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What to Watch This Weekend

'Call Me by Your Name' is an authentic and tender story about young love

 Call Me By Your Name, R

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Italian countryside in 1983, this profound and emotional love story follows Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old who falls in love with Oliver (Armie Hammer), an older graduate student boarding with his family for the summer to assist his academic father (the phenomenal Michael Stulhbarg, 49). Elio and Oliver’s relationship has an authentic tenderness under the direction of Luca Guadagnino, who’s created the best coming-of-age story in recent years. —Garrett Schaffel

Also New in Theaters

 Darkest Hour, PG-13

Gary Oldman is brilliant and a sure Oscar contender in this role as the despised oddball responsible for the Gallipoli disaster of World War I who later rises exhilaratingly to the occasion as the man who beat Hitler: “We shall never surrender!” His Winston Churchill is volatile, mumbling, bellowing, sozzled, amusing and amused, tormenting and tortured. Through his eyes you feel the tense peril, the courage against high odds, the weight of words that changed the world. FULL REVIEW

Still in Theaters

Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts as in 'Wonder'

Lionsgate

Jacob Tremblay plays a disfigured 10-year-old and Julia Roberts is his protective mother in "Wonder," based on the young-adult best-seller by R.J. Palacio.

 Wonder, PG 
Feel like a good cry — or five — then surges of triumph? Join Auggie Pullman (Room’s dazzling Jacob Tremblay), 10, on his first day of school ever. Previously homeschooled by determined mom Julia Roberts and joshing dad Owen Wilson, Auggie gets bullied for his mandibulofacial dysostosis-disfigured face so cruelly, he wants to wear a space helmet to school. We also get the POV of others as their attitudes evolve: Auggie’s sister (Izabela Vidovic), neglected because she’s normal; her mean-girl best friend; Auggie’s good and evil best friends; and those guys, who aren’t really evil either. As with director Stephen Chbosky’s 2012 masterpiece The Perks of Being a Wallflower, this tearjerker (based on the mega-best-selling book by R.J. Palacio ) is a blazingly humane and shamelessly wish-fulfilling film — the rare kind that will appeal to both kids and adults. —Tim Appelo

Mary J. Blige in 'Mudbound'

Steve Dietl/Netflix

Mary J. Blige plays a sharecropper in "Mudbound," an emotional family drama set in 1940s Mississippi.

 Mudbound, R

This film — the tragic saga of one black and one white family in muddy 1940s Mississippi — is the kind of spectacular, character-rich emotional epic Hollywood used to make before superheroes took over. Hip-hop/soul star Mary J. Blige, 46, shines as sharecropper matriarch Florence Jackson, whose family farm was stolen at gunpoint during Reconstruction. The Jacksons now work for the McAllens, an impoverished white farming family with a homicidal racist, Pappy (Jonathan Banks, 70), at the helm. When each family’s young hero returns from WWII and the veterans bond with each other across the race divide, Pappy isn’t happy. FULL REVIEW

Kenneth Branagh and Daisy Ridley in 'Murder on the Orient Express'

Nicola Dove/Twentieth Century Fox

Kenneth Branagh and Daisy Ridley in "Murder on the Orient Express"

 Murder on the Orient Express, PG-13

Why would director Kenneth Branagh try to beat Sidney Lumet’s beloved 1974 version (or David Suchet’s 2010 TV version) of this classic tale? He’d be crazy not to, with the cast he’s assembled, including Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer — who nails her tangy role as a multiple-married widow. It's an absorbing theater piece with tons of talent and scads of jangly camera angles that make you feel like you're dangling over a precipice even when you're inside the train. FULL REVIEW

Frances McDormand in 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'

Fox Searchlight

Frances McDormand in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"

 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, R

Frances McDormand, 60, should earn her second Oscar for her gripping performance as Mildred, a murdered girl’s avenging mom, in this dazzling drama/comedy. Mildred rents three billboards accusing police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, 56) of inaction in finding her daughter’s killer. Actually, Willoughby is a nice, effective chief who tried hard to crack the case, but Mildred’s not appeased. As we learn the reason for her violent grief and anger, she seems a little less crazy and, thanks to McDormand's infinitely skillful performance, steals our hearts. FULL REVIEW

Laurence Fishburne, Bryan Cranston and Steve Carell in 'Last Flag Flying'

Wilson Webb/Amazon Studios/Lionsgate

Thirty years after serving in Vietnam, three war buddies — played by Bryan Cranston, Steve Carrell and Laurence Fishburne — reunite for a personal mission in "Last Flag Flying.”

