Carmen (R) Ballet superstar Benjamin Millepied makes his filmmaking debut with this musical re-imagining of Bizet’s opera, starring Paul Mescal, Melissa Barrera, Elsa Pataky, Nicole da Silva, Tara Morice, and Rossy de Palma. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Gods of Mexico (NR) Helmut Dosantos’ documentary is about resistance to modernization in rural Mexico. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Godspeed (NR) This Chinese road-trip comedy stars Fan Chengcheng, Ma Li, Qiao Shan, Chang Yuan, Qiu Tonglan, and Zhang Jingyi. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)
Love Again (PG-13) Priyanka Chopra Jonas stars in this romantic comedy as a woman coping with her fiancé’s death by sending text messages to his old phone number, unaware that they’re being received by another man (Sam Heughan). Also with Celia Imrie, Sofia Barclay, Omid Djalili, Russell Tovey, Céline Dion, and an uncredited Nick Jonas. (Opens Friday)
One Ranger (R) Thomas Jane stars in this thriller as a Texas Ranger who’s recruited by British intelligence to help foil a terrorist attack on London. Also with Patrick Bergin, Dominique Tipper, Nick Moran, Dean Jagger, and John Malkovich. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Rama Banam (NR) This Indian action-thriller stars Gopichand, Jagapathi Babu, Nassar, Kushboo, Dimple Hayathi, and Sachin Khedekar. (Opens Friday)
Ugram (NR) This Telugu-language thriller stars Allari Naresh, Mirnaa Menon, Indraja, Sharath Lohithaswa, and Shatru. (Opens Friday)
Unconditional (NR) Richard Lui’s documentary is about the mental-health challenges faced by people living with disabilities. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
What’s Love Got to Do With It? (PG-13) This romantic comedy stars Lily James as a documentary filmmaker who makes a film about her childhood friend (Mim Shaikh) as he goes through the process of a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. Also with Iman Boujelouah, Shabana Azmi, Shazad Latif, Jeff Mirza, Pakiza Baig, Asim Chaudhry, and Emma Thompson. (Opens Friday)
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (PG-13) More than 50 years after Judy Blume’s children’s book came out, the movie version finally reaches us with its subversive qualities intact. Abby Ryder Fortson plays the titular 11-year-old girl who adjusts to her new home in New Jersey by praying to God for guidance with religion, her new friends, and her first menstruation, which a health film at school promises her is coming. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen) tones down her foul-mouthed wit to PG-13 levels without losing too much sharpness, and she adds some comic material for her actors to indulge in. In a vacuum, I might say that this adaptation was too tame and needed to take a few more chances, but our current political climate of book banning and legislators trying to control women’s bodies makes this still fresh. Also with Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, Elle Graham, Amari Price, Katherine Kupferer, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong, Landon Baxter, Echo Kellum, and Kathy Bates.
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.
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.
Big George Foreman (PG-13) These Christian films are getting better, even if this biopic doesn’t quite rise to the level of good. Khris Davis portrays the heavyweight boxing champion who finds Jesus after losing the Rumble in the Jungle to Muhammad Ali (Sullivan Jones). There’s one really good scene when George temporarily dies after absorbing a horrific beating during a bout, and Davis seems like two different actors playing both the lean-and-mean Foreman of the early 1970s and the heavier version of him who comes back during the late 1980s. Some of the storytelling is still rushed, especially early on, but the film avoids the pitfalls of other Christian films, as George’s conversion doesn’t give him all the answers, nor does it interfere with his friendship with Ali despite their different religions. Also with Jasmine Matthews, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., John Magaro, Erica Tazel, Shein Monpremier, Ayden Gavin, Sonja Sohn, Sam Trammell, and Forest Whitaker.
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.
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.
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.
Polite Society (PG-13) The funniest British teen Muslim science-fiction martial-arts wedding comedy you’ll ever see. Priya Kansara gives a star-making performance as a London schoolgirl whose dreams of becoming a stuntwoman in the British film industry are interrupted when an impossibly handsome doctor (Akshay Khanna) whom she’s convinced is evil arranges to marry her older sister (Ritu Arya). First-time director Nida Manzoor (who previously created TV’s We Are Lady Parts) can’t quite pull off the mash-up of genres in a seamless way, but the protagonist’s school friends (Seraphina Bey and Ella Bruccelleri) make an effective comedy team with her, and the film hits a delightful stride during its last half, with kung fu fights and dance numbers leading up to the wedding. Manzoor’s specifically British Muslim viewpoint gives this a unique flavor in our multiplexes. Also with Nimra Bucha, Shobu Kapoor, Jeff Mirza, Shona Babayemi, and Sophie Aisling.
Ponniyin Selvan: Part Two (NR) This was shot concurrently with the first part of the epic that came out last fall, so it’s puzzling that this second half turns out so much less exciting. Jayam Ravi returns as the prince who is presumed dead at the beginning of the film but has actually survived. He and other Chola princes band together to protect the realm against its enemies, which translates to a lot of bearded muscular dudes fighting against one another, and if you’re not familiar with the Kalki Krishnamurthy novel that this is based on, you’ll have trouble keeping everybody straight. Also with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vikram, Karthi, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Vikram Prabhu, Sobhita Dhulipala, Trisha Krishnan, R. Sarath Kumar, Kishore, Rahman, Babu Anthony, and Prakash Raj.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.