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The title "The Watcher in the Woods" was already taken. Georgina Campbell, Dakota Fanning, Oliver Finnegan, and Olwen Fouéré are held captive by mysterious beings in "The Watchers." Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

OPENING

 

Bad Boys: Ride or Die (R) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence re-team for this fourth installment of the series as the Miami cops who become fugitives after trying to disprove corruption allegations against their late captain (Joe Pantoliano). Also with Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Paola Núñez, Eric Dane, Ioan Gruffudd, Jacob Scipio, and Tiffany Haddish. (Opens Friday)

Hovering Blade (NR) Adapted from Keigo Higashino’s novel, this Chinese thriller stars Wang Jingchun as a father who seeks revenge after his daughter is killed by bullies. Also with Qi Xi, Wang Qianyuan, Wu Shuang, Zhou Zhengjie, Zhang Youhao, and Alan Aruna. (Opens Friday at AMC Grapevine Mills)

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Late Bloomers (NR) Karen Gillan stars in this comedy as a directionless young woman who befriends her Polish nurse (Malgorzata Zajaczkowska) after breaking her hip in an accident. Also with Talia Balsam, Lori Tan Chinn, Jermaine Fowler, Samuel Farnsworth, Loni Ackerman, Danielle Alonzo, and Eric Elizaga. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Life After Fighting (NR) Bren Foster writes, directs, and stars in this action thriller about a martial-arts instructor who investigates when two of his students disappear. Also with Luke Ford, Cassie Howarth, Annabelle Stephenson, Arielle Jean Foster, Anthony Nassif, Jake Ryan, and Eddie Arrazola. (Opens Friday in Dallas)

Munjya (NR) This Indian horror-comedy stars Sharvari, Abhay Verma, Mona Singh, Sathyaraj, and Suhas Joshi. (Opens Friday)

School of Magical Animals 2 (PG) The sequel to the German fantasy adventure film has the kids trying to put on a stage musical while sinister doings bedevil the school. Starring Emilia Maier, Loris Sichrovsky, Lilith Julie Johna, Leonard Conrads, Emilia Pleske, Nadja Uhl, and Justus von Dohnányi. (Opens Friday)

The Watchers (PG-13) Adapted from A.M. Shine’s novel, Ishana Night Shyamalan’s horror film stars Dakota Fanning as an American expat who becomes trapped in a mysterious room in the forests of western Ireland. Also with Georgina Campbell, Oliver Finnegan, John Lynch, and Olwen Fouéré. (Opens Friday)

 

NOW PLAYING

 

Babes (R) Entirely pleasant. Ilana Glazer stars in and co-writes this comedy as a proudly single yoga instructor who becomes pregnant after a one night stand and deals with the fallout. While the film is occasionally not as funny as it thinks it is, enough of the set pieces land to make this worthwhile, as when she consults twin brothers (Keith and Kenneth Lucas) who run the STD clinic where she gets tested and when she babysits for her best friend (Michelle Buteau). The scene when the two best friends go away on a babymoon misses the chance to comment on the trend, but our protagonist does run into a masseuse (Kami Dimitrova) who keeps talking about her fear that her massages will kill the unborn child. As long as the jokes are firing like that, this movie is a welcome addition to our multiplexes. Also with John Carroll Lynch, Oliver Platt, Stephan James, Hasan Minhaj, Darren Criss, Sandra Bernhard, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Back to Black (R) This Amy Winehouse biopic has so little to say about its subject that it’ll actually make you angry. Marisa Abela portrays the ill-fated singer and does the singing on the soundtrack. Her vocals are easily the most impressive thing in the movie. Unfortunately, director Sam Taylor-Johnson gives a hackneyed and one-paced take on the story and doesn’t even seem that interested in Winehouse’s music or her career. Writer Matt Greenhalgh neglects to tackle the cruel reaction of the press and public to Winehouse’s transparent need for help, and that is the biggest missed opportunity here. The portrayals of Amy’s cabdriver dad (Eddie Marsan) and faithless husband (Jack O’Connell) are too generous by half, too. This is yet another boilerplate music biopic whose soundtrack album is a better use of your time than the film. Also with Lesley Manville, Sam Buchanan, Juliet Cowan, Anna Darvas, Harley Bird, Ryan O’Doherty, and Therica Wilson-Read.

