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Aimee Teagarden and Ben Winchell share a quiet moment in "The Road to Galena." Courtesy Vertical Entertainment
OPENING

 

Happy Birthday (NR) Vennela Kishore stars in this Indian comedy as a cabinet minister who loosens gun restrictions, leading to an explosion of gun violence in the country. Also with Naresh Agastya, Lavanya Tripathi, Satya, Gundu Sudarshan, and Rahul Ramakrishna. (Opens Friday)

Kaduya (NR) This Indian action-thriller stars Prithviraj Sukuraman and Vivek Oberoi as rival rubber planters in the 1990s. Also with Samyuktha Menon, Arjun Ashokan, Siddique, Seema, Vijayaraghavan, Reenu Mathews, Saikumar, Janardhanan, and Priyanka Nair. (Opens Friday)

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Khuda Haafiz 2 (NR) The sequel to the 2020 Indian action-thriller has Vidyut Jammwal reprising his role as the secret agent whose daughter is kidnapped by sex traffickers. Also with Shivaleeka Oberoi, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Sheeba Chaddha, Riddhi Sharma, and Rajesh Tailang. (Opens Friday)

One Week Friends (NR) This live-action Chinese remake of a Japanese manga comic is about a transfer student (Zhao Jinmai) who discovers that her memory only lasts a week. Also with Yi Lin, Yue Shen, Wang Jiahui, Fan Shiran, and Zhang Chenxiao. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Road to Galena (R) Ben Winchell stars in this drama as a high-powered Washington lawyer who’s drawn back to the small-town life that he left behind. Also with Will Brittain, Aimee Teegarden, Alisa Allapach, JIll Hennessy, Jay O. Sanders, Margaret Colin, and Jennifer Holliday. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Ante Sundaraniki (NR) This Telugu-language comedy is about a Brahmin man (Nani) who falls in love with a Christian woman (Nazriya Nazim). Also with Naresh, Rohini, Nadhiya, Azhagam Perumal, Harsha Vardhan, Nikki Tamboli, and Aruna Bhikshu.

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 Black Phone (R) Adapted from Joe Hill’s short story, this horror film has some of the chills and most of the sentimental excesses of his dad’s work. Set in 1978 in Denver when the city is terrorized by a masked serial killer (Ethan Hawke), the film stars Mason Thames as a 13-year-old boy who falls into the killer’s clutches. Locked in his dungeon, he starts mysteriously receiving calls from the killer’s previous victims on a phone that doesn’t work. Hawke gives a properly grotesque performance as a predator who presents himself to kids as a funny party magician, but director/co-writer Scott Derrickson (Sinister) doesn’t have the finesse to smooth over the predictable story beats. Also with Madeleine McGraw, E. Roger Mitchell, Troy Rudeseal, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Tristan Pravong, Brady Hepner, Jacob Moran, Jeremy Davies, and James Ransone. 

The Bob’s Burgers Movie (PG-13) The film version retains enough of the flavor of the Fox TV show to distinguish it from the other Hollywood animated movies. The same week that the bank calls in its loan to Bob’s Burgers, a giant sinkhole opens up in front of the restaurant to reveal a human corpse. Louise (voiced by Kristen Schaal) decides she can save her family’s business if she solves the murder. The pun-heavy dialogue doesn’t always work and the film has trouble accommodating all its regular characters plus a bevy of cameos, but the musical numbers and the family dynamic are enough to make this a pleasant watch even for newcomers to the show. Additional voices by H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, John Roberts, Larry Murphy, David Wain, Stephanie Beatriz, Gary Cole, David Herman, NIck Kroll, Aziz Ansari, Jordan Peele, Jenny Slate, Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, Paul Rudd, and Kevin Kline. 

Deep in the Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story (NR) Ben Masters is a filmmaker who proudly reps our state, and his nature documentaries are as good as anyone else’s. This gorgeously photographed movie takes in some highlights of the animals that live in the Lone Star State. He gets some spectacular footage of the bats in Austin as well as the natural predators that prey on them, and the mountain lions in the west Texas desert are given star treatment as well. I really could do without this movie’s attempts at humor (a shot of a truck tire at the bottom of a riverbed is accompanied by narration of “Hey, this ain’t Oklahoma!”), but this film is both informative and will bring your blood pressure down the way a good nature documentary does. Narrated by Matthew McConaughey. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (PG-13) Marvel goes for horror, and the result is better than The New Mutants. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as the time lord, who tries to save an interdimensional traveler (Xochitl Gomez) from Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), who has gone insane from grief and is destroying universes to gain control of the girl’s power and live in an alternate universe where she’s a happy mother of two. Director Sam Raimi joins the franchise, and his brand of surrealist horror both fits the story and distinguishes the series from the other Marvel franchises. Olsen makes an authentically terrifying villain as a zombie who radiates pain with every move she makes, which compensates for the overstuffedness of a movie that only runs 126 minutes. The new Doctor Strange is a more layered creation, too, and that’s more than welcome. Also with Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jett Klyne, Julian Hilliard, Bruce Campbell, Anson Mount, Lashana Lynch, Hayley Atwell, John Krasinski, Patrick Stewart, and Charlize Theron.

