Bad Boys for Life, R
The third Bad Boys movie, Bad Boys for Life, will please most fans of the first two, which Michael Bay directed with brio. But new directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah inject some DNA from the cartoon-violent John Wick flicks and the family values of the Fast & Furious franchise. The key appeal of the series isn’t screeching-Porsche symphonies but the bromance of crimebusters Mike (Will Smith, 51) and Marcus (Martin Lawrence, 54), still bickering inseparably 17 years after their last adventure. Mike’s a rich bachelor with a lead foot on the gas pedal, Marcus a middle-class new father considering retirement. Mike’s in denial. “You dye your goatee!” says Marcus. “What are you, 20?” They’re grownups now, discussing issues of aging while they try to avoid getting killed by the son of Mike’s embittered witch of an ex. Mike’s young-punk nemesis who resembles him is way cooler than his CG youthful doppelganger in the flop Gemini Man. It’s good to see Smith in a satisfying film again, and his chemistry with Lawrence still clicks. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)
Also New in Theaters
Most critics stomped on this live-action film about the good doctor (Robert Downey Jr., 54) who talks to animals, but it’s really a jolly adventure for grownups to see with their favorite kids or grandkids. Emma Thompson, 60, voices a bossy parrot and Ralph Fiennes, 57, a neurotic tiger (perfect casting!), and Antonio Banderas, 59, is Dolittle’s rival. If you join the vast choir of Dolittle haters, OK, maybe you’re not crazy. But you have to admit it’s not as bad as Cats! —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.) FULL REVIEW
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards
AARP’s 19th annual movie awards show is our answer to the Oscars — in fact, it helps predict and influence who will win Oscars, and drives Hollywood to make more movies by and for grownups. Though it’s on TV (PBS on Sunday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. ET, though check local listings), it’s a good way to decide which movies to go see in theaters. You can stream it starting Jan. 20 on pbs.org/moviesforgrownups and the PBS Video app. And the scene of Conan O’Brien mercilessly teasing his pal Adam Sandler, best actor winner for Uncut Gems, is infinitely more entertaining than any movie opening this week. SEE THE TOP 10 MOMENTS FROM THE AARP MOVIES FOR GROWNUPS AWARDS
Still in Theaters
Just Mercy, R
If Richard Jewell made you angry about our justice system, wait until you see Just Mercy. It’s about a real 1986 case in Monroeville, Alabama, site of To Kill a Mockingbird. Walter McMillian (Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, 52), a small-time pot dealer dating a white woman, was convicted of killing a white teen when he was in fact at a fish fry with many witnesses. A judge put McMillian on death row even before the 2-day trial. The prosecution witnesses eventually recanted their preposterous stories, especially a career criminal (brilliant Tim Blake Nelson, 55), who ludicrously accused McMillian to beat his own murder rap. A black Harvard lawyer (Michael B. Jordan) got him freed after six years, but death row drove McMillian crazy, and he developed dementia and died thinking he was still on death row, about to be electrocuted. Impenitent Monroeville authorities were actually scarier than the film portrays, but the film versions are adequately terrifying. Jordan and Brie Larson are great as the founders of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Foxx and Nelson are sensational. Writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton is clumsy, but his story is gripping and important, and the cast is to die for. —T.A.
