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Rita Moreno, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Lily Tomlin cheer on their favorite NFL quarterback in "80 for Brady". Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

OPENING

 

All Quiet on the Western Front (R) Erich Maria Remarque’s World War I novel was made into a movie that won the Best Picture Oscar for 1930. Now it’s been remade with modern technology and nominated for the Best Picture Oscar this year, and it does look impressive, but it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Felix Kammerer portrays the young German man who goes off to war with dreams of glory and instead watches all his friends get killed in a brutal war of attrition. While the hopelessness of war is well-evoked, the film lacks a memorable set piece to bring that home. With a minimum of combat action, Terence Davies’ Benediction is a more powerful statement about the loss of a generation. Also with Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Adrian Grünewald, Edin Hasanovic, Thibault de Montalembert, Sebastian Hülk, and Daniel Brühl. (Opens Friday at Alamo Drafthouse Denton)

The Amazing Maurice (PG) Based on Terry Pratchett’s children’s book, this animated film is about a cat (voiced by Hugh Laurie) who seeks to con a kid and his horde of rats. Additional voices by Emilia Clarke, David Thewlis, Himesh Patel, Gemma Arterton, Joe Sugg, Rob Brydon, Peter Serafinowicz, Hugh Bonneville, and David Tennant. (Opens Friday)

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Baby Ruby (NR) Adapted from Bess Wohl’s play, this drama stars Noémie Merlant as a social media influencer who mentally disintegrates after becoming a mother. Also with Kit Harington, Meredith Hagner, Jayne Atkinson, and Reed Birney. (Opens Friday at Alamo Drafthouse Denton)

BTS: Yet to Come in CInemas (NR) This concert documentary shows the Korean boy band’s post-pandemic concert from last October in Busan. (Opens Friday)

80 for Brady (PG-13) Look away, Falcons fans. Seriously, look away. The weekend before the Super Bowl has this comedy based on the real-life story of four octogenarian women from Boston who traveled to Houston for Super Bowl LI for their first-ever trip to the big game. They’re played by Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, and Lily Tomlin. The script is more knowledgeable about football than it needs to be, which I appreciate, and the chemistry among the four heavily decorated leads makes this pleasant enough in the early going. The movie only turns truly bad when the women get into the Patriots’ coaching box during the game and help engineer the big comeback against Atlanta. The Super Bowl setting does allow for numerous cameos, and Tom Brady himself appears to Tomlin’s character and gives her pep talks. Also with Harry Hamlin, Sally Kirkland, Bob Balaban, Sara Gilbert, Glynn Turman, Jimmy O. Yang, Ron Funches, Marshawn Lynch, Patton Oswalt, Billy Porter, Guy Fieri, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Rob Gronkowski. (Opens Friday)

Freedom’s Path (NR) Gerran Howell stars as a soldier who deserts during battle and is taught a lesson in the true nature of freedom. Also with RJ Cyler, Ewen Bremner, Harrison Gilbertson, Afemo Omilami, Carol Sutton, and Thomas Jefferson Byrd. (Opens Friday)

Knock at the Cabin (R) Adapted from Paul Tremblay’s novel The Cabin at the End of the World, M. Night Shyamalan’s latest has an intriguing premise but goes wrong playing it out. The film is about a gay couple (Ben Aldridge and Jonathan Groff) and their adopted Chinese daughter (Kristen Cui) who rent out a remote cabin in the Pennsylvania countryside when a group of fanatics forces their way in, takes them hostage, and says that the family can only prevent the world from ending by killing one of their own members. The conventional plot has a same-sex couple at its center, and their homosexuality is not incidental to their situation. All this is enough to keep the film going for a while, but the clumsy denouement and some bad writing sink it in the end. Dave Bautista steals the movie as the head of the home invaders, who genuinely doesn’t want violence but does it anyway. Also with Nikki Amuka-Bird, Abby Quinn, and Rupert Grint. (Opens Friday) 

