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Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley's relationship as neighbors doesn't stay nearly this chummy in "Wicked Little Letters." Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh

OPENING

 

A Bit of Light (NR) Anna Paquin stars in this drama as an alcoholic mother forced to move back in with her parents after losing custody of her children. Also with Ray Winstone, Youssef Kerkour, Pippa Bennett-Warner, and Luca Hogan. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

DogMan (R) The latest film by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) stars Caleb Landry Jones as a damaged young man who finds salvation taking care of dogs. Also with Jojo T. Gibbs, Christopher Denham, Clemens Schick, John Charles Aguilar, Grace Palma, and Marisa Berenson. (Opens Friday at Alamo Drafthouse Denton)

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Dukaan (NR) This Indian comedy is about a young woman who gets into the business of being a surrogate mother. Starring Monika Panwar, Sikandar Kher, Vrajesh Hirjee, Monali Thakur, Soham Majumdar, and Bilal Özel. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Epic Tails (PG) This animated movie is about a mouse (voiced by Kaycie Chase) living in ancient Greece who determines to save her city from a flood. Additional voices by Christophe Lemoine, Emmanuel Curtil, Michel Tureau, Frantz Confiac, Paul Borne, Barbara Tissier, Emmanuel Garijo, and Jérôme Pauwel. (Opens Friday)

Family Star (NR) Vijay Deverakonda stars in this Telugu-language comedy about a young man navigating love and work after graduation. Also with Mrunal Thakur, Divyansha Kaushik, Ajay Ghosh, and Marissa Rose Gordon. (Opens Friday)

Femme (NR) Nathan Stewart-Jarrett stars in this British thriller as a gay man severely injured in a hate crime who later recognizes one of his attackers (George MacKay) in a gay sauna. Also with John McCrea, Aaron Heffernan, Antonia Clarke, Nima Taleghani, and Moe Bar-El. (Opens Friday at AMC Parks at Arlington)

The First Omen (R) This horror film stars Nell Tiger Free as an American nun who discovers an evil plot in Rome to birth the Antichrist. Also with Sonia Braga, Ralph Ineson, Tawfeek Barhom, Maria Caballero, Charles Dance, and Bill Nighy. (Opens Friday)

The Greatest Hits (PG-13) This romantic comedy stars Lucy Boynton as a woman who discovers that certain songs literally transport her back in time. Also with Justin H. Min, David Corenswet, Rory Keane, Austin Crute, Andie Ju, Tom Yi, and Retta. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

IRaH (NR) This Indian thriller stars Rohit Roy as a computer programmer whose AI breakthrough makes him a fugitive from the government and large corporations. Also with Ameet Chana, Karishma Kotak, Rajesh Sharma, Fagun Thakrar, Yani Xander, and Nayef Rashed. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Mahajatra (NR) This Nepalese thriller is about a group of friends who find and hide an illegal cache of money. Starring Hari Bansha Acharya, Bipin Karki, Rabindra Singh Baniya, Rabindra Jha, Barsha Raut, and Divya Dev. (Opens Friday at Cinepolis Euless)

Parachute (NR) Brittany Snow’s directing debut is this drama about a teenager (Courtney Eaton) trying to put her life back together after a stint in rehab for eating disorders. Also with Thomas Mann, Francesca Reale, Jennifer Westfeldt, Chrissie Fit, Owen Thiele, Gina Rodriguez, Joel McHale, Kid Cudi, and Dave Bautista. (Opens Friday at Studio Movie Grill Chisholm Trail)

