as well, and Wright’s insistence on pictorial beauty above all else winds up killing the drama. You’re better off watching Steve Martin in Roxanne. Also with Ben Mendelsohn, Monica Dolan, Bashir Salahuddin, Joshua James, Glen Hansard, Peter Wight, and Mark Benton.
Death on the Nile (PG-13) Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as Hercule Poirot in this slower and somberer follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express. The great detective is on a Nile River cruise trying to solve the murder of a wealthy socialite (Gal Gadot) where the most obvious suspect has an ironclad alibi. The events play out differently than in the Agatha Christie novel, with both the detective and the killer making mistakes that cause more people to die. The director still has trouble accommodating his actors while capturing the story’s compressed time frame, though the deluxe cast still has a number of nice turns. The case winds up having personal stakes for Poirot, and while the conception of him as a traumatized war veteran on the autism spectrum isn’t what Christie wrote, it is undeniably interesting. Also with Armie Hammer, Emma Mackey, Tom Bateman, Sophie Okonedo, Letitia Wright, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Rose Leslie, Ali Fazal, Russell Brand, and Annette Bening.
Dog (PG-13) We should give Channing Tatum credit for trying to make a comedy that’s more than just him and a cute dog. At the same time, he’s taken on more than he can handle. The star makes his directing debut (with Reid Carolin as co-director), portraying a traumatized Army Ranger veteran who’s tasked with transporting an even more traumatized war dog from the Pacific Northwest to its handler’s funeral in Arizona. The film wants to be a serious look at PTSD amid its hijinks with the animal tearing up furniture and chasing people. The writers aren’t afraid to portray the soldiers as less than saintly, which leads to the funniest set piece when the main character pretends to be a blind veteran to score himself a nice hotel room. The film also has a fine performance by former pro wrestler Kevin Nash as a veteran who takes care of animals. The material presents tonal challenges that are too much for these filmmakers, but there’s something here. Also with Q’orianka Kilcher, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Nicole LaLiberté, Aqueela Zoll, Ronnie Gene Blevins, and Jane Adams.
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.
Gangubai Kathiawadi (NR) Alia Bhatt’s performance is the best thing about this Indian film about a woman who is sold into prostitution in Bombay by her new husband and makes a name for herself by protecting her fellow prostitutes against violent men and eventually winning political office as an advocate for sex workers’ rights. I don’t know about the main character’s stance that prostitution prevents adultery and rape, but this film takes on risky subject matter for Indian audiences, and veteran director Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Padmavaat) packages it smartly for both domestic and foreign crowds. A stately performance by Bhatt as someone who goes from sexual assault victim to community leader anchors this. She also says this to a crooked policeman: “Last time I checked, you were a cop. When did you become a delivery boy?” Also with Shantanu Maheshwari, Vijay Raaz, Jahangir Khan, Anmol Kajani, Indira Tiwari, Seema Pahwa, Huma Qureshi, and Ajay Devgn.
Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania (PG) Brian Hull takes over the role of Dracula in this installment of the animated series. Additional voices by Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Steve Buscemi, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, and Fran Drescher.
Jackass Forever (R) These films are becoming more watchable. Is it because the guys are getting older, or because I am? Or maybe their stupid pranks are just what we need to break the ice after two years of pandemic hell? Johnny Knoxville and his crew find new ways to traumatize their brains and their testicles with high explosives, wild animals, mopeds, pig semen, electric stun devices, and basic physics. Some of their students are so disgusting that the cameraman vomits into his face mask. (At last, a solid argument for not masking up.) No meditation on men getting older is likely to be more fun than this. Also with Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Jeff Tremaine, Ehren McGhehey, Dave England, Preston Lacy, Zach Holmes, Rachel Wolfson, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Eric André, Francis Ngannou, Tyler the Creator, and Machine Gun Kelly.
Marry Me (PG-13) The hell is this? Jennifer Lopez stars in this romantic comedy as a pop star who is publicly cheated on by her pop-star boyfriend (Maluma), so she gets back at him by marrying a random dude (Owen Wilson) whom she meets at one of her concerts. ‘Cause that happens all the time. The movie has no insight on managing a sham relationship in the glare of social media or how that impacts his life as a math teacher. The only truly surprising thing here is that the movie ends with her helping his students win a math contest. Kat Coiro directs this listlessly. If this is the movie that’s meant to save the romantic comedy, the genre can stay dead. Also with Sarah Silverman, Utkarsh Ambudkar, John Bradley, Chloe Coleman, and Michelle Buteau.
