SHARE
Elizabeth Banks coordinates her movements with illegal abortionists in "Call Jane." Photo by Wilson Webb

OPENING

 

Call Jane (R) Not terrible, but also not terribly urgent given its subject matter. Elizabeth Banks stars as an Illinois housewife in 1969 who has to procure an illegal abortion to save her own life and then falls in with a ring of people providing similar services to women who need them. Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy (Carol) makes her directing debut here, and while the movie doesn’t have any bad spots, the only thing that’s really good is Banks’ performance as an establishment type who winds up as a fearless law-breaker. The film was written and shot before the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling this past summer, but other films made before this one address the issue with greater power. Also with Sigourney Weaver, Chris Messina, Wunmi Mosaku, Cory Michael Smith, Grace Edwards, Evangeline Young, Rebecca Henderson, Aida Turturro, John Magaro, and Kate Mara. (Opens Friday)

Decision to Leave (NR) The latest film by Park Chan-wook (The Handmaiden) is a thriller about a detective (Park Hae-il) fascinated by a man’s widow (Tang Wei) while investigating his death. Also with Go Kyung-pyo, Jung Yi-seo, Park Jeong-min, and Lee Jung-hyun. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Akarii 160x600

Gandhadagudi (NR) Puneeth Rajkumar’s documentary examines the wildlife of Karnataka in southwestern India. (Opens Friday)

A Hundred Billion Key (NR) Kiu Minh Tuấn stars in this Vietnamese action-comedy as a hit man who forges a new identity after losing his memory and his money. Also with Thu Trang, Jun Vũ, and Anh Tú. (Opens Friday)

Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (R) Sacha Jenkins’ documentary traces the life of the legendary jazz trumpeter. Narrated by Nas. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Mahapurush (NR) Not the Satyajit Ray film, but a Nepalese comedy about an old man (Hari Bansha Acharya) who decides to get married after raising his children. Also with Madan Krishna Shrestha, Gauri Malla, Rabindra Singh Baniya, Rajaram Paudel, Arun Chhetri, and Anjana Baraili. (Opens Friday at Cinépolis Euless)

Prey for the Devil (PG-13) This horror film stars Jacqueline Byers as a Catholic nun who becomes the first woman to perform an exorcism. Also with Virginia Madsen, Colin Salmon, Nicholas Ralph, Christian Navarro, Posy Taylor, and Ben Cross. (Opens Friday)

Ram Setu (NR) Akshay Kumar stars in this action-thriller as an archaeologist investigating the natural phenomenon also known as Adam’s Bridge. Also with Jacqueline Fernandez, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Anngad Raaj, Satyadev Kancharana, Nassar, and Pravesh Rana. (Opens Friday)

The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile (R) Kathlyn Horan’s concert film is about Carlile’s creation of an entire album based on Tucker’s life. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The System (R) Tyrese Gibson stars in this thriller as a military veteran who goes undercover in a prison to infiltrate a criminal gang operating on the inside. Also with Terrence Howard, Ric Reitz, Lil Yachty, Arielle Prepetit, and Jeremy Piven. (Opens Friday at Cinemark North East Mall)

Tár (R) Cate Blanchett gives perhaps the performance of her career in this drama as a world-famous composer and orchestra conductor whose history of sexually harassing her female students and protégées catches up with her in Berlin. This is Todd Field’s first film since his 2006 drama Little Children, and he has his classical music references are crushingly on point as well as a fix on how that world makes it particularly easy for sexual predators. He accompanies this with some dazzling camerawork as well, capturing the gloss of its main character’s rarefied world. The actors are all playing their own instruments, and Blanchett is conducting the Berlin Philharmonic for real. The star, her killer tailored suits, and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music all convince us of the protagonist’s musical genius without excusing the harm she does to the people around her. The balancing act this movie pulls off is worth a shout of “Bravissimo!” Also with Nina Hoss, Noémie Merlant, Mark Strong, Allan Corduner, Sophie Kauer, Zethphan Smith-Gneist, and Julian Glover. (Opens Friday)

Thank God (NR) This Indian comedy stars Sidharth Malhotra as a narcissistic Realtor who dies in an accident and is given a chance in the afterlife to live better. Also with Ajay Devgn, Rakul Preet Singh, Kiara Khanna, Kiku Sharda, Seema Pahwa, Kanwaljeet Singh, Urmilla Kothare, and Nora Fatehi. (Opens Friday)

