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Russell Crowe confronts the Dark Lord himself in "The Pope's Exorcist." Photo by Jonathan Hession

OPENING

 

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (R) Based on Daniel Malm’s book, this thriller is about a West Texas rancher (Jake Weary) who teams up with a group of ecoterrorists to destroy an oil pipeline on what was his property. Also with Ariela Barer, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Jayme Lawson, Lukas Gage, Kristine Froseth, Marcus Scribner, and Irene Bedard. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Jaari (NR) This Nepali romance stars Dayahang Rai, Bijay Baral, and Meruna Magar. (Opens Friday at Cinépolis Euless)

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Mafia Mamma (R) Toni Collette stars in this comedy as an ordinary American housewife who travels to Italy and suddenly finds herself the head of a family crime syndicate. Also with Monica Bellucci, Sophia Nomvete, Alessandro Bressanello, Eduardo Scarpetta, Tommy Rodger, Tim Dalsh, and Francesco Mastroianni. (Opens Friday)

Nefarious (R) This horror film stars Sean Patrick Flanery as a condemned killer who becomes demonically possessed on the day of his execution. Also with Jordan Belfi, Robert Peters, and Tom Ohmer. (Opens Friday)

The Pope’s Exorcist (R) Russell Crowe stars in this horror film as the Vatican’s chief exorcist investigating a possessed boy. Also with Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Laurel Marsden, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, Ryan O’Grady, Cornell John, and Franco Nero. (Opens Friday)

Renfield (R) This horror-comedy stars Nicholas Hoult as the assistant to Dracula (Nicolas Cage) who wants to regain his freedom in the present day. Also with Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Adrian Martinez, and Shohreh Aghdashloo. (Opens Friday)

Rudhran (NR) Raghava Lawrence stars in this Indian thriller as a man waging a lone war against a corporate executive (R. Sarathkumar). Also with Priya Bhavani Shankar, Poornima Bhagyaraj, and Nassar. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Sakra (R) This martial-arts film stars Donnie Yen as a murder suspect who must dig into his own past to clear his name. Also with Chen Yuqi, Eddie Cheung, Liu Yase, Ray Lui, and Kara Wai. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Shaakuntalam (NR) Based on a play by Kalidasa, this historical drama stars Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Dev Mohan, Sachin Khedekar, Mohan Babu, Aditi Balan, Ananya Nagalla, and Prakash Raj. (Opens Friday)

Sweetwater (PG-13) This sports drama stars Everett Osborne as Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, the first Black player in NBA history. Also with Cary Elwes, Jeremy Piven, Eric Roberts, Richard Dreyfuss, Kevin Pollak, Robert Ri’chard, and the late Mike Starr, (Opens Friday) 

 

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.

Bholaa (NR) Ajay Devgn directs and stars in this thriller as an Indian ex-convict who’s going home from prison after 10 years when he’s forced to help a narcotics cop (Tabu) who’s targeted for death by Uttar Pradesh’s drug lords. The whole thing should play like Mad Max: Fury Road, as a heavily armored truck drives towards a police station that’s under siege from the criminals, but the CGi is so very bad during the car chase sequences. Also with Sanjay Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal, Gajraj Rao, Vineet Kumar, Kiran Kumar, Amir Khan, Arpit Ranka, Lokesh Mittal, Raai Laxmi, and Abhishek Bachchan. 

Creed III (PG-13) Michael B. Jordan moves behind the camera and directs this latest installment, and while his direction isn’t the most brilliant, it does prove that he can helm a movie. The story finds Adonis Creed retired and living back in L.A. with his wife (Tessa Thompson) and deaf 4-year-old daughter (Mila Davis-Kent) when a friend from his troubled past (Jonathan Majors) surfaces after being released from prison and wants to restart his boxing career. Majors is given much of the spotlight here, and he does not fall short as he plays a villain who’s out of control but savvy enough to play on Adonis’ guilt, and who fights with the moves of someone whose discipline has gone to hell but is still a dangerous opponent. Also with Wood Harris, Selenis Leyva, José Benavidez Jr., Anthony Bellew, Spence Moore II, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Florian Munteanu, and Phylicia Rashad.

Dasara (NR) Nani stars in this Indian thriller as a thug for hire who’s framed for a crime. Also with Dheekshith Shetty, Keerthy Suresh, Samuthirakani, Sai Kumar, and Shine Tom Chacko. 

