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What to Watch at the Movies

See the 'E.T.'-like 'Jurassic World,' Christopher Plummer's road movie and 'Hereditary's' horror for adults

 Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, PG-13

Writer Michael Crichton told me there were two crucial things about his Jurassic Park: it conveyed serious ideas about cloning via hungry dinos, and “it allows Spielberg to work somewhere between Jaws and E.T.”  The fifth Jurassic flick has only dull, stale ideas (voiced by Jeff Goldblum, 65, as a Crichton-like scientist), but director J.A. Bayona does a fine job of blending Jaws’ people-chomping with sweetness — there’s an E.T.-like velociraptor named Blue who still loves the guy who raised him (Chris Pratt). It’s good, dumb fun to watch dino shadows cast by lightning as Pratt races to save kids trapped in the carnivore-infested mansion of Jurassic Park’s cofounder (L.A. Confidential’s James Cromwell, 78), and satisfying to see bad guys Toby Jones, 51, and Silence of the Lambs’ Ted Levine, 61, get their just deserts (as dessert).—Tim Appelo Take Our Jurassic Park Quiz

Also New in Theaters

Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga smiling in “Boundaries.”

Lindsay Elliott/Sony Pictures Classics

In “Boundaries," Christopher Plummer plays a pot dealer who persuades daughter Vera Farmiga into a road trip.

 Boundaries, R

Christopher Plummer, 88 and on an astounding career roll, plays the infuriatingly lovable — though criminal — dad of a single mom (Vera Farmiga) on a family road trip reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine. Zero surprises ensue, but Plummer and Farmiga strike excellent sparks, and it’s fascinating to see how great actors can raise a hit-and-miss script to dramatic heights. On the picturesque trip from Seattle to L.A., the feuding family drops in on old friends played by top character actors (Peter Fonda, 78, Bobby Cannavale, 48, and Christopher Lloyd, 79).—T.A. FULL REVIEW

 The King, R

Prizewinning left-leaning documentarian Eugene Jarecki packs a bunch of celebrities into Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, retraces the singer’s steps from Tupelo to Vegas to immortality, and crafts a rambling, lively, high-IQ cinematic essay on what Elvis really means to America. There are archival shots and beautiful musical interludes by stunning singer EmiSunshine, recently deceased Elvis drummer D.J. Fontana, John Hiatt, who starts crying, and Elvis himself (in excepts from perhaps his greatest performance), but mostly it’s thought-provoking talk about his legacy and the current state of the nation by Ethan Hawke, The Wire creator David Simon, Alec Baldwin, Emmylou Harris, Mike Myers, Dan Rather and other celebrities you didn’t know were this smart. —T.A.

Still in Theaters

Toni Collette and Ann Dowd sitting at a table.

Reid Chavis/A24

Toni Collette sits down for a talk with neighbor Ann Dowd in “Hereditary.”

 Hereditary, R

Even if you hate horror movies, you should see this runaway dark-horse hit because it’s actually an intensely emotional, Ordinary People-like study of family grief. Sure, there’s a possessed child, a kindly neighbor (ubiquitous Ann Dowd, 62) in a cult fond of lopped-off heads, and scary people crouched like spiders in the ceiling, but the violence isn’t gratuitous, and when someone bursts into flames, it’s a believable metaphor for the rage of the grieving mom (Toni Collette, 45). In fact, the whole movie may be the wife’s hallucination — see it and decide. Despite the Academy’s disdain for horror, Collette could win an Oscar for this incendiary performance. —T.A.

John Travolta as John Gotti in courtroom scene from 'Gotti' biopic

VERTICAL ENTERTAINMENT

John Travolta, right, plays notorious mafia boss John Gotti Sr. in the new biopic "Gotti."

