COMING THIS WEEK

By Steven Rea

Wednesday

Allied. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard team up in this World War II romance set in Nazi-occupied Morocco and blitzed Britain, and rife with espionage, intrigue, dubious French accents (Pitt's, as a Québécois intelligence officer) and tips of the beret to Casablanca. Robert Zemeckis directs. R

Bad Santa 2. Life is surely cruel, making us wait 13 years for the sequel to the Yuletide classic starring Billy Bob Thornton as a hard-drinking, foulmouthed, pocket-picking department store Mr. Claus. Well, here it is, and it's sure to be a subtle, sophisticated, and heartwarming thing. Tony Cox is back as the butt of a lot of little-people jokes, and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates, sporting fake tattoos and a sneer, joins the fray, playing Thornton's Willie T. Stokes' tough, inked-up mom. R

Elle. A revenge thriller starring fearless French actress Isabelle Huppert as a video game company exec who is raped by an intruder and who then goes after him. Paul Verhoeven, of Basic Instinct and Black Book (and Showgirls and Starship Troopers - the man is a genius!), directs. R

Moana. A Polynesian princess (well, a chief's daughter, anyway) joins forces with a shape-shifting demigod (no, not a shape-shifting demagogue) to bring peace to a troubled South Pacific isle. Songs are sung, cutesy sidekicks are introduced, oceanic canoe trips are taken in Disney's 56th animated feature. With the voice talents of 2016's sexiest man alive, Dwayne Johnson, and Auli'i Cravalho in the title role. PG

Rules Don't Apply. Warren Beatty stars as the famously reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes in what is essentially a love story between a starry-eyed ingenue (Lily Collins) signed to Hughes' stable of aspiring actresses and a young, ambitious Hughes employee (Alden Ehrenreich). Beatty wrote, produced, and directed - his first behind-the-camera job since 1998's Bulworth. PG-13

Friday

Manchester By the Sea. Oscar buzz for Casey Affleck, starring as an apartment building handyman who returns to his small New England town after a family tragedy. Kenneth Lonergan wrote and directed. With Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges. R

Seasons. From the award-winning filmmakers behind the nature spectacles Winged Migration and Oceans, a new one that looks at forest life in the present and the past, and the connections between the animal kingdom and humankind. PG

Excellent (****)

Moonlight

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

R

(some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and profanity throughout) -

T.D.

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.

R

(disturbing, violent content, and some brief nudity) -

T.D.

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.

The Eagle Huntress Remarkable documentary follows wildly charismatic 13-year-old girl from nomadic family in Mongolia as she captures and trains an eagle. The story is mythic, the scenery jaw-dropping, the tone often surprisingly fun. And young Aisholpan Nurgaiv is a born star. 1 hr. 27 G (contains nothing objectionable) - W.S.

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.

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

R

(strong violence and profanity throughout)

- T.D.

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.

Aquarius (Not Previewed) Kiss of the Spider Woman star Sonia Braga, who had a recurring role this season on Netflix's Luke Cage, stars in this Brazilian import as a retired music teacher who is the last resident remaining in her apartment building in the seaside town of Recife. Subjected to a campaign of intimidation by the owner, she takes refuge in memories of her loved ones and of her life in her home. Distributed by Vitagraph Films. In Portuguese with English subtitles. 2 hrs. 22 No MPAA rating.

Boo! A Madea Halloween **1/2Tyler Perry is back as Mabel "Madea" Simmons - and brother Joe and nephew Brian, whose daughter slips out of the house to attend a fraternity Halloween party. Madea, along with Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), Hattie (Patrice Lovely), and Joe, follows, and they crash the party. Laughs galore, of course, and nothing more. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (drug use and references, suggestive content, language, some horror images, thematic material) - S.B.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk ** Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) directs this abitious and deeply flawed look at the differences between the public's perception of war and what actually happens in battle. 1 hr. 50 R (for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use) - T.D.

Bleed for This **1/2 By-the-numbers boxing bio-pic tells the story of World Champion Boxer Vinny "the Pazmanian Devil" Paz as he attempts to recover from a head-on car wreck and fight again. If you've already seen The Fighter, you've kind of seen this, too. Miles Teller plays the Rhode Island boxer. 1 hr. 56 R (language, sexuality/nudity, some accident images) - W.S.

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.

Doctor Strange ***1/2 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 a majestic blood-red cape. The plot? Hmm, 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.

The Edge of Seventeen *** A teen's (Hailee Steinfeld) life takes a turn for the worse when her best friend begins dating her brother. It works because it's not a candy-coated version of teenagedom. It's harsh, awkward, and funny, just like being a teenager. 1 hr. 30 R (for sexual content, language, and some drinking) - M.E.

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. 2 hrs. 13 PG-13 (for some fantasy-action violence) - 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 *1/2 Director 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.

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.

Nocturnal Animals *** In intense, haunting, convoluted movie - and movie-within-a-movie - Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a divorced couple whose relationship takes a dark turn after he writes a novel. With Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen. Written and directed by Tom Ford, based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. 1 hr. 56 R (violence, obscenity, and graphic nudity) - W.S.

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.

The Pickle Recipe (Not previewed) In this cornball Borscht Belt romp, a struggling DJ steals his grandmother's prize-winning pickle recipe. Sample joke: A guest at a wedding reception complains about the pickles being served. Her tablemate concurs, adding, "And they hardly give you any!" 1 hr. 37 PG-13 (brief suggestive humor, drug references).

Shut In (Not previewed) Naomi Watts plays a widowed child psychologist who lives in isolated solitude in rural New England with her bedridden teen son (Charlie Heaton). A fierce winter storm and an odd young houseguest (Jacob Tremblay) rock their world. With Oliver Platt. 1 hr. 31 PG-13 (terror and some violence/bloody images, nudity, thematic elements, brief strong language).

A Street Cat Named Bob (Not Previewed) Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, and Joanne Froggatt star in a feel-good dramedy adapted from the international best-selling novel by James Bowen about a down-and-out drug addict who finds redemption and clean living with the help of a stray ginger cat. Distributed by Cleopatra Films. 1 hr. 43 No MPAA rating.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.