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Idris Elba seeks shelter from a rampaging lion in "Beast." Photo by Lauren Mulligan

OPENING

 

Beast (R) Idris Elba stars in this thriller as a man whose family is stalked by a lion during an African safari. Also with Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, and Leah Jeffries. (Opens Friday)

Bullet Proof (R) James Clayton stars in his own thriller as a thief who steals from a mob only to find he has accidentally kidnapped the mob boss’ wife (Lina Lecompte). Also with Vinnie Jones, Glenn Ennis, Philip Granger, Lori Triolo, and Janvier Katabarwa. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

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Delia’s Gone (R) This thriller stars Stephan James as an ex-convict who sets out to solve his sister’s mysterious death. Also with Marisa Tomei, Travis Fimmel, Genelle Williams, Hamza Haq, and Paul Walter Hauser. (Opens Friday)

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (PG-13) Goku (voiced by Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel) takes on the Red Ribbon Army in this latest installment of the anime saga. Additional voices by Yûko Minaguchi, Kara Edwards, Toshio Furukawa, Ryô Horikawa, Christopher Sabat, Aya Hisakawa, and Monica Rial. (Opens Friday)

Orphan: First Kill (R) The sequel to the 2009 horror film stars Isabelle Fuhrman as the 9-year-old killer who escapes from a psychiatric family and ingratiates herself into a wealthy family. Also with Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Hiro Kanagawa, Matthew Finlan, Samantha Walkes, and David Lawrence Brown. (Opens Friday)

Thiruchitrambalam (NR) This Tamil-language musical stars Dhanush, Raashi Khanna, Nithya Menen, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Bharathiraja, and Prakash Raj. (Opens Friday at Cinemark Tinseltown Grapevine)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

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. 

Bodies Bodies Bodies (R) For a horror movie that’s structured as a sick joke, this is disappointing in both its setup and payoff. Amandla Stenberg and Maria Bakalova play a newly minted lesbian couple who wait out a hurricane at a friend’s mansion with a bunch of other young people, but when a party game results in someone’s death, the survivors point fingers at one another, try to prove their own wokeness, and end up committing murders of their own. Pete Davidson and his SNL-honed sense of timing take up the bulk of the comic relief as the host of the party, but the satire is so unfunny that you can’t tell whether the movie is the butt of the characters’ jokes or the other way around. Director Halina Reijn doesn’t conjure up any real scares, either. If you’re looking for the next great funny horror film, keep looking. Also with Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders, Myha’la Herrold, Conner O’Malley, and Lee Pace. 

Bullet Train (R) David Leitch is a good action guy, but he’s not quite suited to the crazy sense of humor required of this Japanese thriller. Brad Pitt stars as an American hitman who has newly converted to non-violence, trying to snatch a briefcase on the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto when he finds a number of other contract killers on board who want to kill him. The film benefits greatly from the star’s comic instincts, as well as that of Brian Tyree Henry as an East London killer who treats Thomas the Tank Engine as the fount of all earthly wisdom. Still, despite the presence of actors like Sandra Bullock, the comedy never reaches critical mass, and the joke wears thin over the film’s 126-minute running time. The movie emerges as an overstuffed bento box. Also with Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Bad Bunny, Zazie Beetz, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Logan Lerman, Masi Oka, Michael Shannon, and uncredited cameos by Channing Tatum and Ryan Reynolds.

DC League of Super-Pets (PG) Aside from introducing the smallest kids to the DC superhero universe, I’m not sure what this inoffensive animated film is for. Superman’s dog (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) sees his master (voiced by John Krasinski) and all the other superheroes kidnapped by a supervillain guinea pig (voiced by Kate McKinnon) and has to lead a group of shelter pets who’ve conveniently acquired their own superpowers to save them. It all goes by without dragging too much, but neither the jokes nor the animated set pieces stick in the mind. The Lego movies made better use of the DC characters than this does. Additional voices by Kevin Hart, Diego Luna, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Marc Maron, Olivia Wilde, Jemaine Clement, Daveed Diggs, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, Maya Erskine, John Early, Dascha Polanco, Jameela Jamil, Lena Headey, Keith David, Dan Fogler, Busy Phillipps, and Keanu Reeves. 

Easter Sunday (PG-13) This isn’t the Filipino Crazy Rich Asians, it’s not even the Filipino My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Jo Koy stars in and writes this comedy as a standup comic and struggling Hollywood actor who drives north for a family Easter celebration and winds up running all over northern California trying to save his cousin (Eugene Cordero) from a bunch of gangsters whom he stole from. Truly nothing here works, not the thriller subplot, not his frantic calls to Hollywood to land a sitcom part, not the specific references to Filipino-American enclaves out west. Even Koy’s standup sets don’t show us why he’s a hit as a comedian. Filipino immigrants deserve a comedy about their eccentric extended families that’s better than this. Also with Tiffany Haddish, Tia Carrere, Eva Noblezada, Lydia Gaston, Brandon Wardell, Melody Butiu, Joey Gulla, Rodney To, Asif Ali, Jimmy O. Yang, Jay Chandrasekhar, Carly Pope, and Lou Diamond Phillips. 

