17 movies to see (or not) this Thanksgiving

17 movies to see (or not) this Thanksgiving

17 movies to see or not this Thanksgiving 17 movies to see (or not) this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving weekend is a good time to feast on leftovers, spend time with the family, and sit in a dark theater for two hours catching up on the year’s biggest movies. From new releases like Pixar’s Coco to critically acclaimed favorites like Lady Bird to streaming gems like Mudbound, here’s what to know about 17 big movies worth considering during the holiday break.

NEW RELEASES

Coco

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina (co-director)
Rating: PG

Review: “Mamas don’t let their babies grow up to be mariachis. That’s one thing Miguel (voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) knows for sure: Ever since his great-great-grandfather abandoned the family decades ago to pursue la vida musical, every descendant has shunned both his tainted memory and any stray melody unwise enough to drift past a window. They are shoemakers now, not dreamers. But Miguel, a tenacious 12-year-old with a single dimple in his cheek and an unhushable song in his heart, can’t help it; his fingers ache for a guitar. And like every hero on a quest, he will find one. Though unlike most — especially in the shiny world of Pixar, whose Technicolor critters, toy cowboys, and anthropomorphized race cars often seemed to come in every shade but brown — he is also proudly, unmistakably Mexican.” B+

Where to watch: In theaters everywhere (buy tickets)

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Starring: Denzel Washington, Colin Farell, Carmen Ejogo
Director: Dan Gilroy
Rating: R

Review: “Roman J. Israel, Esq. doesn’t quite have the same frayed-wire electricity as Nightcrawler, but what it does have on its side is Denzel Washington — a squalling, one-of-a-kind screen presence whose mere presence elevates just about any movie he’s in. That’s no small thing. Washington’s Roman is a former inner-city civil rights activist who is the silent, unseen partner in a small, two-person criminal-defense law firm in downtown L.A. With his grown-out, Don Cornelius Afro, ‘70s glasses frames, and ill-fitting blazer over a threadbare cardigan, Roman is a man out of time (his iPod is crammed with soul classics from the Nixon era). Roman is the kind of Luddite relic who favors index cards to computer spreadsheets, payphones to cellphones, and actually walks to get around in the pedestrian-unfriendly city. He’s a brilliant, encyclopedic legal mind who seems to be just shy of the autism spectrum, unable to play well with others. He’s a blunt instrument and an odd duck. Which is why he does the backroom paperwork while his partner, the face of the firm, is the one who appears in court. Roman is a walking contradiction. He can’t stomach the inequalities he sees in the legal system, but he proudly insists on adding the term ‘Esquire’ to his name. When asked by a client what the honorific means, he replies, ‘It’s slightly above gentleman and below knight.’” B

Where to watch: In theaters everywhere (buy tickets)

Darkest Hour

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Joe Wright
Rating: PG-13

Review: “I’ll be honest, Oldman hasn’t been this good for a very long time. To be even more honest, he’s starred in a lot of junk in the past decade. But remember, this is the actor who played Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy and was so hypnotic (and often scary) in Prick Up Your Ears, State of Grace, JFK, The Professional, True Romance, Immortal Beloved, and The Contender. It’s both a relief and revelation to see him get the chance to swing for the fences again.” B+

Where to watch: In limited release (buy tickets)

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Starring: Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer
Director: Bharat Nallui
Rating: PG

Review: “There are not very many surprises in this movie, since most of us know A Christmas Carol by heart. True to its title, though, The Man Who Invented Christmas does give viewers a look at how Dickens’ book changed perceptions of the winter holiday. Every time he pitches it to someone, they express shock that he would even bother writing about Christmas at all. There’s hardly a Christmas tree to be seen. The film’s argument is that Dickens’ wonderful story had the same effect on the general populace as it does on Scrooge himself, inspiring people to be more generous and forgiving at Yuletide. Perhaps some of its power comes from its parallels with Dickens’ own life story; it was hard for him to complete when he still had unresolved issues with his profligate father (Jonathan Pryce). Again, we know the beats by heart, but there’s a reason A Christmas Carol has been told every which way from Muppets to Disney. You can’t help getting swept up in it, even if you’ve heard it all before.” B-

Where to watch: In limited release (buy tickets)