The Last Deal (R) This crime thriller stars Anthony Molinari as a drug dealer who looks to steal one last large shipment of marijuana before the drug becomes legal. Also with Sala Baker, Gigi Gustin, Conner Floyd, Kenny Johnston, Mike Ferguson, and Sofia Masson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Little Dixie (R) Frank Grillo stars in this crime thriller as a political fixer who must protect his family when his attempt to broker a truce between a governor (Eric Dane) and drug cartels goes south. Also with Annabeth Gish, Mercedes Mason, Maurice Compte, Peter Greene, Beau Knapp, and Thomas Dekker. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

A Lot of Nothing (NR) Y’lan Noel and Cleopatra Coleman star in this thriller as an ordinary couple who decide to take vigilante justice against a neighbor whom they know to have committed a crime. Also with Andrew Leeds, Justin Hartley, Sheila Carrasco, Nanrisa Lee, Shamier Anderson, and Lex Scott Davis. (Opens Friday at Premiere Cinemas Burleson)

Michael (NR) Sundeep Kishan stars in this Indian film noir action thriller. Also with Vijay Sethupathi, Divyansha Kaushik, Gautham Vasudev Menon, and Varun Sandesh. (Opens Friday)

She Is Love (NR) This romantic film stars Sam Riley and Haley Bennett as an estranged couple who consider whether to get back together. Also with Marisa Abela. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Sword Art Online the Movie: Progressive — Scherzo of Deep Night (NR) This Japanese anime film is about two players (voiced by Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Haruka Tomatsu) who must venture further into their favorite game. Additional voices by Shiori Izawa, Kaede Hondo, Yusuke Kobayashi, and Inori Minae. (Opens Friday)

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. (Opens Friday)

Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (PG) Lizzie Gottlieb’s documentary is about her father and his 50-year relationship with the Lyndon Johnson biographer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Avatar: The Way of Water (PG-13) I’m not impressed. Picking up some 15 years after the previous film, the story has Jake Sully and Neytiri (Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña) the father of four kids on Pandora when the humans return and force them to take shelter with another clan of Na’vi who have evolved to live in the sea. The visuals are surprisingly not that good, reminiscent of a top-end video game with both human and alien characters moving in unnatural manners and even some motion-smoothing. The Na’vi go from representing Native Americans to Polynesians, and the villains from the original film are resurrected so that they can be evil again. (They’re left alive for that reason and no other, too.) James Cameron’s movies aren’t just dumb, they’re preachy, too. That’s a bad combination. Also with Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Brendan Cowell, Jemaine Clement, Britain Dalton, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Jack Champion, Dileep Rao, Giovanni Ribisi, Edie Falco, and Sigourney Weaver.

Babylon (R) Damien Chazelle’s three-hour epic is never boring, but it still bites off more than it can chew. Set in Hollywood during the 1920s and ’30s, it’s about a fading movie star (Brad Pitt), an actress (Margot Robbie) whose rise is thwarted by the advent of sound movies, and a day laborer (Diego Calva) who becomes an executive. After the discipline of La La Land and First Man, Chazelle truly lets rip here, capturing the madness of early Tinseltown with the rhythms of a Keystone Kops short. Some of the set pieces here are astounding. The problem is, amid all this length and all the orgiastic excess, he loses the characters’ tragic arcs and never really earns his movie’s status as a paean to the magic of cinema. Also with Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Lukas Haas, Li Jun Li, Eric Roberts, Olivia Hamilton, Samara Weaving, Max Minghella, Joe Dallessandro, P.J. Byrne, Jeff Garlin, Chloe Fineman, Damon Gupton, Ethan Suplee, Spike Jonze, Katherine Waterston, Flea, Olivia Wilde, and Tobey Maguire.

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. 

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.

