12 Strong, R
This Jerry Bruckheimer film based on a true story stars Chris Hemsworth as Mitch Nelson, the Green Beret captain who led a dozen soldiers on horseback to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Their job was to join the shifty Northern Alliance, led by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum (Navid Negahban), win his trust, direct U.S. bombers to bad guys, and come back alive to their wives and families. It’s a totally rousing, you-are-there combat drama with emotional resonance. —Tim Appelo
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This is a touching film about the real-life romance between the pouty-lipped film noir star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and much younger actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell). Bening nimbly captures Grahame’s classic-Hollywood girlishness, ambition and a defiance of aging that comes across as equal parts heroic and neurotic. The film is sweet but could have used a sharper edge, considering that most of Grahame’s films were as startling as a gangster's slap in the face. FULL REVIEW
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Laurie Sparham/Focus Features
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
Justina Mintz/Warner Brothers
James Franco stars as Tommy Wiseau, the mysterious Eastern European director who’s making what may be the most entertainingly godawful film in history, 2003’s The Room. Funnier than Ed Wood and costarring James’ brother Dave Franco, it's the best buddy picture about bad filmmakers since Boogie Nights. And The Disaster Artist is such a prizewinning hit, The Room will be rereleased in 600 theaters for one night, on Jan. 10.
Linda Källérus/Courtesy of STX Films
Molly’s Game, R
Jessica Chastain earned her fifth Golden Globe nomination as Molly Bloom, a scary, chilly world-class skier who (in real life) ran the world’s highest-stakes poker games for A-list movie stars and Russian mobsters. With players losing $100 million at a sitting and her as the bank, no wonder she slipped into addiction and an FBI bust. Aaron Sorkin’s writer-director debut is superb, partly thanks to Kevin Costner, 62, as Bloom’s insanely demanding dad. FULL REVIEW
All the Money in the World, PG-13
Teenagers will love the true story of kidnapped billionaire J. Paul Getty III, 16, and older moviegoers will savor the superb acting of Christopher Plummer as his grandpa J. Paul Getty, the richest man in history, who refused to ransom him until kidnappers mailed the boy's ear to them (the slicing scene is the scariest since Reservoir Dogs). Plummer hits a career high point at 88, as does director Ridley Scott, 80.
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
The whole family can enjoy a musical by La La Land's Oscar-winning composers, inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, the huckster who created the nation's most famous circus. The story is silly, but it boasts pop-Broadway tunes that will be Oscar nominated, spectacular looks and the talented Hugh Jackman as the golden-throated hero. Also, Zac Efron and Zendaya duet on trapeze, looking cooler than Pink on a rope at the Grammys. FULL REVIEW
Jonathon Olley/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, PG-13
The best Star Wars film since 1983 offers plenty to please all generations, as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher hand the reins over to a new generation (Laura Dern, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver). At last, a Star Wars movie with a sense of humor and all the elements we've loved since 1977. FULL REVIEW
Fox Searchlight Pictures/Photofest
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
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
Darkest Hour, PG-13
The family can get a patriotic thrill cheering as Winston Churchill unites the Allies and beats Hitler, and Gary Oldman's stirring oratory likely wins him an Oscar. Winston Churchill unites the Allies and beats Hitler, and Gary Oldman's stirring oratory likely wins him an Oscar. FULL REVIEW
Sony Picturs Classics
The focus is on a young man (Oscar front-runner Timothée Chalamet) and the elusive guy of his dreams, but some say his kindly dad (Michael Stuhlbarg) has the deepest scene. A triumph for writer James Ivory, 89.
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