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Jeremy Pope helps a fellow recruit through the Marines' basic training in "The Inspection." Image Courtesy A24

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An Action Hero (NR) Ayushmann Khurrana stars in this Indian drama as a former movie star who reckons with the fatal accident that forced him to stop his career. Also with Rachit Jadoun, Mohd Talib, Jitendra Rai, Akanksha Vishwakarma, and Amro Mahmoud. (Opens Friday)

Almighty Zeus (NR) This boxing drama stars Chris Soriano as a boxer who becomes a celebrity after avenging the victim of a hate crime on the street. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

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Bhediya (NR) This Indian horror-comedy stars Varun Dhawan as a construction worker who is turned into a werewolf. Also with Kriti Sanon, Deepak Dobriyal, Abhishek Banerjee, Saurabh Shukla, Shraddha Kapoor, Aparshakti Kuhurana, and Rajkummar Rao. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Chhello Show (NR) This Gujarati-language coming-of-age film stars Bhavin Rabari as a 9-year-old village boy who dreams of becoming a filmmaker. Also with Bhavesh Shrimali, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval, and Paresh Mehta. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

DSP (NR) Vijay Sethupathi stars in this Indian cop thriller. Also with Anukreethy Vas, Pugazh, and Shivani Narayanan. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

The Eternal Daughter (PG-13) Tilda Swinton stars in this horror film as a woman who returns with her elderly mother (Zinnia Davies-Cooke) to a haunted family manor. Also with Joseph Mydell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Gatta Kusthi (NR) This Tamil-language sports drama stars Vishnu Vishal, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Karunas, Sreeja Ravi, and Hareesh Peradi. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

HIT 2 (NR) The sequel to HIT: The First Case stars Adivi Sesh as a homicide cop tracking a serial killer. Also with Meenakshi Chaudhary, Rao Ramesh, Tanikella Bharani, Posani Krishna Murali, and Komalee Prasad. (Opens Friday)

Hunt (NR) Lee Jung-jae (TV’s Squid Game) stars in his directing debut as a South Korean operative in the 1980s who attempts to find a mole inside the government. Also with Jung Woo-sung, Heo Sung-tae, Jeon Hye-jin, Go Yoon-jung, Jeong Man-sik, and Joe Nowell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

I Heard the Bells (NR) This Christian film stars Stephen Atherholt as the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who writes “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Also with Rachel Day Hughes and Jonathan Baird. (Opens Friday)

The Inspection (R) Elegance Bratton is a gay man who served in the U.S. Marines in the 2000s, so this autobiographical film stars Jeremy Pope as a homeless gay man who enlists. This is one of the better movies about going through military training camp, as our hero is singled out for abuse after he becomes aroused while showering with his fellow recruits. Gabrielle Union, usually such a polished presence, deglams herself to good effect here as our man’s homophobic mother who thinks the Marines will straighten her boy out, and Bokeem Woodbine makes a complicated villain out of the hardass drill sergeant. Bratton’s view of military life may be a bit too rose-colored, but he does deliver something new in this subgenre. Also with Raúl Castillo, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Eman Esfandi, Aaron Dominguez, and Aubrey Joseph. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

The Quintessential Quintuplets Movie (NR) The big-screen version of the anime series has Futaro Uesugi (voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Josh Grelle) having to choose between the five sisters who are all in love with him. Additional voices by Miku Itou, Felicia Angelle, Ayane Sakura, Bryn Apprill, Inori Minase, Tia Lynn Ballard, Kana Hanazawa, Lindsay Seidel, Ayana Taketatsu, and Jill Harris. (Opens Friday)

Violent Night (R) David Harbour stars in this Christmas movie as Santa Claus, who has to fight off a group of armed robbers who invade a home that he’s delivering presents to. Also with John Leguizamo, Cam Gigandet, Leah Brady, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson, Brendan Fletcher, and Beverly D’Angelo. (Opens Friday)

White Noise (R) Based on Don DeLillo’s novel, Noah Baumbach’s film stars Adam Driver as a college professor trying to overcome his fear of death in the 1980s. Also with Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle, Raffey Cassidy, André Benjamin, Jodie Turner-Smith, Lars Eidinger, and an uncredited Barbara Sukowa. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

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The Banshees of Inisherin (R) Martin McDonagh’s fourth film is his first that takes place in his native Ireland, and it feels the most like his stage plays in a good way. Colin Farrell plays a farmer on the Aran Islands whose best friend (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly cuts him off, and reacts to the end of their friendship by coming hilariously and dangerously unhinged. The entire island becomes sucked into the friendship drama, and McDonagh’s particular brand of violence in the air keeps the film from becoming a cozy comedy about village eccentrics. Farrell gives the performance of his career as a pathetic man whose quest to find out why leads him to bloodshed, and the underrated Kerry Condon receives a showcase as his sister who’s desperate to escape this island even if it’s to an actual war zone. Underneath the black comedy is the sadness of a friendship ending. Also with Barry Keoghan, Gary Lydon, Pat Shortt, David Pearse, and Bríd Ní Beachtain.