 Last Flag Flying, R
Bryan Cranston, 61, plays a crusty, tough guy named Sal, a dive bar owner who goes on a last mission with his old Vietnam War buddies — Mueller (Laurence Fishburne, 56) and sad Doc (Steve Carell, 55) — to pick up the body of Doc’s son, killed in the Iraq war. It’s Richard Linkater’s sort-of sequel to 1973’s The Last Detail, in which Navy tough Billy “Badass” Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) set a high bar for foulmouthed goodheartedness. Cranston can’t quite beat the Badass, but it’s fun watching him try, jollying Doc out of his depression with razzing and war stories that get at the guilt they all feel, and their shared resentment of authority. The road-trip story is loose, and some viewers will wish there were more rah-rah military triumph and less sorrowful patriotism. But this one’s not about war. It’s about the aftermath in three guys’ hearts. —Tim Appelo

 LBJ, R

Though it took a few scenes before I bought Woody Harrelson as Lyndon B. Johnson in Rob Reiner's winning political biopic, I ultimately found Harrelson compelling as our 36th president. The film depicts LBJ's bitter loss to John Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan) for the 1960 presidential nomination, his ascension to president in the wake of JFK's 1963 assassination, and his passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Harrelson and Reiner convincingly present him as a flawed, hardworking man navigating challenging circumstances, accomplishing much through cunning rather than charisma. FULL REVIEW

 The Killing of a Sacred Deer, R

If you want to see an A-list star playing a magically cursed mom in a disturbing, gruesome, amazing art film this fall, avoid Jennifer Lawrence’s mother! and race instead to see Nicole Kidman, 50, as a mildly kinky ophthalmologist whose marriage to a hunky heart surgeon (Colin Farrell) is troubled when a soft-spoken yet menacing teen (Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan) informs them that — thanks to the surgeon’s terrible secret — one of their two kids must die. And now they must choose. Their plight is based on the Greek myth of Iphigenia, sacrificed by Agamemnon to get the goddess Artemis off his case, and it plays in this film as deadpan horror realism, with a cool, controlled tone. While the magic monster boy is a dark force of nature, even more scary is what’s in the parents’ hearts. —Tim Appelo

Melissa Leo in 'Novitiate'

Sony Pictures/CourtesyEverett Collection

Melissa Leo plays a terrifying Reverend Mother in "Novitiate."

 Novitiate, R

Melissa Leo, 57, will likely get her third Oscar nomination as Novitiate’s mother superior, a hard-core traditionalist viciously resisting Vatican II (the pope’s 1959 order that modernized Catholicism). But her fiery blend of Big Nurse and the Church Lady isn’t the only amazing thing about Margaret Betts’ film — a Sundance Breakthrough Director Award winner — about girls in the 1960s trying out to become nuns. Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers) radiates spiritual ambition, her convent sisters are as lifelike as girls in any coming-of-age film ever, and Denis O’Hare (True Blood) is cool as a gangster godfather playing Leo’s intellectual archbishop nemesis. Novitiate lacks the condescending ignorance of most secular films about faith, and the witless incompetence of many films made for believers. The story is episodic, rigorously based on 1960s diaries and sources, but that’s what makes it so authentic. —Tim Appelo

Matt Damon and Julianne Moore in 'Suburbicon'

Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Paramount Pictures

Matt Damon and Julianne Moore star in "Suburbicon," a film directed by George Clooney.

 Suburbicon, R

Director-cowriter George Clooney adapted an old Coen brothers script about a guy (Matt Damon) who kills his wife (Julianne Moore) for the insurance money, so he can marry his mistress — his wife’s identical twin (also played by Moore). Clooney added a big subplot about a black family moving into a racist all-white housing development in the 1950s. The dim-criminal comedy and angry political drama don’t mesh well, but it’s worth seeing for Oscar Isaac's performance as a relentless insurance investigator who sees right through Damon. FULL REVIEW

Jaden Michael, Oakes Fegley, and Julianne Moore in 'Wonderstruck.'

Mary Cybulski/Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions

From the 1977 set, Jaden Michael and Oakes Fegley are friends on a quest to find Fegley’s father. Julianne Moore also stars in “Wonderstruck."

