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"Wish": When you wish upon a star, a mediocre movie for Disney's 100th anniversary comes true. Courtesy Disney

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Aadikeshava (NR) This Indian action-comedy stars Panja Vaisshnav Tej, Sreeleela, Aparna Das, Radhika Sarathkumar, Joju George, and Keshav Deepak. (Opens Friday)

Big Shark (NR) Tommy Wiseau (The Room) writes, directs, and co-stars in this thriller about a shark attack on New Orleans. Also with Isaiah LaBorde, Erica Mary Gillheeney, Ashton Leigh, Mark Valeriano, Wayne Douglas Morgan, and Greg Sestero. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

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Dhruva Natchathiram: Chapter One (NR) Vikram stars in this Indian action-thriller as the leader of a team of secret agents focused on thwarting terrorist threats. Also with Ritu Varma, Simran, R. Parthiban, Radhika Sarathkumar, Gautham Vasudev Menon, and Vinayakan. (Opens Friday)

Dream Scenario (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this satire as an ordinary man who inexplicably starts appearing in millions of people’s dreams. Also with Julianne Nicholson, Michael Cera, Lily Bird, Jessica Clement, Dylan Gelula, Kate Berlant, Amber Midthunder, Nicholas Braun, Tim Meadows, and Dylan Baker. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Due Justice (R) This action-thriller stars Kellan Lutz as a soldier-turned-lawyer who seeks revenge after his family is murdered. Also with Cynthia Geary, Efren Ramirez, Manu Intiraymi, Chelsea Lopez, Tonantzin Esparza, and Jeff Fahey. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Kota Bommali PS (NR) This Indian thriller is about a cop who is framed for a crime by a powerful politician. Starring Rahul Vijay, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Meka Srikanth, Shivani Rajashekar, Dayanand Reddy, and Murali Sharma. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Leave the World Behind (R) Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke star in this thriller as a couple whose rural getaway is interrupted by a catastrophic cyberattack. Also with Mahershala Ali, Myha’la, Farrah Mackenzie, Charlie Evans, and Kevin Bacon. (Opens Wednesday in Dallas)

Pradeshi 2 (NR) This Nepali drama about students going abroad to study stars Keki Adhikari, Dilip Rayamajhi, Prakash Saput, Barsha Siwakoti, and Prashant Tamang. (Opens Friday in Cinepolis Euless)

Run Nixon (NR) This thriller stars Lil’ Fizz as a desperate drug dealer who kidnaps a boy (Emperor Kaioyus) to get out of debt. Also with Wavyy Jonez, Jordan Lee Brown, Sicily Cameron, Brianna Robinson, and Apple Watts. (Opens Wednesday in Dallas)

The Song of the South (NR) Not the racist 1947 Disney animated movie, but a Vietnamese drama about a 12-year-old boy (Huỳnh Ho Khang) who survives the political tumult of his country during the French colonial period. Also with Hong Anh, Bang Di, Vĩ Văn Hứa, Tuyn Mp, Bui Ly Bao Ngoc, and Công Ninh Nguyen. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

Wish (PG) Disney marks its centennial with this oh-so-forgettable animated musical about a girl (voiced by Ariana DeBose) in an enchanted kingdom who discovers that the benevolent king (voiced by Chris Pine) is convincing the citizens to give up their dearest wishes in exchange for the kingdom’s continued security and prosperity. The script lacks any wit or creative story developments, the songs by Benjamin Rice and Julia Michaels are too plain by half, and even the voice cast seems to be phoning it in. The montage of great characters from Disney’s past only serves to make this movie look worse. Additional voices by Alan Tudyk, Angelique Cabral, Natasha Rothwell, Jennifer Kumiyama, Ramy Youssef, Niko Vargas, Evan Peters, Harvey Guillén, and Victor Garber. (Opens Wednesday)

 

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After Death (PG-13) Stephen Gray and Chris Radtke’s documentary interviews people who have had near-death experiences. 

