Movies: New and Noteworthy
COMING THIS WEEK By Steven Rea Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Harry Potter spin-off scripted by J.K. Rowling brings the wizarding world across the pond to our side. Set in 1920s Manhattan, with Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell. PG-13
COMING THIS WEEK
By Steven Rea
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Harry Potter spin-off scripted by J.K. Rowling brings the wizarding world across the pond to our side. Set in 1920s Manhattan, with Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell. PG-13
The Eagle Huntress A 13-year-old nomad girl in the Mongolian desert captures and trains an eagle in this award-winning documentary. Daisy Ridley of Star Wars: The Force Awakens narrates. G
Nocturnal Animals Tom Ford follows up his filmmaking debut, A Single Man, with a story set in modern-day L.A. - and also in the pages of a novel that come to life, dark and startlingly so, in the central character's head. Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Armie Hammer star. R
Also Opening This Week
A 65-year-old widow and retired music critic is the sole remaining resident in a grand beachfront apartment building in Recife, Brazil, targeted by a property developer who takes increasingly aggressive steps to try to force her out.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) directs this dramatic look at the differences between the public's perception of war and what actually happens in battle.
Bleed for This Biopic on boxer Vinny Pazienza, who overcame a severe injury to achieve fame in the ring.
The Edge of Seventeen A teen's (Hailee Steinfeld) life takes a turn for the worse when her best friend begins dating her brother.
A Street Cat Named Bob A homeless man living hand to mouth on the streets of London finds an injured cat. They become inseparable and heal each other's scars.
A true American masterpiece, the sophomore feature from Barry Jenkins (
Medicine for Melancholy
) is a heady mix of brutal social realism and poetry as it tells the coming-of-age story of a young black gay man from a Miami ghetto. Divided into three parts, it tells the story of Chiron as a 10-year-old, a high school student, and a 20-something professional as he wrestles with external forces he can't control, including poverty and drug crime and internal desires he cannot ignore. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes give memorable performances as Chiron. With André Holland , Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris, and Mahershala Ali. 1 hr. 50
(some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and profanity throughout) -
Tower Keith Maitland's extraordinary film documents the 1966 clock tower massacre at the University of Texas Austin - the first mass shooting in modern American history. But it's like no documentary you've seen. Maitland hired actors to re-create the carnage from the viewpoint of various victims, then used that footage as the basis for the lifelike animation technique known as rotoscoping - which brings the terror of those 90 minutes to surprisingly vivid life. 1 hr. 21 No MPAA rating (startling and realistic gun violence and death.) - W.S.
Very Good (***1/2)
The Birth of a Nation
Nate Parker's Sundance sensation lives up to the hype: A powerful work of history and myth alike, it depicts Nat Turner's transformation from a preacher who taught his fellow slaves to submit to white ownership into a firebrand and rebel who led a bloody, if short-lived, mutiny in 1831. Parker, who wrote and directed, gives a rousing, controlled performance as Turner, and he's ably backed up by a terrific ensemble featuring Aunjanue Ellis, Aja Naomi King, and Armie Hammer. 2 hrs.
(disturbing, violent content, and some brief nudity) -
Certain Women Based on a series of short stories by Maile Meloy, this minimalist masterwork from Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy) offers brief portraits of three Montana women going about their daily lives. Some are funny, others heartbreaking. All are told with quiet confidence and artistry. With great turns by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, James Le Gros, Kristen Stewart, and newcomer Lily Gladstone. 1 hr. 47 R (profanity) - T.D.
Christine Rebecca Hall delivers a haunting performance in this true story about Christine Chubbuck, a local TV reporter in Florida who committed suicide on live TV in 1974. A 29-year-old virgin, Chubbuck was intensely intelligent and ambitious but felt unable to connect with people, including her blustering boss (Tracy Letts) and the news anchor whom she loved from a distance (Dexter's Michael C. Hall). Directed with brilliance by Antonio Campos (Afterschool), the film has the weight of a true modern tragedy without falling prey to self-importance. It evokes compassion, not pity, for its unforgettable heroine. 1 hr. 55 R (profanity, including some sexual references; a scene of disturbing violence) - T.D.