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (PG-13) Finally, a D&D movie for those of us who don’t own a 20-sided die. The role-playing game is turned over to John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the comedy team (Game Night) that knows how to make light of their subject matter without pissing off the game’s fans. Chris Pine stars as an escaped convict who seeks to take back his child (Chloe Coleman) from a rich lord (Hugh Grant) who was his friend before betraying him. There are jokes about obese dragons and a magic spell that lets you interrogate dead people, and they’re carried off well by the filmmakers and a bouncy cast. I wouldn’t mind following this crew on another adventure, especially since D&D gives them far more monsters to encounter. Also with Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Daisy Head, and an uncredited Bradley Cooper.

His Only Son (PG-13) This film dramatizes the Biblical story of Abraham (Nicolas Mouawad) being called on to sacrifice Isaac (Edaan Moskowitz). Also with Sara Seyed, Daniel da Silva, Luiz Fernandez-Gil, and Arianna White. 

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. 

John Wick: Chapter 4 (R) This gargantuan 169-minute installment is the best of the series. This one has John (Keanu Reeves) traveling through Osaka, Berlin, and Paris to hunt down a marquis (Bill Skarsgård) who’s douchey as only a French aristocrat can be, and who’s in charge of making John dead. The movie looks too similar to the other Wicks, and the po-faced solemnity makes me long for a single good joke or someone who thinks all the rituals and symbols of the Wick-verse are so much crap. The movie does have even more than its share of great action sequences, with one taking place in the Japanese hotel’s art collection and another in a Paris apartment when John has a shotgun with shells that cause people to burst into flames. Standout supporting turns come from Donnie Yen as a blind and blackmailed Chinese killer and Scott Adkins as an obese German boss who comes close to kicking John’s ass. Also with Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, HIroyuki Sanada, Marko Zaror, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Natalia Tena, Clancy Brown, George Georgiou, and the late Lance Reddick.

Paint (PG-13) This comedy aims for Wes Anderson and misses by a considerable distance. Owen Wilson plays a Vermont artist who is not Bob Ross but has a white-guy Afro, a soft-spoken manner, and a local PBS show where he paints inoffensive landscapes. His life is all peaches and gravy until his TV station hires another painter (Ciara Renée) who is exactly the same as him, except she paints stuff like UFOs dripping blood on cities. Oh, and she hasn’t had sex with all the women who work at the station, though she does quickly seduce the assistant manager (Michaela Watkins) who was his ex. His downward spiral into jealous mania doesn’t hold much in the way of laughs, and his character is underbaked. The laughs here are thinner than watercolor. Also with Wendi McLendon-Covey, Lucy Freyer, Rob Figueroa, Elizabeth Loyacano, Lusia Strus, and Stephen Root. 

Scream VI (R) What started out as a movie conceived as light entertainment is now a series that’s buckling under the weight of its history. Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott is mercifully left at home as the franchise moves to New York, with Tara (Jenna Ortega) going to college and Sam (Melissa Barrera) following her in an overprotective manner. Characters endlessly discuss stuff that happened in the earlier movies and dealing with their trauma, the new protagonists aren’t interesting enough to carry the movies, and the performances by Barrera and Ortega don’t hint at how dynamic they’ve been elsewhere. The movie isn’t funny, either. The old slasher flicks were mocked for having killers return from the dead over and over, and this series has done away with that formula without replacing it meaningfully. Also with Courteney Cox, Dermot Mulroney, Hayden Panettiere, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Mason Gooding, Jack Champion, Liana Liberato, Josh Segarra, Devyn Nekoda, Tony Revolori, Henry Czerny, Samara Weaving, and Skeet Ulrich. 

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (PG-13) The charm wears off in this sequel. Zachary Levi reprises his role as the superhero who has to take on the Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu) while also keeping his superhero crew together as their child selves grow older. Despite Levi’s most frantic efforts, the new movie loses the humor that made the first movie so entertaining. Without that, the movie’s left with a lot of plotlines that clot together and gobs of mythology delivered lumpily. It all feels really labored. Also with Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Ross Butler, Meagan Good, Grace Caroline Currey, D.J. Cotrona, Ian Chen, Faithe Herman, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, and Djimon Hounsou. 

