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The kids in "Thabo and the Rhino Case" look after a baby white rhinoceros in South Africa. Courtesy Purdie Distribution

OPENING

 

Aa Okkati Adakku (NR) This Telugu-language romantic comedy stars Allari Naresh, Faria Abdullah, Vennela Kishore, Harsha Chemudu, and Jamie Lever. (Opens Friday)

Chief of Station (NR) Aaron Eckhart stars in this thriller as a former CIA station chief who returns to active duty to investigate his wife’s long-ago death. Also with Olga Kurylenko, Alex Pettyfer, Chris Petrovski, Nick Moran, Nina Bergman, and James Faulkner. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

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Dragonkeeper (PG) Based on Carole Wilkinson’s novel, this Chinese-Spanish animated film is about a girl in ancient China (voiced by Mayalinee Griffiths) who must find the last dragon egg to save the species. Additional voices by Bill Nighy, Anthony Howell, Bill Bailey, and Jonathan David Mellors. (Opens Friday)

The Fall Guy (PG-13) Ryan Gosling stars in this thriller (based on the 1980s TV show) as a Hollywood stuntman who must investigate when the star of his movie (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) goes missing. Also with Emily Blunt, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke, Hannah Waddingham, Teresa Palmer, Heather Thomas, and Lee Majors. (Opens Friday)

Jeanne du Barry (NR) Maïwenn directs and stars in this historical epic about the 18th-century seamstress’ daughter who becomes mistress to King Louis XV of France (Johnny Depp). Also with Melvil Poupaud, Robin Renucci, Pierre Richard, Marianne Basler, Pascal Greggory, Patrick d’Assumçao, Noémie Lvovsky, Nathalie Richard, and Laurent Grévill. (Opens Friday)

Malaylee From India (NR) This Malayalam-language film stars Nivin Pauly, Anaswara Rajan, Dhyan Sreenivasan, Shine Tom Chacko, and Salim Kumar. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Mansarra (NR) This Nepalese comedy stars Miruna Magar, Dayahang Rai, Menuka Pradhan, Praveen Khatiwada, and Shanti Giri. (Opens Friday at Cinepolis Euless)

Mars Express (PG) This French animated film is about an investigator and her robot sidekick (voiced by Morla Gorrondona and Josh Keaton in the English-dubbed version and Léa Drucker and Daniel Njo Lobé in the original French) who must look into a murder case on Mars in the future. Additional voices by Mathieu Amalric, Kiff VandenHeuvel, Marie Bouvet, Sarah Hollis, Sébastien Chassagne, Ben Diskin, Eilias Changuel, and Sean Burgos. (Opens Friday)

New Life (NR) This apocalyptic thriller stars Hayley Erin as a young woman desperate to cross the Canadian border before the agent chasing her (Sonya Walger) catches her. Also with Tony Amendola, Nick George, Ayanna Berkshire, Blaine Palmer, and Betty Moyer. (Opens Friday in Dallas) 

Prasanna Vadanam (NR) This Indian mystery film is about a man (Suhas) trying to solve a murder while coping with face blindness. Also with Rashi Singh, Payal Radhakrishna, Nithin Prasanna, and Viva Harsha. (Opens Friday)

Rocket Club: Across the Cosmos (NR) This Canadian animated film is about a group of astronauts hoping to save the Earth and return an alien to its home planet before dinner. Voices by Andrea Libman, Ian James Corlett, Elyse Maloway, Elishia Perosa, and Vincent Tong. (Opens Friday)

The Roundup: Punishment (NR) This Korean thriller stars Don Lee as a cybercrime cop leading a unit looking to take down a gambling ring. Also with Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Beom-su, Park Ji-hwan, Lee Ji-hoon, Kim Mu-yeol, and Kim Min-jae. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

Something in the Water (R) This thriller is about a group of five young women who are stranded in the middle of the open ocean during a destination wedding. Starring Hiftu Quasem, Lauren Lyle, Natalie Mitson, Nicole Rieko Setsuko, and Ellouise Shakespeare-Hart. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (PG-13) Don’t believe the revisionist take. The first one was correct: This 1999 prequel sucks, and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) is only an emblem of why. Two Jedi knights (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) travel to a desert planet to unearth the future Darth Vader (Jake Lloyd), thinking that he’s the warrior who’s going to vanquish evil once and for all. Insensitive racial stereotyping aside, George Lucas bogs down in microscopic minutiae and dull political maneuvering to build out his world, and the script is chockablock with bad dialogue. The knights’ duel with Darth Maul (Ray Park) is pretty cool, but that is not nearly enough to make up for the tedium of everything that comes before. Also with Natalie Portman, Ian MacDiarmid, Hugh Quarshie, Pernilla August, Kenny Baker, Warwick Davis, Sofia Coppola, Keira Knightley, Terrence Stamp, and Samuel L. Jackson. (Re-opens Friday)