Strictly Confidential (R) Elizabeth Hurley stars in her son Damian’s filmmaking debut as a woman trying to uncover the mystery of her best friend’s suicide. Also with Lauren McQueen, Genevieve Gaunt, Georgia Lock, Freddie Thorp, and Max Parker. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Viva La Vida (NR) This Chinese romantic comedy is about a gravely ill kidney patient (Teresa Li) who falls in love with a man (Peng Yu Chang) who has a life-threatening brain ailment. Also with Xu Fan, Wang Xun, and Gao Ya Lin. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Wicked Little Letters (R) For all the profanity in this British comedy, it still isn’t nasty enough. Olivia Colman plays a prim Christian spinster in a small Sussex seaside town in the 1920s who starts receiving anonymous letters in the mail filled with vicious insults, and the suspicion immediately falls on the foul-mouthed Irish widowed mother (Jessie Buckley) who lives next door. The acting is irreproachable, especially from Colman as a case study in poorly repressed rage and Anjana Vasan as a South Asian police officer who thinks there’s more to the case. Somehow, though, the drama is too buttoned-up and too British to ever truly take flight. The cast deserved a director unafraid to cut loose, but Thea Sharrock isn’t that person. Also with Timothy Spall, Joanna Scanlan, Paul Chahidi, Hugh Skinner, Lolly Adefope, Tim Key, Malachi Kirby, Alisha Weir, Jason Watkins, Gemma Jones, and Eileen Atkins. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Aadujeevitham (NR) Prithviraj Sukumaran stars in this Indian drama as a Malayali day laborer who’s dragooned into slave labor in Saudi Arabia. Also with Amala Paul, Shobha Mohan, KR Gokul, Talib al-Balushi, and Jimmy Jean-Louis.

Arthur the King (PG-13) Mark Wahlberg stars in this Americanized drama based on the real-life story of a Swedish adventure racer who picked up and adopted a stray dog while trekking with his team over 500 miles of rough terrain in the Dominican Republic. The film has some breathtaking shots of the rainforest and a great sequence where our protagonist and one of his teammates (Nathalie Emmanuel) become stuck on the cable while ziplining over a chasm. This, though, can’t help the story escape the formula of big-time movie star + cute dog. The film’s stretches of watchability don’t compensate for its unbearable moments. Also with Simu Liu, Juliet Rylance, Ali Suliman, Cece Valentina, Oscar Best, Paul Guilfoyle, and Bear Grylls. 

Asphalt City (R) This thriller stars Tye Sheridan as a young New York City EMT working his first night shift with an old veteran (Sean Penn). Also with Gbenga Akinnagbe, Michael Pitt, Katherine Waterston, Kali Reis, Raquel Nave, and Mike Tyson. 

Cabrini (PG-13) This biography of the 19th-century Italian nun who built orphanages in New York City is rather on the dull side. Cristiana Dell’Anna portrays Mother Cabrini, the tubercular missionary who leaves her homeland for the Big Apple, defies sexism on both sides of the Atlantic, and finds her fellow Italians suffering discrimination and frightful poverty. Director/co-writer Alejandro Monteverde takes some care over re-creating the New York of 1889, and the film has some assuring supporting performances by David Morse as the archbishop and John Lithgow as the crooked mayor. Still, the script is lacking sharpness and focus, and the story fits too neatly into the template of Christian films about heroes overcoming obstacles. Also with Giancarlo Giannini, Patch Darragh, Montserrat Espadalé, Romana Maggiora Vergano, Federico Ielapi, Jeremy Bobb, Liam Campora, Federico Castelluccio, and Sean Cullen. 

Crew (NR) Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Kriti Sanon star in this Indian comedy as three international flight attendants who are frustrated with their job when their boss suddenly dies in mid-flight and they discover gold bars strapped to his body. Rather than steal the gold for themselves, they find out who was supplying him with the gold and take over his job smuggling the stuff out of India. The heist plot is done quite well when the movie can be bothered with it, especially the part with the women melting down the gold into balls, dipping them in chocolate, and disguising them as foil-wrapped truffles. However, there’s too much extraneous musical numbers and dull romance getting in the way. Also with Diljit Dosanjh, Rajesh Sharma, Saswata Chatterjee, Kapil Sharma, and Kulbhushan Kharbanda.

Dune: Part Two (PG-13) Not only a better movie than the first part, this sequel makes the original look better in retrospect. Timothée Chalamet reprises his role as the scion of a fallen family who takes up with revolutionaries to help them overthrow their oppressors, while also wrestling with the widely held belief that he’s the chosen one sent to liberate them. The supporting characters come off as more rounded, and while Chalamet is swallowed up for much of the film, he takes charge unambiguously and disturbingly when he goes full cult leader to rally the natives in their climactic battle. Denis Villeneuve does not disappoint in the movie’s two big set pieces, and the movie says some keen things about the advantages and booby traps of religious faith. The film features great turns by Austin Butler as a shaven-headed psychopathic villain and Zendaya as the love interest who is cruelly betrayed. Also with Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Léa Seydoux, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgård, Roger Yuan, Babs Olusanmokun, and an uncredited Anya Taylor-Joy.