Bhaje Vaayu Vegam (NR) This Indian action-thriller stars Kartikeya Gummakonda as a man who’s wrongly accused of killing a policeman. Also with Iswarya Menon, P. Ravi Shankar, Tanikella Bharani, Sharath Lohitashwa, and Krishna Chaitanya.

Challengers (R) Even though the cast is young, this is the sort of grown-up romance that they supposedly don’t make anymore. Luca Guadagnino’s sports drama is about the love triangle between a six-time Grand Slam winner (Mike Faist), his wife and coach (Zendaya), and the tennis player whom she dated (Josh O’Connor) before a catastrophic knee injury brought her own playing career to an end. Guadagnino takes infectious joy in filming the tennis players’ bodies in motion as they strain their muscles to serve and run in for drop shots. The sport of tennis has never been filmed in such ecstatic terms. Justin Kuritzkes’ script gives all the characters juicy lines to work with, and Zendaya is truly stellar both as a teen champion who twists boys around her finger and the older coach who’s more uncertain as her life on the sidelines goes on. Her concluding scream of “Come on!” is well earned. Also with Darnell Appling, Nada Despotovich, and Hailey Gates.

The Dead Don’t Hurt (R) Viggo Mortensen writes, directs, and stars in this Western as a Danish immigrant who must leave his German wife (Vicky Krieps) alone on the frontier during the Civil War. Also with Garret Dillahunt, Jason Clarke, Solly McLeod, W. Earl Brown, Shane Graham, Rafel Plana, Nadia Litz, John Getz, Ray McKinnon, and Danny Huston. 

Ezra (R) Tony Goldwyn directs and co-stars in this drama about a standup comic (Bobby Cannavale) who takes a road trip with his autistic son (William A. Fitzgerald). Also with Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne, Rainn Wilson, Tess Goldwyn, Matilda Lawler, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Whoopi Goldberg.

The Fall Guy (PG-13) This big-screen version of the 1980s TV show is catnip for anyone who thinks stunt performers should be able to win Oscars. Ryan Gosling plays a Hollywood stuntman who’s called in to investigate the disappearance of a movie star (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) from the set of a blockbuster that’s filming in Australia. Director David Leitch is a former stuntman himself, and while he’s had trouble handling humor in his past projects as a director, here the laughs sit easily on the story as the stuntman has to deal with his ex-girlfriend (Emily Blunt), who happens to be directing the movie. The climax features so many stunts that it turns out to be too much of a good thing. The movie is better when focusing on the little details that help stunt performers do their job, making this an endearing tribute to the profession. Also with Hannah Waddingham, Winston Duke, Stephanie Hsu, Teresa Palmer, Ben Knight, Adam Dunn, Kalkida China, Heather Thomas, Lee Majors, and an uncredited Jason Momoa.

Farki Farki (NR) This Nepalese romantic film stars Anmol KC and Jassita Gurung as two lovers caught in an infinite time loop. Also with Ravi Kafle and Samriddhi Aryal.

Gam Gam Ganesha (NR) This Telugu-language film stars Anand Devarakonda, Vennela Kishore, Raj Arjun, Krishna Chaitanya, Satyam Rajesh, and Nayan Sarika.

Gangs of Godavari (NR) Vishwak Sen stars in this action thriller as a man trying to navigate organized crime and politics in India in the 1980s. Also with Anjali, Neha Shetty, Nassar, P. Sai Kumar, Hyper Aadi, and Ayesha Khan.

