It Ain’t Over (PG) Back in the 1980s, baseball statistician Bill James was making the argument that Yogi Berra’s colorful personality had come to overshadow how great a player he was. Sean Mullin’s documentary does not add a great deal to that case, though it does uncover some good material about his childhood in St. Louis and his service in World War II. A parade of baseball players and writers graces this film to tell us what a prince of a man the New York Yankees legend was. There’s no reason to doubt that, but too often this movie feels like a love letter to a man who was beloved in his time. I had Lenny Kravitz’ “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over” running through my head while watching this film, and then that song popped up over the end credits. Starring Billy Crystal, Derek Jeter, Bob Costas, Joe Torre, Whitey Herzog, Don Mattingly, Joe Maddon, Ron Guidry, Mariano Rivera, Nick Swisher, Willie Randolph, the late Roger Angell, and the late Vin Scully. (Opens Friday)
Kandahar (R) Gerard Butler stars in this thriller as a CIA agent who has to flee Afghanistan with his interpreter (Ali Fazal) after exposing an operation. Also with Travis Fimmel, Elnaaz Norouzi, Bahador Foladi, Mark Arnold, Corey Johnson, Nina Toussaint-White, Ray Haratian, and Navid Negahban. (Opens Friday)
Lat Mat 6 (NR) This Vietnamese action-comedy stars Trung Dung, Khanh Huy, Ngoc Diep Bao, Quoc Cuong, and Thi Huynh. (Opens Friday at Cinemark Mansfield)
The Machine (R) This comedy stars Bert Kreischer as a standup comic who must deal with the fallout of the comedy routine that made him famous years ago. Also with Mark Hamill, Jimmy Tatro, Martyn Ford, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jess Gabor, Iva Babic, and Rita Bernard-Shaw. (Opens Friday)
Mem Famous (NR) This Indian coming-of-age comedy stars Siri Raasi, Saarya, Muralidhar Goud, Mourya Chowdary, Sumanth Prabhas, and Narendra Ravi. (Opens Friday)
#MENTOO (NR) This Indian comedy about men who feel like victims of #MeToo stars Riya Suman, Naresh Agastya, Brahmaji, Harsha Chemudu, Sudharshan, and Priyanka Sharma. (Opens Friday)
The Wrath of Becky (R) Lulu Wilson stars in this thriller as the survivor of a traumatic attack who must defend her new home against more attackers. Also with Denise Burse, Jill Larson, Michael Sirow, Aaron Dalla Villa, Courtney Gains, and Seann William Scott. (Opens Friday)
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (PG-13) More than 50 years after Judy Blume’s children’s book came out, the movie version finally reaches us with its subversive qualities intact. Abby Ryder Fortson plays the titular 11-year-old girl who adjusts to her new home in New Jersey by praying to God for guidance with religion, her new friends, and her first menstruation, which a health film at school promises her is coming. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen) tones down her foul-mouthed wit to PG-13 levels without losing too much sharpness, and she adds some comic material for her actors to indulge in. In a vacuum, I might say that this adaptation was too tame and needed to take a few more chances, but our current political climate of book banning and legislators trying to control women’s bodies makes this still fresh. Also with Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, Elle Graham, Amari Price, Katherine Kupferer, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong, Landon Baxter, Echo Kellum, and Kathy Bates.
BlackBerry (R) This funny and engaging tragicomedy about the Canadian business that dominated smartphones in the early naughts stars Jay Baruchel and Matt Johnson as the co-founders whose business takes off when they hire CEO Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) for his business acumen and social skills. Johnson is also the director/co-writer here (adapting the film from Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff’s book), and he goes at this yarn by walking the line between ’00s nostalgia and making fun of the era’s foibles. The culture clash between Balsillie’s corporate suit and a bunch of programmers who hold weekly movie nights together produces some laughs, too. If you have memories of the device you used to have before you got an iPhone, this will make you see it in a new way. Also with Michael Ironside, Rich Sommer, SungWon Cho, Martin Donovan, Saul Rubinek, and Cary Elwes.
