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Aubrey Plaza shoots her way out of a car chase in "Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre." Photo by Dan Smith

OPENING

 

Blueback (PG) Mia Wasikowska stars in this drama as a scuba diver who takes on blue grouper poachers off the coast of Western Australia. Also with Albert Mwangi, Radha Mitchell, Ariel Donoghue, Clarence Ryan, and Eric Bana. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Children of the Corn (R) The 12th film version of the Stephen King short story about evil kids stars Elena Kampouris, Kate Moyer, Callan Mulvey, Alyla Browne, Luke Dean, and Bruce Spence. (Opens Friday)

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Demon Slayer: To the Swordsmith Village (R) The latest installment in the anime series has our heroes fighting demons in the entertainment district. Voices by Natsuki Hanae, Zach Aguilar, Hiro Shimono, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Bryce Papenbrook, Abby Trott, Kana Hanazawa, and Kira Buckland. (Opens Friday)

Hunt Her Kill Her (NR) This thriller stars Natalie Terrazzino as a night janitor who must fend off armed intruders when they break into her workplace on her first day. Also with JC Oakley III, Larry Bunton, Philip Zimny, Trevor Tucker, and Georgia Kate Haege. (Opens Friday)

A Little White Lie (R) Michael Shannon stars in this comedy as a New York City handyman who’s mistaken for a famous reclusive novelist. Also with Kate Hudson, Don Johnson, Zach Braff, Peyton List, Wendie Malick, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Jimmi Simpson, Mark Boone Junior, Adhir Kalyan, and M. Emmet Walsh. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Nhà Bà Nữ (NR) Already the highest-grossing Vietnamese film of all time, this drama stars Lê Giang as a matriarch who rules three generations of her family. Also with Trấn Thành, Khả Như, Song Luân, Uyen Ân, and Ngc Giàu. (Opens Friday)

Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre (R) Aubrey Plaza is the wild card sorely needed by this otherwise rote Guy Ritchie heist movie. Jason Statham plays a private security contractor who’s hired by the British government to retrieve a mysterious stolen item. To get to the arms dealer (Hugh Grant) who’s brokering the sale, he dangles a meeting with the guy’s favorite Hollywood action star (Josh Hartnett). The action is all competent and bland, and what keeps the film from forgettability is the snarky attitude Plaza gives Statham as his team’s new computer expert. Even The Rock couldn’t match the unimpressed sauce she brings to his po-faced tough-guy act. Three of the main bad guys here are named Trent, Alexander, and Arnold, so I guess Ritchie hates the Liverpool right back by that name. Also with Cary Elwes, Bugzy Malone, Tim Seyfi, Peter Ferdinando, Lourdes Faberes, Max Beesley, Tom Rosenthal, Ergun Kuyucu, and Eddie Marsan. (Opens Friday)

Return to Seoul (R) This Cambodian film stars Park Ji-min as a Korean woman adopted by a French family who returns to her birthplace to seek her roots. Also with Oh Kwang-rok, Guka Han, Yoann Zimmer, Choi Cho-woo, Son Seung-beom, Kim Dong-seok, and Louis-Do de Lencquesaing. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

The Spider (NR) This Egyptian thriller stars Ahmed el-Sakka as a drug dealer who tries to outwit the police. Also with Dhafer L’Abidine, Mona Zaki, Mohammed Mamdouh, Yousra El Lozy, Ahmed Fouad Selim, and Reem Mostafa. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (PG-13) The movie’s subtitle notwithstanding, this falls well short of the mania it promises. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) determines to settle down and make up for lost time with his daughter (Kathryn Newton), but her attempts to communicate with the quantum realm get them both sucked into the place along with Hope, Hank, and Janet (Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Michelle Pfeiffer), where they have to confront Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). The latter is an imposing presence who’s clever enough to dangle the prospect of giving Scott back his lost years of child-rearing, but that’s where the cleverness stops. Marooned at subatomic level, director Peyton Reed loses all the fun he had with making things and people different sizes in the first two films, and the comedy stubbornly refuses to lift off. Also with Bill Murray, Katy O’Brian, William Jackson Harper, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, and uncredited cameos by Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, and Owen Wilson.

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.

