Aa Ammayi Gurinchi Meeku Cheppali (NR) This Indian romantic comedy stars Sudheer Babu, Krithi Shetty, Vennela Kishore, Srinivas Avasarla, and Rahul Ramakrishna. (Opens Friday)
After Ever Happy (R) Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Josephine Langford reprise their roles in the third film in the romantic series. Also with Louise Lombard, Carter Jenkins, Jack Bandeira, Chance Perdomo, Atanas Srebrev, and Rob Estes. (Opens Friday at Regal Fossil Creek)
Confess, Fletch (R) Jon Hamm takes over the lead role in this reboot of the 1980s comedy series as a detective who becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders. Also with Marcia Gay Harden, Kyle MacLachlan, John Slattery, Lorena Izzo, and Annie Mumolo. (Opens Friday)
God’s Country (R) Thandiwe Newton stars in this thriller as a grieving college professor who catches two hunters trespassing on her property. Also with Joris Jarsky, Jefferson White, Kai Lennox, and Tanaya Beatty. (Opens Friday)
A Jazzman’s Blues (R) Tyler Perry’s latest film is this film revolving around an unsolved murder. Starring Ryan Eggold, Lauren Buglioli, Amirah Vann, Milauna Jackson, Brad Benedict, and E. Roger Mitchell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Jhinge Dau (NR) This Nepali comedy about two sisters-in-law who throw their village into upheaval stars Keki Adhikari, Aanchal Sharma, and Mukun Bhusal. (Opens Friday at Cinépolis Euless)
Moonage Daydream (PG-13) Brett Morgen (Jane) directs this officially sanctioned documentary about the life and career of David Bowie. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
The Mystery of Padre Pio (NR) José Maria Zavala’s documentary is about the smear campaign against the priest who bore stigmata for 50 years. (Opens Friday at Regal Fossil Creek)
Nenu Meeku Baaga Kavalsinavaadini (NR) This Indian romantic film stars Kiran Abbavaram, Sanjana Anand, Sonu Thakar, and Siddharth Menon. (Opens Friday)
Pearl (R) Shot concurrently with X, this prequel stars Mia Goth as the younger version of the serial killer from that film. Also with Matthew Sunderland, Tandi Wright, Alistair Sewell, and Emma Jenkins-Purro. (Opens Friday)
The Retaliators (NR) Michael Lombardi stars in and co-directs this thriller as a pastor who ventures into the criminal underworld while searching for his daughter’s killer. Also with Marc Menchaca, Joseph Gatt, Katie Kelly, Abbey Hafer, Brian O’Halloran, and Tommy Lee. (Opens Wednesday)
Running the Bases (PG) This Christian film stars Brett Varvel as a baseball coach whose methods run into opposition when he takes over the team at a new school. Also with Todd Terry, Raphael Ruggero, Gigi Orsillo, Eric Hanson, Isabelle Almoyan, Justin Sterner, Jackson Trent, and Michael Ochotorena. (Opens Friday)
Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu (NR) This Indian musical stars Silmabarasan as a lower-caste young man who comes to the big city to study at university. Also with Siddhi Idnani, Raadhika Sarathkumar, Siddique, and Neeraj Madhav. (Opens Friday)
The Woman King (PG-13) Viola Davis stars in this historical epic about the 19th-century general who led a group of female warriors against European colonizers in the kingdom of Dahomey. Also with John Boyega, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Shaina West, Thuso Mbedu, Jordan Bolger, Adrienne Warren, Angélique Kidjo, and Hero Fiennes Tiffin. (Opens Friday)
Barbarian (R) This is terrible, despite an interesting gambit halfway through. The film starts with Georgina Campbell as a woman renting an Airbnb in a bad part of Detroit, only to find a nice young man (Bill Skarsgård) already staying there, because the place is double-booked. Just as they’re attacked by the monster also living there, the movie stops and starts over with a loathsome Hollywood actor (Justin Long) who owns the house coming there some time later to prep the place for sale. There’s one funny bit when the actor discovers a blood-spattered sex dungeon in the basement and is happy because he gets to add the square footage to the place’s real estate listing. Still, the movie has all its ends hanging loose, with nothing to say about Detroit’s urban decay, #MeToo, vacation rentals, or a monster that wants its victims as babies. Also with Kate Bosworth, Richard Brake, Will Greenberg, Jaymes Butler, and Sara Paxton.
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.
Brahmastra Part One: Shiva (NR) The first of a planned superhero trilogy has been reported as the most expensive film project in India’s history, and it sure looks that way. I mean, the film brings on Shah Rukh Khan in the opening scene and then kills him off very quickly, which is something Indian films hardly ever do. Ranvir Kapoor stars as a Mumbai DJ who runs an orphanage and has secret superpowers, which he’s forced to reveal to his girlfriend (Alia Bhatt) after they’re both caught up in a cosmic struggle of good and evil. The project is explicitly modeled on Marvel’s superhero films, and it does hold up to that comparison, with some great action in the opening sequence and a car chase in the Himalayas. Westerners may find difficulty with the film cutting its action with musical numbers and romance instead of comedy, but this isn’t half bad. Also with Amitabh Bachchan, Mouni Roy, Nagarjuna Akkineni, Saurav Gurjar, Rohollah Ghazi, Aditi Joshi, Lehar Khan, Gurfateh Pirzada, Stanzin Denek, Dimple Kapadia, and an uncredited Deepika Padukone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oke Oka Jeevitham (NR) This Indian science-fiction film stars Sharwanand as a man who teams up with a scientist (Nassar) with a failed time machine to try to change the past. Also with Amala Akkineni, Ritu Varma, Vennela Kishore, Priyadarshi, and Yog Japee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.