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What to Watch at the Movies

See Matthew McConaughey's 'White Boy Rick,' Julianne Moore's 'Bel Canto' and more

 White Boy Rick, R

Sun-ripened and crinkly, Matthew McConaughey, 48, digs into another scruffy, hard-won role in his Dallas Buyers Club mold. He plays the devilish Detroit gun-running daddy of the teenage outlaw of the title (breakout newcomer Richie Merritt), whose fragile family also includes an addict (a go-for-it Bel Powley), a cantankerous grandpa (Bruce Dern, 82), and a saintly grandma (Piper Laurie, 86). Based on the true story of the Michigan teenager sentenced to life in prison for crack possession with intent to sell in 1988, this crime drama has an excess of energy that sends it careening through Motown with a total lack of focus. Great central performances and vivid set pieces (the disco roller rink!) can't overcome a script that's as rangy as McConaughey, and a French director, Yann Demange, who opts for spectacle over storytelling. —Thelma Adams (T.M.A.)

Also New in Theaters

Ken Watanabe, Julianne Moore in

Screen Media Films

Ken Watanabe and Julianne Moore star in the fact-based drama "Bel Canto."

 Bel Canto, R

In 1996, 14 Peruvian revolutionaries broke into an elite party at the Japanese Embassy in Lima and held the crowd hostage for four months. It inspired Ann Patchett's 2001 highbrow best-seller, which inspired this quiet little gem of an art film, about a famous opera singer's concert interrupted by terrorists. As the diva, Julianne Moore, 57, is as exquisite and headstrong as you'd expect, and in a sensitive succession of vignettes, the rebels and their captives grow closer under the influence of beautiful music (soprano Renée Fleming supplies Moore's singing voice). —Tim Appelo (T.A.) FULL REVIEW

Still in Theaters

Hal Ashby

Oscilloscope Laboratories

 Hal, Unrated

It's high time for this celebratory documentary about Hal Ashby, the greatest filmmaker you never heard of (even though most filmmakers revere him). An Oscar-winning editor, he began directing at 40, then made six of the 1970s' most important movies, from the May-December romance Harold and Maude to the sex satire Shampoo to Peter Sellers' hit Being There. Then his rebel spirit collided with Hollywood's more businesslike culture in the '80s, his career crashed and he died young. But the films he made with Jane Fonda and Jack Nicholson aged well, and he's a huge influence on today's top indie directors. (T.A) FULL REVIEW

Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in an airport

Robb Rosenfeld

 Destination Wedding, R

Keanu Reeves, 53, and Winona Ryder, 46, (above) have acted together three times, and the third time’s the charm: This good old-fashioned rom-com about two irascible strangers who meet on the way to the posh California vineyard wedding of his estranged half brother and her ex-lover. Their courtship is all about barbed, funny repartee by writer-director Victor Levin, 57, a producer of Mad Men and Mad About You whose TV chops enabled him to shoot this romp in nine days. Nobody expected this to be good, but it is! —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW

Ben Kingsley as Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann in

Valeria Florini/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Ben Kingsley stars as Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann brought to justice in "Operation Finale."

 Operation Finale, PG-13

True story: A Jewish girl in Argentina circa 1960 suspected that her boyfriend’s dad, a Mercedes factory worker, was actually Adolph Eichmann, who ran Hitler’s Final Solution death factories. Israel’s Mossad sent about a dozen agents to kidnap him for trial in Jerusalem. Ben Kingsley, 74, plays Eichmann as a trickster whose hidden rage is an evil twinkle in his sly eye. As his Mossad hunter, Oscar Isaac is a soulful action hero, and his squabbling team’s caper — smuggling Eichmann in disguise onto a plane under the nose of airport authorities — has some of the appeal of Argo and Munich. It’s a far lesser film with a messy script. But the acting is great, such as when the agent gives Eichmann a shave while thinking of his sister who died in the Holocaust. —T.A.

 The Bookshop, PG-13

Emily Mortimer is irresistible as a plucky widow who pours her heart and life savings into the first bookstore ever in a tiny, culturally reactionary British town in 1959. Bill Nighy, 68 (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), is her agoraphobic customer and incredibly hesitant suitor. Silky-voiced Patricia Clarkson, 58, is like her Sharp Objects character: the town’s dressiest grande dame, an iron fist in a velvet glove. She wants to seize the bookstore for her own pet project, an arts center. Julie Christie's narration packs a punch in the last scene. If you like British period drama, this may hit the spot, but it’s an extraordinarily slow, low-key story. It's good, though, and mostly faithful to the 1978 novel by Penelope Fitzgerald, who began writing at 58 and won the Booker Prize at 62. —T.A

Ethan Hawke, Rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd in

Alex Bailey/Courtesy of Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Ethan Hawke (left) plays an aging grunge rocker in 'Juliet, Naked.' The film also stars rose Byrne and Chris O'Dowd.


