Agent (NR) This Indian spy thriller stars Akhil Akkineni, Mammootty, Dino Morea, Sakshi Vaidya, Vikramjeet Virk, Sampath Raj, Denzil Smith, and Urvashi Rautela. (Opens Friday)
Big George Foreman (PG-13) Khris Davis stars in this biography of the heavyweight boxing champion. Also with Jasmine Matthews, Sullivan Jones, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., John Magaro, Sonja Sohn, Sam Trammell, and Forest Whitaker. (Opens Friday)
The Black Demon (R) This thriller stars Josh Lucas as a man who’s stranded with his family on an oil rig by a massive shark. Also with Fernanda Urrejola, Héctor Jiménez, Venus Ariel, Raúl Méndez, and Julio Cesar Cedillo. (Opens Friday)
Born to Fly (NR) This Chinese drama is about a group of test pilots who fly new fighter jets for their country’s air force. Starring Wang Yibo, Hu Jun, Zhou Dongyou, Yu Yosh, Wang Zichen, Wang Qingxiang, and Tian Zhuangzhuang. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
The End of Sex (R) Jonas Chernick and Emily Hampshire star in this comedy as a married couple who try to reinvigorate their sex life. Also with Gray Powell, Lily Gao, Eden Cupid, and Melanie Scrofano. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Freaks vs. the Reich (NR) Also entitled Freaks Out, this Italian thriller is about four circus freaks (Claudio Santamaria, Aurora Giovinazzo, Pietro Castellitto, and Giancarlo Martini) who take up arms against the Fascist regime during World War II. Also with Giorgio Tirabassi, Max Mazzotta, Franz Rogowski, Sebastian Hülk, and Francesca Anna Bellucci. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Joyland (NR) This Pakistani romance stars Ali Junejo as a burlesque dancer who falls in love with the trans woman (Rasti Farooq) who runs his show. Also with Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Sameer Sohail, Sania Saeed, and Salmaan Peerzada. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Ponniyin Selvan: Part Two (NR) The sequel to last year’s epic stars Jayam Ravi as the ruler of south India’s Chola empire. Also with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vikram, Karthi, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Sobhita Dhulipala, Trisha Krishnan, and Prakash Raj. (Opens Friday)
Sisu (R) The director and star of the Finnish Christmas thriller Rare Exports reunite for this film whose title is a word signifying a particularly Finnish breed of toughness. Jorma Tommila plays an indestructible World War II resistance fighter-turned-gold prospector who strikes it rich but then has to defend his haul against evacuating Nazis who want to take his gold. Our protagonist’s incredible skills at killing people could have been made more inventive use of, and writer-director Jalmari Helander trades in the rapid pace of Rare Exports for something altogether slower. That does fit the story, but it doesn’t pay off its own rewards. Most of this movie’s dialogue is in English. Also with Aksel Hennie, Jack Doolan, Mimosa Willamo, Tatu Sinisalo, and Onni Tommila. (Opens Friday)
Air (R) Ben Affleck sets out to make a piece of light entertainment, and it’s tremendous. Matt Damon stars as Sonny Vaccaro, the Nike basketball scout who signs Michael Jordan in 1984 and allows his company to become a leader in athletic footwear. First-time screenwriter Alex Convery pens a boatful of funny lines for the Nike executives and basketball coaches to volley back and forth, and it’s done expertly by this cast, with Affleck playing Nike CEO Phil Knight as something of a buffoon and Matthew Maher stealing his scenes as a shoe designer amid a bunch of starrier actors. It all makes for quite an enjoyable group hang. Also with Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, Julius Tennon, Gustaf Skarsgård, Barbara Sukowa, Dan Bucatinsky, Joel Gretsch, Jay Mohr, and Viola Davis.
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.
Beau Is Afraid (R) A three-hour Jewish mother joke. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a man who’s scared of everything all the time. He’s forced to travel back to his hometown after his mother (Patti LuPone) is killed in a freak accident, but his trip is waylaid by all sorts of obstacles, including a crazed serial killer, an avant-garde theater production, and a couple (Nathan Lane and Amy Ryan) who kidnap him after he’s hit by a car. Writer-director Ari Aster expands on the themes that popped up in his previous horror movies Midsommar and Hereditary, and the result is confusing as hell. The epic doesn’t drag, and some of the graffiti in the background is funny enough to be worth the price of admission in themselves. It’s possible to admire the systematic way he closes off all happy endings for his protagonist while also thinking it’s not worth all this trouble. Also with Parker Posey, Denis Ménochet, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Richard Kind, Hayley Squires, Zoe Lister-Jones, Kylie Rogers, Armen Nahapetian, Julia Antonelli, and Bill Hader.
