Detective vs. Sleuths (NR) This Hong Kong police thriller is about a unit tracking a serial killer who is targeting suspected killers from cold cases. Starring Lau Ching Wan, Charlene Choi, Raymond Lam, Carmen Lee, Jeana Ho, Carlos Chan, and Tong Yee. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Ek Villain Returns (NR) This Indian police thriller is about a detective (John Abraham) tracking a serial killer terrorizing Mumbai. Also with Disha Patani, Tara Sutaria, Arjun Kapoor, J.D. Chakravarthi, Pramod Kumar, and Ivan Rodrigues. (Opens Friday)
It Snows All the Time (NR) Jay Giannone’s drama stars Brett Cullen as a man whose family comes together when he’s diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Also with Taryn Manning, Erich Hover, Erin Cahill, Sterling Knight, Tatyana Ali, and Lesley Ann Warren. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)
League of Super-Pets (PG) This animated film is about Superman’s dog (voiced by Dwayne Johnson), who must lead a team of other animals with superpowers after the superheroes are kidnapped. Additional voices by Kevin Hart, Diego Luna, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Marc Maron, John Krasinski, Olivia Wilde, Jemaine Clement, Daveed Diggs, Dascha Polanco, Jameela Jamil, and Keanu Reeves. (Opens Friday)
The Legend (NR) Arul Saravanan stars in this Tamil-language film as a heroic scientist seeking to make discoveries that help India and the world. Also with Urvashi Rautela, Geethika Tiwari, Vijayakumar, Prabhu, Vivek, Suman, Livingston, and Yashika Aannand. (Opens Friday)
My Donkey, My Lover and I (NR) Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson’s memoir, this French comedy stars Olivia Côte as a woman who crashes her married lover’s vacation trip with his wife in Cévennes National Park. Also with Benjamin Lavernhe, Laure Calamy, Marc Fraize, Jean-Pierre Martins, and Louise Vidal. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Paradise Highway (R) Juliette Binoche stars in this thriller as a truck driver transporting illegal goods to save her brother from a prison gang. Also with Morgan Freeman, Cameron Monaghan, Christiane Seidel, Veronica Ferres, Jackie Dallas, and Frank Grillo. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ramarao on Duty (NR) Ravi Teja stars in this Indian thriller as a tax collector who discovers corruption inside his own village. Also with Divyansha Kaushik, Rajisha Vijayan, Venu Thottempudi, Viharsh Yadavalli, John Vijay, and Anveshi Jain. (Opens Friday)
Vengeance (R) B.J. Novak writes, directs, and stars in this comedy as a New York podcaster who travels to West Texas to investigate the death of his ex-girlfriend (Lio Tipton). Also with Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Dove Cameron, Isabella Amara, J. Smith-Cameron, Ashton Kutcher, and John Mayer. (Opens Friday)
Vickida No Varghodo (NR) Malhar Thakar stars in this Gujarati-language comedy as a man whose wedding is crashed by two of his exes. Also with Manasi Rachh, Monal Gajjar, Jhinal Belani, Bhaumik Ahir, and Manan Desai. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Vikrant Rona (NR) This Indian film stars Sudeep as an investigator who looks into a series of supernatural occurrences in the tropical jungle. Also with Nirup Bhandari, Neetha Ashok, Ravishankar Gowda, Sandesh Jain, Samhitha, and Jacqueline Fernandez. (Opens Friday)
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.
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.
Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down (PG-13) Aside from dramatizing the long-term effects of gunshot wounds, this documentary has too little that leaves a mark. The team of Julie Cohen and Betsy West did RBG and Julia, and they deliver another handsomely appointed non-fiction film about Gabby Giffords and her recovery from the assassination attempt in 2011 that left her partially paralyzed and having difficulty speaking. The filmmakers secure interviews with both Giffords’ husband Sen. Mark Kelly and former President Barack Obama, but they don’t tell us anything new about the gun-control debate that we haven’t heard through dozens of mass shootings and massacres of children that conservatives refuse to do anything about.
Gone in the Night (R) Winona Ryder stars in this thriller as a Sacramento greenhouse owner who books a vacation in a cabin in redwood country with her considerably younger boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.), only to find that there’s another couple staying at the cabin (Owen Teague and Brianne Tju). The next morning, her man and the other woman run off together, or so it seems. Ryder’s intensity and sense of humor are good to have here, and I like the way the script acknowledges how the star has grown older. However, director/co-writer Eli Horowitz takes too long to start unraveling the mystery, and the flashbacks that show what actually happened are much less clever than they probably seemed on paper. This could have made for a bracing thriller, but the mechanics get in the way. Also with Yvonne Senat Jones, Alain Uy, Dustin Ingram, and Dermot Mulroney.
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.
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (PG) The movie of the year? Dean Fleischer-Camp’s series of YouTube shorts attains glory in this feature film about a down-and-out documentarian (portrayed by the director) who conducts a series of interviews with a shell (voiced by Jenny Slate) who has lost most of his family and decides to find them after he becomes famous via YouTube. Marcel’s childlike sense of wonder made the YouTube videos so charming, and it’s undiminished here. Meanwhile, the story around him is filled in to great effect, making the shell a moving figure as he grapples with the prospect of losing his only remaining family (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and experiences a mystical revelation about his place in the world. The movie turns into a grand philosophical statement without losing its fundamental decency. Also with Rosa Salazar, Thomas Mann, and Lesley Stahl. Additional voices by Andy Richter, Jessi Klein, Peter Bonerz, and Nathan Fielder.
