COMING THIS WEEK: Opening Wedesday
By Gary Thompson
The Disaster Artist. James Franco directs and stars in this comedy about the making of The Room, reputed to be one of the worst movies ever made. With Seth Rogen, Dave Franco. R
Wonder Wheel. Writer-director Woody Allen's story of a Coney Island waitress (Kate Winslet) whose affair with a lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) adds drama to her already fraught marriage. Co-starring Jim Belushi. PG-13
Just Getting Started. When strangers arrive to threaten a retiree (Morgan Freeman) in the witness protection program, a retired military pal (Tommy Lee Jones) decides to help. Directed by Ron Shelton. PG-13
The Other Side of Hope
The wry, melancholic comedy from Finnish legend Aki Kaurismäki follows displaced a Syrian refugee Khaled who lands in Helsinki as a stowaway and a middle-aged shirt salesman Wikström who leaves his prickly wife and unfulfilling job and buys a conspicuously unprofitable seafood restaurant.
Reviewed by critics Tirdad Derakhshani (T.D.), Dan DeLuca (D.D.), Gary Thompson (G.T.), and Nick Vadala (N.V.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.
God's Own Country A young farmer in the north of England numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense gay relationship. 1 hr. 44 No MPAA rating - W.S.
Lady Bird Funny, touching coming of age story about a Sacramento high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) who quarrels with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) about her determination to leave California for a more sophisticated life at an Eastern college. Written and directed with great affection, wisdom and skill by Greta Gerwig. With Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein. 1 hr. 33 R (language, sexuality) - G.T.
The Big Sick Based on comedian Kumail Nanjiani's life, a funny, touching comedy of a Pakistani American caught between his religious family and the American woman (Zoe Kazan) he loves. With Holly Hunter, Ray Romano. 1 hr. 59. R (sexual references) - G.T.
Quest Remarkable documentary follows a North Philadelphia family for several tumultuous years and chronicles their strength and resolve in the face of an imposing array of obstacles - violence, illness, and other developments. Parents Christopher and Christine'a Rainey provide an object lesson in the patience and love it takes to build the kind of families that build streets, neighborhoods, and cities. Directed and photographed by Jonathan Olshefski, edited by Lindsay Utz. 1 hr. 45 No MPAA rating - G.T.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri From writer-director Martin McDonagh, a timely if scabrous story about a small-town woman (Frances McDormand) taunting the cops (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell) who have failed to solve her daughter's murder. Contains the brutal violence, savage humor and surprising moments of warmth that comprise McDonagh's unique voice, and good performances as well - from McDormand and Rockwell in difficult and complex roles, playing difficult and complex people. With Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and John Hawkes. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, language) - G.T.
Two Trains Runnin' Two groups of white blues nerds ventured, unbeknownst to each other, into Mississippi in the summer of 1964 hoping to locate and lure back into performing country blues legends Son House and Skip James. Interviews and music fill the film - including appearances by Gary Clark Jr., Buddy Guy, and Lucinda Williams - along with mesmerizing archival footage of House and James in their late phase of revitalized stardom. 1 hr. 22 No MPAA rating - W.S.
American Made ***
Tom Cruise stars in this fun but heavily fictionalized portrait of Barry Seal, a drug smuggler who found himself at the intersection of drug cartels and CIA adventurism in Central and South America in the 1970s and 1980s. With Sarah Wright and Caleb Landry Jones. Directed by Doug Liman. 1 hr. 55
The Breadwinner **1/2 Visually captivating even when narratively uneven, this animated film tells the story of an 11-year-old girl living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan with her parents and siblings and who, after her father is arrested, cuts off her hair to pass as a boy so she can work to support her family. 1 hr. 33 PG-13 (thematic material, including violent images) - W.S.
Coco *** In Mexico a fatherless boy crosses into the colorful land of the dead to learn more about his family, and to pursue his forbidden dream of being a musician. Steeped in the customs and rituals of the Day of the Dead celebration, which provide Pixar animators an opportunity to work with a new range of colors and visual ideas. The music is first-rate as well, even if the story sometimes sputters. Not in a class with Pixar's best animation, but way better than Cars 3. Featuring the voice of Benjamin Bratt. 1 hr. 40 PG - G.T.
Daddy's Home 2 **1/2 Christmas sequel to 2015 comedy has moments that are deliriously silly and delightful and others where it misses the mark. With Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson. 1 hr. 40 PG-13 (suggestive material, some language - W.S.
The Florida Project *** Engaging slice-of-life look at residents of an Orlando motel, the adults living paycheck to paycheck, their free-range kids having an improbably wonderful time on the ragged fringe of the Magic Kingdom. Written and directed by Sean Baker. With Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince. 1 hr. 45. R (language) - G.T.