Exhuma (NR) A massive hit in its native South Korea, this horror movie depicts a corner of K-culture that even Americans steeped in the stuff might not be familiar with. Kim Go-eun plays a shaman who’s hired to assess a burial spot picked out by a wealthy L.A. businessman (Kim Jae-cheol), but she and her colleagues instead unleash an ancient evil. A fair amount of this movie is clearly filmed in Southern California, giving Korean audiences a chance to see some big-name actors play out this drama in a setting foreign to them. The film delves into shamanic rituals that predate Confucianism or Buddhism on the peninsula, and the colorful, music-filled rites are exotic even to them. For those who don’t care about the trappings, director Jang Jae-hyun stages some scares that will impress the horror fanatics. Also with Choi Min-sik, Yoo Hae-jin, Lee Do-hyun, Kim Sun-young, Kim Ji-an, Hong Seo-jun, Kim Min-jun, and Jeon Jin-ki.

A Fragile Flower (NR) Maya stars in this Vietnamese music drama as an aspiring pop singer. Also with Quoc Cuong, Mai Thu Huyen, Trizzie Phuong Trinh, Anh Dung, Nhat Ha, and Duc Tien.

Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (PG-13) Hate to say it, but it’s the old Ghostbusters (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Ernie Hudson) who do the most to drag down this fifth film in the series. The family from the previous film relocates from Oklahoma to New York City and the Ghostbusters’ old firehouse headquarters, and the move does nothing for the story, nor do the characters acclimate to the place in an interesting way. The most interesting plotline has 15-year-old Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) befriending a sullen teenage ghost (Emily Alyn Lind), but there are too many plotlines going on in this scattered film, and the supernatural hijinks don’t sing like they used to. The supporting cast is packed with added talent, but this movie feels like the smallest of the franchise. Also with Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Annie Potts, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, and William Atherton. 

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (PG-13) At this point, why bother with the humans at all? Just have the massive beasts act out the drama, and we won’t miss the dialogue. King Kong and Godzilla are awakened by a new threat to life on Earth, which forces our scientists (Rebecca Hall and Brian Tyree Henry) to undertake a journey into uncharted reaches of the hollow Earth. Dan Stevens turns up as a veterinary dentist with an Australian accent, Hawaiian shirt, and blond highlights, and he’s the only one who’s remotely having fun. Everything else is swallowed up by the special effects. It’s all just exquisitely boring. Also with Kaylee Hottle, Fala Chen, Alex Ferns, Rachel House, and Greg Hatton.

Imaginary (PG-13) A bunch of interesting emotional beats don’t add up to anything memorable in this horror film. DeWanda Wise portrays a children’s book author who moves back into her childhood home only to find her imaginary friend still haunting the place and angry that she left. The oldest stepdaughter (Taegen Burns) hates the new place, the younger one (Pyper Braun) may be in danger of being possessed by the playmate via a stuffed teddy bear, and both the girls’ biological mother and the stepmother’s father are in mental institutions. For all this, the movie isn’t scary, and director/co-writer Jeff Wadlow can’t tie up these plot threads into a resonant story. Wise is a bland presence in the lead role, too. Also with Tom Payne, Matthew Sato, Samuel Salary, Alix Angelis, Veronica Falcón, and Betty Buckley. 

Immaculate (R) Sydney Sweeney goes from her typical sexy roles to playing a Catholic nun in this horror film, and does enough to prove her chops. Her character is a Detroit native who takes holy orders in Rome, only for everyone to discover that she’s mysteriously pregnant despite being a virgin. Irish filmmaker Michael Mohan imitates the opulence of Black Narcissus rather than the grit of The Exorcist in filming the 17th-century Italian abbey where our heroine lives and works. The plot is riddled with holes, but the conspiracy motivating her caretakers/jailers turns out to be even crazier than The Da Vinci Code. The single-take final scene where she finally gives birth to whatever’s inside her is a bravura piece of acting by the young lead actress. Also with Álvaro Morte, Dora Romano, Simona Tabasco, Benedetta Porcaroli, Giorgio Colangeli, Giampiero Judica, Giuseppe Lo Piccolo, and Giulia Heathfield Di Renzi.