65 (PG-13) For a movie with Adam Driver shooting lasers at dinosaurs, this doesn’t come to very much. He plays an alien transport driver who crash-lands on our Earth 65 million years ago and has to figure out how to keep himself and his one surviving 9-year-old passenger (Arianna Greenblatt) alive. The writers of A Quiet Place, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, make their directing debut here, and you can easily see that movie’s DNA as this story tracks the hero’s use of futuristic tech to fight the flesh-eating lizards. I like how the smaller predators are more dangerous than the larger ones, but the movie falls into sentimental slush every time the hero tries to communicate with the girl or is reminded of the daughter he lost to illness. This creature feature takes on too much. Also with Chloe Coleman and Nika King. 

A Thousand and One (R) A throwback to New York independent films of the 1990s, in a good way. Teyana Taylor plays an ex-convict in 1994 who kidnaps her 6-year-old son (Aaron Kingsley Adetola) from the foster care system and raises him over the next 11 years while harboring a terrible secret about his upbringing. First-time director A.V. Rockwell makes an impressive debut that touches on the gentrification of Lower Manhattan and police brutality without ever losing its focus on the story of this woman who tries to be a mother even though her own childhood was such that no one taught her how to do it. It all leads to a searing climax when the truth comes out that’s distinguished by great acting from both R&B singer Taylor and Josiah Cross as her teenage son. Also with William Catlett, Aven Courtney, Terri Abney, Alicia Pilgrim, Delissa Reynolds, and Amelia Workman. 

La Usurpadora: The Musical (PG-13) Interesting, as foreign musicals tend to be. Isabella Castillo plays a double role as a spoiled Mexican heiress and a Las Vegas casino waitress who looks exactly like her. The rich bitch notices the resemblance and hires the waitress to impersonate her to the Mexico City family that she doesn’t care about. Castillo is considerably better as the waitress and the cast as a whole isn’t lacking for musical talent, but I do wish the songs by Amado López were more interesting. The numbers yield one interesting visual touch, a number during a power outage when background dancers light the scene with their smartphones. Also with Alan Estrada, Cecilia Toussaint, Susana Zabaleta, James Leyva, Jesús Ochoa, Alejandra Ley, Alejandra Guzmán, and Shane West. 

Viduthalai Part 1 (NR) Based on Jeyamohan’s short story, this thriller stars Soori as a cop sent to capture the leader of a separatist group (Vijay Sethupathi). Also with Bhavani Sre, Gautham Vasudev Menon, Rajiv Menon, Chetan, and Munnar Ramesh. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Acidman (NR) This science-fiction film stars Dianna Agron as a woman trying to reconnect with her estranged, reclusive father (Thomas Haden Church), who believes he’s close to contacting space aliens. Also with Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris. 

Assassin (R) In his last film role, Bruce Willis plays the director of an experimental military program that turns ordinary civilians into killers. Also with Dominic Purcell, Andy Allo, Mustafa Shakir, and Fernanda Andrade. 

The Five Devils (NR) This French horror movie stars Sally Dramé as a mixed-race girl who develops a magical superpower. Also with Adèle Exarchopoulos, Moustapha Mbengue, Swala Emati, Hugo Dillon, Daphne Patakia, and Patrick Bouchitey. 

The Innocent (NR) Louis Garrel directs and stars in this French dramedy as a man who panics when he finds out his mother is marrying a prison inmate. Also with Roschdy Zem, Noémie Merlant, Anouk Grinberg, Jean-Claude Pautot, and Olga Amelchenko. 

One True Loves (PG-13) Based on Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel, this romance stars Philippa Soo as a woman caught between her fiancé (Simu Liu) and her husband (Luke Bracey) who has returned after being presumed dead. Also with Tom Everett Scott, Michaela Conlin, Gary Hudson, Beth Broderick, and Lauren Tom. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Ride On (NR) Jackie Chan stars in this Chinese comedy as an over-the-hill stuntman who goes viral when he and his horse fight off debt collectors. Also with Liu Haocun, Guo Qilin, Wu Jing, Yu Xing, Yu Rongguang, and Joey Yung. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Rodeo (NR) Julie Ledru stars in this French drama as a teenager who finds her purpose in life when she discovers the sport of dirt biking. Also with Yannis Lafki, Antonia Buresi, Cody Schroeder, Louis Sotton, Junior Correia, Ahmed Hamdi, and Dave Nsaman. 

Tetris (R) Taron Egerton stars in this drama as the businessman who brings the game to international markets in the 1980s. Also with Nikita Efremov, Rick Yune, Miles Barrow, Mara Huf, Togo Igawa, Oleg Stefan, and Toby Jones.

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