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What to Watch This Weekend

'The Forgiven,' 'Foxtrot,' 'The Death of Stalin' and other new films worth a look

 The Forgiven, R

Forest Whitaker, 56, who got an Oscar playing diabolical Idi Amin, now portrays saintly Desmond Tutu, trying to locate the soul in a John Milton-quoting, pro-apartheid South African assassin (Eric Bana, 49). Whitaker tells AARP, “He’s based on a real guy, Eugene De Kock, nicknamed Prime Evil, who ran the secret police force responsible for many abductions, tortures and murders.” De Kock repented, but should killers get such a chance? “If you don’t forgive, part of you is bound by pain,” says Whitaker. The film was adapted from a hit play with startling clumsiness by Roland Joffé, 72, Oscar nominated for The Killing Fields, but the core debate and both main performances are compelling. 

Also New in Theaters

 Foxtrot, R

Israel’s controversial contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar is a surreal, dreamlike drama about a green young soldier who may or may not have been killed after a preventable tragedy and cover-up at a remote desert checkpoint, his panicked parents in a posh apartment in Tel Aviv, and the way constant war traps everyone in a maze of topsy-turvy morality. Like Dunkirk, it’s a war film that’s really an art film, too slow, abstract and intellectual for some — yet it's earned the same 97 percent Rotten Tomatoes score as Black Panther. FULL REVIEW

Still in Theaters

Oprah Winfrey is Mrs. Which in Disney's A WRINKLE IN TIME.

Atsushi Nishijima/Disney

Oprah Winfrey plays one of three Mrs. W's and offers wisdom in Disney's "A Wrinkle in Time."

 A Wrinkle in Time, PG

Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s bestselling children’s novel is a stunning, colorful gem of a film. It follows 12-year-old Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who, along with her adopted little brother Charles Wallace and friend Calvin, travels across the universe to find her father, trapped on a distant planet. They’re helped along the way by three astral travelers — Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, who's especially wonderful in this role). The movie is filled with moments of rapturous joy and breathtaking beauty, offering a definitive blueprint of how to adapt a children’s book into a wondrous film for both young people and the young at heart.

 The Leisure Seeker, R

The wonderful chemistry between Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland powers this fable about a dying Southern belle and her Alzheimer’s-afflicted professor-husband on a last road trip to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West home. It’s a triumph of talent over a flawed script by an Italian director trying to define America. A finalist for the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, it earned Mirren (AARP Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award winner) her 15th Golden Globe nomination. FULL REVIEW


IFC Films

Dermot Crowley, left, Paul Whitehouse, Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Simon Russell Beale have to watch their backs in "The Death of Stalin."

 The Death of Stalin, R

Armando Ianucci won an Emmy for Veep and an Oscar nomination for In the Loop, but now he’s found a richer target for his merciless satire of morality-free politicians: Russia in 1953. When Stalin has a stroke, his henchmen are seized with terror. Who will succeed him? Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), a clotheshorse with no taste or brains? Self-effacing buffoon Molotov (Monty Python’s Michael Palin)? Or conniving Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), who feels very sorry for himself? The chaos is darkly hilarious, and true enough that Russian authorities raided, then sued a theater that dared to screen it.

 Game Night, R

In this stylish, fun action comedy, a couple named Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) host weekly board-game or charades parties for their friends. The craziness starts when Max's hypercompetitive venture-capitalist big brother (Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler) switches the game to a professionally staged home-invasion fantasy. It’s cleverly written, terrifically shot, light on its feet and, except for a slightly draggy last 10 minutes, totally entertaining. FULL REVIEW

 Black Panther, PG-13

Even if you hate superheroes, Black Panther is a must-see event for grownup viewers. This ripping yarn has important ideas, insanely great production design, a heart, characters with believable motives, a brainy script and action scenes where you actually know where the fighters are in physical space. It's an exhilarating, history-making film. FULL REVIEW

 The Party, R

The hostess (Kristin Scott Thomas) texts her lover as her neglected husband (Timothy Spall) spills deeper secrets and a drink or 10. Her zinger-iffic best pal (Patricia Clarkson) razzes a leftist professor (Cherry Jones) as “a first-rate lesbian and a second-rate thinker,” and treats her New Age boyfriend (Bruno Ganz) like John Goodman treats Steve Buscemi in The Big Lebowski (“Shut up, Gottfried!”). And when a coked-up financier (hilarious Cillian Murphy) hides his gun in the trash, who’ll shoot whom with it? Director Sally Potter, 68, is an avant-garde hero. Who knew she also could do old-school farce?  

 The Insult, R

Lebanon’s first Oscar-nominated foreign movie, by Ziad Doueiri, is a smart, sensitive courtroom drama about a conflict between a Palestinian refugee and a Lebanese Christian who won’t forget the 1975-90 civil war’s tit-for-tat massacres. Neither guy can bear to say he’s sorry after a small insult, even as it erupts into a court case and riles up people on both sides. But the enemies inexorably begin to understand each other, sometimes even to sympathize, despite themselves. FULL REVIEW

Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in 'Phantom Thread'

Laurie Sparham/Focus Features

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in "Phantom Thread"

 Phantom Thread, R

The period drama Phantom Thread from director Paul Thomas Anderson features Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, designer of exquisite clothes for rich women in 1950s London. He becomes dependent on his new model and lover Alma (Vicky Krieps), but much of the conflict comes between Alma and Woodcock’s sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), who’s fiercely protective of him. The thinly plotted film is exasperatingly stingy about exploring these potentially intriguing characters, but it’s redeemed in part by its gorgeous British setting, stunning costumes and cinematography and top-notch acting. FULL REVIEW

 The Post, PG-13

Great for grownups who lived through Nixon's tumultuous time (especially ones who disliked him), but Steven Spielberg's latest Oscar magnet may strike youngsters as a dull, didactic history lesson. Actually, it's a pretty good drama about the 1971 Pentagon Papers, which exposed government lies about the Vietnam War, causing a government crackdown that risked destroying the Washington Post and the free press. Meryl Streep shows the troubled heart of Post publisher Katharine Graham, and Tom Hanks growls eloquently as her bulldog of a top editor, Ben Bradlee. Scads of top talent, from The West Wing's Bradley Whitford to Better Call Saul's Bob Odenkirk. FULL REVIEW 

Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in 'The Shape of Water'

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Photofest

Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, who plays an amphibian man, bond wordlessly in "The Shape of Water."

 The Shape of Water, R

A fable to please anybody over 17. The first English-language Oscar front-runner by Guillermo del Toro, 53, features an adorably sensitive, mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) who falls for a sea creature who turns out to be sweet and even sort of handsome, though noseless. Richard Jenkins, 70, charms as the self-doubting best friend who helps the lovers escape.

 I, Tonya, R

Youngsters may not recall the 1994 Olympics scandal, when Tonya Harding's ice skating career ended after a hit man attacked her rival. But the whole clan will hail Margot Robbie as the driven skater and probable Oscar winner Allison Janney as her astoundingly awful, parakeet-wearing mom. FULL REVIEW

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in 'Lady Bird'

Merie Wallace/A24

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf play a mother and daughter in "Lady Bird."

 Lady Bird, R

Not just a coming-of-age film for the young, it's the best mother-daughter story since Terms of Endearment. Greta Gerwig, the most important new director, knows how to cast great grownups (Laurie Metcalf as the mom, Lois Smith as a mom-like nun who teaches at the heroine's school). Full Q&A with Greta Gerwig

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