DARK PHOENIX

“Why not the X-Women?” queries angry Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) to Professor X (James McAvoy) after the female mutants, including Raven, Ororo/Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and telepathic and telekinetic heroine Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), are the leaders in the rescue of astronauts from a crippled spacecraft. According to Raven, since his “X-People” have gained the popular trust and are no longer looked upon as “the other,” the professor merely wants to run a PR campaign to keep the public from turning against the mutants again. Raven claims that Xavier selfishly puts his own reputation ahead of the mutants.

But the X-Men’s superhero concept becomes short-lived as Jean moves to the dark side. After experiencing an explosive event in space, she cannot control her newfound powers and turns into the destructive “Dark Phoenix.” Simultaneously, shapeshifting alien Smith (Jessica Chastain) encourages Jean to destroy everything in order to turn the world into a new home for Smith’s alien race.

Four-time “X-Men” screenwriter Simon Kinberg makes his directorial debut with the fast-paced episode which is packed with eye-popping effects and remains surprisingly cohesive for a feature that also gives screen time to Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and other X-Men, not to mention those pesky aliens.

Much like Marvel’s franchise “The Avengers: Endgame,” the 12th installment and sequel to “X-Men: Apocalypse” marks an ending and a beginning for this Marvel Comics series.

Rated PG-13  3 Stars

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2

It’s a surprise when the sequel measures up to the original. In 2016 Illumination Studio’s animated feature “The Secret Life of Pets” delighted viewers with an imaginative comedic peek at what pets do while their masters are away. In the adventure-laden part two, the animal characters, including fat tabby Chloe (Lake Bell), dachshund Buddy (Hannibal Buress) and Bassett Hound Pops (Dana Carvey), return along with a few newbies and some excellent adventures.

Jack Russell terrier Max (voice of Patton Oswalt) and Newfoundland mix Duke (Eric Stonestreet) go on a trip to the farm with Kate, hubby Chuck and baby Liam. After being confronted by a charging peacock, Max is saved by the farm’s macho sheepdog Rooster (Harrison Ford). At the same time, would-be animal rescuer bunny Snowball (Kevin Hart) helps shih tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) save white tiger Hu from a vicious trainer and his pack of wolves. Particularly funny moments occur as tiny Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate), masquerades as a cat to get Snowball’s favorite toy from a feline-filled apartment.

Prepare to giggle at the animal antics.

Rated PG  3 Stars

HALSTON

  Known for his innovative, minimalist designs, Iowan Roy Halston Frowick aka Halston became a fashion phenom during the 1960s and 70s. The Studio 54 regular was close to Andy Warhol and  Lisa Minnelli.

Frederic Tcheng’s fascinating documentary recreates the life and times of the creative talent who sparked trends--Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat, hot pants, ultrasuede fabric, flowing gowns and one piece dresses cut on the bias. Models, friends, journalists and Halston’s jewelry designer partner Elsa Perreti describe his artistic strengths and business failures.

Not rated  3 Stars