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What to Watch on TV and at the Movies This Week

See a tribute to ‘M*A*S*H,’ the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, ‘Finding Your Roots,’ Oprah’s making-of ‘The Color Purple’ doc, Rob Lowe’s new game show ‘The Floor’ and more

spinner image Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P. Henson star in the film "The Color Purple."
(Left to right) Fantasia Barrino stars as Celie and Taraji P. Henson stars as Shug Avery in "The Color Purple."
Ser Baffo/Warner Bros. Pictures

What’s on this week? Whether it’s playing on cable, streaming on Prime Video or Netflix or opening at your local movie theater, we’ve got your must-watch list. Start with TV, and scroll down for movies. It’s all right here.

On TV this week …

Oprah and The Color Purple Journey (Max)

In this documentary, Oprah Winfrey, 69, who got an Oscar nomination in 1985’s The Color Purple, gives you a behind-the-scenes inside lowdown on the 2023 musical version she coproduced with Steven Spielberg, 77, which is a front-runner for two Oscars and a longer shot for about 10 more. “For someone who is about to turn 70,” she told the Daily News, “this is the sweetest, sweetest of moments.”

Watch it: Oprah and the Color Purple Journey, Dec. 28 on Max

Don’t miss this: Oprah’s New Attitude as She Approaches 70: ‘I’m Done With the Shaming’

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The cast of "M*A*S*H."

M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television (Fox)

​“The thing that I loved about M*A*S*H,” says Alan Alda, 87, in this new two-hour documentary about the show whose finale was the highest-rated in TV history, “is that it could be very funny and very serious at the same time, and we could work in every conceivable style — burlesque, drama, melodrama, satire — sometimes all in the same episode.” Filmmaker John Scheinfeld, who made superb recent docs on Elvis, John Lennon and Blood, Sweat & Tears, got highly personal, never-before-seen interviews with the cast and creators, and the clips of classic M*A*S*H moments will crack you up and fill you with nostalgia.

Watch it: M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television, 8 p.m. Jan. 1 on Fox, streaming on Hulu and Tubi Jan. 2

spinner image Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow performing at the 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
(Left to right) Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow performing together at the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
Jennifer Pottheiser/Disney

2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony (ABC)

See performance highlights and standout moments from the musical event honoring Kate Bush, 65; Sheryl Crow, 61; Missy Elliott, 52; Rage Against the Machine; the Spinners; Chaka Khan, 70; Blood, Sweat & Tears founder and Dylan sideman Al Kooper, 79; the late George Michael; Willie Nelson, 90; and more.

Watch it: 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, 8 p.m. ET Jan. 1 on ABC, streaming on Hulu and Disney+ Jan. 2.

Don’t miss this: The Most Memorable Moments of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2023

Finding Your Roots (PBS)

Henry Louis Gates Jr. and his DNA sleuths reveal the hidden family pasts of singers Alanis Morissette and Ciara, among others. (AARP is a corporate sponsor of Season 10.)

Watch it: Finding Your Roots, 8 p.m. ET Jan. 2 on PBS

Don’t miss this: 8 Great Holiday TV Music Specials for 2023

And don’t miss this: It’s Hallmark Christmas Movie Season! Here Are the Best New Movies to Watch.

The Floor (Hulu)

Rob Lowe, 59, hosts a new Hulu game show that pits contestants in a battle that resembles a hybrid of Trivial Pursuit and chess — OK, maybe checkers — as the cutthroat hopefuls stand on a massive LED grid floor that tracks their progress in hopes of winning a $250,000 cash prize.

Watch it: The Floor, Jan. 3 on Hulu

​​Your Prime Video watch of the week is here!

Thursday Night Football

Catch the Dec. 28 NFL New York Jets vs. Cleveland Browns game with cool new Amazon Prime Video features: If you join the game in progress, Rapid Recap lets you catch what you missed before you jump into the livestream, and Field Goal Target Zones overlays multiple lines on the field that show the statistical likelihood that a kicker will make a field goal. Amazon’s new AI identifies pivotal situations, letting fans read the play and track open receivers in real time, and guide viewers on how fourth-down decisions are made. Football was never so techie!

Watch it: Thursday Night Football on Prime Video

Don’t miss this: The Best Things Coming to Prime Video in January

Your Netflix watch of the week is here!

​⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Maestro, R

As West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein, Bradley Cooper captures his incandescent musical gift, joie de vivre, reckless prankishness, inwardness and performative ebullience, his bisexual seductiveness and utter selfishness. As his Broadway star wife, Felicia Montealegre, Carey Mulligan is even better. We feel her radiant intelligence and big heart, the spark between them and her exasperation when he courts handsome youths at their legendary posh parties. —Tim Appelo (T.A.)

Watch it: Maestro on Netflix

Don’t miss this: Just How Accurate Is the Leonard Bernstein Movie ‘Maestro’?

And don’t miss this: The Best Things Coming to Netflix in January

What’s new at the movies …

⭐⭐⭐☆☆ The Color Purple, PG-13

The Pulitzer Prize–winning 1982 novel by Alice Walker, 79, is strong medicine. The Color Purple Broadway musical version has been adapted for the screen, following the 1985 drama from Steven Spielberg, 77. The movie musical about Celie — an abused orphan in the Deep South suffering repeated abominations until she finally gets out from under and finds redemption — boasts an unbeatable cast: Fantasia Barrino as the put-upon heroine; a vibrant Taraji P. Henson, 53, as Shug Avery, the singer who escaped their hometown; and Rustin’s Colman Domingo, 54, as the meanest, orneriest, downright evil Mister. The costumes, vocal talent and energetic production numbers are first-rate. Yet the story’s pile-on of horrors — incest, rape, baby theft, physical abuse, soul-crushing incarceration — make for a discordant mix of the feel-good and the feel-worse. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)

Watch it: The Color Purple, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Ferrari, R

Ferrari is sleek, fast and dangerous. Adam Driver steers the thrilling biopic with a gripping, mature performance as graying Italian motor company owner Enzo Ferrari. The racer-turned-entrepreneur finds himself at a crossroads in 1957. His company is in crisis. Given that it takes a village to manufacture exquisite cars for consumers, as well as Formula 1 racers, the local economy weighs on his broad shoulders. His marriage to Laura (a searing Penélope Cruz) has withered under the pressure of his ambition and their only son’s death. His long-term mistress, Lina Lardi (a plummy Shailene Woodley), comforts Enzo, but Lina insists her lover acknowledge paternity of their boy. That revelation would detonate the fiery Laura. Under these high stakes, nimble director Michael Mann, 80, balances the human crisis with riveting racing scenes climaxing in the Mille Miglia sequence, a thousand-mile competition across Italy. Action and soul: Ferrari is a fierce, moving Oscar competitor by a modern master. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Ferrari, in theaters

Don’t miss this: Theaters Offer $5 Surprise Screenings to Lure You Back to the Multiplex

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⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Freud’s Last Session, PG-13

Does God exist? What would 20th-century intellectuals Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins, 85) and Oxford don C.S. Lewis (Matthew Goode) have discussed if they’d met in Freud’s London townhouse in the waning days of the pain-wracked father of psychoanalysis? As England enters World War II, the men circle each other, poking at past traumas and issues of faith over a single soggy afternoon. This kind of historical two-hander, perfected in Frost/Nixon and The Queen, is a narrative trick, like a locked-room mystery. Despite the fascinating subject, the challenge is to fully develop the characters, aim them at each other and await fireworks. Unfortunately, these screenwriters feel like they’re struggling to strike a wet match. Moments of spark exist: when WWI vet Lewis freaks out during an air raid or when Freud defensively refutes his own twisted relationship with his daughter, child psychiatry pioneer Anna Freud (Babylon Berlin’s memorable Liv Lisa Fries). Yet Freud’s Last Session never quite catches fire. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Freud’s Last Session, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐☆☆ The Boys in the Boat, PG-13

The Boys in the Boat is 62-year-old director George Clooney’s Chariots of Fire. That champion won four Oscars in 1982. This gorgeously filmed and scored (also dated and predictable) drama stirs up the real-life underdog tale of the University of Washington JV crew team. It’s the Depression; adversity reigns. “Hobo” Joe Rantz (tall, towheaded Callum Turner) has never attended a regatta, but the student’s been living rough and tuition’s overdue. He tries out, hoping for a cot and three squares. Crusty Coach Al Ulbrickson (a dour Joel Edgerton) recruits the newbie, while the university threatens to gut his budget. Coach needs a win — and gets one (triumphant cheering!), as his JV Huskies flex their biceps, row, row, rowing their shell all the way to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Nodding to the past, there’s a brief encounter with Olympian Jesse Owens, and the bonus of aggravating Adolf Hitler, a peevish mustached man observing from the stands. —T.M.A.