Bardo (R) The latest film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman) stars Daniel Giménez Cacho as a journalist seeking peace with his Mexican identity. Also with Griselda Siciliani, Ximena Lamadrid, Íker Sánchez Solano, Daniel Damuzi, and Jay O. Sanders. (Opens Wednesday at América Cinemas La Gran Plaza)

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. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (PG-13) Burdened with the difficult double objective of mourning Chadwick Boseman and providing the thrills of a Marvel superhero movie, this imperfect sequel manages better than we could reasonably expect. In the wake of King T’Challa’s death, Wakanda fends off threats to its vibranium supply from an awakened underwater kingdom led by a flying Mayan serpent god (Tenoch Huerta). While Ramonda (Angela Bassett) assumes the throne, Shuri (Letitia Wright) deals with grief in unexpected ways. The film does lag a bit when introducing us to a pre-Columbian ocean city, and the sympathetic villain isn’t quite as resonant as the one in the first movie. Even so, the movie gives us some solid nuggets of action and comedy, and the post-credit sequence does great work at bringing some closure to the story. Also with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, Martin Freeman, Michaela Coel, Florence Kasumba, Richard Schiff, Lake Bell, Robert John Burke, Mabel Cadena, Alex Livinalli, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Trevor Noah, and an uncredited Michael B. Jordan.

Bones and All (R) Luca Guadagnino’s career continues to take fascinating turns, the latest being this teen romance similar to Call Me by Your Name that looks like a cheap 1980s horror flick. Taylor Russell plays a teenage girl who discovers that she’s a cannibal. When her father (André Holland) abandons her and leaves her with information about the circumstances of her birth, she finds an itinerant existence on the road encountering others like herself, some of whom are very bad people while one other (Timothée Chalamet) falls in love with her. This beautifully photographed film based on Camille DeAngelis’ novel doesn’t really work on the level of a horror movie, but it is a gently moving piece about two broken young people who find romance, and there is a hair-raising moment when the girl tracks down her mother (Chloë Sevigny) and it goes very bad. Also with Mark Rylance, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper, and Michael Stuhlbarg. 

Devotion (PG-13) The real-life Black U.S. Navy pilot and war hero deserved better than this square and badly photographed war drama. Jonathan Majors stars as Jesse L. Brown, who starts flying combat missions when the Korean War breaks out, becoming the only African-American pilot in his squad as well as best friends with his devoted wingman (Glen Powell). There’s a glimmer of an interesting bit when we see our man psych himself up for flights by shouting racial slurs at his reflection in a mirror, and there’s a cool one-take shot with the camera mounted on the wing of the plane as the wingman intentionally crashes his fighter. Beyond that, the movie doesn’t move beyond the template of stories about war heroes. Between the history and the battle sequences, this movie had more than enough to be interesting, but director JD Dillard can’t pull it off. Also with Joe Jonas, Thomas Sadoski, Christina Jackson, Daren Kagasoff, Spencer Neville, Nick Hargrove, Joseph Cross, and Serinda Swan. (Opens Wednesday)

Drishyam 2 (NR) This Hindi-language remake of the Malayalam-language crime thriller stars Ajay Devgn, Tabu, Akshaye Khanna, Shriya Saran, Ishita Dutta, and Rajat Kapoor. 

The Last Manhunt (R) This remake of Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here stars Martin Sensmeier, Mainei Kinimaka, Lily Gladstone, Zahn McClarnon, Raoul Max Trujillo, Brandon Oakes, Christian Camargo, Amy Seimetz, Tantoo Cardinal, and Jason Momoa. 

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. 

The Menu (R) This art satire uses haute cuisine as its metaphor to become a tasty amuse-bouche. Anya Taylor-Joy plays a woman whose boyfriend (Nicholas Hoult) takes her to a super-exclusive Noma-meets-El Bulli restaurant on a rocky island only to find that the guests and employees are being killed one by one as the evening progresses. If making fun of molecular gastronomy is so 2005, the movie has better stuff in the characterization of the 10 other dinner guests, and it is funny when the main character survives an attack by hitting the restaurant hostess with a Pacojet. The writers and director here all come from TV’s Succession, and their lines are made better by Taylor-Joy’s pinpoint comic delivery. This falls short of being a great satire, but it works as a joke that pays off. Also with Ralph Fiennes, John Leguizamo, Hong Chau, Paul Adelstein, Reed Birney, Judith Light, Aimee Carrero, Rob Yang, Mark St. Cyr, Arturo Castro, and Janet McTeer.

