New Movies to Watch This Week: ‘House of Gucci,’ ‘Encanto’

·250 min read

Fall movie season is upon us — though the release schedule has never been more confusing, with some blockbusters heading directly to streaming, others in theaters only and various independent films mixing up strategies between theaters, streaming and VOD releases.

Let Variety help you find that next well-earned bit of escapism, whether it’s the highly anticipated “House of Gucci” or the timely Thanksgiving drama “The Humans.”

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Here’s a rundown of the films opening this week that Variety has covered, along with information on where you can watch them. Find more movies and TV shows to stream here.

New Releases for the Week of Nov. 26

Exclusively in Theaters

Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Sideshow/Janus Films
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Haruki Murakami’s short story “Drive My Car” is a sleek, streamlined slip of a thing that nonetheless, in the author’s signature style, packs an awful lot into its lean sentences. It’s a grief-stricken marriage story enfolded in a corrupted friendship study, related in turn via a separate tale of odd-couple companionship, all told in fewer than 40 pages. The film adaptation pursues a kind of cinematic stillness to match Murakami’s plain, serene prose, and takes things suitably slow — this is the kind of film where the opening credits arrive 40 minutes in — as it ponders just how much time can heal all wounds. — Guy Lodge
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Encanto (Byron Howard)
Distributor: Walt Disney
Where to Find It: In theaters only
The film is a lively, lovely, lushly enveloping digitally animated musical fairy tale. It’s the 60th animated feature produced by the Walt Disney company, and to borrow a phrase from the old Disney TV series, it’s set in a wonderful world of color — a rapturously imagined, rainbow-gorgeous village tucked inside the misty green mountains of Colombia, where the members of the Madrigal family lead a magical existence. — Owen Gleiberman
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House of Gucci (Ridley Scott)
Distributor: United Artists Releasing
Where to Find It: In theaters only
There are moments in the film that will make your jaw drop and moments you’ll laugh at the sheer audacity of what you’re seeing, but just because the characters in a drama behave in an over-the-top shameless manner doesn’t mean that the film that’s observing them is over-the-top. “House of Gucci” is an icepick docudrama that has a great deal of fun with its grand roster of ambitious scoundrels, but it’s never less than a straight-faced and nimbly accomplished movie. — Owen Gleiberman
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Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Distributor: MGM/Focus
Where to Find It: In selected theaters only
Anderson re-creates the Encino of his childhood with much affection and attention to detail. Named for the regional record chain where Valley kids got their vinyl — but ostensibly Anderson’s own “Once Upon a Time in North Hollywood (or a few blocks west thereof)” — “Licorice Pizza” delivers a piping-hot, jumbo slice-of-life look at how it felt to grow up on the fringes of the film industry circa 1973, as seen through the eyes of an ambitious former child actor plotting how to follow up his early screen career. — Peter Debruge
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Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (Johannes Roberts)

Distributor: Screen Gems

Where to find it: Only in theaters

Gamers will quickly recognize that Roberts’ dual-track narrative is a combination of “Resident Evil” (Chris’ mission) and “Resident Evil 2” (Claire’s thread). There are plenty of other touches strewn throughout to please die-hards, including the appearance of a monstrous licker and Titan, underground laboratories and secret passages that are accessed by solving puzzles, and slow-moving zombies who suddenly lurch at would-be victims. — Nick Schager

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In Theaters and On Showtime

The Humans (Stephen Karam) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Showtime
“The Humans” is about a hundred or more recognizable aspects of being alive in America at this moment. It’s about how different generations interact with each other. It’s about tolerance, which flows both ways: parents who love their kids unconditionally, even when they show up with same-sex or nonwhite partners, and kids who find it in themselves to respect their folks’ old-fashioned Christian values. Above all, it’s about acceptance and reconciliation, whether that comes from a religious place or not. — Peter Debruge
Read the full review

New Releases for the Week of Nov. 19

Exclusively in Theaters

Bad Luck Banging (Radu Jude)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters only
A high school teacher and her husband make a sex tape, which finds its way onto the internet, sparking outrage among her pupils’ parents, in Jude’s irreverent contemporary satire. This provocative and unapologetically profane Buñuelian prank is one of the first examples of a genuine auteur work to emerge in a world upended by COVID-19. Shooting mostly outdoors and incorporating such details as social distancing and personal protective equipment add of-the-moment texture to this absurdist time capsule. — Peter Debruge
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Bruised (Halle Berry)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters only, followed by Netflix on Nov. 24
Impressive as Berry’s commitment to the role can be, there’s a mirthless predictability to the whole ordeal. This pro forma sports drama, which clearly means so much to its creator, unfolds pretty much exactly as you’d expect, leaning hard on pathos when what it really needs is personality. No one expects Berry to reinvent the sports movie, but still she manages to impress on both sides of the camera in the final act. There, in the ring, actor and character alike are reminding themselves — and the world — what they’re capable of. — Peter Debruge
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C’mon C’mon (Mike Mills)
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It: In theaters only
If filmmaker Miranda July hadn’t gotten there first, “The Future” would have made a fine title for fellow director (and husband) Mills’ latest feature, “C’mon C’mon,” a small, soft-spoken yet casually profound family drama in which a subdued, post-“Joker” Joaquin Phoenix plays a middle-aged radio journalist who travels the country interviewing kids, asking what they think about their lives and where the world is headed. — Peter Debruge
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The First Wave (Matthew Heineman)
Distributor: National Geographic Documentary
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Heineman’s courageous and astonishing cinematic time capsule (which decisively never mentions Trump) is a salute to heroism, so specific in its distressing visuals that you can only watch it on this side of the pandemic when some semblance of normalcy has been restored thanks to the widely accessible vaccines. Audiences will be moved to tears often during it, and sometimes triggered to anger, knowing how vaccine refusal continues to burden the country’s healthcare workers who deserve a break at long last. — Tomris Laffly
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Ghostbuster: Afterlife (Jason Reitman)
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters only
The film is designed to work for those who’ve never seen any of the franchise’s earlier incarnations, and though the film adopts an unmistakably Amblin-esque vibe — there’s an obvious “what if the Goonies were Ghostbusters?” sensibility at work here, reinforced by Spielbergian magic-hour shots of kids assembling around a Devils Tower-shaped rock formation — you needn’t have grown up on such movies to appreciate how they elevate adolescent rejects to hero status. — Peter Debruge
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I Was A Simple Man (Christopher Makoto Yogi)
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Where to Find It: In theaters only
The film considers the troubling weight of impending death on the victim — as failing health, glitching memory and drifting ghosts of the past combine to disorienting effect — as well as on his burdened, emotionally conflicted family. Yet there’s serene peace here amid the trauma: At the film’s most lyrical points, mortality doesn’t seem a threat or a ticking clock, so much as a breeze to which you eventually bend. It might help, of course, to be surrounded by the gracious greenery and oceanic soundtrack of Oahu, to which “I Was a Simple Man” also functions as a lovely, loving ode. — Guy Lodge
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India Sweets and Spices (Geeta Malik)
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Packing a conventional coming-of-age tale into its pleasantly paced running time, Geeta Malik’s sophomore feature — about old-fashioned multicultural families with storied roots and their modern, independently minded offspring — doesn’t offer all that much that is thematically surprising. But the writer-director’s hearty enthusiasm for her Indian American characters of different stripes manages to deliver distinct yet relatable tastes to the viewer all the same. — Tomris Laffly
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The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters only, followed by Netflix on Dec. 1
The film is a frontier Western made with a stately and austere poker-faced modernist classicism, and roiling undercurrents, that sometimes bring the earlier film to mind. It’s a movie in which Campion, who shot it in her native New Zealand, works with a full-scale, at times painterly precision and control. It’s also a socially conscious psychodrama that builds, over time, to a full boil. — Owen Gleiberman
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In Theaters and On Demand

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road (Brent Wilson)
Distributor: Screen Media Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
The film takes the form of yet another classically structured overview of Brian Wilson’s career. Only this one cuts back and forth between the saga of Wilson and the Beach Boys and a “Carpool Karaoke”-style conversation between Brian, still hale and hanging in there with his tentative, blunted, anxiety-ridden, doggedly sincere approach to everyday experience. Ultimately, the film is a love letter to Brian Wilson — to all the beauty he has given the world, but also to the fact that he made it through his crack-ups and came out the other side. — Owen Gleiberman
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Captains of Zaatari (Ali El Arabi)
Distributor: Utopia
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Through his profoundly humanistic nonfiction feature debut “Captains of Zaatari,” a moving tale of two Syrian teenagers with a deep love for soccer, filmmaker Ali El Arabi captures what that kind of hope can mean to those with bleakly limited options. He does so with stunning cinematic artistry and precision, honoring the lives he portrays with authenticity and respect. — Tomris Laffly
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The Feast (Lee Haven Jones)
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
The film is designed as a critique of the protagonist Glenda’s disdain, her casual snobbery toward the heritage and history of the farmland she grew up on. And yet this austere and engrossing little horror could almost be charged with a similar crime: “The Feast” laments our grasping era’s loss of respect for the ancient land, its flora and fauna and earthy folk culture, but it is itself as coolly, gleamingly modern as brushed steel. — Jessica Kiang
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Zeroes and Ones (Abel Ferrara)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Deliberately, calculatedly and in the kind of messy intuitive manner that’s been the director’s signature of late, the film reproduces the general state of unease and insecurity that’s plagued most of us during lockdown, when deserted nighttime city streets are even more unsettling than in a noir film and paranoia about who gains from exploiting these empty mental and physical spaces generates troubling reflections. Ferrara won’t be expanding his fan base, but its hunger should be temporarily sated. — Jay Weissberg
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Exclusively on HBO

Jagged (Alison Klayman)
Distributor: HBO
Where to Find It: Only on HBO
The film is a sharp, lively, and entertaining deep-dive-into-the-archive music documentary. It tells the story of Alanis Morissette’s rise, and of how she took over (and changed) the pop music landscape, in 1995, with the release of “Jagged Little Pill.” The album went on to sell 33 million copies; it remains the second biggest-selling album of the ’90s, and the 12th biggest album of all time. But even before those stats piled up, you could feel the revolutionary fervor of it. — Owen Gleiberman
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In Theaters and on HBO Max

King Richard (Reinaldo Marcus Green)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
The vast majority of sports movies are about exceptional talent. “King Richard” is about exceptional belief: the conviction of one man, Richard Williams, that he could turn his daughters Venus and Serena into the world’s greatest tennis players. It’s a plan he hatched — together with wife/queen Brandi — even before the girls were born and put down in a 78-page manifesto, nearly all of which has come true (or so the film informs us over the end credits). Hindsight makes this a story worth telling. At the time, everyone thought he was crazy. — Peter Debruge
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On FX and Hulu

Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson (Jodi Gomes)
Distributor: Hulu
Where to Find It: On FX and on Hulu
The documentary often lends the sense that there’s surprisingly little to be learned from Jackson’s story — that it’s such a one-of-a-kind confluence of forces as to be incomparable to anything else from recent pop history, and that its net effects on Jackson’s career have happily come to seem a footnote on a long and remarkable career. By story’s end, when Jackson is triumphantly thanking her fans for sticking by her until her latest triumph, viewers could be forgiven for wondering the point of relitigating her lowest moment. — Daniel D’Addario
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Only On Demand

The Pebble and the Boy (Chris Green)
Distributor: Lightbulb Film Distribution
Where to Find It: Only on demand
An anodyne Manchester-to-Brighton road movie that somewhat wishfully imagines a strain of enduring mod enthusiasm in today’s teens, “The Pebble and the Boy” forgets the present-day touch that made the earlier revival hip, presenting us with a pair of Zoomers on scooters who feel wholly middle-aged in conception and sensibility. The result is an exercise in retro-upon-retro nostalgia that feels as ill-defined as a Xerox of a Xerox, though die-hard dad mods will thrill to its styling and soundtrack. — Guy Lodge
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In Theaters and On Netflix

Prayers for the Stolen (Tatiana Huezo) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Netflix
Most of the time, however, the Mexican drug trade is an impersonal threat that hovers like the helicopters that with minimal warning will spray toxic chemicals onto the poppy crop and onto any unsuspecting passerby who has not taken shelter. Like childhood itself, Huezo’s film, which is loosely adapted from Jennifer Clement’s 2014 novel of the same name, unfolds in episodes and pauses and interludes; catastrophe, when it comes, is all the more devastating for our complete immersion in the world it will threaten to destroy. — Jessica Kiang
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New Releases for the Week of Nov. 12

In Theaters and on Paramount Plus

Clifford the Big Red Dog (Walt Becker)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Paramount Plus
The movie’s Clifford, who is every inch a genuine (giant) dog, is less overtly goofy than the PBS version. But have no fear: The movie, directed by Walt Becker (who did one of the “Alvin” films), more than makes up for that restraint with its aggressively giddy tone of over-the-top wholesome vandalism — a tone born in the comedies of the 1980s that has never really gone away. “Clifford the Big Red Dog” becomes a rowdy chase film — as agreeable as Clifford himself, as simultaneously cute and in-your-face, and as genially random in its ability to create chaos. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusively on Disney Plus

Home Sweet Home Alone (Dan Mazer)
Distributor: Disney Plus
Where to Find It: Only on Disney Plus
The narrative struggles to assign the power positions of tormenter and victim. They’re constantly in flux, causing audience sympathy to eventually wane as we question why we want to see victims of financial hardship get pummeled by a little rich kid. The film’s downfall is leaning too far into parental drama, and blunting the satisfying feeling kids have watching their cinematic avatar demonstrate physical and mental aptitude. The iconic original “Home Alone” captured lightning in a bottle. Perhaps it’s true that we can never truly go home again. — Courtney Howard
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Exclusively in Theaters

Love Is Love Is Love (Eleanor Coppola)
Distributor: Blue Fox Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters only
The upscale location of each tale and the corralling of a talented cast put one in mind of Nancy Meyers’ posh string of rom-coms. Only, Coppola and co-writer Karen Leigh Hopkins take on their female characters’ experiences more earnestly. Yet the more the film asserts the truths of these women’s lives, the more sealed off those lives seem from a world that informs and rebuffs. — Lisa Kennedy
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Paper & Glue (JR)
Distributor: Abramorama
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Jauntily scored by Adam Peters and jazzily edited by Keiko Deguchi, “Paper & Glue” benefits from the earnest enthusiasm of JR, whose eagerness and energy are matched by the strength of his convictions. JR’s beliefs are articulated so frequently that they might come across as platitudes if not for the striking power of his work, which uses enormity to wordlessly express his message, and whose impermanence additionally reflects the flesh-and-blood mortality of those captured in his frame. Far more than JR’s exposition, it’s those vistas of titanic eyes and visages which say much about the universal ties that bind us all together. — Nick Schager
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Tick, Tick…Boom! (Lin-Manuel Miranda)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters only, followed by Netflix on Nov. 19
Miranda crams “Tick, Tick … Boom!” with hidden treasures for theater types while treating the events contained in the film as formative influences on “Rent.” What’s refreshing about the debuting director’s approach is that it feels relatively egoless. His style is playful and energetic, often intercutting between multiple threads within a given song or scene, but it doesn’t feel as if Miranda is calling attention to himself so much as trying to open up the show — to give it the wings Jonathan sings about in the final number. — Peter Debruge
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Belfast (Kenneth Branagh) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters only
His execution might not always be the most original, but Branagh is a gifted filmmaker with an instinct for connection. Years onstage have taught him how to move and manipulate an audience, and those instincts make this a far more accessible coming-of-age story than Cuarón’s — which, it should be said, was less about the kids than their indigenous nanny, serving as a late-life homage to an underappreciated second mother. Branagh goes for a more populist approach, relying on sentimentality and the sound of Van Morrison (eight familiar songs, one new) to trigger the desired emotions. — Peter Debruge
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Julia (Julie Cohen, Betsy West)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Where to Find It: In theaters only
It’s a little disappointing that anyone with even a working knowledge of Child is unlikely to emerge from “Julia” having learned anything new — or at least, nothing more surprising than a couple of tasteful nude photos from the Child archives. Cohen and West hold their subject in palpable esteem and affection, but their perspective is scarcely more probing than Nora Ephron’s fictionalized 2009 comedy “Julie & Julia,” in which Meryl Streep’s full-bore performance gave many younger audiences their first sense of Child’s eccentric screen presence. “Julia” offers us glimpses of a complex, brittle personality beneath the robust persona, but is either too cautious or too genuinely besotted with the latter to pry it out. — Guy Lodge
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Uppercase Print (Radu Jude)
Distributor: Big World Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Berlin title “Uppercase Print” certainly continues this course, projecting those concerns onto the oppressive nature of life in the Ceausescu-blighted early 1980s. But while the film feels closest in kinship to “Barbarians” and dances with similar ideas involving theatricality, re-creation and everyday propaganda (here represented by a fascinating array of clips from contemporary television shows and advertisements culled from Jude’s impressively exhaustive ongoing trawl through the National Television Archives), it lacks a little of the shrewd, sparking intellectual electricity that so energized his 2018 Karlovy Vary winner. In “Uppercase Print,” the fangs of the past are sharp, but muzzled. — Jessica Kiang
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What Do We See When We Look At The Sky? (Alexandre Koberidze) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Mubi
Where to Find It: In theaters only
The command, along with other self-conscious flourishes like the direct-address voiceover, the creaky, obviously manual zooms and the sudden, interruptive digressions about global catastrophe and far-off forest fires, reminds us of ourselves in relation to the film, that we are active participants in the creation of this (or any) work of cinema. And given how much this movie loves the movies, as well as dogs, music, children, soccer, ice cream, the ancient Georgian town of Kutaisi, and the very process of falling in love, there is something immensely hopeful and moving about being thus invited to collude. — Jessica Kiang
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In Theaters and Virtual Cinemas

Mother, I Am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You. (Jeremiah Lemohang Moses)
Distributor: Dekanalog
Where to Find It: In theaters and virtual cinemas
The roving black and white cinematography that underscores a clipped, poetic voiceover addresses the African continent hoping to make literal the spirit behind the term “motherland.” All the while, given that we’re placed in an unnamed African country, this documentary feature playfully retools the simple and simplistic way the region often gets collapsed in the global imagination. But as the title makes clear, the film is a letter addressed in anger, in frustration. But also with love. Or, with tenderness, at least. — Manuel Betancourt
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In Theaters and On Demand

Night Raiders (Danis Goulet)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
At first, Goulet’s film seems like it might fall foul of this recently acquired insider knowledge: its set-up is both too familiar, in terms of previous peri-apocalyptic, survivalist sci-fi films, and not quite familiar enough to speak directly to the moment. But as it gathers momentum, it also gathers substantial interest from its setting within a doubly threatened and marginalized Indigenous community: this dark fable is not just some pessimistic fantasy, but another repetition in a cycle of oppression and colonialist violence that has been ongoing, in the real world, for generations. — Jessica Kiang
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In Theaters and On Netflix

Passing (Rebecca Hall) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Netflix
In terms of overt drama, “Passing” is perhaps a slender story, but it could only feel undernourished if you don’t share Hall’s fascination with the tides of envy and longing that flow between these women, and if you somehow are not beguiled by their richly imagined interior lives — especially Irene’s. If you are attuned to this unusually elusive wavelength, there is plenty of dramatic tension here, but it’s the tension of inevitability, of arcs of deception that, however long, tend toward exposure in the end. — Jessica Kiang
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New Releases for the Week of Nov. 5

Exclusively in Theaters

Eternals (Chloé Zhao)
Distributor: Disney
Where to Find It: In theaters only
The film feels very standard. It’s in the genre of team superhero movies, and at this point, between the Avengers and the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy and the Justice League, the Suicide Squad and the Fantastic Four, there have been more than 20 of those. They have their tropes — the camaraderie and the backbiting, the falling apart and the coming together. Zhao works within those tropes, lending them sturdy drama and dimension and springing some major twists on the audience. “Eternals” is a fluid and sometimes bedazzling entertainment I’d place on the next tier, because it never transcends its conventionality and makes you go “Damn!” Maybe next time, Zhao can raise the stakes on the heroic vibes by mixing in a drop of nomad reality. — Owen Gleiberman
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Dangerous (David Hackl)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters only
“Dangerous” is a bits-and-pieces action thriller with a fluky premise and a lead actor good enough to embody it. Made in the slipshod, overlit style of a straight-to-streaming potboiler, it’s not a rip-off so much as a film built out of spare parts from other movies, to the point that it never fully becomes itself. Eastwood has the requisite stylish coldness to play a killer the movie itself characterizes as “insane,” and to get you to root for him. But “Dangerous,” as directed by David Hackl, is still a shambles of a movie, with a plot so contrived yet abstract that you spend each scene asking yourself how it’s all supposed to add up. — Owen Gleiberman
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Red Notice (Rawson Marshall Thurber)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters only, followed by Netflix on Nov. 12
It’s all reasonably clever, so long as you don’t scrutinize it too closely. “Red Notice” could be Thurber’s spin on “National Treasure,” with just as much DNA from the RKO classic “Gunga Din.” The writer-director proves plenty adept at coming up with excuses for these characters to infiltrate and escape elaborately protected locations, and though the movie relies a bit too much on cumbersome exposition (the film’s first minutes are some of the clunkiest the genre has ever seen), it moves quickly enough that most audiences won’t stumble into — or even stop to question — the plot’s many holes. Like a skilled con artist, the movie steals your time, but leaves you feeling like you got the more advantageous end of the deal. — Peter Debruge
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7 Prisoners (Alexandre Moratto)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters only, followed by Netflix on Nov. 11

It’s here where Moratto’s film, heart-quickening as it is, wants for the character-based subtlety and sensitivity of his debut. It immerses us so deeply in the “what would you do” aspect of its storytelling that what they do, and why, gets shorter shrift. Still, “7 Prisoners’ unfolds satisfyingly, precisely by not offering us complete satisfaction or certainty. The question hovers of whether Mateus can ever escape his prison altogether, or merely into one with more comfortable furniture. — Guy Lodge
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Love It Was Not (Maya Sarfaty)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Among the many strengths of this superbly assembled film is the way Sarfaty makes clear the ever-present pressures of Helena’s situation. In Auschwitz, some envied her position and protector. Later, in Israel, she is investigated as a possible collaborator. When she is summoned to provide evidence in Wunsch’s case, it’s not as simple as trying to save the man who saved her or to testify as a proud Jew against the brutal Nazi he was. Likewise, viewers are able to see Wunsch as both cruel and severe in his work and a man of compassion and tenderness, sincere in his love for Helena. On the tech side, kudos are due to Sharon Yaish’s precise cutting, Ayelet Albenda and Shlomit Gopher’s painstaking photo montage work and Paul Gallister’s evocative but sparsely used tonal score. — Alissa Simon
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Spencer (Pablo Larraín) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Kristen Stewart doesn’t just do an impersonation (though on the level of impersonation she’s superb). She transforms; she changes her aspect, her rhythm, her karma. Watching her play Diana, we see an echo, perhaps, of Stewart’s own ambivalent relationship to stardom — the way that she’ll stand on an awards podium, chewing her lip, reveling in the attention even as she’s slightly uncomfortable with it (and even as she makes that distrust of the limelight a key element of her stardom). Mostly, though, what we see in Stewart’s Diana is a woman of homegrown elegance, with a luminosity that pours out of her, except that part of her is now driven to crush that radiance, because her life has become a wreck. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusively on Shudder

Dead & Beautiful (David Verbeek)
Distributor: Shudder
Where to Find It: Shudder
“Dead & Beautiful” lacks narrative bite but never lacks visual appeal. Verbeek, who has made several films in Taiwan, and cinematographer Jasper Wolf (“Monos”) bring all the sheen and gloss of a high-end fashion commercial to depictions of the protagonist’s luxurious lifestyle in glitzy nightclubs and expensive restaurants. Wolf’s framing of the vampire clique prowling through eerily deserted streets and in later scenes in a seaside location bring a hypnotic other-worldliness to the tale. Monica Petit’s eye-catching costumes and a sleek electronic score by Rutger Reinders round out the film’s top-notch packaging. — Richard Kuipers
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In Theaters and On Demand

Beans (Tracey Deer)
Distributor: FilmRise
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Drawing on her own childhood experience of the 1990 events, Mohawk writer-director Tracey Deer’s powerful, impassioned film “Beans” picks at an unformed scab. The rhetoric of revolution is simpler than the draining, disorienting process of living through one: “Beans” is a thoughtful, stirring reflection by someone who survived it all, quietly demanding acknowledgement not just of her land, but of her life. — Guy Lodge
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The Beta Test (Jim Cummings, PJ McCabe)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
“The Beta Test” is a furtive satire of Hollywood corruption, a libidinous thriller about how the treacherous risks of adultery have been magnified by #MeToo and the age of digital tracking, and a nightmare of Internet consumerism run amok. The film’s elements don’t mesh as seamlessly as they should have. “Thunder Road,” which Cummings wrote and directed himself, was all of a piece. “The Beta Test,” like Cummings’ “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” (2020), is almost too ambitious, tucking a surfeit of ideas into its heightened surrealist mindscape. Yet the movie, at its best, holds you in its grip. — Owen Gleiberman
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Ida Red (John Swab)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
What holds “Ida Red” together and gives it solidity is the relationships between Wyatt, Jeanie and Darla, which might not be entirely original but they don’t need to be thanks to good ensemble performances, with Hartnett very much at ease and Hublitz making an impression in her biggest role to date. Leo gets one major monologue when Ida goes before the parole board, allowing her to show off her attention-getting skills. Camerawork is in line with action films of the ’80s and ’90s, complete with an over-reliance on music driving the action forward, while scene transition wipes using horizontal and vertical lines fits with Swab’s indebtedness to ’60s and ’70s stylizations. — Jay Weissberg
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Mark, Mary & Some Other People (Hannah Marks)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Thanks to cinematographer Casey Stolberg and composer Patrick Stump (as well as brief animation and ’70s-era title cards), the film has an aesthetic verve that serves its momentum well, and its supporting players help keep the action energized throughout. Marks introduces further climactic complications only to then resolve them too easily, missing out on even thornier dramatic dilemmas in the process. Nonetheless, a bittersweet finale allows her sophomore feature to function as an alternately silly and poignant cautionary tale about the fragility of love. — Jay Weissberg
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New Releases for the Week of Oct. 29

Exclusively on Netflix

Army of Thieves (Matthias Schweighöfer)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: Netflix
The movie isn’t as invested as it pretends to be in the playful intricacy of the how-to-break-in-and-out-of-a-bank logistics. Whatever it does, it knows that the “Ocean’s” films probably did it better. But here’s what’s funny, surprising, and at times a bit winning about “Army of Thieves.” Sebastian, eager and addled, a safecracking artist without a criminal bone in his body (well, maybe one or two), and a romantic nerd with a pop-eyed gaze under his shock of blond hair, like a weirdly sincere Malcolm McLaren, is always front and center. And a lot of what the film is interested in is the mystical niftiness of seeing him crack open those safes — in particular, a fabulously complicated set of them, designed and built by a German locksmith in homage to the four operas that make up Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. — Owen Gleiberman
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Hypnotic (Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: Netflix
The sleek, cold modern locales favored by production designer Roger Fires, capably shot by DP John S. Bartley, heighten the film’s air of polish minus strong personality, let alone panache. You may quit “Hypnotic” with more recall than a hypnotic trance would have allowed, but this hour and a half also seems destined to erase itself from memory. — Nick Schager
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Exclusively in Theaters

Antlers (Scott Cooper)
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters only
This slow-burn, Oregon-set monster movie is centered on the Native American “wendigo” legend, whereby an evil spirit possesses people and transforms them into deadly elk-horned creatures. What makes “Antlers” so disturbing isn’t the movie’s tension- and dread-building mechanics so much as the way the filmmaker burrows into the minds of his two main characters. Something incredibly wrong is happening at home for Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas), and Julia (Keri Russell) is well suited to identify the problem and intervene on his behalf. — Peter Debruge
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Cicada (Matthew Fifer)
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Where to Find It:
At the Quad in New York, followed by VOD on Nov. 5
Writer-director-producer-editor-star Fifer’s debut feature processes lived experience into a cracked, anguished work of autofiction, raggedly cathartic and needfully unresolved as it sketches young queer lives in different stages of self-acceptance. Delicately tracing the first summery blush of romance between two Brooklyn men respectively hindered by their own private trauma, “Cicada” is self-indulgent in the most forgivable, even fruitful, way, with stretches of nervy improvisation and everyday poetry that feel aptly rough and bruised. — Guy Lodge
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Last Night In Soho (Edgar Wright)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters only
“Last Night in Soho” tacitly mourns the present-day gentrification of the titular district, where anonymous office slabs and bougie chains are fast replacing the red-light delights of old, to safer but less characterful effect. Yet Wright’s film feels itself part-gentrified, dressing up cheap genre thrills in a distanced, dignifying gauze of nostalgia, and all the less fun for it. — Guy Lodge
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Minyan (Eric Steel)
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Where to Find It: In theaters only
This is a subtle film, so understated at times that Steel’s intentions may escape audiences entirely. But it’s shot by the same DP as last year’s “Judy” (who trades razzle-dazzle for a range of dull browns and taupe) and carried by the performance of the young actor who plays its teenage protagonist, Samuel H. Levine, a yeshiva student who discovers clues to his sexuality in an unlikely place, the Jewish retirement center where he agrees to board with his widowed grandfather. — Peter Debruge
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A Mouthful of Air (Amy Koppelman)
Distributor: Sony
Where to Find It: In theaters only
It often seems like vital narrative pieces of “A Mouthful of Air” have been left on the cutting-room floor, and the result is a frustrating insubstantiality that’s exacerbated by the story’s lack of forward momentum. Preferring to imply rather than show or tell, the film is too affected to tug at the heartstrings, and that also goes for its many animated sequences from, and conversations about, Julie’s children’s book, which seek to elicit tears to an alienating degree. — Nick Schager
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Only the Animals (Dominik Moll)
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Where to Find It: In theaters only
On its snowy surface, this engrossing nonlinear thriller is about five people who knowingly or unknowing play a role in the death of a woman in southern France. But Moll has something more probing in mind, and to get there he uses a clever structure that keeps our synapses firing. The film, which opened the Venice Days section of the 2019 Venice film festival, should satisfy audiences who like their mystery thrillers frosty cold and constantly engaging. — Mark Keizer
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Snakehead (Evan Jackson Leong)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: In theaters only
It’s great to watch two powerful Asian female characters taking center stage in an American crime story with strong roots in real events and characters. With the plainly dressed Dai Mah directing operations with pen, paper and landline telephone from her featureless office and grungy basement, the film has a timeless and dateless character that emphasizes the ongoing, never-ending cycle of people being stripped of their dignity and traded for profit. — Richard Kuipers
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Speer Goes To Hollywood (Vanessa Lapa)
Distributor: Realworks LTD
Where to Find It: In theaters only
That’s the hole at the film’s center into which you wish you could reach to drag Speer out through time by the lapels to face a reckoning. That’s never going to happen, of course, but given that history already pulled its punches so much with this utterly amoral self-mythologist (whose fabrications have been wholly debunked in the decades since his death) one can’t help but wish “Speer Goes to Hollywood” at least got its knuckles bruised in the attempt. — Jessica Kiang
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The Spine of Night (Philip Gelatt, Morgan Galen King)
Distributor: RLJE Films
Where to Find It: In theaters only
“The Spine of Night” is best when it releases itself into pure, silly, gory spectacle. It’s the imagery that sticks here, whether it’s a steampunk aircraft propelled by vengeful crow-people, or mighty bodies cleft viscerally in twain, guts and blood spilling to earth like the goopy contents of a cracked egg. It’s a gory labor of love for the filmmakers, who have spent years ensuring that every 2D limb is ripped from its socket just so. When the fight itself is this lovingly rendered, what anyone’s fighting for seems an afterthought. — Guy Lodge
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Violet (Justine Bateman)
Distributor: Relativity Media
Where to Find It: In theaters only
It’s one thing for Violet to stick up for herself, telling off a sexist boss and unsupportive relatives. But in freeing Violet from the turmoil within, Bateman seems a little too comfortable with burning bridges, fire-bombing old relationships and disrespecting the parents who traumatized Violet in the first place. While catharsis can come at the snap of a finger, recovery is nearly always a far longer process, and this complicated character is anything but cured at the end. There’s bravery in Bateman’s willingness to explore this state of mind, but she rolls credits just as things are getting interesting: when Violet blocks out the voices and finally starts listening to herself. — Peter Debruge
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In Theaters and On Demand