Call Me By Your Name

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Rating: R

Review: “Call Me By Your Name, adapted by Oscar nominee James Ivory from André Aciman’s acclaimed 2007 novel, is in no rush to tell its story. The narrative casts a sort of languorous spell over its two-plus hours, capturing the unhurried sun-drunk rhythm of Elio’s days as his crush evolves from intriguing distraction to full-blown obsession. There are other contenders for his affection, and Oliver’s, too: local girls whose own sidelined desires Guadagnino captures with startling poignancy. The Italian director, best known for stylized sensory feasts like last year’s sleek, brittle A Bigger Splash, is as lavish with his visual gifts as he’s ever been. And he even finds levity in moments like an already internet-famous dance to the Psychedelic Furs’ ‘Love My Way,’ or in the sheer awkwardness of living inside a teenage body. But there’s a new kind of empathy here—one that allows the winsome Chalamet to shine and pulls surprising new depths from Hammer, an actor whose serene symmetry finally cracks open to reveal the remarkably flawed and feeling human being beneath.” A-

Where to watch: In limited release starting Friday (buy tickets)

STILL IN THEATERS

Justice League

Starring: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons
Director: Zack Snyder
Rating: PG-13

Review: “First, the good news. Justice League is better than its joylessly somber dress rehearsal, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Now the ‘but’… you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right? But it also marks a pretty steep comedown from the giddy highs of Wonder Woman. When Gal Gadot’s proto-feminist Amazonian avenger got her solo showcase earlier this year, there were a lot of DC partisans who finally had a reason to feel bullish about the state of their union. Following the exit of Christian Bale in 2012, it was the first real glimmer of hope that maybe the studio was headed in the right direction. That the future was bright. Justice League won’t extinguish that hope. Not by a long shot. But it also doesn’t quite translate into a winning streak either. It’s a placeholder in a franchise that’s already had too many placeholders.” C+

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Wonder

Starring: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Rating: PG

Review: “There’s no movie genre more fraught with mixed emotions than the humble tear-jerker. If you’re a filmmaker, getting a theater full of complete strangers to sob on command is no small feat. It may seem easy, but in truth it’s a sort of middlebrow magic act that’s a lot harder than people give it credit for. On the flip side, for those of us in the audience, we demand more than simple manipulation. We want to feel that the tears we shed are earned, not pried out of our ducts with a crowbar. We want subtlety in exchange for our precious sniffles. Stephen Chbosky’s new three-hankie drama, Wonder, is not a subtle movie. Let’s be absolutely clear about that. Hell, an adorable dog dies in the middle act for no essential reason to the plot. So it’s a minor miracle that the film works as well as it does. You’re guaranteed to spend nearly two hours with a lump the size of a nectarine in your throat without resenting it.” B+

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Thor: Ragnarok

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: PG-13

Review: “There’s a lot more to the bloated story, but honestly, none of it is very interesting. In fact, it’s endless. You don’t care what’s happening or what’s going to happen next. We’re just led from place to place for a hash of foggy reasons that no one will ever remember 10 minutes after leaving the theater. But that’s not really the point of this movie. Ragnarok is basically a Joke Delivery System — and on that score, it works. The movie is fun. So to recap: Taika Waititi was mostly the right director for the job. Chris Hemsworth is hilarious. Tessa Thompson is going to be a star. And while Ragnarok’s story is an aimless mess, you won’t stop laughing. In other words, it’s a…” B

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Murder on the Orient Express

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Leslie Odom, Jr.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Rating: PG-13

Review: “The resolution of the movie’s central mystery is almost endearingly corny, less shocking twist than slow dinner-theater twirl. But Branagh executes his double duties with a gratifyingly light touch, tweaking the story’s more mothballed elements without burying it all in winky wham-bam modernity. His Poirot isn’t just highbrow camp, he’s a melancholy soul with a strict moral code. And his superhuman intuition serves him well; in the final scenes, he may just smell a sequel.” B+

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Daddy’s Home 2

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow
Director: Sean Anders
Rating: PG-13