 Juliet, Naked, R

Nobody gets naked in this quirky rom-com, except emotionally. Ethan Hawke plays indie rock star Tucker Crowe, who abandoned his career long ago and lives as a recluse but is worshipped by a nerdy professor fan (Chris O'Dowd), who runs a website devoted to his genius. The prof's neglected wife (Rose Byrne) winds up inviting Tucker to their English seaside home, with funny, touching results that could only have been dreamed up by writer Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), who knows how deeply popular music touches the heart. Byrne has never had a better role, and it's Hawke's first comedy since Reality Bites (1994). —T.A. FULL REVIEW

 Crazy Rich Asians, PG-13

Crazy Rich Asians is an event movie, featuring Hollywood’s first almost-all-Asian cast since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. Combining frisky wit with prime-time-soap melodramatics, it showcases an appealing young cast led by Constance Wu as Rachel, who meets her boyfriend’s Singapore family and discovers they’re insanely wealthy. Awkwafina is hilarious as her best friend. But the rom-com is also a dynamite showcase for cinema icon Michelle Yeoh, 56 (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Tomorrow Never Dies), as a fierce matriarch suspicious of potential daughter-in-law Rachel. Her charisma and warmth make a real character out of what could have been a cardboard villainess. And as Awkwafina’s voluble, ridiculously dressed nouveau-riche dad, Ken Jeong, 49 (The Hangover), is as funny as he’s ever been. —Glenn Kenny

Glenn Close looking at Jonathan Pryce in

GRAEME HUNTER PICTURES

In 'The Wife,' Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce play a long-married couple at a crossroads in their relationship.

 The Wife, R

Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close, both 71, brilliantly depict the four-decade marriage of a womanizing novelist and his more talented, totally overlooked wife. Close gives a career-capping performance as a great writer sidelined by wifely duties, poised to explode as her husband prepares to accept the Nobel Prize in literature. No living actor has been nominated for an Oscar more often than Close without winning. The studio released The Wife this year instead of last, avoiding competition with Frances McDormand, who won for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This could be Close's year. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

Adam Driver and John David Washington sitting next to each other.

David Lee/Focus Features

Adam Driver (left) and John David Washington play friends in "BlacKkKlansman" and work together to move in on the KKK.

 BlacKkKlansman, R

In a highly unlikely story that actually happened in the 1970s, a black cop (Denzel Washington's son John David Washington) teams with a Jewish colleague (Adam Driver) to infiltrate the KKK, fooling even Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) with their audacious impersonations of racists. The film is apt to be the biggest hit directed by Spike Lee, 61, since Inside Man in 2006. It's political to a fault and may annoy some viewers, but it's not just a message picture — it's funny, serious and totally entertaining. —Dana Kennedy FULL REVIEW

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in

Paramount Pictures

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt in the dizzyingly exciting "Mission: Impossible - Fallout."

  Mission: Impossible — Fallout, R

Who needs James Bond? Tom Cruise, 56, outdoes him in his sixth M:I action epic, with a little help from fellow spies Alec Baldwin, 60, and Ving Rhames, 59. The knotty plot about loose nukes is the perfect excuse for stunt after spectacular, 007-shaming, Bourne-topping stunt, with Cruise piloting helicopters, racing through European capitals, opening his parachute way too close to the ground and clinging to icy cliffs. Cruise broke bones doing his own stunts, but it was worth it. What a ride! —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Jonathan Prime/Universal Studios

Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried and Christine Baranski are among the multigenerational cast of "Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again."

 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, PG-13

Nobody expected good things from this ABBA-song-filled sequel to the critically reviled, massively popular 2008 movie about a Greek island innkeeper (Meryl Streep) and her daughter's possible fathers (Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Pierce Brosnan), all reunited as grownups. Surprise! It's more fun than the first flick. Director Ol Parker, who wrote The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, blends storylines featuring the grownup cast and youngsters playing them in youth. Streep returns, Christine Baranksi and Julie Walters are terrific, and Cher, 72, upstages everyone as the mother of Streep, 69, singing "Fernando" in a finale fizzier than a magnum of Dom Perignon. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW

Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton in

Photo by Linda Kallerus, courtesy of A24

Elsie Fisher and Josh Hamilton play an adolescent girl and her single dad in "Eighth Grade".

 Eighth Grade, R

Bo Burnham, whose homemade YouTube videos earned him 228 million viewers at 16, crafts a superb first film about a girl's last week in middle school. Elsie Fisher (Despicable Me) is wonderful as a YouTube motivational video maker who's bubbly and confident online but intensely shy in real life — especially when she, voted most quiet in her class, gets invited to the rich, cool kids' year-end pool party. Everything in her scary but exciting life rings true — the tyranny of social networks, boys good and bad, kids welcoming and menacing, big decisions you're not ready for. It's as good as a John Hughes movie but sweeter and infinitely more realistic. It will take you back, and to the eighth-grader in your life it will feel like a documentary. —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

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