Elvis (PG-13) Baz Luhrmann dares to take on the entire peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich of Elvis Presley’s life, but this grand opera comes and goes without leaving much of an impact. Tom Hanks stars as Col. Tom Parker, who narrates the story of how he discovered the young country-blues singer (Austin Butler) and made him a star while also suffocating him creatively and stealing his money. Seeing the film through the prism of this con artist’s self-justifications is an interesting idea that only serves to turn Hanks (under a mountain of prosthetic fat) into a puppet, lacking the grifter’s snaky charm. Opposite him, Butler does remarkable work capturing the King’s stage presence in his early, middle, and late years, and his performances of some songs blends seamlessly with the original Elvis songs on the soundtrack. Still, the movie too often resorts to music-biopic cliches, and all of Luhrmann’s skill can’t make it fresh. Also with Kelvin Harrison Jr., Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Olivia DeJonge, Helen Thomson, Luke Bracey, Dacre Montgomery, Yola, Alton Mason, Shonka Dukureh, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

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.

Facing Nolan (NR) Bradley Jackson’s documentary interviews baseball stars who batted against Nolan Ryan. 

The Forgiven (R) Adapted from Lawrence Osborne’s novel, this thriller depicts an accident in Morocco that affects the lives of both tourists and locals. Starring Jessica Chastain, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith, Abbey Lee, Caleb Landry Jones, Alex Jennings, Saïd Taghmaoui, Marie-Josée Croze, and Christopher Abbott. 

Jugjugg Jeeyo (NR) This Indian romantic comedy stars Varun Dhawan, Kiara Advani, Neetu Kapoor, Manish Paul, Prajakta Koli, and Anil Kapoor. 

Jurassic World Dominion (PG-13) This franchise needs an asteroid. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprise their roles as scientists who have to team up with the heroes of the original Jurassic Park (Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern) when a plague of genetically engineered locusts threatens the world’s food supply. This plot doesn’t need dinosaurs at all, which is just one issue. Director Colin Trevorrow is so busy creating Easter eggs and callbacks to the previous movies that he forgets things like graceful scene transitions, interesting characters, and plot developments that make any sense. The ineptitude on display here would kill Steven Spielberg and then make him turn over in his grave. Also with Campbell Scott, Omar Sy, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Mamadou Athie, DeWanda Wise, Kristoffer Polaha, Daniella Pineda, Scott Haze, Dichen Lachman, and BD Wong.

Lightyear (PG) If you ignore its connection to the Toy Story series, the latest Disney/Pixar animated film is a surprisingly generic space adventure, though it’s done pretty crisply. Chris Evans provides the voice of the intrepid space explorer who undertakes adventures over the course of 84 years to try to get his crew home after he accidentally strands them on an alien planet. His travel at the speed of light allows him to maintain his age through those decades as his friends all live natural lives and die, and this Pixar film doesn’t shy away from the grim implications of that. Still, this film is missing the usual wit and cleverness that we expect from Pixar. It moves Buzz Lightyear and his fellow space travelers efficiently in and out of danger, but something has gotten lost. Additional voices by Uzo Aduba, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Dale Soules, Bill Hader, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Efren Ramirez, James Brolin, and Taika Waititi. 

Minions: The Rise of Gru (PG) Not sure why everyone’s flocking to this pleasantly forgettable latest installment of the Despicable Me series, where 11-year-old Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) tries to join a league of supervillains who have a vacancy after kicking out their founder. The Minions are fun characters, but once again, they’re not enough to carry the movie by themselves, and the subplot with them learning kung fu from a master in Chinatown (voiced by Michelle Yeoh) leads to disappointing stuff. The new supervillains don’t add much, either. There are some stray gags that raise a laugh, but the movie never builds its momentum. Additional voices by Russell Brand, Alan Arkin, Taraji P. Henson, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Trejo, Jimmy O. Yang, Lucy Lawless, RZA, Will Arnett, Steve Coogan, and Julie Andrews. 

Mr. Malcolm’s List (PG) This period comedy stars Zawe Ashton as a 19th-century bride-to-be who seeks revenge after being jilted by her groom (Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù). Also with Freida Pinto, Theo James, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, Sophie Vavasseur, and Danielle Ryan. 

