Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material. 130 minutes. ★★★
It’s hard to imagine having more fun at the movies than with Rian Johnson’s delectable murder mystery “Knives Out,” a sparklingly wordy delight of fascinating faces, cozy sweaters, fireplaces and a delectably depraved wealthy family fighting over the massive estate of their dearly departed patriarch.
But within the tightly crafted and finely embossed package, Johnson has smuggled a deceptively radical and empathetic message of acceptance, tolerance and wealth redistribution. It’s “Murder, She Wrote” with a side of political activism, two great tastes that taste great together.
But at the heart of “Knives Out” is a message about the corrosive, corrupting nature of inherited wealth and what it means to be deserving of the riches a single person accumulates over a lifetime or more. What renders someone more deserving, their bloodline or the way they treat others? What would the world be like if the daughters of immigrants, if women of color held economic power? It’s a cunning, stunning little moral Johnson tucks away in his star-studded mystery movie, one that makes it that much more interesting and worth watching.
“Queen & Slim”
Rated R for “violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language and brief drug use.” 132 minutes. ★★★
Rarely has a Tinder date ended so poorly than the one shown in “Queen & Slim.” Even more rarely has a bad Tinder date produced such a great film.
The remarkable “Queen & Slim” is a romance and a road movie, a film about outlaws on the run, two journeys of self-discovery and a nuanced social commentary. It’s not perfect but it’s close — an urgent, beautiful and socially conscious trip through the American racial psyche in 2019.
Melina Matsoukas, in her directorial debut, keeps the tension going wonderfully, with music and fake-outs and frightened glances. “Queen & Slim” is a powerful look at places and issues not often explored in movies, and it’s unusual for being a big studio film starring two people of color created by people of color. There is much talk in the film about legacy — what we leave behind — but everyone involved in this film should be proud of what they’ve offered the world.
“After Parkland”: Documentary talks with survivors and the families of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February 2018. Directed by Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman. (1:32) NR.
“Away”: Animated tale from Croatia about a boy and a bird on a fantastical journey. Written and directed by Gints Zilbalodis. (1:15) NR.
“The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open”: An indigenous woman in Canada bonds with another who is fleeing domestic abuse. Written, directed by and starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn; story by Tailfeathers. (1:45) NR.
“Bruno Sammartino”: Documentary profiles the Italian-born American WWE Hall of Fame wrestler. Directed by Patrea Patrick. (1:36) NR.
“Cavale”: Three teenage girls go on a road trip from France to Belgium after escaping from a psychiatric clinic. With Lisa Viance, Yamina Zaghouani, Noa Pellizari. Written by Micha Wald. Directed by Virginie Gourmel. In French with English subtitles. (1:25) NR.
“Les Misérables”: A drone captures an out-of-control arrest by an anti-crime unit amid tensions in the projects in Paris. With Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga. Written by Ladj Ly, Giordano Gederlini, Alexis Manenti. Directed by Ly. In French with English subtitles. (1:42) R.
“Locusts”: Two estranged brothers in Australia are targeted by violent thugs when they return to their remote hometown for father’s funeral. With Ben Geurens, Jessica McNamee, Nathaniel Dean, Angry Anderson. Written by Angus Watts. Directed by Heath Davis. (1:25) NR.
“The Man in the Trunk”: A man’s former college roommate shows up in the middle of the night asking for help in this thriller. With Ace Marrero, Vanessa Rose Parker, Jennica Schwartzman, Ryan Schwartzman. Written by Marc Hampson, Arron Farley, Ronnie Ursenbach. Directed by Hampson. (1:24) NR.
“Melody Makers”: Documentary charts the rise and fall of the British rock magazine Melody Maker. With Barrie Wentzell, Ian Anderson, Eric Burdon. Directed by Leslie Ann Coles. (1:37) NR.
“My Friend the Polish Girl”: A young American woman in London tries to make a documentary about a struggling Polish actress. With Emma Friedman-Cohen, Aneta Piotrowska. Written and directed by Ewa Banaszkiewicz, Mateusz Dymek. (1:27) NR.
“Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project”: Documentary about a political activist turned archivist in Philadelphia who spent three decades obsessively recording TV news programs, talk shows, commercials, etc. Directed by Matt Wolf. (1:27) NR.
“The Two Popes”: Pope Benedict summons his future successor, Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to Rome to share a secret that threatens the Catholic Church. With Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin. Written by Anthony McCarten. Directed by Fernando Meirelles. (2:05) PG-13.