Cocaine Bear (R) The late Ray Liotta’s last act on film was to be disemboweled and have his entrails eaten by the cocaine bear. I think he would have been okay with that. Based on a 1980s incident when a drug dealer dropped a shipment of coke over the Chattahoochee Mountains in Tennessee, this film has a black bear becoming hooked on the white stuff and tearing through bumbling drug mules, cops, and park rangers, none of whom give a crap about the nurse (Keri Russell) or her kids who have gone missing in the park. Director Elizabeth Banks mostly maintains the right energy and tone of black humor, and the actors follow suit. It’s all quite a disreputable good time. Also with Alden Ehrenreich, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Margo Martindale, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Ayoola Smart, Aaron Holliday, Kristofer Hivju, Christian Convery, Brooklynn Prince, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Hannah Hoekstra, and Matthew Rhys. 

80 for Brady (PG-13) Look away, Falcons fans. Seriously, look away. Coming out the weekend before the Super Bowl (and just in time for Tom Brady’s retirement), 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 TB12 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. 

Emily (R) If you’ve read up on the Brontë sisters, you know that they were anything but ordinary, and yet this biography presents Emily (Emma Mackey) as a typically English girl taking typically English walks upon the heath while the typically English rain is falling down. The movie depicts her writing Wuthering Heights after a broken love affair with a handsome curate (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who comes to preach at her dad’s church. Australian actress-turned-director Frances O’Connor has the provincial atmosphere at Haworth down, but never translates the Brontës’ fecund imagination into visual terms. It’s kind of a slog to watch, and fans of Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling) will not appreciate the movie’s depiction of her as some prim, bespectacled player-hater. The most vivid performance here comes from Fionn Whitehead as loser brother Branwell. Also with Amelia Gething, Adrian Dunbar, and Gemma Jones. 

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. 

Jesus Revolution (PG-13) Based on the true story of Pastor Chuck Smith, who opened the doors of his failing southern California church to hippies in the early 1970s, this film stars Kelsey Grammer as the pastor and Jonathan Roumie as the bearded and tie-dye-wearing wandering preacher who convinces him that young people are looking for Christ. A Christian movie that exhorts its audience not to judge people on how they present themselves is a welcome change, but the pastor is too easily convinced, and too much of the movie focuses on artist Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), a young Jesus freak who will go on to found his own string of megachurches and co-write this movie’s script. The movie is surely right about the link between 1960s counterculture and today’s evangelical movement, but the drama wears thin before the first half is over. Also with Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Anna Grace Barlow, Ally Ioannides, Julia Campbell, Nic Bishop, and Steve Hanks. 

Magic Mike’s Last Dance (R) Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum return to the series, as the male stripper heads to London to set up a show like his Florida shows. Also with Salma Hayek, Caitlin Gerard, Nancy Carroll, Gavin Spokes, Juliette Motamed, and Ayub Khan-Din.

Marlowe (R) Everything is off in this film-noir adaptation of John Banville’s The Black-Eyed Blonde. Liam Neeson portrays the hard-boiled detective created by Raymond Chandler, who’s hired by a wealthy housewife (Diane Kruger) to find the missing boyfriend (François Arnaud) whom she’s been cheating on her husband with. Neil Jordan directs and co-writes this movie, and you wouldn’t expect something so clumsy from a filmmaker so experienced. The rhythm and pace of the scenes is off, the plot is snarled, and the performances aren’t good enough to take your attention off the flaws. The setting of 1939 Hollywood doesn’t add much, either. Also with Danny Huston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Patrick Muldoon, Colm Meaney, Daniela Melchior, Ian Hart, Seána Kerslake, Alan Cumming, and Jessica Lange. 

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. 

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.

Mummies (PG) This Spanish animated film is about three Egyptian mummies who come to life in London, seeking an ancient ring. Voices by Sean Bean, Joe Thomas, Eleanor Tomlinson, Dan Starkey, Celia Imrie, and Hugh Bonneville.

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. 

Selfiee (NR) The title is not a misprint. Akshay Kumar stars in this Indian show-business comedy. Also with Emraan Hashmi, Diana Penty, Nushrratt Bharuccha, Mahesh Thakur, Fahim Fazli, Tisca Chopra, Mruna Thakur, and Yo Yo Honey Singh. 

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. 

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. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

My Happy Ending (R) Based on Anat Gov’s play, this drama stars Andie MacDowell as an American movie star receiving treatment for cancer in a British hospital. Also with Tom Cullen, Miriam Margolyes, Tamsin Greig, Sally Phillips, David Walliams, and Rakhee Thakrar.

 

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