OPENING THIS WEEK
3.5 chiles - JUST MERCY
Based on factual events, Just Mercy is the story of Walter McMillian, who in 1987 was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, but who was railroaded by a racist and incompetent legal system in Alabama. McMillian’s case became famous by way of the memoir of Bryan Stevenson, a brilliant attorney who came to his defense and has gone on to become a leader in criminal justice reform. Just Mercy might feel like something we’ve seen before. But in the judicious hands of director and co-writer Destin Daniel Cretton, it feels fresh and urgent and more timely than ever. It begins when McMillian — played in an astonishing comeback performance by Jamie Foxx — is arrested. He insists he couldn’t have committed the crime. Still, he winds up on death row. Played by Michael B. Jordan with his usual combination of composure and submerged fire, Stevenson is the main protagonist, but this isn’t a biopic. As much as viewers come to admire him for his courage and dedication, they don’t necessarily come to feel they know him. The same goes for Brie Larson, who portrays Eva Ansley, the crusader who joined Stevenson in founding the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative. There are moments when the film threatens to become as meandering as McMillian’s case itself, but Cretton keeps the narrative on course, leading the audience through the stakes and specifics of Stevenson’s quest with welcome clarity. Drama, rated PG-13, 136 minutes, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Ann Hornaday/The Washington Post)
LIKE A BOSS
Mia and Mel (Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne) are best-friends-forever who start their own cosmetics company and soon find they have different approaches to business — one is fiscally prudent, while the other is brash and looking to get rich quick. Meanwhile, they’re piling up debt. When a buyout offer arrives from industry magnate Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), the two women are forced to set aside their differences and defend their embattled company. Comedy, rated R, 83 minutes, Regal Santa Fe 6 and Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
3 chiles - 1917
Military drama, rated R, 119 minutes, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. See review.
3.5 chiles - 63 UP
Documentary, not rated, 139 minutes, Center for Contemporary Arts. See review.
2 chiles - THREE CHRISTS
Psychiatric drama, not rated, 117 minutes, Jean Cocteau Cinema. See review.
In this deep-sea twist on the Alien formula, Kristen Stewart plays an aquatic researcher who, along with a whole crew, travels seven miles under the ocean surface in a subterranean laboratory. When an earthquake on the ocean floor destroys their lab, they must scramble to survive. That’s just the start of their problems, however — the earthquake also awakened mysterious creatures that are hungry for human flesh. Horror, rated PG-13, 95 minutes, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
NOW IN THEATERS
3 chiles - A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
This movie is about how a man who devoted his life to being kind helps a man with a professional investment in skepticism to become a little nicer. It could easily have turned into something preachy, sentimental, and overstated. Fred Rogers was none of those things. His decency presented itself with a serene consistency that could be a little unnerving. That’s how Rogers sometimes struck Tom Junod in the Esquire profile that inspired Marielle Heller’s film. And that’s how the movie’s Mister Rogers, played by Tom Hanks, often strikes Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a fictional character who, like Junod, writes for Esquire. This movie is not primarily about Rogers’ work in children’s television. It’s about how his friendship helps Lloyd become a more forgiving son, a more responsive husband, and a more involved father. Hanks performs this with faultless technique, but you never lose sight of the performance. Biopic, rated PG, 108 minutes, Regal Stadium 14. (A.O. Scott/The New York Times)
2.5 chiles - BOMBSHELL
This docudrama depicts the corporate culture of sexual harassment at Fox News through the perspectives of three women: star anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Fox & Friends star Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), and a fictional composite associate producer named Katya Pospisil (Margot Robbie). This is the story behind the toppling of Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), who was eventually ousted from the network he had long ruled as a powerful media fiefdom. Director Jay Roach’s camera snakes through those offices, capturing how the predatory climate filtered through the newsroom’s power structure. As a workplace drama, it’s quite successful. We get a sense of whispers and rumors and careless misogyny everywhere, capturing just how difficult it is for each woman to come forward. That makes their stories heroic but complicated. The question, ultimately, is whether the stories ought to have spun quite so snappy a movie. It does cartwheels to make a vile tale compelling, and it can feel like a parade of starry impressions rather than something genuine. But to quote Ailes in the film, “It’s a visual medium.” Drama, rated R, 108 minutes, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Jake Coyle/The Associated Press)
