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What to Watch at the Movies

The real-life terror attack drama 'Hotel Mumbai,' Jordan Peele's grownup horror film 'Us' and more

 Hotel Mumbai, R

Two weeks after Slumdog Millionaire made Dev Patel an overnight star at 18, in 2008, terrorists killed over 170 people in Mumbai, at 10 places, including Slumdog’s final-scene train station and the five-star Taj Mahal Palace hotel. Patel produced this tense but not exploitative drama about the hotel’s three-day siege, and plays one of the hotel staffers who risked (or gave) their lives to save their guests. Legendary actor Anupam Kher (Silver Linings Playbook), 64, movingly portrays the heroic Taj head chef, and Patel and Armie Hammer play composite characters inspired by real ones. Despite some fictionalization, it’s a vivid you-are-there experience, and when you learn that the massacre’s leaders remain unpunished in Pakistan, your anger will be palpable. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

Also New in Theaters

Lupita Nyong'o cries in terror as she removes a mask of her face in a creepy poster for US

Merrick Morton/Netflix

 Us, R

Most horror films are for the kid in all of us, but Jordan Peele’s horror films are for smart grownups. His follow-up to the Oscar-winning Get Out concerns an all-American family whose summer home gets invaded by evil replicas of each family member. It works as a taut genre thriller and also as food for thought about America, class, identity and the shadow self we may all contain. In a superb cast, the standout is Lupita Nyong’o in the dual role of a matriarch and her mysterious identical-twin assassin. – T.A. FULL REVIEW

Still in Theaters

Salma Hayek stands above Alexander Skarsgard who is in a hot tub in a scene from The Hummingbird Project

Rubber Tree Productions

 The Hummingbird Project, R

In Oscar-nominated writer-director Kim Nguyen’s The Big Short-like story, The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard play tech wizards trying to beat their ruthless ex-boss (Salma Hayek, 52) on a deal to build a thousand-mile fiber-optic cable to get financial data milliseconds ahead of the competition and make billions. The script is incompetent, but it’s still fun to see Eisenberg’s motormouth entrepreneur and bald, unsexy tech nerd Skarsgard tangle with a cartoonish Hayek, sporting a cool white-and-black hairdo a bit like Cruella de Vil. —T.A.

 Never Grow Old, R

John Cusack, 52, is the reason to see this grim, bloody film, an homage to such revisionist 1970s Westerns as McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Everything is filmed in lower light than The Godfather, but nothing is darker than the heart of Cusack's Dutch Albert, who rides into an Oregon town with his gang and gives the undertaker (Emile Hirsch, much resembling Jack Black) more business than he's had in years. As the undertaker struggles with collaborator's guilt and the need to protect his family from Dutch's depredations, fate grinds on. The plot is predictable, but the acting holds you, especially Cusack's scary, icy, purring growl of menace. —T.A.

Julianne Moore smiling and dancing in the poster for Gloria Bell

A24 / FilmNation

 Gloria Bell, R

Oscar winner Sebastián Lelio does an almost scene-for-scene remake of his 2013 Chilean hit about divorced wallflower grandma Gloria, who gets her groove back at the disco, this time starring the incomparable Julianne Moore, 57, with John Turturro, 62, as the new guy who gives her a whirl but may not turn out to be the man of her dreams. The two stars' chemistry isn't electric, but there's poignancy in Gloria's attempt to shed the invisibility cloak of middle age, and fine work by Michael Cera as her son; Brad Garrett, 58, as her ex; Holland Taylor, 76, as her mom; and Jeanne Tripplehorn, 55, as her best friend. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.) FULL REVIEW

Isabelle Huppert stands in a doorway in a scene from Greta.

Jonathan Hession/Focus Features

Isabelle Huppert is the charming and menacing mother figure in "Greta."

 Greta, R

This hilariously over-the-top thriller about a mad stalker (Isabelle Huppert, 65) and the stranger she recruits as her surrogate daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) will win respected director Neil Jordan few new fans. Still, you can’t stop watching the fun Huppert has playing a faux Parisian, actually Hungarian mother who drove her daughter to suicide with cruel piano lessons and now leaves handbags on subway seats for naifs to find so they’ll visit her apartment and never, ever leave her. Huppert’s wry smile is entertainingly scary, as is her little dance after she’s drugged someone and her fantasies come true. It’s like a half-baked remake of Fatal Attraction and Single White Female, half-redeemed by Huppert’s sardonically nasty genius. —T.A.

Neil Armstrong in a space suit.

Neon CNN Films

Neil Armstrong takes moviegoers to the moon in "Apollo 11."