Triangle of Sadness (R) The latest farce by Ruben Östlund (The Square) is about a cruise ship that sinks and strands its wealthy passengers on a desert island. Starring Woody Harrelson, Harris Dickinson, Zlatko Buric, Dolly de Leon, Oliver Ford Davies, and the late Charlbi Dean. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Amsterdam (R) The first post-Jan. 6 movie is this madcap satire that largely misses the mark. A Black lawyer (John David Washington), an addicted cosmetic surgeon (Christian Bale), and an international spy (Margot Robbie) who met during World War I team up again years later to thwart a fascist plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt and install a dictator. Depending on whom you ask, such a plot did happen in 1933, but the movie takes so long to get to the hook for us modern types in the audience. Writer-director David O. Russell’s manic energy papers over some of the cracks, as does the deluxe cast. Still, this is supposed to be a detective story, and Russell’s lack of focus becomes frustrating in this context. His self-pitying identification with misunderstood heroes is off-putting as well. Also with Robert DeNiro, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Anya Taylor-Joy, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Zoe Saldaña, Andrea Riseborough, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Olyphant, Bonnie Hellman, Beth Grant, Colleen Camp, Ed Begley Jr., and Taylor Swift.

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. 

Black Adam (PG-13) The old, boring DC Comics movies are back with this grim exercise. A completely miscast Dwayne Johnson plays the titular 5,000-year-old slave who’s reborn with god-like powers and a lust for revenge in the present day. The Middle Eastern country full of oppressed people who hate the Justice League and greet Black Adam as a liberator is an interesting setting, but director Jaume Collet-Serra (Jungle Cruise) is too busy imitating Zack Snyder’s heroic shots to do much with it. The humorous bits don’t work, and out of the new batch of superheroes sent to subdue Black Adam, only Quintessa Swindell registers as a human cyclone. Casting Johnson as a guy who’s seeking to avenge his son’s death ignores all the qualities that made him a star in the first place. Also with Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Shahi, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Bodhi Sabongui, Marwan Kenzari, Mohammed Amer, Djimon Hounsou, Henry Winkler, and uncredited cameos by Viola Davis and Henry Cavill. 

Bros (R) A romantic comedy for gay men that’s funny enough to amuse the straights. Billy Eichner co-writes and stars here as a 40-year-old man whose life is a series of casual hookups until he meets a hot guy (Luke Macfarlane) who lives his life the same way, and both have to let down their guard to find love. The strength of the comic writing carries this movie through its less eventful passages (“You’re like some grown-up Boy Scout. I’m whatever happens to Evan Hansen.”), while director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller brings the same flair for comic sex scenes that he did to Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. Gratifyingly, the writers resist the urge to turn the main character into some paragon of gay humanity and delves into the mess of two middle-aged guys negotiating their first serious relationship. The country song at the end is a perfect capper. Also with Guy Branum, Miss Lawrence, TS Madison, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Guillermo Diaz, Jai Rodriguez, Amanda Bearse, Bowen Yang, Harvey Fierstein, Debra Messing, Kenan Thompson, Amy Schumer, and uncredited cameos by Seth Meyers and Ben Stiller.

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. 

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. 

Halloween Ends (R) Michael Myers is definitely gone amid a burst of interesting ideas. I just wish they’d been organized at all. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has her final showdown with the killer, though the story takes a considerable detour through a nerdy engineering student (Rohan Campbell) who accidentally kills a boy he’s babysitting, becomes a town pariah, rejuvenates Michael, and does the bidding of Laurie’s granddaughter (Andi Matichak). The whole theme that trauma is unkillable much like Michael is an interesting one, but the plotlines don’t come together in an effective way, and too much of the film is wrapped up in therapy-speak. Laurie considers suicide, and you might too, if her life were yours. It’s enough of a hook to hang a slasher movie on, but the filmmakers here don’t manage it. Also with Will Patton, Kyle Richards, Michael Barbieri, Marteen, Joanne Baron, Michael O’Leary, Michele Dawson, and Nick Castle. 

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. 

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. 

The Legend of Maula Jatt (NR) Fawad Khan stars in this Indian historical epic as a gladiator who seeks revenge on his nemesis (Hamza Ali Abbasi). Also with Mahira Khan, Humaima Malik, Gohar Rasheed, and Faris Shafi. (Opens Friday)

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile (PG) The idea of adapting Bernard Waber’s children’s books into a partially animated musical film is fantastic. The execution? Boo, hiss! Shawn Mendes does the voice of the CGI-generated crocodile who is adopted by a down-and-out stage magician (Javier Bardem) and then abandoned before making friends with a boy (Winslow Fegley) who moves into the Manhattan brownstone where he lives. Bardem looks somewhat manic when he bursts into song and dance, but he isn’t the problem. The animation of both Lyle and the neighbor’s cat looks terrible, and the directing team of Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory, Office Christmas Party) has no natural flair for musical numbers. Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman, Dear Evan Hansen) have seen better days as well. The charm of the original is lost here. Also with Constance Wu, Scoot McNairy, Brett Gelman, Lyric Hurd, and an uncredited Jack Black. 

