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Jack Sochet loves life as a mental patient in "Smile." Courtesy Paramount Pictures

OPENING

 

Dead for a Dollar (R) Walter Hill (48 Hrs.) directs this Western about a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who meets an old enemy (Willem Dafoe) who’s bent on revenge. Also with Rachel Brosnahan, Warren Burke, Hamish Linklater, and Benjamin Bratt. (Opens Friday at América Cinemas Fort Worth)

Devil’s Workshop (R) This horror film stars Timothy Granaderos as a young actor who follows a demon hunter (Radha Mitchell) for a week to research an upcoming role. Also with Emile Hirsch, Sarah Coffey, Brooke Ramirez, Miles Doleac, and Chris von Hoffman. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

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The Good House (R) Adapted from Ann Leary’s novel, this film stars Sigourney Weaver as a New England Realtor whose life comes apart after her hookup with an ex-boyfriend (Kevin Kline). Also with Morena Baccarin, Rob Delaney, Rebecca Henderson, Kathryn Erbe, Paul Guilfoyle, David Rasche, and Beverly D’Angelo. (Opens Friday)

The Greatest Beer Run Ever (R) Zac Efron stars in this drama as a man in 1967 who tries to deliver beer to his friends serving in Vietnam. Also with Russell Crowe, Kyle Allen, Jake Picking, Will Ropp, Paul Adelstein, and Bill Murray. (Opens Friday)

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (R) Sydney Craven stars in the latest sequel to the horror franchise. Also with Imran Adams, Jarreau Benjamin, Matt Barkley, Ocean Navarro, Peter Brooke, and Dee Wallace. (Opens Friday)

Kantara (NR) This Kannada-language film is about a war between jungle villagers and supernatural forces. Starring Rishab Shetty, Achyuth Kumar, Pramod Shetty, Sapthamj Gowda, Suchan Shetty, Deepak Rai Panaje, and Ragu Pandeshwar. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (R) The latest film by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) stars Jeon Jong-seo as an escaped mental patient who tries to make it on her own in New Orleans. Also with Kate Hudson, Craig Robinson, Evan Whitten, Lauren Bowles, and Ed Skrein. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Naane Varuven (NR) This Indian psychological thriller stars Dhanush, Selvaraghavan, Indhuja Ravichandran, Yogi Babu, and Prabhu. (Opens Friday)

Ponniyin Selvan: I (NR) The first of two movies based on Kalki Krishnamurthy’s novel, this historical epic set in 10th-century India stars Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jayam Ravi, Karthi, Trisha, Sobhita Dhulipala, Prabhu, Vikram Prabhu, and Prakash Raj. (Opens Friday)

Smile (R) Parker Finn’s horror film has the germ of an interesting idea, but fouls it up in the execution. Sosie Bacon plays a psychiatrist at a mental hospital who has a patient (Caitlin Stasey) commit suicide in front of her while grinning, and then discovers a chain of suicides behind that of witnesses to other suicides killing themselves a few days later. I like the suggestion that our psychiatrist is in dire need of mental help even before witnessing the patient’s death, but the movie suffers from three different contradictory endings, and too often resorts to stale old jump scares. The cast can’t save a lot of bad dialogue or carry the conceit. Also with Kyle Gallner, Jessie T. Usher, Robin Weigert, Judy Reyes, Gillian Zinser, Rob Morgan, and Kal Penn. (Opens Friday)

Spirit Halloween (PG-13) David Poag’s horror film is about three friends (Marissa Reyes, Jaiden J. Smith, and Dylan Martin Frankel) who decide to spend Halloween locked in a Halloween costume store. Also with Rachael Leigh Cook, Brad Carter, Billie Roy, Marla Gibbs, and Christopher Lloyd. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Superspreader (PG-13) Josh Franer’s documentary is about a Christian group holding outdoor worship sessions during the COVID-19 lockdown. (Opens Friday)