 Apollo 11, G

Director Todd Douglas Miller won fame by turning previously unseen footage of the discovery of (and fight over) the biggest T. rex skeleton ever found into 2014’s Emmy-winning, Sundance Grand Prize-nominated film Dinosaur 13. Now, 50 years after the first moon landing, he has taken a trove of 65 mm footage of the Apollo 11 mission, languishing forgotten in the National Archives, plus 11,000 hours of audio, and crafted a documentary that will put you over the moon. No talking heads, just real people, from Neil Armstrong to Mission Control to President Richard Nixon to the 1 million spectators gathered for the launch. Currently in Imax, it's set for wide release on March 8.  Austin O'Connor (A.O.) FULL REVIEW

Penélope Crux and Javier Bardem walking

Focus Features

Penélope Cruz plays a woman who returns to her hometown in Spain — and Javier Bardem — in Everybody Knows.

 Everybody Knows, R

Husband and wife actors Penélope Cruz, 44, and Javier Bardem, 49, juice up this entertaining, well-crafted if slightly confusing Spanish-language saga from Iran’s Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi (The PastA Separation). Nominated for seven Goya Awards (the Spanish Oscar), this family-secrets drama unfolds during a rural wedding in Spanish wine country. While the guests — including steamy exes Cruz and Jardem — drink and dance, a kidnapping derails the reception. The crime exposes the fissures in the relationships among old and young, rich and poor, and husbands and wives. The movie's chief delights are the Cruz-Bardem pairing and Farhadi's generosity toward all the characters as he veers from joy to terror, playing with emotional extremes, delivering a portrait of a rural community in celebration and crisis. — T.M.A.

Taraji P. Henson and Aldis Hodge with their arms around each other

Jess Miglio/Paramount Players

Things heat up between Taraji P. Henson and Aldis Hodge in “What Men Want.”

 What Men Want, R

Taraji P. Henson stars in an amusing, touching, Jerry Maguire-like remake of Mel Gibson's 2000 comedy (What Women Want) about being granted sudden power to read the minds of the opposite sex. She's got verve, and so do Erykah Badu as the psychic who makes her a mindreader and grownup supporting players Richard 'Shaft' Roundtree, 76, and Tracy Morgan, 50. —Lisa Kennedy FULL REVIEW


Courtesy Warner Bros.

Filmmakers recreated WWI scenes in color (left) to bring the conflict to life in a new way.

 They Shall Not Grow Old, R

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson took 100-year-old footage of World War I soldiers, restored it with technical wizardry, added interviews with veterans and a you-are-there soundtrack — plus a coda about his own family's casualties and his ingenious restoration methods — and wound up with the most surprisingly wonderful Great War documentary ever made. —T.A. FULL REVIEW

Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis in

Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures

Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy and Bruce Willis in Glass.

 Glass, PG-13

The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan mashed together his characters from two prior films, the hit Split and the comic-book movie Unbreakable, with muddled effects, but despite the messy story, it's fun to see Samuel L. Jackson, 70, America's top-grossing movie star, steal scenes from an uncharacteristically un-quippy Bruce Willis, 63. Willis plays a security guard with supernatural powers — he's unbreakable — who hunts a killer with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). They both get thrown into a mental institution alongside crafty criminal Glass (Jackson), and then things get weird. The best part is watching McAvoy become many characters, the scariest of which is called the Beast. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW

 Cold War, R

This likely foreign Oscar nominee by the director of the Oscar winner Ida is about a musician (Tomasz Kot) who collects folk tunes in Poland in 1949, fearing they’ll be lost under Soviet rule. He meets a singer (Joanna Kulig) who’s sexier and more dangerous than Jeanne Moreau in Jules and Jim, and their whirlwind romance whisks them from decade to decade as they break up and passionately reconnect, with stops in Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris. The film is on a par with that other black-and-white foreign Oscar contender Roma, only more exciting. —T.A.

Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart in

David Lee/STX Films

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart star as a quadriplegic and his caretaker in The Upside.

