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Movies: New and Noteworthy

COMING THIS WEEK By Steven Rea The Love Witch. Samantha Robinson is a spell-casting killer seductress in this homage to '60s sexploitation and horror from indie auteur Anna Biller. No MPAA rating


By Steven Rea

The Love Witch. Samantha Robinson is a spell-casting killer seductress in this homage to '60s sexploitation and horror from indie auteur Anna Biller. No MPAA rating

Man Down. Shia LaBeouf stars as a decorated Marine vet returned home from Afghanistan, haunted by his experiences there. Kate Mara and Gary Oldman costar. R

Also opening This Week

The Duelist

A handsome and ruthless retired army officer (Pyotr Fyodorov) who becomes a professional duelist in 19th-century Russia begins to have second thoughts about his profession after he meets the beautiful sister of a future opponent.

Excellent (****)


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) -


Very Good (***1/2)

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 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


(sci-fi violence and action throughout, and an intense crash sequence) -


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.

Elle Paul Verhoeven's most daring exploration of sexual politics features a stunning performance by Isabelle Huppert as a successful business executive and single mother who is violently raped by a masked assailant. Refusing to become a victim or to seek revenge, she tries to understand the dynamics of rape, going as far as to befriend and seduce her attacker. 2 hrs. 10 R (violence involving sexual assault, disturbing sexual content, some grisly images, brief graphic nudity, and profanity) - T.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.

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret) proves once again he's one of America's finest dramatists with this working class drama about loss, grief and family obligations. Casey Affleck is sensational in an Oscar-worthy performance as a self-hating, melancholic who has lived a miserable life as a janitor since he lost both his children in an accident. When his older brother (Kyle Chandler) dies, he must return to his tiny hometown and assume responsibility for his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). Costars Michelle Williams, Matthew Broderick and Gretchen Mol. 2 hrs. 17 R for profanity throughout and some sexual content) - T.D.

Moana This delightful, lyrical and deeply moving 3D computer animated family picture is a semi-comic adventure story featuring the first truly feminist heroine to grace Walt Disney's animated features. Based in part on Polynesian myths, it's about a teenage princess (15-year-old Hawaii-born singer Auli'i Cravalho) who goes on an arduous journey to restore the creative powers of the fecund earth mother who created the world. Co-starring Dwayne Johnson as a macho demi-god, the film is fueled by a wondrous, ecofeminist point of view. 1 hr. 53 PG (peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements) - 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)

- T.D.

Allied ** Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) pays tribute to classic Hollywood films with this sub-par romantic WWII spy yarn starring the 52-year-old Brad Pitt as a commando who parachutes into Casablanca to help an agent from the French Resistance (Marion Cotillard). The derivative story is so far-fetched and the romance so tepid, the film lacks any real vitality. That's especially true of the latter half, which has the now-married couple entangled in a spy hunt in London. The thriller elements are too thin to be taken seriously and the romance far too sentimentalized. 2 hrs. 04 R (violence, some sexuality/nudity, profanity and brief drug use) - 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.

Bad Santa 2 **1/2 In long-in-coming sequel to 2003 hit, safecracking Santa Billy Bob Thornton and elfin sidekick Tony Cox try to knock over a Chicago charity. Kathy Bates is here too, and the cast is in fine form – but the rehashed jokes feel way past their prime. 1 hr. 32 R (crude sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nudity) - W.S.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk ** Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) directs this ambitious 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 biopic 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.

Boo! A Madea Halloween **1/2 Tyler 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 - this hot, frantic mess. 2 hr. 6 PG-13 (sexual material including brief strong language, thematic elements, drug references) - W.S.

Seasons *** Documentary filmmakers Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud ( Winged Migration) have shot stunning footage in following an assortment of animals in continental Europe, showing how they have adapted over different periods in our planet's history and how humans upend the balance of life, especially through industrialization and war. The directors reserve their empathy for creatures, particularly as their habitats shrink, but they keep enough of a distance so that animals are never anthropomorphized. 1 hr. 35 PG (some violent imagery that may disturb young viewers) - W.S.

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.