All the Money in the World (R) Based on the real-life kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, this drama is about the wealthy heir’s mother (Michelle Williams) and a private detective (Mark Wahlberg) who team up to try to recover the hostage. Also with Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer, Romain Duris, Marco Leonardi, Charlie Plummer, Andrew Buchan, and Stacy Martin.
A Bad Moms Christmas (R) The comic inventiveness of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn is still fresh here, which is good, because this sequel following 16 months on the original’s heels has pretty much the same plot, with the moms rebelling against all the work they’re expected to do for the holidays. The thesis is laid out baldly and the different plotlines all follow the same track at the same time, but we do get Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon as the moms’ moms. Hines gives a creeptastic performance as a mother whose clinginess hits stalker levels, and Hahn gets the funniest set piece as a spa worker waxing the genitals of a gigantically endowed male stripper (Justin Hartley). Kenny G cameos as himself and says, “It’s not a flute, bitch.” All in all, these moms make a fine holiday guest. Also with Peter Gallagher, Jesse Hernandez, Oona Laurence, Emjay Anthony, Ariana Greenblatt, Wanda Sykes, and Christina Applegate.
Bleeding Steel (NR) Jackie Chan stars in this action film as a special agent tasked with protecting a young woman (Tess Haubrich) who’s the target of a crime syndicate. Also with Callan Mulvey, Damien Garvey, and Show Lo.
Coco (PG) Pixar finds new life in its first musical. This Mexican-set animated film is about a 12-year-old boy (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) who becomes trapped in the land of the dead on Día de los Muertos and has to get a blessing from a great musician ancestor (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) to return to the world of the living. Like 2014’s The Book of Life, this movie depicts the afterlife as a lit-up version of Mexico City, with the houses stacked on the steep sides of the surrounding mountains, but this film expands on the earlier work with some breathtaking visuals, including a bridge to the afterlife that’s a giant structure made of glowing marigold petals. The adult actors, not known as singers, make a good fist of the music, but Gonzalez steals away the show with his renditions of “The World Es Mi Familia” and “Proud Corazón.” Immersed in the culture of Mexico, this is a unique Pixar triumph. Additional voices by Gael García Bernal, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Alanna Ubach, Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos, Gabriel Iglesias, and John Ratzenberger.
Crooked House (PG-13) Adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel, this murder mystery stars Max Irons as a former spy-turned-detective hired to catch the killer of his ex-girlfriend’s grandfather. Also with Christina Hendricks, Gillian Anderson, Honor Kneafsey, Julian Sands, Christian McKay, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Terence Stamp, and Glenn Close.
Darkest Hour (PG-13) Faint praise: This is the best movie about Winston Churchill ever made. I’m afraid this World War II drama doesn’t deserve any more than that. Gary Oldman plays the British politician, a brilliant failure until he’s handed the prime minister’s office at a time when other people don’t want the job. He then has to decide whether to have Britain fight on alone against the Nazis or salvage an army trapped at Dunkirk by suing for peace. Oldman is being widely touted for the Oscar here, and while his depiction of Churchill’s grave self-doubts is good enough, he isn’t surprising in any way. Neither is the typically dull direction by Joe Wright (Atonement), and there’s a fabricated scene with Churchill on a train that’s so fake it would take down a much better movie than this. Also with Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn, Ronald Pickup, Stephen Dillane, Samuel West, David Bamber, and David Strathairn.
The Disaster Artist (R) James Franco finds the role he was born to play in Tommy Wiseau, the real-life director and star of the legendarily bad 2003 film The Room, in this daffy, loving account of the making of that camp classic. Dave Franco portrays Greg Sestero, a painfully inhibited actor who befriends Tommy, moves with him to L.A., co-stars in The Room, and bears witness to Tommy’s madness on set. The actors portraying the cast members of The Room (including Ari Graynor, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, and Jacki Weaver) clearly have a blast re-enacting the original movie’s nonsensical scenes, but this film turns on the unlikely friendship between Tommy and Greg. Dave makes an excellent straight man to his brother, who duplicates Wiseau’s indecipherable accent and mannerisms and also projects the torment of a man puzzled by the world’s inability to understand him. It all makes for a charming buddy comedy that will appeal even to people who’ve never heard of The Room. Also with Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, Megan Mullally, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Charlyne Yi, Randall Park, Zoey Deutch, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, and uncredited cameos by Judd Apatow, Zach Braff, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bryan Cranston, and Greg Sestero.
