The Command, PG-13
This supremely tense, gripping thriller about the real Russian nuclear sub trapped beneath the Bering Sea in 2000, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, stars phenomenal youngsters Matthias Schoenaerts as the heroic sub commander and Léa Seydoux as his terrified wife, but grownups Colin Firth, 58, and Max von Sydow, 90, are crucially great as the British officer striving to save the deep-sixed sailors and the evil, arrogant Russian officer refusing to accept help (and national humiliation). It's also a smart, sharp critique of Russian society akin to the 2014 Oscar nominee Leviathan. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)
Also New in Theaters
It's tough to make a movie about a fiction writer's life — they mostly sit around typing — but not when you've got a subject like the Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved. Her life sounds like a movie: born poor, a black single mom raising two kids, Morrison became the most important editor of books by black authors like Angela Davis, and then a best-selling millionaire who gave Oprah Winfrey her best movie role. She's very guarded, but a friend, director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, got her to open up in a fascinating way. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.) FULL REVIEW | READ DIRECTOR TIMOTHY GREENFIELD-SANDERS INTERVIEW
Wild Rose, R
Hot off the must-see hit Chernobyl, Jessie Buckley pulls a star-is-born turn as a recently paroled Scottish single mom with dreams of Nashville stardom. Her powerhouse vocals call to mind Janis Joplin, and the movie hits its true dramatic high notes in the scenes between her and Julie Walters, 69, as her disapproving mother. Oscar nominee Walters (Billy Elliot, Educating Rita) could be a 2019 contender for this feel-great charmer. —Bruce Fretts (B.F.)
The Quiet One, Unrated
Former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, 82, is the group's pack rat, with an archive the size of Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel, so this documentary is your best chance to see Stones footage and photos you haven't seen before. He's too murmurously quiet and utterly unforthcoming to make a great cinema subject, but his life of sex and rock ‘n’ roll (no drugs for him) is quite a trip, and you may find some surprises: When the band fled to France to dodge taxes, he befriended James Baldwin, who turned him on to Ray Charles, and he became close chums with the painter Marc Chagall. There's less detail about the 1,000 women he bedded and the 18-year-old he married at 52. —T.A.
Still in Theaters
Diane Keaton, 73, looking like a grownup Annie Hall, plays a widow who spurns the respectable accountant her rich friend (Phantom Thread's Lesley Manville, 63) tries to fix her up with and falls instead for a gruff Irish hermit (Brendan Gleeson, 64) living in Hampstead, the park overlooking London — a place so lovely it inspired C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. Based on the true story of squatter Harry Hallowes, who won the legal right to reside in the park until his death at 79 because he'd lived there for years, it's an utterly unrealistic fable about the wickedness of developers and the righteousness of eccentrics. The script is so feeble it's hard to believe it's by the Oscar-nominated writer of In the Bedroom. But Keaton's and Gleeson's styles are two great tastes that taste great together as they squabble and bond. This isn't a great movie, but it feels as good as a nice, warm chamomile bubble bath. Sink in and enjoy. —T.A.
What could be more fun than No. 1 box office star Samuel L. Jackson, 70, donning his long leather jacket to whup guys even more criminal than he is in a Shaft movie? This time, you get three Shafts: Jackson's John Shaft, original Shaft Richard Roundtree and John's straight-arrow son JJ Shaft (Jessie T. Usher). John is upset that his offspring is an FBI man, but more upset that he refuses to be rude and crude. It's a silly cop-buddy movie with Jackson doing the shtick that made him famous. —T.A. FULL REVIEW
2017 AARP cover subject Octavia Spencer, 47, won't win another Oscar for this flick by her The Help director, Taylor Tate, 49, but it's fun to see her persona — so sweet in person and onscreen — morph into the easily offended psycho killer Ma. Shamelessly aping Carrie and Misery, Ma takes mildly gory revenge on high-school classmates who humiliated her — she makes her basement a party house for their unwise teen kids, drinking and dancing with them to “Funkytown,” then acting all Fatal Attraction-ish when they disrespect her. The kids are generic, but the grownups are interesting, especially the realistic Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) as Ma's regretful classmate and Allison Janney, 59, as her acerbic boss. —T.A.
Is this Elton John biopic as good as the Freddie Mercury hit Bohemian Rhapsody? It's a blow-the-roof-off rock ‘n’ roll epic with even catchier (and more popular) tunes and a more inspiringly melodramatic rise-and-fall-and-rise-again story. As Elton, Taron Egerton is as good as Rami Malek's Oscar-winning turn as Mercury. And it's Taron singing, not Elton (though they duet during the end credits). —Dana Kennedy FULL REVIEW
If you liked Jonah Hill's breakout hit Superbad, you'll love his sister, Beanie Feldstein, in this female version of the archetypal movie about best friends (Feldstein as an uptight valedictorian and Kaitlyn Dever as an overachieving gay virgin) at their last high school party, where they're desperate to have all the fun they missed with their noses in books. Directed by Olivia Wilde (House), it's a comedy with smarts and heart, with small, nice parts for Wilde's husband, Jason Sudeikis, as a Lyft-driving principal, Lisa Kudrow, 55, and Will Forte, 48, as Dever's folks, and Billie Lourd as a poignant party girl a bit like her real mother, Carrie Fisher. Both Booksmart and Feldstein's 2017 hit Lady Bird scored a perfect 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. —T.A.
The incredibly durable star Keanu Reeves, 54, makes a comeback in a cartoonishly violent, wildly successful action trilogy directed by his stuntman for The Matrix, and stranger still, the third one is the best. Don't see it if shoot-'em-up video-game cinema is anathema to you, but if you've got a taste for shadowy conspiracies, retro weaponry, horseback chases, ninja sword fights on motorcycles, fistfights, knife play, choreographed kung fu ballet, actual ballet, lively turns by Anjelica Huston, 67, and Halle Berry, 52, and battles with shattering glass that remind you of the hall of mirrors in Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai, this movie's for you. — T.A. FULL REVIEW
Avengers: Endgame, PG-13
In the 22nd Marvel movie, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., 54) gets swept up in one more enormous adventure, and feels his age. Can he and an incredibly overpopulated cast of superheroes played by famous actors use time travel to undo the murder of half of mankind by sad baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin, 51) Since most major characters each get one big scene, why don't we see more of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, 70) And could any more plot possibly be stuffed into a three-hour film? —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW
Amazing Grace, Unrated
Aretha Franklin's legendary live 1972 gospel concert movie was long lost thanks to technical glitches in filming and the difficult star's mysterious refusal to permit its release after it was meticulously restored. At last, we get to see the event that resulted in the best-selling album of her career, and seeing her perform the gospel music she was raised on is quite different than watching her pop performances — you might say her performance is inspired. —T.A. FULL REVIEW
Tim Burton’s live-action version of the 1941 animated classic about a flying elephant doesn’t crash and burn, but it never quite takes flight, either. The CGI elephant aeronaut is cute, as is Thandie Newton’s lookalike daughter Nico Parker as the little girl who loves him. And the circuses Dumbo wows — a one-tent show run by small-timer Danny DeVito and monster plutocrat Michael Keaton’s sinister, Disneyland-size Art Deco/steampunk extravaganza — are marvelously rendered. But the script by Transformers: Age of Extinction writer Ehren Kruger is an overstuffed muddle, and there’s nothing as touching as the circus camaraderie of The Greatest Showman. When the original Dumbo lost his mom, it was as intense as the death of Bambi’s mom. Here it packs little emotional punch.—T.A.