Geostorm **1/2 This passable action film is buried under a tsunami of political muck. After interconnected satellites positioned around the planet to stop severe weather malfunction, the creative mastermind (Gerard Butler) who was fired for his snippy attitude is brought back to solve the problem. 1 hr. 49 PG-13 (action scenes, violence) - W.S.
Jane **1/2 Documentary about famed paleoanthropologist Jane Goodall that is culled from recent interviews and over 100 hours of previously unseen footage of her work with wild animals is an intermittently effective biography, marred by a frequently intrusive Philip Glass score. 1 hr. 30 No MPAA rating - W.S.
Justice League ** This dour, downbeat corner of the DC Universe finds Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gail Gadot) recruiting superheroes Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to combat an invading alien army and an interstellar bad guy (Ciaran Hinds). Directed with a heavy hand by Zack Snyder. With Amy Adams, Diane Lane. 1 hr. 59 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer ** Yorgos Lanthimos provocation about a prosperous surgeon (Colin Farrell) with a young fan who turns out to be a stalker and a sociopath, forcing the physician into a sick game of gruesome choices. The movie's icy affections and snarky asides get in the way of whatever humanity it's intended to have. With Nicole Kidman. 1 hr. 59 R (violence) - G.T.
Last Flag Flying *** Three Vietnam war buddies (Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston) reunite to bury one man's son, killed in the line of duty in Iraq. The performances of the leads are uneven, but supporting players, including Cicely Tyson, help the movie build to a strong conclusion. Directed by Richard Linklater. 2 hrs. 5 R (language) - G.T.
Loving Vincent *** Each of the movie's 65,000 shimmering frames is a high-resolution photograph of an oil painting based on Vincent van Gogh's work in this speculative narrative attempting to penetrate the myth of the artist. 1 hr. 35 PG-13 (thematic elements, some violence, sexual material, smoking) - W.S.
The Man Who Invented Christmas **1/2 Fictionalized account of Charles Dickens writing his famous story "A Christmas Carol," framed here as a desperate race against time. Fanciful elements have Dickens (a manic Dan Stevens) borrowing heavily and spending lavishly to self-finance his big-gamble book. Characters (including Scrooge, played by Christopher Plummer, appear before him as he works out the story). Not an emotionally powerful story, but it builds to a suitably sentimental conclusion. With Simon Callow. 1 hr. 44 PG - G.T.
Mudbound *** The harsh realities and race/class complexities of post-WWII Jim Crow South play out in the lives of white and black families farming the same parcel of Mississippi land in Dee Rees' thoughtful adaptation of the Hillary Jordan book. With Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund and Jason Clarke. 2 hrs. 15 R (violence) - G.T.
Murder on the Orient Express *** Kenneth Branagh's appropriately hammy adaptation of the classic 1930s Agatha Christie mystery about a murder aboard a snowbound train in Yugoslavia, under the nose of master detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) who finds himself inundated with likely suspects - the all-star cast includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad and Daisy Ridley. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.
Roman J. Israel, Esq **1/2 Denzel Washington delivers a typically fine performance as an on-the-spectrum attorney who's sheltered life as a legal researcher changes when his managing partner dies and he's thrust uncomfortably into a more public role (working for slick attorney Colin Farrell). Washington excels as a neurodiverse man, somehow balancing limited emotional range with expressiveness. With Carmen Ejogo, written and directed by Dan Gilroy. 2 hrs. 9 R (language) - G.T.
Suburbicon *1/2 Misfired black comedy from director George Clooney, adapting a Coen brothers script about a postwar suburban father (Matt Damon) reacting brutally to a home invasion. Related storylines about racism are poorly handled, and the movie's garish tonal shifts are jarring. With Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac. 1 hr. 45 R (violence) - G.T.
Thor: Ragnarok *** Mercifully funny diversion into a quirky corner of the Marvel universe, with Cate Blanchett as the vengeful and power-mad sister of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) ascending the throne and banishing her brother to a prison planet, where he recruits the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to his cause. With Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hiddleston. 2 hrs. 10 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.
Tyler Perry's Boo 2: A Madea Halloween (Not previewed) Madea and the gang go on vacation and end up at a haunted campground, pursued by ghosts and goblins. Starring Tyler Perry, Cassie Davis, and Patrice Lovely. 1 hr. 40 PG-13 (sexual references, drug content, language, some horror images)
Wind River **1/2 Taylor Sheridan's screenplay has smart dialogue, likable neo-western heroes in cowboy hats, sudden open-carry shootouts, a capable woman navigating a man's world, and some searing social commentary, but, as a rookie director, Sheridan gets lost trying to assemble these elements into a tight package. 1 hr. 41 R (strong violence, disturbing images including a rape, language) - G.T.