Stress Positions (R) Theda Hammel writes, directs, and co-stars in this drama about a gay man (John Early) who tries to negotiate COVID quarantine when many people want to visit the male model (Qaher Harash) who’s living in his home. Also with Elizabeth Dement, Amy Zimmer, Faheem Ali, John Roberts, Tarek Ziad, and Rebecca F. Wright. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Tarot (PG-13) This horror film is about a group of young people who are hunted down after taking readings from a cursed tarot deck. Starring Jacob Batalon, Avantika, Harriet Slater, Humberly González, Larsen Thompson, Wolfgang Novogratz, and Olwen Fouéré. (Opens Friday)

Thabo and the Rhino Case (PG) This German kids’ movie is about a South African boy (Litlhohonolofatso Litlhakayane) who investigates the murder of a rhinoceros near his village. Also with Ava Skuratowski, Kumkani Pilonti, Nissi Bodibe, Vutihari Sibisi, Kenneth Nkosi, and Andrea Sawatzki. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Abigail (R) The horror-comedy team called Radio Silence worked their magic to great effect in Ready or Not. Some of that talent is in evidence here, but it feels like the joke goes on too long. A high-end fixer (Giancarlo Esposito) gathers together a crew of small-time criminals to kidnap a rich little girl (Alisha Weir) for ransom, but then the criminals discover that she’s a vampire. The movie does have quite a few funny bits in its first half, and Weir (the Irish actress who starred in Matilda the Musical) delivers a star-making performance as the vamp who can impersonate a cowering little girl who loves ballet. This movie might have been tremendous as a 90-minute yarn, but at almost two hours, it drags on too long. Also with Melissa Barrera, Dan Stevens, Kathryn Newton, Kevin Durand, William Catlett, Matthew Goode, and the late Angus Cloud. 

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. 

Boy Kills World (R) This cartoonish thrillers’ deaf and mute hero (Bill Skarsgård) has his inner thoughts voiced by the ultra-manly tones of H. Jon Benjamin, and it’s the funniest thing here. The movie takes place in a dystopian world ruled by an evil family that holds televised executions sponsored by breakfast cereal companies. The fight sequences are filmed with a crazed fluidity by German director Moritz Mohr, who cuts the action with wacky humor. It’s puzzling, then, why the filmmakers try to go for our heartstrings in the second half, when it adds nothing and makes the comedy go away. As long as it sticks to the candy-colored, slapstick action scenes, it’s on solid footing. Also with Jessica Rothe, Famke Janssen, Michelle Dockery, Brett Gelman, Andrew Koji, Isaiah Mustafa, Cameron Crovetti, Nicholas Crovetti, Quinn Copeland, Yayan Ruhian, and Sharlto Copley.

Dancing Village: The Curse Begins (NR) There are myriad issues with pacing and acting here, yet this Indonesian horror movie has enough to distinguish it from other types of horror films. Maudy Effrosina portrays a city-dwelling woman in 1980 whose mother (Maryam Supraba) falls mysteriously ill. To cure her, she has to return a cursed bangle to a remote village in eastern Java, where an evil goddess (Aulia Sarah) tries to kill her and her traveling companions. Adapted from a novel by a writer calling himself SimpleMan, this is directed by Kimo Stamboel, who co-directed Headshot. He shows some talent for creatively staged scares, and the climactic dance number with the heroine stuck in the netherworld having to perform a traditional dance is odd and beautiful. Also with Jourdy Pranata, Mohammed Iqbal Sulaiman, Ardit Erwandha, Diding Boneng, Dinda Kanyadewi, and Claresta Taufan Kusumarina. 

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.

Escape From Germany (PG) Based on a true story, this drama is about a group of Mormon missionaries who must escape Germany before the Nazi regime takes over. Starring Sebastian Barr, Joseph Batzel, Ischa Bee, Zechariah Combs, Scarlett Hazen, Landon Henneman, and Adam Colvin.

The First Omen (R) This piece of nunsploitation is a fine horror film on its own, and its weakest points are where it joins up with the 1976 movie that it’s a prequel to. The awesomely named Nell Tiger Free stars as an American nun who comes to Rome to take holy orders and instead becomes impregnated with Satan’s spawn. On her first feature, director/co-writer Arkasha Stevenson shows some tantalizing talent behind the camera, creating striking visuals and drawing creditable performances out of much of her cast. Also with Sonia Braga, Nicole Sorace, Ralph Ineson, Tawfeek Barhom, Maria Caballero, Ishtar Currie-Wilson, Andrea Arcangeli, Charles Dance, and Bill Nighy.

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.

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.

The Long Game (PG) This film is based on the true story of five Mexican golf caddies who built their own course in South Texas in the 1950s. Starring Jay Hernandez, Dennis Quaid, Gillian Vigman, Brett Cullen, Oscar Nuñez, Julian Works, José Julián, Gregory Diaz IV, and Cheech Marin. 

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. 

