The Exorcist director William Friedkin, 82, took a handheld camera and filmed an actual demon expulsion by Roman politician-turned-priest Gabriele Amorth, shortly before his death at 91. In the documentary, Amorth, founder and president of the International Association of Exorcists, uses Latin rites on Cristina, an unfortunate Italian woman whose guttural voice sounds like Mercedes McCambridge voicing Linda Blair’s possessor in the 1973 film. This film also features interviews with demon-doubting neurologists and Exorcist author William Peter Blatty.
Also New in Theaters
A survey just found that 41 percent of American adults and 66 percent of millennials have no idea what Auschwitz was, so the timing is excellent for Jon Kean’s documentary featuring six women who entered the Nazi camp at ages 18 to 23 and made new lives in America, from a fashion designer to a Hollywood deli owner. Going home in Eastern Europe was a bad idea — not only did locals refuse to give back homes they stole from Auschwitz victims, they dragged Jews through the streets. Los Angeles became the promised land, and this is an unusually upbeat Holocaust film.
Still in Theaters
The Rider, R
Last year’s Cannes Film Festival hit The Rider is a cowboy movie. But it’s also emotional, personal, a portrait of manhood in contemporary rural South Dakota that steers clear of melodrama and allows a breadth of complexity to Brady Blackburn, a rodeo star forced off the circuit by a grisly brain injury. Brady Jandreau, who really had such a head injury, brilliantly portrays his slow recovery, battling isolation and his difficult yet loving father and sister (played by Jandreau’s real family). Slow, quiet and sensitive, the film mixes intimate close-ups with gorgeous wide-open landscapes. In his debut, Jandreau's soft, understated performance gives him the presence of a screen veteran.
Jon Hamm, 47, scores his best post-Mad Men role yet as a hard-drinking diplomat trying to save a kidnapped CIA chief in war-torn Beirut, 1982. A fictional spy story inspired by the real-life 1985 murder of the CIA’s Beirut chief during the civil war that drove a million Lebanese into exile, the film was written in 1991, shelved until 2012’s hostage-drama hit Argo won three Oscars, and made on a budget by director Brad Anderson, 53, and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, 61, who also wrote four Bourne thrillers, Rogue One and George Clooney’s Michael Clayton. FULL REVIEW
Great Point Media
Michelle Pfeiffer is on a major comeback, and this grim performance is her best shot at an Oscar nomination since 2002’s White Oleander. Shorn of glamour, she plays a broke divorcee, a caretaker for her aged mother, who passes on. Since she lived off mom’s government check, she’s forced to impersonate her, and struggles to right her life with the help of a cabbie (Kiefer Sutherland) with troubles of his own. Filmed with bleak grandeur and distant shots of silhouetted figures in the gloom, it will attract a hardy few hard-core art house fans (and lots of major awards voters). READ MORE
Fearless writer-director Lynne Ramsay and star Joaquin Phoenix won top awards at the Cannes Film Festival for this grueling, ripping yarn about a PTSD-tortured suicidal war veteran caring for his ill mom and supporting her as a hit man. When a state senator’s teen daughter gets kidnapped by wealthy pedophiles, he takes off the kid gloves. Upsetting, dreamlike, original and beautiful in a horrible way, it scored the year’s second-best per-screen gross in a limited New York and L.A. debut, and now it’s on the Oscar campaign trail.
Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures
A Quiet Place, PG-13
In his directing debut, actor John Krasinski (The Office, 13 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.
Rising star Jason Clarke, 48, marvelously captures the tormented soul of Edward Kennedy the day he drove himself and a smart young member of his late brother Bobby Kennedy's staff off a bridge in Massachusetts, killing her and his probable presidency. Way less tabloid-y than you'd expect, this quietly intelligent, deeply researched, partly fictionalized film gives you a sense of what may have happened, how it was covered up, and the human dramas that drove a tragedy that transformed American history. Few actors have ever matched Clarke in making a Kennedy seem real. FULL REVIEW
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Ready Player One, PG-13
The latest pop-culture-saturated sci-fi film from Steven Spielberg, 71, is set in a dystopian Ohio of 2045, when people live in vertical trailer park ghettoes and spend their free time in a virtual reality world called the OASIS, where their heroic avatars hop into Back to the Future’s DeLorean and battle King Kong, Jurassic Park dinos, Chuckie and countless 1980s pop-culture icons. Their goal: to solve computer-game clues left by the nerdy OASIS inventor (Mark Rylance, 58), who’s like a nicer Willy Wonka, and win ownership of the OASIS itself, before an evil capitalist (Ben Mendelsohn, 47) can enslave everyone. The VR world feels like watching someone play a multiplayer game, but it’s action-packed, incredibly skillfully done, and often wonderful, as when the hero finds himself in 1980’s The Shining.
Outside In, R
Director Lynn Shelton, 52, crafts her most mainstream-friendly film, about a high school English teacher (The Sopranos’ Edie Falco, 54) who gets her student (Jay Duplass, 45) sprung from prison 20 years after he took a bad rap. Will his wooing free her from her loveless marriage? Will desolate Granite Falls, Wash., drive him to drink and blow his parole? It’s as sensitive as 1970’s Five Easy Pieces, with the same picturesquely damp weather. Falco goes deep in a rare Hollywood grownup love story. As she said at a screening, “People fall in love and have all these complicated emotions at every age.”
Isle of Dogs, PG-13
In Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animation hit, some of the top dogs in the voice-acting business enact a funny fable about house puppies exiled to an island of trash in an imaginary Japan by an anti-canine mayor. There, pooches voiced by Bill Murray, 67, Bob Balaban, 72, Jeff Goldblum, 65, and Edward Norton, 48, join a revolt by stray dog leader Bryan Cranston, 62. Human Greta Gerwig lends a hand. Good fun to see with teenage grandchildren, but not too eccentric for younger kids to follow. FULL REVIEW
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.
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