Watch it: The Boys in the Boat, in theaters

Don't miss this: George Clooney and Joel Edgerton on ‘The Boys in the Boat’

Also catch up with …

The Crown, Season 6, Part 2 (Netflix)

Bummed by Part 1’s finale, the death of Diana? In its final six episodes, The Crown moves on to happier times: the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton, 67), the marriage of Prince Charles (Dominic West, 54) and Camilla (Olivia Williams, 55) and the college romance of Prince William (Ed McVey) and Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy). Sorry, no Prince Harry and Meghan Markle romance on this show (creator Peter Morgan, 60, has suggested that those events are too recent to be included).

Watch it: The Crown on Netflix

Don’t miss this: Catch up on all the royal characters (and the actors portraying them)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Godzilla Minus One, PG-13

The latest Japanese-produced Godzilla movie from Japan's Toho Studio takes the character back to his roots even as it reinvents him. Set in the late 1940s, it focuses on a group of ordinary citizens, including an ex-navy pilot who rejected a kamikaze mission, and a young woman who takes in an orphaned girl. They embark on a people's crusade against Godzilla, a dinosaur-like creature made gigantic by atomic testing, because the government refuses to take responsibility for dealing with him. Borrowing from an array of classic movies, including the original Jaws, this is a rare giant monster movie where the human relationships are as compelling as the scenes where the big guy stomps and incinerates cities. —Matt Zoller Seitz (M.Z.S.)

Watch it: Godzilla Minus One, in theaters

Don’t miss this: Why ‘Godzilla Minus One’ Is the Biggest Unexpected Hit Since ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ American Fiction, PG-13

Jeffrey Wright, 58, owns 2023. The brilliant actor delivered a mighty profile as Rustin’s Rep. Adam Clayton Powell and now carries Cord Jefferson’s brainy, acerbic comedy as the enraged Thelonius “Monk” Ellison, an academic whose latest erudite novel is a least-seller. When he encounters a Black woman novelist whose breakout debut employs young urban speech, the writer confronts market realities. As Monk attempts to prove that he, too, can write pandering fiction, he gets drawn back into his affluent family’s orbit. Mother Leslie Uggams, 80, and siblings Tracee Ellis Ross, 51, and Sterling K. Brown form a formidable family unit (with their New England beach house, the Ellisons are more seaside lane than city street). Both a family dramedy and a sharp take on publishing’s failures, American Fiction also reflects the concerns of a microcosm of Black artists working in Hollywood, navigating systemic racism while expected to deliver stories with “street cred,” whatever that means — and to whom — on any particular day. —T.M.A.

Watch it: American Fiction, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐☆☆ Wonka, PG

Timothée Chalamet exudes wide-eyed charm as chocolatier Willy Wonka struggling to set up his first shop as a 20-something orphan. (Curiously, he flashes no hint of the menace or cynicism that Gene Wilder famously brought to the role in the original 1971 film.) This sunshiny Wonka is surrounded by an overstuffed cast that includes a plumped-up Keegan-Michael Key, 52, Olivia Colman (in full camp mode) and Hugh Grant, 63 (who goes all in as a diminutive Oompa Loompa). Paul King, the filmmaker behind the two justly praised live-action Paddington movies, brings a visual flair to the enterprise, which boasts several well-choreographed production numbers and new songs that mesh nicely with classics such as “Pure Imagination.” The candy-colored visuals go a long way to compensate for a script that can be a muddle, stretched taffy-thin by too many villains, subplots and characters who are not given much to do. —Thom Geier (T.G.)