Moonfall (PG-13) The Moon threatens to crash into the Earth in the latest disaster movie by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day), and the people behave so stupidly that you’re rooting for the Moon. The newly promoted NASA director (Halle Berry), a disgraced former astronaut (Patrick Wilson), and a crackpot science nerd who thinks the Moon is a hollow structure built by aliens (John Bradley) are the team that take it upon themselves to save the world. The only thing worse than the science is the complete lack of jokes that work. The filmmakers are afraid to guy the insane premise for humor, and the action is clotted up with bad dialogue about why the characters are doing everything they’re doing. If this had come out in the mid-1990s, maybe the audiences would have cottoned to it. Then again, maybe not. Also with Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Carolina Bartczak, Chris Sandiford, Jonathan Maxwell Silver, Eme Ikwuakor, Stephen Bogaert, and Donald Sutherland.
Redeeming Love (PG-13) D.J. Caruso directs this Christian period film, and he doesn’t fit the mold for something so well-mannered. Based on Francine Rivers’ novel, the movie stars Abigail Cowen as a prostitute in California during the gold rush who has to adjust to life outside the business when an honest and moderately successful farmer (Tom Lewis) is struck by love at first sight and marries her. The director tries, but he can’t make the repetitive plot into something engaging. The film has some name actors, though it’s Cowen who hints at the psychic damage of being sold to a brothel as a girl. The actors here could have made this into a more interesting film. Also with Famke Janssen, Logan Marshall-Green, Nina Dobrev, and Eric Dane.
Scream (R) One of the characters here says she prefers elevated horror movies like The Babadook to slasher flicks, and this first installment of the series without Wes Craven will make you share her preference. Melissa Barrera plays a reformed drug addict and daughter of one of the killers from the original film, who returns to Woodsboro after her sister (Jenna Ortega) is attacked by another Ghostface. She recruits the survivors from the series (Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette) to help her live through the experience. The filmmaking team calling themselves Radio Silence take over this, and they’re funnier when they’re doing their own material like they did in Ready or Not. The film is plagued by the same flaws of its predecessors: pseudo-cleverness, long-winded dialogue, and snark without wit. Also with Dylan Minnette, Jack Quaid, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Sonia Ammar, Kyle Gallner, Marley Shelton, Heather Matarazzo, and Skeet Ulrich.
Sing 2 (PG) An improvement on the original, in the sense that drilling a hole in a tooth is an improvement on a root canal. Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) takes the gang to the big-time, playing the biggest theater in the entertainment capital of this animal world that we’re in. Only problem is, he promises to coax a bitter, reclusive former music star (voiced by Bono) out of retirement for the show without knowing whether it’s possible. The characters from the original all have their own subplots, and the sequel introduces a thuggish entertainment mogul (voiced by Bobby Cannavale) and his spoiled daughter (voiced by Halsey) who horns her way into the show. These have potential, but they all play out in disappointing ways, and there aren’t any memorable musical performances like the first movie had. Additional voices by Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Garth Jennings, Jennifer Saunders, Chelsea Peretti, Nick Offerman, Eric André, Letitia Wright, Pharrell Williams, Edgar Wright, and Wes Anderson.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (PG-13) Fanservice done more or less right, this movie has Peter Parker (Tom Holland) trying to reverse time and instead creating portals to parallel universes where villains from other Spider-Man movies (Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Thomas Haden Church, Rhys Ifans, and Jamie Foxx) line up to fight him before realizing that he’s not the same Spider-Man that they faced earlier. The real reason they’re all brought together is so that all these great actors can get in the same room and bitch at each other, which they do to great comic effect. Peter does indeed pay a heavy price for messing with the time-space continuum, and if the storytelling only occasionally reaches the heights of Into the Spider-Verse, it does retcon some fixes for the previous movies about the web-slinger. Not a bad trick to make its predecessors seem worthier in retrospect. Also with Marisa Tomei, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Tony Revolori, Hannibal Buress, J.B. Smoove, Martin Starr, Angourie Rice, Benedict Wong, Charlie Cox, J.K. Simmons, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, and an uncredited Tom Hardy.