Chevalier (PG-13) You’d be amazed how much of this historical drama really happened. Kelvin Harrison Jr. portrays Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the 18th-century Black French violinist and composer who was celebrated in his time before turning against the monarchy and fighting for the French Revolution. Stephen Williams, a first-time director from American TV, lays out this story with some flair, and the soundtrack uses quite a bit of the Chevalier’s music alongside music by Mozart and Glück to show how well the man stacks up against his contemporaries. The story of a Black man who thinks his sheer brilliance will force the white people around him to accept him as an equal rings a familiar bell with a different tone as well. Black history is full of little-known stories like this that deserve to be told. Also with Samara Weaving, Lucy Boynton, Marton Csokas, Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Alex Fitzalan, Sian Clifford, Joseph Prowen, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, and Minnie Driver.
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.
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.
Evil Dead Rise (R) The whole franchise has always been more about great visuals than any sort of coherent story or theme. This new installment with a bunch of Australian actors playing Americans with varying degrees of success is a middling entry. Alyssa Sutherland plays a Los Angeles mother of three who temporarily takes in her childless sister (Lily Sullivan) when her teenage son (Morgan Davies) moronically sets loose a demon spirit in their nearly abandoned apartment building. The mother becomes possessed, and the sister has to protect her kids. The bloo-ha-ha lines and performances notwithstanding, I don’t find that writer-director Lee Cronin has the same visual bad taste as Sam Raimi, nor does he come up with the heroin-addiction angle that made the 2013 reboot so interesting. There is plenty of blood and gore here. It just feels rote. Also with Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Jayden Daniels, Tai Wano, Billy Reynolds-McCarthy, Mark Mitchinson, and Anna-Maree Thomas.
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (R) Of all his movies, the British director chooses to put his name on this skilled but sententious war film. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a master sergeant in Afghanistan who’s wounded in action, so his local interpreter (Dar Salim) goes above and beyond by dragging him 100 kilometers back to Bagram Air Base. When he finds that his savior has been left back there without an exit visa, he goes back into the country by himself in order to get his interpreter and his family to safety in America. The scenes of combat are filmed decently and Gyllenhaal is fully engaged, but this is the sort of movie that spells out the definition of the word “covenant” and assumes that we don’t know what the initials in IED stand for. This is wholly without the sense of fun that has distinguished Ritchie’s better films. Also with Alexander Ludwig, Antony Starr, Jonny Lee Miller, Fariba Sheikhan, and Emily Beecham.
Jaari (NR) This Nepali romance stars Dayahang Rai, Bijay Baral, and Meruna Magar.
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.
Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan (NR) This Indian comedy stars Salman Khan as a confirmed bachelor whose younger brothers determine to find him a wife so that they themselves can get married. Also with Pooja Hegde, Venkatesh Daggubati, Jaggupathi Babu, Shehnaaz Gill, and Ram Charan.
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.
The Pope’s Exorcist (R) This horror film actually starts out reasonably well thanks to Russell Crowe’s amusing performance as the Vatican’s chief exorcist who drives a scooter, guzzles whiskey, and makes jokes about soccer. Unfortunately, the thing bogs down around the halfway mark as the Italian priest tries to cast out a demon possessing an American boy (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) whose family is taking a sabbatical in Spain. Once the possession takes effect, this degenerates into a standard-issue exorcism movie. Also with Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Laurel Marsden, Ryan O’Grady, Cornell John, Bianca Bardoe, and Franco Nero.
Renfield (R) This horror-comedy has the wit to treat Dracula as the world’s worst boss. Nicholas Hoult portrays the title character, who still works for the count (Nicolas Cage) in New Orleans in the present day and has to attend group therapy to cope with his boss’ abuse. The script and Cage cannily portray Dracula as a clever abuser who knows how to play on Renfield’s feelings of guilt. The injection of therapy-speak into this familiar story works wonders, and Chris McKay’s direction keeps the thing afloat. The mix of psychology and supernatural thrills make this into a delightful workplace comedy. Also with Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Brandon Scott Jones, Adrian Martinez, and Shohreh Aghdashloo.