In the Land of Saints and Sinners (R) Strange film — the writing and acting are sharp, but Robert Lorenz’ low-energy direction keeps this Irish thriller from being much good. Liam Neeson plays a retired hitman in County Donegal in the 1970s whose attempt to live quietly ends when he kills a local pedophile, then finds out that his victim is also an IRA terrorist whose sister (Kerry Condon) is hellbent on getting revenge. The film does get together a bunch of Ireland’s best actors, which seems to energize Neeson, and Jack Gleeson is weirdly likable as a young killer who finds his boss murdered and immediately starts ravaging the dead man’s record collection. If only Lorenz (who also directed Neeson in The Marksman) had tightened this up and found more tension and pathos in the setup, this would have been worth a strong recommendation. Also with Colm Meaney, Desmond Eastwood, Conor MacNeill, Seamus O’Hara, Sarah Greene, Mark O’Regan, and Ciarán Hinds. 

Kung Fu Panda 4 (PG) If this is the last installment of the animated series, it’s ending at the right time. Po (voiced by Jack Black) has to choose a successor for the title of Dragon Warrior while also teaming up with a street criminal of a fox (voiced by Awkwafina) to take down a villainous chameleon (voiced by Viola Davis) who wishes to steal the souls and kung fu skills of every villain Po has ever faced. The martial arts sequences are still well-filmed and capture stunts that couldn’t be done by human performers, but the wit in the script and the humor in the original premise have leaked away over the years. The film still has a few cinematic references to Stephen Chow’s films and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but it’s time for the warrior panda to lay down his weapons and spend his retirement eating all the dumplings he wants. Additional voices by Dustin Hoffman, Bryan Cranston, James Hong, Ian McShane, Lori Tan Chinn, Ronny Chieng, Seth Rogen, Harry Shum Jr., and Ke Huy Quan.

Late Night With the Devil (R) This found-footage horror film made $666,666 at the box office on the Sunday that it opened, and it deserves considerably more. The movie purports to be the lost footage of a 1977 live TV talk show whose desperate host (David Dastmalchian) invites a girl (Ingrid Torelli) on the show who might be demonically possessed. Australian brothers and filmmakers Cameron and Colin Cairnes have their American pop culture references in line, which helps to preserve the illusion that we’re watching a talk show from the period. The black-and-white interludes supposedly showing us the behind-the-scenes footage at the show is too smooth by half, but the fakery involved in creating the show itself is amazing. Often cast as creepy types in Hollywood, Dastmalchian here looks in his element mugging through corny comedy sketches and then becoming a figure of pathos. Also with Laura Gordon, Ian Bliss, Fayssal Bazzi, Rhys Auteri, Josh Quong Tart, Steve Mouzakis, and Georgina Haig. Narrated by Michael Ironside.

Love Lies Bleeding (R) A grungy crime thriller that reminds you how defanged most such Hollywood movies are. Kristen Stewart plays a New Mexico gym manager in 1989 who falls for an itinerant bodybuilder (Katy O’Brian), only for their romance to result in violence that falls foul of her estranged father (Ed Harris) who is also a crime boss. British filmmaker Rose Glass (Saint Maud) lives in the place where kitchen-sink realism meets nightmare hallucination, and she captures the baking heat of the setting as well as the gory violence. O’Brian looks like an actual bodybuilder who can detach a man’s lower jaw from his face, and the chemistry between her and Stewart is instantaneous and hot. The film plays oddly like a Coen brothers’ movie in that every time someone makes a plot, someone else comes along and fouls it up. This thoroughly disreputable lesbian romance manages to shake you by the lapels. Also with Dave Franco, Anna Baryshnikov, David DeLao, Mikandrew, and Jena Malone.

Mai (NR) This Vietnamese romantic film is all over the place. Phương Anh Đào stars as a beautiful young woman who moves to Saigon to start fresh as a masseuse and meets a ladies’ man (Tuấn Trần) who’s looking to settle down. This might be enough to hang a film on, but director/co-writer/co-star Trấn Thành insists on accumulating more and more subplots involving her troubled family life and a violent past catching up with her, and he can’t balance the story’s light comedy with its heavier themes. If you’re new to Vietnamese movies, this is not the place to start. Also with Uyển Ân, Hồng Đào, Ngọc Giàu, Việt Anh, and Quốc Khánh.