Joy Ride (Bobcat Goldthwait)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Goldthwait and Gould prove to be engaging traveling companions offstage and amusing performers in the spotlight throughout “Joy Ride,” Goldthwait’s amiably no-frills account of their 2020 tour of comedy clubs in Los Angeles, Georgia and North Carolina. For the most part, “Joy Ride” focuses on the here and now, with both guys clearly enjoying themselves and each other’s company on the road and in the spotlight. Their delight is highly contagious. — Joe Leydon
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Roh (Emir Ezwan)
Distributor: Film Movement
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Though horror movies have increasingly gravitated toward jump scares and computer-generated FX, often the genre’s most unsettling exercises eschew such tricks for quiet, unadorned menace. That’s certainly the case with “Roh,” which was Malaysia’s submission for the best international feature Oscar last year. Ezwan’s directorial debut is a spare, eerie tale rooted in folk superstitions that are rendered credibly vivid by its thick yet subtle atmospherics. — Dennis Harvey
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Sisters (Yamina Benguigui)
Distributor: Distrib Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and in virtual cinemas
Despite vast differences in style, temperament and life priorities, there is palpable closeness between Zorah, Nohra and Djamila, the central French-Algerian siblings of this generations-spanning yet emotionally and visually flat familial movie. Played by Isabelle Adjani, Maïwenn and Rachida Brakni, three actors who are aptly of Algerian background or descent, the trio pursue their lives as contemporary, independent women in Paris, following their own voices in their chosen fields. — Tomris Laffly
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New Releases for the Week of Oct. 22

In Theaters and on HBO Max

Dune (Denis Villeneuve)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
It’s not just that the story loses its pulse. It loses any sense that we’re emotionally invested in it. The giant sandworms, who are protectors of the spice and burrow through the desert like a sinister underground tornado until they reveal themselves (they’re like monster nostrils that suck in everything in front of them), are good for a moment or two of old-fashioned creature-feature awe, but what, really, do they have to do with anything? “Dune” makes the worms, the dunes, the paramilitary spectacle, and the kid-savior-tests-his-mettle plot immersive — for a while. But then, as the movie begins to run out of tricks, it turns woozy and amorphous. Will Part II really be coming? It will if Part I is successful enough, and that isn’t foregone. It’s hard to build a cliffhanger on shifting sands. — Owen Gleiberman
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The French Dispatch - Credit: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
The French Dispatch - Credit: Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Exclusively In Theaters

Attica (Stanley Nelson)
Distributor:
Showtime Documentary Films
Where to Find It: In theaters now, followed by Showtime on Nov. 6 at 9pm ET/PT
Nelson’s stirring, scalding documentary about the 1971 Attica prison uprising is an essential film that can now stand as a definitive vision of that epochal event. Drawing from a staggering array of footage that has never been seen before, Nelson puts the event together, moment by moment, day by day, with a clarifying view of its place in history and an empathy that extends to every person onscreen: prisoners and guards, officials and relatives, politicians and observers, the reporters who came and recorded it all. We see every point-of-view; the presentation isn’t so much “incendiary” as novelistic. — Owen Gleiberman
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Becoming Cousteau (Liz Garbus)
Distributor: National Geographic Documentary Films, Picturehouse
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Becoming Cousteau,” Liz Garbus’s ardent and transporting documentary, is one of those movies that puts a life together so beautifully that you feel it heightening your awareness of everyday things. You may go into it thinking you already know a lot about the subject. Like many people of a certain age, I grew up watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” the ’60s TV documentary series that made Cousteau a household name. But the movie, as its title suggests, takes a deep dive into Cousteau way before he knew what he was onto. — Owen Gleiberman
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A Cop Movie (Alonso Ruiz Palacios) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by Netflix on Nov. 5
At times, “A Cop Movie” seems unnecessarily convoluted in its structure, but by the end, the brilliance of its design becomes clear: This is nothing short of an existential inquiry into what it takes to be a cop. By introducing actors into the equation, the director contrasts that impulse with the ‘motivation’ an outsider must find to imagine such a controversial choice of career. If getting there means breaking a few laws, that’s a risk Ruizpalacios is willing to take. — Peter Debruge
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The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Will Sharpe)
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by Prime Video on Nov. 5
Who might be the equivalent of Louis Wain today? A once-popular cartoonist perhaps, or a bland and beloved painter such as Thomas Kinkade? The movie needn’t make the case for Wain’s greatness to justify its own telling: His story is compelling, especially in its early chapters, and Sharpe’s distinctive style shows the director no shortage of tricks up his sleeve (with more to come in a career worth watching). The score, written by his brother Arthur, incorporates nontraditional elements like the theremin and the musical saw, reinforcing the movie’s all-around weirdness — though it’s no stranger than the enigmatic animals Louis Wain immortalized. — Peter Debruge
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The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters only
Apart from Ernst Lubitsch or Jacques Tati, it’s hard to imagine another director who has put this level of effort into crafting a comedy, where every costume, prop and casting choice has been made with such a reverential sense of absurdity. If that sounds airless or exhausting, think again: Sure, it takes work to unpack, but the ensemble ensures that Anderson’s humorous creations feel human. — Peter Debruge
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The Harder They Fall (Jeymes Samuel)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by Netflix on Nov. 3
Like “Young Guns” or “Tombstone” — the rare recent(ish) Westerns to have connected with audiences — “The Harder They Fall” is committed to putting its stamp on larger-than-life legends. The fact that their names aren’t nearly as well-known as Billy the Kid or Wyatt Earp makes the film all the more compelling, especially in the dot-dot-dot coda that follows the final shootout, leaving room either for further exploits or for other directors to come along and expand upon the same characters. — Peter Debruge
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Minyan (Eric Steel)
Distributor: Strand
Where to Find It: In theaters only
This is a subtle film, so understated at times that Steel’s intentions may escape audiences entirely. But it’s shot by the same DP as “Judy” (who trades razzle-dazzle for a range of dull browns and taupe) and carried by the performance of the young actor who plays its teenage protagonist, Samuel H. Levine, a yeshiva student who discovers clues to his sexuality in an unlikely place, the Jewish retirement center where he agrees to board with his widowed grandfather (Ron Rifkin). — Peter Debruge
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Ron’s Gone Wrong (Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine)
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters
It’s a shame that the mile-a-minute plot isn’t more focused. The writers would have done well to slow things down and spend more time exploring Barney and Ron’s offbeat dynamic, rather than obsessing over what Bubble thinks of the aberration. The climax finds Barney doing exactly what the company has been accused of, forcing a one-size-fits-all idea of friendship on everybody. But that’s the paradox of so many of these cartoons, with their heavy-handed corporate critiques: When test-marketed, four-quadrant confections ask kids to be skeptical of consumer culture while simultaneously urging them to buy the toys, one can’t help questioning the sincerity of their message. — Peter Debruge
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The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It: In theaters
Everything is fine and nothing is right in Joanna Hogg’s film, a dazzling, fragile follow-up to her semi-autobiographical coming-of-age stunner from 2019, which ended on the sudden death of Julie’s lover — a tragedy that bleeds through this continuation of her story in ways both blunt and brutally unspoken. Though fully distinct in its thematic and aesthetic fixations, “The Souvenir Part II” abuts its predecessor to form one of the medium’s most intimate, expressive portraits of the artist as a young woman — a mirror tilted just enough away from the filmmaker that the audience, too, can catch itself in the glass. — Guy Lodge
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Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making Of Wildflowers (Mary Wharton)
Distributor: Trafalgar Releasing
Where to Find It: In theaters
Built around a trove of 16mm footage discovered in 2020 in the Tom Petty archive, the film was shot by Petty’s filmographer Martyn Atkins while Petty was recording his second solo album, “Wildflowers” (1994), and performing on the concert tour that followed its release. Though it’s presented with a ragged black edge around it, the 16mm footage offers the kind of friendly, nothing-too-messy, straight-down-the-middle scenes you’d expect to see in a promotional CD extra. The recording-studio stuff was shot in black-and-white, and what it looks like, mostly, is a very hip beer commercial. — Owen Gleiberman
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Warning (Agata Alexander)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by Blu-ray and DVD on Oct. 26
The cautionary and philosophical musings here are thought-provoking yet unpretentiously presented. Alexander and company are fortunate to have Jane, an actor easily capable of the involvement and pathos needed for David, whose “Gravity”-like predicament lends the film a means to address those issues in more verbally explicit form. ‘They say it’s easier to live in an illusion than reality,’ he says, spelling out ”Warning’s” central critique — then its bemused, melancholic response, with “I thought all of this made sense, but none of it does.” — Dennis Harvey
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Dashcam
Dashcam

In Theaters and On Demand

At the Ready (Maisie Crow)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
This unsettling, often tender and thoroughly well-timed film takes a closer look at the unsound foundation the new government will be inheriting, as well as the consciousness the film’s three central Mexican-American teenagers gradually evolve as they move forward in their criminal justice program. In a way, Crow’s documentary could be this year’s “Boys State,” a vital film at a time of “Abolish ICE” and “Defund the Police” debates that urgently deserves to meet nationwide eyeballs beyond the festival circuit. — Tomris Laffly
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Dashcam (Rob Savage)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
“Dashcam” reunites director Rob Savage and his “Host” co-writers. Again, their hook is COVID-related, although rather than dealing with dutifully sequestered characters, the narrative this time is propelled by a noxious pandemic denier who flouts all contagion-prevention protocols. Her heedless travel affords a bigger, more action-packed canvas here, albeit one still framed by a “found footage” gist. That looser format brings mixed rewards, however, as “Dashcam” trades “Host’s” genuine creepiness for an in-ya-face hash of broad political satire, supernatural menace and near-incessant physical peril often rendered incoherent by the handheld camerawork. — Dennis Harvey
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De Gaulle (Gabriel Le Bomin)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: In theaters on on demand
This epically scaled, mainstream wartime drama feels sorely overdue, which makes it all the more frustrating that it’s saddle with a lackluster script unworthy of its larger-than-life subject and cookie-cutter visual aesthetics. Then again, perhaps no cinematic endeavor could really do justice to the significant legacy of de Gaulle. But Le Bomin and his co-writer Valérie Ranson-Enguiale give a portion of this massive undertaking a shot anyway, focusing specifically on the earlier part of de Gaulle’s efforts as a public servant during World War II. — Tomris Laffly
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Exclusively on Netflix

Night Teeth (Adam Randall)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters
There are strenuously busy action scenes. There are scenes that nudge the plot along without connecting to anything else. And there’s the honestly creepy image of a row of glass booths in a basement where Victor keeps humans chained and unconscious, so they can be harvested for blood cocktails. It’s all served up, with glum sensation, for our entertainment, yet none of it invites our investment. The daylight still melts these vampires, but by the end of “Night Teeth” it’s the audience that feels melted down. — Owen Gleiberman
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In Theaters and on Apple TV

Broadcast Signal Intrusion (Jacob Gentry)
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Apple TV
“Broadcast Signal Intrusion” builds interest at first with teasing echoes of “Blow Out,” “Blow-Up,” “Videodrome,” ’70s paranoid thrillers like “The Parallax View,” and other mind-bending cult favorites. But those films took their slippery, obsessive, reality-clouding concepts to more rigorous ends. Whereas here we leave with the problematic, let-down sense of still chasing a cipher that one wonders if even the creators have any private explanation for. — Dennis Harvey
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New Releases for the Week of Oct. 15

In Theaters and on Peacock

Halloween Kills (David Gordon Green)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Peacock
“Halloween Kills” is no masterpiece. It’s a mess — a slasher movie that‘s almost never scary, slathered with “topical” pablum and with too many parallel plot strands that don’t go anywhere. Green, as clever a job as he did on the first film, wastes no time cutting back to where the “Halloween” series ultimately landed: in a swamp of luridly repetitive and empty sequels, with the villain turned into such an omnipresent icon that his image gets drained of any nightmare quality. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusively In Theaters

Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve)
Distributor:
IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by VOD on Oct. 22
This lyrical and absorbing new drama tells the story of two filmmakers who are a couple: Tony (Tim Roth), the more famous of the two, and Chris (Vicky Krieps), who has carved out her own independent niche in world cinema. They have a daughter they’re leaving with relatives, and the movie is about what happens when they journey to the island of Fårö. If you’re a Bergman fanatic (and I am), the images of Fårö may be as larger-than-life for you as the San Francisco landmarks of “Vertigo.” Bergman made Fårö his own mythic world. Hansen-Løve based the film on her 15-year relationship with the director Olivier Assayas, though maybe not in too literal a way. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Last Duel (Ridley Scott)
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Where to Find It: Theaters
What’s appealing about “The Last Duel” is that it’s actually, at heart, a rather old-fashioned movie: talky and intricate, spinning around what looks like a competitive, destructive love triangle. What’s odd about it is that it lacks the satisfying dramatic clarity of an old movie. If this story had been made by Hollywood during the studio-system era, one could envision a version of it in which de Carrouges, the uptight devoted good guy, fails to strike the sparks with his wife that Le Gris, the charismatic scoundrel, does. And that would be played out. There are moments when “The Last Duel” seems like that very movie. But only moments. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses (Steven Latham, Conrad Stanley)
Distributor: Virgil Films
Where to Find It: Theaters
We see veterans of Vietnam and Iraq as they ride horses and commune with them; at moments, we can almost touch the majesty of the horses’ healing spirit. But the therapeutic communion works both ways. The most haunting comment in the film comes from a veteran who says, “Mustangs have been through what we have.” It’s true: The horses are warriors and survivors, with a brave serenity touched by empathy. In “The Mustangs,” they’re human whisperers. — Owen Gleiberman
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Freeland (Mario Furloni, Kate McLean)
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Where to Find It: Theaters
Where “Freeland” is an unadulterated success is in capturing the physical, psychological and spiritual space Devi inhabits. From its first moments, the movie makes evocative use of the gorgeous Humboldt scenery, as shot by DP Furloni. William Ryan Fritch’s ethereal score, the knowingly detailed production design (Alex Irwin, Laura Donlon) and leisurely yet concise editing by Chris Donlon and Sara Newens also invaluably contribute to a tale that feels texturally just right even when its story content falls short. — Dennis Harvey
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Introducing, Selma Blair (Rachel Fleit)
Distributor: Discovery Plus
Where to Find It: Theaters
“Introducing, Selma Blair” makes good on its oddly punctuated title’s promise to construct a second first impression of a star best known as a wonderfully tart, snappy supporting figure in various millennial multiplex favorites. Fleit teases out human complexities in ways Blair’s acting roles (let alone the glib, invasive lens of celebrity culture) have not. Yet there’s a sense here, too, of Blair being reintroduced to herself, determining who she is after years of feeling, in her words, “less than” — with significant family baggage tangled into the exhaustion, anxiety and insecurity she felt in the years her MS went undiagnosed. — Guy Lodge
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Luzzu (Alex Camilleri)
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Where to Find It: Theaters
It’s an altogether more high-stakes racket than you might expect, in which illicit swordfish takes on the dangerous aura of cocaine or blood diamonds, though Camilleri doesn’t immerse us fully in it: Jesmark himself hangs nervously on the sidelines, uncommitted to anything but his doomed ancestral boat, itself caressed by the camera with an equivalent level of devotion. Thus do we find ourselves invested in the fate of this pile of bowed, garishly painted timber: not just a boat, or even an heirloom, but a disenfranchised man’s one place of power, away from a shore determined to keep him down. — Guy Lodge
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Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma)
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: Theaters
Sciamma’s tone is playful without being twee. No one would confuse this for a Michel Gondry movie. Still, there are touches of magical realism throughout, as when Nelly and petite Marion take a boat out to a floating concrete pyramid (one of the attractions at the leisure park outside Cergy-Pontoise). By casting sisters as the two characters, Sciamma benefits from the bond that already exists between these girls, which reads here as a kind of instant complicity. — Peter Debruge
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Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
Distributor: Film Movement
Where to Find It: Theaters
There’s no rule that says all movies must be a certain way, but in this case, the result feels slight — and slightly lazy — despite the director’s clear gift for expressing simple human truths too seldom captured on film. In the context of a virtual Berlin Film Festival, where “Wheel” won the grand jury prize (runner-up to the Golden Bear), the movie could be divided up and watched in multiple sittings, as homebound audiences may do via streaming when it’s released. But that option feels less like a triumph of radical invention than a sign that Hamaguchi may have missed his calling directing an anthology series for Quibi. — Peter Debruge
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In Theaters and On Demand

Needle in a Timestack (John Ridley)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
If you believe that there’s just one true match for us out there, to what lengths should someone like Nick go to get her back? “No one can make us not happen,” says Janine, though the line promises something a lot more exciting than the parallel realities Ridley takes us through. We want to see Nick in action (or at least active) hero mode, doing whatever he can to stop Tommy and save his relationship. But time travel is expensive, for both the characters and the independent filmmaker tasked with depicting it, so instead of watching Nick hunt for Janine like a needle in a you-know-what — a premise that could have supported an entire TV series — we get the budget version of that search. Talk about a waste of time. — Peter Debruge
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In Theaters and on Apple TV Plus

The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
Distributor: Apple TV Plus
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Apple TV Plus
A scrapbook of images that moves, “The Velvet Underground” immerses you in the band but still leaves them slightly out of reach. That may have been unavoidable. Yet the way that Haynes has fashioned the film isn’t simply a matter of cinematic practicality. Haynes has always been drawn to underground stories and underground worlds: the shadow reality that shapes us. And in “The Velvet Underground,” since he can’t rely on a conventional series of back-in-the-day music and interview clips, he resorts to telling what he sees as the grand hidden story of the band: how they emerged from the depths of an underground America — the beatnik heart of the early ’60s, and the avant-garde impulse that remade art culture. — Owen Gleiberman
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In Theaters and On Demand

The Blazing World (Carlson Young)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Apple TV
It’s hard not to miss an equivalent level of detail in the storytelling, which more or less grinds to a halt once Margaret jumps down the proverbial rabbit hole: Her dreamscapes reveal little about her or her much-mourned relationship with her sister, while Young’s earnest performance is too wanly reactive to stand up to all the film’s cluttered formal business. “What the darkness eats, the darkness keeps,” Margaret is warned at one point, and sure enough, the film seems consumed by its simultaneously dark but neon-lit impulses, leaving a perplexed, enervated audience on the outside. It’s Carlson Young’s blazing world, and we’re barely invited into it. — Guy Lodge
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New Releases for the Week of Oct. 8

Exclusively in Theaters

Bond Style No Time to Die
Bond Style No Time to Die

No Time To Die (Cary Joji Fukunaga) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: MGM
Where to Find It: Theaters
“No Time to Die” is a terrific movie: an up-to-the-minute, down-to-the-wire James Bond thriller with a satisfying neoclassical edge. It’s an unabashedly conventional Bond film that’s been made with high finesse and just the right touch of soul, as well as enough sleek surprise to keep you on edge. “No Time to Die,” at 2 hours and 43 minutes, is the longest Bond film ever, yet it’s brisk and heady and sharp. Fukunaga keeps the elements in balance like an ace juggler. He gets the details right. Ideally, there’s a romance to a James Bond movie. “No Time to Die” has that. — Owen Gleiberman
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Detention (John Hsu)
Distributor:
Dekanalog
Where to Find It: In theaters
As insightful as it often is, “The Gig Is Up” sets itself a remit that is just too broad to fully explore in its brisk 89 minutes. It’s not just that individual stories are necessarily curtailed, a lot of the film’s most provocative strands remain underdeveloped. — Jessica Kiang
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Fever Dream (Claudia Llosa)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find it: In theaters, followed by Netflix on Oct. 13
A psychological thriller in which two mothers fear their children’s souls have gone adrift, the film’s narrative unfolds less as fever dream than waking nightmare, though its hazy, sunstruck styling lends it a certain somnambulant quality. “Fever Dream” tries to ground its story in explanations and earnest environmental panic, the more irretrievably it spirals into silliness, bordering on incoherence: The thinly drawn characters scarcely have appreciable souls to speak of, inside or outside their bodies, so it’s hard to take their escalating spiritual crisis quite as seriously as the filmmakers do. — Guy Lodge
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The Gig Is Up (Shannon Walsh)
Distributor:
Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In theaters
For all the moments of gore, the film is never truly frightening. Its allegory is blunt, and well, gamer-y, from the way the monster’s face reflects the characters, making them complicit in the KMT’s evil, to the way the victims of the central betrayal come back to haunt Wei and Fang. There’s a whiff of sexism in the treatment of naive, jealous schoolgirl Fang, while the underlying ickiness of the teacher-student love affair goes largely unmentioned. Nonetheless, the absorbing and entertaining “Detention” works well enough as a primer on a traumatic period of history, and as a story of semi-supernatural salvation for sins past, that it earns its surprisingly moving final moments. — Jessica Kiang
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Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson)
Distributor:
A24
Where to Find It: In theaters
Jóhannsson’s creepy-funny-weird-sad “Lamb” is a film that proves just how far disbelief can be suspended if you’re in the hands of a director — and a cast, and an SFX/puppetry department — who really commit to the bit. Abetted by a performance of unwaveringly invested, freckled seriousness from Noomi Rapace (whose Icelandic certainly sounds convincing to a non-Nordic ear), “Lamb” is as curious a cross-breed as its central little miracle-monster, and just as much a wolf in sheep’s clothing. — Jessica Kiang
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Mass (Fran Kranz)
Distributor:
Bleecker Street
Where to Find It: In theaters
Kranz, who has never made a movie before but is a veteran actor, has crafted the dialogue so that it builds and flows and surges, revealing and concealing at the same time, drawing us to the center of its rhythms. There’s a special pleasure to be had in seeing actors engage in this kind of winding conversational back-and-forth, which can seize and hold you the way music does. — Owen Gleiberman
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Ooperation Curveball (Johannes Naber)
Distributor: Rock Salt Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by VOD/digital on Oct. 12
This wildly atypical Teutonic satire — which plays like a cross between “Wag the Dog” and “Dr. Strangelove” in its portrayal of incompetence at the highest levels — bills itself as “A true story. Unfortunately.” More mea culpa than comedy, assuming/assigning responsibility for the role Germany played in helping George W. Bush settle a score with Saddam Hussein, the nutso sendup of the unreliable intelligence source whose testimony served as the justification for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003 has no trouble being outrageous. The challenge comes down to being funny in the process. — Peter Debruge
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In Theaters and On Demand

American Insurrection (William Sullivan)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where to Find it: Theaters and VOD
Sullivan takes a chamber drama approach to depicting life in an America largely controlled by white supremacists whose goals and tactics might seem extreme even to Tucker Carlson (if not his loyal viewership). Indeed, it’s easy to imagine someone taking another pass at the script and adapting it into a stage play set inside the secluded cabin where most of the interactions take place. Evidently, a charismatic right-wing zealot organized and encouraged groups of Proud Boyish militants that gradually coalesced into a coast-to-coast army known as The Volunteers. — Joe Leydon
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South of Heaven (Aharon Keshales)
Distributor: RLJE Films
Where to Find it: Theaters and VOD
Jason Sudeikis comes on like the Dennis Quaid of the ’80s, with a little less smiley assurance but a lot of cowboy charm. It’s there in his courtly intelligence, his gentle dot-eyed valor, and the way that Sudeikis clearly feels most comfortable acting from behind a folksy drawl. He and Lilly do a nice job of establishing a love connection, and that gives the audience a rooting interest in seeing Jimmy stay straight. ‘South of Heaven’ takes too many corkscrew turns you can’t buy. The movie gives Jason Sudeikis a chance to act without the safety net of comedy, and he proves that he’s got the right stuff. But next time he needs to do it in a movie that offers the safety net of believability. — Owen Gleiberman
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In Theaters and On Hulu

Jacinta (Jessica Earnshaw)
Distributor:
Hulu
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Hulu
Earnshaw’s remarkably engrossing debut bears the hallmarks of her background as a photographer in its unobtrusively rich images, but despite Jacinta’s desires and the director’s own hopes, it is not a success story. Instead, it’s something truer, stranger and more complicated. It comes into its real, peculiar power as a portrait of a young woman trying to be a better mother than the mother she worships, and to break inexorable generational cycles even while she herself is still trapped in their coils. — Jessica Kiang
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Exclusively on Netflix

There’s Someone Inside Your House (Patrick Brice)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find it: Netflix
Patrick Brice’s slasher movie stands alongside fellow Netflix release “Fear Street” and the small-screen version of “Scream” as successful, if minor, entries in a genre still trying to recreate the phenomenon of its 1980s heyday. It takes great pains to avoid the unpardonable sin of sincerity — at least at first. The film’s tongue is planted firmly in its cheek, its characters occasionally act as though they know they’re in a scary movie, and you can’t tell whether you’re supposed to cringe or cheer when yet another teen is offed. — Michael Nordine
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Exclusively on Paramount Plus

Madame X (Ricardo Gomes, SKNX)
Distributor: Paramount Plus
Where to Find It: Paramount Plus
In “Madame X,” we see Madonna toggling between two poles: the self-mythologizing pop enchantress and the regally committed savior of the masses. She tries to morph, seamlessly, from one to the other, playing up the idea that “artists are there to disturb the peace,” and evoking how much she has always been attacked for doing that very thing. “Madame X,” on the joy scale, feels drained. The show is a concert that plays, at times, like a lecture — or maybe the world’s most extended Oscar/Grammy star-makes-a-statement speech. But I don’t say that because I begrudge Madonna’s message. It’s just that she didn’t use to be so deadly serious and, at times, almost punitive about it. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusively on Amazon Prime Video

Madres (Ryan Zaragoza)
Distributor: Blumhouse Productions
Where to Find it: Amazon Prime Video
Director Ryan Zaragoza’s socially conscious chiller evokes everything from “Rosemary’s Baby” to the folklore tale of La Llorona while trying — but only occasionally succeeding — to carve a space for itself in that crowded milieu. Where the film distinguishes itself is in centering its narrative on Hispanic characters in general and agricultural workers in particular. “Madres” is ultimately more of a message movie than you’re probably expecting, complete with on-screen text at the end more commonly seen in documentaries and biopics. If only for the way it further sets the film apart from most other horror flicks, this isn’t such a bad thing. – Michael Nordine
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The Manor (Axelle Carolyn)
Distributor: Blumhouse Productions
Where to Find it: Amazon Prime Video
There’s an attractive visual polish to ”The Manor,” its principal setting landing somewhere between vacation resort and ”Dark Shadows.” The odd clumsy stab at a jump scare aside, Carolyn doesn’t demonstrate much affinity for, or interest in, building tension. Her screenplay feels a bit rushed, short on nuance and detail, yet pacing is lax. In the end, “The Manor” sticks too close to the “Welcome to the Blumhouse” template to date, admirably bringing new talent and under-represented demographics (in this case seniors) to genre material — but with that material lacking real edge or excitement, despite its slick presentation. — Dennis Harvey
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Exclusively on Shudder

V/H/S/94 (Various directors)
Distributor:
Shudder
Where to Find It: On Shudder
This belated return lands closer in quality to the 2012 kickoff feature than the following year’s superior “V/H/S/2,” as a mixed bag of entertainingly diverse if variably successful horror shorts. Overall, this is a fun way to spend 100 minutes or so, even when the material provided themselves is less than first-rate. FX work is solid in a movie otherwise faithful to reproducing the scrappy look of amateur videotaping nearly 30 years ago. — Dennis Harvey
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Exclusively on PBS

Fruits of Labor (Emily Cohen Ibanez)
Distributor:
PBS POV
Where to Find It: On PBS
Ibanez’s debut feature provides a flavorful glimpse at lives seldom represented in popular media, though she also obfuscates that view somewhat with fussily artistic fillips and a disinterest in some basic matters of explication. The vérité content is intriguing but spotty. We’re too often told rather than shown what’s happened in the family. At the end, there’s a sense that things have taken a general turn for the better, but little intel on how that’s come to pass. — Dennis Harvey
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New Releases for the Week of Oct. 1

Exclusively in Theaters

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Andy Serkis)
Distributor:
Columbia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Managed (more than directed) by motion-capture star-turned-aspiring blockbuster helmer Andy Serkis, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” has all the indications of a slapdash cash grab. The set-pieces look sloppy, the visual effects are all over the place, and the laughs come largely at the movie’s expense. But it does introduce Carnage, so in that respect, mission accomplished. The irony, of course, is that in their haste to get a sequel into theaters, the execs couldn’t have known that a global pandemic would swoop in to delay the release by a year. If only they had slowed things down and taken their time to hash out a better story. — Peter Debruge
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Old Henry (Potsy Ponciroli)
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Where to Find It: In Theaters
“‘Old Henry,’ written and directed by Potsy Ponciroli, is a slow-burn Western that sets up Henry against this crooked, remorseless trio. It would be unfair to give away more of “Old Henry,” which is a rock-solid, off-the-beaten-path Western, one that’s been built as a kind of pedestal for Nelson’s performance. There are twists involving who all these violent men really are. Yet we know in our bones where the movie is going, and it’s a steady enjoyable ride, a touch prosaic at times, one that turns into a kind of minimalist chamber-room version of “Unforgiven,” with a surprisingly touching upshot.’ — Owen Gleiberman

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Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhangke)
Distributor: The Cinema Guild
Where To Find It: In Theaters
“The two-hour “Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue,” as signified by its lolling, poetic title, is rather more of a sprawl, seeking to address a hefty chunk of modern Chinese cultural history through the lives and legacies of its chosen quartet of writers The component binding the film’s various topics of extended conversation is a celebration of China’s neglected rural hinterlands, centred on the regional character of Shanxi: Jia’s own home province and an evocative backdrop to a number of his films. Though such regions have lost much of their younger population to the cities in recent decades, “Swimming Out” optimistically centers writers — not all of them fellow Shanxi natives — who have stayed put to document rural life and evolution.” — Guy Lodge

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Titane (Julia Ducournau) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Diaphana Films
Where To Find It: Limited Theaters
“Proving that her cannibalism-themed feature debut, “Raw,” wasn’t merely an attention-grabbing stunt, French director Julia Ducournau returns to that untamed place where appetites run dark, using the human body as a vehicle to deconstruct ideas of gender, desire and incredibly dysfunctional family dynamics. With “Titane,” audiences occasionally just have to give themselves over to the movie’s demented momentum, taking whatever perverse pleasure they can from Ducournau’s willingness to push the boundaries.” — Peter Debruge

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In Theaters and On Demand

Coming Home in the Dark (James Ashcroft)
Distributor:
Dark Sky Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Though it’s plenty nasty and nervy, Ashcroft’s film isn’t that much of a genre crowd-pleaser. Extrapolated from a short story by celebrated New Zealand writer Owen Marshall, its gore is brutal but sober throughout, building to a muted, ambiguous payoff that will leave some duly discomfited and others simply dissatisfied — with a couple of needling questions to debate between them. — Guy Lodge
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Mayday (Karen Cinorre)
Distributor:
Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
it’s simultaneously exhilarating and confused, in part because the patriarchy is too big a Goliath to be crippled by a single strident slingshot, no matter how accurate its aim. Still, it’s a thrill to see young filmmakers raging against the status quo, which clearly extends to the original way they launch their attacks, and “Mayday” marks a director to watch — even if her feature debut won’t necessarily be watched by many beyond the festival circuit. — Peter Debruge
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In Theaters and on HBO Max

The Many Saint of Newark (Alan Taylor)
Distributor:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
If you’re a “Sopranos” fanatic (and who isn’t?), there are a few key things you want from this prequel, starting with a movie that’s compulsively authentic and watchable the way that the show was. “The Many Saints” more or less fills that bill. It’s a sharp, lively, and engrossing movie, one that provides a fascinating running commentary on how the world of “The Sopranos” came into being. Yet we can’t help but notice the difference in tone. These characters are suitably gripping back-door Mob types who gather in the private rooms of restaurants to chow down on giant chops of seasoned meat, but they’re not fun in the same way. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusively on Netflix

Britney vs Spears (Erin Lee Carr)
Distributor: Netflix
Where To Find It: Netflix
This shapeless doc feels overlong at just over 90 minutes, because it’s unclear what, exactly, Carr and collaborator Jenny Eliscu want to say about Spears. Contrary to the film’s title, the film’s focus at times seems to be Carr and Eliscu. The pair both appear on camera, and their work of investigating Spears’ story is dramatized with shots of clicking into secret files or shuffling through paperwork. Eliscu in particular is clearly very emotionally engaged by the Spears case, but, more often, the interactions between Carr and Eliscu are so focused on the thrill of discovery as to lose sight of the human they’re trying to help through their work. — Daniel D’Addario

Read the full review here.