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.

Emergency Declaration (NR) So much of this star-laden Korean disaster film plays out like Airplane!, it’s hard to take seriously. A lone nutcase (Im Si-wan) unleashes a killer virus aboard a crowded flight from Incheon to Honolulu, and as passengers and crew become infected and die, the country’s health minister (Jeon Do-yeon) tries to take appropriate action and a homicide cop (Song Kang-ho) tracks down clues in the perpetrator’s life. Just like Airplane!, there’s a traumatized ex-pilot (Lee Byung-hun) among the passengers who has to land the aircraft, and South Korea’s citizens clamor to let the plane crash rather than deal with a possible pandemic caused by letting the flight land. None of it’s bad, really, but director Han Jae-rim (The Face Reader) doesn’t do much to elevate this above its worst sentimental moments. This film started shooting before the COVID pandemic, by the way. Also with Kim Nam-gil, Park Hae-joon, Seol In-ah, Woo Mi-hwa, Lee Yeol-eum, Jang Seo-yeon, Kim Bo-min, and Kim Gook-hee. 

Emily the Criminal (R) Aubrey Plaza gives this crime thriller such a sharp edge that it’ll slip into your gut without you noticing. The title character is a Southern California graphic artist who’s driven to a life of white-collar crime by her school debts and an assault conviction that prevents her from moving beyond menial jobs. First-time filmmaker John Patton Ford keeps this at a lean and mean 93 minutes and pulls off a great sequence when two robbers follow Emily home and rob her at knifepoint, only for her to seek immediate retribution. All of it is given a spine by Plaza’s steely determination as a woman who’s going to get hers in a world that won’t allow her to do it. Also with Theo Rossi, Jonathan Avigdori, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Bernardo Badillo, and Gina Gershon.

Fall (PG-13) This potboiler boils more effectively than you’d think. Grace Fulton (billed here as Grace Caroline Currey) stars as a mountain climber who watches her husband and fellow climber fall to his death on a mountain. A year later, her best friend (Virginia Gardner) bullies her into getting over her trauma by climbing a 2,000-foot TV tower in the middle of the desert. Scott Mann directs this thing crisply as the women are stranded on a platform at the top without cell service. I could have done without the nightmare sequences, since it’s compelling enough following the protagonists as they try to figure out how to alert people of their presence before they die of thirst. Also with Mason Gooding, Jasper Cole, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Hansan: Rising Dragon (NR) No one stages naval battles like Kim Han-min, who proves it in this prequel to his 2014 record-breaking hit The Admiral: Roaring Currents. Set in 1592, the film depicts the Battle of Hansan Island, where a superior Japanese fleet set up a defensive position in a strait while the Korean forces under Admiral Yi Sun-shin (Park Hae-il) try to lure them into open water. Unlike The Admiral, this one gives us a chance to see the famous Korean armored “turtle ships” in action, demonstrating their fearsome power as juggernauts and their vulnerabilities. Much of the film’s first hour is devoted to planning behind the scenes, and while it’s very old-school, it could have been dealt with more economically. The best stuff comes in the last 40 minutes, when Kim shows us the battle in startling clarity, with deceptive feints and both commanders changing tactics on the fly. This is the second film of a planned trilogy, so there’s more where this came from. Also with Byun Yo-han, Ahn Seong-gi, Son Hyun-joo, Kim Sung-kyu, Kim Sung-kyun, Kim Hyang-gi, Gong Myung, and Park Ji-hwan.

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.

Karthikeya 2 (NR) A sequel to the 2014 supernatural thriller, this Indian film stars Nikhil Siddharth, Anupama Parameswaran, Srinivasa Reddy, Harsha Chemudu, Adithya Menon, and Anupam Kher. 

Laal Singh Chaddha (PG-13) “Life is like a golgappa,” says the titular hero. “No matter how full your tummy is, your heart craves more.” For better and worse, Forrest Gump is an excellent choice of a Hollywood film for an Indian remake, because it fits the Bollywood template so neatly. Aamir Khan portrays Laal, a simple-minded Punjabi who becomes a track star and a war hero and runs through all the seminal events of India’s history from the 1980s on. Khan has a proven track record for playing innocent naïfs (PK), and there’s an inspired and brave touch in making the Lt. Dan character (Manav Vij) into a Pakistani Muslim terrorist who becomes disenchanted after he loses his legs. This 159-minute epic still runs on too long, but it softens up the original’s retrograde attitudes enough to be tolerable. Also with Kareena Kapoor, Mona Singh, Naga Chaitanya Akkineni, Gurfateh Grewal, Yogi Babu, Sharman Joshi, Ammar Taalwala, and Shah Rukh Khan. 

Macherla Niyojakavargam (NR) This Telugu-language thriller stars Nithiin, Krithi Shetty, Catherine Tresa, Samuthirakani, Rajendra Prasad, Murali Sharma, Vennela Kishore, and Anjali.