Alfre Woodard takes us deep into the nightmare world of a maximum-security prison warden condemned to watch men be executed, over and over, until her own life goes off the rails and her marriage to an affectionate schoolteacher (Wendell Pierce) is ruined. Writer-director Chinonye Chukwu won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for this study of the emotional consequences of the death penalty on all concerned. It plays like a waking dream, sometimes aimlessly boring, sometimes absolutely shattering. It’s worth seeing for the fabulous acting, particularly by Woodard and Aldis Hodge, as a condemned man depicted with more thoughtful sensitivity than in most jailhouse dramas, and by The West Wing’s Richard Schiff as his doleful attorney. —T.A. FULL REVIEW
Little Women, PG
Meryl Streep, 70, may be the most formidable Aunt March in the history of adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s classic about a Massachusetts family whose father (Bob Odenkirk, 57) is off fighting the Civil War as they fight, love and support one another. Laura Dern, 52, is perhaps the first Marmee who admits that her saintly self-sacrifice fills her with constant suppressed rage. Though she’s got a weakness for flashbacks, director/writer Greta Gerwig has made an ambitious Little Women for our time. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW
The Two Popes, PG-13
How on earth did a film about two popes yakking turn out to be the smartest fact-based movie in a year packed with them, and the top nominee at AARP’s Movies for Grownups Awards (telecast on PBS Great Performances Jan. 19)? Call it divine inspiration. It’s is a world-class acting duel between Jonathan Pryce, 72, as an Argentine cardinal who asks Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins, 81) to bless his retirement — only to be ordered to become the next pope, Francis. In a fascinating debate that affected the fate of a billion Catholics, traditionalist Benedict and his toughest, most liberal critic face off, and find common ground, even though Benedict will never understand why Francis keeps humming Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” The director, Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener), 64, has never been more epic, and triple Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour, The Theory of Everything, Bohemian Rhapsody), 58, has never written more wittily. In these bitterly divided times, this sweet tale of reconciliation through respectful intellectual combat feels downright redemptive. —T.A.
It’s too bad Roger Deakins, 70, won the cinematography Oscar for last year’s Blade Runner 2049 on his 14th nomination, because this World War I epic is a more impressive feat: It’s basically all one continuous shot, following two young British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) on a Saving Private Ryan-like mission behind enemy lines to prevent 1,600 soldiers from an ambush massacre — including the brother of one of the lads. On the way they encounter older allies Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott (Fleabag’s hot priest), Colin Firth, 59, and Germans who are excellent at killing Brits. It’s as overwhelming as Dunkirk, and infinitely more personal. —T.A.
Encased by prosthetic blubber, John Lithgow, 74, has a blast playing Fox News founder and lecher Roger Ailes, sacked by Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell, 76) after 20 or more accusations of sexual harassment. Charlize Theron looks and sounds amazingly like Ailes’ victim, anchor Megyn Kelly, only infinitely more personally engaging. She directly addresses the audience, inviting us into a ripping yarn by The Big Short's Charles Randolph and Game Change's Jay Roach. Almost as great are Nicole Kidman, 52, as Gretchen Carlson; Margot Robbie as a naive, fictional newswoman and Ailes victim who's “an influencer in the Jesus space"; Kate McKinnon as a closeted gay producer; and Allison Janney, 60, as Ailes’ controversial attorney Susan Estrich. It's not about regular politics, just office and sexual politics. —T.A.
Richard Jewell, R
After heroic guard Richard Jewell found a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, saving lives, incredibly dumb FBI agents falsely accused him of planting it. They probably leaked the accusation to reporter Kathy Scruggs, and ruined his life for months. Director Clint Eastwood, 89, shapes this into a brilliant, partly factual fable about FBI and press wickedness. He invents a scene of Scruggs (Olivia Wilde) trading sex with an FBI man (Jon Hamm, 48) for the scoop, omits that her newspaper disproved the FBI's case within a week, and omits the real bomber, an abortion- and gay-hating white supremacist. But it's still a great movie! Hamm and Wilde are sizzling, and Paul Walter Hauser soars as Jewell, a sweet guy who lives with his even sweeter mom (superb Kathy Bates, 71) and drives his lawyer (Oscar-winning genius Sam Rockwell, 51) crazy by refusing to shut up when he should. And, of course, he has a home arsenal of guns and grenades, he explains — “This is Georgia!” Hauser and Rockwell create the cinematic bromance of the year. —T.A.