Watch it: Wonka, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Zone of Interest, PG-13

Among the most chilling photographs displayed at Berlin’s Topography of Terror museum is this image: smiling female Auschwitz guards enjoying their day off, steins raised, at a beer garden. Jonathan Glazer, 58, sets his Oscar-bound Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest nearby, at the compound of Camp Commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel, Babylon Berlin) and his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Huller, also in the much-buzzed Anatomy of a Fall). Their happy home, with its lush garden (fertilized with suspicious ash) and playful children, shelters a family striving for a bourgeois life within sniffing distance of the spewing chimneys at the infamous concentration camp. Like the photo at the Topography of Terror, the movie shows the banality of wickedness. For the Höss family, life goes on amid the scurrying, starving prisoner-servants underfoot as the patriarch rises due to his genocidal efficiency. Their prosperous garden of evil, fueled by denial, is an atrocity of complicity, and a timely remembrance. —T.M.A.

Watch it: The Zone of Interest, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Poor Things, R

Emma Stone goes far out on a limb — and then leaps without a net — in her second outrageous collaboration with Yorgos Lanthimos, 50 (The Favourite). Stone delivers a sexy, physically demanding and outlandish performance that exists in an artistic universe far, far away from the mainstream gloss of Spiderman’s saucy girlfriend Gwen. She plays Bella Baxter, a young suicide given an electric shock at a second life by the compassionate but cray-cray scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (a sublimely ridiculous Willem Dafoe, 68). His bumpy, scarred visage reflects his predilection for self-experimentation, while Bella is his beauty. Mark Ruffalo, 56, flexes his comic chops as a Bella-obsessed gent who has no idea what she’s capable of — or of his own limitations. Part Frankenstein, part Galatea, Bella has a learning curve that’s swift, unexpected and driven by unrestrained appetites. Although Poor Things occasionally careens into extreme whimsy, it’s a gorgeously shot, designed and costumed portrait of an incomparable woman on the verge of a fantastical breakthrough. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Poor Things, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Boy and the Heron, PG-13

Long ago, when my two grown kids were little, I adored animation. Then it became something like eating too many hot dogs — I never again craved wieners or hyper cartoons. The major exception is the creations of Japanese genius Hayao Miyazaki, 82. His latest movie is true to form: unhurried, tender and wise. Nearly every frame of this artistic masterpiece inspires awe. His visions of undulating waters, flickering flames and sunlight cracking cloud cover have sublime detail, composition and color. The story itself offers wonder, humor and life lessons that don’t reduce to “Eat your broccoli.” The hero of this feature, which Miyazaki claims to be his last, is a motherless boy. Mahito encounters a heron, a magical creature symbolizing good luck, a fowl capable of moving among three elements: earth, water and air. Together, bird and orphan cross the thin membrane between life and death, encountering strange and marvelous creatures, and inhabiting a visually thrilling story that represents the very best in bold contemporary animation and popular art. —T.M.A.

Watch it: The Boy and The Heron, in theaters

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Leave the World Behind, R (Netflix)

Sam Esmail, best known for creating Mr. Robot, directed and co-adapted this movie based on the unsettling best-selling book. A family of four (led by Julia Roberts, 56, and Ethan Hawke, 53) rents a ritzy vacation home on Long Island — only to be interrupted by a man and his daughter (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la Herrold), who turn up claiming the house is really theirs and a cyberattack has forced them to seek shelter in a familiar place. Prepare to be unnerved in all the right ways.

Watch it: Leave the World Behind on Netflix

Don’t miss this: Julia Roberts’ Apocalyptic Netflix Movie ‘Leave the World Behind’: Controversial Changes, Weird Ending

May December, R (Netflix)

Like the real Mary Kay Letourneau — jailed for bedding a 12-year-old she later married and had children with — this film’s Gracie (Julianne Moore, 62) was jailed for having sex with young Joe (Charles Melton, 32). Now they’re married and about to send their teens off to college. She strenuously denies she ever did anything wrong, though Joe is having midlife doubts. Director Todd Haynes, 62, makes it even more unsettling by introducing TV star Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), who’s going to play Gracie in a movie, so they let her live with and study them way too intimately. The Joe-Gracie dynamic is like Gus Van Sant’s To Die For; the Elizabeth-Gracie clash recalls Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. The result is a creepy master class in acting. 