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. 

My Policeman (R) In Bros, the characters make jokes about tragic gay movies set in the past before gays could live openly. This awfully British film adapted from Bethan Roberts’ novel is one of those. Harry Styles stars as a cop in Brighton in the 1950s who marries a woman (Emma Corrin) but carries on an affair with a museum curator (David Dawson). Despite the hot gay sex scenes, this affair still comes off as repressed and tedious thanks to Michael Grandage’s direction, and it’s perverse that the most interesting actor here — Corrin — is in the role that the plot deliberately shunts off to one side. The flash-forwards with the characters reunited some 40 years later could have been lost entirely as well. All in all, this is more than a bit of a chore to sit through. Also with Linus Roache, Gina McKee, Kadif Karwan, Dora Davis, Freya Mavor, and Rupert Everett. 

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.

Ponniyin Selvan: I (NR) The first of two movies based on a classic of Tamil literature receives the top-drawer treatment. Set in the 10th century, this stars Karthi as a warrior who is caught up in a power struggle between the imperial family of the Chola dynasty and a group of chieftains who have turned traitor. This movie has Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a dual role, a climactic fight on board a pirate ship, an elephant chase, some truly badass battle scenes, and musical numbers that include a genuinely creepy war dance. If you’re not familiar with the Kalki Krishnamurthy epic novel that this is based on, you may have trouble keeping straight who’s on which side. Still, the supporting characters are well drawn, which gives some human dimension to the well-executed spectacle. Also with Vikram, Jayam Ravi, Trisha, Jayaram, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Prabhu, Vikram Prabhu, R. Sarathkumar, Rahman, and Prakash Raj. 

Prince (NR) Sivakarthikeyan stars in this Indian comedy as a teacher who falls in love with a British teacher (Maria Ryaboshapka) at his school. Also with Sathyaraj, Premgi Amaren, and Carl A. Harte. (Opens Friday)

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. 

Sardar (NR) Karthi stars in this Indian action-thriller as both a publicity-hungry detective and a super-spy who happen to look alike. Also with Raashii Khanna, Rajisha Vijayan, Chunky Pandey, and Murali Sharma. (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. 

Terrifier 2 (NR) The sequel to the 2016 horror film is about a killer clown (David Howard Thornton) who comes back to life to hunt new victims on Halloween. Also with Jenna Kanell, Griffin Santopietro, Lauren LaVera, Catherine Corcoran, Felissa Rose, and Chris Jericho.

Ticket to Paradise (PG-13) The best stuff in this curiously inert romantic comedy comes around the edges of the action. George Clooney and Julia Roberts play a bitterly divorced couple who team up when their law-school graduate daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) falls for a hot Indonesian guy (Maxime Bouttier) and throws over her legal career to marry him and farm seaweed in Bali. The bickering between the older couple is written lamely, and their attempts to sabotage the wedding aren’t funny. There’s one amusing set piece where everybody plays beer pong with arak instead of beer, and Billie Lourd cadges a few funny bits as the daughter’s best friend. Mostly, the stars seem to be going at half speed in this tropical setting. Also with Cintya Dharmayanti, Geneviève Lemon, Dorian Djoudi, and Lucas Bravo. 

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. 

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

 

American Murderer (R) This true-crime film stars Tom Pelphrey as Jason Derek Brown, the wealthy con artist who became a wanted killer. Also with Ryan Phillippe, Idina Menzel, Paul Schneider, Shantel VanSanten, Emelina Adams, Kevin Corrigan, Moises Arias, and Jacki Weaver. 

Cat Daddies (NR) Mye Hoang’s documentary profiles eight men whose cats help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Detective Knight: Rogue (R) Bruce Willis stars in this thriller as an L.A. cop who pursues a group of thieves to New York after they shoot his partner. Also with Beau Mirchoff, Lochlyn Munro, Corey Large, Michael Eklund, Cody Kearsley, Jimmy Jean-Louis, and Dax Campbell. 

Eternal Spring (NR) Jason Loftus’ animated documentary is about the 2002 hijacking of a Chinese TV station by the religious group Falun Gong. 

The Good Nurse (R) Jessica Chastain stars in this thriller as a hospital nurse who believes that a colleague (Eddie Redmayne) is killing patients. Also with Kim Dickens, Noah Emmerich, Nnamdi Asomugha, Malik Yoba, and Ajay Naidu. 

Raymond & Ray (R) Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor star in this drama as estranged brothers who take a road trip for the funeral of their abusive father. Also with Maribel Verdú, Tom Bower, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Todd Louiso, Oscar Nuñez, and Sophie Okonedo. 

 

LEAVE A REPLY