 The Upside, PG-13

Bryan Cranston, 62, stars as Phillip, a billionaire quadriplegic with a death wish who hires smart-mouthed unemployed ex-con Dell (Kevin Hart, 39) as his live-in caretaker. Remade by Neil Burger from the 2011 French feel-good hit Les Intouchables, this odd-couple dramedy struggles with an uneven screenplay replete with sex-organ jokes. Cranston compels even when only acting from the neck up, but Hart seems to be desperately underwater for most of the movie. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW

Mary Poppins Returns

Jay Maidment/Disney

Emily Blunt stars as Mary Poppins

 Mary Poppins Returns, PG

You can take grandchildren to the blockbuster Mary Poppins sequel and please them, but it’s really made for us grownups still humming those 1964 tunes. Nearly every song (by Hairspray’s composers) updates one in the original. Though most are merely catchy, not immortal earworms, there’s a rousing dance-hall number and the still-dancing Dick Van Dyke, 93, sings a supercalifragilistic one: “When they tell you [that] your chance to dance is done, that’s the time to stand, to strike up the band and tell them that you’ve just begun!” The plot — Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is almost bankrupt thanks to his late wife’s medical bills, so a wily banker (Colin Firth) means to evict his family — is only a mild distraction from the high-stepping musical fun afoot. Emily Blunt makes a magical airborne nanny, more wry and acerbic than Julie Andrews, and takes a larky plunge with her charges into a bathtub’s undersea world and the cartoon universe inside the family china. Meryl Streep (as cousin Topsy) romps with the kids in her upside-down house, and Angela Lansbury does the climactic “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” equivalent. As Mary’s fond lamplighter pal, Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda is no Dick Van Dyke, but he’s tuneful, and the reboot adds Broadway brio to the original’s blend of actors and animation. And Van Dyke’s British accent has improved since 1964.  —T.A.

Stephan James, KiKi Layne in

Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

 If Beale Street Could Talk, R

Harlem in the '70s has never looked so gorgeous as it does in this dreamy, poetic, heartbreaking adaptation of James Baldwin's 1974 novel about a false rape charge and the families it traumatizes. Director Barry Jenkins made 2017's best picture Oscar winner Moonlight and hasn't lost his artful touch. In a strong ensemble cast, Regina King, 47, stands out as the fiercely protective mother of the accused man's fiancée (KiKi Layne). The cinematography is swoonily beautiful, with a strong spine of storytelling. —T.A. FULL REVIEW 

 The Favourite, R

Olivia Colman, 44, takes over for Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in TV’s hit The Crown in 2019, but as 18th-century Queen Anne in this faster, funnier, infinitely nastier best picture Oscar contender, she’s a far more interesting person. Decadent, depraved, grief-stricken, she binges on cake and the manipulative, two-faced wooing of her lady-in-waiting, Sarah (Rachel Weisz, 48). The real Lady Sarah, ancestor of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana, was described by the Telegraph as “the world’s most ambitious woman.” But into the palace of intrigue comes Sarah’s rival, her wide-eyed yet equally ambitious cousin Abigail (Emma Stone, 30), who’s broke thanks to her gambler dad. Sarah thinks she’s got two women under her thumb now, but she’s never seen All About Eve — Abigail can’t wait to replace her as royal favorite. Even the impulsive queen is a schemer. When she says, “I have sent for some lobsters — I thought we could race them and then eat them,” she might as well be talking about Sarah and Abigail. —T.A.

Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali in Green Book

Patti Perret/Universal Pictures

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga and Mahershala Ali as Dr. Donald Shirley in Green Book.

 Green Book, PG-13

Lord of the Rings’  Viggo Mortensen, 60, gained 30 pounds to play Tony Lip, the Mafia nightclub bouncer who was a bodyguard, chauffeur and lifelong friend of piano genius Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali, 44) on his perilous concert tour of the South in 1962 — when black visitors were wise to carry The Negro Motorist Green Book to locate places where they’d be safe-ish. It’s a true story and a heartwarming Oscar magnet. No surprise Ali is tops, but who knew Viggo could play Italian American mob comedy? Or that director Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber) could direct a smart, only partly funny, socially conscious drama perfect for our times? T.A. FULL REVIEW and Q&A WITH VIGGO MORTENSEN

Gwilym Lee, Rami Malek in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox

 Bohemian Rhapsody, PG-13

This biopic glorifying and sanitizing Queen is a pleasant enough parade of champion hits and behind-the-music cliches. Rami Malek captures lead singer Freddie Mercury’s polymorphously perverse magnetism, and he didn’t need those prosthetic buck teeth (which people falsely call the secret of Mercury’s distinctive sound — voice scientist Christian Herbst’s 2016 study proved it’s actually his oddly irregular vibrato). Even the true parts of the film seem as fake as those teeth. Mary Austin, whom Mercury called his common-law wife, really did stay in his life (though not bed) after he confessed to being gay, and he willed her about $50 million (versus less than a million for Jim Hutton, whom he called his husband). Mary was likely the “mama mia” who has to let him go in his coded coming-out anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But fine actors Lucy Boynton and Aaron McCusker can’t make Mary and Jim feel real in this infinitely artificial screenplay, and the Queen guys are all ciphers, too.  —T.A. FIVE MORE MOVIES NAMED FOR POP SONGS

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