Brie Larson narrates this documentary that shows us the inside world of mushrooms, molds, and other fungi. Director Louie Schwartzberg takes viewers on a time-lapse journey that describes the ancient history of these organisms and their power in the present to heal and to sustain life. Some of the most renowned mycologists in the world also offer their thoughts on the potential of fungi to help humans across a wide variety of uses. Documentary, not rated, 81 minutes, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Not reviewed)
2 chiles - FROZEN II
It’s been a few years since Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) learned to embrace her icy powers and settled on her throne. Little sister Anna (Kristen Bell) is still with hunky lunk Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). Living snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) continues to hang around. Otherwise, things are going well in the charmingly Nordic kingdom, right up until Elsa begins hearing a lone voice singing from afar. Not long after the song begins — although only Elsa can hear it — the people of Arendelle experience some oddities, culminating in an earthquake that sends the entire population heading for the hills. Frozen II starts off on shaky ground, largely because it backtracks on much of the character development Anna and Elsa went though in the first movie. The biggest disappointment? The music. There isn’t really a standout song in the bunch. Yes, it is a letdown when compared with the original. But it’s also a lackluster disappointment on its own — a pale shadow of what it could have been. Animated adventure, rated PG, 103 minutes, screens in 2D only at Regal Stadium 14. (Kristen Page-Kirby/The Washington Post)
In 2002, Japanese director Takashi Shimizu released the horror film Ju-On: The Grudge. It was popular enough to spawn eight Japanese sequels and three American remakes and sequels. The latest reboot of this franchise stars John Cho and Betty Gilpin, and centers on a house inhabited by a vengeful and bloodthirsty ghost, which dooms visitors to a violent death. Rated R. 93 minutes. Regal Stadium 14. (Not reviewed)
3.5 chiles - A HIDDEN LIFE
Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life marks a return to narrative form for the auteur director, aided by the world of nature. Black-and-white newsreel footage charts the rise of Adolf Hitler, then it’s off to the mountains of northern Austria where a peaceful farmer and conscientious objector named Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) lives with his wife, Fani (Valerie Pachner), and their three young daughters. The film covers about four years in the life of Jägerstätter, who’s based on a real-life figure who was beatified as a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. Jägerstätter’s refusal to swear an oath to serve Hitler becomes a sticking point, first among his family and fellow villagers, then among the authorities. The last third of the film is mostly set in the Berlin prison where he awaits his sentencing as a traitor. The most impactful moments of the film come by way of Malick’s observances of human nature and the light in which he casts his characters. As cruel as some of them are, they’re bound by duty. Jägerstätter is in the right and they know it. This is most clear in the exchange between Jägerstätter and Judge Lueben, played with sympathy by the late, great Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire) in one of his final screen roles, who engages Jägerstätter in a private conversation on the day of his sentencing. Drama, rated PG-13, 174 minutes, in English and German with subtitles, Violet Crown. (Michael Abatemarco)
2.5 chiles - JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL
This sequel brings together the same director, writers, and actors who made the 2017 Jumanji reboot so fun and then layers in more stars — Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, and Awkwafina — plus more locations and special effects. The result is a successful, if unbalanced ride. It starts like the first, with four mismatched young people getting sucked into a video game. There, they transform into avatars played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan. Glover and DeVito, playing two estranged friends, also get pulled into the game, and everyone has a new avatar. Now The Rock employs both a honking “Noo Yawk” accent and an elderly man’s befuddlement at what’s happening since he’s controlled by DeVito. Meanwhile, Glover gets handed Hart. The plot is insane, as you might expect from an adventure video game quest, and takes our ragtag group from arid deserts to snowy mountains in search of a jewel that will restore the natural order. Like all sequels, the second suffers from not having the delicious surprise of the first. It’s not broke, so don’t fix it. Family adventure,