The Exorcist: Believer (R) This movie jumps to life when Ellen Burstyn enters the proceedings about halfway through, and then the movie sends her off so unceremoniously that you wonder if the filmmakers knew what they had. It’s one of many missteps in this massively disappointing sequel, as a demon possesses two 13-year-old girls (Lidya Jewett and Olivia Marcum) and their parents have to enlist the help of Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil to exorcise them. The fantastic cast are hampered by characters that don’t develop in any believable way, and director/co-writer David Gordon Green ditches the Catholicism for simultaneous Catholic, Baptist, and Vodou exorcism rites that only dilute all of them. Some horror set pieces might have saved this, but instead we get fanservice from a director who lacks the ruthless craft of the late William Friedkin. Take away the connections to the 1973 classic, and this is a perfectly ordinary horror film. Also with Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Dowd, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Raphael Sbarge, E.J. Bonilla, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Linda Blair

Five Nights at Freddy’s (PG-13) The animatronic robot monsters are perfectly pitched between cute and creepy in this horror film. Everything else is crap, though. In this adaptation of the video game series, Josh Hutcherson portrays a financially desperate man who takes a job as a security guard at an abandoned pizza place and arcade to avoid losing custody of his 11-year-old sister (Piper Rubio). The film is neither funny enough to work as a comedy nor scary enough to work as a horror film, and director Emma Tammi doesn’t have the instincts to balance the two elements. The acting isn’t up to par, either. Also with Elizabeth Lail, Christian Stokes, David Lind, Kat Conner Sterling, Matthew Lillard, and Mary Stuart Masterson. 

The Holdovers (R) Paul Giamatti seems to do his best acting for Alexander Payne, and this may be the performance of his career. He portrays a schoolteacher in 1970 who’s stuck babysitting the handful of students at his ritzy all-male New England prep school who have nowhere to go over Christmas break. Screenwriter David Hemingson does an excellent job of capturing the protagonist’s erudite voice as he insults his students’ intelligence and can’t get through a conversation without referencing the Peloponnesian War. When only one student (Dominic Sessa) is left on campus, the movie becomes a piercing but also quite funny portrait of the loneliness of the teacher, the student, and the cafeteria worker (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who has lost her son in Vietnam. Randolph and the newcomer Sessa are both excellent, but Giamatti is fantastic as the man learning to appreciate things beyond the job he hates but has clung to tenaciously. Also with Carrie Preston, Brady Heppner, Ian Dolley, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, Gillian Vigman, Stephen Thorne, Andrew Garman, and Tate Donovan.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (PG-13) In some ways better than the original set of films, this prequel stars Rachel Zegler as the heroine from District 12 and Tom Blyth as the future dictator of Panem who’s randomly assigned to mentor her. The film looks better than its predecessors, as holdover director Francis Lawrence seems more comfortable with the 1930s fascist-style decor. Amid a distinguished cast, Zegler proves worthy of her star turn, playing to the cameras, cracking jokes, evading attempts on her life, and singing bluegrass. The thing is lacking on the conceptual end, the conclusion is too drawn out, and the material with the ethically compromised hero’s family doesn’t amount to much more than an Easter egg. It’s still the most sustained piece of filmmaking in the series. Also with Viola Davis, Jason Schwartzman, Hunter Schafer, Fionnula Flanagan, Josh Andrés Rivera, Athena Strates, Ashley Liao, Mackenzie Lansing, Nick Benson, Isobel Jesper Jones, Dakota Shapiro, George Somner, Burn Gorman, and Peter Dinklage. 

Journey to Bethlehem (PG) The fractured fairy-tales approach to the Bible is refreshing from this Christian musical. Funny comic material would have been better. Fiona Palomo and Milo Manheim are both about as exciting as overcooked pasta portraying Mary and Joseph, as they flee Judaea to have their baby. The songs (by Peer Astrom, Nikki Anders, and director/co-writer Adam Anders) are not only bad but also overproduced, and even Antonio Banderas can’t inject life as King Herod, though it is amusing that his armor breastplate is painted to make it look like he has washboard abs. Also with Geno Segers, Omid Djalili, Rizwan Manji, Moriah, Stephanie Gil, Alicia Borrachero, Antonio Gil, Joel Smallbone, and Lecrae.