New Releases for the Week of Sept. 24

Only in Theaters

Dear Evan Hansen (Stephen Chbosky)
Distributor:
Universal

Where to Find It: In Theaters
“‘Dear Evan Hansen’ is the farthest below average in terms of actual merit: a curve-crashing after-school special, dressed up with so-so songs (not so much show tunes as lightweight pop-music imitations), about how people process tragedy in the age of oversharing. Some audiences feel seen, others are bound to take offense, and that split is what makes the Steven Levenson-written show (with music and lyrics by “La La Land” duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) such a fascinating phenomenon.The team behind the film haven’t necessarily fixed all that was wrong with the show, but they’ve been listening, at least, and that’s a start.” — Peter Debruge
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The Guilty (Antoine Fuqua)
Distributor:
Netflix
Where to Find It: In theaters now, then on Netflix Oct. 1
Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is impressive, but “The Guilty” almost certainly would have been more effective if he’d dialed down the intensity a bit. We see Joe wound up like this, and we don’t think, “Oh wow, some cops really take their role seriously” — we think, “This guy’s mental.” Like one of those young Army recruits, remote-controlling lethal drones from halfway around the world, he’s got more power than makes sense. And the idea that all the excitement of this one night might lead him to make the call he does in his own life pushes the fantasy just one step too far. — Peter Debruge
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I’m Your Man (Maria Schrader) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Where to Find It: In theaters
German filmmaker Maria Schrader has, one suspects, given the matter some thought, though her cool, grown-up romantic fantasy “I’m Your Man” twists the scenario’s gender politics and significantly changes the stakes — presenting an independent, idiosyncratic female protagonist with a robot man so perfectly tailored to her needs that she just can’t stand it. Taking inspiration from a short story by German writer Emma Braslavsky, Schrader and co-writer Jan Schomburg serve up a rich panoply of questions, answers and stray ideas. Rarely are these assembled into neat combinations, even if the script veers too far into thematic explication in the final third. — Guy Lodge
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In Select Theaters and On Demand

Apache Junction (Justin Lee)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where To Find It: In Limited Theaters
“​​Lee prefers to canter rather than gallop as he spins his storyline, allowing his well-cast leads enough time to reveal themselves in sometimes leisurely, sometimes suspenseful dialogue exchanges. “Apache Junction” provides the requisite amount of gunplay, fisticuffs, distressing of damsels and other Western tropes. But there’s a twist or two to the conventions.” — Joe Leydon

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Exclusively on Netflix

Birds of Paradise (Sarah Adina Smith)
Distributor: Netflix
Where To Find It: Netflix
“In ‘Birds of Prey,’ writer-director Sarah Adina Smith (“Legion”) tells a scrumptious and entertaining tale about the go-for-broke nature of youthful companionship, spinning a cunning yarn of female enmity and camaraderie set against the backdrop of Paris’ ultra-competitive professional ballet scene. Most impressively, Smith demonstrates that she deeply grasps both the fluid eroticism and the emotional openness that are inherent to ballet.” — Tomris Laffly

Read the full review here.

Intrusion (Adam Salky)
Distributor: Netflix
Where To Find It: Netflix
“Nonetheless, the film is just slick, pacy and intriguing enough for us to suspend sufficient disbelief while it’s going — never mind afterward, when it all evaporates from the memory in a trice. Salky doesn’t get to demonstrate the more nuanced dramatic touch of his prior features. Still, he works up an acceptable froth of urgency in suspense or action when required.They might’ve packed more punch in a film with greater attention to atmosphere and character.” — Dennis Harvey

Read the full review here.

New Releases for the Week of Sept. 17

In Theaters and on HBO Max

Cry Macho (Clint Eastwood)
Distributor:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
It’s friendly and diverting and formulaic, in an inoffensive and good-natured way, and it’s a totally minor affair. But it’s not more than sweet. “Cry Macho” is a pleasant enough place-holder for Eastwood, but I hope and suspect that down the line he’s got some more macho to cry. — Owen Gleiberman
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Only in Theaters

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Michael Showalter)
Distributor:
Searchlight Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
Showalter is up to something sly and artful. He gives Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker the full dignity — and scandal — of their humanity. He knows that a lot of people think of the Bakkers as walking caricatures, so Showalter made the shrewd decision to play it all straight. Why watch “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” instead of the original documentary, which is superb? Because this version, in heightening our connection to the characters, sheds new light on who they were and why they did what they did. — Owen Gleiberman
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Blue Bayou (Justin Chon)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Blue Bayou” holds little back as it rails against the cruelties and hypocrisies of American immigration law to stirring effect — though this emotional pile-driver of a film could stand to trust more in the undeniable power of its core story. Instead, writer-director-star Chon lays it on thick in all respects, from the numerous secondary plot strands needlessly crowding and complicating his earnest screenplay to the swollen, amplified score that double-underlines every devastating plot point. — Guy Lodge
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Little Girl / “Petite fille” (Sébastien Lifshitz)
Distributor: Music Box Films
Where to find it: In New York and Los Angeles
Stylistically unadorned and free of commentary or editorialization, Lifshitz’s documentary may be read and received differently by viewers at varying stages of transgender understanding and experience. To some, the film’s empathetic, unsensationalized portrait of a family accepting their daughter and in turn seeking the acceptance of others may be genuinely mind-expanding; to others, Lifshitz’s mature, unflustered approach to the subject will seem aptly normal. As in much of his best work, Lifshitz keeps the camera as invisible and unobtrusive a presence as possible. In every sense, “Little Girl” gives its subject ample space to be.— Guy Lodge
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Wife of a Spy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Where to Find It: In theaters
The film is a relatively unfamiliar fit for its prolific helmer, given its sharply evoked period milieu and restrained, classical storytelling. “Wife of a Spy” derives a measure of its suspense not from standard-issue espionage and derring-do, but from its heroine’s increasing understanding of the limited extent to which the men around her credit her intelligence, ability and independence. This is a chewy, compulsive yarn of interleaved revelations and deceptions, told in crisp, straightforward fashion — though Kurosawa is often less concerned with chess-maneuvering his plot points than he is with calmly observing the creases and changes in Aoi’s open, ingenuous face as various ugly truths (or otherwise) sink in. — Guy Lodge
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In Select Theaters and On Demand

Best Sellers (Lina Roessler)
Distributor:
Screen Media Films
Where to Find It:In theaters and on demand
For any older men feeling left behind by a world of youth, social media and anti-patriarchal sentiment, “Best Sellers” offers a comforting message: You may yet be a younger person’s savior, provided they come to save you first. Still working inexhaustibly at the age of 88, Michael Caine brings a signature screen persona of shaggy, get-the-job-done defiance. Still, it’s the more withdrawn melancholy he locates in the character — or vice versa — that makes this one of his richer recent vehicles. — Guy Lodge
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Lady of the Manor (Justin Long, Christian Long)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters, on VOD and digital
The attempted hijinks revolve around an ancestral home turned tourist attraction whose current minders are beset by the boisterous spirits of long-ago inhabitants. The usually admirable Lynskey is miscast in the kind of flailing-party-girl role that is Anna Faris’ specialty; Greer gets stuck playing a very one-note, old-school notion of “snooty.” You know the barrel is being scraped when performers of this caliber are asked to crack each other (and, theoretically, us) up by simply “making funny faces.” — Dennis Harvey
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The Nowhere Inn (Bill Benz)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: Theaters and Video On Demand
This high-concept rock mockumentary puts forth thorny questions about fame and identity, and the truism that becoming a celebrity can mean flaying off pieces of your skin to give to anyone who demands it. Cult sensation Annie Clark (better known by her stage name St. Vincent) and “Portlandia” comedian Carrie Brownstein’s creative collaboration stretches back a decade, yet their performing styles don’t mesh. No matter how much Brownstein and Clark clearly enjoy and respect each other’s talents, combining the two in the same scene is like pouring chia pudding into a latex dress. — Amy Nicholson
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Prisoners of the Ghostland (Sion Sono)
Distributor: RLJE Films
Where to Find It: Limited theaters
The good news here is that even when so clearly bored, Cage is never boring. That means even though this script appears to have been written with the express intent of being absurd, the worse it is, the more fun Cage can have with it. Don’t look for logic in Ghostland, but feel free to feast your eyes on everything else. Sono’s design sense has come a long way since the degraded-video aesthetic of 2001’s “Suicide Club.” Toshihiro Isomi’s kooky sets suggests a Japanese spin on the sort of recycled-future garbage dumps found in Terry Gilliam movies, where jerry-rigged Christmas lights can transform an abandoned car park into a traveling circus. — Peter Debruge
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In Theaters and on Amazon Prime Video

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (Jonathan Butterell)
Distributor:
Amazon Studios
Where to Find It:
In theaters and on Amazon Prime Video
This working-class fantasy blends a “Billy Elliot”-style uphill battle with the vibrant energy and color of mid-’90s misfit indies such as “Muriel’s Wedding” and “Ma vie en rose.” If you thought it was tough for a mining-town kid to be a ballet dancer, imagine one lip-syncing in six-inch heels. It’s shallow, it’s simplistic and it all works out a little too easily, but the movie’s very existence remains a cause for celebration. — Peter Debruge
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My Name Is Pauli Murray (Julia Cohen, Betsy West)
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Amazon Prime Video
No doubt it’s a sign of the times, but the beginning of “My Name is Pauli Murray” has the feel of a cordial Zoom visit, albeit one in scratchy black and white. Intricately crafted without being flashy, the Sundance-launched documentary trusts that its subject can hold her own. Murray does far more than that. Although she died in 1985 at the age of 74, the human rights activist, lawyer, poet, professor and first Black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest owns this journey. By pointing out the gap in years between Murray’s actions and landmark events, the directors make a purposeful, persuasive argument about Murray’s place in the nation’s Civil Rights history. — Lisa Kennedy

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Exclusively on Netflix

Nightbooks (David Yarovesky)
Where to Find It:
Netflix
“Nightbooks” will certainly push its audience to the limit with its unrelenting fusillade of jump scares, black magic and campfire stories, but its whimsical touches, along with a reverence for creative young minds, gives the film a warmth that counterbalances its shocks. — Scott Tobias
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New Releases for the Week of Sept. 10

In theaters and on HBO Max

Malignant (James Wan)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
Like “Frozen,” “Malignant” centers on two sisters, one of them bubbly and optimistic, the other haunted and possibly possessed with supernatural powers. The similarities don’t necessarily end there, but to reveal too much more would be to ruin the film’s most essential quality: its willingness to steadily and purposefully descend to the lowest levels of delirious lunacy, and then keep going further still. Wan tosses elements of everything from classic ’70s gialli to ’80s soap operas, late-’90s action blockbusters, buddy cop comedies and psychological thrillers into a big, messy pressure cooker. — Andrew Barker
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Only in theaters

The Alpinist (Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen)
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Where to find it: In theaters
For those of us who are even skittish on a stepladder, concern was there from the start of this portrait of an alpinist as a young man. The filmmakers come by their awe for Marc-André Leclerc honestly. Mortimer was intrigued by a climber he hadn’t heard of. “The Alpinist” begins with his search for this elusive spirit. In a world of guys (for they are nearly always male) with no qualms about hashtagging and Instagramming the heck out of their adventures, Leclerc stood out by being mostly off the social media grid. — Lisa Kennedy
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Azor (Andreas Fontana)
Distributor: Mubi
Where to Find It: In theaters
In line with everything else in the film, the ending is discreet and correct on the surface, but underneath lies an evil that can barely be spoken. That cool surface veneer is underlined by the largely cut-and-dried camera setups at the start, with their shot-countershot formalism first broken when Yvan surreptitiously goes to Keys’ secret apartment. Like the intelligent performances — both Rongione and Cléau are standouts — and the terrific art direction, the film’s design reinforces an exquisite, levelheaded decorum about to be smashed by a chillingly cruel monster. — Jay Weissberg
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The Capote Tapes (Ebs Burnough)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters
“The Capote Tapes,” a meticulous and lovingly assembled documentary that takes in Capote’s life and career, but with a special emphasis on the years after “In Cold Blood,” goes over a lot of terrain you already know, and pokes into a lot of corners you didn’t. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Card Counter (Paul Schrader)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
“The Card Counter” starts off as a pretty good poker movie — but, of course, it’s not really a poker movie. It’s a Paul Schrader movie, which means that it’s got much more on its mind than watching a straight flush beat a full house. At first, the film seems very different from his last major feature, “First Reformed,” though it’s actually a companion piece to it. “First Reformed” won Schrader some of the best reviews of his career (along with his first Oscar nomination), so it’s no surprise to see that, consciously or not, he has used it as a kind of template for what he does here. — Owen Gleiberman
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Dogs (Bogdan Mirică)
Distributor: Dekanalog
Where to Find It: In theaters
An austere, yet technically accomplished cross between the Coen brothers’ “Blood Simple” and Cannes sensation “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” Mirică’s debut feature belongs to a tradition of cynical, almost nihilistic crime thrillers in which a relatively petty motive can leave dozens lying in pools of their own blood. Though we experience the film through the eyes of a naïve outsider who leaves the law and order of the city to tend to an inheritance issue, the first shot — of a severed human foot — promises something far more sinister just beneath the surface of this rural grassland. — Peter Debruge
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Fauci (Janet Tobias, John Hoffman)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
The filmmakers are too polite — or too eager to reach a broad audience — to suddenly bring in disturbing juxtapositions with the don’t-tread-on-me sentiments prevailing on one side of the fence nowadays. Any further reminders of how public health has become a cynical gladiator sport would drag down what the directors probably intend “Fauci” to partly be: a recruitment tool to incite young people to go into medical research. With the contemporary politics treated a little bit more as a sour side dish than the main course, and one surviving Act-Upper after another tearfully attesting to how activism and science can complement one another, it’s a documentary that merits a place in classrooms as well as theaters, as a preventative against the virus of cynicism. — Chris Willman
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Language Lessons (Natalie Morales)
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Language Lessons” is plainly a feat of quarantine-era production, with its two-actor, two-location, two-screen setup making it pretty much a model of what can be accomplished in lockdown conditions. Yet COVID itself plays no part in Morales and Duplass’ free-flowing, necessarily talky script, which could be set at any point in the recent past, and gives its characters other causes for physical or emotional isolation. That may give the film a measure of longevity for an audience disinclined to see their current anxieties reflected directly back at them on screen, even as it captures something of this moment in time, with a world oddly united in loneliness. — Guy Lodge
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Exclusive to Netflix

Blood Brothers: Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali (Marcus A. Clarke)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Blood Brothers” floats on perceptive interviews, rich archival photos and pointed newsreel footage. It stings, too, with its exploration of two iconic, uncompromising figures who were friends for (the film persuasively argues) too short a spell. The duo envisioned by “One Night in Miami” were nearing the end of their deep bond when they celebrated Cassius Clay’s victory over Sonny Liston in the 1964 heavyweight title bout. “Blood Brother” makes a riveting case for the loss — both personal and cultural — and in its own profound way attempts to repair that rift. — Lisa Kennedy
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Kate (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)
Distributor: Netflix
Where to Find It: Netflix
Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s naturalistic performance butts heads with the film’s exaggerated style. Nicolas-Troyan’s Tokyo is a fantasy land. The first aerial shot of the city is of Tokyo Tower, an Eiffel Tower clone seemingly designed to disorient tourists. This Tokyo is all goofball caricatures. Yakuza steam themselves like dumplings. J-pop singers dance in French maid outfits. Cars are outlined in neon like they sped out of Mario Kart. — Amy Nicholson
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Exclusively on Amazon Prime Video

The Voyeurs (Michael Mohan)
Where to find it: Amazon Prime Video
“The Voyeurs” does finally upend expectations through a reality-reconfiguring bombshell. That gesture goes a small way toward capturing the outrageous spirit of the film’s tawdry ’90s predecessors. Given the seriousness with which it’s handled, however, it falls short of interjecting real verve into this flaccid B-movie. — Nick Schager
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Queenpins - Credit: Courtesy of STX Films
Queenpins - Credit: Courtesy of STX Films

Courtesy of STX Films

On Demand and in Select Theaters

Dating & New York (Jonah Feingold)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to find it: In theaters and on digital
“Dating & New York” has a natural feel for its Manhattan milieu and the various ways in which cell phones and dating apps have reconfigured courtship dynamics. Unfortunately, those are the only fresh components of this otherwise routine romantic comedy, which despite a number of self-conscious touches that suggest an innovative approach to familiar material, winds up playing a rote lovey-dovey game. Winning chemistry between its stars may help it make inroads with millennial audiences, but most will likely find their own iPhones a more engaging viewing option. — Nick Schager
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Queenpins (Aron Gaudet, Gita Pullapilly)
Distributor: STX Entertainment
Where to find it: In theaters and On Demand
Ethics are cheap in “Queenpins,” a cuddly capitalist satire that riffs on the true story of a tiny suburban counterfeiting ring who made millions selling ill-gotten coupons for cereal and dish soap. Kristen Bell stars as Connie, an ex-Olympian quivering with restless energy, who lures her neighbor JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) to join her criminal enterprise. Though their seven figure haul is destined to catch the eye of the authorities, the women see themselves as modern Robin Hoods, and writer-directors Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly (“Beneath the Harvest Sky”) are inclined to agree. — Amy Nicholson
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New Releases for the Week of Sept. 3

Only in Theaters

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Destin Daniel Cretton)
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters

The early action scenes are the best, as Cretton and his second-unit/VFX teams collaborate to make cartoonishly extreme choreography seem acceptable within the movie’s elastic alternate reality. Whereas “Black Panther” invented the Afrofuturist kingdom of Wakanda as a fantasy answer to the Western world’s visions of its own superiority, “Shang-Chi” acknowledges China as the global superpower that it is and merely has to find a way to get its characters back to the mainland. – Peter Debruge
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Wild Indian (Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr.)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to find it: In theaters
One can sense a connection between Lyle Mitchell Corbine and the character he has created, although it’s not clear how much of the resentment Michael shows is shared by the filmmaker. Corbine never killed a classmate in cold blood, obviously, though the murder could also be read as symbolic — his way of exterminating some part of himself, which he’s ultimately forced to repeat years later, when confronted by his past. How far has the director distanced himself from his own Ojibwe background, and to what extent could “Wild Indian” be read as a reconciliation with his roots?

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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Karen (Coke Daniels)
Distributor: Quiver Distribution/BET
Where to find it: In theaters and on-demand, on BET starting Sept. 14
“Karen” plays out instead as a parade of clichés that escalate in terms of intensity but not tension. Karen reveals herself as an irredeemable racist the moment we meet her, and so there’s never any depth to her character or the slightest suggestion that Imani and Malik may be projecting. – Michael Nordine

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Exclusive to Amazon

Cinderella (Kay Cannon)
Distributor: Amazon
Where to find it: Streaming on Amazon Prime
Camila Cabello is a magnetic screen presence who demonstrates a natural sense of comedic timing, infusing her character with vulnerability, compassion and effervescence. She and Galitzine share a sweet, chaste chemistry. But it’s Porter who steals the show. He does not disappoint. He’s vivacious, vibrant and knows precisely how to deliver a satisfying “well, well, well” — so much so that younger audiences might assume he invented its usage. His charisma sparkles as brightly as his sequined ensemble, and his sole physical appearance (he also partially narrates this journey) is filled with magnificent, magical splendor. – Courtney Howard

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New releases for the week of Aug. 27

Only in Theaters

Candyman (Nia DaCosta)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
But now “Candyman” has been remade, by the director Nia DaCosta (I’m pleased to report that Tony Todd is back — he looks a little bit older, and a lot more venerable in his grin of unspeakable pain), and what she has done is to make a horror movie that has its share of enthralling shocks, but one that’s rooted in a richer meditation on the social terror of the Candyman fable. The new “Candyman” references the plot of the original as a sinister fanfare of shadow puppets, as if to say, “That was mythology. This is reality.” It’s less a “slasher film” than a drama with a slasher in the middle of it. — Owen Gleiberman
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No Man of God (Amber Sealey)
Distributor: RLJE Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
At moments, “No Man of God” could be a two-hander performed on stage. Wood and Kirby get a real communion going, one that echoes the battle of wits between Graham and Lecter in “Manhunter.” Individual moments are gripping, and Kirby’s performance puts its queasy hooks in you, but the film, overall, has a scattershot momentum until the last act, set in 1989, when Bundy is about to be executed. Will he finally admit to all he did, giving a kind of closure to the victims’ families? He‘ll reveal himself only to Hagmaier, and when he does they have the conversation that they, and the movie, have been building toward the entire time. — Owen Gleiberman
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One-Night-Only Theatrical Event

The Show (Alan Moore)
Distributor: Shout! Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters for one night only, with a digital release on Oct. 18
While the film’s overall look is familiar comic-book noir, DP Simon Tindall, production designer Helen Watson, Hilary Hughes’ costumes and other design personnel’s contributions provide attractive splashes of splashes of vivid color. “The Show” ultimately seems just to be toying with its major fixations, from Northampton itself to underworlds both criminal and occult. It hesitates to really say anything about them, or indeed go anywhere very concrete at all—but it will entertain those for whom watching Alan Moore play around with such themes is inherently rewarding enough. — Dennis Harvey
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Alia’s Birth (Sam Abbas)
Distributor: ArabQ Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
There’s a real home birth depicted in “Alia’s Birth,” but most everything else about Egyptian American writer-director Sam Abbas’ film is excessively mannered and oblique. An indie that, lacking an actual narrative or characters, asks viewers to parse meaning from subtle formal and storytelling clues, this off-the-beaten-path effort — nominally about a lesbian couple whose relationship becomes strained over the course of a night — frustrates more than it intrigues, and won’t have much appeal outside the furthest corners of the art-house world when it debuts in theaters and on VOD on Aug. 27. — Nick Schager
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On demand

When I’m a Moth (Zachary Cotler, Magdalena Zyzak)
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Where to Find It: On demand
Stylistically and tonally, “When I’m a Moth” is strikingly reminiscent of Russian auteur Aleksandr Sokurov’s dreamlike imaginings of chapters from the lives (or deaths) of Chekov, Lenin and Hirohito, complete with visual distortion effects. There is no denying that Lyn Moncrief’s cinematography is often poetically handsome within this idiom. Yet seldom has a “transcendental” cinematic vocabulary been so heinously misapplied to material in which clumsy literal-mindedness and ponderous abstraction are already locking horns. — Dennis Harvey
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Vacation Friends - Credit: 20th Century Studios
Vacation Friends - Credit: 20th Century Studios

20th Century Studios

Exclusive to Hulu

Vacation Friends (Mark Waters)
Where to Find It: Hulu
Just as it’s easy to imagine “The Hangover” being transformed, with relatively minor script tinkering, into a deadly serious film noir, one can envision an early draft of “Vacation Friends” serving as the blueprint for a paranoid thriller about vacationers who discover much too late that their new acquaintances are aggressively chummy for all the wrong reasons. Truth to tell, there are no great surprises at all [though] “Vacation Friends” does earn a fair share of guffaws with its familiar mix of R-rated raunch and feel-good sentiment.— Joe Leydon
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Exclusive to Netflix

He’s All That (Mark Waters)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“He’s All That” is a reimagining that — unlike “She’s All That” or the source material that inspired it, George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” — is rooted primarily in the female perspective. It’s a shame though that director Mark Waters and writer R. Lee Fleming Jr. don’t put a savvier spin on the conventional, frequently-lampooned tropes and clichés. And while it’s possible to make the formulaic and familiar resound fantastically, that concept has evaded these filmmakers here. Neither bland regurgitation nor innovative retelling, the remake falls somewhere in between, suffering greatly by not establishing a more distinctive identity. — Courtney Howard
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Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed (Joshua Rofé)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Exclusive to Shudder

Mosquito State (Filip Jan Rymsza)
Where to Find It: On Shudder
You have to be confident in your film’s power to transfix its audience even as it’s liable to drive any anopheliphobics in the room to delirium, and Polish-American director Filip Jan Rymsza seems to be: His body horror-tinged allegory for the global financial crisis of 2007 swaggers with slick, nasty formal showmanship designed to get under the viewer’s skin. But it’s all in service of pretty thin ideas about capitalist decline and masculinity in crisis, played out by thinner characters still: The longer it needles, the more one is inclined to swat it away. — Guy Lodge
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New Releases for the Week of Aug. 20

In theaters and on HBO Max

In the Same Breath (Nanfu Wang)
Distributor: HBO
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
“In the Same Breath” contains heartbreaking stories, many having to do with how people in Wuhan experienced the death of their family members. We see a man who’s brought his mother to the hospital in an ambulance, only to be told that there’s no room for her. He stands there with the ambulance door open, forced to decide whether to take her back home (where she’ll likely die). We hear numerous stories like one from Runzhen Chen, the owner of that clinic, who weeps in recalling how her husband was taken to the hospital, and that’s the last she ever saw of him. — Owen Gleiberman
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Reminiscence (Lisa Joy)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
No one could accuse “Reminiscence” of being an incompetent movie. It’s well-crafted, shot with expert gradations of filtered gloss, and every piece of its story falls into place just so. Yet here’s one case where that feeling of clockwork precision is actually part of what’s numbing about the film. “Reminiscence” plays like a perfectly calibrated two-hour mirage of things we’ve seen before. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Protégé - Credit: Jichichi Raul
The Protégé - Credit: Jichichi Raul

