• Self

    Self

    ★★★

    Searit Huluf's "Self" is a tenderly animated short film following a doll's journey of some sort of self-discovery. That journey, to the cantankerous eye, may feel expected and leans into the trite before landing on its soulful crux; but the wedding of tone, style, movement, and color allows the work to stand strong. The Disney Sparkshort shines with a poignant, subtle glow.

  • Blue Beetle

    Blue Beetle

    ★★★½

    Nicely earnest and solidly entertaining, "Blue Beetle" is an enjoyable, however lame-duck, entry in the DCEU canon. Finding a young man developing heroic abilities thanks to a symbiotic scarab, the DC comics superhero action film follows the narrative beats of its brethren but is blessed with dashes of character-generated charisma and personality. Action beats are swift; energy is high; and Ángel Manuel Soto ties everything together with a polished gleam, humorous glint, and grounded sense of ethnicity, family, and self. Xolo Mariduena proves himself a more-than-capable lead in a film that generates a satisfying, fun, and colorful experience.

  • Sister Act

    Sister Act

    ★★★½

    Starring a glorious Whoopi Goldberg, Emile Ardolino's "Sister Act" is an energetic, semi-sassy comedy about hiding out and discovering one's specific zest for life. The story, revolving around Goldberg's witness-protection-plan-protected casino singer, sees its lead leading a cloister out of its straight-faced quietude and breaking it into song. Goldberg is charismatic, and the comedy bounces with sweet and boisterous sense of self. The results are highly enjoyable.

  • Role Play

    Role Play

    ★★½

    There is nothing too terrible about "Role Play," an light-ish toned action film that finds are husband discovering secrets about his wife's second life. The leads, Kaley Cuoco and David Oyelowo, are suitably cast; the work moves quickly; and there is, at least, a modicum of personality to the action-violence. Unfortunately, there is nothing too memorable about the film, either. It is a watchable diversion, that features little to make the experience stick.

  • Next Goal Wins

    Next Goal Wins

    ★★★★

    Happily featuring the impishly hilarious personality of its cowriter and director, Taika Waititi's "Next Goal Wins" is a sure-footed and magnetic sports-comedy gem. The based-on-mostly-real-events story follows a put-upon soccer coach, sequestered in American Samoa with the world's worst team, as he tries to coax some goals out of the motley crew. Narratively, the small-scale work moves through the expected beats of the sports movie with ease; and Waititi's light touch coupled with a focus on local color, character, and heart make the film stand out. True to its source material, the buoyant, completely enjoyable comedy makes an inspiring statement and effortlessly satisfies.

  • The Hitman's Bodyguard

    The Hitman's Bodyguard

    ★★½

    Surprisingly uninviting despite the action and personality present, "The Hitman's Bodyguard" lands as something forgettable. Starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds as the title characters, the action film's plot sees the two joining up in service of international intrigue. That intrigue is perfunctory, however; and no amount of gunplay or sass can make the experience, mixing comedy and violence, drag less than it does. The results are both watchable and bland.

  • The Flash

    The Flash

    ★★★

    A lame duck entry in the now-mostly-defunct DC extended universe, Andy Muschietti's "The Flash" tries its best to hit a superhero, multi-verse homerun. The story, finding Barry Allen's comic book stalwart alter ego bouncing into different realities as he attempts to change the fate of his family, sees the speedster meeting different version of himself and fellow DC elite. Muschietti lands a single at least, and it is exhilarating to see Michael Keaton return to certain 1989 roots in support;…

  • Now You See It...

    Now You See It...

    ★★★

    A good-natured slice of mid-aughts Disney Channel fun, Duwayne Dunham's "Now You See It..." finds young magicians squaring off on a reality TV show. The story builds from there and lands as a solid fantasy with investable characters and neat stakes. Production elements are nothing outstanding, but performances are capable; and the entire enterprise smacks of feel-nice, TV-quality comfort energy dressed in the look and sounds of 2005. The experience is mild and engaging.

  • Strange Magic

    Strange Magic

    ★★½

    An animated jukebox musical that finds all manner of fairies and forest folk scrapping over love potions, "Strange Magic" is a fantasy light of much of anything fantastic. Its character designs are compelling, but the story, animation, and characters fall hollow. The entire affair feels cobbled together with mismatched parts, though that may possibly be the point; and, fortunately, its core idea deserves some respect. Songs and voicework make the affair watchable, but nothing lands solidly enough to make the film satisfy.

  • Cruella

    Cruella

    ★★★★

    Craig Gillespie's "Cruella," the live-action origin story of its namesake, plays the once and future Disney villain as a deeply wronged fashion maven with a penchant for pageantry and vengeance. The film is handsomely visualized and built with commitment, and Gillespie strikes black and white gold with a lush cast that features Emma Stone making London her playground as the title character. Stone is a dynamic firework, and the drama dances nimbly from light and darks tones. All of it…

  • Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

    Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

    ★★★

    James Wan's Jason Momoa, Patrick Wilson, and John Krasinski-starring "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" runs aground early on in a sweaty mist of silliness, dodgy effects, and superhero noise. The entire experience flounders under the weight of the above until, like its predecessor, Wan's "Aquaman," it figures out what it wants to be; and, here, that is a buddy adventure with two irascible-yet-chemistry-drenched leads. Once the plots kicks into gear and the good-natured sparring between Arthur Curry and his brother,…

  • The Underdoggs

    The Underdoggs

    ★★½

    Snoop Dogg stars as a washed-up wide receiver doing community service time in a comedy that wants to be kid-friendly despite its Dogg-driven vulgarity. The film is funny at times; has a low-key, and again, Dogg-driven energy; and showcases cute kids serving up stalwart sports-movie themes. The weed and f-bombs may create audience whiplash, but the work is watchable even if it does not necessarily cater to an assumed audience.