Killers of the Flower Moon (R) Martin Scorsese treats the Osage murders of the 1920s like one of his gangster films, and this might be better than Goodfellas or The Irishman. Based on David Grann’s history, this film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a World War I serviceman who returns home to Oklahoma and marries a full-blooded Osage (Lily Gladstone) to gain the money that comes with the rights to the oil on her land. Soon the Osage start dying under mysterious circumstances. Scorsese is canny enough to draw the parallels between the murders and the Tulsa race massacre from the same time, and he presents us with Okie cowboys acting like Mafia hoods to get away with their crimes. DiCaprio is great as a bad man whose accretion of bad deeds finally breaks him, and Gladstone is magnetic as the woman who barely survives when her tribespeople don’t. The film’s 206 minutes fly by and contain more than enough material for a second viewing. Also with Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Tantoo Cardinal, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jason Isbell, Pete Yorn, Scott Shepherd, William Belleau, Yancey Red Corn, Gary Basaraba, Sturgill Simpson, Tommy Schultz, Tatanka Means, Barry Corbin, John Lithgow, and Brendan Fraser. 

The Marvels (PG-13) The shortest of the Marvel films, which is mostly a good thing. A cosmic event causes Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan (Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani) to switch places whenever they use their superpowers, just in time for a Kree supervillain (Zawe Ashton) to come after Carol with a personal grudge. Director/co-writer Nia DaCosta (the Candyman sequel) exhibits her sense of visual precision without losing a sense of fun, as in a dance number on a planet where Carol is a princess. The most enjoyable thing is the sheer delight that the three lead actresses take in one another’s company, with Vellani raising great laughs as a fangirl working with her heroes and Parris showing an unsuspected comic touch. I’m all for a Marvel movie that gets off the screen before wearing out its welcome. Also with Samuel L. Jackson, Park Seo-joon, Gary Lewis, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Tessa Thompson, Lashana Lynch, Hailee Steinfeld, and Kelsey Grammer.

Next Goal Wins (PG-13) Taika Waititi doesn’t seem all that interested in soccer as he makes this comedy based on the real-life story of the world’s worst soccer team. Michael Fassbender plays a chair-throwing coach who takes a job as the head coach of American Samoa’s national team, which once lost by 31 goals and is ranked dead last among all nations in 2011. There is an interesting subplot with the coach having to handle a fa’afafine player (Kaimana) who becomes the first openly transgender woman to play on a men’s team, but Waititi (who appears as a priest and onscreen narrator) wastes too much energy on uninspired comic material about life on the Pacific islands, and Fassbender can’t make this Type A coach into something funny. Waititi’s comedy needs something looser and more eccentric than this feel-good sports film to work. Also with Oscar Kightley, Rachel House, David Fane, Beulah Koale, Uli Latukefu, Lehi Falepapalangi, Ioane Goodhue, Hio Pelesasa, Rhys Darby, Luke Hemsworth, Will Arnett, and Elisabeth Moss.

Priscilla (R) As a companion piece to Elvis, this biography is unsatisfying in a whole other way. Cailee Spaeny portrays Priscilla Beaulieu Presley from age 14 into her 30s as she meets Elvis (Jacob Elordi) and sticks with him through his abuse, infidelity, and relentless focus on his career. The lead actress’ youthful looks bring home the queasiness of Elvis’ dating of a preteen girl who’s 10 years younger than himself, and her alertness keeps the movie from becoming a stuffy historical pageant. Sofia Coppola gets her point across about the emptiness of a woman’s life when everyone regards her as an attachment to her husband, but the movie could have made the same point over a much shorter length. The ideas are here, but better dramatic shape would have given them more power. Also with Ari Cohen, Dagmara Domińczyk, Tim Post, Lynne Griffin, Dan Beirne, Dan Abramovici, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, and Matthew Shaw.