Official Competition (R) This rather lame Spanish comedy is mostly notable for being the first movie where Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz play scenes together. José Luis Gómez plays a pharmaceutical executive who decides to produce a movie before he dies, hiring two alpha-male actors (Banderas and Oscar Martínez) as well as a control-freak reclusive genius director (Cruz) who subjects the two thespians to degrading exercises during the rehearsal process. It becomes totally ridiculous without ever becoming funny, and the script has nothing to say about the insecurities and vanities of actors that we haven’t heard before. The film does look nicer than its Latin American counterparts, but that’s about all that can be said for it. Also with Manolo Solo, Nagore Aramburu, Irene Escolar, Koldo Olabarri, Juan Grandinetti, and Pilar Castro. 

Pakka Commercial (NR) This Telugu-language courtroom comedy stars Gopichand as a soulless lawyer who has to take on his own father in a civil case. Also with Raashi Khanna, Sathyaraj, Anasuya Bharadwaj, Ajay Ghosh, and Rao Ramesh. 

Rashtra Kavach Om (NR) Damn, what a mess! This Indian action thriller features a convoluted plot in which the main character (Aditya Roy Kapur) is a super-soldier who’s the son of a convicted traitor. As a boy, his lookalike cousin is killed in an assassination attempt at his uncle’s house, so the dead kid’s parents have him assume their son’s identity. Then when he’s an adult, he gets shot in the head and loses his memory, forgetting who he was in the first place and thinking that his fake identity is his real self. They didn’t need such an involved story to wrap up so many fight sequences that have too many cuts like too many Indian films (and Hollywood movies from about 10 years ago). The climax of the film takes place in Armenia, which at least gives this movie a different look, but it’s just window dressing. Also with Sanjana Sanghi, Prachee Shah Paandya, Prakash Raj, Ashutosh Rana, Elnaaz Norouzi, and Jackie Shroff.

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect (NR) Nambi Narayanan was a rocket scientist who was accused of funneling classified information to foreign spies and tortured in the 1990s, only to be cleared of wrongdoing a few years later. This Indian biopic buries the story in an extremely long-winded yarn about the man’s life, taking in his studies at Princeton and his career with France’s space agency, where he and other Indian engineers learned to build up their country’s rocket science. This film inevitably means more to Indian audiences who have lived with Narayanan’s case for decades, but it’s entirely too long for Western audiences to take in, with too many instances of our hero being one-dimensionally heroic. Also with Simran, Rajit Kapur, Ravi Raghavendra, Karthik Kumar, Gulshan Grover, Rajeev Ravindranathan, Misha Ghoshal, Sriram Parthasarathy, Sam Mohan, Ron Donache, Vincent Riotta, and Shah Rukh Khan. 

Sniper: The White Raven (R) This Ukrainian war film was made before the current Russian invasion, but it’s still pretty pertinent. Pavlo Aldoshyn plays a high-school physics teacher whose pregnant wife (Maryna Koshkina) is killed during the 2014 Russian invasion of the Donbass, so he cuts his hair and trains to be a sniper to defend his homeland. This movie has all the story beats familiar from other war movies — when his spotter (Andriy Mostrenko) shows the main character a picture of his wife and kids, we know that guy’s a dead man. Writer-director Marian Bushan does gin up a neat climactic sequence when our hero plays cat-and-mouse with a Russian sniper (Oleg Drach) ensconced in an abandoned warehouse, but the main value of this is an example of Ukrainian filmmaking at a time when the country is in all the headlines. Also with Roman Semysal, Roman Yasinovskyi, Oleg Shulga, and Zachary Shadrin. 

Top Gun: Maverick (PG-13) The sequel improves on the 1986 original while removing the camp element, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. After spending his Navy career pissing off too many officers to be promoted, Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) returns to Top Gun in San Diego to teach a new generation of pilots to carry out a mission to bomb a nuclear plant somewhere. The younger pilots aren’t the most interesting bunch, but the training and combat sequences filmed in real F-18s are snazzy, and Jennifer Connelly makes an apt foil as an ex-girlfriend of Maverick’s who reunites with him in the present day. This may just be a nostalgia exercise, but it’s crisply done without overdosing on the past. Also with Miles Teller, Jon Hamm, Bashir Salahuddin, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro, Danny Ramirez, Lewis Pullman, Charles Parnell, Lyliana Wray, Jean Louisa Kelly, Ed Harris, and Val Kilmer. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Pacerville (NR) Brian Austin Green stars in this thriller as a schoolteacher who goes mad during a pandemic and vows bloody revenge on his students. Also with Makena Taylor, Acoryé White, David Valdes, Julia Quang, Eve Mauro, and Glenn Plummer. 

 

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