rated PG-13, 123 minutes, screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Mark Kennedy/
The Washington Post)
Writer and director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) takes a break from galactic adventures to dial the stakes down into a simple whodunit. Daniel Craig plays Detective Benoit Blanc, a private eye who is called upon to investigate the murder of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). The suspects? His family members, who are played by Toni Colette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, and others. Mystery, rated PG-13, 130 minutes, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Not reviewed)
4 chiles - LITTLE WOMEN
There is a wild urgency to Greta Gerwig’s Little Women that hardly seems possible for a film based on a 150-year-old book. Such is the magic of combining Louisa May Alcott’s enduring story of those four sisters with Gerwig’s feisty, evocative, and clear-eyed storytelling that makes this a new classic. Gerwig flips Alcott’s narrative to allow her characters to be women first, instead of children. Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is introduced when she is already on her own trying to be a writer and making compromises all over the place. Meg (Emma Watson) is living her life with two kids, a husband, and a yearning for finer things. Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is still at home. And Amy (Florence Pugh) is in Paris with Aunt March (Meryl Streep), studying to paint and strategically plotting out a future that involves a wealthy husband. In their adult present, Gerwig finds thematically similar chapters in their past to flash back to. These are always in warmer tones, while the present has a bluish starkness. This structure is a bold choice, but using the past to reveal and illuminate things about the present makes for a richer experience overall. Drama, rated PG, 134 minutes, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, The Screen, and Violet Crown. (Lindsey Bahr/The Associated Press)
4 chiles - PAIN AND GLORY
As he grows older, Pedro Almodovar grows more reflective. Pain and Glory is not strictly autobiographical, but it is strewn with deeply personal breadcrumbs to lead us through passages of the great director’s life. The central character is Salvador Mallo, a famous Spanish filmmaker played by Antonio Banderas, who won Best Actor at Cannes for this performance. The time frame shifts between memories of his character’s childhood, where his mother is portrayed by Penelope Cruz, and the present, when Julieta Serrano takes over the role. If the mood is more somber than in earlier Almodovar classics, the color scheme is as riotously rich as ever. As he casts an eye back over his life, the septuagenarian director may have lost some of his youthful exuberance, but he hasn’t lost his touch. Drama, rated R, 113 minutes, in Spanish with subtitles, Center for Contemporary Arts. (Jonathan Richards)
3 chiles - PARASITE
Director Bong Joon Ho creates specific spaces and faces that are in service to universal ideas about human dignity, class, and life itself. That’s a good way of telegraphing the larger catastrophe represented by the cramped, gloomy, and altogether disordered basement apartment where Kim Ki-taek (the great Song Kang Ho) benignly reigns. A sedentary lump, Ki-taek doesn’t have a lot obviously going for him. Fortunes change after the son, Ki-woo (Choi Woo Shik), lands a lucrative job as an English-language tutor for the teenage daughter, Da-hye (Jung Ziso), of the wealthy Park family. The other Kims soon secure their positions as art tutor, housekeeper, and chauffeur. In outsourcing their lives, all the cooking and cleaning and caring for their children, the Parks are as parasitical as their humorously opportunistic interlopers. Drama, rated R, 132 minutes, in Korean with subtitles, Jean Cocteau Cinema and Violet Crown. (Manohla Dargis/The New York Times)
3.5 chiles - Queen & Slim
This debut feature by music-video and television virtuoso Melina Matsoukas, starts out as a restrained comedy of romantic disappointment. The title pair — played by Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya — are in a diner after connecting on a dating app, and the lack of chemistry is palpable. It’s a cold night in Cleveland, and a second date is unlikely. But a lethal encounter with an aggressive white police officer (country singer Sturgill Simpson) changes everything. The non-couple turn into fugitives, and Queen & Slim becomes an outlaw romance. In the course of their flight they become folk heroes. They also fall in love. The film is full of violence and danger, but its mood is dreamy, sometimes almost languorous, at least as invested in the aesthetics of life on the run as it is in the politics of black lives. Drama, rated R, 132 minutes, Jean Cocteau Cinema. (A.O. Scott/The New York Times)
3 chiles - Spies in Disguise