Watch it: May December on Netflix, also in limited theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Napoleon, R

This account of the warrior ruler who defined 19th century Europe is the sort of stuff epic director Ridley Scott, 85, eats for breakfast. Here he reunites with his Gladiator villain Joaquin Phoenix, whose take on Napoleon is frequently fresh and often funny (deliberately so). Scott brings an almost classical sense of spectacle to the often pulpy script by David Scarpa and gives each detailed battle scene its own distinct color palette. As Napoleon’s love Josephine, Vanessa Kirby is an apt volleyer for Phoenix’s eccentricity. The movie’s 158-minute length is substantial, but given how eventful its subject’s life was, Napoleon practically gallops along. —Glenn Kenny (G.K.)

Watch it: Napoleon, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, PG-13

Set 64 years before the 2012 hit about Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the young badass who volunteered to fight to the death on TV in a dystopian future, the Hunger Games prequel stars not Lawrence but Rachel Zegler (from the West Side Story remake) as fighter Lucy Gray. It’s mainly the origin story of future villain Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth). Like Anakin Skywalker before he morphed into Darth Vader, Snow starts off sympathetic, an ambitious but nice guy from a genteel but financially strapped family. He falls for Lucy (who has a Southern accent for some reason and dresses and sings like a minor country star), whom he’s assigned to mentor to win the deadly game. At 157 minutes, it’s overlong, but Blyth and Zegler have chemistry and real acting chops, and his not-so-heroic journey is a nicely nuanced portrait of how someone started out before breaking bad. —Dana Kennedy (D.K.)

Watch it: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, in theaters

Don’t miss this: 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Viola Davis

⭐⭐⭐☆☆ Saltburn, R

Socially awkward scholarship nerd Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) develops a possibly fatal attraction to tall, charismatic rich kid Jacob Elordi (Elvis Presley in Priscilla) in this satirical drama written and directed by Emerald Fennell, following up her acclaimed Promising Young Woman. It’s as if the filmmaker pureed Joseph Losey’s 1963 class-clash drama The Servant, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1968 satire Teorema and bits of Monty Python and Peter Greenaway, and baked them in an overheated oven. Consistently perverse and often visually startling, it’s nevertheless weirdly unsatisfying. But it’s worth it to see Richard E. Grant, 66, and Rosamund Pike, highly entertaining as Elordi’s dotty parents. —G.K.

Watch it: Saltburn, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Rustin, PG-13 (Netflix)

The enormous potential of historical movies is to resurrect heroes scratched from the official record — like Bayard Rustin. The charismatic, gay believer in Gandhi's peaceful civil disobedience orchestrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington in a matter of weeks. Oscar-bound Colman Domingo, 53, brilliantly embodies the Civil Rights grassroots activist while showing a powerful man with a joy for living and compassion for his fellow men. The tragedy — and the root of the film’s complexity — is that Rustin’s sexuality put him at odds with some in the movement’s inner circle, revealing that their dedication to equality had limits. With exquisite music from Branford Marsalis, 63, and a stellar supporting cast including Aml Ameen as Martin Luther King Jr. and Jeffrey Wright, 57, as Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Rustin is a bold and generous movie that sets its conventional biopic wrapper on fire. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Rustin on Netflix and in limited theaters​

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The Holdovers, R

Director Alexander Payne, 62, made actor Paul Giamatti, 56, famous in his 2004 wine-country comedy Sideways. They reunite in an Oscar-touted, record-setting Toronto Film Festival hit about a curmudgeon (Giamatti’s specialty) who teaches at a New England prep school and is stuck on campus to babysit a few students over Christmas break in the early 1970s. He bonds with one chronic misfit kid (Dominic Sessa) and the school’s cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who’s mourning her son, a former student at the school who was accepted at Swarthmore but, cash-poor, was sent to die in Vietnam. It’s a hilarious, poignant movie in a beautiful, character-rich retro-1970s style. It’s a Christmas movie as uplifting as the saddest of Christmas songs, and as full of hope against all odds. —T.A.

Watch it: The Holdovers, in theaters, streaming Dec. 29 on Peacock

Nyad, PG-13 (Netflix)

Annette Bening is generating Oscar buzz for this biopic of Diana Nyad, a competitive swimmer who long dreamed of swimming from Cuba to Florida. Decades after a failed attempt at age 28, she returned to the waters to try again. And again. And again. With the support of a loyal friend (Jodie Foster, 60) and coach (Rhys Ifans, 56), she eschews a shark cage and battles both jellyfish and the elements in the feel-good story of one stubborn and determined woman.