Vikram Vedha (NR) This Hindi-language remake of a 2017 Tamil film stars Hrithik Roshan as a gang boss who tells three stories to the cop who has captured him. Also with Saif Ali Khan, Radhika Apte, Rohit Saraf, Yogita Bihani, and Sharib Hashmi. (Opens Friday)

Wolf Pack (NR) This Chinese action-thriller is about a group of elite soldiers and spies who discover a foreign terrorist organization threatening the country’s energy supply. Starring Zhang Jin, Zhang Yi, Tang Kuo-Chung, Gianluca Zoppa, Jiang Luxia, Diego Dati, Liviu Covalschi, and Aarif Rahman. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Young Plato (NR) Declan McGrath and Neasa Ní Chianáin’s documentary chronicles efforts by social workers to alleviate poverty in a working-class neighborhood of Belfast. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Avatar (PG-13) James Cameron’s film demonstrates all his strengths and his flaws. Set in the 22nd century on a distant planet, the film stars Sam Worthington as a paraplegic Marine who hooks up his brain to the engineered body of a native to infiltrate the locals and learn about their culture. The first hour or so is dazzling stuff indeed, with the alien planet presented as a fully realized world with gloriously realized flora and fauna — this movie is a cryptozoologist’s dream come true. Yet the romance is bland and riddled with bad dialogue, and both the Earthling villains and the nature-worshipping natives are simplistic caricatures. The film feels like the relic of a bygone era. Also with Zoe Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso, Dileep Rao, and Sigourney Weaver.

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. 

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. 

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.

Chup (NR) This Indian thriller stars Sunny Deol as a cop tracking a serial killer who is terrorizing Mumbai’s film community. Also with Dulquer Salmaan, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Pooja Bhatt, and Rajeev Ravindranathan. 

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. 

Cuando Sea Joven (PG) This Spanish comedy stars Verónica Castro as a 70-year-old woman who is magically transformed into a 22-year-old (Natasha Dupeyrón). Also with Daniel Garcia, Manuel “Flaco” Ibáñez, and Pierre Louis. 

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. 

Don’t Worry Darling (R) All the offscreen drama aside, this psychological thriller definitely has issues but is better than its reviews. Florence Pugh plays a housewife who discovers that her idyllic 1950s suburban community is actually a prison. Director Olivia Wilde (who also co-stars here as a fellow housewife) doesn’t have a flair for the phantasmagoric, and her envisioning of this feminist nightmare too often comes off like clicking off film-school references. Fortunately, her aptitude for thriller elements kicks in during the movie’s second half, as our heroine seeks to escape this place that isn’t M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village but is also not not The Village. The reason to see this is Pugh’s performance, playing most her scenes in a paranoid terror without turning monotonous. Also with Harry Styles, Chris Pine, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Sydney Chandler, Asif Ali, Douglas Smith, Timothy Simons, and Kate Berlant. 

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. 

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. 

Krishna Vrinda Vihari (NR) This Indian romantic comedy stars Naga Shaurya, Shirley Setia, Rahul Ramakrishna, Brahmaji, and Vennela Kishore. 

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. 

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. 

Moonage Daydream (PG-13) Brett Morgen (Jane) dispenses with traditional form in this officially sanctioned documentary about the life and career of David Bowie, turning the film into a great big montage of concert footage, interviews, paintings, acting roles, contemporaneous press coverage, encounters with fans, and miscellaneous clips of old films that might have inspired the musician. Intellectually, this approach makes sense, as Bowie’s protean career took him from one pursuit to another without much thought for what came next. Aesthetically, it results in some dazzling juxtapositions. However, the approach wears thin over the course of more than two hours, and the insight into what made Bowie tick is less than meets the eye. You’ll come away from this movie with a new sense of how extraordinary Bowie was, but not much more than that.  

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. 

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. 

On the Come Up (NR) Sanaa Lathan directs and co-stars in this comedy about a teenager (Jamila Gray) who aspires to become a star rapper. Also with Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Mike Epps, Titus Makin Jr., and Method Man. 

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. 

