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Dog abusers beware! This pack is coming for you in "Strays." Photo by Chuck Zlotnick

OPENING

 

Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out (NR) Emma Tremblay stars in this comedy as a girl who moves to a new town and discovers that her neighbor (Jacob Buster) believes in alien abductions. Also with Will Forte, Landry Townsend, Matt Biedel, Hailey Smith, and Elizabeth Mitchell. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Back on the Strip (R) This comedy stars Spence Moore II as a young man who dreams of becoming a famous Las Vegas magician but ends up as a stripper. Also with Tiffany Haddish, Wesley Snipes, Faizon Love, J.B. Smoove, Colleen Camp, Gary Owen, Piper Curda, and Kevin Hart. (Opens Friday)

LONGHORN-DIGITAL-BANNERS

The Beasts (NR) Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s thriller stars Denis Ménochet and Marina Foïs as a French couple living in the Spanish countryside who incur the wrath of the locals. Also with Luis Zahera, Diego Anido, Marie Colomb, Luisa Merelas, and Xavier Estévez. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Birth / Rebirth (R) Laura Moss’ science-fiction horror film stars Marin Ireland as a morgue attendant who discovers a way to bring babies back from the dead. Also with Judy Reyes, Breeda Wool, LaChanze, Monique Gabriela Curnen, and A.J. Lister. (Opens Friday)

Blue Beetle (PG-13) The latest DC superhero movie stars Xolo Maridueña as a young man who comes into possession of a suit of magical armor. Also with Harvey Guillén, George Lopez, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Adriana Barraza, Damián Alcázar, and Susan Sarandon. (Opens Friday)

Ghoomer (NR) This Indian sports drama stars Saiyami Kher as a cricketer who has to cope after losing her hand in an accident. Also with Abhishek Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Angad Bedi, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Ivanka Das, and Amitabh Bachchan. (Opens Friday)

Landscape With Invisible Hand (R) Cory Finley’s science-fiction satire stars Asante Blackk and Kylie Rogers as two teenagers who launch a desperate plan to stay alive on an Earth that has been taken over by entertainment-starved aliens. Also with Tiffany Haddish, John Newberg, Josh Hamilton, Brooklyn MacKinzie, Christian Adam, and Michael Gandolfini. (Opens Friday)

Mr. Pregnant (NR) This Indian science-fiction comedy stars Brahmaji as the first man to become pregnant and carry a child to term. Also with Suhasini, Syed Sohel Ryan, Raja Ravindra, and Abhishek Reddy Bobhala. (Opens Friday)

Oldboy (R) The 20th anniversary re-release of Park Chan-wook’s thriller stars Choi Min-sik as a man seeking to learn who imprisoned him for 15 years. Also with Yoo Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong, Kim Byeong-ok, Ji Dae-han, Lee Seung-shin, and Oh Dal-su. (Re-opens Friday in Dallas) 

Prem Kumar (NR) Santosh Sobhan stars in this Indian comedy as a lonely single man who becomes a detective running background checks for couples getting married. Also with Madhoo, Sudharshan, Harsha Chemudu, and Chaitanya Krishna. (Opens Friday)

Strays (R) This comedy’s germ of an interesting idea doesn’t have enough comic material to sustain it. The main character is a mutt (voiced by Will Ferrell) whose abusive, unemployed loser of an owner (Will Forte) abandons him in a city three hours away. The dog falls in with a pack of strays (voiced by Jamie Foxx, Isla Fisher, and Randall Park) who take him in and then go with him back to his old home to take revenge on the man. The film has the bright idea of making the dog into a codependent victim in the relationship, and there are some welcome jabs at movies like A Dog’s Purpose and Marley & Me. Unfortunately, the comic talent in the voice cast never brings this anywhere near critical mass and the set pieces only catch once, when the dogs eat psychedelic mushrooms and start to freak out. The profanity and sexual humor in this film shot to look like a kid-friendly movie seems to have been the only stroke of inspiration. Additional voices by Rob Riggle, Josh Gad, Jamie Demetriou, Jimmy Tatro, Harvey Guillén, and Sofía Vergara. Also with Greta Lee, Brett Gelman, and Dennis Quaid. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Barbie (PG-13) This philosophical statement about being a woman in present-day society is likely the strangest Hollywood blockbuster you’ll see all year, and much more than the crass corporate product it could have been. A perfectly pitched Margot Robbie plays a Barbie doll who has to travel from Barbie Land to our reality to discover why she’s having random thoughts about death. When Ken (Ryan Gosling) follows her into our reality, he likes the sight of men running everything and tries to turn Barbie Land into another patriarchy. All this takes place against a backdrop that’s wholly committed to Barbie-ness, with streets lined with life-size Barbie Dream Houses and more pink than you’ve ever seen in your life. If the storytelling loses a bit in its last third, the loose ends fit a story about the messiness of being a woman (or a man). This girly film is also thoughtful, complex, and funny, and will ensure that you never look at a Barbie doll the same way again. Also with America Ferrera, Arianna Greenblatt, Emma Mackey, Issa Rae, Beanie Feldstein, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Ritu Arya, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, Nicola Coughlan, Emerald Fennell, Scott Evans, Scott Evans, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, Rhea Perlman, and John Cena. Narrated by Helen Mirren.