 Gotti, R

Why did this biopic about New York Gambino mafia boss John “Teflon Don” Gotti earn a rare zero-percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while 92 percent of viewers are eager to see it? Critics loathe the godawful script, based on a book by Gotti’s son, which totally lets him off the hook for his many murders (including the famous hit on the previous Gambino boss at Little Italy’s Sparks Steakhouse). But John Travolta, who wears Gotti’s actual jewelry in the film, was born for the role of a Soprano-like family man who, OK, sometimes has to risk bloodstaining his natty suit. For Travolta fans, it’s worth tolerating the script’s ridiculousness to see him get his gangster on again, with real-life wife Kelly Preston as his loyal spouse. —T.A. 

 Tag, R

Inspired by the true Wall Street Journal story of guys from Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Wash., who have been playing a game of tag for almost 30 years, invading each others’ homes and workplaces to shed the dread status of being “it,” this mild action comedy plays like a lighter version of The Hangover, with Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson as the guys who ninja-ambush each other to express love and stay in touch as they grow up (or refuse to). A bromance as silly as it is heartwarming. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

 Ocean’s 8, PG-13

If you liked George Clooney’s gang of wisecracking Vegas casino robbers, you’ll no doubt enjoy watching Sandra Bullock, 53, as his heist-planning sister, Debbie Ocean, who wrangles Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson and Mindy Kaling to steal a $150 million diamond necklace off Anne Hathaway’s neck at Manhattan’s glittery Met Gala. A caper flick with a touch light as a pickpocket's, targeting the heart of the over-50 moviegoer, it’s a fun, woman-centric movie that delivers the goods. —T.A.  FULL REVIEW

Two men sitting at a table.

Eric Lin

Ted Danson, right, plays a bartender who sits down for a talk with buddy and budding songwriter Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) in "Hearts Beat Loud."

 Hearts Beat Loud, PG-13

Director Brett Haley, whose 2017 Sam Elliott film The Hero was a modest hit, charms again with this slightly High Fidelity-like drama about a widower dad (Nick Offerman, 47, Parks and Recreation) who writes a catchy indie tune with his daughter (Kiersey Clemons). She wants to go to med school; he tries to hang on to their togetherness, his youth and his record store. The landlady (Toni Collette, 45) wants to help him grow up — which sounds like a bad idea to his amusing, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing pothead bartender pal (Ted Danson, 70). As Offerman’s mom, Blythe Danner, 75, is underwritten but good. Like Lady Bird, this is a touching intergenerational flick with dark-horse Oscar potential. —T.A.

 A Kid Like Jake, Unrated 

A talky, flawed yet emotionally absorbing movie about upscale Brooklyn parents (Claire Danes and Jim Parsons) struggling to figure out how to deal with their 4-year-old boy's extreme preference for skirts, tiaras and movies about princesses. Octavia Spencer is radiant as a sympathetic educator; Danes and Parsons are terrific in a movie that's more about their marriage problems than the "gender-expansive" kid in question. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan charm as newlyweds in On Chesil Beach

Bleeker Street

Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan charm as newlyweds in "On Chesil Beach."

 On Chesil Beach, R

British poet Philip Larkin wrote, "Sexual intercourse began in 1963" — too late for the sexually ignorant 1962 newlyweds (Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle) in this gorgeously sensitive adaptation of an Ian McEwan novella that might have been titled, No Sex, Please, I'm British. As the excruciatingly celibate bride, Ronan is even better than in McEwan's Atonement, but this story is less epic, more constricted, a minor work by major artists. Still, it takes you back to another time, and Emily Watson, 51, is tops as Ronan's scary mom. —T.A.

