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Tom Prior and Oleg Zagorodnii engage in a forbidden romance in "Firebird." Photo by Herkki-Erich Merila

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By Ngot Nào (NR) This Vietnamese drama is about four friends who gather to attend the anniversary of their one married friend. Starring Bào Anh, Minh Hng, Quốc Trường, Diu Nhi, and Thun Nguyn. (Opens Friday)

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Black Site (R) This thriller stars Michelle Monaghan as a CIA agent who discovers that the high-value intelligence asset in her custody (Jason Clarke) is also responsible for killing her family. Also with Jai Courtney, Lucy Barrett, Simon Elrahi, Roberto Zenca, Leo Stripp, and Uli Latukefu. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)

The Duke (R) This dramedy is based on the real-life story of Kempton Bunton, the 60-year-old London cabdriver who stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery. Starring Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Matthew Goode, Anna Maxwell Martin, Fionn Whitehead, and James Wilby. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Firebird (R) This English-language gay romance set in the Soviet Union is being released because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sad to say, the hook is the only thing that makes it worth releasing. Based on a true story, this stars Tom Prior as an army private who serves on a military base in Estonia in 1977 when he falls for a dashing air force lieutenant (Oleg Zagorodnii). The story is worth telling, but Estonian first-time director Peeter Rebane can’t evoke the paranoia that comes with pursuing love under a dictatorship that criminalizes it. The whole affair is a low-energy one, and the actors don’t bring much dynamism to this. Also with Diana Pozharskaya, Jake Thomas Henderson, Margus Prangel, Nicholas Woodeson, Ester Kuntu, and Nils Mattias Steinberg. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone (PG-13) Charlie Clark stars in and co-writes this comic thriller about a Texas car salesman and lucha libre wrestler who acquires superpowers needed to save the human race. Also with Danny Trejo, Kuno Becker, Michele Lee, Elpidia Carrillo, Marko Zaror, Cain Velasquez, and Dale Dye. (Opens Friday)

Heropanti 2 (NR) Tiger Shroff stars in this sequel to the 2014 hit about an action hero who secretly helps people. Also with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Tara Sutaria, Zakir Hussain, Amrita Singh, and Kriti Sanon. (Opens Friday)

Hit the Road (NR) The filmmaking debut of Panah Panahi, this Iranian drama is about a family taking a long road trip to find a veterinarian for their sick dog. Starring Pantea Panahiha, Hasan Majuni, Rayan Sarlak, and Amin Simiar. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal (NR) Vijay Sethupathi stars in this Tamil-language comedy as a man trying to juggle two women (Nayanthara and Samantha Ruth Prabhu). This is also released in a Telugu-language version entitled Kanmani Rambo Khatija. Also with Parthiban, RJ Balaji, Mansoor Ali Khan, Kala Master, Redin Kingsley, and S. Sreesanth. (Opens Friday)

Peace River (PG-13) Chase Garland stars in this drama as a rodeo champion who is brought low by various personal tragedies. Also with Jessica Nunez-Wood, Janelle Lovin Mancha, Melvin Vazquez, Leticia Nunez-Wood, and Benjamin M. Jones. (Opens Friday at Cinemark Ridgmar)

Petite Maman (PG) The latest film by Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) stars Joséphine Sanz as an 8-year-old girl who mysteriously goes through a time loop and meets her mother (Gabrielle Sanz) at the same age. Also with Nina Meurisse and Stéphane Varupenne. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Runway 34 (NR) Based on a real-life incident, this film starring and directed by Ajay Devgn is about an airline pilot who has to make a difficult landing in bad weather in Kochi. Also with Amitabh Bachchan, Rakul Preet Singh, Angira Dhar, Aakanksha Singh, and Boman Irani. (Opens Friday)

The Sound of Violet (PG-13) Allen Wolf’s adaptation of his own novel stars Cason Thomas as an autistic young man who falls in love with a prostitute (Cora Cleary). Also with Tyler Roy Roberts, Jan D’Arcy, Michael E. Bell, Nishant Ghan, Esha More, and Mara Reltien. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