Elemental (PG) The latest Pixar movie looks and sounds like other Pixar movies, but is missing that ineffable spark that we recognize. The story is set in a city populated by air, earth, water, and fire elementals, and revolves around a forbidden romance between a water particle (voiced by Mamadou Athie) and a fire particle (voiced by Leah Lewis). The fire elementals are treated as second-class citizens by the others, and the whole conceit was done much more cleverly in Zootopia. The largely unknown voice cast doesn’t provide much distinctiveness, and the entire affair washes over you without leaving much of a mark. The feature is accompanied by Carl’s Date, a short sequel to Up that is unworthy of the movie that spawned it. Additional voices by Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Mason Wertheimer, and Catherine O’Hara.

Gadar 2 (NR) The sequel to the 2001 film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha stars Sunny Deol as a man who sneaks into Pakistan in 1971 to save his son. Also with Ameesha Patel, Utkarsh Sharma, Manish Wadhwa, Gaurav Chopra, and Simrat Kaur.

Haunted Mansion (PG-13) Another corporate conglomerate turns over a beloved property to a smart and inventive independent filmmaker, and if this isn’t as good as Barbie, at least it’s better than the 2003 movie from the Disney ride. Rosario Dawson plays a single mother who buys a New Orleans mansion, finds out that it’s haunted, and hires a tour guide (LaKeith Stanfield), a priest (Owen Wilson), a medium (Tiffany Haddish), and a history professor (Danny DeVito) to exorcise her house. The Big Easy setting offers up some promise, and the cast and director Justin Simien are well suited to the comedy elements in this movie. The horror elements, on the other hand, don’t work at all, and the ending is a complete botch job. The tone of this thing is all over the place, and the enticing talent here deserves better than this mess. Also with Jamie Lee Curtis, Jared Leto, Chase W. Dillon, J.R. Adduci, Charity Jordan, Hasan Minhaj, Dan Levy, and an uncredited Winona Ryder. 

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (PG-13) The CGI magic that makes Harrison Ford look like he’s in his late 30s in this film’s extended prologue is as good as it gets, unfortunately. After that, this last installment in the series fails to recapture the magic, with Indy and his British goddaughter (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) trying to prevent some unreconstructed Nazis from obtaining a time-travel device in 1969. James Mangold takes over the director’s chair from Steven Spielberg, and it’s nowhere near the job he did on Logan, another last ride for a movie hero that was far more moving. The picture is full of empty fanservice, saddles Indy with another cute-kid sidekick, and sands away everything that makes Waller-Bridge interesting or funny. The climactic time-travel sequence feels like it was much crazier on the page than it is on the screen, too. Also with Karen Allen, Toby Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Boyd Holbrook, Thomas Kretschmann, Ethann Isidore, Nasser Memarzia, Shaunette Reneé Wilson, John Rhys-Davies, and Antonio Banderas.

Jailer (NR) Rajinikanth stars as a retired prison warden who starts killing his way through the mob hierarchy in Chennai after a crime boss (Vinayakan) murders his police detective son (Vasanth Ravi). There are some memorable action sequences like the one with our antihero sitting still as snipers take out the death squad that has come to his house. Still, the plot makes a bizarre detour into Bollywood satire as the revenge quest scoops up a fat, ugly movie star (Suhil), and some musical numbers get shoehorned into the business. More grievously, the movie glosses over the hero’s past brutalizing the inmates in his prison. Also with Ramya Krishnan,Yogi Babu, VTV Ganesh,Mirnaa Manon, Mohanlal, Shiva Rajkumar, Tamannaah, Nagendra Babu, and Jackie Shroff. 