Jichichi Raul

Only in Theaters

Ma Belle, My Beauty (Marion Hill)
Distributor: Good Deed Entertainment
Where to Find It: In New York and Los Angeles theaters; expands Aug. 27
“Ma Belle, My Beauty” is lovely, not least because it was filmed in and around the book-me-a-flight village of Anduze near the Cévennes mountains. Hill and cinematographer Lauren Guiteras seize the light in ways that suggest the unfolding dramas — while ouchy — are part and parcel of a life worth grabbing hold of. With its sun-dappled days, attractive farmhouse, fetching characters and at-the-ready bottles of red wine, the movie hints at Luca Guadagnino’s vexed idylls. Composer Mahmoud Chouki’s score — North African notes with shades of New Orleans jazz — buoys the overall mood without discounting the emotional stakes. — Lisa Kennedy
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The Night House (David Bruckner)
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
A knack for creepy atmospherics and individual scares goes a long way in the horror genre, and it takes “The Night House” pretty far. Though this tale of a new widow’s apparent haunting gets progressively lost in a narrative maze that’s complicated without being particularly rewarding, director David Bruckner suffuses the action with enough dread and unpleasant goosings to make this an above-average genre exercise. — Dennis Harvey
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Paw Patrol: The Movie (Cal Brunker)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters
Writer-director Cal Brunker, along with co-writers Billy Frolick and Bob Barlen, add further depth and dimension to these beloved puppy protagonists, embracing cinematic spectacle and character-driven emotions to deliver a surprisingly potent feature. Any crass consumerism is eclipsed by disarming, demonstrable themes and meaningful sentiments woven throughout the film’s textured fabric. — Courtney Howard
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The Protégé (Martin Campbell)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters
This is one of those movies in which assassins are so experienced, they can recognize what model of gun is being pointed at them by the signature sound it makes when cocked. They can also quote obscure poetry. There’s precious little in “The Protégé” that audiences haven’t seen before in some form or another, but that’s hardly a liability, since the script recombines those familiar elements in such entertaining ways, counting on Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton to make these stock characters come alive. — Peter Debruge
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters, digital and on demand
“Cryptozoo,” despite its occasional utopianism versus pragmatism college-debate-style dialogue, is mostly as thematically straightforward and morally binary as any kids’ film… But even the most simplistic sentiment can be made resonant when rendered in such labor-of-love artwork, when the grandiose and grotesque characters are drawn and voiced with such individuality, and when the lavishly textured backgrounds fill every frame to bursting with eccentric detail. In this zoo, the story may be tame, but the images, and the imagination that releases them, run wild. — Jessica Kiang
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Demonic (Neill Blomkamp)
Distributor: Videoville Showtime
Where to Find It: In theaters, digital and on demand
Communing with her mother’s spirit, our heroine wanders through a squiggly landscape where nothing is as it seems (so nothing is quite at stake either), and for a few scenes we feel like we’re in one of those VR movies from the ’90s, or a no-budget knockoff of “Inception,” or maybe some old David Cronenberg brain-in-a-drawer thriller. Then the bird creature shows up, at which point we think, “It is okay to react to this monster as if we were 12 years old?” “Demonic” encourages you to feel that if you did, you might be undercutting the film’s importance. — Owen Gleiberman
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Habit (Janell Shirtcliff)
Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, digital and on demand
This candy-colored dress-up excuse for a bunch of slumming models, rock musicians and miscellaneous scenesters might be termed a “Bratz” version of “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,” but even that gives it too much credit. It’s an embarrassing vanity showcase that’s deliberately campy without actually being fun, and whose stalled-adolescent “transgression” may only appeal to a few actual adolescents. — Dennis Harvey
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Under the Volcano (Gracie Otto)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
The music documentary “Under the Volcano” is essentially a travelogue — not so much for its setting, the island of Monserrat in the West Indies, although there are luscious drone shots aplenty, as for the trip it takes back to the pop world of the 1980s. The subject is super-producer George Martin’s short-lived AIR Studio on the Caribbean island, a magnet for big stars and even bigger recording budgets back in the boom time of the early MTV era, a time when “welcome to the jungle” meant you should put the record company on the hook for untold amounts of money to go record, as luxuriously as anyone ever has, in an actual jungle. — Chris Willman
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Wildland (Jeanette Nordahl)
Where to Find It: At Film Forum and in virtual cinemas
Crisply shaped and cut at 88 minutes, “Wildland” could stand to be more emphatic and expansive on certain points: The possibility of a deeper connection between Ida and David’s mistreated girlfriend Anna (Carla Philip Røder), in particular, hovers teasingly in the script’s margins. Nordahl’s promising debut is most generic when centered on criminal fraternity; it’s when two or more female perspectives come to the fore that the film carves out its place in the wild. — Guy Lodge
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Last Man Standing: Suge Knight and the Murders of Biggie & Tupac (Nick Broomfield)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In theaters

Exclusive to Apple TV

The Seer and the Unseen (Sara Dosa)
Where to Find It: Apple TV and Altavod
Without trivializing the matters at hand, “The Seer and the Unseen” tempers complex national interests with droll human ones: Indeed, it’s easy to imagine scenes of the protest itself, complete with lyrically modified Elvis Presley singalongs and stubborn we-shall-not-be-moved faceoffs with exasperated police forces, fitting right into an oddball fictionalized telling of the same story. — Guy Lodge
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Exclusive to Netflix

The Loud House Movie (Dave Needham)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Sweet Girl (Brian Andrew Mendoza)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Big Pharma are killers, and they take a resounding beating, in “Sweet Girl” — literally. An actioner about a father who responds to personal tragedy by going on a bloodthirsty rampage with his teen daughter in tow, Mendoza’s feature debut is a giddily outlandish exploitation throwback, featuring Jason Momoa as a grieving bruiser whose answer for everything is violence, violence and more violence. Delivering the sort of R-rated macho carnage that was all the rage in the ’80s and ’90s, the film benefits from its gung-ho treatment of preposterous material. — Nick Schager
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New Releases for the Week of Aug. 13

Only in theaters

Free Guy (Shawn Levy)
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Free Guy” is a lot of fun, despite the fact that Levy and the screenwriters seem to be changing the rules as they go. Reynolds might be a little too charismatic to be believable as a personality-devoid NPC (the way that Jim Carrey always seemed too chirpily self-aware as the ostensibly naive star of “The Truman Show”), but it’s a thrill to watch the character come into his own, as “Blue Shirt Guy” (as the fans following his exploits in the game call him) levels up in a hurry. — Peter Debruge
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Don’t Breathe 2 (Rodo Sayagues)
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
Lang, thin and muscular in his white hair and beard and grimy sleeveless T-shirt, remains the best thing about the movie. He’s 69 now, and he plays Nordstrom as a raspy, broken figure whose anguish lends him a singular strength. He keeps getting pummeled and stabbed, but he keeps coming back. It’s the rare action turn I would describe as a performance of real feeling; Lang makes you experience every slice of his flesh as a small wound to the soul. — Owen Gleiberman
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Respect (Liesl Tommy)
Distributor: United Artists, Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
Aretha Franklin was as important a female vocalist as America ever produced, and while “Respect” affords a glimpse of the vulnerable, uncertain woman she once was, audiences fully expect her to appear iconic. Hudson has the pipes as well as the presence, and that, plus the film’s two-and-a-half-hour running time, make the film feel more definitive than it is. — Peter Debruge
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Not Going Quietly
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters
Along with his editor Kent Bassett, Bruckman weaves these events together rather conventionally yet thoughtfully, making plenty of room for Barkan’s home life and appealingly chipper character that he somehow manages to maintain through all his battles. But that doesn’t mean the taxing demands of fighting for justice don’t take their toll on Barkan. On one hand, we witness the joyous growth of his family with a new baby. On the other, we watch as Barkan rapidly and soul-crushingly loses his voice and bodily functions, generating speech through a machine that recognizes his eye movements. — Tomris Laffly
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Exclusive to Apple Plus

CODA (Siân Heder) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Netflix
“CODA,” which features three remarkable deaf actors, is most assuredly a crowd-pleaser, though in this case I want to be specific about what that means. In many ways, it’s a highly conventional film, with tailored story arcs that crest and resolve just so, and emotional peaks and valleys that touch big fat rounded chords of inspiration. Yet the movie brings this all off with such sincerity and precision, and the film is so enthrallingly well-acted, that you may come away feeling grateful that this kind of mainstream dramatic craftsmanship still exists. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Netflix

Beckett (Ferdinando Cito Filomarino)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Much of Beckett’s behavior feels clumsy and improvised early on, as when he tries to steal a motorcycle and fails miserably. By the end, however, he has evolved from a guy we can identify with to someone we respect. Will Netflix viewers get that far in the movie, or will they flip over to something more conventional when this one lags? Hard to say, but it’s intriguing to see Filomarino experiment with the formula and exciting to imagine where his career might go from here. — Peter Debruge
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The Kissing Booth 3
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of Aug. 6

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

The Suicide Squad (James Gunn)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
“The Suicide Squad” gets it right, honing that rogue attitude to a much sleeker edge of outrage. It’s a team-of-scruffy-cutthroats origin story that feels honestly dunked in the grunge underworld, and shot for shot it’s made with a slicing ingenuity that honors the genre of “The Dirty Dozen” (and also, in a funny way, “Ghostbusters”). The movie is, among other things, a splatter comedy of depraved sensationalism, with heads and bodies getting torn up, lopped off, and reduced to the flesh equivalent of lattice work. — Owen Gleiberman
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Only in Theaters

Annette (Leos Carax)
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters; then on Prime Video Aug. 20
Carax was never shy about plumbing the dark, self-destructive aspects of romance but lacked the songwriting collaborators to send past projects into the stratosphere. And yet, in this particular cocktail, Carax is boiling lead to Sparks’ soda-pop fizz. What does go well with the French auteur’s honesty-insisting earnestness is Adam Driver’s over-committed lead turn. It’s the kind of performance directors tend to get only from the likes of Robert De Niro or Daniel Day-Lewis: a raging creature that consumes everything in sight. — Peter Debruge
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Build Your Own Brigade (Lucy Walker)
Distributor: CBSN Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
With a cast composed of wildfire survivors, firefighters, scientists, and indigenous thinkers, “Bring Your Own Brigade” is intelligent, harrowing, and poignant. Lucy Walker’s willingness to have her certainties upended makes the documentary a welcome addition to the climate-change genre even as it challenges assumptions about wildfires and the warming of the planet. — Lisa Kennedy
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Ema (Pablo Larraín)
Distributor: Music Box Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Ema” settles down into what it really is: a crystallized portrait of a new feminine attitude, one that treats men as irrelevant and unnecessary, but only because it’s about a yearning of the feminine to celebrate, and totally know, itself. “Ema” is channeling that consciousness, holding it up to the light, and the scenes with Ema and her girlfriends from the dance troupe are the best in the film. They’re intimate snapshots of a defiant sisterhood, one that glides in and out of the erotic. — Owen Gleiberman
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John and the Hole (Pascual Sisto) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
But “John and the Hole” is not quirky. It’s calculated and precise and meticulously constructed in a way that will be of considerable interest to audiences who appreciate stories that unsettle, and those who recognize the precision of Sisto’s approach. Both in style and psychology, this arm’s-length, deliberately paced film resists sensationalism, even as it relates a potentially freaky situation: John has been coddled by his family to such a degree that he feels compelled to banish them from the picture, but the way he goes about it is unpredictable (or at least inscrutable) enough that we start to fear for the lives of everyone involved. — Peter Debruge
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Available on Netflix

Vivo (Kirk DeMicco)
Where to Find It: Netflix
What Lin-Manuel Miranda does brilliantly here is introduce seemingly conflicting musical themes that will end up working together later in the film — so even though audiences can anticipate that Vivo and Gabi will bond eventually, it’s tough to predict exactly how their clashing sounds will manage to create harmony for the big finale. — Peter Debruge
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Pray Away
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of July 30

Only in Theaters

The Green Knight (David Lowery)
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It: In theaters
The wizards of A24, the hipster distribution company, have cut a bedazzling trailer out of “The Green Knight,” to the point that a friend asked me if she should take a bunch of 10-year-olds to it for a birthday party. My thought was: In a better world, perhaps — but I seriously wonder what a child seeking out a fantasy ride would make of this ravishing and enigmatic movie. It immerses us in the stoned danger and ardor of Gawain’s journey, especially when he’s attacked by scavengers and left for dead (the image of a skeleton in this sequence will make your heart stop), or when he encounters the petulant enchantress Winifred (Erin Kellyman). — Owen Gleiberman
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Jungle Cruise
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Disney Plus with Premier Access
“Jungle Cruise” is a movie that implicitly asks: What’s wrong with a little good old-fashioned escapism? The answer is: Absolutely nothing, and “Jungle Cruise” is old-fashioned, expect that it pelts the audience with entertainment in such a lively yet bumptious way that at times you may wish you were wearing protective gear. — Owen Gleiberman
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Stillwater (Tom McCarthy)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
McCarthy has more on his mind, using Damon’s character to “make hole” (as roughnecks do) in various assumptions Americans hold about themselves. Bill serves as a mirror of what foreigners see when a certain kind of cowboy barrels through the saloon doors of another country, hands on his holster, and it’s not necessarily flattering. On the surface, that may not satisfy everyone, but then, to coin a phrase, “Stillwater” runs deep. — Peter Debruge
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Nine Days (Edison Ota)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Where to Find It: In theaters
At the risk of overselling Edson Oda’s ultra-original, meaning-of-life directorial debut, there’s a big difference between “Nine Days” and pretty much every other film ever made. You see, most movies are about characters, real or imagined, and the stuff that happens to them, whereas “Nine Days” is about character itself — as in, the moral dimension that constitutes who a person is, how he or she treats others, and the choices that define us as humans. — Peter Debruge
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Available on Netflix

The Last Mercenary
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of July 23

Only in theaters

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (Robert Schwentke)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Snake Eyes” has style and verve, with a diabolical family plot that creates a reasonable quota of actual drama. The movie is also a synthetic but exuberantly skillful big-studio hodgepodge of ninja films, wuxia films, Yakuza films, and international revenge films. The fight scenes are staged with a slashing precision, and the whole movie, as shot by the cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, has an enveloping night-bloom look to it. For a kids’ franchise movie, it’s pretty good, but the main headline is this: Henry Golding has to be seriously considered for the role of James Bond. “Snake Eyes” makes it clear that he’s got the beauty, the cool, the glamour, the danger, the magnetism, and that essential Bond quality — the ability to telegraph the most lethal thoughts to an audience without saying a word. — Owen Gleiberman
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Old (M. Night Shyamalan)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Old,” like most Shyamalan movies, has a catchy hook along with some elegant filmmaking gambits. But instead of developing his premise in an insidious and powerful way, the writer-director just keeps throwing a lot of things at you. — Owen Gleiberman
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Settlers
Distributor: IFC
Where to Find It: In theaters
There’s more than a hint of the frontier western to Rockefeller’s brooding outer-space drama, beginning with the way cinematographer Willie Nel’s camera languidly surveys the parched, clay-baked vacancy of Mars’ surface, with its plains and mesas and rolling horizons — for which the arid sandstone expanses of Vioolsdrif, a village near the South African-Namibian border, serve as an evocative substitute. — Guy Lodge
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Mandibles (Quentin Dupieux)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
All the while, Dupieux’s skippy, carefree storytelling blithely defies analysis like, well, a fly escaping a swatter. There’s no moral or metaphor to be drawn from these hijinks, though the film’s unexpected humanity is the ace up its sleeve: It’s a testament to the wonderfully synched, spacy performances of Ludig and Marsais that we feel as much for these useless bros, with their dorky secret handshake and genuine care for each other, as one can possibly feel for characters essentially drawn as stick figures with bad hair. Even the fly, perfectly named Dominique, is adorable against all odds: a marvelous feat of puppetry that turns out to have the eager temperament of a family dog, as well as its size. You leave “Mandibles” briefly thinking a trained pet fly mightn’t be a bad idea: Such is the power of Dupieux’s infectious idiocy. — Guy Lodge
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Ailey
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Ailey” takes jagged leaps and leaves things out. And it uses the fact that Alvin Ailey was intensely private, a charismatic but elliptical figure who was famously hard to get to know, as a reason to respect and preserve his enigma rather than yearning to discover the man behind it. A film of impressionistic nonfiction like “Ailey” can cast a spell (at times, this one does); it can also leave you with a lot of questions. Yet “Ailey” creates a feeling about Alvin Ailey: how grace and eloquence, fire and obsession merged within him. We see clips of him in rehearsal, a lion of a man but with a teddy-bear side. He demanded perfection (of course) without turning into that cliché of the dance maestro as sadistic taskmaster. — Owen Gleiberman
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Val (Ting Poo, Leo Scott)
Distributor: Amazon Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters, then on Amazon Prime Video starting Aug. 6
For most of the 40 years covered in “Val,” Kilmer comes off as a creature of obsession, one who could be his own worst enemy. At his height, there was something entitled about him. Yet he now has the aura of a man who was dealt his cosmic comeuppance and came through it. He fell from stardom, maybe from grace, but he did it his way. And he’s still here, suggesting that grace is something you can climb back to. — Owen Gleiberman
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Charlatan
Distributor: CinemArt
Where to Find It: In theaters
This amusing disconnect between base content and burnished treatment somewhat echoes the conflicted perspective of Agnieszka Holland’s handsome, intelligently questioning but slightly dry biopic. Caught between a respectful tribute to Mikolášek’s medical achievements and a more salacious examination of his moral transgressions — with a tender if speculative gay romance propped somewhere in between — it’s an ambitious portrait of human imperfection that doesn’t strain to arouse much affection for its subject in the audience. — Guy Lodge
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How It Ends
Distributor: United Artists
Where to Find It: In theaters
“How It Ends” is perhaps the first one of those fiercely independent, low-budget pandemic-centric movies most of us suspected to see at Sundance in a couple of years’ time. Beating everyone to the punch, Lister-Jones and Wein perhaps don’t take Covid-19 head-on or inhabit 2020’s skin-crawling misery with their sometimes monotonously whimsical tone and atmosphere, accompanied by Ryan Miller’s fanciful score. But to their credit, they do acutely hit on the comedic nihilism this universally-shared experience brought about, even though their film falls short on laughs. — Tomris Laffly
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Eyimofe (This Is My Desire) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: GDN Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters
Chuko Esiri’s languid novelistic approach to the material makes “Eyimofe” feel both intimate and sprawling. There’s a patience to the pacing here where these labyrinthian (and even melodramatic) sounding plot twists and turns unravel with such unhurried care that you can see why the twins would cite the New Taiwan Cinema as an obvious point of comparison and influence. Much of that is owed to the work of DP Arseni Khachaturan. Shot on 16mm, Khachaturan’s long takes encourage our wandering eyes to sit with the textures and rhythms of the Erisis’s world-building. — Manuel Betancourt
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Joe Bell
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Where to Find It: In theaters
Here, without dialing down his trademark breathlessness one bit, Mark Wahlberg plays a man who commits to walking from his hometown of La Grange, Ore., to New York City, where his teenage son Jadin (Reid Miller) dreamed of living one day. Jadin’s there every step of the way, cheering him on and challenging his dad to do a better job of convincing people to be more accepting. — Peter Debruge
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All the Streets Are Silent: The Convergence of Hip Hop and Skateboarding (1987-1997)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters

Midnight in the Switchgrass
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters

Fear and Loathing in Aspen
Distributor: Shout! Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters

Available on Amazon Prime Video

Jolt
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video
Beckinsale is fun to watch in both the real and fantasy fight sequences that take up much of the briskly paced “Jolt.” But wait, there’s more: She neatly balances aggressive snark and emotional vulnerability in a performance that makes her character, if not entirely believable, then persuasive enough to encourage a rooting interest as Lindy makes life miserable for anyone she suspects played a role in Justin’s murder. — Joe Leydon
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Animosity
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video

Available on HBO Max

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage
Where to Find It: HBO Max

Available on Netflix

The Last Letter From Your Lover
Where to Find It: Netflix
In the first of this lushly mounted pair of love stories, Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner fall hard for each other in a 1960s-set romance of chance encounters, missed connections and moist-eyed rendezvous on railway platforms, channeling the vintage Hollywood melodrama of “An Affair to Remember.” In the second, Felicity Jones is a cut-glass hybrid of Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones, falling only incidentally for the awkward archivist who assists her in piecing together the former story, before the narratives merge in a more British, neatly calligraphed rewrite of “The Notebook.” — Guy Lodge
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Bankrolled
Where to Find It: Netflix

Blood Red Sky
Where to Find It: Netflix

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans
Where to Find It: Netflix

Available on Disney Plus

Playing With Sharks
Where to Find It: Disney Plus
“Playing With Sharks” slots neatly and uncontroversially into the widening niche for environmentalist documentaries, and in its accessible, friendly construction, will flourish on the small screen despite the grandeur of much of its classic footage. But more specifically, it sits alongside recent doc hits like “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” and Oscar nominee “My Octopus Teacher” in being not just about endangered ecosystems, but the deeply rewarding interactions that human beings can have with them over time. — Jessica Kiang
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Stuntman
Where to Find It: Disney Plus

Available on VOD

The Nest
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play

Meat Me Halfway
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV

New Releases for the Week of July 16

Only in theaters

Space Jam: A New Legacy
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
“Space Jam: A New Legacy” is chaotic, rainbow sprinkle-colored nonsense that, unlike the original, manages to hold together as a movie. Once again, an NBA legend slips into a netherworld populated by fictional characters who must help him win a basketball game to escape. As Bugs Bunny might say, “Eh, you were expecting maybe the Easter Bunny?” Instead, Bugs simply cracks, “Sounds awfully familiar.” — Amy Nicholson
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Pig CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: In theaters
What first impresses about “Pig” is the way it manages to feel both out there and grounded, often at the same time. Aside from the obviously far-fetched nature of its premise, it includes everything from an underground fight club for restaurant workers to chapter titles like “Rustic Mushroom Tart” and “Mom’s French Toast and Deconstructed Scallops.” But it never slips into absurdity. That’s also why it’s impossible to imagine anyone but Cage in the lead role: No one else can simultaneously embrace and elevate inherently ridiculous plot developments like he can while finding something close to the profound in it all. — Michael Nordine
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Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (Adam Robitel)
Distributor: Sony
Where to Find It: In theaters
This follow-up immediately announces itself as aiming no higher than strict franchise “more of the same”-ness, beginning with a recap of prior events and ending with a de facto kickoff for No. 3. Audiences seeking disposable summertime entertainment will find it certainly meets basic expectations, further amping up the unoriginal original’s hectic, video game-like PG-13 thrills. — Dennis Harvey
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Roadrunner (Morgan Neville)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
The film presents a psychological, almost novelistic portrait of how Bourdain evolved as a person during the years of his celebrity. What was unique in Bourdain’s case is that he was a high-flying personality ­— an addict, a sensation-seeker, a reckless rebel who craved experience — who had found a way to ground himself in the nightly demands of working in restaurant kitchens. The kitchen was his home. It gave him structure and purpose, a place to play out his obsessive nature. And once he became a TV star, his life as a chef got left behind. The home was gone. — Owen Gleiberman
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Available on Netflix

Fear Street Part 3: 1666(Leigh Janiak)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Fear Street Part 3: 1666” isn’t just the best of the Netflix horror trilogy; it also recasts the prior two entries, “1994” and “1978,” in a more favorable light by deepening the mythology and underscoring just how crucial it is to watch all three chapters consecutively. Taken on their own, any one of these films loosely based on R.L. Stine’s novels would be an above-average genre throwback. Together, they amount to one of the more involving horror series in recent memory.
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Gunpowder Milkshake (Navot Papushado)
Where to find it: Netflix
“Gunpowder Milkshake” unfolds in a candy-colored action dreamscape that feels like the Netflix version of a Tarantino theme park. It’s a rogue-assassin-hunting-down-the-assassins-who-are-hunting-her thriller, starring a charismatically affectless Karen Gillan as Sam, the rogue in question (though, in fact, she has done nothing wrong). — Owen Gleiberman
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New Releases for the Week of July 9

Available in Theaters and on Disney Plus

Black Widow (Cate Shortland)
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Disney Plus
It’s Scarlett Johansson who holds the film together and gives it its touch of soul. Natasha’s desire for vengeance is pulsating, but so are her inner wounds, and Johansson, unusual for the comic-book genre, makes the most vulnerable emotions part of the humanity of her strength… “Black Widow,” which kicks off Phase Four of the MCU, doesn’t feel like the first stand-alone “Black Widow” film. It feels more like the second, lost-in-the-wilderness “Black Widow” film. But I’m here to say that’s a good thing. Most of us have seen enough superpowers to last a lifetime. “Black Widow” spins on the powers that come from within. — Owen Gleiberman
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Available on Netflix

Fear Street Part 2: 1978 (Leigh Janiak)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Part 2” makes a number of explicit references to Stephen King and takes on a vaguely “It”-like quality at times, as though the very concept of evil lays not-quite-dormant in a moss-covered grave and periodically brings violent misfortune upon those in its vicinity. Though never quite rising to the level of its most overt influences, the film is lent a certain gravitas by the sense that all of this has happened before and will undoubtedly happen again. — Michael Nordine
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The 8th Night (Tae-Hyung Kim)
Where to Find It: Netflix

How I Became a Superhero (Douglas Attal)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Only in Theaters

The Loneliest Whale (Josh Zeman)
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Where to Find It: In theaters now and on VOD starting July 16
Zeman educates us about different types of whales while assembling a standard-issue nonfiction film, mostly comprising flat talking-head interviews conducted with an array of scientific experts. Also in the mix are simple, well-defined graphics and rich archival footage about the historical plight of the oceanic titans that were once brutally and commonly murdered in hordes for their precious blubber. — Tomris Laffly
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Dachra (Abdelhamid Bouchnak)
Distributor: Dekanalog
Where to Find It: In theaters
Despite the screenplay’s various shortcomings and clichés, however, “Dachra” never feels silly in the moment. It’s got menacing atmosphere to spare, its aesthetically refined exploitation of stock genre elements (a sinister child, ominous hooded figures, etc.) all the more impressive because this very good-looking enterprise purportedly cost a total equivalent to $80,000. Without being yet another overt homage to yesteryear’s Euro grindhouse fare, Bouchnak’s movie often recalls the deeply unsettling vibe of such cult classics as the Spanish “Who Can Kill a Child?” and Lucio Fulci’s Italian “House by the Cemetery,” efforts whose memorable qualities had little to do with their flimsy scripts. — Dennis Harvey
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Scales (Shahad Ameen)
Distributor: Variance Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
The position of Saudi women as second-class citizens receives a potent metaphoric visualization in Saudi helmer-writer Shahad Ameen’s parable-like debut drama, “Scales.” Revealing more through imagery than dialogue, the tale unfolds on a barren island where tradition dictates that each family sacrifice a daughter to the sea maidens to ensure the local fishermen a good catch. With its glittering black-and-white cinematography, immersive sound design, eerie score and creepy reveal, the film taps into something primal and chilling, with the taut first third particularly strong. — Alissa Simon
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American 965 (Tristan Loraine)
Distributor: BossaNova
Where to Find It: In theaters

Available on VOD

Marathon (Keith Strausbaugh, Anthony Guidubaldi)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Fandango Now

Meander (Mathieu Turi)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play

Son (Ivan Kavanaugh)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Google Play, YouTube

New Releases for the Week of July 2

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on HBO Max
Soderbergh has a prankish side, but the truth is he would have been right at home in the ’40s or ’50 churning out moody black-and-white thrillers like Robert Siodmak or Joseph H. Lewis. His latest makes that connection all the more explicit. It’s a down-and-dirty, multi-tentacled crime thriller set in the racially polarized Detroit of 1954, and Soderbergh revels in the period trappings: the rounded cars and stylish baggy clothes, the elegant brick-based architecture, the surface ’50s “innocence” that now looks like it was designed to conceal corruption. He has also made a movie in which everyone is double-crossing everyone. — Owen Gleiberman
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Available in Theaters and on Peacock

The Boss Baby: Family Business (Tom McGrath)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and on Peacock
Well, they made a sequel to “The Boss Baby.” The 2017 DreamWorks film, extremely loosely based on Marla Frazee’s children’s book series, bet big on the appeal of a dyspeptic, super-intelligent, black-suited infant speaking with the voice of Alec Baldwin while doing un-babylike things. “The Boss Baby: Family Business” is making a similarly big bet that family audiences are ready to return to theaters. The film itself, unfortunately, is generally less interesting than the business matters behind it, a thoroughly competent affair that tosses in just enough off-the-wall elements to liven up a fairly basic retread of the original’s formula. — Andrew Barker
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Only in Theaters

The Forever Purge (Everardo Valerio Gout)
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Where to Find It:
In theaters
“The Forever Purge” is set in Texas, a place that likes to think of itself as having invented the idea that the law should consist of a man, his firearms, and not much else. Until now, the series has encouraged us to think of the Purge as a city thing: all those residents of highly populated epicenters with their pent-up rage. But the notion of a “Purge” film done as a demented Western action movie strikes a chord, especially when you toss in the topical Molotov cocktail that “The Forever Purge” is built around. In this movie, the Purge has become so addictive to the people taking advantage of its lawless catharsis that they have no desire — or intention — to stop. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Neutral Ground (CJ Hunt)
Where to Find It: Exclusively at Laemmle Glendale Theatres, followed by PBS’ “POV” on July 5
Hunt’s alternately amusing and enraging essay film goes beyond the surface debates to examine why some Southerners are so attached to their Civil War heroes. The answer, complicated though it may be, is tied up in the pernicious propaganda campaign known as the Lost Cause. Hunt initiated the project in 2015 when New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu started making rumblings about taking down the city’s Confederate monuments, somewhat clumsily lifting the snarky man-on-the-street bits and irreverent interview style from “The Daily Show” (where Hunt now works as a field producer). — Peter Debruge
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Zola (Janicza Bravo)
Distributor: A24
Where to Find It: In theaters
Rowdier than “Hustlers” and “The Florida Project” put together, but hailing from a similar place of for-hire female empowerment, “Zola” is an irreverent, sensibility-offending trip for audiences — a good many of whom may be shocked to their core — and a showcase for leading ladies Taylour Paige and Riley Keough, playing the stripper who tries to lead her astray. Inspired by an epic tweetstorm that became a viral sensation that became a Rolling Stone story that somehow got optioned for the big screen, “Zola” lays waste to good taste as it recounts a crazy road trip in which two gals head from Detroit to Florida and shit goes south. — Peter Debruge
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