Uncut Gems, R
Adam Sandler, 53, has never achieved anything to match his stunning performance as a jeweler and gambler in ever-increasing debt to pawnbrokers, bookies and extremely dangerous people. He stakes his life on the auction of a gemstone from Ethiopia, which he unwisely loans to Celtics star Kevin Garnett (playing himself, amazingly well), who thinks it's a good-luck charm. The film is a frantic masterpiece, like Goodfellas if Robert Altman had directed it. Tense, action-packed, emotionally dramatic and unpredictable, it's also funny — in a Tarantinoish way. —T.A. FULL REVIEW
63 Up, Unrated
Since 1964, Michael (Gorillas in the Mist) Apted, 78, has interviewed, at seven-year intervals, a circle of upper- and lower-class British citizens starting at age 7, in a series Roger Ebert called “the noblest project in cinema history” and among the 10 best films ever made. (You can watch the previous versions — 49 Up, 56 Up, etc. — on BritBox, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes and Amazon, and you'll want to.) As they approach retirement, the tone has become melancholy and wise. A jockey, a librarian, a lawyer, a laborer — their childish selves reveal their personalities’ roots. No longer becoming, they're living the results of individual choices, class position and an uncertain Brexit Britain. Apted's deeply emotional movie saves for last the example that most contradicts the series’ touchstone quote: “Give me the child until he is 7, and I will give you the man.” The ninth movie concludes with Neil, once an outgoing, happy, brown-eyed boy who aspires to be an astronaut. Over time, Neil struggles with mental illness and homelessness, but ultimately finds himself as a politician and lay preacher. Who Neil was at 7 could never have anticipated the lonely Good Samaritan of 63, whose heartbreaking story of tribulations and modest triumph ends the film. —T.M.A.
Queen & Slim, R
After a Tinder first date from hell, a black couple gets stopped by a killer cop. Gentle, religious Slim (Get Out's Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya) tries to be cool, but high-strung attorney Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) hassles the cop, he shoots her, Slim defends her, and boom! The cop is dead. So they drive away, the shooting video goes viral, and they're reviled and celebrated nationwide as “the black Bonnie and Clyde,” though they're more like Thelma and Louise. It was self-defense, and their only criminal intent is escape to Cuba. In a dreamy yet psychologically realistic road trip, they get eyed by Savannah bigots, given free drinks at juke joints, saved by a white gas-station clerk, and hidden in a secret compartment in the New Orleans home of her pimp uncle (the excellent Bokeem Woodbine), whom she looks down her nose at. Though it all feels like a fable, the people seem real, not crime clichés, and they spout eloquent dialogue by Lena Waithe, the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. This is a chase movie with brains, feeling, style and social conscience. —T.A.
Knives Out, PG-13
Writer-director Rian Johnson, 47, whose great genre movies playfully mock their clichés (Looper, Brick), fields an all-star grownup cast for this Murder on the Orient Express pastiche with a sardonic modern vibe. Someone slit the throat of a tyrant (Christopher Plummer, 89) in his Victorian manse. Was it his plutocrat kid (Jamie Lee Curtis, 60) in the secret passageway? Her cheating husband (Don Johnson, 69)? A Poirot-ish detective (Daniel Craig, 51), who has an accent so Southern-fried someone sarcastically asks him if he's from CSI: KFC, tries to find out. —T.A. FULL REVIEW
21 Bridges, R
Yes, 21 Bridges ticks off every box for a police thriller set in New York City — but sometimes formulas work. It doesn't hurt that the film has a stellar cast. The stolid, commanding Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, Get on Up ) stars as a trigger-happy cop who shuts down Manhattan's 21 bridges to nail two thugs who shot and killed eight cops and a civilian in a robbery gone bad. Veteran character actor J.K. Simmons, 64, is a standout in a stock role as the crusty precinct captain. Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk, Julia Roberts’ costar on Homecoming) shines as the misguided villain. English actress Sienna Miller, trying out a New Yawk accent last heard in Bowery Boys films, is the only disappointment as the DEA agent paired with Boseman. Their lack of chemistry is as pronounced as Miller's unfortunate accent, but it doesn't sink the film. —Dana Kennedy (D.K.)
Tom Hanks, 63, as Mr. Rogers? Perfect. From the moment he zips his trademark cardigan and addresses the camera, he dissolves into the kindly TV host. In this emotional drama adapted from Tom Junod's 1998 Esquire article, Rogers is the supporting player who rehabilitates the broken writer Lloyd Vogel (The Americans’ moody Matthew Rhys) assigned to profile the gentle children's hero. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW
Ford v Ferrari, PG-13
Besides exhilarating you-are-at-the-wheel-at-230-mph racetrack scenes, Ford v Ferrari is a glorious bromance about a car designer (Matt Damon, 49) and an irascible driver (Christian Bale, 45) — along with their Italian rival Ferrari, whose cars always win at Le Mans, and their nasty Ford bosses, who order them to beat Ferrari or else. Who wins? You, the viewer. Damon and Bale are at the top of their game, and supporting players are at least as vivid. Tracy Letts, 54, the Pulitzer and Tony-winning writer (August: Osage County) who's also a skyrocketing, Tony-winning actor (Lady Bird, The Post, Little Women), makes Ford boss Henry Ford II a semi-comic monster, while Remo Girone, 70, excels as haughty mogul Enzo Ferrari. Josh Lucas, 48, is hissable as Ford's unctuous underling, and Jon Bernthal conveys Mustang man Lee Iacocca's scheming ambition. Strap into your theater seat: It's a wild ride. —T.A.