 Wonderstruck, PG
Todd Haynes, talented director of 2015’s critically acclaimed Carol, has adapted Brian Selznick’s 2011 best-selling novel Wonderstruck for the big screen. It features two kids on parallel Manhattan quests, one set in magical black-and-white 1927, the other in colorfully scuzzy 1977. The 1927 part is a silent film starring the superb young hearing-impaired actress Millicent Simmonds, whose character tracks down her idol, a Lillian Gish-ish star (Julianne Moore, 56). The scenes from 1977, which also include Moore in a different role, are focused on a boy (Oakes Fegley) who's searching for his missing father. This more modern story falls short of the older one, and the coincidences connecting the two are lame and unsatisfying.

But everything else about the film is tastefully ambitious, moving, gorgeous, original (even when it’s pastiche) and gloriously acted (Moore creates vivid characters with zero dialogue — a risky, fascinating achievement). Flawed as it is, like any of Haynes’ films it soars into a weird empyrean nobody but he can reach. —Tim Appelo

 Only the Brave, PG-13

Only the Brave is a superhero movie about real people — Arizona’s Granite Mountain Hotshots forest fire crew, which saved a whole town in the calamitous 2013 Yarnell wildfire. Great performances abound from Jeff Bridges, 67, who makes the most of a smallish but emotionally pivotal part as Prescott’s Fezziwig-like wildland division chief, and Jennifer Connelly, in an unusually vivid role for a hero’s wife, but the main love story, of course, is between the firefighters, and their dedicated boss, Eric Moss (expertly played by Josh Brolin, 49) and his newest, greenest recruit, Brendan “Doughnut” McDonough (Miles Teller in top form). The story, based on GQ disaster correspondent Sean Flynn's Granite Mountain article, could have easily been a rote, phony macho flick. Instead, it’s an authentic, acutely sensitive and pulse-pounding study of young lifesavers in action. FULL REVIEW

Willem Dafoe and Brooklynn Prince in 'The Florida Project'

Courtesy A24 Films

Brooklynn Prince, 7, lives at a low-cost motel near Disney World and spends a lot of time with Willem Dafoe, 62, the motel handyman — turned father figure — in "The Florida Project."

The Florida Project, R  
The best, most heartbreakingly inspiring film of the year is The Florida Project, about the destitute kids in the no-hope motels in sight of Disney World’s nightly fireworks. Directed by low-budget miracle worker Sean Baker, 46, it’s a kids’-eye view of this real-life dysfunction junction, originally envisioned by Walt Disney himself as a clean, perfect City of the Future (which he called “the Florida project”). Willem Dafoe, 62, is considered the number-one front-runner for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the saintly manager of the ghastly Magic Castle Motel — a father figure struggling to find ways not to evict $35-a-night tenants like Moonee (played brilliantly by Brooklynn Prince, 6) and her stripper-turned-hooker mom (Bria Vinaite, 24). The film, though, is from Moonee’s perspective, as she leads her child gang, grifts free ice cream and waffles, frolics in swamps and strip malls, and burns down an abandoned drug house.

It should be depressing as a Sundance social-issues picture, but these little rascals are ebullient, often as happy as they are scrappy. Innocent of dishonest Hollywood sentimentality, the movie makes you feel like Moonee’s growing up in the most magical place on Earth because to her it is. —Tim Appelo

Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller in 'The Meyerowitz Stories'

Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller play brothers who struggle to connect with their father in "The Meyerowitz Stories."

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Not Rated
The entire cast shines in this family drama — now in theaters and on Netflix — especially Adam Sandler, 51, as Danny Meyerowitz, a musically gifted, recently divorced underachiever. Dustin Hoffman, 80, offers a nuanced performance as his dad, an arrogant sculptor, whose two sons (Danny’s hyper-successful half brother is played by Ben Stiller, 51) struggle for their frustrating father’s acceptance. It's a deeply affecting film from director Noah Baumbach, 48 (Frances Ha), and Netflix’s best yet. FULL REVIEW

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in 'Blade Runner 2049'

Stephen Vaughan/Warner Bros.

In "Blade Runner 2049," Ryan Gosling, left, and Harrison Ford play current and former blade runners who run away from authorities.

 Blade Runner 2049, R

Ryan Gosling is exceptional in Blade Runner 2049, the 164-minute science-fiction sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece. He stars as K, who — like Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard in the original film — is a blade runner: a police officer and newer-model humanoid replicant who hunts and kills older models in a dystopic near-future Los Angeles. K’s journey is meandering, and the long film can drag, but Gosling’s performance (he communicates better with his eyes than most top actors do with their words) and stunning cinematography more than make up for the slow pace. It’s both a worthy successor to the original and a chilling meditation on what it means to be human. FULL REVIEW

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