First Date (Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp)
Distributor:
Magnet Releasing
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
More concerned with paying homage to ’90s-era Quentin Tarantino than telling a contemporary coming-of-age tale with believable stakes, “First Date” saddles a young couple not with a romantic night out, but with a haphazard all-nighter crime-comedy that’s mostly unfunny and free of convincing suspense. Instead, we get a blood-soaked comedy of errors, full of wisecracking criminals, missed connections and shoot-’em-up set pieces. Perhaps the most frustrating facet of “First Date,” other than how little time Mike and Kelsey spend together, is Mike’s ongoing passivity in such situations. — Tomris Laffly
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The God Committee (Austin Stark)
Distributor:
Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
Kelsey Grammer and Julia Stiles do not make a natural romantic couple, and their awkward pairing is the largest misstep made by this adaptation of Mark St. Germain’s play about a group of doctors tasked with deciding which of three patients should receive a heart transplant. Often resembling a schematic variation on “Twelve Angry Men” by way of “Grey’s Anatomy,” this earnest drama is a largely understated affair whose creakier elements are offset by a nuanced look at its various entangled issues. That won’t be enough to garner it much box-office traction, but it does make it a solid option for adult VOD viewers. — Nick Schager
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The Phantom (Patrick Forbes)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It:
In theaters and on demand
“If you’re poor and have no money, and can’t get yourself a lawyer who really gives a shit about your case, you’re going to die,” a defense attorney ruefully notes at one point in this fascinating and ultimately infuriating documentary. This isn’t an entirely fitting description of what befell Carlos DeLuna, who was executed in 1989 for a brutal 1983 murder that he almost certainly did not commit. Indeed, the skillfully and compellingly directed film indicates that DeLuna’s defenders were not indifferent, or incompetent, but grievously (and maybe deliberately) misinformed about mitigating evidence. — Joe Leydon
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Till Death (S.K. Dale)
Distributor: Screen Media
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
“I’m gonna cut myself free of you even if it’s the last thing I do.” The line, uttered by Emma (Megan Fox) to her husband the morning after celebrating their 10th anniversary at their remote lake house, is the kind of on-the-nose dialogue that sums up the bluntness of this wintry-set thriller. But by the time Emma explodes in anger at Mark, she’s bathed in his blood, handcuffed to his limp, lifeless body in an empty house with nary a sharp tool (or a working phone) to be found. What was once a psychological plight has become a nightmarish reality in Jason Carvey’s all-too-literal screenplay. — Manuel Betancourt
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The Tomorrow War - Credit: Courtesy of Amazon
The Tomorrow War - Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Courtesy of Amazon

Exclusive to Amazon

The Tomorrow War (Chris McKay)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
“The Tomorrow War” is a big, dumb, sometimes tedious, sometimes fun civilization-vs.-aliens showdown that sends a bunch of ordinary people through a wormhole into the future to save the human race. The creatures they’re fighting are odd-looking beasts. Imagine the big-jawed monsters from the “Alien” films crossed with Velociraptors crossed with rapidly galloping chickens, with skin that looks like it’s been rolled in egg wash and dipped in white flower. It’s an alien-combat time-warp movie that makes you long for the nuance of “Starship Troopers.” It’s the definition of rousingly adequate. — Owen Gleiberman
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Fear Street Part 1: 1994 - Credit: Courtesy of Netflix
Fear Street Part 1: 1994 - Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

Exclusive to Netflix

America: The Motion Picture (Matt Thompson)
Where to Find It: Netflix
America’s creation myths may not be entirely rooted in fact — few of us still believe the story about George Washington chopping down that cherry tree — but they’re considerably less outlandish than “America: The Motion Picture,” an animated comedy in which our first president is a chainsaw-wielding freedom fighter who founds America to avenge the murder of his best friend, Abraham Lincoln. If that timeline seems impossible, that’s because it is — not that this “Adult Swim”-esque cartoon cares, bringing an anarchic energy to the story of how many become one. — Michael Nordine
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Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (Leigh Janiak)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Debuting July 2 and rolling out a fresh installment every Friday for three weeks, Netflix’s new “Fear Street” trilogy slices and dices “Goosebumps” author R.L. Stine’s other book series into three feature-length horror movies, each one detailing a different bloodbath in small-town Shadyside. “Part 1” takes a page from “Stranger Things” as director Leigh Janiak appeals to audiences’ near-past nostalgia, evoking a time when landlines and shopping malls were still a thing. The strategy supplies an intriguing retro veneer to an otherwise generic showdown between several misfit teens and their waking nightmares. — Peter Debruge
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Prime Time (Jakub Piatek)
Where to Find It: Netflix
After roiling a Polish village as an impostor priest in Oscar-nominated “Corpus Christi,” star Bartosz Bielenia tries to rattle the entire nation in “Prime Time.” His character here is another malcontent, this one armed and ready to take over a TV studio on New Year’s Eve with a special message for the world. But he’s a bit too literally a rebel without a cause: We never discover just what this protagonist’s protesting gripe is. That lack makes director Piatek and co-writer Lukasz Czapski’s first feature a familiar hostage drama whose anticipated narrative raison d’etre is strangely MIA. — Dennis Harvey
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New Releases for the Week of June 25

Only in Theaters

F9 (Justin Lin)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It:
In wide release
The movie keeps looking back over its shoulder — at all the spy-team-as-family relationships the series has established, and at one key character we thought was deceased. You could say that when a blockbuster film series is 10 movies — and two decades — old, it has more than earned the right to look back. But the way franchises generally work is that good sequels look forward, or at least fixate on the present. “F9” is directed, once again, by Justin Lin, who put his extravagant stamp on “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and made the next three entries in the series, but considering that “F9” is Lin’s fifth “F and F” film and his first one in eight years, it goes through the motions with more energy than intoxication. — Owen Gleiberman
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God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya (Teona Strugar Mitevska)
Distributor: 1844 Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters
Watching a woman take control of her destiny after being told she’s worthless can make for one of cinema’s more empowering moments, but how satisfying is it really when her struggle for self-esteem takes a back seat to the happiness of being validated by a handsome man? “God Exists, Her Name is Petrunya” positions itself as a feminist cry against a patriarchal Macedonia in the grips of bullying machismo and hidebound religion, yet the genial rushed ending undercuts its gender-equality thrust. Mitevska delivers her most focused film to date, with a concentrated plot mined for opportunities reinforcing the ways ignorant tradition traps women in subservient roles. — Jay Weissberg
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I Carry You With Me (Heidi Ewing)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Where to Find It: In select theaters
“I Carry You With Me” tells the true story of an undocumented gay couple from Mexico who risk their lives for love, liberty and the American Dream. Making her first foray into narrative filmmaking, documentary helmer Heidi Ewing began the project as a vérité portrait of her real-life subjects, Ivan and Gerardo, but cast actors to play the two men in reenactments of their early life — both as children and later, at the moment they met and fell in love. The narrative scenes are shot in a way that makes it hard to stay committed throughout, and the actors don’t seem to be playing the same two people we’re allowed to observe in the present. — Valerie Complex
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Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor:
Searchlight Pictures
Where to Find It: In select New York and Los Angeles theaters, followed by Hulu on July 2
A great many things happened in 1969 that marked the year as a turning point: Altamont, Chappaquiddick, the moon landing, the Manson murders, Woodstock. But one momentous thing happened that very few people know about (and that the larger culture has totally forgotten), and that was the astonishing series of concerts that took place over six weekends in Mount Morris Park in Harlem. The artist who has now, for the first time, shined a precious light on that footage is Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson in a music documentary like no other, because while it’s a joyful, cataclysmic, and soulfully seductive concert movie, what it’s really about is a key turning point in Black life in America. — Owen Gleiberman
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Sun Children (Majid Majidi
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Where to Find It: In select New York and Los Angeles theaters
Watching Iranian director Majid Majidi’s “Sun Children,” I was reminded of “The Florida Project.” One of the best films about children of the 21st century, “The Florida Project” takes place within a stone’s throw of Walt Disney World, where it seems a dream too much for its neglected kid characters to visit until they enter the park. “Sun Children” presents this scenario in reverse. It opens with two boys, 12-year-old Ali (Rouhollah Zamani) and young Afghan friend/accomplice Abolfazl (Abolfazl Shirzad), running through the poshest place they can think of: a Tehran shopping mall where they’ve been stealing tires from the luxury cars in the parking garage. — Peter Debruge
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Werewolves Within (Josh Ruben)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Trespass and die,” reads an unneighborly sign glimpsed early in Josh Ruben’s agile, niftily directed whodunit “Werewolves Within.” While the placard specifically refers to some local’s private property, one could safely apply the warning to the whole snow-clad Vermont village that surrounds it. Welcome to Beaverfield, a sleepy town chock-full of secrets, lies and ideological disparities you should only enter at your own peril. But know that it’s a risk well worth taking, especially if Rian Johnson’s delectable caper “Knives Out” has recently scratched your itch for cozily inviting, steadily funny murder mysteries where the identity of the killer is anyone’s guess until the end. — Tomris Laffly
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Lansky (Eytan Rockaway)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It:
In select theaters and on demand
This indie drama is yet another interpretation of real-life events previously recounted, with varying degrees of accuracy, in features and TV movies as diverse as 1974 TV movie “Virginia Hill,” the 1999 HBO production “Lansky” and Barry Levinson’s “Bugsy” (1991). Truth to tell, however, comparisons to those predecessors don’t always work in Rockaway’s favor. But never mind: Keitel infuses his performance here with more than enough lion-in-winter gravitas to dominate every moment he is on screen, and quite a few when he isn’t, which in turn is sufficient to propel “Lansky” through stretches when the passing of time is felt, and the budgetary limitations are obvious. — Joe Leydon
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My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To (Jonathan Cuartas)
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
Placing more emphasis on dysfunctional domestic drama than thrills, Jonathan Cuartas’ Utah-shot first feature may be too low-key for mainstream horror fans. But the film’s conviction and strong performances should appeal to those who appreciated such prior understated, “realistic” spins on vampire cinema as “The Hamiltons,” George A. Romero’s “Martin,” the original “Let the Right One In,” or more recent “The Transmigration.” Returning to screen at the 2021 Tribeca Fest, “Heart” officially premiered at last year’s severely COVID-compromised edition, and has toured the international festival circuit in between. — Dennis Harvey
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Exclusive to Amazon Prime

Mary J. Blige’s My Life (Vanessa Roth)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
Tracing the dark genesis of Blige’s 1994 album “My Life,” exploring its legacy with fans and featuring brief (perhaps too brief) performance clips from a pair of 2019 concerts Blige staged to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Roth’s doc has no shortage of cooperation from the subject herself (also an executive producer). But there’s a valedictory glossiness to the film that sometimes underserves the warts-and-all power of the work in question — as a fan-centric retrospective, it hits plenty of the right notes; but as a chance to more thoroughly explore a complicated, still-influential landmark, it never digs quite deeply enough. — Andrew Barker
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Exclusive to Discovery Plus

Rebel Hearts (Pedro Kos)
Where to Find It: Discovery Plus
By 1968, life had got complicated for misfit sisters, while a conflicted Catholic church struggled to contend with a decade of seismic social unrest. As civil rights and gender politics evolved, many brides of Christ found themselves torn between the advances of the outside world and the rigid patriarchy of the their church. Tracing the story of one particularly independent-minded group of Los Angeles nuns, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pedro Kos’ accessible, moist-eyed doc “Rebel Hearts” neatly threads a global feminist awakening through the very specific experience of a few defiant, no-longer-cloistered women. — Guy Lodge
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Exclusive to Disney Plus

Wolfgang (David Gelb)
Where to Find It: Disney Plus
Wolfgang Puck made great food fun, not just tasty and classy and healthy but popping with succulence in a way that appealed to the child within. People went to Spago because they wanted to be seen, but also because it was a nightly culinary party. It was Puck who took the stuffiness out of high-end restaurant bravado, and that spirit swept through New York and other food meccas and spilled into the hinterlands. The former Spago cook Evan Funke says in the movie, “He’s the founding father of the way we eat in this country.” If Puck had done nothing but that, he’d be a giant. But as “Wolfgang” entertainingly captures, Puck tumbled into innovations that became more influential than anyone, including him, might have expected. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to HBO Max

LFG (Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine)
Where to Find It: HBO Max
This factually compelling, unapologetically smitten film follows the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team after they file a lawsuit against their employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, for equal pay. Along the way (and it’s a long way to pay equity for professional female athletes), the team kicks some balls and some butt on the field, then weathers the coronavirus pandemic, as they press their claim for fair compensation. The documentary makes a strong case for just how remarkable a team they are. While “LFG” doesn’t divulge the elusive recipe, it ladles what one teammate called the group’s “special sauce.” — Lisa Kennedy
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The Ice Road - Credit: Allen Fraser/Netflix
The Ice Road - Credit: Allen Fraser/Netflix

Allen Fraser/Netflix

Exclusive to Netflix

Good on Paper (Kimmy Gatewood)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Skilled comedian Iliza Shlesinger is proving to be quite the formidable force for Netflix. Loosely based on her real-life experiences as well as the standup routine that’s innovatively integrated throughout, her self-penned feature “Good on Paper” is centered on a woman who begrudgingly decides to let down her guard when it comes to relationships, only to be confronted with a problematic guy who’s more slippery than safe. Containing razor-sharp witticisms about feminine intuition, gendered sexual politics and relationships (both platonic and romantic), it excels beyond its self-deprecating title. — Courtney Howard
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The House of Flowers: The Movie (Manolo Caro)
Where to Find It: Netflix

The Ice Road (Jonathan Hensleigh)
Where to Find It: Netflix
As if the Frozen North hadn’t already given him enough grief in “The Grey” and “Cold Pursuit,” Liam Neeson is back for more chilly punishment with “The Ice Road.” Jonathan Hensleigh’s first feature as writer-director since “Kill the Irishman” a decade ago has the star as one of three drivers making a dangerous journey to deliver equipment needed to rescue trapped miners in Northern Manitoba. Just about every possible peril turns up to thwart their mission en route, making for an increasingly implausible action movie that will entertain most viewers, but also perhaps make them feel a bit played for fools. — Dennis Harvey
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Sisters on Track (Corinne van der Borch & Tone Grøttjord-Glenne)
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of June 18

Luca - Credit: Pixar
Luca - Credit: Pixar

Pixar

Exclusive to Disney Plus

Luca (Enrico Casarosa)
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Where to Find It: Included with Disney Plus subscription
“Luca,” set in Italy in the ’50s, is modest to a fault, and at times it feels generic enough to be an animated feature from almost any studio. But it’s a visually beguiling small-town nostalgia trip, as well as a perfectly pleasant fish-out-of-water fable — literally, since it’s about a boy sea monster who longs to go ashore. The early parts are set under the sea, and if you’re thinking “The Little Mermaid” meets “Finding Nemo,” you wouldn’t be too far off. “Luca” is a film for kiddies that unabashedly recycles old formulas. In this movie, when a sea monster like Luca (Jacob Tremblay) leaves the water, he instantly converts to human form; when he goes back into the water, he reverts. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Sparks Brothers
The Sparks Brothers

Only in Theaters

12 Mighty Orphans (Ty Roberts)
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Where to Find It: In theaters
It’s hard to imagine a football coach starting off with less than real-life hero Rusty Russell (Luke Wilson) does when he arrives at Fort Worth’s Masonic Home in “12 Mighty Orphans”: No shoes for his team, no field for his team and no team. Russell took those shortcomings and revolutionized the game. He motivated just enough players to form a team and then innovated the so-called spread offense to take on bigger squads from stronger schools. The “Mighty Mites” embody practically everything that underdog sports movies are made of, and director Ty Roberts’ treatment hits nearly all the feel-good notes we’ve come to expect from the genre, with one extra: It signals a comeback of sorts for Luke Wilson. — Peter Debruge
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A Crime on the Bayou (Nancy Buirski)
Distributor: Shout! Studios
Where to Find It: In select theaters
With several major participants still alive to be interviewed, the documentary pays vivid testimony to the long-term impact this case had in forcing Southern states out of a Jim Crow era they’d clung to despite new federal laws. But in some ways, the film’s biggest strength is its use of archival materials. They’re woven together to provide an unusually palpable sense of just how much deeply-ingrained institutional and cultural bias needed to be overcome for the civil rights movement to make real headway. It’s a colorful story whose central figure, Gary Duncan, makes a contrastingly quiet, stoic impression. — Dennis Harvey
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Gaia (Jaco Bouwer)
Distributor: Decal
Where to Find It: In theaters
Mother Nature might be predator, prey or another supernatural being altogether in “Gaia,” infiltrating her targets with unfurling shoots and roots and sudden fungal outcrops, until she’s eventually growing from within them. Or so it seems in this cool, taciturn ecological horror, which isn’t in any kind of hurry to show us exactly what dark forces are at play in the woods that encircle a tensely matched trio of human characters. We do, however, see their effects, manifested as the film’s own. “Gaia’s” resourceful visuals, however, aren’t matched by equivalent nimbleness in the writing; after a time, the storytelling feels more anemic than enigmatic. — Guy Lodge
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Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (Patrick Hughe)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters
It isn’t just the ultraviolent action that assaults you in a frenzy of debauched thriller hyperbole. So does the plot, which has something to do with Antonio Banderas as a pompadoured psycho in a smoking jacket who’s out to destroy Europe with a computer virus. What the story really has to do with, though, is the three title characters — the sociopathic hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), his seethingly ferocious con-artist wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), and the ace bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), an ironically sensitive bespoke pussycat who’s along for the ride — pelting each other with every conceivable variation of threat, taunt, and insult. — Owen Gleiberman
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Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It (Mariem Pérez Riera)
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Where to Find It: In theaters
This documentary from the theatrical wing of “American Masters” cheerfully jumps from one heartening career reinvention to the next, with sobering lulls to ponder what an even more prolific filmography she might have had without profligate racism and sexism standing in her path. The pride that infuses the movie — the admiration that comes from her costars, and the admiration of her Latinx acolytes and mentees, as well as her own self-belief — comes at just the right length. Not many potential subjects for docs of this sort really justify being put in a character arc that involves so many micro-rises and falls before such an extended and graceful plateau. — Chris Willman
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The Sparks Brothers (Edgar Wright) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
After the 140 minutes zip by like a tight half-hour, even the previously uninitiated may well feel like they’ve known Sparks all along — or at least that they should have. In its unbombastic way, with its exhaustive archival footage deep-dive, monochromatic morsels of admiration from more than 80 celebrity interviewees and the brothers interjecting deadpan wit throughout, the film makes a persuasive case that there’s a universe running on a very close parallel to ours where Sparks are the biggest band in the world. Every now and then a particular song hit big, and that universe almost merged with our own infinitely less interesting one. — Jessica Kiang
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Summer of 85 (François Ozon)
Distributor: Music Box Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters, with nationwide expansion to follow
Not since the summer of 2003, when Ozon unveiled Sapphic sizzler “Swimming Pool” at the Cannes Film Festival, has the French director seduced audiences quite as brazenly as he does in “Summer of 85.” A breezy first-love flashback to more innocent times, Ozon’s latest recalls life not just before COVID-19 but, more importantly, before AIDS overshadowed what it meant to come out. The nostalgia here is undercut by tragedy, though no virus is to blame in what feels like Ozon’s response to “Call Me by Your Name” — his own effervescent account of two souls who found one another for a single season, and how that shaped a young man’s sexual identity going forward. — Peter Debruge
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Sweat (Magnus van Horn)
Distributor: Mubi
Where to Find It: In select theaters
Swedish writer-director Magnus van Horn’s aggressively accomplished sophomore feature takes as its subject an outwardly easy target for satirical character study — young, sexy, relentlessly self-promoting Polish fitness guru Sylwia, who has approximately 600,000 followers and precisely zero friends — and follows her across a draining three-day whirl of professional engagements, personal crises and social media updates that fall somewhere in between. At first, the result yields the exact damning insights you’d expect from a portrait of this performative, image-oriented lifestyle, before some welcome conflict seeps in via Magdalena Koleśnik’s tricky, tightrope-walking tour de force in the lead. — Guy Lodge
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Les Nôtres (Our Own) (Jeanne Leblanc)
Distributor:
Oscilloscope Laboratories
Where to Find It:
In select theaters and on demand
A moody, clenched drama that works its tension so deep you may find your palms marked with the indentations of your fingernails by the end, “Les Nôtres” is the deeply uneasy but compelling second film from director Jeanne Leblanc (“Isla Blanca”). Illuminated by a powerfully self-possessed performance by Émilie Bierre as the 13-year-old whose pregnancy will have dire consequences for all except the pedophile responsible, this is an enraging film astringent enough to peel the paint from the façade of virtue propped up by the small-town Quebecois community in which it takes place. — Jessica Kiang
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Siberia (Abel Ferrara)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In very limited release, on demand and digital
“Siberia” is the sixth film Abel Ferrara has made with Willem Dafoe, and by the end of it, were it not for vivid memories of past collaborations with Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken, it would be hard to conceive of him ever having cast anyone else. “Siberia” represents a beautiful, unhinged, sometimes hilarious trek into geographical and psychological wilderness that will delight some and mystify many others. As a study of a rugged individualist looking back on long-withered connections — to others, to the mainstream world, and indeed to himself — it feels personally invested both as a star vehicle and an auteur piece. If it isn’t, the joke’s on us, and still pretty funny. — Guy Lodge
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Sweet Thing (Alexandre Rockwell)
Distributor: Film Movement
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
Time tugs strangely on the sleeve of “Sweet Thing,” a heartfelt, hopeful yet slightly hollow black-and-white coming-of-ager. A lively, bittersweet meditation on an impoverished childhood that is still rich in innocence and imagination, it feels old-fashioned in a way that does not quite gel with its bid for contemporary grit. In form too, it feels more like a quaint reminder of Rockwell’s early-’90s heyday than a product of our modern times. With verve and vitality it pays a dreamy-eyed retrospective debt to films past, and largely due to the beguiling performance from Rockwell’s own daughter Lana, ultimately delivers a moving, tousled journey of discovery. — Jessica Kiang
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Exclusive to Hulu and Nat Geo

Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer (Dawn Porter)
Where to Find It: Hulu and Nat Geo
“Rise Again” is a hard but welcome addition to a growing collection of movies and television series — fiction and nonfiction — that insists viewers reckon with the nation’s violent, anti-Black past, a past that has carried over into our present. That it begins streaming on Juneteenth — a complicated, powerful holiday — is no small matter. It seems that for the foreseeable future, jubilation is necessarily entwined with jarring evidence of pathological racism. “Rise Again” builds a case that after the Civil War, Black achievement was often met with brutality, even carnage. Among Porter’s skills is her ability to ask questions of institutions while hewing to the human subjects driving her narratives. — Lisa Kennedy
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Exclusive to Netflix

Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens (Lucky Kuswandi)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Fatherhood (Paul Weitz)
Where to Find It: Netflix
It used to be that when you called a movie a glorified sitcom, it was an insult. But when you watch “Fatherhood,” an unabashedly formulaic, undeniably sweet Netflix dramedy in which Kevin Hart offers up a benign variation on his trademark irascibility in the role of a devoted but desperate single dad, it’s easy to imagine the sitcom version as richer, deeper, more layered. That said, on its own terms the movie accomplishes what it sets out to do. It transitions Hart from playfully scowling cutup to earnest heartfelt actor, and it does so in a way that, at times, is genuinely touching, even as the audience can see every sanded-down conflict and market-tested beat falling into place. — Owen Gleiberman
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Jagame Thandhiram (Karthik Subbaraj)
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of June 11

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

In the Heights (Jon M. Chu) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Where to Find It: In theaters and HBO Max
“Crazy Rich Asians” director Chu helms this eye-popping big-screen adaptation of the revolutionary Tony-winning hip-hop musical that put Lin-Manuel Miranda on the map. “In the Heights” was always an upbeat and joyful show, as well as an inspiration in the representation department: It featured Latinos playing Latinos, singing in intricate, rapid-fire rhymes peppered with Spanish expressions and references to Caribbean culture — the food, the fashion and above all, the music. Like its source, the movie is a blast, one that benefits enormously from being shot on the streets of Washington Heights, from the bodega belonging to Dominican American narrator Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) to parks, pools and other public spaces. — Peter Debruge
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Only in Theaters

Asia (Ruthy Pribar)
Distributor:
Menemsha Films
Where to Find It:
In select theaters
“Arthouse ‘Gilmore Girls’ meets ‘The Fault in Our Stars’” would be one way to describe the array of familiar elements in “Asia,” while erasing any hint of the rare delicacy and emotional acuity with which Israeli writer-director Pribar assembles them. In her unassumingly lovely debut feature, Pribar tackles thorny mother-daughter relations, terminal disease anguish and two generations of frustrated sexual yearning in a trim 85 minutes, without once shortcutting to easy sentimentality or high-pitched melodrama. She’s not alone on that balance beam, of course: A pair of exquisitely pitched, mutually reflective performances by Alena Yiv and Shira Haas help this low-key, grownup family drama stick fast in the head and heart. — Guy Lodge
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Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond)
Distributor:
Magnet Releasing
Where to Find It: In theaters, followed by on demand on June 18
The premise of “Censor” is so strong that it’s little wonder the film can’t quite live up — or perhaps down — to it: In a Thatcher’s Britain riven by tabloid-fueled “video nasty” hysteria, a young woman working for the national censorship board is assessing a horror flick, when it triggers sudden flashbacks to a traumatic, amnesiac episode in her own life. Given the ongoing debates around censorship and the relationship between screen violence and its real-life counterpart, not to mention the grungy exploitation aesthetic of the no-budget films it references, “Censor” dangles the prospect of topical, ticklish provocation that will prove offensive to some sensibilities. — Jessica Kiang
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The Misfits (Renny Harlin)
Distributor:
The Avenue
Where to Find It:
In theaters, followed by on demand and digital on June 15
Had “The Misfits” been made 22 years earlier — say, in the sweet spot between James Bond globe-trotter “The World Is Not Enough” and the release of Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch” — chances are, audiences would’ve had a pretty good time watching “Die Hard 2” director Harlin’s idea of a cutting-edge heist movie. “The Misfits” stars Pierce Brosnan as one of half a dozen not-so-petty criminals who team up to knock off a for-profit prison in Abu Dhabi, where the guy who built it (Tim Roth) has been stockpiling blood money for terrorists in the form of well-secured gold bars. But this is 2021, and Harlin is still making movies for ’90s sensibilities. — Peter Debruge
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Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (Will Gluck)
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
Beatrix Potter’s beloved literary character Peter Rabbit suffered from a bit of an identity crisis in his contemporized big-screen debut. In 2018’s “Peter Rabbit,” his headstrong, mischievous spirit didn’t bear more than a passing resemblance to the fundamental virtues the author had fused into her expansive children’s book series. The sequel reunites with a far more remorseful, practically rehabilitated rabble-rouser, who’s struggling to rectify how the world sees him versus how he sees himself. How fitting. His journey from selfish to selfless will lead him into interesting introspection, but also redemption in the eyes of those who didn’t take a shine to the earlier film. — Courtney Howard
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Sublet (Eytan Fox)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters
A middle-aged gay American travel writer rents an apartment in Tel Aviv from a laid-back film student in Fox’s formulaic audience-pleaser. Venturing ever so discreetly into the kind of darker ruminations that marked his best-known films (“Yossi & Jagger,” “Walk on Water”), Fox offers no surprises in this too-neatly packaged midlife-crisis story carefully designed to cater to an older gay demographic. Newcomer Niv Nissem provides a freshness that papers over the conventionality of it all. John Benjamin Hickey rarely gets the chance to head a film’s cast, which is a shame as he’s a subtle actor who fills in Michael’s troubled melancholy with deeper shades than the script accords. — Jay Weissberg
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Holler (Nicole Riegel)
Distributor:
IFC Films
Where to Find It: In select theater, on demand and digital
There’s a distracting practice in American cinema of casting actors who are already well into their 20s to play teens, although “Holler” contains one of the few examples in recent memory where an age difference of nearly a decade, while noticeable, works to the film’s advantage. Ruth, the resourceful Ohio high school student at the heart of Riegel’s open-wound debut, has been forced to grow up too soon. Life isn’t fair, and it shows on the face of British actor Jessica Barden, whose remarkable performance illuminates this unvarnished dive into tough, small-town survival … and escape. Ruth represents a huge swath of the American public rarely seen on-screen: young people without iPhones and Instagram accounts, just struggling to get by. — Peter Debruge
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La Dosis (Michael Haussman)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
The line between mercy killing and plain old murder is uncomfortably drawn in Argentine “La Dosis.” Writer-director Martin Kraut’s debut feature sets up an intriguing cat-and-mouse conflict between one male hospital nurse whose early-terminus interventions are of the compassionate kind, while a new staffer’s seem motivated by pure malice. Not quite as suspenseful or twisty as that premise might lead one to expect, this ends up falling somewhere between thriller and character-study terrain. Nonetheless, it occupies that not-entirely-satisfying middle ground capably enough to keep viewers interested, and to suggest its maker has the chops for less-modestly-scaled future projects. — Dennis Harvey
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Exclusive to Netflix

Awake (Mark Raso)
Where to Find It: Netflix
With second-rate “Bird Box” knock-off “Awake,” Netflix just may have found the cure for insomnia. In this occasionally engaging but mostly frustrating sci-fi thriller, an unexplained event causes a massive electromagnetic pulse that fries most electronics and leaves nearly all of humanity incapable of sleep. From the mysterious incident onward, the characters slowly slide toward insanity as fatigue takes its toll, although it’s not clear how everyone on earth immediately recognizes (or believes) that the resulting restlessness is permanent. If the recent real-world pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that early in a health crisis, nobody knows anything, and the resulting confusion tends to be more exhausting than engaging. — Peter Debruge
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Skater Girl (Manjari Makijany)
Where to Find It: Netflix
First-time director Makijany intentionally built a set that would live after she called cut: the first skatepark in Rajasthan, India, where rural children can find freedom and confidence on four wheels, and even mingle beyond their caste. Her gentle drama is a promotional piece for the project from need to execution to totally tubular climactic skateboarding championship, timed, of course, to coincide with the day her teenage heroine Prerna (Rachel Saanchita Gupta) is to be married. There will be no kick-flipping of clichés here. What’s novel are simply her images of Prerna zipping through her village’s curved alleyways and dusty marketplace.— Amy Nicholson
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Tragic Jungle (Yulene Olaizola)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Under the rhythmic hacking of machetes, the zig-zag gashes in the trees look like wounds, exposing the bark’s red flesh and the raw, bone-white wood within. The men clinging to the trunks with rope slings and crude crampons are chicleros, collecting the bright white sap that oozes from the trees to boil into chicle, a rubbery substance that, back in 1920 when Olaizola’s bewitching “Tragic Jungle” is set, was used to make chewing gum. As far in the past as those events may be, the strange, slow currents of this darkly lyrical drama seem older still — as ancient as the jungle itself, which acts, more than any of the human characters, as the film’s impervious, omniscient protagonist. — Jessica Kiang
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Wish Dragon (Chris Appelhans)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Infinite - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Infinite - Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Exclusive to Paramount Plus