Studio 666 (R) A failure as horror and only occasionally working as comedy, this film likely means more to Foo Fighters fans than to the general population. The rock band (Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Pat Smear, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, and Rami Jaffee) portray themselves as they record their new album in a mansion in Encino, unaware that the house was the site of a rock band being massacred in the 1990s. No wonder Dave becomes possessed by a demon, and in addition to murdering his bandmates and eating their flesh, he also turns into a cliché asshole rock star who ignores the murders around him in order to finish the album. It’s a nice idea, and Grohl seems game to parody himself, but too frequently does it result in anything that’s actually funny. Professional actors playing the band members would have helped, but it’s the filmmakers who don’t bring the wit to this gorefest. Also with Will Forte, Whitney Cummings, Leslie Grossman, Jenna Ortega, and Jeff Garlin.
Uncharted (PG-13) Tom Holland’s lightness is about the only thing that keeps this action-adventure film watchable. He portrays a bartender and amateur treasure hunter who is recruited by an older man (Mark Wahlberg) who believes he possesses the key to finding a lost Spanish treasure. Based on the video game series of the same name, the film feels like it was cobbled together from rejected bits of the National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean films. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) can at least cobble with some skill, but the whole affair feels half-assed. The only bit that brings a smile to your face is Holland showing off some flair tricks behind the bar. Also with Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Steven Waddington, Tiernan Jones, Rudy Pankow, and Pilou Asbæk.
West Side Story (PG-13) The 1961 film of the musical won the Best Picture Oscar, but Steven Spielberg’s version is better, not least because it makes plenty of changes. Screenwriter Tony Kushner considerably fleshes out the supporting characters, and the propulsive force of Leonard Bernstein’s music forces the director to keep things moving. The fatal rumble takes place in a warehouse amid giant piles of salt, and “Cool” is staged (by choreographer Justin Peck) as Tony (Ansel Elgort) trying to keep a gun away from the other Jets. Elgort’s dancing makes Tony seem like a special guy in this neighborhood, Rachel Zegler (as Maria) displays operatic range, Ariana DeBose (as Anita) almost steals the film away, and Mike Faist (as Riff) makes the character into something hard and unforgettable. This classic is made new for our sensibilities. Also with David Alvarez, Corey Stoll, Brian d’Arcy James, Iris Menas, Josh Andrés Rivera, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Mike Iveson, and Rita Moreno.
The Worst Person in the World (R) Norway’s Oscar contender is a funny study of the terror of being a 30-something woman and still lacking a purpose in life. Renate Reinsve plays the university student who can’t settle on a major or a boyfriend. Director/co-writer Joachim Trier has something of Richard Linklater’s ability to connect with his youthful subjects no matter how old he gets, and he breaks out his directorial tricks to comic effects when our heroine trips on magic mushrooms or a supporting character becomes obsessed with the environmental impact of everything. The quite tall lead actress has a smile to light up the coldest Norwegian winter and also conveys the bewilderment of a top student who’s flailing for direction. She’s matched by Anders Danielsen Lie as an older boyfriend who falls gravely ill, and the final scenes between them are deeply moving. Also with Herbert Nordrum, Maria Grazia Di Meo, Hans Olav Brenner, Vidar Sandem, and Marianne Krogh.
Big Gold Brick (NR) This drama stars Andy Garcia as an eccentric old man who enlists a young writer (Emory Cohen) to write his biography. Also with Oscar Isaac, Lucy Hale, Shiloh Fernandez, and Megan Fox.
The Desperate Hour (PG-13) Naomi Watts stars in this thriller as a mother who tries to communicate with her children (Colton Gobbo and Sierra Maltby) when a school shooting locks down their small town.
Gasoline Alley (R) Not based on the long-running comic strip, this thriller stars Kenny Wormald as the prime suspect in a triple homicide who tries to clear his name. Also with Bruce Willis, Devon Sawa, Kat Foster, Rick Salomon, and Luke Wilson.