Movies: New and Noteworthy

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"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri": Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand, a mother who taunts police officers who haven't solved her daughter's murder.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by criticGary Thompson (G.T.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.

God's Own Country A young farmer in the north of England numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense gay relationship. 1 hr. 44 No MPAA rating - W.S.

Lady Bird Funny, touching coming of age story about a Sacramento high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) who quarrels with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) about her determination to leave California for a more sophisticated life at an Eastern college. Written and directed with great affection, wisdom and skill by Greta Gerwig. With Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein. 1 hr. 33 R (language, sexuality) - G.T.

Very Good (***1/2)

Blade Runner 2049 An imaginative, visually stunning if overlong sequel from Denis Villeneuve that embraces and embellishes Ridley Scott's original 1982 dark vision of a future Los Angeles where police (Ryan Gosling) hunt down synthetic humans, even as the latter grow more like us. With Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas and MacKenzie Davis. 2 hrs. 44 R (violence) - G.T.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri From writer-director Martin McDonagh, a timely if scabrous story about a small-town woman (Frances McDormand) taunting the cops (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell) who have failed to solve her daughter's murder. Contains the brutal violence, savage humor and surprising moments of warmth that comprise McDonagh's unique voice, and good performances as well - from McDormand and Rockwell in difficult and complex roles, playing difficult and complex people. With Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges and John Hawkes. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, language) - G.T.

Also on Screens

Aida's Secrets *** Documentary about two brothers born in the Bergen-Belsen camp for displaced Jews after World War II and separated as babies. One raised in Israel by an adoptive family began a long-distance relationship with his birth mother in Canada as a teenager; years later he learned of a younger brother living in Canada whom the mother never contacted. 1 hr. 35 No MPAA rating. - W.S.

American Made *** Tom Cruise stars in this fun but heavily fictionalized portrait of Barry Seal, a drug smuggler who found himself at the intersection of drug cartels and CIA adventurism in Central and South America in the 1970s and 1980s. With Sarah Wright and Caleb Landry Jones. Directed by Doug Liman. 1 hr. 55 R (violence) - G.T.

A Bad Moms Christmas ** The three R-rated moms (Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn) must put up with their own mothers (Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski, and Susan Sarandon) over the fraught holidays. What once was transgressive has become reflexive. With Peter Gallagher. 1 hr. 44 R (language) - G.T.

Coco *** In Mexico a fatherless boy crosses into the colorful land of the dead to learn more about his family, and to pursue his forbidden dream of being a musician. Steeped in the customs and rituals of the Day of the Dead celebration, which provide Pixar animators an opportunity to work with a new range of colors and visual ideas. The music is first-rate as well, even if the story sometimes sputters. Not in a class with Pixar's best animation, but way better than Cars 3. Featuring the voice of Benjamin Bratt. 1 hr. 40 PG - G.T.

Daddy's Home 2 **1/2 Christmas sequel to 2015 comedy has moments that are deliriously silly and delightful and others where it misses the mark. With Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Mel Gibson. 1 hr. 40 PG-13 (suggestive material, some language - W.S.

The Florida Project *** Engaging slice-of-life look at residents of an Orlando motel, the adults living paycheck to paycheck, their free-range kids having an improbably wonderful time on the ragged fringe of the Magic Kingdom. Written and directed by Sean Baker. With Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince. 1 hr. 45. R (language) - G.T.

Geostorm **1/2 This passable action film is buried under a tsunami of political muck. After interconnected satellites positioned around the planet to stop severe weather malfunction, the creative mastermind (Gerard Butler) who was fired for his snippy attitude is brought back to solve the problem. 1 hr. 49 PG-13 (action scenes, violence) - W.S.

Justice League ** This dour, downbeat corner of the DC Universe finds Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gail Gadot) recruiting superheroes Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to combat an invading alien army and an interstellar bad guy (Ciaran Hinds). Directed with a heavy hand by Zack Snyder. With Amy Adams, Diane Lane. 1 hr. 59 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer ** Yorgos Lanthimos provocation about a prosperous surgeon (Colin Farrell) with a young fan who turns out to be a stalker and a sociopath, forcing the physician into a sick game of gruesome choices. The movie's icy affections and snarky asides get in the way of whatever humanity it's intended to have. With Nicole Kidman. 1 hr. 59 R (violence) - G.T.