Infinite (Antoine Fuqua)
Where to Find It: Paramount Plus
Derivative as they come, this “The Matrix”-meets-“The Old Guard” wannabe mind-blower offers such a familiar premise — that one man’s neurodiversity may actually be a window into the species’ untapped potential — as to be almost banal. That doesn’t stop excess expert Fuqua from packing a fair amount of big-screen spectacle into its relatively tight running time. “Infinite” kicks off with a chase scene and blazes its way toward a final showdown between two rival groups of hasta-la-vista souls who’ve been waging war across the centuries. These lucky souls could be writing symphonies or curing cancer, but it’s more exciting to watch Mark Wahlberg ride a motorcycle off a cliff and land on the wing of a low-flying cargo plane. — Peter Debruge
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The Amusement Park (George A. Romero)
Where to Find It: Shudder
It’s only fitting that George A. Romero, who created the zombie movie as we know it, would release a film from beyond the grave. Nearly 50 years after it was completed, shelved and thought to be lost, “The Amusement Park” has returned to the land of the living — and, just as important, proven worth the wait. The project was commissioned as a kind of anti-ageist PSA by the Lutheran Society, who were so displeased with the dizzying final result that they shelved it. Shot on delightfully grainy 16mm and featuring a cast of nonprofessional actors, the film is so alluringly disorienting that, by its end, some viewers will find themselves struggling to remember how this fever dream started. — Michael Nordine
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New Releases for the Week of June 4

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (Michael Chaves)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Where to Find It: In theaters and HBO Max
It’s 1981, and Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are taking part in an exorcism intended to purge the body and soul of David (Julian Hilliard), a mild bespectacled 8-year-old boy. They’ve been through this before. The first “Conjuring” film was set in 1971, the second in 1977, and though this is the technically the seventh film in the “Conjuring” universe (which now includes three “Annabelle” movies and “The Nun”), it’s the third to center directly on the Warrens, the real-life Christian paranormal investigators who were instrumental, in the ’60s and ’70s, in lending the spooky legends of the Amityville era their aura of tabloid credibility. — Owen Gleiberman
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Only in Theaters

All Light, Everywhere (Theo Anthony)
Distributor:
Super LTD
Where to Find It: In select theaters
A highly persuasive film about how we should be wary of film’s power to persuade, “All Light, Everywhere” is a superb if sinister example of how the outwardly modest essay format can deploy arguments that challenge us to unpick our most basic assumptions. Here, it’s the idea that a thing and its recorded image can never have a 1:1 relationship: It’s not just that our eyes deceive us, it’s that we’re conditioned to accept the representations of those deceptions as the truth. It’s a rewarding if slightly frustrating project, but then it would be a betrayal of the premise if it supplied us with anything more than a tiny, ephemeral, vertiginous glimpse of all the things we cannot see. — Jessica Kiang
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Bad Tales (Favolacce) (D’Innocenzo Brothers)
Distributor:
Strand Releasing
Where to Find It:
In select theaters, followed by virtual cinemas and PVOD on June 11
Innocence is not a concept to be found in the D’Innocenzo Brothers’ cinematic oeuvre, which consists of two films so far: “Boys Cry” and “Bad Tales,” both of which forgo the notion of childhood as a state of uncorrupted naivete. Rather, in the Italian siblings’ deeply cynically, Todd Solondz-ian worldview, humans are animals — an untamed snarl of impulses, emotions and predatory self-interest — and children are perhaps the least predictable of all, lacking an innate moral center and therefore susceptible to the influence of others. It’s a grim view that’s passed like a case of head lice to the white-picket sanctuary in their sun-crisped sophomore feature. — Peter Debruge
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Gully (Nabil Elderkin)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by on demand and digital on June 8
“Gully” is the first dramatic feature directed by Elderkin, the Australian-American director — usually credited simply as “Nabil” — who has made videos for Kanye West, Dua Lipa, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Frank Ocean, the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Diddy, Shrillex, and Antony and the Johnsons. You can glimpse his talent in “Gully” — not because it’s a film of showoff imagery (it’s actually got a rather unvarnished low-budget aesthetic), but because the movie looks, for a while, like it’s trying to be “Boyz n the Hood” meets “A Clockwork Orange,” and you get curious to follow that down. The movie is set in South Central L.A. and features a trio of very good young actors. — Owen Gleiberman
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Hero Mode (A.J. Tesler)
Distributor: Blue Fox Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by VOD on June 11
No one says “teamwork makes the dream work” in “Hero Mode,” but that maxim’s corny sentiment nonetheless aptly applies to A.J. Tesler’s video game-themed teen comedy, which follows a formula that dates back to at least the era of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. A lively saga about a young coding wizard who’s charged with saving his family’s gaming business, this celebration of old- and new-school creativity doesn’t break novel ground in any respect. Fortunately, though, its good humor, spry pacing and likable performances should appeal to its pre-high-school target audience. — Nick Schager
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Spirit Untamed (Elaine Bogan)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters
A kid named Lucky loses her mother, moves to the frontier with her father and befriends a wild mustang in “Spirit Untamed.” While experienced professionals fail to break the strong-willed stallion, Lucky (who has never ridden a horse) feeds it a few apples, and before long, the youngster has tamed the obstinate animal — which is inconsistent with this cheap and all-around lazy animated movie’s title, but chalk that up to marketing. It’s not clear whether this latest — and least appealing — incarnation of DreamWorks’ “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” is a reboot, a remake or just a running-on-fumes grab at some easy cash, but this benign (read: bland) movie exists, and kids know the property, so it will get seen. — Peter Debruge
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Tove (Zaida Bergroth)
Distributor: Juno Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters
The Moomins, with their hippo-like silhouettes, are beloved cartoon characters familiar to readers around the globe. But less is known about their creator, the bisexual, Swedish-speaking, Finnish visual artist and author Tove Jansson and her surprisingly unconventional life. The engaging biopic goes a long way toward remedying that knowledge gap. Featuring a mesmerizing lead performance by Alma Pöysti, the sensuously textured film, shot on 16mm, concentrates on a formative decade in Tove’s life (from the mid-1940s to mid-’50s) and explores her artistic and personal passions, and the challenges they entail. With multiple hooks, sales and festival interest should be strong. — Alissa Simon
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

The Carnivores (Caleb Michael Johnson)
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
Dim echoes of David Lynch and early Roman Polanski abound throughout “The Carnivores,” a fitfully fascinating mix of teasing narrative opacity and stylized psycho-thriller atmospherics. Director Johnson walks a tricky tightrope here, and occasionally seems perilously close to toppling into absurdity. Indeed, there are moments when he inadvertently cues memories of the hilarious remark by Janeane Garofalo’s veterinarian talk show host in “The Truth About Cats and Dogs”: “You can love your dog. Just don’t love your dog.” And it doesn’t help much that Tallie Medel, one of his two lead players, actually bears a slight physical resemblance to Garofalo. — Joe Leydon
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Edge of the World (Michael Haussman)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
With its winsome narration, frequent cutaways to nature and focus on discovery, “Edge of the World” resembles nothing so much as Terrence Malick’s similarly titled “The New World.” In yet another similarity, “Edge of the World” follows an English explorer who finds more than he was expecting upon arriving in a foreign land. Here it’s Sir James Brooke (Johnathan Rhys Meyers), who arrives in Borneo in 1839 and quickly meets two princes vying for power; that they’re cousins only adds to the intrigue — and tension. This kind of adventurer is a well-worn archetype, but Meyers plays him well. The script isn’t always on the same level as his performance, however. — Michael Nordine
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Grace and Grit (Sebastian Siegel)
Distributor: Quiver Distribution
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
For a metaphysical love-conquers-all tale, “Grace and Grit” offers very little substance around such lofty concepts as existence, spirituality and romantic harmony. An adaptation of famous philosopher Ken Wilber’s much admired book, the film unfortunately anchors itself in an exploitative mode, insincerely using terminal illness as inspirational fodder. The real-life saga of a doting couple and their demanding, gradually more harrowing experience with cancer, “Grace and Grit” isn’t the viscerally rousing picture that it thinks it is. Through an overstretched running time, this amateurish exercise falls short of even selling the essentials of the immensely accessible melodrama at its heart. — Tomris Laffly
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Monuments (Jack C. Newell)
Distributor:
Row House Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters and virtual cinemas
It’s oddly appropriate that grief-stricken widower Ted (David Sullivan) spends most of “Monuments” schlepping his wife’s ashes around the geographical midpoint of the continental U.S.A. This dippily surreal existential comedy — imagine Quentin Dupieux engineering a head-on collision between “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” and “Little Miss Sunshine” — feels like it’s born of the exact middle ground between the big-budget escapist mainstream and the hardcore arthouse “coasts” of American cinematic output. It’s in a flyover state of mind. — Jessica Kiang
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My Tender Matador (Rodrigo Sepúlveda)
Distributor:
Freestyle Digital Media
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
Among the many praiseworthy qualities of “My Tender Matador,” the most notable is its honesty. It would have been so easy for the film, about a transgender woman in Pinochet’s Chile and her relationship with a straight political activist, to have overplayed its hand with ill-judged sentiment or sensationalism, but instead director Rodrigo Sepúlveda Urzúa guides everything just right, from the refusal to treat anyone with less than full respect to the superb ensemble, and from Sergio Armstrong’s carefully calibrated camerawork to the thoughtful understanding of how daylight changes a person who’s lived fullest under the protection of the night. — Jay Weissberg
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Super Frenchie (Chase Ogden)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
“Super Frenchie” shares some DNA with Oscar-winner “Free Solo.” The documentary isn’t as elegant or as fraught as that spectacular look-ma-no-tethers tale, but it’s nervous-making enough to impress. There’s reckoning about risk and reward, compulsion and choice, pleasure and loss. But Ogden wanted to augment a story of physical pyrotechnics with one of familial insight. A feat he often, gently achieves with the help of his ridiculously upbeat, uniquely wired subject who drudges up mountains — Mt. Hood, the Matterhorn, the Eiger — and floats down from their ledges. — Lisa Kennedy
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Under the Stadium Lights (Todd Randall)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
The road to hell is paved with movies like “Under the Stadium Lights,” a well-intentioned but wearyingly ponderous and curiously disjointed faith-based drama about football players and their dedicated chaplain at a high school in Abilene, Texas. It doesn’t help much that, with its bumpy pacing, gaping plot holes, and supporting characters who grab attention and then inexplicably disappear, the movie plays like a miniseries that has been ruthlessly cut down to feature length. And it helps even less that the sluggish narrative is repeatedly and interminably padded with local TV footage of actual 2009 football games emblazoned with on-screen signage for local advertisers. — Joe Leydon
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Undine (Christian Petzold)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It:
In select theaters, on demand and digital
Christian Petzold’s “Undine” begins with a breakup. Framed tightly on the face of lead actor Paula Beer, we absorb the news as she does. But this is no ordinary separation, and as jilted lovers go, Undine’s far from typical. Her name betrays what sets her apart, although in the vast realm of mythological entities, undines are hardly the well-understood creatures that Petzold’s revisionist contemporary fable assumes (not in America, at least). As a result, this overripe romantic tragedy won’t have the same impact abroad as the three critical darlings that preceded it, “Barbara,” “Phoenix” and “Transit.” — Peter Debruge
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Exclusive to Hulu

Changing the Game (Michael Barnett)
Where to Find It: Hulu
Mack is a practically undefeated transgender wrestler who won the girls’ title in the state of Texas even though he wanted to contest in the boys division as per the gender he identifies with. He is the first subject we meet in “Changing the Game,” a compassionate documentary that follows three teenage transgender athletes as they brave numerous societal biases to practice their chosen field of sports with the respect they deserve. Unadventurous in its design, the film admittedly benefits from a traditional approach that slowly familiarizes the audience both with the subjects and the layers of an ongoing discriminatory debate around fairness. — Tomris Laffly
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Exclusive to Netflix

Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet (Jon Clay)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Carnaval (Leandro Neri)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Netflix’s party-minded “Carnaval” has a lot on its plate, tackling everything from influencers, the toxic nature of their business and the complexities of making and maintaining female friendships in that industry. Set against the revelry and pageantry of Brazil’s Carnival celebration, the lighthearted romantic comedy delivers hijinks and a few sweet sentiments about having the courage to embrace destiny. Nevertheless, its broad comedy and thoughtful themes aren’t completely cogent, due to a lack of properly motivated character developments and questionable scenarios. With its glaring faults, “Carnaval” hews closer to the abysmal annoyances prevalent in “Desperados” than the remarkable wit of “Ibiza. ”— Courtney Howard
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Dancing Queens (Helena Bergström)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Actor-turned-filmmaker Bergström brings sequined cheer and free-to-be-you-and-me spirit to this story of a young, cisgender female dancer who gets an unlikely break by concealing her gender identity to perform in an ailing Gothenburg drag club, and it should duly find a sizable global audience when it premieres on Netflix at the outset of Pride month. In its eagerness to please, however, the film winds up pushing its own queer characters and narratives to the sidelines — a paradox that it never quite resolves. The director’s daughter Molly Nutley assumes leading lady duties here, and her fresh, quietly controlled screen presence saves many a scene from outright schmaltz. — Guy Lodge
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Xtreme (Daniel Benmayor)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Exclusive to Shudder

Caveat (Damian Mc Carthy)
Where to Find It: Shudder
Mc Carthy serves up a generically foreboding premise and pulls off several efficiently traditional jump scares in this variation on a haunted-house formula, but it’s the shape-shifting mind games of his own narrative that most unnerve the viewer, as seemingly fixed plot points of who is under threat — and when, and why, and so on — keep darting out of sight. The result is finally more intriguing than it is rewarding: It’s hard to keep an audience invested in your story as you steadily strip them of their bearings. If all this snaky evasion and elaboration does eventually eat away at the film’s anxious tension, the scuzzy niftiness of its construction continues to impress. — Guy Lodge
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New Releases for the Week of May 28

Available in Theaters and on Disney Plus

Cruella (Craig Gillespie) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Where to Find It: In select theaters and Disney Plus
Starring Oscar winner Emma Stone as the monochrome-coiffed fashionista with a soft spot for puppy fur, “Cruella” takes its cues from the “Wicked” playbook — or more recently, Warner Bros.’ “Joker” — to deliver a dark yet sympathetic portrait of a cult-favorite character whom audiences only thought they knew. That character, of course, is “101 Dalmatians” dognapper Cruella de Vil (previously embodied by Glenn Close for one of the studio’s first live-action adaptations), who turns out to be more fierce than cruel in a franchise offering with an identity of its own. What “Cruella” is not — to the immense relief of many — is another “Maleficent.” — Peter Debruge
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Only in Theaters

A Quiet Place Part II (John Krasinski)
Distributor: Paramount
Where to Find It: In theaters
If you’re vaccinated and feeling safe enough to step foot outside your home, Krasinski has crafted a follow-up that justifies the trip. It can be hard to believe that both the sequel and the instant-classic 2018 original were produced by Michael Bay, a filmmaker who has pushed the moviegoing experience to ear-splitting extremes, since Krasinski so effectively embraces the opposite strategy: Less is more, suggestion can be scarier than showing everything, and few things are more unnerving than silence. … Instead of addressing the gaping plot holes, the new film wagers if you’re on board for the ride, logic shouldn’t matter. — Peter Debruge
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Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog (Lynn Roth)
Distributor: Glass Half Full Media
Where to Find It: In limited theaters
Writer-director Roth instinctively knows how to pluck the heartstrings with her heartrending historical drama, “Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog.” Her adaptation retains the wit and wisdom found within the pages of Asher Kravitz’s novel “The Jewish Dog,” whose unconventional conceit chronicling the Holocaust through the perspective of a German Shepherd lends itself to plenty of poetic and fantastical realism on screen. Yet the family-friendly feature all too frequently falls into conventional trappings that it unwittingly sets up for itself, particularly when it strays from the pup’s point of view. — Courtney Howard
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Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhang-ke)
Distributor: Cinema Guild
Where to Find It: In New York and Los Angeles theaters
Following his films “Dong” (2006) and “Useless” (2007) — studies of painter Liu Xiaodong and fashion designer Ma Ke, respectively — Jia’s latest belatedly completes a loose nonfiction trilogy on Chinese artists, this one taking four authors as its focus as a number of them congregate at a Shanxi literary festival. “Dong” and “Useless” were short, illuminating works; the two-hour “Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue,” as signified by its lolling, poetic title, is rather more of a sprawl, seeking to address a hefty chunk of modern Chinese cultural history through the lives and legacies of its chosen quartet of writers. — Guy Lodge
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

American Traitor: The Trial of Axis Sally (Michael Polish)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment, Redbox Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
Clumsy, campy and kitsch, but also deadeningly dull for long stretches, “American Traitor” is based on the true story of radio star Mildred Gillars (Meadow Williams), aka Axis Sally, an American wannabe actress who found notoriety as the English-language voice of the Third Reich’s propaganda machine. It’s a portrait that aims for movingly enigmatic but ends up mystifyingly immobile. Williams is so carefully primped, so artfully posed in shafts of slatted light and so gauzily fawned over by Jayson Crothers’ scrupulously steam-ironed digital photography, that she ends up more costumed mannequin than conflicted heroine. — Jessica Kiang
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Endangered Species (MJ Bassett)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital, then home video June 1
The other family-imperiled-by-rampaging-beasts movie this weekend, “Endangered Species” is different from “A Quiet Place Part II” in many ways, particularly in that its characters cannot stop yakking — with corresponding diminished viewer concern for their survival under extreme duress. The thriller has a vacationing American clan doing all the wrong things in a Kenyan wildlife preserve. Needless to say, the local fauna quickly notice there are some fresh snacks on the savanna, to our protagonists’ grief. The squabbling human dynamics make this outdoor suspense exercise one in which too soon we start rooting for the four-legged cast members. — Dennis Harvey
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Moby Doc (Rob Gordon Bralver)
Distributor:
Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and on digital platforms
Moby co-wrote this documentary which is like a self-portrait, an acid flashback, a therapy session, a rumination, and a surrealist music-video package all rolled into one. In the opening moments, we see Moby, the avatar of hooky rhapsodic EDM, still quizzical and lean in his mid-50s, wearing black glasses, a brown-and-white beard, and a red flannel shirt as he sits in his rather modest-looking home studio and speaks into the camera. He says he’s had a “strange life” that could have resulted in “just another biopic about a weird musician.” But he says that “what’s more interesting, at least to me, is the why of it. The why of everything.” — Owen Gleiberman
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Port Authority (Danielle Lessowitz)
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters now, then on demand and digital June 1
Selling realness. That’s the essence of Harlem’s tight-knit drag ball scene, where dazzling kiki competitions celebrate the art of passing as something other than whatever labels society has given you: man as woman, gay as straight, street kid as supermodel. This likable debut arrives decades late to the party, spinning a simple but effective romance in which that same goal of self-transformation is what separates two star-crossed lovers whose worlds collide on the steps of New York’s busiest bus terminal. While it may feel too obvious for some, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” serves as a clever model for a movie set in the world of ballroom “houses.” — Peter Debruge
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Exclusive to HBO and HBO Max

Oslo (Barlett Sher)
Where to Find It: HBO
Perhaps it’s time for another meeting between officials from Israel and Palestine, like the series of off-the-books negotiations that took place in Oslo, Norway, back in 1993. The discussions were brokered by a non-partisan Norwegian couple, which provides a uniquely neutral framing device for an in-depth look at the issues concerning both sides. Now, as a recent outbreak of violence in the region reminds how precarious any peace agreement has been, it’s no wonder that HBO has scheduled its made-for-TV adaptation to air sooner than later, when its historical perspective might prove most relevant. — Peter Debruge
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Exclusive to Hulu

Plan B (Natalie Morales)
Where to Find It: Hulu
“Plan B” is a girls-behaving-badly all-night-long road-trip comedy that’s built on a formula chassis, but it’s fast and funny, with a scandalous spirit, and it’s got a couple of lead performances that, if there’s any justice, should have the town talking. The film made me realize that almost every time a movie like this one comes along that has young women at the center of it, it’s been an independent film. In the randy teens + binge party = escalating trainwreck genre of high delinquent comedy, that’s a crucial distinction, because it means that the films bypass a certain mainstream blandification. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Netflix

Blue Miracle (Julio Quintana)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Many a chef will tell you that fish and cheese don’t go together, but “Blue Miracle” says otherwise. Based on the true story of an amateur Mexican team who won the world’s richest fishing tournament in 2014, this likable family film misses nary a cornball trick in Hollywood’s underdog-drama playbook. Viewers can see precisely where Quintana and co-writer Chris Dowling have embellished the saga of a Cabo orphanage proprietor (Jimmy Gonzales) who led a handful of his teenage wards to that unlikely victory: “Blue Miracle” is awash with eleventh-hour peril and contrivance, reducing characters to stock figures to make plain sailing of its crowd-pleasing narrative. — Guy Lodge
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Dog Gone Trouble (Kevin Johnson)
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of May 21

Army of the Dead - Credit: Courtesy of Netflix/Everett Collection
Army of the Dead - Credit: Courtesy of Netflix/Everett Collection

Courtesy of Netflix/Everett Collection

Exclusive to Netflix

Army of the Dead (Zack Snyder)
Where to Find It:
Netflix
If you go to see just one movie this year, Zack Snyder’s “Army of the Dead” might be the ticket because it’s a stylishly grandiose, muscular but conventional popcorn pageant that’s got something for just about everyone. It’s a zombie movie. It’s a heist thriller. It’s a sentimental father-daughter reconciliation story. It’s set in Las Vegas (albeit it the bombed-out dystopian ruins of Vegas). It’s got a gifted cast of diverse actors playing plucky renegades. It’s got a spectacular climax featuring a dropped nuclear bomb. It’s two hours and 28 minutes of packed-to-the-gills fun, all staged by Snyder with a jaunty spirit of gung-ho classicism. A viewer might be tempted to ask: What’s not to like? — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Amazon Prime

P!NK: All I Know So Far (Michael Gracey)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
Offstage, Gracey’s concert doc reveals Pink to be just about the most grounded rock star you have ever seen. The film was shot during three weeks of her Beautiful Trauma World Tour, when she was traveling through Europe, and she’s got her husband of 15 years with her, the former freestyle motocross champion Carey Hart, along with their daughter, Willow, who’s eight, and their son, Jameson, who’s two. A behind-the-music doc will occasionally introduce us to a pop star’s children, but in this one they’re the main event. “All I Know So Far” is a singular portrait of the larger-than-life rock rebel as life-size mom. — Owen Gleiberman
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Only in Theaters

Dream Horse (Euros Lyn)
Distributor:
Bleecker Street, Topic Studios
Where to Find It:
In theaters
Louise Osmond’s 2015 Sundance audience winner “Dark Horse” was one of those documentaries that played like a crowdpleasing fiction, its real-life tale of underdog triumph had such a conventionally satisfying narrative arc. And indeed, the new “Dream Horse” proves that same material is indeed ready-made for dramatization. Likely to have broad appeal, Lyn’s feature springs few true surprises within its familiar genre, one that U.K. filmmakers have specialized in at least since “The Full Monty.” Still, this is a well-cast, artfully handled effort that exercises sufficient restraint to really earn its requisite laughter and tears. — Dennis Harvey
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Final Account (Luke Holland)
Distributor:
Focus Features
Where to Find It: In select theaters
“Final Account” is the first product of an ambitious undertaking to interview the now elderly helpers and handmaidens whose tacit acceptance of the Nazi regime enabled the Final Solution. The film is a distillation of roughly 300 interviews with men and women, some of whom were literally cogs in the machine, like the governess of a Nazi family, while others, such as SS men, were directly involved. Their willingness to appear before the camera is surprising, but not the range of responses, varying from unconvincing ignorance to pride and, just occasionally, a recognition that atrocities took place literally under their noses. — Jay Weissberg
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New Order (Michel Franco)
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: In select theaters
In Franco’s sixth feature, the director demands the public’s attention, launching a full-on assault on our collective comfort zone while doubling down on the very thing that makes his films unwatchable for so many. Moviegoing is, by its nature, an act of empathy, as we invest in the lives of fictional strangers, trusting the narrative to repay our emotional commitment — and yet, in film after film, Franco challenges that assumption. Perversely, for those who’ve now come to expect that from him, “New Order” doesn’t disappoint. Inspired by waves of civil unrest sweeping the globe, this ambitious exercise imagines how such a people’s revolution might manifest if it hit Mexico City. — Peter Debruge
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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (Caroline Link)
Distributor: Greenwich Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters
Judith Kerr wrote her semi-autobiographical children’s novel as a response to her own son’s misconception of her childhood. After watching “The Sound of Music,” he observed that her own escape must have been similar; amused, she proceeded to pen perhaps the most piercing child’s-eye view of Hitler’s rise to power and the Jewish refugee experience ever published. In adapting Kerr’s novel for the screen, writer-director Caroline Link splits the difference somewhat: In this bright, engaging film, Kerr’s story is faithfully and lovingly preserved, though its tougher, quirkier details are mollified by a layer of palatable movie gloss. — Guy Lodge
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Blast Beat (Esteban Arango)
Distributor:
Vertical Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Where to Find It:
In select theaters and on demand and digital
This earnest dual coming-of-age drama monitors two teen brothers’ misfit adventures when their upper-middle-class family is forced to move from Colombia to the outskirts of Atlanta. Arango, a Colombian himself, emigrated to the states in the late ’90s, when the film is less-than-convincingly set. The film’s sincerity nearly balances its wonky plotting. Arango observes that America divides people into stereotypes of “good” and “bad” immigrants. Good immigrants, like Carly, are bright scholars who can contribute to the country. (Carly dreams of becoming a NASA engineer.) Bad immigrants, like aimless, artistic Mateo, are less welcome. — Amy Nicholson
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Seance (Simon Barrett)
Distributor: Grindstone
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand and digital
You might expect Barrett’s own belated feature directorial debut to expand upon the clever, blackly humorous genre mayhem of his best Wingard projects like “The Guest” and “You’re Next.” But “Seance” proves a disappointingly boilerplate retro slasher that’s pedestrian on every level from concept to execution. It’s not terrible, only so devoid of imagination, wit or novelty (as well as scares) that it seems a perversely generic choice with which to launch a new career phase. RLJE Films is releasing to U.S. and Canadian theaters, VOD and digital May 21, with co-distributor Shudder expected to add it to its own streaming platform sometime later in the year. — Dennis Harvey
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Sequin in a Blue Room (Samuel Van Grinsven)
Distributor:
Pecadillo Pictures
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
A redheaded twink (newcomer Conor Leach) who meets his trysts in a sparkling silver club top, Sequin is just 16, but he knows what he wants — or at least he thinks he does. Such confidence can be disarming, since most kids haven’t figured themselves out yet at that age, which makes them easy prey for more experienced partners. Van Grinsven opts not to dwell on the cautionary side of his striking 21st-century coming-out/coming-of-age fable. The risks are self-evident, but there’s no room for judgment in a film that nimbly blends elements of fantasy and thriller, delivered with the heightened attitude of New Queer Cinema auteur Gregg Araki. — Peter Debruge
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Sound of Violence (Alex Noyer)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
With its themes of creative obsession and trauma recycled as psychopathy, not to mention Alexis’ synesthesia giving license for lurid, semi-abstract, technicolor visual sequences, “Sound of Violence” boasts perhaps the greatest giallo premise that Dario Argento never dreamed up. It’s just a shame that Noyer decides that it isn’t enough. The spectacularly gruesome and grotesquely elaborate murder scenes do ample justice to even the most revered of its slasher forebears, but the procedural elements feel stilted, and despite a lead performance that oozes empathy as much as her hapless victims ooze blood, the emotional impact is barely discernible: an ebbing heartbeat. — Jessica Kiang
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Two Gods (Zeshawn Ali)
Distributor: 8 Above
Where to Find It: In select theaters and virtual cinemas
Islam and Christianity are the dual faiths referred to in the title of “Two Gods,” but they aren’t pitted against each other, or even compared at all. Ali’s quiet, sternly compassionate documentary may be centered on a hard-up Black Muslim community in Newark, but it presents a tough, adaptable world in which people will take whatever fragments of faith and grace they can find. Hanif works as a menial employee at a Muslim funeral home, but it’s the ebb and flow of his influence on, and connection with, these kids that gives Ali’s artful doc — shot over the course of several years, but concentrated to a tight 82 minutes — its subtle narrative thrust. — Guy Lodge
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New Releases for the Week of May 14

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

Those Who Wish Me Dead (Taylor Sheridan)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In select theaters and HBO Max
A pair of killers hunt 12-year-old Connor, and they’re ruthless enough to start a forest fire to cover their tracks. Playing mama bear to Connor’s endangered cub, Angelina Jolie is as committed to keeping Connor alive as those two hired guns are to wishing him dead. The heated survival extravaganza offers a much bigger sandbox for gifted actor-turned-action maven Taylor Sheridan, whose scripts for “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” have launched him to the front of a genre dominated by CG robots and superheroes once associated with Saturday-morning cartoons. This one marks a welcome departure without shortchanging audiences when it comes to spectacle or sound. — Peter Debruge
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Only in Theaters