Jules (PG-13) A nice movie, probably too nice. Ben Kingsley stars in this science-fiction film as a widower in western Pennsylvania who sees a UFO crash in his backyard and comes to the aid of the mute, blue-skinned, 4-foot-tall alien (Jade Quon) inside. He tells everybody about the alien, and they all assume that his mind is going, which it’s actually starting to. The only people let in on the secret are a nosy neighbor (Jane Curtin) and a concerned artist (Harriet Sansom Harris). The performances by the veteran actors feel lived in, but the whole story proceeds with such a lack of incident and humor that the film struggles to register at all. You can glimpse the statement about old age and its regrets that the movie wanted to be. A sharper script might have gotten it there. Also with Zoe Winters, Anna George, Cody Kostro, and Aubie Merrylees.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter (R) Adapted from a specific part of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this quickly turns into Alien on a 19th-century boat, and not in a good way. Corey Hawkins portrays a Black Cambridge-educated doctor who takes a job on a ship’s crew to get back home to London from Bulgaria, only to discover that the cargo is that creepy count himself (Javier Botet). The introduction of a Black character is handled conscientiously but also without much that gives a different angle on Stoker’s narrative. Director André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) and his writers seem hemmed in by the source material, scared to reimagine it. Also with Liam Cunningham, Aisling Franciosi, Chris Walley, Jon Jon Briones, Stefan Kapicic,Martin Furulund,Nikolai Nikolaeff, Woody Norman,and David Dastmalchian.

Meg 2: The Trench (PG-13) Everything’s bigger and badder in this sequel, and yet it all feels stubbornly unexciting. Jason Statham reprises his role as an environmental activist who goes back up against a pod of colossal sharks after a deep-sea mining operation goes wrong. Statham is saddled with a cute kid (Shuya Sophia Cai) and a part that doesn’t allow him to be funny. Director Ben Wheatley takes over this sequel and fails to bring any of the twisted humor or visual pyrotechnics that distinguished his previous films (Sightseers, Free Fire). This is adapted from Steve Alten’s novel The Trench, so this may well be the worst and most profitable literary adaptation of the year. Also with Wu Jing, Cliff Curtis, Skyler Samuels, Page Kennedy, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Felix Mayr, Melissanthi Mahut, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, and Sienna Guillory. 

Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One (PG-13) A thrilling burst of relevance hits this series just as it’s winding down. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team try to track down a sentient AI that can corrupt any online data, meaning that neither they nor the people chasing them can trust anything they see or hear on the internet. Hayley Atwell joins the series as a high-class pickpocket who unwittingly works her way into the spy plot, and she’s a great pickup for the franchise, as she gets to play a devious character who’s living high off her ill-gotten gains. The action set pieces remain strong, with an extended chase through the airport in Abu Dhabi and a car chase in Rome that strikes a new and welcome note of farce. The series’ escapism has just enough real-world issues here to become newly bracing. Also with Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Vanessa Kirby, Esai Morales, Henry Czerny, Shea Whigham, Pom Klementieff, Greg Tarzan Davis, Mark Gatiss, Indira Varma, Rob Delaney, and Cary Elwes.

OMG 2 (NR) The sequel to the 2012 comedy stars Akshay Kumar as a messenger of Lord Shiva who sues everybody in his small town over his son’s expulsion from school. Also with Pankaj Tripathi, Yami Gautam, Pavan Malhotra, Govind Namdev, and Arun Govil. 

Oppenheimer (R) This three-hour biographical epic aims to evoke a single mood of guilt-wracked despair, and darned if Christopher Nolan doesn’t almost pull it off. Around the story of how J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) takes charge of the Manhattan project and builds the atomic bomb that ends the war, there are two interlocking framing stories about him trying to renew his security clearance while his former boss Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to be confirmed as the U.S. Commerce Secretary. Nolan gives us precious little time to catch our breath from the start as he toggles between timelines while the supporting characters around Oppenheimer largely get lost. Still, the framing stories snap together in a marvelous way, and the successful atomic bomb test is a splendid set piece. Inside this movie is a better, smaller film that’s trying to get out. Also with Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Alden Ehrenreich, Josh Hartnett, Jason Clarke, Tony Goldwyn, Benny Safdie, James D’Arcy, Harry Groener, Tom Conti, David Krumholtz, Matthias Schweighöfer, Alex Wolff, Michael Angarano, David Dastmalchian, Dane DeHaan, Josh Peck, Jack Quaid, Gustaf Skarsgård, James Remar, Olivia Thirlby, Matthew Modine, Kenneth Branagh, Casey Affleck, and Gary Oldman. 

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (NR) This Indian romantic comedy takes on some subjects that most other Bollywood movies won’t. Ranveer Singh plays a flashy Punjabi snack-conglomerate heir who falls for an intellectual Bengali TV journalist (Alia Bhatt). Their cultural differences provide some comedy that runs out of steam before the intermission, at which time things pick up again when the two lovers defy social convention and go to live with each other’s families to see if they are compatible. There’s still too many supporting characters and subplots to tie up, but the movie manages to have our two protagonists question mores about marriage and their own prejudices in an even-handed way. Much of the humor, too, comes from the characters’ shaky handle of English — one person mistakes the word “orgasm” for “organize.” Also with Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Aamir Bashir, Churni Ganguly, Namit Das, Janhvi Kapoor, and Varun Dhawan. 