Radical (PG-13) Eugenio Derbez’ understated performance carries this otherwise formulaic Mexican inspirational teacher drama. He portrays Sergio Juarez, the real-life schoolteacher who went to a dirt-poor neighborhood in Matamoros in 2011 and resolved to use unorthodox methods to turn his underprivileged students into prize-winning scholars competing with the best young minds in the country. Derbez is canny enough to suggest the once-conventional teacher who has had a bruising experience with Mexico’s educational system. Writer-director Christopher Zalla doesn’t inject too much gloss into this portrait of a place where kids are lost all the time to the drug trade and the lure of America. Also with Daniel Haddad, Jennifer Trejo, Mia Fernanda Solis, Danilo Guardiola, Gilberto Barraza, Victor Estrada, and Manuel Márquez. 

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (PG-13) You’ll likely be watching this in a packed theater with little girls running around and singing along with Taylor, but this movie is strong enough to hold up even if you see it on your smartphone by yourself six months from now. Sam Wrench’s concert documentary takes in Swift’s last performance from the first leg of her current concert tour, where she plays selections from all her previous albums. If you didn’t have the coin to pay your way in to her stadium show, this film showcases her deep understanding of stagecraft, her indefatigable energy, and her unforced chemistry with her fans. Maybe the moss-covered piano she plays on “Champagne Problems” is a bit much, but the show is full of wow moments like the mystical backdrop for “Willow” and the giant snake coiling around the stage to introduce the Reputation part of the program. Swift’s sturdy sense of songcraft underscores all of this. What more could you wish from a concert movie?

Thanksgiving (R) Eli Roth initially made a fake trailer for this holiday-themed slasher flick as a joke in the Grindhouse double feature. Now he’s made the film for real, and while the joke doesn’t have enough to sustain an entire movie, it is good for a few laughs. A year after a Black Friday riot results in several deaths at a big-box retailer in Plymouth, Mass., a masked killer dressed as a Pilgrim starts killing the people they deem responsible. Both the sheriff (Patrick Dempsey) and the store owner’s teenage daughter (Nell Verlaque) try to crack the case. The Masshole energy is strong here, as the victims are all horrible New Englanders with thick accents. Roth’s wit shines through on occasion, and this does fill the empty void of Thanksgiving-related horror films. Also with Rick Hoffman, Addison Rae, Milo Manheim, Karen Cliche, Jenna Warren, Tomaso Sanelli, Tim Dillon, Amanda Barker, Joe Delfin, and Gina Gershon.

Tiger 3 (NR) Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif reprise their roles in this sequel to 2017’s Tiger Zinda Hai, as their heroic secret agents are framed as traitors to India. Also with Emraan Hashmi, Revathi, Simran, Riddhi Dogra, Vishal Jethwa, Ranvir Shorey, Denzil Smith, Hrithik Roshan, and Shah Rukh Khan. 

Trolls Band Together (PG) At this point, reuniting with NSYNC is the best career move possible for Justin Timberlake. In this most watchable of the Trolls movies, his Branch is discovered to have four long-lost brothers (voiced by Eric André, Troye Sivan, Daveed Diggs, and Kid Cudi) with whom he used to be in a boy band. His attempt to save one of them leads Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) to discover her own separated-at-birth sister (voiced by Camila Cabello), and Tiny Diamond (voiced by Kenan Thompson) asks, “Am I the only one without a long-lost sibling?” The movie doesn’t belabor any of its points too heavily and gives us an enjoyable batch of cover songs plus the first original NSYNC song (“Better Place”) in more than 20 years. Nostalgia has given us worse than this. Additional voices by Amy Schumer, Andrew Rannells, Zooey Deschanel, Patti Harrison, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kunal Nayyar, Zosia Mamet, RuPaul, Ron Funches, Jungkook, Anderson .Paak, Lance Bass, JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Good Egg (NR) This drama stars Yara Martinez as a drama teacher whose desperation to have a child leads her to some extreme measures. Also with Andrea Londo, Nicholas Cirillo, Ben Wang, Joel Johnstone, Priscilla Lopez, and Tibor Feldman.

May December (R) Todd Haynes’ melodrama is about a schoolteacher (Julianne Moore) who became notorious for marrying her student (Charles Melton) and a Hollywood actress (Natalie Portman) who visits her as research for portraying her in a film. Also with Cory Michael Smith, Christopher Nguyen, Chris Tenzis, Andrea Frankie, Elizabeth Yu, Piper Curda, and D.W. Moffett. 

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