Last Flag Flying *** Three Vietnam war buddies (Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston) reunite to bury one man's son, killed in the line of duty in Iraq. The performances of the leads are uneven, but supporting players, including Cicely Tyson, help the movie build to a strong conclusion. Directed by Richard Linklater. 2 hrs. 5 R (language) - G.T.

LBJ **1/2 Woody Harrelson delivers an outsize performance as President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Jennifer Jason Leigh transforms herself into Lady Bird, and Richard Jenkins is a standout as the Georgia senator Richard Russell. But Rob Reiner's film feels like a 1980s miniseries rather than a complete and fulfilling production. 1 hr. 29 R (crude language) - W.S.

Loving Vincent *** Each of the movie's 65,000 shimmering frames is a high-resolution photograph of an oil painting based on Vincent van Gogh's work in this speculative narrative attempting to penetrate the myth of the artist. 1 hr. 35 PG-13 (thematic elements, some violence, sexual material, smoking) - W.S.

The Man Who Invented Christmas **1/2 Fictionalized account of Charles Dickens writing his famous story "A Christmas Carol," framed here as a desperate race against time. Fanciful elements have Dickens (a manic Dan Stevens) borrowing heavily and spending lavishly to self-finance his big gamble book. Characters (including Mr. Scrooge, played by Christopher Plummer, appearing before him as he works out the story). Not an emotionally powerful story, but it builds to a suitably sentimental conclusion. With Simon Callow. 1 hr. 44 PG - G.T.

Mudbound *** The harsh realities and race/class complexities of post-WWII Jim Crow South play out in the lives of white and black families farming the same parcel of Mississippi land in Dee Rees' thoughtful adaptation of the Hillary Jordan book. With Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund and Jason Clarke. 2 hrs. 15 R (violence) - G.T.

Murder on the Orient Express *** Kenneth Branagh's appropriately hammy adaptation of the classic 1930s Agatha Christie mystery about a murder aboard a snowbound train in Yugoslavia, under the nose of master detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) who finds himself inundated with likely suspects - the all-star cast includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad and Daisy Ridley. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.

Roman J. Israel, Esq **1/2 Denzel Washington delivers a typically fine performance as an on-the-spectrum attorney who's sheltered life as a legal researcher changes when his managing partner dies and he's thrust uncomfortably into a more public role (working for slick attorney Colin Farrell). Washington excels as a neurodiverse man, somehow balancing limited emotional range with expressiveness. With Carmen Ejogo, written and directed by Dan Gilroy. 2 hrs. 9 R (language) - G.T.

Thor: Ragnarok *** Mercifully funny diversion into a quirky corner of the Marvel universe, with Cate Blanchett as the vengeful and power-mad sister of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) ascending the throne and banishing her brother to a prison planet, where he recruits the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to his cause. With Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hiddleston. 2 hrs. 10 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.

Tom of Finland **1/2 For its first half, the biopic about Finnish illustrator Touko Laaksonen is an immersive, handsomely crafted look at how his fetishistic drawings of hyper-masculine, leather-clad men became a gay porn staple and eventually fill coffee table art books. But when the eye-popping work finds its way to America, the film becomes a time-lurching checklist of scenes as the artist grows into a gay icon, whose peak years of the 1970s and '80s coincided with both the gay liberation movement and the AIDS epidemic. 1 hr. 35 No MPAA rating. - W.S.

Wind River **1/2 Taylor Sheridan's screenplay has smart dialogue, likable neo-western heroes in cowboy hats, sudden open-carry shootouts, a capable woman navigating a man's world, and some searing social commentary, but, as a rookie director, Sheridan gets lost trying to assemble these elements into a tight package. 1 hr. 41 R (strong violence, disturbing images including a rape, language) - G.T.

Wonder **1/2 Sturdy if sometimes sappy adaptation of the R.J. Palacio YA novel about a boy (Jacom Tremblay) with facial deformities enduring his first days at middle school. Cast includes Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Mandy Patinkin. 1 hr. 43 PG - G.T.

Wonderstruck **1/2 Todd Haynes' imaginative adaptation of the Brian Selznick YA novel about the lives of two children (Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds), separated by half a century, somehow connected through New York's Museum of Natural History. The offbeat story, isolating characters in separate story threads, contributes to a lack of emotional connection and impact. 1 hr. 55 PG-13 (language) - G.T.