The Garfield Movie (PG) And still filmmakers haven’t deciphered how to make a good movie about the comic-strip cat. This animated version stars Chris Pratt as the fat orange kitty, whose long-lost father (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) comes back into his life because he’s in debt to a cat mob boss (voiced by Hannah Waddingham) with a personal grudge. I would say Pratt is the wrong actor to voice such a sardonic character, but the generic adventure that follows doesn’t have much to do with Garfield at all, nor does it show much understanding of what made him popular in the first place. Some of the sequences in this Sony Animation film showcasing Garfield’s obsession with Italian food feel like outtakes from the studio’s Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs movies, but that’s not enough to lift this. Odie (voiced by Harvey Guillén) is the real hero here, which maybe cinches the idea that these filmmakers don’t know Garfield. Additional voices by Ving Rhames, Cecily Strong, Nicholas Hoult, Brett Goldstein, Bowen Yang, and Snoop Dogg. 

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.

Haikyuu!! The Dumpster Battle (PG-13) This Japanese anime spinoff of the TV and manga series has Shoyo (Ayumu Murase) and his volleyball team advancing to the third round of the national tournament. Additional voices by Kaito Ishikawa, Yûki Kaji, Yûichi Nakamura, Kôki Uchiyama, HIsao Egawa, and Nobuaki Fukuda. 

I Saw the TV Glow (PG-13) Whether you think of this as a movie about being trans or a movie about being a fan of a TV show, it’s a work of unsettling power. Justice Smith and Dallas native Brigette Lundy-Paine portray outcast teens who grow up in the 1990s and bond over their love for a supernatural teen drama called The Pink Opaque. Filmmaker Jane Schoenbrun is transfeminine and non-binary, and relates to the deep disconnect of their characters. They also extensively reference Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and their tube-lit glow of suburban America is punched up by striking visuals like a soft-serve ice cream monster in the TV show. Our lead actors also conjure up some fearsome conviction as teens so seduced by fiction that they become unmoored from reality. This won’t satisfy fans of more conventional horror films, but those open to its alienated point of view may find this movie following them home and staring at them balefully from the darkness. Also with Ian Foreman, Helena Howard, Lindsey Jordan, Amber Benson, Emma Portner, Fred Durst, and Danielle Deadwyler.

IF (PG) John Krasinski the writer comes up with a great premise, and then John Krasinski the director immediately squanders it. John Krasinski the actor portrays a widowed father who’s having heart surgery in a New York hospital, so his 12-year-old daughter (Cailey Fleming) moves in with her grandma (Fiona Shaw) in the city. When she acquires the ability to see and talk to kids’ imaginary friends whose children have outgrown them, she has to team up with the grandmother’s shut-in neighbor (Ryan Reynolds) to rehome them with new kids. The pacing is slack, the movie takes forever to get Reynolds on the screen, the director yanks at our heartstrings in exhausting fashion, and worst of all, a stacked voice cast is wasted. Also with Alan Kim, Liza Colón-Zayas, and Bobby Moynihan. Voices by Steve Carell, Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, Blake Lively, Awkwafina, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Sam Rockwell, Jon Stewart, Bill Hader, Amy Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key, Matthew Rhys, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Sebastian Maniscalco, and the late Louis Gossett Jr.

In a Violent Nature (NR) Not a retro-1980s horror film, but something more interesting. This Canadian import follows the killer rather than the stupid young people he chases around the woods of northern Ontario. Writer-director Chris Nash spends most of the time either taking the camera behind the slasher (Ry Barrett) as he plods around the forest or filming him without showing his face. This tactic is so effective that it’s needlessly jarring when Nash breaks from the format. The technique on display is ruthless, so it’s too bad that the movie fails to comment on the tropes of slasher flicks the way previous films have. There’s still no denying Nash’s talent behind the camera. With a few more ideas, he’ll be a filmmaker to reckon with. Also with Andrea Pavlovic, Reece Presley, Cameron Love, Liam Leone, Charlotte Creaghan, Lea Rose Sebastianis, Sam Roulston, Alexander Oliver, Timothy Paul McCarthy, and Lauren-Marie Taylor.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13) The latest installment in the series is proficient and stubbornly unexciting. Decades after Caesar’s death, ape civilization has gone to hell, with a king (Kevin Durand) enslaving tribes of apes to glorify himself. The lone survivor of one captive tribe (Owen Teague) resolves to free his people with the help of a starving human (Freya Allan) who has her own agenda. Director Wes Ball (from the Maze Runner films) is more comfortable with these CGI simians than he is with human beings, and the action sequences are legible without ever raising the pulse. It’s all eminently watchable, and it exists at entirely too comfortable a remove. Also with Peter Macon, Eka Darville, Lydia Peckham, Sara Wiseman, Travis Jeffery, and William H. Macy. 

