Ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America are: (G) for general audiences; (PG) parental guidance urged because of material possibly unsuitable for children; (PG-13) parents are strongly cautioned to give guidance for attendance of children younger than 13; (R) restricted, younger than 17 admitted only with parent or adult guardian; (NC-17) no one 17 and younger admitted.
(Critics’ Choices capsule reviews are by Kenneth Turan (K.Tu.), Justin Chang (J.C.) and other reviewers. Openings compiled by Kevin Crust.)
OPENING IN HOLLYWOOD THIS WEEK
“The Ballad of Lefty Brown” — A cowboy in Montana sets out to bring the killers of his friend, a U.S. senator, to justice. With Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Peter Fonda. Written and directed by Jared Moshe.
“Beyond Skyline” — Sci-fi action. With Frank Grillo. Written and directed by Liam O’Donnell.
“Bill Frisell: A Portrait” — Documentary. Featuring Frisell, Bonnie Raitt, Hal Willner. Directed by Emma Franz.
“Birdboy: The Forgotten Children” — Teenagers stranded on an island in a post-apocalyptic world plot their escape in this animated fantasy. Written and directed by Alberto Vazquez & Pedro Rivera; based on a graphic novel by Vazquez.
“Desolation” — Horror/thriller. Directed by Sam Patton.
“Ethel & Ernest” — Animated British drama. Voices of Jim Broadbent, Brenda Blethyn. Written and directed by Roger Mainwood, based on graphic novel by Raymond Briggs.
“Ferdinand” — Animated tale about a large, gentle bull determined to return to his family after being captured. Voices of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez. Inspired by a book by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson. Directed by Carlos Saldanha.
“Hedgehogs” — Animated. Directed by Jianming Huang.
“Killing for Love” — True crime documentary. Directed by Karin Steinberger, Marcus Vetter.
“The Leisure Seeker” — An aging couple escape the smothering effects of doctors and children with a road trip from Boston to Key West. With Donald Sutherland, Helen Mirren, Kirsty Mitchell. Written by Stephen Amidon, Francesca Archibugi, Paolo Virzi and Francesco Piccolo, based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian. Directed by Virzi. Qualifying run. Opens Jan. 19.
“Permanent” — In 1982, a couple and their preteen daughter have a particularly hairy time when they move to a town in the South. With Patricia Arquette, Rainn Wilson, Kira McLean. Written and directed by Colette Burson.
“Quest” — Documentary on a North Philadelphia family whose home music studio becomes a creative hub for the community. Directed by Jonathan Olshefski.
“Shakespeare Wallah” — This 1965 drama about a British theater troupe in India and a pair of star-crossed lovers was a breakthrough for the filmmaking team of producer Ismael Merchant, director James Ivory and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. With Shashi Kapoor, Felicity Kendal, Geoffrey Kendal.
“The Soul of Success: The Jack Canfield Story” — Documentary on the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author. Directed by Nick Nanton.
“Spent” — Dark comedy. Written and directed by Lisa Mikatarian.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” — Rey continues her search for the truth behind the Force in Episode VIII. With Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher. Written and directed by Rian Johnson; based on characters created by George Lucas.
“The Thousand Faces of Dunjia” — Action-fantasy. Written and produced by Tsui Hark. Directed by Woo-Ping Yuen.
“Wormwood” — One man’s six-decade search to solve the mystery of his father’s death leads him into dark corners of American history. With Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker. Written by Steven Hathaway & Molly Rokosz. Theatrical version of director Errol Morris’ four-hour hybrid documentary series.
“Youth” — Members of a military performing arts group deal with a family scandal, unrequited love and other coming-of-age drama during China’s Cultural Revolution. With Huang Xuan, Miao Miao, Zhong Chuxi. Written by Geling Yan. Directed by Feng Xiaogang.
“Blade Runner 2049” — You can quibble with aspects of it, but as shaped by Denis Villeneuve and his masterful creative team, this high-end sequel puts you firmly and unassailably in another world of its own devising, and that is no small thing. (K.Tu.) R.
“Call Me By Your Name” — Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer give superb performances as two young men falling in love in the northern Italian countryside in this rapturously beautiful collaboration between director Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory. (J.C.) R.
“The Disaster Artist” — James Franco’s shrewd, affectionate and frequently hilarious comedy re-creates and deconstructs the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult landmark “The Room,” with Franco giving a fully committed, even haunted performance as Wiseau. (J.C.) R
“The Florida Project” — Absorbing us in the day-to-day rhythms of life at a dumpy Florida motel complex, home to a wildly spirited 6-year-old girl named Moonee (the startling Brooklynn Prince), Sean Baker (“Tangerine”) goes to a place few of us know and emerges with a masterpiece of empathy and imagination. (J.C.) R.
“Lady Bird” — As warm as it is smart, and it is very smart, this portrait of a high school senior year marks actor-screenwriter Greta Gerwig’s superb debut as a solo director and yet another astonishing performance by star Saoirse Ronan. (K.Tu.) R.
“Last Flag Flying” — Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell give richly felt performances as Vietnam veterans reuniting 30 years later in Richard Linklater’s warm, ribald and elegiac quasi-sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 classic, “The Last Detail.” (J.C.) R.
“Mudbound” — Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Mary J. Blige and Rob Morgan are part of a superb ensemble in writer-director Dee Rees’ sweeping epic of World War II-era Mississippi, the rare film that grants its white and black characters the same moral and dramatic weight. (J.C.) R.
“1945” — A lean, unadorned parable about guilt and the nature and consequences of evil. A quietly furious Hungarian film that puts a particular time and place under a microscope, revealing hidden fault lines and differences that have been ineffectively papered over. (K.Tu.) NR.
“The Square” — A Stockholm museum curator (Claes Bang) undergoes a crisis of conscience in Swedish writer-director Ruben Ostlund’s sprawling, virtuoso satire of the modern art world, which won the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. (J.C.) R.
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” — Uncommon writer-director Martin McDonagh and a splendid cast top-lined by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell present a savage film, even a dangerous one, the blackest take-no-prisoners farce in quite some time. (K.Tu.) R.
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