The Devil Conspiracy (R) But for the occasional profanity, this badly photographed supernatural thriller will give you flashbacks to the bad Christian movies of the mid-2010s. A group of Satan worshipers in the biotech business in Rome look to resurrect the Devil by kidnapping an American art historian (Alice Orr-Ewing) and forcing her to give birth to Lucifer’s spawn, while the Archangel Michael takes possession of a murdered priest (Joe Doyle) to thwart them. The filmmakers do try to inject some humor into the proceedings, but all the biggest laughs are unintentional — when Michael initially imprisons Lucifer in Hell, the fallen angel says, “Shit, is this really necessary?” Terrible special effects and nighttime scenes where you can barely see anybody make this sub-Da Vinci Code exercise look as bad as its material. Also with Eveline Hall, Peter Mensah, Brian Caspe, Spencer Wilding, Natalia Germani, Wendy Rosas, James Faulkner, and Joe Anderson. 

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 blend 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.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (R) The Being John Malkovich of our generation. Michelle Yeoh stars in this surreal martial-arts drama as the owner of a Southern California laundromat who discovers the existence of an infinite number of parallel universes and has to access the skills of her more accomplished alternate selves to stop them from being destroyed. This film has the wackiest fight sequences since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as all the different characters instantly acquire kung fu proficiency at one point or another. The filmmaking team The Daniels (Swiss Army Man) stages all these scenes fantastically, working endless variations inside an IRS office building. Much like Scott Pilgrim, the brilliance eventually becomes exhausting, but the filmmakers deserve all kinds of props for their ambition and expanding the philosophy of martial-arts movies beyond the traditional Buddhist koans. Also with Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Tallie Medel, Harry Shum Jr., Biff Wiff, Jenny Slate, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Hong. 

The Fabelmans (PG-13) Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical film is highly likable, if not exactly ground-breaking. His fictional alter ego (played by Mateo Zoryan as a small boy and Gabriel LaBelle as a teenager) is captured by the magic of cinema at a young age and seeks to become a filmmaker while growing up in New Jersey, Arizona, and northern California. Spielberg and co-writer Tony Kushner draw a complicated portrait of the former’s childhood, with his father (Paul Dano) not understanding the ways of arts while his mother (Michelle Williams) is the fun parent, but emotionally unstable. The loose, baggy structure allows for some great set pieces ranging from a monologue by an old Jewish great-uncle (Judd Hirsch) to a sex scene with a Christian girl (Chloe East) who has pictures of Jesus on every surface of her bedroom. Also with Seth Rogen, Sam Rechner, Oakes Fegley, Keeley Karsten, Julia Butters, Sophia Kopera, Robin Bartlett, Jeannie Berlin, and David Lynch. 

Fear (R) An almighty mess. Joseph Sikora stars as a best-selling author who rents out a ski lodge near Lake Tahoe during the offseason so he can propose to his girlfriend (Annie Ilonzeh) when they and their friends are trapped there by a new Covid variant, or maybe they’re all suffering a mass hallucination. Director/co-writer Deon Taylor (Fatale) is better with thrillers than he is with horror, the idea that the lodge is turning everybody’s worst fears against them is clumsily handled, and Sikora is an uninteresting presence at the center of this. This movie comes off as underbaked at every step of the process and as uninspired as its title. Also with Ruby Modine, Terrence Jenkins, Andrew Bachelor, Iddo Goldberg, Jessica Allain, Tyler Abron, and T.I. 