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.

Mr. and Mrs. Mahi (NR) This Indian sports comedy stars Rajkummar Rao as a failed cricketer who starts a women’s cricket team with his new wife (Janhvi Kapoor) as the star. Also with Rajesh Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Abhishek Banerjee, and Arjit Taneja. 

Sight (PG-13) This drama stars Terry Chen as the real-life eye surgeon and Chinese refugee who confronts his past while trying to save the vision of a young girl (Mia SwamiNathan). Also with Greg Kinnear, Natasha Mumba, Raymond Ma, Wai Ching Ho, Leanne Wang, and Fionnula Flanagan. 

The Strangers: Chapter 1 (R) It’s the same movie! This is the same movie as the 2008 slasher flick! Madelaine Petsch and Froy Gutierrez play a couple who rent an Airbnb in the remote Oregon countryside and then are stalked by the trio of masked killers. This is intended as the first in a trilogy of horror films, but did they have to repeat the original so slavishly? And where does the series go from here? Neither the killers nor the protagonist victims are interesting enough to merit their own cinematic universe. Neither the acting nor Renny Harlin’s direction are enough to make this movie stand on its own. Also with Richard Brake, Rachel Shenton, Gabriel Basso, Ema Horvath, and Ella Bruccoleri. 

Summer Camp (PG-13) Kathy Bates, Diane Keaton, and Alfre Woodard star as three childhood friends who reunite at the camp where they used to spend their summers. Also with Eugene Levy, Beverly D’Angelo, Betsy Sodaro, Victoria Rowell, Nicole Richie, and Dennis Haysbert. 

Tarot (PG-13) A bunch of stupid young people get their horoscope readings from a cursed tarot deck despite numerous warnings about what might happen, then they start dying mysteriously. That is not the end of the dumb decisions that they make in this horror movie. Newcomer Harriet Slater has the only semi-developed character here, and she gives it everything she has, but she can’t begin to overcome the relentless idiocy of this affair. To top it all off, the movie falls victim to the Kill Your Gays trope. The original title of this movie was Horrorscope, which would have been an improvement, but not enough to save this. Also with Jacob Batalon, Avantika, Adain Bradley, Humberly González, Larsen Thompson, Wolfgang Novogratz, and Olwen Fouéré.

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. 

Young Woman and the Sea (PG) The story of Gertrude Ederle has been Disneyfied into this perfectly ordinary sports drama. Daisy Ridley plays the New Yorker of German extraction who, after a disappointing showing at the 1924 Olympics, decides to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. The movie gets a jolt from Stephen Graham as the Scotsman who accomplishes the feat and unexpectedly swoops in to coach Gertrude, and there’s a vivid sequence with Gertrude swimming through a patch of red jellyfish. Still, director Joachim Rønning follows the template too obediently to make this period piece come to life. Nyad is the much odder and better film about the loneliness of the long-distance swimmer. Also with Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Kim Bodnia, Jeanette Hain, Ethan Rouse, Sian Clifford, Glenn Fleshler, Olive Abercrombie, Alexander Karim, and Christopher Eccleston. 

 

DALLAS EXCLUSIVES

 

Deer Camp ’86 (R) This horror-comedy is about a group of friends in 1986 who go deer hunting only to find something hunting them. Starring Noah LaLonde, Jay J. Bidwell, Brian Michael Raetz, Arthur Cartwright, Josh Dominguez, David Lautman, Tina Joy, and Paul Wilson.

Twisted Hearts (NR) This comedy is about three couples seeking to repair their relationships at a retreat. Starring Cocoa Brown, Emelina Adams, Adrian Lockett, Lauren Ashley White, Will Colburn, Mashayla Barnes, Kelly Stewart, and Leland B. Martin.

 

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