About Fate (R) Emma Roberts stars in this romantic comedy as a woman looking for love on New Year’s Eve. Also with Gabriel Mann, Lewis Tan, Madelaine Petsch, Britt Robertson, FIkile Mthwalo, and Cheryl Hines. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Barbarian (R) Zach Cregger writes, directs, and co-stars in this horror film about a woman (Georgina Campbell) who discovers evil spirits in the house she has rented from Airbnb. Also with Bill Skarsgård, Kate Bosworth, Richard Brake, Will Greenberg, Sara Paxton, and Justin Long. (Opens Friday)
Brahmastra Part One: Shiva (NR) The first of a planned trilogy, this Indian epic stars Ranbir Kapoor as a DJ with a mystical connection to a legendary weapon forged by the gods. Also with Alia Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan, Mouni Roy, Nagarjuna Akkineni, Saurav Gurjar, Dimple Kapadia, and Shah Rukh Khan. (Opens Friday)
Corsicana (R) Isaiah Washington stars in his directing debut as a U.S. Marshal tracking a vicious outlaw to the 19th century Texas oil town. Also with Stacey Dash, Jason Johnson, Lew Temple, Noel Guglielmi, Thomas Q. Jones, Billy Blair, and Kevin Gage. (Opens Friday at Cinergy Granbury)
House of Darkness (R) Neil LaBute’s thriller stars Justin Long as a single man who picks up a mysterious woman (Kate Bosworth) and finds out she’s not what she seems. Also with Nora Walters. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Lifemark (PG-13) This Christian film stars Raphael Ruggero as a teenager whose birth mother unexpectedly tries to contact him. Also with Kirk Cameron, Alex Kendrick, Dawn Long, Marisa Lynae Hampton, Isabelle Almoyan, and Ezra DuVall. (Opens Friday)
Medieval (R) Ben Foster stars in this period epic as Jan Zizka, the real-life 15th century Czech warrior who led armies against the Holy Roman Empire for his people’s freedom. Also with Sophie Lowe, Matthew Goode, Til Schweiger, Roland Møller, Karel Roden, Werner Daehn, and Michael Caine. (Opens Friday)
Unfavorable Odds (PG-13) This thriller stars Grayson Berry as a businessman who wagers his neglected wife (Maria Tornberg) in a game of chance. Also with Charles Malik Whitfield, Jessica Rae, Charles Ambrose, and Destiny Washington. (Opens Friday)
Beast (R) Idris Elba plays a widowed American doctor who takes his two teenage daughters (Iyana Halley and Leah Jeffries) on a South African safari with a local tour guide (Sharlto Copley), only for all of them to be attacked by a rogue lion whose pride has been killed off by poachers. The lion makes more intelligent decisions than any of the humans, so who are we supposed to root for? The script’s attempts to give the family a tortured backstory don’t resonate, and director Baltasar Kormákur fails to pull off any memorable set pieces in the desert setting. Also with Martin Munro and Ronald Mkwanazi.
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.
Breaking (PG-13) The real-life story of a Marine veteran who robbed a bank after wrongly being denied his disability check turns into a frustrating chamber drama full of overwrought acting and writing. John Boyega plays Brian Brown-Easley, who walks into a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta claiming to have a bomb and demanding to be compensated the less than $900 owed to him by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The protagonist keeps getting in his own way because he can’t stop acting crazy, and the white guys who wind up shooting him don’t even qualify as cardboard villains, since we’re never told whom they’re affiliated with. The whole affair becomes an exercise in Boyega’s oppressive hamming. The setup places pressure on acting and writing, and neither is up to the task. Also with Nicole Beharie, Selenis Leyva, Olivia Washington, Kate Burton, Jeffrey Donovan, Connie Britton, and Michael Kenneth Williams.
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.
Cobra (NR) This Indian action-thriller is about a Turkish Interpol agent (Irfan Pathan) who is in India tracking an unstoppable killer for hire (Vikram). Also with Srinidhi Shetty, K.S. Ravikumar, Roshan Mathew, Anandaraj, Robo Shankar, and Miya George.
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.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero (PG-13) As usual, this anime sequel suffers from too much exposition, though there’s rather more material for the newcomers to enjoy here. Goku (voiced by Masako Nozawa and Sean Schemmel) faces a resurrected version of the Red Ribbon Army after Red’s son (voiced by Volcano Ōta and Charles Martinet) teams up with a boy-genius scientist (voiced by Miyu Irino and Zach Aguilar) to create androids capable of taking down the Super Saiyans. The humor in the background actually works, and the climactic fight between most of the gang and a massive kaiju delivers on the fronts that fans of the series are surely looking for. While you shouldn’t start the series with this film, it’s entertaining enough for those willing to jump in the deep end. Additional voices by Kyle Hebert, Robert McCollum, Yûko Minaguchi, Jeanie Tirado, Toshio Furukawa, Ryô Horikawa, Christopher Sabat, Hiroshi Kamiya, Aleks Le, Mamoru Miyano, Zeno Robinson, Aya Hisakawa, and Monica Rial.
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.
First Day First Show (NR) Vennela Kishore stars in this Indian comedy as a man seeking tickets for the first screening of a hotly anticipated new movie. Also with Tanikella Bharani, Sanchita Basu, Mahesh Achanta, Prabhas Sreenu, and Srikanth Reddy.