House Party (R) Despite some jokes that land, this remake is nowhere near the 1990 classic comedy original. Jacob Latimore and Tosin Cole star as two house cleaners, best friends, and would-be party promoters who discover that the L.A. mansion they are tidying up belongs to LeBron James. Since they’re about to lose their jobs and the house is empty, they decide to throw a rager, invite a bunch of LeBron’s celebrity friends, and charge admission at the door. Music video director Calmatic makes his feature film debut and brings a fatal lack of energy to the affair, while the two leads suffer from a lack of rapport. The comic highlights here are an uncredited James and Kid Cudi portraying a crazy, murderous version of himself who has an in with the Illuminati (whose members include Mark Cuban and Kid ‘n Play). Also with Karen Obilom, DC Young Fly, Shakira Ja’nai Paye, Mya, Allen Maldonado, Bill Bellamy, Jamar Malachi Neighbors, Zeus Ley, Chinedu Unaka, Lena Waithe, Lil’ Wayne, Odell Beckham Jr., Anthony Davis, Tinashe, Juvenile, and Snoop Dogg. 

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (PG-13) The overabundance of material defeats a terrific director, Kasi Lemmons, in this biography of Whitney Houston. British newcomer Naomie Ackie acts as hard as she can as the legendary singer while lip-syncing to recordings made by the real Houston. The movie covers much of the ground that Kevin Macdonald’s documentary Whitney covered, with the addition of some good material about Houston’s complicated relationship with Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams). However, the 150-minute runtime is too much, the filmmakers don’t adopt a compelling angle on Houston’s life or her music, and the whitewashing done on the character of Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci) — the real Davis is a producer on this film — is borderline disgraceful. Despite a few powerful moments, there’s not much point to all this. Also with Ashton Sanders, Clarke Peters, Tamara Tunie, Bria Danielle Singleton, and Dave Heard. 

Infinity Pool (R) This starts off so well before it collapses. Brandon Cronenberg’s horror film starts out like a Patricia Highsmith novel, with Alexander Skarsgård as a rich American on a beach vacation in an Eastern European country when he accidentally kills a local. In exchange for a hefty bribe, the government creates an exact double of him and forces him to watch the double being executed for the crime. The trippy visuals and the mood at a resort that’s hidden behind razor wire is promising, but Cronenberg hopelessly scrambles his themes and can’t decide whether this story is about the gap between rich and poor or the humiliation of a weak man. A coherent subject remains frustratingly out of reach. Also with Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Jalil Lespert, Amanda Brugel, John Ralston, Caroline Boulton, Jeff Ricketts, Adam Boncz, and Thomas Kretschmann. 

Left Behind: Rise of the Antichrist (PG-13) The sixth film in the Christian series stars Kevin Sorbo as a man battling a charismatic UN chief (Neal McDonough). Also with Corbin Bernsen, Bailey Chase, Sarah Fisher, Sam Sorbo, and Braeden Sorbo. 

Living (PG-13) Of all Akira Kurosawa films to remake, you just had to redo Ikiru, which might just be the master’s greatest film. Bill Nighy plays a British civil service worker in the 1950s who is diagnosed with a terminal illness and decides to build a children’s playground in London before he dies. Nighy is quite good as a quintessential organization man who is rocked to his core, and it’s not inappropriate for Oliver Hermanus (Moffie) to direct this in a similarly buttoned up way. Does it have to be even more buttoned up than the Japanese original, though? Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro does the script, and the talent shows in the final product. For all that, the movie still doesn’t make a compelling argument for its existence. Also with Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Adrian Rawlins, Oliver Chris, Hubert Burton, Michael Cochrane, Lia Williams, and Patsy Ferran. 

A Man Called Otto (PG-13) This remake of the Swedish comedy A Man Called Ove isn’t nearly as good as the original. Tom Hanks is terribly miscast as a grumpy, prematurely old man who decides to kill himself after his wife dies and he’s pushed into retirement. Instead, he’s pulled out of his misanthropy by the Latino family from California who move in across the street. Director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace) has little feel for the gentle comedy in this story and fails to turn the snowy Iowa setting into a suitable backdrop for it. Hanks also misses the simmering anger underneath his character’s fastidiousness and love of engineering. The whole thing just subsides into tasteful Hollywood melodrama. If the Swedish movie was a little bit too sentimental, this is a lot too sentimental. Also with Mariana Treviño, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Truman Hanks, Rachel Keller, Mack Bayda, Cameron Britton, Juanita Jennings, Peter Lawson Jones, Kailey Hyman, and Mike Birbiglia. 