To all appearances, this animated comedy is just another rollicking send up of super spy thrillers. Walter (voiced by Tom Holland) is a neurotic gadgets expert tasked with outfitting Lance Sterling (Will Smith), the star operative for a U.S. government spy organization known as the Agency. When Killian (Ben Mendelsohn), a villain with a robotic arm and a grudge, frames Lance for treason, the Agency puts a no-nonsense internal affairs agent (Rashida Jones) on the spy’s trail. Lance subsequently turns to Walter, who has an insane solution: a serum that transforms our hero into a pigeon. It then turns into a buddy movie as Walter and his now-feathered friend elude capture and thwart Killian’s evil plan. The humor includes enough slapstick and gross-out gags to keep the kids entertained, but there are clever callbacks and meta-jokes for older audiences to chuckle at as well. It’s also kind of weird, and that’s why it works. Animated family film, rated PG, 101 minutes, Regal Santa Fe 6, Regal Stadium 14, and Violet Crown. (Thomas Floyd/The Washington Post)
2 chiles - Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Rey, Finn, and Poe are back — played with unflagging conviction by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. Also back is everyone’s favorite bad boyfriend, Kylo Ren, formerly known as Ben Solo and irrefutably embodied by Adam Driver. The Rise of Skywalker has at least five hours worth of plot. Suffice to say that various items need to be collected from planets with exotic names, and that bad guys cackle and rant on the bridges of massive spaceships while good guys zip around doing the work of resistance. Mysteries are solved. Sacrifices are made. The director is J.J. Abrams, who has shepherded George Lucas’ mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era. He is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a long-standing sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. Science-fiction adventure, rated PG-13, 141 minutes. Screens in 3D and 2D at Regal Stadium 14, screens in 2D only at Regal Santa Fe 6 and Violet Crown. (A.O. Scott/The New York Times)
3 chiles - THE TWO POPES
This is really three movies: a behind-the-scenes tale of Vatican politics, a mini-biopic about the current pontiff, and a two-man study of friendship, rivalry, and major British acting. The first, though intriguing, is more puzzling than illuminating. The second feels a bit like a Wikipedia page, albeit one with first-rate cinematography. The third is absolutely riveting — a subtle and engaging double portrait that touches on complicated matters of faith, ambition, and moral responsibility. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, the film begins in 2005, after the death of Pope John Paul II. The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church gather at St. Peter’s to elect a successor, settling on Joseph Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins), who becomes Pope Benedict XVI. The runner-up is Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), an Argentine priest who will replace Benedict eight years later, becoming Pope Francis in a highly unusual transfer of ecclesiastical authority. Biopic, rated PG-13, 125 minutes, Center for Contemporary Arts. (A.O. Scott/The New York Times)
3.5 chiles - UNCUT GEMS
By now, it’s obvious that Adam Sandler, the actor, is capable of extraordinary range — of films painfully bad and incredibly good again, as in Uncut Gems, a compulsively watchable, exhausting and exhilarating collaboration with Josh and Benny Safdie. The year is 2012. Kevin Garnett is still playing for the Boston Celtics. One day, Garnett pays a visit to the shop of jeweler and gambling addict Howard Ratner (Sandler). Howard’s beloved black opal has arrived by mail from Ethiopia, and he can’t resist showing it off to Garnett. The Celtics star decides he needs the gem for luck in his Eastern Conference playoff game that night. He asks Howard to lend it to him, leaving his NBA ring as collateral. Howard says yes, then pawns the ring. A frantic chase ensues to recover the gem. Meanwhile, nasty loan collectors are chasing Howard down. His personal life is no less precarious; he’s trying to hold onto the last vestiges of his failing marriage. Sandler deserves the accolades he’s getting, again proving that with the right material, he has an uncanny ability to reach deep within us, despite our deep annoyance. Drama, rated R, 135 minutes, Regal Stadium 14 and Violet Crown. (Jocelyn Noveck/The Associated Press)
PERFORMANCE AND OTHER SCREENINGS
Center for Contemporary Arts
▼ 11 and 11:15 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 12: Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival presents Remember Baghdad.
Jean Cocteau Cinema
▼ 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16: Madrid Film Festival Tour 2020.
Lensic Performing Arts Center
▼ 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11 with a 6 p.m. encore: The Met Live in HD
▼ 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11: Backcountry Film Festival.
▼ 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15: National Organization for Women presents
Varda by Agnès.
▼ 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 12: Orphée et Euridice from La Scala Opera House.