The best superhero since Black Panther is Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, the 5-foot-tall Maryland slave who incredibly escaped to Philadelphia, then went back in disguise 13 times and led at least 70 people (including her family) to freedom, before leading Union soldiers in battle. Brain-injured by an overseer when she was in her teens, she often passed out and saw visions she thought God was sending — which guided her in outmaneuvering the hounds and slavers hot on her trail. They called her “Moses,” and even some blacks were out to catch her, for the reward ($1.1 million in today's dollars). Erivo is a superb Tubman, and since she's a Tony-winning Broadway singer, she's great at singing gospel songs to rally her troops. The writing and direction are not half as good as 12 Years a Slave, and there should be a sequel about her life as a Civil War spy, suffragist and activist whose home became the Tubman Home for the Aged. But this is a solid, entertaining film. —T.A.
Jojo Rabbit, PG-13
This bold, ridiculous and controversial comedy, in the tradition of mock musical Springtime for Hitler, beat the Oscar-buzzed runners-up Marriage Story and Bong Joon-ho's Parasite to win the Toronto Film Festival's Grolsch People's Choice Award. Fatherless Berlin boy Jojo (the delightfully expressive Roman Griffin Davis) is in constant conversation with his imaginary friend Adolf, as in Hitler (a devilishly appealing Taika Waititi, who writes, directs and costars). Beloved by his stylish, mysterious mother (Scarlett Johansson in a free-spirited dance of a performance better than her role in Marriage Story), Jojo ultimately learns to overcome his blind worship of the Führer. Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, 50, lays down a brilliantly zany and sweet supporting performance as the perpetually demoted Captain Klenzendorf. —T.M.A.
Bong Joon-ho, 50, is making the biggest imaginable comeback after a couple of commercial clinkers (Snowpiercer and Okja) with this darkly comic piece of social commentary in the form of a kickass home-invasion thriller. It won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and is likely to win the Oscar for best foreign film and get nominated for best picture and best director. More than 130 critics rated it a perfect 100 percent on Rottentomatoes.com. Don't miss this one. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW
Antonio Banderas, 59, stars as Salvador, a film director plagued with physical agony and midlife crisis — a character based on director Pedro Almodóvar, 70. The dazzlingly colorful compositions and vivid characters are like the movies that made Almodóvar famous, but this is a wiser, sadder tale than his ebullient 1980s classics. It's about a genius wrestling his demons to a draw and reconciling with old colleagues and loved ones, including Salvador's tough, loving mother (Penélope Cruz in flashbacks to Salvador's youth). A gorgeous, moving film with a career-capstone performance by Banderas, it makes you feel as if the pain and glory of a tempestuous, gay, mother-obsessed Spanish movie director were a universal experience every grownup must go through. —T.A. FULL REVIEW | READ ANTONIO BANDERAS' 'PAIN AND GLORY' INTERVIEW
In this addition to the Batman canon, the Joker is Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix, 44), who trudges up a steep staircase daily to the dingy abode he shares with his mom (Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy, 65) after another rough day as a professional party clown and comic. Economically declining Gotham is slashing services. “How will I get my meds?” Arthur asks his social worker prior to erupting in violence. At the coal-black heart of the film is Phoenix's striking gem of a performance. He invites us into Arthur's delusions. He makes palpable the unfairness of being so overlooked, and mocked by a late-night TV host (Robert De Niro, 76) Arthur admires. Yet the willfully provocative fable feels empty and derivative. Arthur is like a combination of Taxi Driver's alienated killer and King of Comedy's kidnapper of a talk-show host (both played by De Niro). As well made as Joker is, there is little here to delight in beyond Phoenix's performance. —Lisa Kennedy (L.K.)