Gigi & Nate (PG-13) This drama stars Charlie Rowe as a young quadriplegic who discovers a way forward through his friendship with the capuchin monkey that’s his service animal. Also with Marcia Gay Harden, Jim Belushi, Josephine Langford, Zoe Margaret Colletti, Tara Summers, Annabelle Riley, Welker White, and Diane Ladd.
Hawa (R) This Indian supernatural thriller is about a group of fishermen who find a mysterious woman tangled up in their nets. Starring Chanchai Chowdhury, Nazifa Tushi, Sariful Razz, Nasir Uddin Khan, Arafatur Rahman, Sumon Anowar, and Shohel Mondol.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (R) This mockumentary satire on the Black church isn’t as world-shattering as it wants to be, but it’s sharper than anything Tyler Perry’s gonna make. Sterling K. Brown plays a disgraced Atlanta megachurch pastor while Regina Hall plays his wife, and the two invite a film crew to document things as they prepare to reopen their institution nine years after he was felled by a sex scandal. The movie isn’t funny enough, as Brown and Hall don’t have the instincts to carry this type of comedy, and the mockumentary device too often falls flat as well. There are a few moments in the later going, as one of the pastor’s victims angrily confronts him and his wife is forced to choose between her own dignity and sticking by her man. Still, writer-director Adamma Ebo too often misses the mark when it comes to why people stick by a man of God who’s so unworthy of that title. Also with Nicole Beharie, Conphidance, Austin Crute, Devere Rogers, Robert Yatta, Greta Glenn, Perris Drew, Crystal Alicia Garrett, and Andrea Laing.
The Invitation (PG-13) A horror movie for the Bridgerton crowd, this film is more Jane Austen than most fans of scares would like, but it serves a purpose. Nathalie Emmanuel (with a quite fetching American accent) plays a struggling New York artist who takes a flier on a genealogy website and discovers hitherto unknown, filthy rich relatives in Britain. She’s swept off her feet by the handsome lord of the manor (Thomas Doherty), only to find out that the whole family is part of a vampire cult. Many of the character and place names are taken straight from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which makes it seem like the heroine doesn’t read. Still, the movie’s spin on the Regency comedy of manners offers some interesting nuggets for those with the patience to stick with this. Also with Hugh Skinner, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Carol Ann Crawford, Courtney Taylor, and Sean Pertwee.
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.
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.
Moon Man (NR) This Chinese science-fiction comedy stars Shen Teng as the last remaining human taking refuge on the Moon after an apocalypse wipes out life on Earth. Also with Ma Li, Chang Yuan, Li Chengru, Huang Cailun, and Huang Zilao.
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.
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.
Prakash (NR) This Nepali drama stars Pradeep Khadka as a man pursuing his dream of becoming a schoolteacher. Also with Deeya Maskey, Renu Yogi, Prakash Ghimire, Rajan Khatiwoda, Amjad Prawej, and Govinda Sunar.
Ranga Ranga Vaibhavanga (NR) Title has a ring to it, doesn’t it? This Indian romantic film stars Ketika Sharma, Naveen Chandra, Subbaraju, Panja Vaisshnav Tej, and Mohammad Ali.
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.
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.
Three Thousand Years of Longing (R) George Miller follows up Mad Max: Fury Road with this beautiful adaptation of an A.S. Byatt short story that’s as cohesive as a candy box that someone stuck in the microwave. Tilda Swinton plays a British literary scholar who discovers a genie (Idris Elba) in a bottle at a market in Istanbul. He grants her three wishes and tells her three stories about how he came to be trapped in that bottle. Miller goes all Tarsem Singh on this project, with flamboyant sets and costume design and vistas of ancient Turkey rendered in primary colors, but the overarching plot about the power of stories comes to disappointingly little. Swinton starred in a movie 30 years ago called Orlando that was much in the same vein and more original than this. Also with Lachy Hulme, Aamito Lagum, Ogulcan Arman Uslu, Eçe Yüksel, Jack Braddy, Burcu Gölgedar, and Matteo Bocelli.
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.
Funny Pages (R) This comedy stars Daniel Zolghadri as a teenage cartoonist who abandons his suburban life in a quest for self-knowledge. Also with Matthew Maher, Maria Dizzia, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Josh Pais, Andy Milonakis, Constance Shulman, Louise Lasser, and Ron Rifkin.
The Good Boss (NR) Javier Bardem stars in this Spanish comedy as a tyrannical CEO who tries to iron out all his company’s problems so he can receive an award. Also with Manolo Solo, Almudena Amor, Óscar de la Fuente, Sonia Almarcha, Fernando Albizu, and Tarek Rmili.
Into the Deep (R) This thriller stars Ella-Rae Smith as a vacationer who can’t decide whether her boyfriend (Matthew Daddario) or a stranger they’ve met (Jessica Alexander) is a threat to her.
Wire Room (R) This thriller stars Kevin Dillon as an FBI agent who overhears the target of his investigation (Oliver Trevena) being attacked in his home many miles away. Also with Bruce Willis, Texas Battle, Shelby Cobb, Amber Townsend, and John D. Hickman.