Finding You (Brian Baugh)
Distributor:
Roadside Attractions
Where to Find It:
In theaters
Don’t be fooled by the empowerment-sounding title of “Finding You”: The romantic comedy’s engine isn’t driven by the woman herself, but by the men who are continually placed in power positions that directly inform her arc. Where it would have been nice to see the heroine unlocking her own potential, the film instead focuses on her finding an intercontinental romance with a dashing young man, life coaching from an unlikely male ally and a mysterious message from her deceased older brother. Even so, effervescent performances from an ebullient ensemble make “Finding You” a palatable and compelling female coming-of-age tale. — Courtney Howard
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Georgetown (C. Waltz)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters
Written by “Proof” playwright David Auburn, “Georgetown” was based on a juicy 2012 New York Times story about a D.C. social climber (Christoph Waltz) arrested for strangling his 91-year-old wife (Vanessa Redgrave), through whom he had gained access to many powerful people, hosting soirees for journalists, ambassadors, and such political heavy-hitters as Antonin Scalia and Dick Cheney. A disingenuous end-credits disclaimer suggests that Waltz’s character, Ulrich Mott, is “not to be confused with” Albrecht Muth — who had affairs with men throughout their marriage — though the feint is clearly intended to underscore the connection. — Peter Debruge
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The Perfect Candidate (Haifaa Al Mansour)
Distributor: Music Box Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
Even more than in her debut hit “Wadjda”, Saudi director Al Mansour’s latest is clearly designed to demythologize the Kingdom, taking a host of cultural signifiers and parading them out in the cinematic equivalent of billboard-sized letters to show that Saudi society is heterogeneous and mutable. The script is so simplistic in how it runs through a checklist of cultural practices — women’s dress, gendered spaces, the role of music — that it reduces the people themselves to unsophisticated representatives of change, and yet its welcome message of female empowerment will be embraced by Western audiences. — Jay Weissberg
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Profile (Timur Bekmambetov)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
Unlike the Bekmambetov-produced tension exercises “Unfriended” and “Search,” this fast, lurid online-terror thriller (presented all in one computer screen) aims for ripped-from-the-headlines social import, as it follows an intrepid but increasingly ill-advised London journalist in her quest to bait and expose an ISIS recruiter through Skype and social media. Loosely drawn from the experiences of French reporter Anna Erelle, this is an undeniably engrossing but almost entirely specious affair: Any factual grounding gives way beneath the film as it devolves into shrill heart-versus-head melodrama. — Guy Lodge
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Riders of Justice (Anders Thomas Jensen) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Magnet
Where to Find It: In select theaters, expanding to on demand May 21
Deliriously wry and so perfectly balanced it should become a case study in script classes, “Riders of Justice” may be the film that finally gives Anders Thomas Jensen international recognition beyond his usual spotlight as a sought-after screenwriter. Comparisons with the Coen brothers will be inevitable given oddball characters whose fixations and genuine heart contrast with moments of extreme violence, yet the roots of this black revenge comedy go back even further, bringing an asocial spin to classic screwballers where a group of quirky misfits are balanced out by a lone woman who’s the most put-together and in touch of the bunch. — Jay Weissberg
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Spiral: From the Book of Saw (Darren Lynn Bousman)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters
In its “How can we make the old sick trash new again?” way, the ninth film in the series isn’t just another attempt to squeeze this bloody lemon dry. It takes an actual stab at reimagining the “Saw” franchise. The movie features a new faceless torture maniac — though he’s really just a Jigsaw copycat. The big change is that while “Spiral” features a handful of the series’ dungeon-nightmare set pieces, the movie is framed as a conventional police-corruption thriller. With his seething, embattled performance as Zeke Banks, Chris Rock completes his transformation from comedian to actor who lacks even a whisper of his former cheeky ebullience. — Owen Gleiberman
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

The Djinn (David Charbonier, Justin Powell)
Distributor:
IFC Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
Woe betide the grade-school-age lad who finds himself in a movie by writing-directing duo Charbonier and Powell: He may survive their plotlines, but it won’t be pretty. Their official first feature, “The Boy Behind the Door,” found two such kids fighting for their lives after being abducted by a stranger. In “The Djinn,” they’ve crafted another effective suspense exercise from the same basic premise, trapping a juvenile protagonist in a home with a malevolent nemesis. With even less dialogue than “Door,” in an even more constricted space, this lean thriller doesn’t provide much food for thought, but it delivers a compact dose of extreme jeopardy. — Dennis Harvey
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The Killing of Two Lovers (Robert Machoian) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor:
Neon
Where to Find it: In select theaters and on demand
Opening on what appears to be the verge of its titular act, “The Killing of Two Lovers” then steadily pulls back from what sounds like a noirish potboiler of marital infidelity and rage. Instead, his economical drama is really about the pain of marital separation, particularly when one party is pulling toward divorce and the other toward reconciliation, as is so often the case. Stark as the surrounding Western Utah landscapes its characters seem dwarfed by, this first solo feature (Machoian co-directed three prior ones with Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck) is an arresting auteurist miniature. — Dennis Harvey
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RK/RKAY (Rajat Kapoor)
Distributor: Outsider Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters and virtual cinemas
Pirandello definitely would have approved of the spirit behind this small-scale identity comedy set in the film world about a writer-director-actor, embodied by Kapoor, whose lead character walks out of his new picture and into the real world. Complicating matters is that the character is also personified by the director, leading to a pleasing play on selfhood that ever-so-lightly toys with notions of free will and agency. More modestly budgeted than most of Kapoor’s other works (“Mithya,” “Kadakh”), this crowdfunded labor of love is unlikely to generate much buzz but will be appreciated by audiences looking for congenial entertainment. — Jay Weissberg
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There Is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand via Kino Marquee
When Rasoulof returned from Cannes in 2017, he was banned from filmmaking for life and sentenced to a year in prison. But the director could not stop. His latest film premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, where instead of being silenced, Rasoulof launched his most openly critical statement yet, a series of Kafkaesque moral parables about Iran’s death penalty and its perpetrators. The resulting feat of artistic dissidence … comes across as four films for the price of one, none of its segments anemic, and each contributing fresh insights to the paradoxes of capital punishment in Iran. — Peter Debruge
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Exclusive to Netflix

Ahaan (Nikhil Pherwani)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Dance of the 41 (David Pablos)
Where to Find It:
Netflix
November 1901. Mexico City. A police raid on a high-society private party leads to the arrest of 42 men. Nineteen are found wearing lavish ball gowns that matched the opulence of the (very much illicit) affair. Pablos’ handsome period film traces the real-life story of the one whose presence is promptly erased from the record: the then-son-in-law of Mexican president Porfirio Díaz. Monika Revilla’s screenplay doesn’t begin with the political scandal that gives the film its title. Instead, it uses it as its climax, an impactful punctuation mark on a tender love story played against the backdrop of the patriarchal power structures of Mexico’s turn-of-the-century gentry. — Manuel Betancourt
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Ferry (Cecilia Verheyden)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Oxygen (Alexandre Aja)
Where to Find It: Netflix
A clever example of creativity thriving within the strict protocols of the coronavirus pandemic, tense confinement thriller “Oxygen” plays like “Buried” in outer space: a ticking-clock sci-fi survival drama centered on a single character (“Inglourious Basterds” star Mélanie Laurent) trapped in a spiffy, coffin-like cryochamber with critically low reserves of breathable air. The blank-brained “bioform” awakens ahead of schedule, sealed in some kind of futuristic membrane, with only a helpful HAL 9000-like talking computer called MILO (short for Medical Interface Liaison Operator, voiced by Mathieu Amalric) to assist her. — Peter Debruge
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The Woman in the Window (Joe Wright)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Real-estate porn can work for a thriller — or against it. Sometimes, it’s part of a movie’s mystery and allure: the luxe nooks and crannies where bad vibes can hide. (See “Rosemary’s Baby” or “What Lies Beneath.”) But in “The Woman in the Window,” a movie that takes place entirely in one old dark house, the stately Harlem brownstone in which Anna Fox (Amy Adams) resides is a movie set of such gloomy palatial grandeur that the place threatens to overwhelm everything that happens inside it. — Owen Gleiberman
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New Releases for the Week of May 7

Only in Theaters

Benny Loves You (Karl Holt)
Distributor: Dread
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by on demand May 11
Whether it be actual toys or movies about them coming to life and killing people, they don’t make ’em like they used to. While the “Child’s Play” and “Puppet Master” franchises aren’t exactly rife with masterpieces, their pleasures are less guilty than those afforded by the genre’s latest installment: “Benny Loves You,” an English horror comedy liable to make audiences laugh far more than it scares them. Mostly, though, it just borders on boring. Aside from the murderous Benny himself, the film doesn’t add much to its gory genre. — Michael Nordine
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Equal Standard (Brendan Kyle Cochrane)
Distributor:
Mutiny Pictures
Where to Find It:
In more than 75 theaters
Aiming to be “The Wire” of the Black Lives Matter era with a multi-pronged yarn penned by first-time feature writer Taheim Bryan, “Equal Standard” sadly exhibits a consistent lack of restraint while the story widens its scope and stakes, falling notably short of its well-intentioned ambitions to honor multiple viewpoints amid rising racial tensions. A considerable part of the problem is Bryan’s on-the-nose writing that over-explains the film’s ideas at every turn. In his overcrowded ecosystem, there isn’t really much new to harvest other than the most obvious fact: Racism is an evil vicious circle. — Tomris Laffly
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Fatima (Marco Pontecorvo)
Distributor:
Picturehouse
Where to Find It:
Re-released exclusively in AMC theaters
Director Pontecorvo revisits the miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, wherein three Portuguese shepherd children experienced several visits by the Virgin Mary, in this superficially suspicious, yet ultimately accepting historical drama which arrives at a moment when faith and facts find themselves in direct opposition, when claims of “fake news” render the very notion of “a true story” all but meaningless. While not especially artful, “Fatima” honors those who stand by their convictions. That its role models are children makes the message all the more remarkable. — Peter Debruge
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Here Today (Billy Crystal)
Distributor: Stage 6 Films
Where to Find It: In theaters
“Here Today,” starring Billy Crystal as a venerable TV comedy writer and Tiffany Haddish as the saintly, rough-around-the-edges street singer who becomes his unlikely pal, is a movie that feels like it could have been made 30 years ago: a friendly, adult-skewing, tart-witted but never nasty character study that’s just ’90s enough to be comfortably old-fashioned, like an old pair of tasseled loafers. What’s good about the movie is that Crystal, who co-wrote and directed it, has an inside knowledge of the showbiz comedy world, and the prickly vivacity with which he portrays it roots the movie in something real. — Owen Gleiberman
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The Water Man (David Oyelowo)
Distributor:
RLJE Films
Where to Find It:
In theaters
An engaging for-kids ghost story whose fantasy elements are thoughtfully grounded by real-world concerns, “The Water Man” ends with a blazing wildfire that is far scarier than the supernatural elements that precede it — especially now, as so much of the Pacific Northwest burns. Fans of David Oyelowo’s acting work might be surprised he chose such a “Goosebumps”-y project as his directorial debut, although it’s pretty cool for younger audiences that the “Selma” star put his clout (with a boost from exec producer Oprah Winfrey) behind a family film. — Peter Debruge
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Wrath of Man (Guy Ritchie)
Distributor: Metro Goldwyn Mayer
Where to Find It: In theaters
Ritchie’s RocknRolla-coaster style has plenty of imitators, but here, it’s refreshing to see him calm down and deliver something that’s intricate without being addled. Settling into the tense but relatively restrained mode of Christopher Nolan, the production adopts an elegant, almost monochromatic color palette, while the double-bassy score steadily saws away at our nerves, keeping audiences just this side of a heart attack for the better part of two hours. Like Jason Statham’s character, “Wrath of Man” walks into the room confident and secure in its abilities, professional, efficient and potentially lethal. — Peter Debruge
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Exclusive to Amazon Prime

The Boy From Médellin (Matthew Heineman)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
Last November, a personally triumphant hometown stadium show happened to coincide with Latin superstar J Balvin’s native Colombia reaching a flashpoint of historic turmoil. “The Boy From Médellin” shows the reggaeton singer being forced to develop a political conscience, whether he wants one or not. The problem is that, if Balvin actually has a conversion experience, we never see it, so it remains uncertain at the end whether he’s really experienced any kind of enlightenment about the need to address what’s going on in his country or finally does so because it’s actually the career path of least resistance.— Chris Willman
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Exclusive to Netflix

And Tomorrow the Entire World (Julia von Heinz)
Where to Find It:
Netflix
“And Tomorrow the Entire World” is a taut, headlong dive into a student Antifa commune in Mannheim, Germany, whose residents gradually splinter over how to fight a rising tide of white supremacy. It finds room for the perspective of both fervent Generation Z activists and their jaded elders, who may support the cause but are aggrieved that the fight hasn’t changed since their day, and fear it never will. Politically resonant but also solidly effective as straightforward youth-in-revolt drama, this Venice competition entry could make the international impression that von Heinz’s previous features have not. — Guy Lodge
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Monster (Anthony Mandler)
Where to Find It: Netflix
The New York City courtroom in which, 17-year-old honors student Steve Harmon stands accused of felony murder, isn’t the customary dark wood and tan walls affair. “Monster” there’s a reason beyond stylish production design for the palette of grays. For the involving, nuanced drama — a Sundance 2018 competition title starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. — explores the gray areas of guilt, innocence and criminal justice, especially as they pertain to young Black men, who are too often seen as guilty till proven not guilty. Innocent is likely too much to ask of a system in which young men like Steve are seen as the beasts, as the monsters of the movie’s title. — Lisa Kennedy
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Above Suspicion (Phillip Noyce)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and digital
The 1989 murder of Susan Smith is a despairingly grim Southern Gothic story, shot through with reckless sex, institutional corruption and Kentucky-fried local scandal. At least “Above Suspicion,” a steamed-up, sweat-soaked film adaptation of the material, mercifully rakes over its unsavory details in two hours rather than several. It’s quick, dirty and perhaps more tawdry than it needs to be. Chris Gerolmo’s script isn’t at great pains to find the human factor here, and Phillip Noyce’s direction coats the whole unhappy affair in cold blue steel. — Guy Lodge
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Locked In (Carlos V. Gutierrez)
Distributor: Saban Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
A thriller about a woman’s efforts to thwart a pair of criminals who come looking for their loot, it’s a rote and chintzy affair undone by clunky writing and inane character behavior that prolongs what should have been a relatively brief incident.
Save for a few brief scenes, almost all of “Locked In” takes place in a steely, nondescript storage facility run by Lee (Bruno Bichir) and his sole employee Maggie (Mena Suvari). Gutierrez repeatedly gives his heroine a chance for escape, only to then sabotage it by having her (or Tarin) behave in a monumentally knuckleheaded manner. — Nick Schager
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Mainstream (Gia Coppola)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
Seven years after “Palo Alto,” Coppola returns with “Mainstream,” packing a far smaller store of compassion and a lot less insight into the next micro-life-stage of telegenic wasted youth. A brittle, exasperated satire on social media celebrity, her sophomore film, like the tacky messiah it creates in Andrew Garfield’s YouTube sensation, soon becomes the very thing it sets out to expose: a glittery, jangly image machine that manufactures little of actual substance, except the conclusion that social media = bad. Sure, it’s a platitude [shrug emoticon] but hey, it’s delivered with attitude. — Jessica Kiang
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The Paper Tigers (Tran Quoc Bao)
Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
With only a couple of clicks of the dial and a little dash of hybrid vigor, the hackneyed can be made fresh again, a point proven by Tran Quoc Bao’s silly and special little kung fu comedy. Balancing the naive structure of an old Shaw Brothers movie (a vengeance mission with an escalating series of fights en route to the Big Boss showdown) with the kind of male-midlife-comedy schtick that bought Judd Apatow a house or six, Tran’s irresistibly good-humored debut is a diverting blend of Hong Kong and Hollywood that delivers, on a slender, Kickstarter-enhanced budget, a rousing roundhouse hug to both traditions. — Jessica Kiang
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Queen Marie (Alexis Sweet Cahill)
Distributor:
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It:
On demand and digital
Queen Marie of Romania expresses her frustration that the press coverage is focused not on her efforts at diplomacy, but her extravagant wardrobe and packed social diary. “I suppose if I wish to be heard, I must first allow myself to be seen,” she sighs. This carefully ironed biopic fancies itself a corrective to such misogyny, offering the British-born monarch belated recognition of her contributions towards the eventual unification of Romania. Played with exacting decorum but little mirth or fervor by Roxana Lupu, she’s never quite a character, but a critical figure in a well-constructed historical diorama. — Guy Lodge
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Stealing Chaplin (Paul Tanter)
Distributor: High Octane Pictures
Where to Find It: On demand and DVD
In this parallel universe, the Little Tramp was buried not in Switzerland but in an undistinguished plot in a Las Vegas cemetery. His body is taken, meanwhile, not in the 1970s but in the present day — by a bumbling fraternal duo of British conmen. What Tranter’s cheap and cheerful film does have going for it is some genuinely sparky comic chemistry between stars Simon Phillips and Doug Phillips — not related, yet well-matched as a hopeless pair of Tweedledum-and-Tweedledumber siblings whose banter is quicker than their combined wits. — Guy Lodge
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The Unthinkable (Crazy Pictures)
Distributor: Magnet
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
If there were Oscars for chutzpah, “The Unthinkable” would be a cinch: The first feature for a Swedish collective who’ve been making short films together since childhood, Crazy Pictures’ disaster movie/thriller/romance/dysfunctional family drama is more laudable for its ambitious resourcefulness on limited means than for actual achievement or impact. Despite some strikingly accomplished elements, the awkward whole never quite gels, sewn-together parts from “Red Dawn,” “Independence Day,” et al., failing to cohere amid major logic gaps. — Dennis Harvey
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Coming to MTV

Pink Skies Ahead (Kelly Oxford) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor:
MTV Entertainment Studios
Where to Find It:
Premieres May 8 on MTV with a simulcast on Pop TV
With her radioactive coif and precocious repartee, Winona (Jessica Barden) quit her college writing program not because she couldn’t hack it, but because the whole thing felt like a waste of time to her. Now her doctor (Henry Winkler) worries that she might have an anxiety disorder. In adapting her personal essay, “No Real Danger,” Oxford is not overly precious in adapting her essay, and for all we know, there’s actually more of the author in this stylized retelling. “Pink Skies Ahead” aims to destigmatize Winona’s diagnosis, while giving audiences living with anxiety issues a positive point of reference. — Peter Debruge
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New Releases for the Week of April 30

Only in Theaters

Four Good Days (Rodrigo García)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters
A Sundance drama of addiction that’s sensitively written and staged (by Garcia) and performed with lacerating honesty by its two leads, Glenn Close and Mila Kunis, “Four Good Days” tells the story of an addict, Molly (Kunis), who shows no signs of recovering. She’s been in and out of detox 14 times, but she always goes back to getting high. What’s going to make this time different? It’s a question at once valid and vaguely annoying, since the only answer is that what’s going to be different this time is that the movie needs a different outcome. Or we wouldn’t have a movie. — Owen Gleiberman
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Limbo (Ben Sharrock)
Distributor: Focus Features
Where to Find It: In theaters
The Uist Islands would be a disorienting place for most outsiders to find themselves stranded for an indefinite amount of time — and that’s without the additional, time-stretching uncertainty of a pending application for political asylum. For the Syrian protagonist of “Limbo,” a refugee stationed in a bleak safe house on the island while he awaits the mercy of the British government, it amounts to a kind of physical and spiritual quarantine in Scottish director Sharrock’s thoughtful, gentle-natured sophomore film, which dramatizes the refugees’ plight through deadpan comedy rather than issue-movie hand-wringing. — Guy Lodge
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Separation (William Brent Bell)
Distributor: Open Road Films, Briarcliff Entertainment
Where to Find It: In theaters
Arriving on the heels of his “The Boy” and “Brahms: The Boy II,” Bell’s “Separation” reconfirms the director’s belief that nothing is scarier than creepy killer dolls. His latest, alas, fails to successfully prove that case, and worse, its story about a recently widowed single father struggling with supernatural phenomena is a dull and misogynistic affair that imagines multiple types of women as malevolent fiends who terrorize supposedly sympathetic men. “Separation” lacks both basic logic and formal polish, with certain sequences looking as chintzy and graceless as they are nonsensical. — Nick Schager
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Exclusive to Amazon Prime

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse (Stefano Sollima)
Where to Find It: Amazon Prime
“Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” is a lively formulaic action-hero origin story, dunked in combat grunge, that demonstrates how a resourceful lead actor (in this case, Michael B. Jordan) can bend and heighten the meaning of a commercial thriller. The plot is sometimes murky, but more than that the Cold War tension is now a nostalgic shadow of its former self. Compared to a good “Bourne” film, “Without Remorse” feels generic; compared to the best of the Jack Ryan films, like “Patriot Games,” it will look right at home on the streaming venue of Amazon. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Netflix

The Disciple (Chaitanya Tamhane) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It:
Netflix
After Tamhane’s extraordinary debut “Court,” his second feature is more ambitious in scope and also more personal, though the Indian director’s approach, abounding in establishing shots, could distance viewers intimidated by their unfamiliarity with north Indian classical music. For those able to set aside potentially daunting feelings of ignorance, this rich, multi-layered story of a young man’s dedication to mastering the spiritual and technical elements of “raga” singing offers much to ponder on teacher-pupil relations, the nature of performance and the consuming character of an artistic calling. — Jay Weissberg
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The Mitchells vs. the Machines (Michael Rianda) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by Netflix on April 30
Writing partners Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe are children of the pre-iPhone era, and together — aided by a small army of animators at Sony Pictures Animation — they’ve hatched a subversive delight that should appeal to Gen Y adults and tech-savvy kiddos alike. That’s because the tongue-in-cheek, “Terminator”-esque machine uprising isn’t really the hook here. If the sky-is-falling zaniness that surrounds the Mitchells’ road trip feels slightly familiar, that’s almost certainly because the movie was produced by “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” creators Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. — Peter Debruge
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Things Heard & Seen (Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini)
Where to Find It: Netflix
[The “American Splendor” directors’] latest offers their usual tease of look-we’re-honest-commercial-filmmakers-trying-to-aim-high. It’s a ghost story, set in 1980, starring Amanda Seyfried and James Norton as Catherine and George Claire, a couple with a young daughter who move from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where George has just gotten his Ph.D in art history from Columbia, to the Hudson Valley, where he lands a job as a professor at a small private college. The film’s most interesting aspect is its scenes from a marriage that’s falling apart in slow motion. — Owen Gleiberman
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

About Endlessness (Roy Andersson)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
Whether by accident or design, it is most characteristically droll of Swedish auteur Andersson to title his sixth fiction feature “About Endlessness,” only to have it clock in at just 76 minutes. Barely have you settled into its cockeyed cosmic view of human existence in all its infinite, cyclical tragicomedy than the credits are already rolling. With Andersson appearing to view our societal foibles as simple, consistent and doomed (or perhaps blessed) to eternal repetition, what might seem a vast topic ends up with rather a succinct essay from the 76-year-old veteran. — Guy Lodge
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Berlin Alexanderplatz (Burhan Qurbani)
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Where to Find It: In virtual cinemas via Kino Marquee
The twin pillars of Alfred Döblin’s 1929 novel and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15-hour miniseries together create an overarching shadow from which Qurbani’s relatively svelte three-hour contemporary reworking of “Berlin Alexanderplatz” struggles to escape. Although promising a deep-cut dash of contemporary topicality by reimagining the main character as an undocumented African immigrant, there is the sense that the unimpeachable craft and performances — especially from rivetingly charismatic lead Welket Bungué — ultimately add up to just too slick a package. — Jessica Kiang
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Best Summer Ever (Michael Parks Randa, Lauren Smitelli)
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Where to Find It: Available on demand and DVD
A smart and sweet riff through “Grease,” “Footloose,” “High School Musical” and scads of other upbeat, teen-skewing entertainments, “Best Summer Ever” greatly impress with its deft balance of affectionate homage and exuberant inclusivity. The co-directors keep the mood so beguilingly light and bright, even during brief romantic setbacks, that it’s remarkably easy to suspend disbelief and gratefully delight in a world where racial divides and ableist prejudices are nonexistent, and just about the only negative stereotype on view is a mean-girl cheerleader. — Joe Leydon
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The County (Grímur Hákonarson)
Distributor: Dekanalog
Where to Find It: In theaters and virtual cinemas
After the death of her dairy farmer husband, a middle-aged woman courageously sacrifices her livelihood to speak out against the corruption and injustice at work in her community in this audience-pleasing, humanist drama. Like Hákonarson’s previous film “Rams,” it probes a deeply rooted rural culture that is closely connected to the Icelandic national spirit, while championing traditional Icelandic values over the exploitive underside of capitalism. The yin to that film’s yang, “The County” is full of feisty female energy and imagery, and sprinkled with rousing “you go girl!” comic moments. — Alissa Simon
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Eat Wheaties! (Scott Abramovitch)
Distributor: Screen Media
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
More like a mayonnaise sandwich on Wonder Bread than the at-least-mildly-crunchy breakfast cereal of its title, “Eat Wheaties!” is a movie whose blandness ultimately triumphs over its annoyance — but only by a hair. This is the kind of underdog comedy in which you soon want to kick the dog. Starring Tony Hale as a middle-aged dweeb whose claim of a past celebrity friendship improbably snowballs to ruin his life, Abramovitch’s debut aims for the tenor of something like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” minus the raunch. — Dennis Harvey
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Marighella (Wagner Moura)
Distributor: Artmattan Prods.
Where to Find It:
In virtual cinemas
Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of the film’s merits as an adrenaline-filled shoot-‘em-up hagiographic biopic of a resistance-fighter/terrorist, the penultimate scene, in which a woman picks up a machine gun and looks directly at the camera, is unambiguous in its deeply troubling message. — Jay Weissberg
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The Outside Story (Casimir Koznowski)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
An actor who can magic personality and purpose from the most inconsequential of bit parts, Brian Tyree Henry s given welcome room to play in a film for once built entirely around his spry, thoughtful presence. Without his sly line readings and knack for shambling physical comedy, “The Outside Story” wouldn’t be nearly so watchable. Even with them, it plays as an agreeably extended sitcom pilot, with a slender premise — cranky homebody gets locked out of his apartment, hijinks ensue — that never leans into its most farcical possibilities. For Henry, though, you’d tune in again. — Guy Lodge
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Percy vs Goliath (Clark Johnson)
Distributor: Paramount Pictures, Saban Films
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and digital
While well cast and plenty compelling (including feisty turns from Christopher Walken and Christina Ricci), this reductive farmer drama deals in emotions more than explanations as it seeks to convey what it means for a little-guy grower like Percy Schmeiser to go up against Big Agro. Director Clark Johnson clearly had such stirring anti-corporate environmental crusades as “Erin Brockovich” and “Promised Land” in mind, portraying Monsanto as a greedy near-monopoly (which isn’t necessarily false) without properly explaining what Percy is being accused of. — Peter Debruge
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The Virtuoso (Nick Stagliano)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In theaters, on demand and digital
Fresh off his second Oscar win, Anthony Hopkins isn’t awful in “The Virtuoso,” but the movie that surrounds him is. It’s a cut-rate thriller about a nameless hit man (Anson Mount) so busy telling audiences how professional he is — via such affirmational observations as, “You’re a professional, an expert dedicated to timing and precision” — that he doesn’t seem to notice his latest assignment is a setup. The one glimmer of originality in James C. Wolf’s script comes from the idea that the virtuoso’s mentor (Hopkins) sees this suicide mission as an act of mercy. — Peter Debruge
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New Releases for the Week of April 23

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

Mortal Kombat (Simon McQuoid)
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema
Where to Find It: In select theaters and HBO Max
Now, “Mortal Kombat” gets the R-rated reboot its fans feel the property deserves, which entails being as graphic as the game was when it comes time for the pugilists to eliminate their opponents, whether that means ripping out their hearts or buzz-sawing them in twain with a razor-sharp hat. Such ruthless finishing moves may be the selling point here, but it’s the more nuts-and-bolts backstory that matters if the studio hopes to build a fresh film franchise around the property. True to the game, the violence is both ghoulishly creative and gratuitously extreme. — Peter Debruge
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Only in Theaters

Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train (Haruo Sotozaki)
Distributor: Aniplex of America, Funimation
Where to Find It: In theaters
You’re either already on the “Demon Slayer” train or you’re not, and the hit Japanese feature — arriving stateside having surpassed “Spirited Away” as the highest-grossing anime movie of all time — is hardly the vehicle for the popular franchise to pick up new passengers. That doesn’t mean the action-packed toon won’t appeal to those curious to check out the sensation that has earned more than $415 million internationally. But it will be hard for newbies to follow a fan-service sequel that relies heavily on the complex mythology established by the 26-episode show. — Peter Debruge
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My Wonderful Wanda (Bettina Oberli)
Distributor: Zeitgeist Films, Kino Lorber
Where to Find It: In select theaters
Money can buy outside help, opportunity and material possessions, but not happiness in this punchy satire from “Late Bloomers” director Oberli. Taking a wry but empathetic approach to the phenomenon of care migration, Oberli and her co-writer Cooky Ziesche focus on the changing relationship between one privileged Swiss family and their financially fragile Polish home-care worker over nine months. Naturalistically shot and structured as three chapters and an epilogue, it’s an engaging, mostly well-acted tale, full of surprising twists, even if some seem a bit too on the nose. — Alissa Simon
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Paris Calligrammes (Ulrike Ottinger)
Distributor: Icarus Films
Where to Find It: In Film Forum virtual cinema, then wide on April 30
It would be a great mistake, sight unseen, to pigeonhole “Paris Calligrammes” as just another nostalgia-filled personal documentary about how amazing life was in Paris in the 1960s. Ottinger takes us through this formative time of her life in a way that deftly balances past and present to paint a picture of a threshold era of both positives and negatives. Largely composed of found footage, film clips and home movies, the film reflects the director’s generosity of spirit as well as the period’s bubbling cauldron of syncretic and opposing movements. — Jay Weissberg
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Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (Marilyn Agrelo)
Distributor: Screen Media
Where to Find It:
In theaters now, then on demand on May 7
“Street Gang” has the good fortune to be arriving with about a hundred more built-in advantages than most documentaries. Offering up vintage backstage footage of Jim Henson and Frank Oz operating the Muppets feels a little like Henry Houdini coming back to reveal all his secrets. For parts of a nostalgically inclined audience, almost everything beyond that might be gravy. Yet that’s almost the least of the pleasures in a highly satisfying documentary that wisely places roughly equal emphasis on how the sausage was made and how the culture was changed. — Chris Willman
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Tiny Tim: King for a Day (Johan von Sydow) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Juno Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters
This enticing documentary captures the delightful insanity of how Tiny Tim, the kind of elfin novelty act you could imagine getting booed off the stage at an open-mic night, became, for a while, the biggest star on the planet. Was he a fluke? In a way. Yet he didn’t happen out of nowhere. As the documentary captures … he possessed a singular charisma. Watching him now, 50 years later, you can scarcely take your eyes off him. One of the strange things the documentary captures is that Tiny Tim was one of those people who always knew he was going to be a star. — Owen Gleiberman
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Together Together (Nikole Beckwith)
Distributor: Bleecker Street
Where to Find it: In theaters, followed by digital on May 11
What if, Beckwith’s delightful if imperfect film asks, all this fuss about a biological clock isn’t exclusive to women? What if a single, aging heterosexual male can realize he has an internal timer of sorts, too? An awkwardly endearing tech developer, Matt (Ed Helms) has decided not to wait for the right partner to come along, but to make his fatherhood dreams come true via surrogate pregnancy instead. Enter the poker-faced Anna (Patti Harrison), a lonesome, cynical 20-something in need of the surrogacy funds to get her life back on track by pursuing an accelerated college degree. — Tomris Laffly
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Wet Season (Anthony Chen)
Distributor: Strand Releasing
Where to Find It: Opening in New York, then expanding to other theaters, virtual cinemas and PVOD on April 30th
Singapore writer-director Chen again proves himself a perceptive observer of life and social class in his tropical nation-state and a sensitive chronicler of issues confronting women. Set during monsoon season, Chen’s delicate, nuanced portrait of the heartbreaks afflicting a dedicated schoolteacher and dutiful wife is suffused with love and humor, and directed with striking maturity and restraint. Like his 2013 debut, “Ilo Ilo,” this bittersweet sophomore feature draws on details from his personal life and further benefits from the casting of two of that film’s leading players. — Alissa Simon
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Bloodthirsty (Amelia Moses)
Distributor: Brainstorm Media
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
After putting a youthful, female-centric spin on vampiredom in “Bleed With Me,” Canadian director Moses does the same favor for werewolves. The script is by producer Wendy Hill-Tout and her daughter, singer-songwriter Lowell, who make the pressures of the music industry integral to the story. To a degree, that emphasis may disappoint horror fans who want more of the fanged action that takes its time arriving here. But within its modest boundaries, “Bloodthirsty” does a creditable enough job balancing supernatural suspense with the drama of a young artist’s insecurities at a key early career juncture. — Dennis Harvey
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The Dry (Robert Connolly)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In theaters and on demand
The barren earth surrounding a drought-stricken Aussie town provides fertile ground for mystery, suspense and punchy emotional drama in “The Dry.” This enthralling adaptation of Jane Harper’s international bestseller stars a spot-on Eric Bana as a city detective whose investigation of an apparent murder-suicide in his hometown triggers renewed suspicion about his involvement in a mysterious death that’s haunted the community for two decades. Expertly directed, “The Dry” has all the character intrigue, clever plot twists and red herrings to keep viewers guessing. — Richard Kuipers
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I’m Going to Break Your Heart (Annie Bradley, Jim Morrison)
Distributor: Crave
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
Songwriting collaborations are so often portrayed as mystical unions that those of us who aren’t in the room where it happens have to wonder if there aren’t just as many instances where oil and water refuse to mesh. At last, the testiness that can result when writing sessions go south is portrayed on screen in this documentary about Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk, who comprise the duo Moon Vs Sun. The two escape from L.A. for a songwriting retreat on the French island of Saint Pierre, only to be constantly rubbing each other the wrong way in the collaborative process. — Chris Willman
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The Marijuana Conspiracy (Craig Pryce)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: On demand and digital
For moviegoers accustomed to stoner-dude protagonists, “The Marijuana Conspiracy” offers a nice change. The Canadian drama, set in 1972, is full of Mary Janes. Okay, really just one Mary and one Jane. But they’re joined by other young women who answer a call to participate in a research project. For 98 days, Mary, Janice, Jane, Mourinda and Marissa will be able — more like required — to smoke dope. And they get to imbibe without fear of the fuzz. The movie also tussles with research malfeasance, the stuff of “The Experimenter” and “The Stanford Prison Project.” — Lisa Kennedy
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Exclusive to Netflix

Stowaway (Joe Penna)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Director Joe Penna is a natural. “Stowaway” is only his second feature, and like the first, “Arctic” (2018), which starred Mads Mikkelsen as an explorer stranded in the frozen wilderness, it’s a tale of survival in extreme circumstances. This one is an outer-space adventure, which these days makes you think that it must be a spectacle film. But Penna takes a mission to Mars and unfurls it on a direct and intimate emotional level. He avoids the traps of making a fanciful piece of gleaming sci-fi like “Ad Astra” or the recent “Voyagers.” “Stowaway” is a modest genre film that stays tethered to flesh-and-blood concerns. — Owen Gleiberman
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New Releases for the Week of April 16

Only in Theaters

Beast Beast (Danny Madden)
Distributor:
Vanishing Angle
Where to Find It: In theaters and Alamo On Demand
“Beast Beast” clatters to life with organic percussion: a stick rat-a-tatting against an iron fence, a skateboard scraping on concrete, a rifle pinging bullets against a defenseless tin plate. Together, these sounds combine into jazz, despite the discordance of the three teens making such a ruckus: Krista (Shirley Chen), Nito (Jose Angeles) and recently graduated gun-nut Adam (Will Madden). When the trio eventually – finally – intersect, it’s a fluke. “Beast Beast’s” plot twist is a swing at gravitas that disrupts the balance of Madden’s naturalistic character study. Suddenly the film accelerates from reality to sensationalism, and trades humanity for pulp. — Amy Nicholson
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Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky)
Distributor: Neon
Where to Find It: In theaters
What we didn’t know on Oscar night was how neatly Joaquin Phoenix’s speech would dovetail into his next screen credit: as an executive producer on Kossakovsky’s simple but entirely astonishing documentary “Gunda.” It’s not hard to imagine his words as the unspoken subtext to this wholly dialogue-free animal character study, in which an enormous sow on a Norwegian farmyard embarks on an emotive arc of motherhood without any need for human voiceover or twee anthropomorphism: just the still, searching power of an attentive camera. — Guy Lodge
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In the Earth (Ben Wheatley)
Distributor:
Neon
Where to Find It: In theaters
Wheatley started off making micro-budget short-film goofs, and that can-do attitude — to rattle us without resources — compelled him to get creative amid the constraints. This quickie was conceived, shot, cut and now delivered during the same viral outbreak that has ground so many other productions to a halt, as Wheatley finds a way to fold the anxieties of the moment into deeper, more primitive fears of nature turning on humankind. Many a horror movie has taken place in the wake of a pandemic, but this is one of the first to fold a real-world outbreak into its own near-future vision of a world where no one talks about a return to normal. — Peter Debruge
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We Broke Up (Jeff Rosenberg)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by VOD release on April 23
“We Broke Up” catches a rom-com ripple and rides it toward sweet laughs and some authentic insights. It even surprises — an increasingly hard thing to pull off in the genre. Plying emotionally attuned dialogue and deft delivery, director Jeff Rosenberg and co-writer Laura Jacqmin know their way around a laugh or two. He spent time on “The Good Place” and “Veep”; she wrote for “Get Shorty” and “Grace and Frankie.” The movie is one of those rare outings that really does prick any smugness about its characters, but also has zero interest in creating baddies in order to keep a couple apart. — Lisa Kenendy
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Exclusive to Netflix

Arlo the Alligator Boy (Ryan Crego)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Ride or Die (Aly Hardt)
Where to Find It: Netflix
In the spirit of “Thelma and Louise,” a lesbian fugitive and the woman she’d kill for hit the road with three stilettos and a blood-red BMW in “Ride or Die.” A glammed up, erotically-charged cocktail of amour fou and true romance, the Netflix production gives agency to full-blooded female protagonists. That’s a rarity in Japan’s studio-dominated, cookie-cutter entertainment industry, which explains its liberating, inexhaustible energy. Based on the adult-skewing manga “Gunjo” (Ultramarine), the film stars actor-model Kiko Mizuhara and actor-musician Honami Sato, whose graphic sex scenes and full-frontal nudity are bound to be a talking point in Japan. — Maggie Lee
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Why Did You Kill Me? (Fredrick Munk)
Where to Find It: Netflix

On Demand and in Select Theaters

Hope (Maria Sødahl) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor:
KimStim
Where to Find It:
In select theaters and virtual cinemas
Believe the accolades: Maria Sødahl’s perceptive, heartfelt “Hope” richly deserves all the attention it’s gotten at festivals and award ceremonies since premiering in Toronto in 2019. Naturally, any movie with such a title dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis will have some kind of sting, but “Limbo” director Sødahl, who mined her own brush with cancer when writing the film, teases out the unexpected byways where hope is not just crushed but nurtured. The rewards here are great, not just for the multi-layered screenplay but the impeccable performances by Andrea Bræin Hovig and Stellan Skarsgård. — Jay Weissberg
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Jakob’s Wife (Travis Stevens)
Distributor:
RLJE Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
Low-budget necessity is often the mother of low-budget invention, but sadly not so much in “Jakob’s Wife,” a thin, half-hearted reworking of the vampire mythos that can’t quite decide if it’s spoofy or serious, and doesn’t have the smarts to be both. While it’s theoretically promising to attempt a hybrid tone in which schlocky effects and spurting necks are offset by genuine psychological insight into the discontented life of a long-married small-town pastor’s wife, in practice, the impulses just cancel each other out, whittling down the movie’s stakes long before they’re plunged into anyone’s chest. — Jessica Kiang
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Monday (Argyris Papadimitropoulos)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
For a while, “Monday” gives you the fizzy sensation that it’s just what an indie romantic comedy should be: buoyant and real, full of the sexiness of smashed boundaries, with two alluring free spirits at its center. In “Monday,” the free-spiritedness of it all keeps getting out of hand, as these two attempt to keep the romantic party going, drink for drink. Yet the real problem is that as soon as they move in together, the director starts to the overload the screen with red flags. “Monday,” shot with a mostly Greek crew, has been made with a certain degree of lively flair, and the two actors have moments where they really fuse. — Owen Gleiberman
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Reefa (Jessica Kavana Dornbusch)
Distributor:
Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: Available on demand
There is an eternal problem with this type of film, which tries to create satisfying drama out of senseless tragedy: There is no sense to be made, out of a day that would not have been so very different from any other in Reefa’s young life, had it not been distinguished by being his last. Like in Ryan Coogler’s more dynamic but no less manipulated “Fruitvale Station,” “Reefa” is flummoxed by what to do with a hero whose story is mostly about all the things he never got to do, and so the understandable but fundamentally unreliable decision is made to treat everything as if it were moving toward that fateful night. — Jessica Kiang
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The Rookies (Alan Yuen)
Distributor: Shout! Studios
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
Lame humor and incoherent plotting are among the shortcomings of “The Rookies,” an initially engaging but increasingly tedious Chinese action-comedy-thriller that not even kick-ass movie queen Milla Jovovich can breathe much life into. Undemanding genre fans might go for this Budapest-set hodge-podge about rookie secret agents tackling a deranged billionaire, but there’s not much here for anyone else. If played with a smart sense of humor and crisp comic timing, these colorful ingredients might have produced a zippy tongue-in-cheek action-adventure. Instead, “The Rookies” opts for puerile dialogue and dumb physical comedy. — Richard Kuipers
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Vanquish (George Gallo)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In select theaters, followed by digital and VOD on April 20
“Vanquish” isn’t bad so much as inert — nothing here is convincing, tense, kinetic, outrageous, or silly enough to give the movie even fleeting life. The script is so by-the-numbers, the performers can hardly hide their disinterest, a feeling soon to be shared by viewers lured by the promise of these stars in a violent revenge tale. Just as Vicky (Ruby Rose) has discovered her daughter requires expensive medical treatments, her employer (Morgan Freeman) announces he’ll pay for them — if she uses “some of your old skills” to collect and/or steal money. Should she refuse, he says she’ll never see her daughter again. — Dennis Harvey
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New Releases for the Week of April 9

Only in Theaters

Voyagers (Neil Burger)
Distributor: Lionsgate
Where to Find It: In select theaters
“Voyagers” isn’t badly made, and a handful of the actors have some flair, yet there’s something rote, schematic, and a bit monotonous about it. With everyone in the cast wearing black T-shirts, the movie suggests Ridley Scott shooting the world’s most expensive and visionary Gap commercial. “Voyagers” is a dutiful thriller about the beast within, but there’s not a lot of surprise to it. Even when the characters let themselves go, the drama remains mostly in lockdown. “Voyagers” hums along, but without much excitement. There are too many tropes you’ve seen too often, like a spacewalk shot through with an undercurrent of doom. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Netflix

Thunder Force (Ben Falcone)
Where to Find It: Netflix
“Thunder Force” would like to skewer the genre, but it’s basically a whiffleball action comedy studded with middle-drawer Melissa McCarthy gags. The movie teams McCarthy and Octavia Spencer as estranged high-school pals who get back together after a reunion and turn themselves into a superhero team called Thunder Force. Lydia (McCarthy) has super-strength; Emily (Spencer) can turn invisible. “Thunder Force” is the fifth McCarthy movie that her husband, Ben Falcone, has directed, and it will come as no surprise to consumers of their previous collaborations (“Tammy,” “The Boss,” etc.) that this one, too, is slapped together. — Owen Gleiberman
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

Giants Being Lonely (Grear Patterson)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: On DVD, Blu-ray and on demand
It’s a drama in the unlikely form of a 73-minute slice-of-life tone poem focused on the interior world of teenage jocks. It’s set in the woodsy enclave of an unnamed town in North Carolina, and the two main characters are high-school baseball players — Bobby and Adam, played by Jack Irving and Ben Irving, who are brothers, and who look just enough alike that it takes a few scenes to sort out which one you’re watching. The film gives you a sensation I’ve scarcely encountered outside of a Richard Linklater film — that jocks, even the ones who rule over high-school society, can be pensive and soulful and lost. — Owen Gleiberman
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Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Moustache (Khyentse Norbu)
Distributor: Abramorama
Where to Find It: In virtual cinemas
Told he’s been cursed and will die within a week, a Kathmandu man desperately seeks the elusive spirit that might save him. Though playing upon Tibetan Buddhist concepts, this latest film from Bhutan-born writer-director Norbu doesn’t use traditional religious mythology as a springboard for horror. Instead, his beguiling and visually beautiful Nepalese feature offers a droll, leisurely, if cryptic journey toward individual enlightenment. As in his prior features, religious teachings are seldom spelled out, but gently sublimated in an anecdotal progress of ingratiating, whimsical appeal. Once again he’s also used nonprofessional actors to good effect. — Dennis Harvey
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Moffie (Oliver Hermanus) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor:
IFC Films
Where to Find It:
In select theaters and on demand
Following three fine features of steadily increasing ambition, “Moffie” is Hermanus’ masterpiece in the true sense of the term: the film that consolidates all the promise and preoccupations of his previous work into one quite stunning feat of formal and narrative artistry, establishing him quite plainly as South Africa’s most vital contemporary filmmaker. A piercing, perfectly formed film, “Moffie” examines prejudice from the stunned, stifled perspective of an English-descended soldier as a closeted, terrified teenager is conscripted and sent to war on the Angolan border in 1981. — Guy Lodge
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Slalom (Charlène Favier)
Distributor: Kino Lorber
Where to Find It: In select theaters and virtual cinemas
There is a moment when the uneasy, sinking feeling that Favier’s debut has created to that point becomes an abrupt, stomach-dropping plunge. It’s when you realize that of course this was the story it was going to tell, and almost feel foolish for holding out the hope that its wildly imbalanced central relationship might play out any other way. After that glance, “Slalom” has fewer surprises to pull than fears to confirm, which is not a criticism — that the film remains compelling despite the depressing familiarity of its beats is impressive. It’s also part of the point: We know how this story goes; doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be told. — Jessica Kiang
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The Tunnel (Pål Øie)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: In select theaters and on demand
Solidly crafted if a bit uninspired, Pål Øie’s thriller is like a horizontal, colder, sootier “Towering Inferno” minus the all-star-cast, though their soap-operatics are intact. While decently paced (frequent Øie collaborator Sjur Aarthun is both editor and cinematographer here), the film also settles into an inevitable eventual rut when there is little real action, just searching and waiting. We’re all too aware, once a late additional peril arrives to endanger nearly-rescued protagonists, that it’s been grafted on to yank the slackened narrative tension taut again. — Dennis Harvey
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New Releases for the Week of April 2

Available in Theaters and on HBO Max

Godzilla vs. Kong (Adam Wingard)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In select theaters and HBO Max
The director intends for you to be impressed, but also to care about these non-speaking characters (but especially Kong, the obvious underdog here). Meanwhile, the human ensemble is made up mostly of conspiracy quacks and pseudo-science hacks. Eyes wide, brains off, ears bleeding — that’s how Wingard wants his audience. Whether it’s staging a rumpus on the high seas or a donnybrook in downtown Hong Kong, Wingard has the vision to deliver iconic fight scenes in a movie with multiple surprises up its sleeve (including another classic opponent to unite the rivals), while mercifully clocking in at under two hours. — Peter Debruge
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Only in Theaters

The Unholy (Evan Spiliotopoulos) CRITIC’S PICK
Distributor: Screen Gems
Where to Find It: In select theaters
“The Unholy” is a good tight scary commercial theological horror film. Its spooks and demons unfurl within a pop version of Christianity, which makes it sound no more exotic than last week’s “Exorcist” knockoff or last year’s helping of the “Conjuring” franchise. But “The Unholy” has a religious plot that actually works for it. It stars an unheralded actress named Cricket Brown, who plays a deaf-mute young woman named Alice, who has visions of what she thinks is the Virgin Mary. Absorbing Mary’s spirit, Alice can suddenly hear and speak, and she can heal the sick, which attracts crowds of people to her rural town of Banfield, Mass. — Owen Gleiberman
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

2021 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Animation (various)
Distributor: ShortsTV
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
Those who typically scope the Academy Award-nominated shorts programs hoping to win the Oscar pool will have a particularly tough time of it with this year’s animated roster, as the options are wide-ranging but lack a clear frontrunner. A few of the talents have ties to Pixar, though only one short was actually developed at a studio, while the other four are far more personal, independent expressions with little in common, least of all technique. Compared to past editions, this is a relatively weak year, though it’s always a treat to survey the range of offerings, released in theaters and on demand by ShortsTV. — Peter Debruge
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2021 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Live Action (various)
Distributor: ShortsTV
Where to Find It: In select theaters, on demand and digital
Law and order, and the lack thereof, were impossible to ignore amid last year’s “defund the police” protests, and the same tensions are reflected in the Oscar-nominated live-action shorts lineup. Some of the entries predate the George Floyd killing, while another was shot in direct reaction to that tragedy last summer; two more were made abroad, touching on themes that transcend borders. It’s not unusual for finalists in this category to come pushing a political agenda, and yet, this crop doesn’t feel like agitprop, but sincere, activist storytelling, well worth seeking out. — Peter Debruge
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Every Breath You Take (Vaughn Stein)
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Where to Find It: In select theaters and premium VOD
In “Every Breath You Take,” Casey Affleck plays a psychiatrist — or more to the point, he plays a movie psychiatrist, the sort of character who’s been around since Ingrid Bergman peered through wire-rimmed spectacles, offering repressed pensées about repression in Hitchcock’s “Spellbound” (1945). He convinces us that Dr. Philip Clark isn’t a bad guy, but that he has messed up his life just enough to deserve a comeuppance. The movie carries you along, and it’s got some high-tension moments, but there are one too many coincidental running-into-each-other-in-town close encounters. — Owen Gleiberman
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Funny Face (Tim Sutton)
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
Where to Find It: Available on Amazon, iTunes and digital platforms
As two young outsiders — a Muslim woman shaking off the oppressive minding of her elders, and an unhinged, mask-wearing victim of property redevelopment — meet, fall in love, and rage against the capitalist machine, “Funny Face” goes in for blunt social metaphor, heightened Brechtian allegory and neon-lit nightmare visions: a stew of approaches that is sometimes seductive and often gratingly affected. The script’s banal, minimalist dialogue does little to fuel the flickering chemistry between leads Cosmo Jarvis (“Lady Macbeth”) and appealing newcomer Dela Meskienyar as best it could. — Guy Lodge
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Roe v. Wade (Cathy Allyn, Nick Loeb)
Distributor: Vendian Entertainment
Where to Find It: Available on Amazon, iTunes and premium VOD
Targeting politically simpatico viewers and anyone they can convert on the other side of the aisle — while perhaps taking a page out of the former administration’s playbook — Allyn and Loeb present their own “alternative facts” as a definitive account of the famous court case, asserting that what we have been told about Roe v. Wade is a big lie. Far from impartial, their revisionist telling amounts to a sometimes sexist smear campaign, executed with roughly the competence of a cheaply assembled infomercial as it exploits religious guilt to disgrace a legal medical procedure. — Tomris Laffly
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Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman)
Distributor: Utopia
Where to Find It: In virtual cinemas
In writer-director Seligman’s hilarious, sneakily eruptive debut feature “Shiva Baby,” the acerbic Danielle is many things: an East Coast college senior majoring in gender studies; a young, bisexual Jewish woman; a sugar baby testing out the transactional powers of her sexuality. Think of this late-coming-of-age farce as a funny “Krisha” or the indoor apocalypse that takes place in “Mother!” — but with broken glass objects, a deafeningly screaming baby, a relentlessly suspicious wife and prying relatives instead of blood and guts — and you’ll get some sense of its edge-of-your-seat character. — Tomris Laffly
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This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese)
Distributor: Dekanalog
Where to Find It: In virtual cinemas
A haunted, unsentimental paean to land and its physical containment of community and ancestry — all endangered by nominally progressive infrastructure — this arresting third feature from Lesotho-born writer-director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese is as classical in theme as it is adventurous in presentation. Toggling between earthy naturalism and suspended dream atmospherics as fluently as its life-weary 80-year-old protagonist (the superb Mary Twala Mhlongo) skims the real and spiritual realms, it’s the kind of myth-rooted, avant-garde Southern African storytelling that rarely cracks the international festival circuit. — Guy Lodge
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Exclusive to Hulu

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn (Jed Rothstein)
Where to Find It: Hulu
The perfect storm of massive hype, a charismatic figurehead, an attractive-sounding idea and tons of money thrown down a bottomless pit make for a definitive 21st-century high-financial cautionary tale in “WeWork.” This documentary from “The China Hustle” director Rothstein charts the heady, then deadly first decade of an office space-sharing company whose much-promoted “revolutionary” idealism imploded in an old-school morass of hypocrisy, numbers shuffling and mass job/investment losses, making for a very entertaining postmortem. — Dennis Harvey
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Exclusive to Netflix

Concrete Cowboy (Ricky Staub) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Netflix
This is one of those rare, reframe-the-conversation films that take a very specific subculture and turn it into something universal and uplifting — only this one isn’t a documentary, despite the many real-world details that bring Staub’s exceptional father-son drama to life (among them, supporting roles for several genuine Fletcher Street cowboys and a range of North Philly locations that include the historic stables). Featuring an unforgettable performance from Idris Elba as Cole’s grizzled but caring father, Harp, this remarkable feature debut is all about giving at-risk young people a future. — Peter Debruge
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Madame Claude (Sylvie Verheyde)
Where to Find It: Netflix

New Releases for the Week of March 26

Only in Theaters

Nobody (Ilya Naishuller)
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Where to Find It: In theaters now, followed by PVOD on April 16
You might say that “Nobody” follows every rule of the genre. It’s got a hero (Bob Odenkirk) who starts off as a workaday family man, with a nice wife (Connie Nielsen) and two nice kids. Then he’s attacked by criminals in his own home. After which he starts to play dirty, give into his death wish, and walk tall. “Nobody” is a thoroughly over-the-top and, at times, loony-tunes entry in the live-and-let-die vengeance-is-mine genre. Is it a good movie? Not exactly. But its 90 minutes fly by, and it’s a canny vehicle for Odenkirk, the unlikeliest star of a righteous macho bloodbath since Dustin Hoffman got his bear trap on in “Straw Dogs.” — Owen Gleiberman
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On Demand and in Select Theaters

The Good Traitor (Christina Rosendahl)
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Where to Find It: Available on demand
Fascinating backroom politics circa WWII are undermined by banal marital melodrama, resulting in a so-so period drama that raises more questions than it answers. The film centers on the life of diplomat-gone-rogue Henrik Kauffmann (Ulrich Thomsen), who was posted to Washington, D.C., as Danish Ambassador in 1939. Unfortunately, the details of Kauffmann’s wheeling and dealing are continually undercut by the film’s concentration on his rather unusual personal life, rendered here in trite narrative clichés. The alternation between the personal and political stories rarely allows either to build up a head of steam. — Alissa Simon
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Nina Wu (Midi Z)
Distributor: Film Movement
Where to Find It: Available in virtual cinemas, followed by theaters and VOD April 2
“Nina Wu” was written by its luminous star, inspired by her own experiences as a young actress and by the Harvey Weinstein scandal — much of which happened in plush hotel rooms not far from the Cannes theater where this fascinating, glitchy, stylish, and troublesome title had its debut. And as the first directly #MeToo-related narrative to play in this context, it is a deeply challenging one, perhaps destined to be misinterpreted in some quarters, as it resists, even contradicts the simplification of its central act of violation into an obviously empowering, triumph-over-adversity arc. — Jessica Kiang
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The Seventh Day (Justin P. Lange)
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Where to Find It: In select theaters and VOD
In “The Seventh Day,” there’s a hint of an innovation to the exorcist movie genre, even if it’s not about the devil. It’s about the figure who’s fighting him. Guy Pearce plays Father Peter, a fabled exorcist whose initiation happened on Oct. 8, 1985, the day Pope John Paul II arrived in the U.S. That day, Father Peter assisted in his first exorcism — and saw his mentor, Father Louis (Keith David), get stabbed in the neck by a flying crucifix, at which point Father Peter took over and watched his boy victim burst into flames and die. That’s about as bad as it gets in demon fighting. And Father Peter has been making up for it ever since. — Owen Gleiberman
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Six Minutes to Midnight (Andy Goddard)
Distributor: IFC Films
Where to Find It: Available in select theaters and VOD
Inspired by the real history of Bexhill-on-Sea’s Victoria-Augusta-College, a 1930s finishing school for the daughters of the Nazi elite, “Six Minutes to Midnight,” wants to be a Hitchcockian thriller, but merely manages a familiar pastiche peopled with stock characters that should divert less-discriminating viewers. The clunky plot centers on an undercover British agent who infiltrates the school disguised as a new teacher. His assignment is to discover if Deutschland plans on repatriating their young flowers of maidenhood and whether said Mädchen might serve as captive pawns in Britain’s diplomatic chess game. — Alissa Simon
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The Vault (Andy Goddard)
Distributor: Saban Films, Paramount
Where to Find It: Available in theaters, on demand and digital
Spanish heist “The Vault” stubbornly remains one of those movies you know you’ll be forgetting almost as soon as you finish watching it. There’s nothing really wrong with this glossy tale of a “mission impossible” raid on a heavily fortified Madrid bank to retrieve treasure It’s just that a caper of this type needs tense set pieces, surprising twists, idiosyncratic characters or charismatic stars — ideally, all the above — to distinguish itself, and this one falls short in all those departments. Viewers who really love this sort of thing may get caught up in the procedural aspects of the story anyway. — Dennis Harvey
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Available on HBO and HBO Max

Tina (Dan Lindsay, TJ Martin)
Where to Find It: Releases March 27 on HBO
I went into “Tina” feeling like I knew this story in my bones, but the film kept opening my eyes — to new insights, new tremors of empathy, and a new appreciation for what a towering artist Tina Turner is. One of the things that enhances a biography like this one is simply the passage of time, and if you saw Tina Turner live, or watched clips of her in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, you may have thought she was awesome (I’d wonder about you if you didn’t), but she blazed trails in such an uncalculated way that you almost need a film like “Tina” to stand back and reveal, with perspective, what a gigantic influence she was. — Owen Gleiberman
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Exclusive to Netflix

Bad Trip (Kitao Sakurai)
Where to Find It: Netflix
A squirm-worthy exercise in vicarious humiliation that welds the rom-com formula to a gross-out prank show, “Bad Trip” hands lovelorn loser Chris (Eric Andre, who co-wrote the film with Sakurai and Dan Curry) a safe word (“popcorn”) and the keys to a hot pink Crown Victoria, and sets the comedian loose to terrorize unsuspecting bystanders along a northbound interstate from Florida to Manhattan, where he intends to profess his love to his middle school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin). Riding shotgun is Lil Rey Howery as Chris’ best friend Bud, and on their trail storms a terrifyingly incognito Tiffany Haddish. — Amy Nicholson
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A Week Away (Chris Smith)
Where to Find It: Netflix
Say you’re a wild, wayward but ultimately gold-hearted teen with a choice of correctional penalty: an extended spell in juvenile hall, or one summer of singing, swimming and mild soul-searching at a Christian youth camp. Which do you choose? If it seems a no-brainer, the achievement of “A Week Away” is to make us collectively wonder, after 90 minutes of aggressively wholesome hijinks, if juvie would be so bad after all. This innocuous but character-free tuner shamelessly copies and crosses the formulae of “High School Musical” and “Camp Rock” down to the last, sequel-prompting detail. — Guy Lodge
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Pagglait (Umesh Bist)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Seaspiracy (Ali Tabrizi)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Secret Magic Control Agency (Aleksey Tsitsilin)
Where to Find It: Netflix

Exclusive to Shudder

Violation (Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli) CRITIC’S PICK
Where to Find It: Shudder
A chamber piece with the existential mood of Lars von Trier, as well as a trope-defying revenge thriller with a mounting sense of terror, the dismembering, blood-draining frights of “Violation” — from tense familial grudges to an awful case of sexual assault and gaslighting that leads to brutal vengeance — aren’t easy to shake or describe. The gruesome details of the film’s deeply unsettling revenge sequence are best left unspoiled. What’s provocative about “Violation” isn’t the presence of these triggers, but the way it handles them, knowing that real-life sexual perils are as likely to crop up within one’s close, trusted circle as they are in the company of strangers. — Tomris Laffly
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