Book Club: The Next Chapter (PG-13) Our ladies have ditched E.L. James in the sequel to the 2018 comedy, but it doesn’t improve things much. Jane Fonda plays the lifelong bachelorette of the group who decides to get married, so her friends (Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen) take a pre-wedding trip to Italy. The stars are up for the challenge, but the script by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms is not. The best jokes come before the women leave home, as they talk over Zoom during the pandemic. Other than that, we’re treated to tired story beats about lost passports and lifelong friends appreciating each other anew. Also with Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Hugh Quarshie, Vincent Riotta, and Giancarlo Giannini.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (PG-13) Finally, a D&D movie for those of us who don’t own a 20-sided die. The role-playing game is turned over to John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, the comedy team (Game Night) that knows how to make light of their subject matter without pissing off the game’s fans. Chris Pine stars as an escaped convict who seeks to take back his child (Chloe Coleman) from a rich lord (Hugh Grant) who was his friend before betraying him. There are jokes about obese dragons and a magic spell that lets you interrogate dead people, and they’re carried off well by the filmmakers and a bouncy cast. I wouldn’t mind following this crew on another adventure, especially since D&D gives them far more monsters to encounter. Also with Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Daisy Head, and an uncredited Bradley Cooper.
Evil Dead Rise (R) The whole franchise has always been more about great visuals than any sort of coherent story or theme. This new installment with a bunch of Australian actors playing Americans with varying degrees of success is a middling entry. Alyssa Sutherland plays a Los Angeles mother of three who temporarily takes in her childless sister (Lily Sullivan) when her teenage son (Morgan Davies) moronically sets loose a demon spirit in their nearly abandoned apartment building. The mother becomes possessed, and the sister has to protect her kids. The bloo-ha-ha lines and performances notwithstanding, I don’t find that writer-director Lee Cronin has the same visual bad taste as Sam Raimi, nor does he come up with the heroin-addiction angle that made the 2013 reboot so interesting. There is plenty of blood and gore here. It just feels rote. Also with Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher, Jayden Daniels, Tai Wano, Billy Reynolds-McCarthy, Mark Mitchinson, and Anna-Maree Thomas.
Fast X (PG-13) They’s too many people in this movie. In the tenth installment of the franchise, Dominic (Vin Diesel) has to ride to the rescue when a mission in Rome goes south. The new baddie is Jason Momoa, who seems to be having more fun than the rest of the cast put together as he pulls dance moves while wearing highlights in his hair and polish on his nails. Still, he can’t make up for the movie stuffing in so many extra characters (some of whom have come back from the dead) that it loses track of the plotlines happening in the far corners of the world. The last movie had better do a really good job of tying up all the loose ends. Also with Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Pete Davidson, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Luis da Silva Jr., Leo Abelo Perry, Cardi B, John Cena, Jason Statham, Brie Larson, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno, Helen Mirren, and uncredited cameos by Michael Rooker, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (PG-13) This Marvel movie draws out the backstory of Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), which makes it uniquely harrowing and one of Marvel’s best in recent years. A gold-skinned super-alien (Will Poulter) attacks our crew of outlaws and maims Rocket badly, so the others have to save his life by stealing his medical records from the sadistic scientist (Chukwudi Iwuji) who created him. The movie has a ton of animal torture, and even though many of the creatures here don’t belong to any existent species, seeing them tortured may hit you harder than a documentary about actual animals being tortured. The villain and his fascist god complex makes for one of the scariest and most despicable bad guys in the Marvel canon, and Rocket’s story is inspiring like few other ones. Also with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Elizabeth Debicki, Nico Santos, Miriam Shor, Sarah Alami, Nathan Fillion, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rosenbaum, and Sylvester Stallone. Additional voices by Vin Diesel, Maria Bakalova, Judy Greer, Mikaela Hoover, Asim Chaudhry, Seth Green, and Linda Cardellini.
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (R) Of all his movies, the British director chooses to put his name on this skilled but sententious war film. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a master sergeant in Afghanistan who’s wounded in action, so his local interpreter (Dar Salim) goes above and beyond by dragging him 100 kilometers back to Bagram Air Base. When he finds that his savior has been left back there without an exit visa, he goes back into the country by himself in order to get his interpreter and his family to safety in America. The scenes of combat are filmed decently and Gyllenhaal is fully engaged, but this is the sort of movie that spells out the definition of the word “covenant” and assumes that we don’t know what the initials in IED stand for. This is wholly without the sense of fun that has distinguished Ritchie’s better films. Also with Alexander Ludwig, Antony Starr, Jonny Lee Miller, Fariba Sheikhan, and Emily Beecham.
Hypnotic (R) An ambitious psychological thriller from Robert Rodriguez, this movie’s pieces never quite coalesce. Ben Affleck plays an Austin cop who believes his daughter’s long-ago disappearance is linked with a present-day mysterious man (William Fichtner) who seems able to control people’s minds and make them commit crimes on his behalf. The story then widens out to layers of Inception and The Truman Show, but Affleck is below his best and has little chemistry with Alice Braga as a fortune teller who assists him with the ins and outs of hypnosis. The film never generates the madness of a mind trip, and the action sequences aren’t inventive enough to make the whole thing go down. Rodriguez is better making movies for kids. Also with Jeff Fahey, JD Pardo, Dayo Okeniyi, Kelly Frye, Hala Finley, Sandy Avila, and Jackie Earle Haley.
