Anni Manchi Sakunamule (NR) This Indian romantic film stars Santosh Sobhan, Malvika Nair, Ravendra Prasad, Rao Ramesh, Naresh, Gauthami, and Vennela Kishore. (Opens Friday)
Bichagadu 2 (NR) Vijay Antony stars in his own action-thriller, which also goes by the title Pichaikkaran 2. Also with Kavya Thapar, Radha Ravi, Y.G. Mahendran, Mansoor Ali Khan, Hareesh Peradi, and Yogi Babu. (Opens Friday)
Black Lotus (NR) Frank Grillo stars in this action-thriller as an ex-special forces soldier who aims to rescue his daughter from a crime syndicate in Amsterdam. Also with Rico Verhoeven, Marie Dompnier, Peter Franzén, Rona-Lee Shimon, Pippi Casey, and Magnus Samuelsson. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Buddy Games: Spring Awakening (R) The sequel to the 2019 comedy stars Josh Duhamel as the leader of a group of friends whose attempt to pay tribute to a deceased friend runs into spring break in Florida. Also with Ginnifer Goodwin, Nick Swardson, Dylan Playfair, Dan Bakkedahl, and Kevin Dillon. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Fast X (PG-13) The tenth installment in the franchise stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris, Jason Momoa, John Cena, Jason Statham, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Cardi B, Rita Moreno, and Brie Larson. (Opens Friday)
L’immensità (NR) Penélope Cruz stars in this Italian drama as a mother raising her children in the 1970s. Also with Vincenzo Amato, Luana Giuliani, Patrizia Francioni, Maria Chiara Goretti, Alvia Reale, Carlo Gallo, and India Santella. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Master Gardener (R) Paul Schrader’s latest thriller stars Joel Edgerton as a gardener who becomes entangled with both his new employer (Sigourney Weaver) and his intern (Quintessa Swindell). Also with Victoria Hill, Amy Le, Rick Cosnett, Eduardo Losan, and Esai Morales. (Opens Friday)
Robots (R) Shailene Woodley and Jack Whitehall star in this romantic comedy as two bad people who must interrupt their affair to chase down robot doubles of themselves. Also with Chelsea Edmundson, Francesca Postacchini, Richard Lippert, and Casey Messer. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
Simhadri (NR) The 20th-anniversary re-release of this Indian classic about an orphan (Jr. N.T.R.) who falls for a mentally challenged young woman (Bhumika Chawla). Also with Ankitha Jhaveri, Mukesh Rishi, Nassar, Rahul Dev, Brahmanandam, and Rajan P. Dev. (Opens Friday)
The Starling Girl (R) Eliza Scanlen stars in this drama as an underage evangelical Christian who starts having sex with her youth pastor (Lewis Pullman). Also with Jimmi Simpson, Wrenn Schmidt, Ellie May, Austin Abrams, and Kyle Secor. (Opens Friday in Dallas)
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.
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.
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.
BlackBerry (R) This funny and engaging tragicomedy about the Canadian business that dominated smartphones in the early naughts stars Jay Baruchel and Matt Johnson as the co-founders whose business takes off when they hire CEO Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) for his business acumen and social skills. Johnson is also the director/co-writer here (adapting the film from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s book), and he goes at this yarn by walking the line between ’00s nostalgia and making fun of the era’s foibles. The culture clash between Balsillie’s corporate suit and a bunch of programmers who hold weekly movie nights together produces some laughs, too. If you have memories of the device you used to have before you got an iPhone, this will make you see it in a new way. Also with Michael Ironside, Rich Sommer, SungWon Cho, Martin Donovan, Saul Rubinek, and Cary Elwes.
Book Club: The Next Chapter (PG-13) Our ladies have ditched E.L. James in the sequel to the 2018 comedy, but it doesn’t improve things much. Jane Fonda plays the lifelong bachelorette of the group who decides to get married, so her friends (Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen) take a pre-wedding trip to Italy. The stars are up for the challenge, but the script by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms is not. The best jokes come before the women leave home, as they talk over Zoom during the pandemic. Other than that, we’re treated to tired story beats about lost passports and lifelong friends appreciating each other anew. Also with Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Hugh Quarshie, Vincent Riotta, and Giancarlo Giannini.
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.