Downsizing (R) Alexander Payne’s most frustrating film takes place in a near future when middle-class people have the option of shrinking themselves down to five inches tall so that they can live like rich people in their miniaturized state. Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor come up with myriad interesting ideas from this (satirizing economic inequality, consumerism, the refugee crisis, and mid-life crisis stories), but they keep bouncing from one thought to another without ever following through. Matt Damon stars as a Nebraska native who goes through the process, but he’s trapped in what turns out to be yet another story where the white guy learns that there’s injustice in the world and decides to help benighted people of color out of it. This movie winds up looking smaller than any of its characters. Also with Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Jason Sudeikis, James Van Der Beek, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, Margo Martindale, Niecy Nash, Rolf Lassgård, Ingjerd Egeberg, Udo Kier, and Kristen Wiig.
Father Figures (R) Owen Wilson and Ed Helms star as brothers who go searching for their biological father after their mother (Glenn Close) reveals that she doesn’t know who he is. Also with J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken, Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames, Katt Williams, Katie Aselton, and June Squibb.
Ferdinand (PG) Munro Leaf’s children’s book deserved better than this flavorless animated film about a massive Spanish bull (voiced by John Cena) who doesn’t want to fight but, because of mistaken identity, gets thrown in with other bulls destined for the ring. The animal characters are cute, but the script can’t make Ferdinand’s pacifism into something funny or dramatically meaningful. The jokes don’t work, either, and Cena (who can be terribly funny when he’s allowed to cut loose) is hamstrung by the PG rating. Your kids will find this watchable, but you won’t find it any more than that. Additional voices by Bobby Cannavale, Lily Day, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, David Tennant, Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, Gabriel Iglesias, Raúl Esparza, Juanes, and Peyton Manning.
The Greatest Showman (PG) Much like its subject, a thoroughgoing fraud. Hugh Jackman stars in this musical biography of P.T. Barnum as he founds a circus in Manhattan. The film relentlessly whitewashes Barnum, presenting him as an enlightened soul who puts performers of color on stage and wants to transport his audiences to a better world for a while. In reality, the historical Barnum was a crook who paraded his racial “grotesques” for white audiences to gawk at. Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land) don’t come up with a single good song, and first-time director Michael Gracey strains mightily but can’t get any of these musical numbers to take flight. It’s a particularly bad time to glorify a big-talking con artist willing to racially exploit his performers for his customers’ money. Also with Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seeley, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Rebecca Ferguson.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (PG-13) For better and worse, this feels like it was made in 1993. The sequel to the 24-year-old adventure film finds that the titular board game has morphed into a video game, which is then found in the present day by four bored teenagers who promptly get transformed into their game avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan) and sucked into the game’s world. The action sequences are fair and the movie only becomes unwatchable once it stops for these characters to work out their high-school issues. The little kids will be reasonably diverted for a couple of hours, but the main audience for this figures to be their parents nostalgic for the ’90s. Now when do we get the remake of Zathura? Also with Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, and an uncredited Colin Hanks.
Just Getting Started (PG-13) The latest comedy by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) stars Morgan Freeman as a retiree whose status as alpha-dog at his nursing home is threatened by a new arrival (Tommy Lee Jones). Also with René Russo, Joe Pantoliano, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Elizabeth Ashley, George Wallace, and the late Glenne Headly.
Justice League (PG-13) Joss Whedon got brought in for rewrites and reshoots on this superhero omnibus film, which bears an all-too-close and unflattering resemblance to his The Avengers. Batman and Wonder Woman (Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot) team up and recruit some new superheroes to battle an impending alien invasion by a frightfully dull supervillain named Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds). Whedon injects a welcome sense of humor that particularly benefits Ezra Miller as an endearingly gawky The Flash, but it jars with the somber seriousness of director Zack Snyder. Characters are given unrewarding subplots and an A-list supporting cast gets wasted in a way that Marvel films would never stand for. Without a radical rethink, DC Comics’ movies are doomed to be second-best. Also with Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, and an uncredited Billy Crudup.