Maybe I Do (PG-13) Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey star in this comedy as an engaged couple whose first meeting with each other’s parents holds some unexpected revelations. Also with Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, William H. Macy, and Richard Gere. 

M3GAN (PG-13) A lesser film would have coasted on that creepy doll, but this horror movie does better. Allison Williams plays a robotics scientist who’s given custody of her freshly orphaned niece (Violet McGraw) and invents a robot doll (Amie Donald, with voice by Jenna Davis) to help the girl through her grief. It does such a good job that it starts killing everyone who’s a threat to the girl. This movie features a ton of bad parenting, and part of what M3GAN scary is that she steps in to fill the void. She’s capable of caring, and even more scary than her murders is the song she sings to console her primary user when she misses her parents. We’ve been pigeonholing horror flicks as either “elevated horror” that traffics in big ideas or schlock horror that only aims for your id, but this movie manages to do both. Also with Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps, Lori Dungey, Amy Usherwood, Jack Cassidy, Stephane Garneau-Monten, Kira Josephson, and Ronny Chieng.

Missing (PG-13) Another thriller that takes place on computer and phone screens, this is not as good as Searching but still diverting. Storm Reid plays a Southern California teenager who has to coordinate an investigation from 3,100 miles away after her mom (Nia Long) and her mom’s new boyfriend (Ken Leung) disappear on a romantic vacation in Cartagena. The stuff with our investigators doing clever and downright illegal things to find out what has happened to the vanished adults is still pretty nifty as the teens find out increasingly shady information about them. However, the plot contains one twist too many, and what happens in the last 20 minutes or so makes very little sense. There’s a nifty running gag in which the main character watches a Netflix adaptation of the events depicted in Searching. Also with Joaquim de Almeida, Megan Suri, Amy Landecker, Tim Griffin, Daniel Henney, and Jasmin Savoy Brown.

Pathaan (NR) Shah Rukh Khan stars in this Indian thriller as an exiled government agent who must thwart a nuclear terrorist attack on India. Also with John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Ashutosh Rana, Gautam Rode, and Dimple Kapadia. 

Plane (R) Mostly very plain indeed. Gerard Butler stars in this action-thriller as a commercial airline pilot flying 14 passengers from Singapore to Tokyo, and there is one great scene when the plane is hit by lightning and has to make an emergency landing on a jungle island in the Philippines. After that, though, this subsides into a boilerplate exercise, with the pilot having to free an accused murderer (Mike Colter) so that he can help save the other passengers from militant Filipino separatists. Butler is better than usual here because he’s playing a Scotsman instead of chewing on his American accent. Other than that, there’s not much distinctive about this. Also with Yoson An, Daniella Pineda, Paul Ben-Victor, Remi Adeleke, Joey Slotnick, Evan Dane Taylor, Claro de los Reyes, Lilly Krug, Oliver Trevena, and Tony Goldwyn. 

The Point Men (NR) This Korean thriller is about a diplomat and a soldier forced to team up after their country’s diplomats are taken hostage in Afghanistan. Starring Hyun Bin, Hwang Jung-min, Kang Ki-young, Jeon Sung-woo, Park Hyoung-soo, and Bryan Larkin.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (PG) This better-than-you-might-expect sequel has the Spanish-accented cat (voiced by Antonio Banderas) losing the eighth of his nine lives and facing the end of his adventure-hero career. A quest for a star that grants wishes brings him up against obese crime boss Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney) and a wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura) who is Death incarnate. The stereotypes are unfortunate, especially when Puss’ retirement home is run by a crazy cat lady (voiced by Da’Vine Joy Randolph), but his climactic swordfight against the wolf is boss, and Florence Pugh has a great time voicing Goldilocks with a trashy London accent. The studio makes an effort to make the movie look different from the Shrek films, and Puss’ confrontation with his mortality gives the character new dimensions. Additional voices by Salma Hayek Pinault, Harvey Guillén, Anthony Mendez, Kevin McCann, Samson Kayo, Ray Winstone, and Olivia Colman. 