Watch it: Nyad on Netflix

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Killers of the Flower Moon, R

Lily Gladstone is the beating heart of Martin Scorsese’s historical true-crime drama about the reign of terror in 1920s Osage County, Oklahoma. The wealthy diabetic Mollie Burkhart comes to represent the Osage Nation, who are living in frontier luxury after oil was discovered beneath their communal land. Scorsese, 80, lushly re-creates the oil-rush backwater, with its muddy streets, fancy motorcars and tribal pageantry. However, the director miscasts 48-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio as 28-year-old Ernest Burkhart, Mollie’s white seducer. They wed but the seemingly dutiful husband has divided loyalties, remaining obligated to his uncle, rancher William Hale (quietly terrifying Robert De Niro, 80). Hale architects a murderous conspiracy to profit from the Osage birthright. As the body count rises, including Mollie’s two sisters, coincidence turns to conviction — and the greedy culprits must be brought to justice. The juicy period piece based on the nonfiction bestseller by David Grann gets the Hollywood star treatment, but a multipart series with age-appropriate male stars might have better-served the grim chapter’s complexities. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Killers of the Flower Moon, in theaters

Don’t miss this: Everything you need to know before watching 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Anatomy of a Fall, R

Writers Sandra (standout Sandra Hüller) and Vincent (Swann Arlaud) share a remote alpine chalet with their 11-year-old son, Daniel, but their marriage is strained. What makes this elegant, gripping crime thriller (and Cannes Film Festival winner) unusual is that the pot never boils. When an attractive journalist comes to interview the more successful Sandra, an unseen Vincent blasts music to disrupt their conversation. How passive-aggressive — or is his behavior something angrier? Later, he tumbles from the third-floor window, bloodying the snow below. The narrative pivots, becoming a courtroom drama with Sandra in the dock, accused of suspicious death. Her vision-impaired son is the sole material witness. Daniel has knowledge of what occurred in the house — but how reliable is he? Is he loyal to his surviving mother, or to his late father? Did Sandra or didn’t she? If only those chalet walls could talk. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Anatomy of a Fall, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Oppenheimer, R

Ounce by ounce of plutonium, this biopic of the father of the atomic bomb is pretty genius — but it’s no Albert Einstein (played by Tom Conti, 81, in an essential cameo). The story ricochets through time and space fast as a photon, plotting the arc of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Oscar-bound Cillian Murphy). As head of the Manhattan Project, the left-leaning, womanizing physicist passionately pursues pioneering atomic science. But he can’t live with his baby, the bomb that decimated Hiroshima, ending World War II. The sprawling drama is a dazzling cinematic achievement boosted by muscular performances from Robert Downey Jr., 58, Matt Damon, 52, and Jason Clarke, 54, and a huge cast of characters with complicated collisions. Showstopper Florence Pugh seduces as the communist mistress Oppie dumps for career and the missus (Emily Blunt). Perhaps in trimming the story to three hours, some of the male-female narrative connective tissue was cut, which may be why, for all its fascinating moving parts, the busy biopic isn’t more emotionally explosive. —T.M.A.

Watch it: Oppenheimer, in theaters

⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Barbie, PG-13

Hot pink in the summertime: That’s the new Barbie. And, whoopsie, she’s having an existential crisis. When the Mattel doll (a perfectly cast Margot Robbie) leaves her platonic pal Ken (hunky Ryan Gosling) for the real world, she gets a big surprise. Unlike her native Barbieland, a girl-power utopia where plastic playthings are presidents and Supreme Court justices, she confronts the patriarchy. Over at Mattel, the CEO (Will Ferrell, 56) presides over an all-male board that won’t play nice and wants to put her in a box. Throughout, the tone is playfully ironic with a side of preach. The biggest joy is in the endless runway of familiar doll costumes and the cotton candy sets. Robbie makes a genial ringmaster, with a terrific cast that includes Rhea Perlman, 75, America Ferrera and a slew of starry Barbies and Kens. Is Barbie a feminist? The movie replies with a chorus of “yes!” —T.M.A.

Watch it: Barbie, in theaters and on demand

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