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (R) Guy Ritchie films this based-on-real-life World War II drama like it’s one of his gangster larks, so why does this thing stubbornly refuse to take flight? Cary Elwes plays a British brigadier general who promises to kneecap the Nazi U-boat fleet by hiring an ex-con (Henry Cavill) who gathers together a group of other lowlifes with special espionage skills who can be disposed of if they’re caught. We get Eiza González as a British Jewish actress-singer and Alan Ritchson as a Danish muscleman, and the plot is sufficiently twisty to keep you watching. Somehow it all feels more rote than fun, like a spinoff of the Kingsmen series. Also with Alex Pettyfer, Babs Olusanmokun, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Til Schweiger, James Wilby, Freddie Fox, Danny Sapani, Henrique Zaga, Henry Golding, and Rory Kinnear. 

Monkey Man (R) Dev Patel stars in his own directing debut, an ass-kicking action-thriller that’s heavily stylized in a John Wick sort of way, but the more interesting stuff is around the edges. He stars as a wrestling heel in an underground Mumbai fight club who’s taking aim at a conspiracy of sex traffickers, crooked cops, a power-mad Hindu guru (Makarand Deshpande), and a Narendra Modi-like candidate for prime minister. That last bit is probably why the film has yet to be released in India, as Modi’s government would certainly bristle at this movie’s show of poverty in the country and sympathetic depiction of hijras (an accepted third gender in Indian culture). Still, Patel’s long-striding presence dominates the fight sequences, and his combination of Western techniques with Indian subject matter creates something spine-tinglingly new. Also with Sobhita Dhulipala, Sikandar Kher, Pitobash, Vipin Sharma, Ashwini Kalsekar, Aditi Kalkunte, Zakir Hussain, and Sharlto Copley. 

Spy x Family Code: White (NR) If you’re not a fan of the anime series, this big-screen version occasionally shows why it has its fans. The family’s mind-reading adopted daughter (voiced by Atsumi Tanizaki and Megan Shipman) trying to win a cooking contest to save her superspy parents, who don’t know about her ability, nor that the other is working for the other side in a war, nor that the family dog can predict the future. Maybe they’re just bad parents. The combination of spy thriller and food movie sometimes takes the movie into transcendently odd territory, but not often enough to snag moviegoers who aren’t already on board. Additional voices by Takuya Eguchi, Alex Organ, Saori Hayami, Natalie van Sistine, Natsumi Fujiwara, Dani Chambers, Emiri Kato, and Noucky Andriansyah. 

Unsung Hero (PG) Joel Smallbone co-writes, co-directs, and co-stars in this biography of his Australian family’s struggle to succeed in America as Christian singers. Joel portrays his own father as an angry, depressive man who’s too proud to accept charity or other people’s ideas. That’s interesting, but the rest of the movie is reduced to inspirational pablum, as the musical career of his daughter Rebecca St. James (Kirrilee Berger) is carelessly smooshed out of shape to give the story a neat little cap. There’s a better movie trapped inside this one, and it never threatens to escape. Also with Daisy Betts, Jonathan Jackson, Paul Luke Bonenfant, Diesel La Torraca, JJ Pantano, Terry O’Quinn, Hillary Scott, Lucas Black, and Candace Cameron Bure. 

We Grown Now (PG) This low-budget drama stars Blake Cameron James and Gian Knight Ramirez as two Black boys facing upheaval in their friendship while growing up in Chicago’s Cabrini Green in 1992. Also with Jurnee Smollett, S. Epatha Merkerson, Avery Holliday, Charles Jenkins, and Lil Rel Howery. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

The Beast (NR) Bertrand Bonello’s latest film stars Léa Seydoux and George MacKay as lovers carrying on a forbidden romance in a future dystopia ruled by AI. Also with Dasha Nekrasova, Elina Löwensohn, and Guslagie Malanda. Voices by Bertrand Bonello and Xavier Dolan. 

Bloodline Killer (R) Shawnee Smith stars in this horror film as a woman trying to recover from her family’s mass murder at the hands of a disturbed relative. Also with Taryn Manning, Tyrese Gibson, Drew Moerlein, James Gaudioso, Sal Rendino, and Bruce Dern.

Breathe (PG-13) This science-fiction thriller stars Jennifer Hudson and Quvenzhané Wallis as a mother and daughter whose survival in a dystopian world may be threatened or helped by visitors. Also with Milla Jovovich, Sam Worthington, Raúl Castillo, and Common. 

Cash Out (R) John Travolta stars in this action thriller as a bank robber who’s trapped in the bank when his heist goes awry. Also with Kristin Davis, Lukas Haas, Noel Guglielmi, Demián Castro, and Quavo.

Coup de Chance (PG-13) Woody Allen’s French-language comedy is about two young lovers (Niels Schneider and Lou de Laâge) whose romance ensnares them in a criminal plot. Also with Melvil Poupaud, Anna Laik, Yannick Choirat, William Nadylam, Arnaud Viard, Valérie Lemercier, and Elsa Zylberstein.

 

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