Fool’s Paradise (R) Turns out Charlie Day is even more annoying as a filmmaker than he is as an actor. He stars in his writing and directing debut as a slow-witted and mute man who is hired to work on a Hollywood movie set as a stand-in for the lead (also Day), then takes over the starring role after the lead accidentally kills himself and becomes a huge star in his own right. None of the Tinseltown satire rings remotely true and Day devotes too much of the movie’s time allowing himself to mug for the cameras. He must be a great guy if he can get such a shiny supporting cast to turn out for him, but he doesn’t have the first clue how to use his fellow actors. He thinks he’s Jacques Tati. Dude, you only wish. Also with Kate Beckinsale, Adrien Brody, Jason Sudeikis, Jason Bateman, Edie Falco, Ken Jeong, Common, Jillian Bell, Steve Coulter, Glenn Howerton, Travis Fimmel, Katherine McNamara, Alanna Ubach, Jimmi Simpson, Andrew Leeds, Dean Norris, John Malkovich, and the late Ray Liotta.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (PG-13) This Marvel movie draws out the backstory of Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), which makes it uniquely harrowing and one of Marvel’s best in recent years. A gold-skinned super-alien (Will Poulter) attacks our crew of outlaws and maims Rocket badly, so the others have to save his life by stealing his medical records from the sadistic scientist (Chukwudi Iwuji) who created him. The movie has a ton of animal torture, and even though many of the creatures here don’t belong to any existent species, seeing them tortured may hit you harder than a documentary about actual animals being tortured. The villain and his fascist god complex makes for one of the scariest and most despicable bad guys in the Marvel canon, and Rocket’s story is inspiring like few other ones. Also with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Elizabeth Debicki, Nico Santos, Miriam Shor, Sarah Alami, Nathan Fillion, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rosenbaum, and Sylvester Stallone. Additional voices by Vin Diesel, Maria Bakalova, Judy Greer, Mikaela Hoover, Asim Chaudhry, Seth Green, and Linda Cardellini.
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.
Hypnotic (R) An ambitious psychological thriller from Robert Rodriguez, this movie’s pieces never quite coalesce. Ben Affleck plays an Austin cop who believes his daughter’s long-ago disappearance is linked with a present-day mysterious man (William Fichtner) who seems able to control people’s minds and make them commit crimes on his behalf. The story then widens out to layers of Inception and The Truman Show, but Affleck is below his best and has little chemistry with Alice Braga as a fortune teller who assists him with the ins and outs of hypnosis. The film never generates the madness of a mind trip, and the action sequences aren’t inventive enough to make the whole thing go down. Rodriguez is better making movies for kids. Also with Jeff Fahey, JD Pardo, Dayo Okeniyi, Kelly Frye, Hala Finley, Sandy Avila, and Jackie Earle Haley.
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.
The Kerala Story (NR) The subject of controversy in India, this film is about a group of women who convert to Islam and travel to the Middle East to fight for ISIS. Starring Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, Siddhi Idnani, and Devadarshini.
Knights of the Zodiac (PG-13) Bad special effects, a clotted backstory, and a terrible performance by the lead doom this fantasy-adventure saga. Mackenyu (the son of Japanese screen legend Sonny Chiba) portrays a street kid who discovers his destiny to either protect or kill a teenage girl (Madison Iseman) who will become the incarnation of the goddess Athena. This is a live-action adaptation of the manga series Saint Seiya, and you can’t say enough about how crappy the CGI-generated backdrops and spaceships look. That’s the fault of director Tomek Bagiński, but he’s given precious little help by a script that stops the action dead every so often so that characters can spew out big chunks of exposition. This movie seems to belong to a whole other era of bad science-fiction. That’s how low the production values are. Also with Famke Janssen, Mark Dacascos, Nick Stahl, Caitlin Hutson, Diego Tinoco, TJ Storm, and Sean Bean.
Love Again (PG-13) We sure could use more romantic comedies with South Asian leads, but not if they’re going to be as conventional as this. Remade from a German comedy, this film stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas as a woman who copes with her fiancé’s death in an accident by sending text messages to his old phone number, unaware that the messages are being received by a Scottish music critic (Sam Heughan). He reveals the texts to Céline Dion (who portrays herself) while he’s writing a feature story on her, and while there’s comedy to be had from a celebrity randomly deciding that some random guy needs their help with his love life, Dion isn’t a nimble enough actor to make this sing. Watch for Chopra’s real-life husband Nick Jonas as a brain-dead Bumble date. Also with Celia Imrie, Sofia Barclay, Omid Djalili, Lydia West, Steve Oram, Russell Tovey, and Arinzé Kene.
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.
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.
Rama Banam (NR) This Indian action-thriller stars Gopichand, Jagapathi Babu, Nassar, Kushboo, Dimple Hayathi, and Sachin Khedekar.
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.
Ugram (NR) This Telugu-language thriller stars Allari Naresh, Mirnaa Menon, Indraja, Sharath Lohithaswa, and Shatru.
The Eight Mountains (NR) Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch (The Broken Circle Breakdown) adapt Paolo Cognetti’s novel about two Italian men (Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi) whose friendship and shared love of mountain climbing spans decades. Also with Lupo Barbiero, Cristiano Sassella, Andrea Palma, Elisabetta Mazzullo, Elena Lietti, and Surakshya Panta.