Film

19 New Movies You Can See This Thanksgiving Weekend

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Who says cinema is dead? The Thanksgiving holiday is typically one of the busiest times of the year for the nation’s moviegoers — perhaps because so many families decide that once they’re all done eating, there isn’t all that much left to do together besides go sit in the dark. And even though 2017 has been a somewhat disappointing year for film (not to mention for everything else), there are some excellent new films playing in theaters right now. Here’s a sampling of the best ones, along with what our critics said about them.

Blade of the Immortal 

“Japanese pop idol Takuya Kimura delivers a thrillingly satiric but committed performance in samurai action-adventure Blade of the Immortal, the hundredth film helmed by cult filmmaker Takashi Miike (AuditionIzo). Kimura uses deadpan line readings and expertly timed pregnant pauses to simultaneously mock and dramatize the macho pride that defines Manji (Kimura), an emotionally constipated samurai who was cursed by a witch and now has Wolverine-like powers of self-healing.… Come for the gory swordplay, stay for the half-serious melodrama.” — Simon Abrams

Call Me by Your Name

“Even with its plainspoken and gentle portrait of gay love, [Call Me by Your Name] has already garnered the kind of buzz generally reserved for more serious or more campy films, emerging as the breakout success at Sundance, and attracting early Oscar buzz. The story revolves around a young man of seventeen, Elio Perlman, played with masterful poise by the relative newcomer Timothée Chalamet, and the will-they-won’t-they of his infatuation with Armie Hammer’s Oliver, who is staying at Elio’s family’s Italian villa as a research assistant for the Perlman father, a professor.… [The tension] evokes the type of butterflies that every kind of kid, with every kind of sexuality, has when they meet that first person who makes their heart beat faster.” — Alex Frank

Coco

“By the time it reaches its tearfully joyous finale, Pixar’s Coco plays like the movie that the most fervent Pixar fans have for a generation been telling me I’ve been missing every time I haven’t bawled my eyes out over the hurt feelings of plastic junk in the toy box. Rather than the quick welling behind the eyes I felt for Wall-E or Jessie, the Toy Story 2 cowgirl, Coco had me crying for full minutes at its last scene, a Dia de los Muertos fiesta featuring sugar-skull fireworks, ranchera sing-alongs, and that holiday sense of a family’s enduring continuity in the face of time and death.” — Alan Scherstuhl

Darkest Hour

 “Joe Wright’s Churchill-finds-his-mojo drama Darkest Hour is an epic of loin girding, a spectacle of a man and a nation psyching each other up for the terrible fight ahead. It’s a rousing wiki-deep summary of the gist of Winston Churchill’s first month in power, from his assumption of the office of prime minister to his delivery of the second most famous to-arms speech in British history. Wright’s film is fleet but not especially thoughtful, wholly convincing in its production design, and in one crucial sense something rare: Here’s a war movie about rhetoric rather than battle scenes.” — Alan Scherstuhl

Faces Places

“Something of a prank, a farewell, an art project, a buddy comedy, a vox populi tour of the French countryside, and an inquiry into memory and images and what it means to reveal our eyes to the world, Faces Places is a joyous lulu. It finds the great documentarian and photographer Agnès Varda, 88 at the time of filming, teaming up with the 33-year-old photographer JR to wander France, their itinerary set by their own whims, doing what they each have made a life doing.… The film is light, funny, alert, alive, the work of a great and her inspired collaborator who are forever happy to be looking.” — Alan Scherstuhl

Florida Project

“Sean Baker is one of the few filmmakers working today who gets that it’s possible to find joy in small, difficult corners of the world.… [W]ith The Florida Project, his follow-up to Tangerine, Baker again grants both humanity and humor to his down-on-their-luck subjects, only maybe with a little bit of a bigger budget this time and a real camera.” — April Wolfe

God’s Own Country

“Francis Lee’s stark, striking God’s Own Country is one of several significant films this year to depict hard-edged men softening, opening up, finding the courage to admit that everything they need to get through this life isn’t already inside them. The protagonist, raw-eyed farm boy Johnny (Josh O’Connor), has inherited from his father a brusque coldness, a silence that he seems to consider fitting for a man from the rough hills of northern England.… In his debut feature, Lee has crafted a mature love story centered on an immature man facing the fear of even admitting that he needs love at all. It’s a film to prize.” — Alan Scherstuhl

Jane

“You might remember some heartfelt essays from women who were surprised to find themselves crying while watching Wonder Woman earlier this year. I was one of those criers. It was as though I didn’t know what I needed to see on the screen — a female hero — until I saw it before me. This is how I felt watching Jane. Around the midpoint of the film, [director Brett] Morgen flashes on the screen a succession of letters [primatologist Jane] Goodall’s mother wrote to her, encouraging her not to follow her husband or abandon her dreams. The scene — and all the others — is heightened by a score from Philip Glass that swells and thrums. In it, the enormity of Goodall’s bravery and accomplishments hit me like a coconut on the head. ‘My God,’ I said aloud.” — April Wolfe

Lady Bird

“A heartfelt coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the bittersweet transition from adolescence to dawning adulthood, [Greta] Gerwig’s directorial debut is a joy from start to finish, a warm, generous snapshot of teenage vulnerability and exuberance.… Lady Bird is a rare bird: sentimental without being saccharine, emotional without being contrived, able to conjure tears without yanking at our heartstrings while the music swells. Its matter-of-factness is what makes the film ultimately so wrenching.” — Lara Zarum