Migration (PG) This rather perfunctory animated film is about a family of mallards that migrate south to Jamaica after the overprotective father (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) has prevented his ducklings from leaving the pond. Truly nothing works here, not the scenes where the ducks finally take flight, not the detour when they hit a big city, and not the run-in with an evil chef who wants to serve them up with orange sauce. The amount of voice talent in the cast makes this disappointment all the sharper. The film is from Illumination Entertainment, and this film is even less memorable than some of the Despicable Me sequels. The feature comes packaged with a short film that spins off from Despicable Me, which only reminds us that the studio is capable of better. Additional voices by Elizabeth Banks, Tresi Gazal, Caspar Jennings, Awkwafina, Keegan-Michael Key, Carol Kane, Isabela Merced, and Danny DeVito. 

One Life (PG) This is not The Zone of Interest. Rather, it’s a dutiful and foursquare Holocaust drama about British stockbroker Nicky Winton (Anthony Hopkins), who flashes back to his youth (Johnny Flynn) in Prague in 1938 where he organizes the transportation of hundreds of Czech children to the U.K. who would otherwise be killed by the Nazis. TV director James Hawes casts this into proper shape without ever pulling any surprises or making the proceedings feel like anything other than a hundred other such dramas. He’s too willing to resort to shots of crying babies to hammer home the point as well. The cast is promising, but they fall short as well. Also with Helena Bonham Carter, Lena Olin, Tim Steed, Alex Sharp, Romola Garai, and Jonathan Pryce. 

Ordinary Angels (PG) Ordinary movie. Hilary Swank stars as Sharon Stevens, the real-life alcoholic hairdresser from Kentucky who gained the strength to pull out of her addiction by helping a widowed father (Alan Ritchson) whose 5-year-old daughter (Emily Mitchell) direly needed a life-saving liver transplant. The script is by Oscar-nominated actress Meg Tilly and much-feted director Kelly Fremon Craig (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret), but they can’t break out of the template of inspirational dramas. Considering the wealth of talent that went into this Christian film, you’d expect better than this. Also with Amy Acker, Tamala Jones, Drew Powell, Skywalker Hughes, Nancy Sorel, and Nancy Travis. 

Problemista (R) This is the first film by Saturday Night Live writer Julio Torres, and if it doesn’t always work, it raises laughs often enough to proclaim a bold new comic voice. Torres stars as a gay Salvadoran immigrant who is stuck in legal limbo in New York City and has to work for an incredibly mercurial Irish art curator (Tilda Swinton, with her hair the color of cherry Kool-Aid) to stay in America. Torres’ screenplay offers up a bumper crop of great comic ideas like the protagonist’s idea to teach kids about the difficulties of life by designing toys that aren’t fun, as well as the art-world satire from the curator. The surreal touches, such as rejected immigrants vanishing into thin air, dry out the movie and keep it from becoming too heavy. It’s more than good enough to make us ask for more of Torres’ comedy. Also with RZA, Catalina Saavedra, and Greta Lee. Narrated by Isabella Rossellini. 

Someone Like You (PG-13) Based on Karen Kingsbury’s novel, this romance stars Jake Allyn as a man who loses his best friend (Sarah Fisher) and then falls in love with her long-lost twin sister (Lynn Collins). Also with Robyn Lively, Bart Johnson, Scott Reeves, Austin Robert Russell, and Brandon Hirsch.

Tillu Square (NR) Siddhu Jonnalagadda reprises his role in the sequel to his 2022 film DJ Tillu as a musician caught up in a crime plot. Also with Anupama Parameswaran, Muralidhar Goud, C.V.L. Narasimha Rao, and Murali Sharma.

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Karaoke (NR) This Israeli comedy stars Sasson Gabay as a man who moves into a new neighborhood and turns it upside-down with his karaoke parties. Also with Lior Ashkenazi, Keren Tzur, Talleen Abu Hanna, Rita Shukrun, and Timor Cohen. 

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