Doctor Strange Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) acquits himself most awesomely in the 14th entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a visually sumptuous, trippy origin story about an arrogant surgeon who loses his career but regains his soul - and the ability to cast wicked spells, do wicked kung fu and look wicked cool in majestic blood-red cape. The plot? Hm, well evil threatens to swallow all of reality and the good guys try to stop it. The fine ensemble cast includes Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong and Mads Mikkelsen. 1 hr. 55 PG-13 (sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence) - T.D.
Gimme Danger The Stooges, the anarchic, proto-punk psychedelic garage band that Iggy Pop made his reputation with on three vastly influential albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is the focus of this impressive documentary. 1 hr. 48 R (drugs, language) - D.D.
Sully Tom Hanks stars as veteran airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in this deftly executed account of the dramatic emergency landing of a US Airways passenger jet in the middle of the Hudson River - the so-called Miracle on the Hudson. A true-life drama about heroism and people working in harmony under exceptional conditions, and a sobering deconstruction of the flight's aftermath: second-guessing, self-doubt, an administrative body - the National Transportation Safety Board - that appears on the hunt for a scapegoat. Clint Eastwood directs. 1 hr. 35 PG-13 (profanity, adult themes) - S.R.
Hacksaw Ridge One of Mel Gibson's greatest achievements as director, this incredibly violent, gory WWII epic tells the true story of U.S. Amy medic Desmond Doss (a remarkable Andrew Garfield), who became one of the most decorated soldiers of the Pacific Theater without firing a single shot. A conscientious objector, he single-handedly saved more than 75 wounded men during the Battle of Okinawa. The first-rate ensemble cast includes Hugo Weaving, Sam Worthington, Rachel Griffiths, and Teresa Palmer. 2 hrs. 11 R (intense prolonged realistically graphic sequences of war violence including grisly bloody images) - T.D.
The Handmaiden Based on Sarah Water's novel The Fingersmith, this breathtaking, clever, funny, sexy - and sexually graphic - romantic thriller from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook is about a lesbian romance that develops between an impoverished confidence trickster and an isolated, naïve heiress. Set during the 1930s, when Korea was a vassal state of Japan, the film cleverly addresses a range of themes about power, economic exploitation, and sexuality. 2 hrs. 24 No MPAA rating (nudity and graphic sexual situations throughout, profanity, smoking, violence) - T.D.
Also on screens
The Accountant ***
Crime thriller specialist Gavin O'Connor (
Hope and Glory
), delivers a slick, well-paced actioner based on the most ludicrous premise. Ben Affleck stars as an autistic accountant who also happens to be an expert sniper and martial arts master who is targeted by assassins after he finds financial irregularities at a powerful tech firm. Anna Kendrick is terrific as a geeky junior accountant who falls for the heroic CPA. With John Lithgow, J.K. Simmons, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. 2 hr. 8
(strong violence and profanity throughout)
Almost Christmas **1/2 Finally, a decent role for Mo'Nique after her Oscar for 2009's Precious. Writer/director David E. Talbert turns the cameras on and lets her do her thing as the eccentric, motormouth Aunt May of the Meyers clan as the family works through all the familiar tropes of the holiday movie genre. J.B. Smoove is great, too. Danny Glover is the dad. 1 hr. 52 PG-13 (suggestive material, drug content, and language) - W.S.
American Pastoral ** Ewan McGregor directs and stars in adaptation of Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a former star athlete, married to a former beauty queen, who goes in search of his daughter after she is accused of a violent act. It's fine, but McGregor joins a long list of directors who don't get what it takes to translate Roth's particular genius to the big screen. With Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, and Peter Riegert. 2 hr. 6 R (some strong sexual material, obscenity, brief violent images) - W.S.
Deepwater Horizon *** One of the most effective action directors in the biz, Peter Berg, recounts with rare grace and style the April 20, 2010, explosion that engulfed the massive Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Featuring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, and Gina Rodriguez, this is a film of great economy and elegance, a no-nonsense re-creation of a tragedy that's thrilling, suspenseful, heart-stopping. Yet one can't help but wonder whether the story would not have been better served with a more thoughtful drama that captured its long-term consequences. 1 hr. 47 PG-13 (prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images, and some profanity) - T.D.