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.
Somewhere in Queens (R) Ray Romano’s directing debut is about the film that you’d expect, rather like an extension of Everybody Loves Raymond. He portrays a construction worker in his father’s company whose wallflower of a teenage son (Jacob Ward) is a high-school basketball star attracting the attention of mid-major colleges. When the kid’s girlfriend (Sadie Stanley) ditches him, his play takes a nosedive, so Dad tries to convince her to come back to him just long enough for him to get a scholarship. Romano’s looking to pen a love letter to working-class Italian-American families, but the punchlines are limp and the whole thing is about as exciting as last week’s leftover lasagna. Also with Laurie Metcalf, Jennifer Esposito, Sebastian Maniscalco, J.C. Mackenzie, David St. Louis, P.J. Byrne, Geoffrey Owens, Caryn Richman, Jon Manfrellotti, Adam Kaplan, and Tony Lo Bianco.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (PG) The video game series depended heavily on its gameplay rather than its story for its success, and the animated movie version succeeds by letting the characters be themselves. Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) is sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom, but instead of rescuing Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), he has to enlist her help to rescue his brother Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day). The star-studded voice cast rises to the challenge, and the action of the film imitates the gameplay without overexplaining things. Perhaps the characters could use a bit of fleshing out, but the movie doesn’t try to do too much. Additional voices by Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Armisen, Khary Payton, Juliet Jelenic, and Sebastian Maniscalco. — Cole Williams
Suzume (PG) The latest anime film by Makoto Shinkai (Weathering With You) is about a teenage girl (voiced by Nanoka Hara and Nichole Sakura) who discovers a door to the afterlife and finds that it and the mysterious young man (voiced by Hokuto Matsumura and Josh Keaton) who keeps trying to close it are the key to preventing natural disasters from striking Japan. The young man is turned into a walking, talking three-legged chair, and the two of them wind up chasing a talking cat (voiced by Ann Yamane and Lena Josephine Marano) all the way to Tokyo. Shinkai’s films are all beautiful to look at, but they lack that last bit of roundedness in the story department. This film, despite its indirect references to the Fukushima earthquake, doesn’t add up to a powerful statement about the environment or the power of memory or any other subjects that it touches on. Still, if you’re looking for an animated film that doesn’t come from a video-game franchise, this is your best bet. Additional voices by Eri Fukatsu, Jennifer Sun Bell, Shota Sometani, Roger Craig Smith, Kotone Hanase, Rosaline Chiang, Sairi Ito, Amanda C. Miller, Ryunosuke Kamiki, and Joe Zieja.
Virupaksha (NR) This Indian horror film is about a village cursed after it lynches a witch doctor. Starring Sai Dharam Tej, Samyuktha Menon, Sunil, Brahmaji, Rajeev Kanakala, and Ravi Krishna.
The Best Man (R) Not a remake of the 1999 romantic comedy by the same name, this thriller stars Brendan Fehr as a man who must take action when his best friend’s wedding is interrupted by hostage-taking mercenaries. Also with Nicky Whelan, Scott Martin, Scout Taylor-Compton, Luke Wilson, and Dolph Lundgren.
Gringa (NR) Jess Gabor stars in this drama as an American teenager who runs away to Mexico to find her long-lost father. Also with Judy Greer, Roselyn Sanchez, Jorge A. Jimenez, Emma Ramos, Gala Montes, Valentina Buzzurro, and Steve Zahn.
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.
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.
Showing Up (R) The latest film by Kelly Reichardt (First Cow) stars Michelle Williams as a sculptor who must deal with various domestic problems while preparing for a new show. Also with Hong Chau, Judd Hirsch, Maryann Plunkett, John Magaro, James LeGros, Matt Malloy, Amanda Plummer, and André Benjamin.
The Tank (R) This horror film is about a family who inherits a coastal property and accidentally unleashes a centuries-old demon. Starring Matt Whelan, Luciane Buchanan, Mark Mitchinson, Jaya Beach-Robertson, Ascia Maybury, and Holly Shervey.
Two Sinners and a Mule (R) Cam Gigandet stars in this Western as a bounty hunter who teams up with two prostitutes (Chantelle Albers and Hannah James) to find the outlaw he’s chasing. Also with Cord Grimes, David Midthunder, Luce Rains, Mohammed Karim, Richard Gabai, and Buck Taylor.