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.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (PG) The fourth film version of Paul Gallico’s comic novel is exactly what it sets out to be, for better or worse. Lesley Manville plays the London charwoman who comes into some money and decides to splurge on a trip to France to buy a Christian Dior dress. She winds up being responsible for saving the entire fashion house, and there’s likely too much of her being a ray of sunshine in the lives of everyone she meets in the City of Lights. Still, Manville well deserves a showcase like this, and the Dior gowns are lovingly photographed by Felix Wiedemann. If you’re looking for comfort fare with your haute couture, I guess this is it. Also with Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Anna Chancellor, Roxane Durand, Christian McKay, Ellen Thomas, Rose Williams, and Jason Isaacs.
Nope (R) Jordan Peele’s latest is a fable of exploitation made specifically for IMAX screens, and it’s something to see. Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer portray a brother and sister who see a flying object in the sky over their horse ranch in the remote California desert and resolve to become rich and famous by taking film footage that proves the existence of extraterrestrial life. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is a marvel, capturing Black actors in the ranch’s poor light with enviable crispness and rendering the alien ship in terrifying and beautiful terms as it takes forms other than the disc we’re used to seeing from such movies. This odd and funny take on an alien-invasion film is a great canvas for a filmmaker whose capacious imagination demands it. Also with Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Donna Mills, Wrenn Schmidt, Osgood Perkins, Sophia Coto, Eddie Jemison, Keith David, and Terry Notary.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank (PG) There are six credited writers on this animated movie, so it’s no wonder that the film seems confused about what it’s trying to be. Hank (voiced by Michael Cera) is a dog who washes up in a land like feudal Japan that’s inhabited entirely by cats, where he seeks to become a samurai and save a humble town from an evil warlord (voiced by Ricky Gervais). The movie can’t decide whether it’s a parable of tolerance or a self-aware satire of movie tropes or a simple yarn about fighting for justice, and too many of the jokes are just cringe-inducingly bad. (“There’s no business like shogun business!”) The animation does look sharp, but that can’t begin to make up for the flaws here. Additional voices by Samuel L. Jackson, Michelle Yeoh, George Takei, Gabriel Iglesias, Djimon Hounsou, Aasif Mandvi, Kylie Kuioka, and Mel Brooks.
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.
Shamshera (NR) If you’ve been a fan of RRR on Netflix, this historical epic gives you the same action with Indians kicking British colonial ass, though the real villains are elsewhere. Ranbir Kapoor plays a double role as a freedom fighter executed in 1871 after being betrayed by his allies and the man’s son in 1896, who lives a criminal’s life until he finds out the truth about his father. The true bad guy is a mustache-twirling upper-caste Indian (Sanjay Dutt) who not only betrays the lower-caste people he calls filth but also his British employers. The drama is unsubtle even by Bollywood standards, the musical numbers don’t add anything, and none of the action set pieces come up to the standard of RRR. Also with Vaani Kapoor, Iravati Harshe, Ashutosh Rana, Saurabh Shukla, Ronit Roy, Rudra Soni, Prakhar Saxena, Saurabh Kumar, and Craig McGinlay.
Thor: Love and Thunder (PG-13) That Oscar win thankfully hasn’t ruined Taika Waititi’s sense of humor in this fourth superhero film. Chris Hemsworth returns as the Norse god, who faces down a god-killing warrior (Christian Bale) and discovers that his old ex (Natalie Portman) has suddenly acquired his superpowers and his hammer. Thor’s jealousy about the hammer makes for a delightful running gag, and the set piece with Thor and his party meeting Zeus (Russell Crowe, with a fruity Greek accent and a sense of humor we haven’t seen from him before) might just be the comic highlight of the entire Marvel saga. Waititi’s best films showcase a core of decency underneath the laughs, and as Thor deals with his romantic failings and tries to connect with the villain through those, this proves to be among them. Also with Tessa Thompson, Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Simon Russell Beale, Stephen Curry, Elsa Pataky, Brett Goldstein, Idris Elba, and uncredited cameos by Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Matt Damon, and Melissa McCarthy. Voices by Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper.
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.
Where the Crawdads Sing (PG-13) If you’re a fan of the Delia Owens novel that this is based on, the movie will give you exactly what you’re looking for. I, on the other hand, dared to hope for more. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays the heroine who grows up in the Carolina marshlands in the 1960s without her parents, educates herself, becomes a published nature writer, and then is arrested for the murder of the young man (Harris Dickinson) whom she had been romantically involved with. First-time director Olivia Newman manages the early bits efficiently as the story shifts between timelines, but eventually the film loses momentum. Everything looks too lit and clean for a movie that’s supposed to take place in rural poverty. Edgar-Jones slips into the role seamlessly enough, but the movie suffers from too much fidelity to the book. Also with Taylor John Smith, Sterling Macer Jr., Michael Hyatt, Bill Kelly, Logan Macrae, Ahna O’Reilly, Garret Dillahunt, Jojo Regina, and David Strathairn.
Alone Together (R) Katie Holmes writes, directs, and stars in this film as a woman who’s forced to share a house with a stranger (Jim Sturgess) when they’re double-booked at an Airbnb just before the COVID lockdown. Also wtih Derek Luke, Zosia Mamet, Luke Kirby, and Melissa Leo.
Fire of Love (PG) Sara Dosa’s documentary profiles volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft and their work, which ultimately led to their deaths. Narrated by Miranda July.
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (PG-13) Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine direct this documentary about the life of the singer-songwriter. Starring Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Rufus Wainwright, Regina Spektor, Brandi Carlile, Eric Church, Clive Davis, and the late Hal Willner.