Review: “Much like pumpkin spice lattes, holiday comedies seem to be rolling out earlier and earlier every year. Now, hot on the heels of the mistletoe rebel hellions of A Bad Moms Christmas, comes the aggressively mediocre sequel, Daddy’s Home 2. Since it seems like there hasn’t been very much to laugh about in the real world lately, I suppose we should all be grateful for whatever mirth we can find at the multiplex — or anywhere else for that matter. And this follow-up to 2015’s dueling-daddies hit does have a few mild chuckles, but not as many as you want. It makes a perfectly fine (and instantly forgettable) diversion during an afternoon of Christmas shopping.” C+

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

A Bad Moms Christmas

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Susan Sarandon, Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski
Directors: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Rating: R

Review: “What follows is another slapstick dose of hard-R ridiculosity with a soft-nougat center, but it also passes the Bechdel test maybe better than any other film this year, and its older generation of stars are too smart not to go to town on their stock roles. Baranski’s preening matriarch is an imperious monster whose eyebrow tilts deserve their own EGOT; Hines’ stage-five clinger is fantastically deranged, a child-like widow who can’t understand why her daughter wouldn’t want to be her best friend, or have her face screen-printed on her own pajamas. And Sarandon rolls in in lipstick and leather like she never stopped shooting The Banger Sisters.” B+

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

The Star

Starring: Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key, Aidy Bryant, Zachary Levi, Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames
Director: Timothy Reckart
Rating: G

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Lady Bird

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Lois Smith
Director: Greta Gerwig
Rating: R

Review: “Gerwig doesn’t trap her protagonist in the oblivious underage bubble that most coming-of-age dramedies inhabit; Lady Bird’s parents, played by Tracy Letts and Laurie Metcalf, are fully formed humans with their own deep flaws and vulnerabilities. Their messiness is hereditary but it’s also a gift, the wind beneath their weird little Bird’s wings.” A-

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges
Director: Martin McDonagh
Rating: R

Review: “A tar-black comedy so caustic it nearly burns a hole in the screen, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri banks a lot on the gale force of Frances McDormand, and nearly pulls it off. She’ll walk away with an Oscar nod almost as surely as her formidable Mildred Hayes marches into the local rental agency and lays her life savings down on those billboards, blank space she rents to send a message to the local sheriff (Woody Harrelson) that asking nicely hasn’t seemed to accomplish. Specifically, that her daughter has been dead for seven months — raped and beaten and burned alive — and no one has come close to catching who did it.” B

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

The Florida Project

Starring: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe
Director: Sean Baker
Rating: R

Review: “But it’s also not hard to see that there’s nothing sweet about Moonee’s prospects; as Halley’s emotional and financial situation slides into the red, so does their already tenuous existence. Dafoe’s sensitive performance anchors the movie’s slippery adult world, and Baker builds a cinematic mood beautifully; the strip malls and swampland and buzzing cicadas on screen feel as real and tactile as the theater seat beneath you. Once he establishes it, though, he doesn’t seem to quite know where to take it, and the story begins to feel more like a series of strung-together anecdotes: an intriguing project, incomplete.” B

Where to watch: In theaters now (buy tickets)

Mudbound

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige
Director: Dee Rees
Rating: R

Review: “There are a half dozen or so main characters in Dee Rees’ devastating, festival-tested epic about race, poverty, and the war being fought at home and abroad in rural Mississippi in the ’40s. So it seems like a small miracle that by the end of the film, you feel as though you’ve lived inside all of their heads, felt inside all of their hearts, and walked in their shoes. I’m not quite sure how Rees (2011’s Pariah) has done it, exactly, but the depth of heartbreak and humanity in this — just her second feature film — is remarkable.” A-

Where to watch: Netflix (watch now)

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Starring: Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R

EW review: “The title is a tip-off to the literary ambitions of writer-director Noah Baumbach’s semi-dark Netflix comedy, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). It gives off the faint bookish whiff of a J.D. Salinger short story collection. And what unspools over the next comedically caustic two hours does as well. This is a New York-set fable about a dysfunctional, artsy family and its discontents that are aimed at the same audience who appreciated previous Baumbach films such as The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. It’s smart, relatable, laughter-through-psychic pain entertainment that happens to be elevated by a handful of wonderful performances even if it, at times, feels like a lesser version of The Royal Tenenbaums — another urbane tale about an oblivious, difficult, self-centered patriarch and the lingering damage he’s done to his three neurotic, now-grown children.” B

Where to watch: Netflix (watch now)