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Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent flank Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington in "The Duke." Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

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Ashoka Vanamlo Arjuna Kalyanam (NR) This Indian romantic film stars Vishwak Sen, Rukshar Dhillon, Ritika Nayak, and Goparaju Ramana. (Opens Friday)

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Bhala Thandanana (NR) Sree Vishnu stars in this Indian action-thriller. Also with Catherine Tresa, Ramachandra Raju, Garuda Ram, and Krishna Murali Posani. (Opens Friday)

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 at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Little Sorcerer (NR) This animated film is about a group of friends seeking to turn a mouse back into a prince. Voices by Ashley Bornancin, Tony Azzolino, and Geri Courtney-Austeln. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Mere Desh Ki Dharti (NR) Divyenndu Sharma stars in this Indian drama as an engineer who goes to the countryside after a professional setback. Also with Anant Vidhaat, Anupriya Goenka, Inaamulhaq, Brijendra Kala, Rajesh Sharma, and Scarlett Wilson. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

The Ravine (R) Eric Dane and Teri Polo star in this drama set in a small town rocked by a murder-suicide. Also with Peter Facinelli, Byron Mann, Lucy Faust, Billy Slaughter, and Leslie Uggams. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Suicide for Beginners (NR) This black comedy stars Will Daniels as a man who wishes to commit a mass murder while staging it as a mass suicide. Also with Sara Tomko, Nate Panning, Julia Lehman, SId Haig, and Corey Feldman. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)

 

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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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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. 

Memory (R) Doubtless this would have been more effective if it hadn’t been so much like the 20 other action thrillers that Liam Neeson has starred in recently. He stars in this remake of the Belgian film The Memory of a Killer as a Mexico City-based hitman who’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease when he gets a job in El Paso that requires him to kill a child. This Hollywood film fixes some of the flaws of the original and makes good use of moving the setting to the U.S.-Mexico border. Even so, the film lacks comic relief even though it has time for it at 114 minutes, and it stacks the deck too transparently so that the killer and the FBI agent (Guy Pearce) working his case wind up on the same side. This needed more distinction than director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) can bring. Also with Monica Bellucci, Ray Stevenson, Taj Atwal, Antonio Jaramillo, Lee Boardman, Mia Sanchez, Atanas Srebrev, Doug Rao, and Harold Torres.

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.

Runway 34 (NR) This Indian thriller borrows some of the best and worst aspects of Robert Zemeckis’ Flight to dramatize a real-life story. Ajay Devgn stars as a commercial airline pilot who is flying a 737 from Dubai to Kochi when bad weather forces him to divert to another city. This is Devgn’s third movie as a director, and he does great with the big sequence just before intermission, when the pilot has to land the plane in the teeth of a cyclone because he’s running low on fuel. After that, though, the movie gives way to turgid courtroom drama with Amitabh Bachchan given too much leeway to strut about as a prosecutor. Indian cinema could probably use its version of Airport, but this needed slimming down. Also with Rakul Preet Singh, Angira Dhar, Aakanksha Singh, Jhumma Mitra, Vijay Nikam, Bikram Malati, Aamil Keeyan Khan, Flora Jacob, and Boman Irani. 

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.

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.

¿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

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.

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. 

 

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