Sound of Freedom (PG-13) This thriller probably works best for those people who see pedophiles lurking around every corner. For the rest of us, it’s somehow overheated and too slow at the same time. Jim Caviezel plays a heroic Homeland Security agent who quits his job and sets up a full-time operation in Colombia to bust a child sex trafficking operation. He’s flat as usual in the role, and the movie is stolen away by Bill Camp as an American who pretends to be a pedophile so he can buy children from the traffickers and then set them free. He’s the only person who feels like he’s inhabiting a character instead of acting as a mouthpiece for some seriously paranoid filmmakers. Also with Mira Sorvino, Scott Haze, José Zúñiga, Eduardo Verástegui, Gary Basaraba, Manny Perez, and Kurt Fuller. 

Talk to Me (R) Like Haunted Mansion, this Australian film is about a Black protagonist who’s coping with grief and vulnerable to spirits from the next world, but this is the much better film. Sophie Wilde plays a teen who goes to a suburban house party in Adelaide and takes up a dare to communicate with the next world by using a ceramic sculpture of a hand. The movie doesn’t engage race as a subject, but first-time filmmakers (and former YouTube pranksters) Danny and Michael Philippou show great talent for conjuring Hollywood-level special effects on a shoestring budget. The newcomer Wilde is superb both as a confused teen trying to deal with the family secrets hidden from her and the girl who’s possessed by something very bad. This feels like the scary campfire tale you need for the summer. Also with Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Zoe Terakes, Otis Dhanji, Marcus Johnson, Ari McCarthy, Chris Alosio, and Miranda Otto.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (PG) This animated reboot of the cartoon series scores its laughs, recasts its origin story, and then gets off the screen. Bless it for that. A mad scientist (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) loses his magic ooze down the city drain, which creates Splinter (voiced by Jackie Chan), our mutant heroes (voiced by Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu, and Brady Noon), and the gang of criminal half-humans whom they’re trying to foil. The turtles are voiced by actual kid actors, some of whose voices haven’t changed yet, and they’re very funny, particularly in the frequent spots when all of them are talking at once. Co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg make sure that a good share of the humor appeals to the adults in the audience as well. This isn’t as deep as the other Hollywood blockbusters, but it’s enjoyable. Additional voices by Ayo Edebiri, Ice Cube, Post Malone, Hannibal Buress, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Seth Rogen, John Cena, and Paul Rudd. 

Theater Camp (R) A worthy successor to Waiting for Guffman, this mockumentary comedy takes place at an upstate New York musical theater summer camp for kids, where two teachers (Molly Gordon and Ben Platt) and the owner’s son (Jimmy Tatro) try to hold the business together after the owner falls into a coma. Expanded from a 2020 short film and co-directed by Gordon and Nick Lieberman, this film could use a normal character to react to the excesses of all the theatrical divas populating this film. Still, the movie captures the foibles of theater kids and the people who deal with them, the funny lines come from all quarters, and the film has a glorious climax when the overworked tech guy (Noah Galvin) takes the stage himself. This is for everyone whose kids are practicing their jazz hands, or used to be one of those kids. Also with Ayo Edebiri, Owen Thiele, Nathan Lee Graham, Patti Harrison, Donovan Colan, Bailee Bonick, Kyndra Sanchez, Vivienne Sachs, Alan Kim, Alexander Bello, Luke Islam, Jack Sobolewski, David Rasche, and Amy Sedaris.

Ustaad (NR) Sri Simha Koduri stars in this Indian film as an aimless young man who decides to become a commercial airline pilot. Also with Kavya Kalyanram, Venkatesh Maha, Ravindra Vijay, and Gautham Vasudev Menon.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Inside Man (NR) This comic thriller stars Emile Hirsch as a disgraced cop who goes undercover to infiltrate a mob syndicate. Also with Lucy Hale, Ashley Greene, Jake Cannavale, Robert Davi, and James Russo.

Medusa Deluxe (R) Thomas Hardiman’s comic thriller takes place at an ultra-competitive hairdressing competition. Starring Luke Pasqualino, Lilit Lesser, Clare Perkins, Debris Stevenson, Kayla Meikle, Heider Ali, Kae Alexander, and Harriet Webb. 

One and Only (NR) This Chinese dance movie stars Huang Bo as the leader of a street-dance crew who welcomes a newcomer (Wang Yibo) into his group. Also with Bo Liao, Casper Chu, Song Zuer, Liu Mintao, Xiao Shenyang, and Wang Feifei.

Passages (NC-17) The latest drama by Ira Sachs (Love Is Strange) stars Franz Rogowski and Ben Whishaw as a gay couple whose relationship is rattled when one of them begins an affair with a woman (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Also with Erwan Kepoa Falé.

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