Lady Bird (PG) Saoirse Ronan blows through this teen flick with gale force as a fiercely independent Catholic school girl who nicknames herself “Lady Bird.” In her solo filmmaking debut, Greta Gerwig creates a great character and observes well the details of Catholic school and the pressures of growing up in a financially strapped family. The film probably could have used a somewhat stronger story, as the difficult relationship between Lady Bird and her well-intentioned but mystified mom (Laurie Metcalf) doesn’t come to enough of a point. Still, it’s worth it just to see Ronan react to a breakup by tearfully singing along to “Crash Into Me,” or running down the street after her first kiss and screaming with joy. This may not be among the greatest teen films, but Ronan makes it enthralling at all times. Also with Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Tracy Letts, Odeya Rush, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG) Dan Stevens overacts rather badly in this biography of Charles Dickens and the manic few weeks he spent writing A Christmas Carol. As the author writes, the characters in the story come to life in front of him, and the main reason to see this is Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge. Other than that, this movie is a bald-faced attempt to be a Victorian version of Shakespeare in Love, carried out without half the wit and with a forced air of “we’re having fun now” giving way to hopeless cliches about writers. This movie deserves to be boiled in its own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through its heart. Also with Morfydd Clark, Justin Edwards, Jonathan Pryce, Simon Callow, Bill Paterson, Donald Sumpter, Ely Solan, and Ian McNeice.
Murder on the Orient Express (PG-13) Kenneth Branagh’s star-studded adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery novel starts like gangbusters before fading. The director portrays the great detective, trying to solve the murder of a passenger (Johnny Depp) in a luxury train that’s stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere. Branagh dexterously plays the detective’s borderline anal retentiveness and love of dainty French pastries for comedy, but the movie still misses the fussy, unshowy Poirot from Christie’s novels, and it botches the ending, too. Still, the director comes up with some good flourishes, Michael Green’s script neatly turns around some of the book’s offensive racial stereotyping, and the acting honors get stolen away by Michelle Pfeiffer as a randy American widow hiding some iron determination underneath. Also with Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr., Tom Bateman, Lucy Boynton, Sergei Polunin, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Josh Gad, Olivia Colman, Marwan Kenzari, Derek Jacobi, and Penélope Cruz.
Pitch Perfect 3 (PG-13) The latest installment of the a cappella musical series has the Barden Bellas entertaining American troops on a USO tour. Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Ruby Rose, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, John Lithgow, John Michael Higgins, and Elizabeth Banks.
The Shape of Water (R) Not one of Guillermo Del Toro’s best, this science-fiction fable nevertheless deserves to be on the same shelf. Sally Hawkins stars as a mute but not deaf janitor who falls in love with an Amazon River god (Doug Jones) being held captive at the secret government facility where she works. This film is set in America but feels oddly French thanks to Del Toro’s whimsical mood and Alexandre Desplat’s music. There’s an interspecies sex scene here and, even more exotically, a dance number, and the film is as besotted with old movies as it is with fairy tale romances. The exceptionally plain-faced Hawkins more than merits a showcase like this, and she vibrates with grace and loneliness that’s lit up by unexpected love. This tender love story suffers from a one-dimensional villain (Michael Shannon, who’s very scary anyway), but you’d be churlish not to recognize this film’s immense craft and surpassing beauty. Also with Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nick Searcy, David Hewlett, Nigel Bennett, Morgan Kelly, and Richard Jenkins.
The Star (PG) A lot of starry names have been gathered together for this utterly toothless animated film about a donkey (voiced by Steven Yeun) in Biblical times who has to act so that Joseph and Mary (voiced by Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez) can celebrate the first Christmas. Directing his first feature film, Timothy Reckart fails on simple animation tasks like giving the characters weight and dimension, and the jokes and dialogue in the script are distractingly modern. Needless to say, moments of wonder like the annunciation fall painfully flat. What a waste of a good cast. Additional voices by Oprah Winfrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan, Ving Rhames, Patricia Heaton, Kris Kristofferson, Anthony Anderson, Gabriel Iglesias, Aidy Bryant, Keegan-Michael Key, Mariah Carey, and Christopher Plummer.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13) Rian Johnson (Looper) picks up the saga with Finn (John Boyega) teaming up with a mechanic (Kelly Marie Tran) on a stealth mission to keep the Resistance alive while Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to coax an embittered Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) back to the fight. As screenwriter, Johnson stuffs this thing with plot developments and can’t always manage them all gracefully as the director. However, there are salutary touches everywhere, including deeper characterization of the conflicted villain (Adam Driver), some welcome dopey humor, and a purple-haired Laura Dern displaying a different and extremely feminine style of leadership without losing anything in authority. There’s also some neat extraterrestrial flora and fauna and a climactic battle sequence on a salt planet that manages to be beautiful as well as dramatic. It’s enough to keep even the non-fans on board for the ninth chapter. Also with Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Benicio Del Toro, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Justin Theroux, Billie Lourd, and the late Carrie Fisher.
Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13) A grand comic showcase for Oceania’s funniest filmmaker. Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) takes over the Marvel comics series and concocts a story that strands Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on an alien planet, enslaved as a gladiator, and needing to get back to Asgard to prevent the destruction of his world by his disowned elder sister (Cate Blanchett). Hemsworth carries this comedy exceptionally well, playing well of his plethora of supporting actors and no longer having to serve as a fish out of water on Earth. Waititi’s playful mood loosens up the entire cast and turns the alien planet into a funny dystopia, and the director also shows up as an alien warrior whose fearsome appearance belies his bashful temperament. The least interesting of Marvel’s series explodes joyously to life with this shaggy and enormously likable film. Also with Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Rachel House, Zachary Levi, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, and an uncredited Matt Damon.
Tiger Zinda Hai (NR) This Indian sequel to Ek tha Tiger stars Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif as rival spies who must team up to foil a terrorist plot overseas. Also with Anupriya Goenka, Paresh Rawal, Sajjad Delafrooz, Angad Bedi, and Zachary Coffin.
Wonder (PG) R.J. Palacio’s children’s book gets a soft-boiled movie adaptation starring Jacob Tremblay (Room) as a boy with a deformed face who must cope with going to middle school with a general population of kids. The movie is told from both the boy’s perspective and those of his overshadowed older sister (Izabela Vidovic) and a fellow student (Noah Jupe). Director/co-writer Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) puts in a nifty sequence when two of the boys bond over their love of Minecraft, but he and his fellow writers can’t resist softening up any character who might seem in any way unsympathetic, and none of the cast (including Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts as the protagonist’s parents) seems to bring their best. This isn’t as good as Wonderstruck, or Wonder Woman, for that matter. Also with Mandy Patinkin, Millie Davis, Bryce Gheisar, Daveed Diggs, and Sonia Braga.
Wonder Wheel (PG-13) Woody Allen’s latest film got a rapturous welcome at the New York Film Festival, but aside from Vittorio Storaro’s gorgeous cinematography, it’s hard to see what those festivalgoers saw. This exceptionally lazy melodrama stars Kate WInslet as a frustrated married woman on Coney Island in the 1950s who begins an affair with a lifeguard and aspiring playwright (Justin Timberlake), who also serves as the movie’s relentlessly self-serving narrator. The plot twists are as predictable as they are clumsy, and Allen’s touch with actors is so nonexistent that even Winslet is thrown off track. This awards season release wouldn’t even have been good enough to compete in the late-summer doldrums. Also with Jim Belushi, Juno Temple, Max Casella, and David Krumholtz.
Beyond Skyline (R) Frank Grillo stars in this science-fiction film as a cop trying to free his son from space aliens. Also with Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais, Callan Mulvey, Valentine Payen, and Betty Gabriel.
Call Me by Your Name (R) Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age romance stars Timothée Chalamet as a 17-year-old boy who falls for an older man (Armie Hammer) during a summer in Italy in the 1980s. Also with Michael Stuhlbarg, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, and Amira Casar.
Hangman (R) Al Pacino and Karl Urban star in this thriller as detectives trying to catch a serial killer. Also with Brittany Snow, Sarah Shahi, Joe Anderson, Michael Papajohn, and Stephanie Enderby.
I, Tonya (R) This biography of infamous Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding stars Margot Robbie. Also with Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Mckenna Grace, Bojana Novakovic, Paul Walter Hauser, and Caitlin Carver.
Molly’s Game (R) The directing debut of TV show creator Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing) stars Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, the real-life skiing champion who reinvented herself as the hostess of high-stakes extralegal poker games on both coasts. Also with Idris Elba, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd, Jeremy Strong, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, J.C. MacKenzie, Samantha Isler, Justin Kirk, and Kevin Costner.
The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (NR) Yuen Wo-ping directs this Chinese martial-arts film about a group of misfit fighters who battle space aliens. Starring Dong Chengpeng, Ni Ni, Aarif Lee, Zhou Dongyu, and Wu Bai.
Youth (NR) Feng Xiaogang (I Am Not Madame Bovary) directs this Chinese film set in a military cultural troupe in the 1970s. Starring Huang Xuan, Miao Miao, Yang Caiyu, Li Xiaofeng, Wang Tianchen, and Elane Zhong.