5 new movies opening this weekend to see or avoid

I see a lot of movies before other people do. Great job? Yes! Except when the films stink. So as awards season ramps up, I’m sharing my thoughts on new releases as they they hit L.A. area theaters.

I’ll give you what you need to know in descending order of what I liked best in order to help you make weekend entertainment choices – or give you ammo for questioning my taste. There’ll be some raves, there will be pans, and sometimes I’ll just write the silliest thing I thought about the picture.

It’ll be fun. And if we’re really lucky, most of the films discussed will be more fun.

1. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women: This is one of the best films of the year. With unapologetic intellectual rigor, sensuality, keenly attuned cultural observation and engulfing emotional sensitivity, writer-director Angela Robinson reveals the curious minds (and other organs) of the trio that invented both the lie detector and Wonder Woman. Incomparably witty as they are impressively smart and achingly vulnerable, Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote create a perfect menage-a-everything as the power exchange-obsessed psychologist, his even smarter wife and the younger woman they both love. The most genuinely adult movie ever made about a comic book.

 

FacesPlaces_Image2_{4b55287d-8cf0-45ae-9dd4-5f27b0c5631c}_lg (1)2. Faces Places: Another one of 2017’s top films. Co-directed by 89-year-old Nouvelle Vague eminence Agnes Varda and the photographer/muralist who goes by JR, this celebratory, humane but never candy-coated documentary charts the filmmakers’ journeys around the French countryside. JR takes large, black-and-white pictures of locals and their goats, his team pastes the pics several stories high on homes, barns and other structures, and the resulting imagery is a visual feast like none other. Meanwhile, the wizened Varda, her sight starting to fail, tries to coax her 33-year-old collaborator into removing his ever-present sunglasses. That’s a running metaphor for the comedy and poignancy theses two generate wherever they go, as well as for the stunning yet ephemeral tableaux they create.

3. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected): Nobody does not-very-accomplished creatives and their relationship dysfunctions as authoritatively as Noah Baumbach (And why wouldn’t he be so good at it? His parents were film critics). So it’s no surprise that this funny/angry study of an elderly artist who probably should have just stayed an art teacher and his resentful, middle-aged children is all brainy dialogue, perfectly pitched acting and clever, if sometimes a little too so, squirmy situations. Dustin Hoffman is appropriately hateable as self-centered Papa M, Ben Stiller extends his current sizzling streak of midlife crisis mopes and Grace Van Patten is the film’s find as its next gen neurotic. It’s Adam Sandler, though, who gives the film’s finest performance; expect the fanbase that bought Netflix for his usual shtick won’t stick with this more than 10 minutes.

4. The Foreigner: At last, the Liam Neeson takes on the Irish Republican Army thriller we’ve been waiting for. Only it’s Jackie Chan instead of Liam Neeson. Through the first third, Chan mostly wears a sad expression and annoys people as he tries to find out about his daughter’s death in a terrorist bombing. Then he kicks a little butt and mostly disappears in the second third, which becomes a Pierce Brosnan yelling movie. Third act has more Brosnan yelling but some decent, if not dazzling, Chan action; he’s old but still super, evidently.

5. Te Ata: This inspiring tale of the early 20th Century Chickasaw stage performer and Native culture popularizer Mary “Te Ata” Thompson, although well-played by “The New World’s” Q’orianka Kilcher, is told in the least inspired way imaginable. A real shame.

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