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. 

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime the Movie: Scarlet Bond (PG-13) An early candidate for the best movie title of 2023, this anime film is about an ogre warrior (voiced by Yȗma Uchida and Jonah Scott) whose village is wiped out by orcs, so he enlists the help of the all-powerful slime (voiced by Miho Okasaki and Brittney Karbowski) for the gods’ help in saving the queen (voiced by Riko Fukumoto and Cherami Leigh) who saved his life. As is so often the case, newcomers to the series will find themselves lost amid this story’s panoply of races, kingdoms, and warriors with special powers. Past that, though, there are some cool swordfights and a story that looks at the pros and cons of economic survival and damage to the environment. Additional voices by Makoto Furukawa, Ricco Fajardo, Tomoaki Maeno, Chris Rager, Takahiro Sakurai, Daman Mills, Shinpachi Tsuji, Greg Dulcie, Mitsuru Ogata, Mark Stoddard, Ken Uo, Sean Hennigan, Takuya Eguchi, and Ian Sinclair. 

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. 

Waltair Veerayya (NR) This Telugu-language action-comedy stars Chiranjeevi as a smuggler who is targeted by different branches of Indian law enforcement. Also with Ravi Teja, Shruti Haasan, Catherine Tresa, Rajendra Prasad, Prakash Raj, and Vennela Kishore. 

The Wandering Earth II (NR) The sequel to the 2019 Chinese science-fiction movie stars Andy Lau as the leader of a new generation of Earthlings who must save the planet. Also with Wu Jing, Zina Blahusova, Clara Lee, Wang Zhi, Tong Liya, Anil Joseph, and Alysa Finnegan. 

The Whale (R) Torturous, like the best Darren Aronofsky movies. This adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s play stars Brendan Fraser as a 600-pound gay man who tries to reconcile with the daughter he abandoned (Sadie Sink) by saving her from failing high school. If you’re wondering whether this is just so much fatsploitation, you’d better believe it is. When the main character first gets up from his sofa, it’s shot like a horror movie, and too often the movie revels in creating disgust for the guy who’s trying to eat himself to death. The flaws in the play have been exacerbated here, but Fraser’s performance is one for the ages, as his initial play-it-cool demeanor with his child gives way to desperation to make things right with her before he dies. Also with Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, and Samantha Morton.

Women Talking (PG-13) A deserving Best Picture Oscar nominee, Sarah Polley’s drama is adapted from Miriam Toews’ novel, which in turn is based on a real-life case when seven Mennonite men were convicted of raping more than 150 girls and women at their colony in Bolivia. Rooney Mara plays the moderator and clarifying voice who calls the meeting as the women try to decide whether to leave the colony or go to war with the elders who are trying to force them to forgive the assailants. If the movie is lacking in visual flair, the writing and acting are top-drawer, and the film keeps true to the women’s Christian perspective as they ponder the limits of forgiveness and the faults of the men who have made the rules on God’s behalf. Seeing these women think through the aspects of making their own world that’s closer to God is thrilling in an unconventional way. Also with Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Kate Hallett, Liv McNeil, Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod, August Winter, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Alice, Darling (R) Anna Kendrick stars in this thriller as a woman who goes on a trip with her friends to get away from her emotionally abusive boyfriend (Charlie Carrick). Also with Kaniehtiio Horn and Wumni Musaku. 

To Leslie (R) Andrea Riseborough stars in this drama about a West Texas housewife who squanders her lottery winnings and has to rebuild her life. Also with Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Owen Teague, Andre Royo, and Marc Maron.

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