Demon *** An eerie horror pic and a sharply funny satire at the same time, the last film by Polish director Marcin Wrona is a superb surrealist fable about the legacy of the Holocaust in Poland, which lost virtually its entire Jewish population. Israeli actor Itay Tiran plays a young groom invaded by the spirit of a dead woman on his wedding day. 1 hr. 34 R (profanity, sexuality, some nudity) - T.D.
Girl Asleep *** Australian coming-of-age comedy has shy kids, mean girls, a groovy '70s vibe, a monster, an ice queen, and a she-warrior who packs a mean punch. Think of it as Michel Gondry meets Wes Anderson, although it avoids quirk for the sake of quirk. 1 hr. 17 No MPAA rating (brief strong language) - W.S.
Inferno *1/2Director Ron Howard reteams with Tom Hanks for their third Dan Brown adaptation, a tedious thriller set across Italy that has symbol expert Robert Langdon (Hanks) racing to solve clues derived from Dante to save the globe. Ben Foster is wonderfully weird as the hero, and Felicity Jones is charming as Langdon's young helper. Great film technique, a great supporting cast and gorgeous locations can't save this story from sinking into tedium. 2 hrs. 01 PG-13 (sequences of action and violence, disturbing images, some profanity, thematic elements and brief sensuality) - T.D.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back *** Tom Cruise has found his ideal role in novelist Lee Child's antihero Jack Reacher, the former U.S. Army criminal investigator who travels around helping people who've been exploited by bad guys. This sequel, costarring Cobie Smulders as a current Army cop and Danika Yarosh as a teenage runaway, has Reacher taking on a private military contractor run by an evil former general (Robert Knepper). 1 hr. 58 PG-13 (sequences of violence and action, some bloody images, profanity, thematic elements) - T.D.
Kevin Hart: What Now? **1/2 Kevin Hart comes back home to Philly for his latest concert movie, which was filmed last year over a sold-out two-night stand at Lincoln Financial Field before crowds of 53,000 a night. Hart mocks James Bond pictures in a silly prologue costarring Halle Berry before taking the stage, where he dominates with sharp-edged jokes based on his daily life with his two kids and his fiancée. 1 hr. 36 R (sexual material, profanity) - T.D.
The Magnificent Seven ** Good turns by Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio can't save Training Day director Antoine Fuqua's star-studded remake of John Sturges' 1960 masterpiece. It's fun, exciting, and diverting enough. It's also entirely forgettable. 2 hrs. 12 PG-13 (extended and intense sequences of western violence, and historical smoking, some profanity, and suggestive material) - T.D.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children **1/2 Tim Burton's tween adventure fantasy tries to replicate the immensely successful mix of art-house cool and blockbuster power that made Alice in Wonderland such a huge hit. The effort backfires. Eva Green stars as the headmistress of a mysterious school for paranormally gifted kids who are hunted down by murderous monsters. Asa Butterfield is the misfit Florida teen who finds himself at the school, and Ella Purnell of Never Let Me Go is the remarkably charming girl he falls for. Samuel L. Jackson, Terence Stamp, and Judi Dench costar. 2 hrs. 07 PG-13 (intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and peril) - T.D.
Ouija: Origin of Evil **1/2 Elizabeth Reaser (The Good Wife) delivers a sympathetic performance as a recently widowed mom who plays at being a spiritual medium to gullible old ladies. Then one day her little girl begins to channel demonic beings. Child actor Lulu Wilson gives a jaw-dropping performance as the increasingly psychotic girl. Too many cartoonish digital effects, but it has style and a few nice scares. 1 hr. 39 PG-13 (disturbing images, terror, and thematic elements) - T.D.
Storks ** The latest 3D, CGI, animated family adventure saga tries to combine the cuteness factor of newborn babies with the edgy humor of a Saturday Night Live skit. Featuring voices by Adam Samberg, Jennifer Aniston, Kelsey Grammer, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jordan Peele, it's about a rebellious stork that accidentally ruins the latest business venture of the world's storks - tired of delivering babies, they now make home deliveries for an online retailer. 1 hr. 29 PG (mild action and some thematic elements) - T.D.
Trolls ** DreamWorks Animation's mediocre animated 3D musical family adventure is the first big-screen story spun from the Good Luck Troll line of toys introduced in 1959. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick voice the two leads and sing a couple of nice duets. Timberlake, who produced the music, does a great job, but the film has no magic, no real luster. 1 hr. 32 PG (some mild rude humor) - T.D.