John Wick: Chapter 4 (R) This gargantuan 169-minute installment is the best of the series. This one has John (Keanu Reeves) traveling through Osaka, Berlin, and Paris to hunt down a marquis (Bill Skarsgård) who’s douchey as only a French aristocrat can be, and who’s in charge of making John dead. The movie looks too similar to the other Wicks, and the po-faced solemnity makes me long for a single good joke or someone who thinks all the rituals and symbols of the Wick-verse are so much crap. The movie does have even more than its share of great action sequences, with one taking place in the Japanese hotel’s art collection and another in a Paris apartment when John has a shotgun with shells that cause people to burst into flames. Standout supporting turns come from Donnie Yen as a blind and blackmailed Chinese killer and Scott Adkins as an obese German boss who comes close to kicking John’s ass. Also with Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, HIroyuki Sanada, Marko Zaror, Shamier Anderson, Rina Sawayama, Natalia Tena, Clancy Brown, George Georgiou, and the late Lance Reddick.
The Kerala Story (NR) The subject of controversy in India, this film is about a group of women who convert to Islam and travel to the Middle East to fight for ISIS. Starring Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, Siddhi Idnani, and Devadarshini.
Master Gardener (R) There aren’t that many movies about gardening, are there? Paul Schrader’s thriller is one of the better ones, even though it doesn’t rank among his best. Joel Edgerton plays a reformed white supremacist who now lives quietly as the head gardener on a massive estate. He has sex with the owner (Sigourney Weaver) to maintain his job, but then he becomes entangled with the woman’s troubled grandniece (Quintessa Swindell) whose boyfriend is beating her. I like Schrader’s willingness to drill down into the habits of mind that come with taking care of such a huge garden, and Swindell is quite good here. Still, the various strands of plot don’t come together like they did in First Reformed and The Card Counter, and there’s a general lack of excitement permeating the whole. Also with Victoria Hill, Amy Le, Erika Ashley, Jared Bankens, Eduardo Losan, and Esai Morales.
Nefarious (R) This horror film stars Sean Patrick Flanery as a condemned killer who becomes demonically possessed on the day of his execution. Also with Jordan Belfi, Robert Peters, and Tom Ohmer.
Ponniyin Selvan: Part Two (NR) This was shot concurrently with the first part of the epic that came out last fall, so it’s puzzling that this second half turns out so much less exciting. Jayam Ravi returns as the prince who is presumed dead at the beginning of the film but has actually survived. He and other Chola princes band together to protect the realm against its enemies, which translates to a lot of bearded muscular dudes fighting against one another, and if you’re not familiar with the Kalki Krishnamurthy novel that this is based on, you’ll have trouble keeping everybody straight. Also with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vikram, Karthi, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Vikram Prabhu, Sobhita Dhulipala, Trisha Krishnan, R. Sarath Kumar, Kishore, Rahman, Babu Anthony, and Prakash Raj.
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (PG) The video game series depended heavily on its gameplay rather than its story for its success, and the animated movie version succeeds by letting the characters be themselves. Mario (voiced by Chris Pratt) is sucked into the Mushroom Kingdom, but instead of rescuing Princess Peach (voiced by Anya Taylor-Joy), he has to enlist her help to rescue his brother Luigi (voiced by Charlie Day). The star-studded voice cast rises to the challenge, and the action of the film imitates the gameplay without overexplaining things. Perhaps the characters could use a bit of fleshing out, but the movie doesn’t try to do too much. Additional voices by Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Armisen, Khary Payton, Juliet Jelenic, and Sebastian Maniscalco. — Cole Williams
Black Lotus (NR) Frank Grillo stars in this action-thriller as an ex-special forces soldier who aims to rescue his daughter from a crime syndicate in Amsterdam. Also with Rico Verhoeven, Marie Dompnier, Peter Franzén, Rona-Lee Shimon, Pippi Casey, and Magnus Samuelsson.
L’immensità (NR) Penélope Cruz stars in this Italian drama as a mother raising her children in the 1970s. Also with Vincenzo Amato, Luana Giuliani, Patrizia Francioni, Maria Chiara Goretti, Alvia Reale, Carlo Gallo, and India Santella.
The Starling Girl (R) Eliza Scanlen stars in this drama as an underage evangelical Christian who starts having sex with her youth pastor (Lewis Pullman). Also with Jimmi Simpson, Wrenn Schmidt, Ellie May, Austin Abrams, and Kyle Secor.