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Ambulance (R) Michael Bay still makes movies the same way, with cameras wheeling around the actors when not photographing them from low, heroic angles. Staying true to his style is either a mark of artistic integrity or a sign that he has run out of ideas. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays a hard-up Marine veteran who turns to his shady adoptive brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) for a loan, only to be roped into acting as getaway driver for a bank robbery, then hijacking an ambulance with an EMT (Eiza González) and a wounded cop on board. This is a remake of a similarly titled 2005 Danish thriller, and it goes bigger in all the wrong ways, losing the original’s focus and brevity in favor of making every shot look like it’s from a TV commercial. Even the meatheads in the audience have moved on to other things. Also with Garret Dillahunt, Keir O’Donnell, Jackson White, Olivia Stambouliah, Moses Ingram, Colin Woodell, Cedric Sanders, Wale, Jose Pablo Cantillo, and A Martinez.

The Bad Guys (PG) Better than any of the Despicable Me movies, this animated film based on Aaron Blabey’s children’s books is about a villainous wolf (voiced by Sam Rockwell) who pulls off robberies with his animal friends but then is tempted to go straight when a do-gooding professor (voiced by Richard Ayoade) decides to subject them to an experiment. The animation style is distinctive enough to make this stand out from other such movies, there’s a neat partnership between Rockwell and Marc Maron as the voice of his snake best friend, and the script is fairly even-handed about why a professional bad guy might want to go over to the side of the law. Anthony Ramos voices a piranha who’s one of the wolf’s gang members, and he sings a catchy original song called “We’re Gonna Be Good Tonight.” Additional voices by Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Lilly Singh, Alex Borstein, and Zazie Beetz.

The Batman (PG-13) This reboot’s biggest achievement might just be forcing us to take the Riddler (Paul Dano) seriously as a villain. Robert Pattinson takes over the role of Bruce Wayne as he deals with a villain who murders Gotham’s fantastically corrupt city officials and leaves behind clues and severed body parts. Director/co-writer Matt Reeves does his finest work to date, especially with a great car chase when the Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognizable under a prosthetic fat suit) causes a chain-reaction pileup to deter the pursuing Batman. The film has terrific supporting turns from Farrell, John Turturro as an icy mob boss, and Zoë Kravitz as a slinky bisexual Catwoman pursuing a grudge. Still, it’s the Riddler who captures your attention as an incel torturer with a gruesome sense of humor who undermines faith in Gotham’s institutions that makes this a Batman movie for our time. Also with Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis, Jayme Lawson, Peter McDonald, Con O’Neill, Alex Ferns, Rupert Penry-Jones, Charlie Carver, Max Carver, Barry Keoghan, and Peter Sarsgaard.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (R) The Being John Malkovich of our generation. Michelle Yeoh stars in this surreal martial-arts drama as the owner of a Southern California laundromat who discovers the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes and has to access the skills of her more accomplished alternate selves to stop them from being destroyed. This film has the wackiest fight sequences since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as all the different characters instantly acquire kung fu proficiency at one point or another. The filmmaking team The Daniels (Swiss Army Man) stages all these scenes fantastically, working endless variations inside an IRS office building. Much like Scott Pilgrim, the brilliance eventually becomes exhausting, but the film deserves all kinds of props for their ambition and expanding the philosophy of martial-arts movies beyond the traditional Buddhist koans. Also with Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Tallie Medel, Harry Shum Jr., Biff Wiff, Jenny Slate, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Hong.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (PG-13) The third film in the series is the best one, yet despite its complement of interesting ideas, the thing stubbornly refuses to take flight. Early on, the film reveals that Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp in the role) were a couple in their younger days. Now that they’re enemies, Dumbledore sends a team of wizards to stop his ex from gaining power over the wizarding world. David Yates is still on board as director, and the series badly needs someone who can look at this material with fresh eyes. There are some neat story ideas like the team carrying out fragments of a larger plan to stop the villain from reading their minds, but you sense that J.K. Rowling could have handled this better in the pages of a novel. The critics of her transphobic rhetoric were right all along: She should have stuck to the books. Also with Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Jessica Williams, Ezra Miller, Callum Turner, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam, Victoria Yeates, Oliver Masucci, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Poppy Corby-Tuech, and Katherine Waterston.