Mack & Rita (PG-13) Katie Aselton’s comedy is about an alienated young influencer (Elizabeth Lail) who is magically transformed into a septuagenarian (Diane Keaton). Also with Taylour Paige, Simon Rex, Dustin Milligan, Loretta Devine, Addie Weyrich, Amy Hill, Lois Smith, Patti Harrison, Wendie Malick, and Martin Short. 

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. 

Raksha Bandhan (NR) This unexpectedly grim Indian comedy stars Akshay Kumar as a Delhi chaat shop owner who breaks his back trying to scrape together enough money to marry off all four of his sisters, after promising their mother on her deathbed that he wouldn’t get married himself until he had managed that. Attempting to make them all attractive to potential suitors makes him fat-shame one sister and color-shame another, and it’s only after he sells off a kidney that he realizes how wrong the system of families giving dowries to take daughters off their hands is. The movie takes too long to get to the point, but it’s an effective broadside against the gift economy that makes families with girls spend large amounts of money on families with boys. Also with Bhumi Pednekar, Sadia Khateeb, Deepika Khanna, Seema Pahwa, Sahejmeen Kaur, Sahil Mehta, Smrithi Srikanth, and Neeraj Sood. 

Sita Ramam (NR) This Telugu-language film stars Dulquer Salmaan, Mrunal Thakur, Rashmika Mandanna, Sumanth, Tharun Bhascker, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Prakash Raj, and Vennela Kishore. 

Summering (PG-13) This wants to be the female version of Stand by Me, but it isn’t focused enough for that. Four best friends (Lia Barnett, Madalen Mills, Eden Grace Redfield, and Sanai Victoria) find a homeless man’s dead body during the last week before they go off to different middle schools, and decide not to tell anyone about it rather than spend the last week of summer talking to the cops. Director James Ponsoldt makes this beautiful and atmospheric, but the relationships among the girls and with their overprotective mothers isn’t sketched out in enough detail. Ponsoldt typically elicits great performances from his adult actors, but he doesn’t seem to have the same touch with children. This film evaporates in the summer heat. Also with Lake Bell, Ashley Madekwe, Sarah Cooper, Dale McKeel, and Megan Mullally.

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. 

Vengeance (R) B.J. Novak shows some talent as a filmmaker in this uneven satire set in Texas. He portrays a New York podcaster who thinks he has a story when his ex-girlfriend (Lio Tipton) dies of an overdose and her grieving family in West Texas tells him that she was murdered by a conspiracy of Mexican drug cartels. The plot about a city slicker who ventures into the countryside is as old as plots, but Novak spins some funny jokes and unexpected directions out of the setup, as the city boy discovers that the Texans are both better and worse than the stereotypes that he imagines. Too bad Novak the director lets Novak the screenwriter go on for too long. This is better than you’re expecting, but it’s still the work of a first-time director who has more to learn. Also with Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Dove Cameron, Isabella Amara, J. Smith-Cameron, Eli Bickel, Ashton Kutcher, and John Mayer.

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.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Ali & Ava (NR) Clio Barnard’s drama is about a romance between two tortured people (Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook) in working-class England. Also with Ellora Torchia, Shaun Thomas, Natalie Gavin, Mona Goodwin, Tasha O’Connor, and Krupa Pattani.

Cave Rescue (PG-13) Tom Waller’s film dramatizes the 2018 Chiang Rai cave rescue of a youth soccer team in Thailand. Starring Jim Warny, Eoin O’Brien, Lawrence de Stefano, Erik Brown, Ekawat Niratvorapanya, and Ben Thomson.

Luck (G) This animated film is about a girl (voiced by Eva Noblezada) who takes extreme measures to end her run of bad luck. Additional voices by Simon Pegg, Lil Rel Howery, John Ratzenberger, Jane Fonda, and Whoopi Goldberg. 

The Most Dangerous Game (NR) Based on Richard Connell’s short story, this thriller stars Chris “C.T.” Tamburello as a man being hunted for sport on a deserted island by an evil baron (Casper Van Dien). Also with Judd Nelson, Tom Berenger, Elissa Dowling, Edward Finlay, and Bruce Dern. 

A Love Song (PG) Dale Dickey stars in this romance as a woman who travels to a remote campground to meet a man (Wes Studi) whom she last saw as a boy 50 years before. Also with Michelle Wilson.

Rogue Agent (NR) This British thriller stars James Norton as Robert Freegard, the real-life con artist who spent years impersonating an MI5 agent. Also with Gemma Arterton, Sarah Goldberg, Freya Mavor, Marisa Abela, Shazad Latif, and Edwina Findley Dickerson. 

Sharp Stick (R) Lena Dunham directs, writes, and co-stars in her second film, which stars Kristine Froseth as a young woman who uses her sexuality in an attempt to become famous. Also with Jon Bernthal, Scott Speedman, Taylour Paige, Janicza Bravo, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. 

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