 First Reformed, R

If you liked the grueling, God-and-sin-haunted Taxi Driver, you’ll probably like First Reformed, a searing art-film hit about a tormented clergyman (Ethan Hawke), the pregnant wife of his eco-terrorist parishioner, and the wicked polluter industrialists who finance his church. It’s the most grownup role yet for Hawke, 47, and a titanic comeback for Paul Schrader, 71, who wrote and directed this instant classic under the influence of his idols Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson, and also of Taxi Driver, which Schrader wrote at 26 when he was a broke, suicidal alcoholic living in his car, very like Robert De Niro’s character Travis Bickle. With its midlife hero, First Reformed is like Taxi Driver for grownups. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

 Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, PG

Like Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader and Michael Moore, Wim Wenders, 72, was an aspiring minister turned film director, which makes Pope Francis his ideal subject. Wenders, whose documentaries Pina and Buena Vista Social Club are must-sees, captures the pope wowing crowds at a Roman refugee camp, a Holocaust remembrance, the United Nations, a U.S. prison and an African hospital. Wenders uses director Errol Morris’ famous Interrotron camera, which permits him to film the pope talking straight into the camera with unique intimacy. Francis' charm and wisdom are inspiring, and he’s funny, as when he speaks of family feuds: “Sometimes plates can fly, and children bring headaches. I won’t talk about mothers-in-law.” —T.A.

 Book ClubPG-13

A delightful comedy starring Jane Fonda, 80, Diane Keaton, 72, Candice Bergen, 71, and Mary Steenburgen, 65, as friends who read Fifty Shades of Grey in their book club, triggering earthquakes in their love lives, lots of laughs, and a moving lesson in how to refuse to be like, as one character puts it, “the people who stop living before they stop living.” It’s 50 times better than the Fifty Shades flicks, if so formulaic in its wish-fulfillment fantasy that cynics will hate it. —T.A. FULL REVIEW and FULL CANDICE BERGEN INTERVIEW

Annette Bening in the movie

Nicole Rivelli/Sony Pictures Classics

Annette Bening new film, "The Seagull," is worth a watch. Her role as Irina is just one of many dazzling star performances in the movie.

 The Seagull, PG-13

Annette Bening, 59, has the role of a lifetime as a famous actress and egomaniac in an exceptionally lively adaptation of the classic Chekhov play, magically transformed into a movie with a concise new translation and romantically kinetic direction by the auteur of the sexy Broadway smash Spring Awakening. It's a romantic roundelay that plays like a clockwork farce, casting vast, tragic shadows, both funny and heartrending. And it's packed with dazzling performances: Brian Dennehy, 79, as Bening's bachelor brother, who only ever wanted to be married, Dunkirk's Billy Howle as her often-suicidal son, Elisabeth Moss as the son's unrequited lover, and Mare Winningham, 58, as another casualty of romance. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Magnolia Pictures

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg looks a bit different without her black robe; the documentary "RBG" catches her at the gym as well as the chambers of the Supreme Court.

 RBG, PG

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, gets the star treatment in this charming documentary (though conservatives in the film who call her "vile" and "wicked" won't be applauding). We see her ascend from a ladylike, blue-eyed young beauty traumatized by Harvard Law School's sexism to a crusading attorney winning case after case for women's rights before the court, and finally joining it thanks in part to the superb lobbying of her husband, of whom their daughter said, "Daddy does the cooking and Mommy does the thinking." Warm and funny, the film also sheds substantive light on the collision of legal ideas and personalities that shape our nation. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott in 'A Quiet Place'

Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures

John Krasinski fights for his family's survival in "A Quiet Place," which he also directed.

 A Quiet PlacePG-13

In his directing debut, actor John Krasinski (The Office13 Hours) seems like an old pro. A Quiet Place is a master class in how to keep audiences on the edge of their seats without gross-out imagery. Krasinski and his real-life wife, Emily Blunt, play parents who inhabit a place where mysterious creatures attack anything that makes a sound, so silence is survival. Krasinski does an excellent job of establishing the rules of this world, building suspense through visual cues — when you glimpse a toy rocket, you know its noise spells trouble — and despite minimal dialogue, the character development is strong. Teen star Millicent Simmonds (Wonderstruck) is especially praiseworthy as the family’s deaf daughter. It’s a scary movie lover’s dream, not horror so much as the fun kind of scary — a thriller that will keep you on your toes for days, waiting for loud noises. —G.S.

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