Father Stu (R) Stuart Long started out as an amateur boxer in Montana, moved to Hollywood to become an actor, experienced a serious motorcycle wreck while driving drunk, and decided to join the priesthood. Mark Wahlberg’s performance in the title role knits all this together and helps make this into one of the better Christian films of recent years. First-time director Rosalind Ross alternates between gloss and grit as the scene requires, and she doesn’t stint on the abuse and neglect of Stu’s upbringing by a drunken father (Mel Gibson). Still, you watch Wahlberg as his body deteriorates after Father Stu is struck down by a degenerative muscle disorder, and he entertains doubts about God’s existence and his choice of profession. Too few Christian films obey the basic precepts of good filmmaking, but this one does. Also with Jacki Weaver, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Teresa Ruiz, Carlos Leal, Ned Bellamy, and Malcolm McDowell.

Jersey (NR) The main character of this Indian sports film is a cricketer (Shahid Kapoor) who is passed over for the national team, throws a hissyfit and quits the sport, and spends the great majority of the film being bitter and unemployed without ever quite realizing that his own choices made him miserable. Then, 10 years later, he comes out of retirement so his young son (Ronit Kamra) can watch him play, only for his mistreated wife (Mrunal Thakur) to turn into a huge bitch once he starts enjoying life again. It does help that he immediately starts hitting centuries against top-level competition. This Hindi remake of a 2019 Telugu-language film is relentlessly annoying and nowhere near the level of better Indian movies about cricket. Also with Pankaj Kapur, Shishir Sharma, Rudrashish Majumdar, Geetika Mehandru, and Rituraj Singh. 

Jujutsu Kaisen 0: The Movie (PG-13) The “0” in the title indicates that this is a prequel to the story outlined in the manga series and its film adaptations. The film is about a boy (voiced by Megumi Ogata) who attends a special school for kids with superpowers, along with the spirit of a girl he loved (voiced by Kana Hanazawa), who haunts and protects him after being killed in a car accident. Some of the flashbacks are too sentimental for the movie’s good (a common failing in these Japanese anime films), but the film makes a good introduction to the environment and the characters that our hero works alongside. Additional voices by Koki Uchiyama, Tomokazu Seki, Yȗichi Nakamura, Marina Inoue, Shin’ichirô Miki, Aya Endô, Kotono Mitsuishi, Takahiro Sakurai, and Satoshi Hino.

K.G.F.: Chapter 2 (NR) If you didn’t see the original 2018 Indian action film, you might be lost in this sequel. In the first chapter, the mob bosses hired a hitman (Yash) to kill the evil mining bosses at the Kolar Gold Fields so they could take over, but in the sequel, the hitman turns on the bosses and kills them so he can run the gold business himself. Some of the action sequences are executed professionally, but they never give you an investment in the characters if you haven’t seen the first movie. If you are a newcomer, this is just too murky as a place to start. Also with Sanjay Dutt, Srinidhi Shetty, Raveena Tandon, Prakash Raj, Ramachandra Raju, Archana Jois, Malavika Avinash, Achyuth Kumar, and Rao Ramesh. 

The Lost City (PG-13) The stars are upstaged by the supporting players in this comic adventure-romance that has too little comedy. Sandra Bullock plays a best-selling romance novelist who is kidnapped by a bratty British billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) because he thinks she knows the location of a buried treasure on an island in the Atlantic that looks like a generic jungle set. The man who poses as a model on the cover of her books (Channing Tatum) pursues them in a mostly ineffectual attempt to rescue her. Radcliffe makes a funny, sputtering villain and Brad Pitt has a great time in a brief cameo as the ultra-manly operative who accompanies the cover model. A comedy about these two going up against each other would have been better than this one that spends too much time going into the characters’ backstories and has too few funny bits from the leads. The film runs out of power way before its ending. Also with Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Patti Harrison, Héctor Anibal, Thomas Forbes Johnson, Oscar Nuñez, Bowen Yang, and Stephen Lang. 