Prey for the Devil (PG-13) Pretty terrible. Jacqueline Byers stars in this horror film as a Catholic nun who receives exorcism lessons after the same demon that possessed her abusive mother then does the same to a little girl (Posy Taylor). The gender flip of a woman fighting the church to perform the ritual really should generate more than it does here. The plot turns on an outrageous coincidence, and for all the filmmakers’ desire to portray the darker history of the church, the commentary is pretty toothless. Also, the movie isn’t scary, so there’s that. This movie has too many ideas in its head and doesn’t have the chops to see them through. Also with Virginia Madsen, Colin Salmon, Nicholas Ralph, Christian Navarro, Cora Kirk, Debora Zhecheva, Koyna Ruseva, and Ben Cross. 

She Said (R) If you want to be cynical about a Hollywood movie celebrating the journalists who did the work that Hollywood wouldn’t do, go ahead. There are other issues in play here. Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan portray Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times reporters who act on a tip in summer 2016 and wind up exposing Harvey Weinstein as a serial sexual predator. The obvious model for this movie is Spotlight, which isn’t a flattering comparison. Where that film gathered power by gradually building up detail, but this one is missing too much connective tissue. The two lead actresses give creditable performances (Kazan has a great knack for conveying the reporter’s gift of listening to people’s stories without judging them), but the whole affair is too businesslike to have much life. Also with Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, Angela Yeoh, Sean Cullen, Zach Grenier, Emma O’Connor, Peter Friedman, Samantha Morton, and Ashley Judd.

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. 

Spirited (PG-13) In this agreeable modern-day musical version of A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) tries to redeem a marketing guru (Ryan Reynolds) who spreads disinformation on social media. The songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul are better than the ones they wrote for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, and both Reynolds and Octavia Spencer as the marketing guy’s Number 2 executive look surprisingly comfortable singing and dancing. Even better, director/co-writer Sean Anders (Instant Family) recognizes that turning a bad person good is a more complicated task than Charles Dickens made it appear. The filming might not be the most creative, but the charm of the three leads carries this holiday musical. Also with Tracy Morgan, Sunita Mani, Andrea Anders, Marlow Barkley, Patrick Page, Rose Byrne, and Judi Dench. 

Strange World (PG) Disney’s latest animated film takes a pre-emptive shot at the Avatar sequel by conjuring some fantastical creatures of its own. Set on an alien planet where the people have maglev transportation and vinyl records, the movie is about a farmer (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal) who has discovered electricity-producing plants but is caught between his manly-man explorer dad (voiced by Dennis Quaid) who abandoned him and his teenage son (voiced by Jaboukie Young-White) who takes after the old man when he resurfaces in his life. Props to this movie that the grandson is both mixed-race and gay. The ingredients are in place for a male version of Frozen, but the filmmakers become too caught up in the mechanics of the story and resolve everything too quickly. The film still looks great, but it misses its chance to be great. Additional voices by Gabrielle Union, Alan Tudyk, and Lucy Liu. (Opens Wednesday)

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. 

Till (PG-13) Danielle Deadwyler’s performance as Emmett Till’s mother is everything for this film about the infamous lynching of a Chicago boy in Mississippi. Jalyn Hall portrays the ill-fated 13-year-old who goes down south to visit his family and makes the mistake of wolf-whistling a white woman (Haley Bennett) who brings a mob to his relatives. Director/co-writer Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency) is a fundamentally scrupulous filmmaker who keeps the violence against Emmett Till offscreen. This gambit works because the revelation of the boy’s face, with all distinguishing features beaten out of it, is so skillfully built up to and executed. The movie as a whole remains too careful to make the impact it should, but Deadwyler is tremendous as the boy’s grieving mother who has his corpse photographed to show the world what the white people of Mississippi have done. Also with Frankie Faison, Sean Patrick Thomas, John Douglas Thompson, Gem Marc Collins, Sean Michael Weber, Eric Whitten, Keisha TIllis, Kevin Carroll, Tosin Cole, Jayme Lawson, E. Roger Mitchell, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Yashoda (NR) This Indian thriller stars Samantha as a surrogate mother who learns about injustices happening to other surrogate mothers. Also with Unni Mukundan, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Rao Ramesh, Murali Sharma, and Sampath Raj.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

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. 

Taurus (NR) Machine Gun Kelly stars in this drama as a musician caught in a self-destructive spiral. Also with Megan Fox, Scoot McNairy, Ruby Rose, and Maddie Hasson. 

 

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