Mudbound

“This story of two families united by circumstance and, as the title suggests, bound by their debt to the land, is a micro version of a larger story about systemic racism in America — a mighty force that will not simply yield to a handful of the “good ones.” And yet, despite its often brutal realism, Mudbound isn’t masochistic; it leaves room for hope, and argues fiercely for love.” — Lara Zarum

Murder on the Orient Express

“With his new adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, the director-star Kenneth Branagh does nothing to besmirch the tried-and-true formula of Agatha Christie’s whodunit novels. But he does have an of-the-moment take on Christie’s beloved Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Branagh suggests Poirot as an emblem of order in a disorderly world, treating him as something of a superhero: Poirot doesn’t have superstrength or big punches to get to that realization, just his trademark miraculous insight. And, like superheroes in the first film of a franchise, he’s been given an emotional arc in which he discovers something about himself. On his sleuthing journey, Poirot must realize that truth is not quite as black-and-white as he would wish.” — April Wolfe

On the Beach at Night Alone

“The central image of Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone is that of a woman quietly curled up and lying motionless on the sand, her back turned to us. It’s not repeated all that often in the film — we just see it twice, really — but it is echoed in other moments, in particular one scene when we see the same woman, Young-hee (Kim Min-hee), unexpectedly stop and kneel down quietly in front of a small bridge, as if in some sort of silent, sudden prayer. In a chatty film that otherwise consists of people walking and talking or sitting and talking — their conversation often lubricated by food and drink, as in much of Hong Sang-soo’s work — the spectacle of a woman communing quietly with the ground, whether in prayer, despair, or hope, speaks to an indefinable sense of longing, an added layer of metaphysical sadness enveloping the picture.” — Bilge Ebiri

Rebels on Pointe

“If you’re one of those people who eagerly waits for Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo to show up at the Joyce just before Christmas, well, this is not your year. But a consolation prize is Rebels on Pointe, a delightful documentary about the all–gay male comedy ballet company, lovingly chronicled by director Bobbi Jo Hart.… Serious balletomanes will find much to appreciate here; people who delight in seeing the form lampooned will find more.” — Elizabeth Zimmer

Song of Granite

“This patient and luminous life-of-the-artist film freshens everything stale about its genre. The music of Irish folk singer Joe Heaney here is situated in the hard beauty of the land and village he grew up in, in the songs of birds and local balladeers, in hill and sea and timeless toil. Director Pat Collins shoots in black and white, sometimes in shadows and candlelight, fascinated not by drama but by milieu.” — Alan Scherstuhl

The Square

“Ruben Östlund’s The Square, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this past May, probably says more about the times we’re living in than any other film you’re likely to see this year. And yet the beauty of the movie is that everybody will have their own ideas about what, exactly, it is saying.… When left to its own devices, does humanity find equilibrium or does it disintegrate into aggressors and subjects? And just what does it take for us to come to others’ aid? Where do we draw the line between the individual and society? The Square has a remarkably clearheaded and streamlined way of asking these many questions, but the answers it provides are always tantalizingly unclear.” — Bilge Ebiri

Thelma

“Can we call Joachim Trier’s Thelma a horror movie? The story of a young woman whose mysterious seizures coincide with unsettling, possibly supernatural goings on around her, it certainly resembles one in its broad strokes. And with Trier’s brooding, precise stylization, it does cast a disturbing spell. But horror turns on helplessness, on pulling viewer and protagonist into a world that, on some basic level, they want no part of. Thelma starts with that idea, but moves away from the monstrous, toward compassion and understanding. Like an emo Carrie, it probes the profound underlying sadness beneath tales of possession. It makes vivid the protagonist’s loneliness and despair.” — Bilge Ebiri

Thor: Ragnarok

“Like most of the better Marvel efforts, Thor: Ragnarok feels like the work of a unique sensibility instead of a huddle of brand managers. While the studio’s films demonstrated plenty of comic flair right from the start of its shared-universe experiment, with 2008’s Iron Man, recent efforts have veered too far into bland, jokey listlessness; frivolity has trumped lightheartedness, pandering has replaced irreverence. But in Ragnarok, directed by the Kiwi filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi, the gags are weird enough, and land frequently enough, that it all seems to be coming from someplace — and someone — real.” — Bilge Ebiri

Wonder

“How do you tell a story in a way that’s clear and plainspoken enough for younger viewers, while still finding ways to bring subtlety and depth to the material? Wonder, the story of a young boy with craniofacial disorder and the people around him, opts not for concealment of its themes but accumulation. It tempers its fairly blunt narrative approach by constantly shifting its perspective. It starts off as the portrait of a troubled child, but expands to become a film about community.” — Bilge Ebiri

Wonderstruck

“For all his reputation as a capital-A Auteur, Todd Haynes has always demonstrated impressive stylistic versatility. The Sirkian pastiche of Far From Heaven is a far cry from the lo-fi expressionism of Poison, and the music video wonderland of Velvet Goldmine has relatively little in common with the fractured minimalism of I’m Not There. In that sense, among directors, he might be our foremost cinematic shapeshifter — which is just one reason why Wonderstruck feels so vitally personal.… There are few directors better than Haynes at adopting varied voices and vernaculars and then blending them to create something intoxicating and new.” — Bilge Ebiri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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