Pearl (R) This prequel to X is scarier than its antecedent, largely due to its lead performance. Set in 1918, the film stars Mia Goth as the budding serial killer who dreams of movie stardom while living under the thumb of her joylessly devout German mother (Tandi Wright) on their farm in rural Texas. In contrast to X, director/co-writer Ti West imitates the look of 1940s Hollywood musicals, with a wholesome heroine who likes torturing animals. The musical numbers showcase Goth’s dancing skills in a way that none of her previous films have done, and Goth (who is West’s co-writer) is more terrifying while confessing to her murderous emotions than she is actually committing the murders. The scares here are largely psychological, and they’re so well-done that they make X into a better movie in retrospect. Extra points for setting the movie during the Spanish flu epidemic, when everyone’s going around in masks. Also with Matthew Sunderland, Alistair Sewell, David Corenswet, and Emma Jenkins-Purro.

Prem Geet 3 (NR) This Indian historical epic stars Pradeep Khadka, Kristina Gurung, Shiva Shrestha, Sunil Thapa, and Narendra Singh Dhami. 

Railway Children (PG) This tired British World War II drama is based very loosely on E. Nesbit’s 1906 novel. Three siblings from Manchester (Beau Gadsdon, Eden Hamilton, and Zac Cudby) are sent to live in rural Yorkshire to escape the bombing when they meet an African-American soldier (KJ Aikens) who has deserted because of the racism of his white superiors. Nothing that happens here is terribly surprising, the climax is particularly clumsy, and while Jenny Agutter plays a school headmistress after playing the lead in a TV production of this 50 years ago, the casting here doesn’t resonate particularly. The canned lesson of tolerance comes at a cost of all sorts of liberties with British and American history, and the results don’t pay off dramatically. Also with John Bradley, Sheridan Smith, Austin Haynes, Joseph Richards, Hugh Quarshie, and Tom Courtenay. 

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. 

See How They Run (PG-13) The top-of-the-line cast only sharpens the disappointment of this retread of a British lighthearted murder mystery. Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan star as the Scotland Yard inspector and constable investigating the murder of a Hollywood producer (Adrien Brody) in London’s West End in 1953. The movie is neither funny enough to work as a comedy nor well-plotted enough to work as a murder puzzle, and the script’s attempts to comment on the tropes of English mysteries are lame. The filmmakers clearly want to come up with the British answer to Knives Out, and their film isn’t nearly clever enough on any front to earn that comparison. Also with David Oyelowo, Ruth Wilson, Harris Dickinson, Reece Shearsmith, Pearl Chanda, Tim Key, Charlie Cooper, and Shirley Henderson.

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. 

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. 

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.

The Woman King (PG-13) The piece of African history that this is based on merits unearthing, and Gina Prince-Bythewood makes it into an effective historical epic. Viola Davis plays Nanisca, the 19th-century general of an all-female unit of elite soldiers who fought against Portuguese colonizers in the kingdom of Dahomey. The film is full of meticulous historical research, and occasionally it drags down the story’s forward momentum. Still, Davis turns in a leonine performance as a military leader who hasn’t resolved the demons from her past, and South African TV actress Thuso Mbedu makes a bright impression as a girl who joins the unit and becomes a warrior. Prince-Bythewood continues to be a worthy action director, and she picks her material well. Also with John Boyega, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, Shaina West, Jordan Bolger, Jimmy Odukoya, Adrienne Warren, Angélique Kidjo, and Hero Fiennes Tiffin. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Blonde (NC-17) Ana de Armas stars in this adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel about Marilyn Monroe. Also with Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Garret Dillahunt, Sara Paxton, Julianne Nicholson, Scoot McNairy, Xavier Samuel, and Ned Bellamy. 

Give Me Five (NR) This Chinese drama stars Chang Yuan as a man who tries to solve a family mystery after his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father gives him a clue. Also with Ma Li, Wei Xiang, Jia Bing, Han Yanbo, and Huang Yuntong. 

 

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