Morbius (PG-13) Better than the reviews, which is to say this is just this side of watchable. Jared Leto stars in this superhero film about a Nobel-winning research biologist whose attempt to cure his own lethal blood disorder turns him into a vampire. The climax is limp and the antagonist (Matt Smith) goes too quickly from being the hero’s best friend to a power-drunk enemy, but the film goes down easily enough, and Leto’s macabre sense of humor helps distinguish him from the cookie-cutter nice guys who are often at the center of these movies. Smith is well-matched as a campy bad guy against the hero, too. Also with Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson, Al Madrigal, Jared Harris, Charlie Shotwell, and Michael Keaton. 

The Northman (R) This Viking epic is the sort of movie made to inspire whole albums of heavy metal music. In a story stitched together from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and several Icelandic sagas, Alexander Skarsgård portrays a chief’s son who witnesses his uncle (Claes Bang) murder his father (Ethan Hawke) and goes into exile, vowing revenge against the killer. Director/co-writer Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) fiddles with the sound mix to make the hero’s encounters with spirits from the next world seem truly uncanny, and the off-the-charts levels of violence help convince us that we’re watching Vikings rather than dressed-up actors. The hero’s quest for revenge takes him away from a woman he loves and the chance to raise a family, and instead leads him to a desolate land of blood and ashes and dead bodies as far as the eye can see. Also with Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Oscar Novak, Elliott Rose, Gustav Lindh, Phill Martin, Elder Skar, Olwen Fouéré, Ingvar Sigurđsson, Ralph Ineson, Willem Dafoe, and Björk.

RRR (NR) Released in Hindi- and Telugu-language versions, this Indian historical thriller is about a village vigilante (N.T. Rama Rao) and a soldier working for the British (Ram Charan) in 1920. The soldier takes up the task of catching the vigilante, but they eventually team up and fight the British Raj together. They aim to distribute British weapons to the Indian people, but why would they need weapons when these two guys slaughter about half the British Army by themselves? Director/co-writer S.S. Rajamouli tries to make every scene into some iconic badass moment for one or both of the heroes, and that’s just not how action thrillers are supposed to work. The laughable CGI doesn’t help, either. Also with Ajay Devgn, Alia Bhatt, Samuthirakani, Shriya Saran, Chatrapathi Sekhar, Makkarand Deshpande, Rahul Ramakrishna, Edward Sonnenblick, Olivia Morris, Ray Stevenson, and Alison Doody. 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (PG) Running away from a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style rolling boulder, Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) says, “I don’t want to die this way! It’s derivative!” How would that make it different from the rest of the movie? The doctor finds his way back to Earth for revenge on Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) and opens an interdimensional door that lets in Sonic’s ally Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessy) and enemy Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba). Why did this film need to be two hours long? It’s bright, loud, and colorful, and I can’t remember a single funny bit or a single salient trait about the main character. Taking your kids to this is like feeding them Chocolate Frosted Flakes; it’ll make them happy while you feel terrible about yourself. Also with James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Shemar Moore, Adam Pally, Tom Butler, Lee Majdoub, and Natasha Rothwell.

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.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (R) You don’t need to be a Nicolas Cage superfan to enjoy this delicious self-parody. Cage portrays a character much like himself, a Hollywood star whose debts lead him to accept $1 million from a Spanish billionaire (Pedro Pascal) to attend his birthday party, only to learn that the man is an illegal arms dealer. Director/co-writer Tom Gormican romps through Cage’s filmography, and he and writing partner Kevin Etten get a lot right about actors and how they think their work gives them unfailing insight into other people. The set pieces are delightful, especially the one in which Cage and his new friend drop acid together, but what most impresses you is Cage’s good grace and great skill in sending himself up and making “Nick” into a figure of pathos. Also with Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Neil Patrick Harris, Sharon Horgan, Lily Sheen, Paco León, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Katrin Vankova, David Gordon Green, and Demi Moore.

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. 

¿Y Cómo Es Él? (PG-13) Also entitled Backseat Driver, this Mexican comedy stars Mauricio Ochmann as a meek man who takes a road trip to confront the man (Omar Chaparro) who’s sleeping with his wife. Also with Zuria Vega, Miguel Rodarte, and Mauricio Barrientos. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

Dual (R) This science fiction-comedy stars Karen Gillan as a woman who’s ordered by a court to fight her genetic clone to the death. Also with Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale, Kristofer Gummerus, and Theo James. 

 

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