OPEN­ING THIS WEEK

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NOW Magazine - - MOVIES -

RULES DON’T AP­PLY (War­ren Beatty) is a stun­ning dis­ap­point­ment from pro­ducer/ di­rec­tor/co-writer Beatty, a tooth­less dram­edy about the un­bal­anced love tri­an­gle formed by two young peo­ple (Alden Ehren­re­ich, Lily Collins) and their em­ployer, Howard Hughes (Beatty), in 50s Hol­ly­wood. It’s tonally in­co­her­ent and un­for­giv­ably sloppy, and Beatty doesn’t even seem to know what story he wants to tell. The film’s first move­ment plays as perky puppy-love ro­mance, the se­cond as a darker drama about Hughes’s am­bi­tion and creep­ing de­men­tia, and the third is a com­plete tonal mess of half-formed ideas and ill-ex­plained ri­val­ries, with Martin Sheen, Alec Bald­win, Oliver Platt and Steve Coogan pop­ping up to make us won­der how sub­stan­tial their roles might have been in ear­lier cuts. Beatty di­rected the epic Reds, the play­ful Dick Tracy and the scathing Bul­worth; this doesn’t even feel like it was made by the same per­son. 127 min. N (Nor­man Wilner)

MANCH­ESTER BY THE SEA (Ken­neth ñ

Lon­er­gan) is an­other drama about com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships from writer/ di­rec­tor Lon­er­gan. It’s the pow­er­ful story of Lee (Casey Af­fleck, to­tally Os­car­wor­thy), a bro­ken man forced to re­turn to the site of his big­gest mis­take af­ter his brother (Kyle Chan­dler) dies. When he learns that his edgy teenaged nephew (Lu­cas Hedges) has been made his ward, the two en­gage in a wrestling match of emo­tions. Lon­er­gan ex­pertly con­structs the story, slowly re­veal­ing in­for­ma­tion, and crafts scenes that have achingly real rhythms and di­a­logue. A dev­as­tat­ing scene be­tween Lee and his ex (Michelle Wil­liams) is one of the best-writ­ten and -per­formed se­quences I’ve ever seen on film. One of the best movies of the year. 136 min. Rat­ing: NNNN (Su­san G. Cole)

MOANA (John Musker, Ron ñ

Cle­ments) is a de­light from be­gin­ning to end, a cin­e­matic Broad­way mu­si­cal from the film­mak­ers who per­fected the form in The Lit­tle Mer­maid, Aladdin and Her­cules. The plot is the usual hero’s quest – teenage is­lan­der Moana (voiced by new­comer Auli’i Cravalho) sets sail to re­cruit the demigod Maui (Dwayne John­son, per­fectly cast) on a mis­sion to save her peo­ple and the world – but the movie works as a sly remix of the usual Dis­ney mech­a­nisms, re­al­ized so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally that you’ll feel you’re see­ing them for the first time. And the songs, in­stantly rec­og­niz­able as the work of Hamil­ton cre­ator Lin-Manuel Mi­randa, will never leave your brain. You’re wel­come. 113 min. NNNN (NW)

AL­LIED (Robert Ze­meckis) casts Brad Pitt as a spy dur­ing the Se­cond World War who falls for his part­ner (Mar­ion Cotil­lard) dur­ing a mis­sion in Casablanca, brings her back to Eng­land as his wife and ul­ti­mately learns his su­pe­ri­ors sus­pect her of be­ing a Ger­man mole. Pitt’s ter­rific as a good man crum­bling un­der the weight of his doubts, and Cotil­lard is quite good as well, though Steven Knight’s script won’t let her be much more than enig­matic and al­lur­ing for long stretches. Di­rec­tor Ze­meckis doesn’t do such a great job of con­trast­ing the per­sonal stakes against the larger stage of the war. As in Con­tact and Flight, his in­sis­tence on over-com­pli­cated, dig­i­tally aug­mented flour­ishes only un­der­lines how fake the whole en­deav­our is. 124 min. Some sub­ti­tles. NNN (NW)

ANATOMY OF VI­O­LENCE (Deepa Me­hta) is ñ

a unique take on the in­fa­mous 2012 gang rape of a young woman on a Delhi bus with her fi­ancé, delv­ing into the back­grounds of the per­pe­tra­tors to ask what led them to be­come vi­o­la­tors. Work­shopped by her ex­cel­lent cast of un­knowns and stars, it points the fin­ger at a rigid class sys­tem, trauma, poverty and the pa­tri­ar­chal val­ues that breed vi­o­lent misog­yny. These men are pro­foundly op­pressed peo­ple. In sharp con­trast, a canny – and risky – se­quence shows the sub­way filled with well-dressed up­wardly mo­bile women on their way to work. Me­hta is care­ful not to sug­gest that these young men should not be ac­count­able for their crime. But she takes an un­com­monly com­pas­sion­ate ap­proach to these un­savoury char­ac­ters. The film is clear-eyed and hard-hit­ting, but note that the as­sault it­self is never shown. 92 min. NNNN (SGC)

BAD SANTA 2 (Mark Waters) puts Billy Bob Thorn­ton back in his red cap for more cre­atively com­pounded swear­ing and slap­stick al­co­holism. For rea­sons too con­vo­luted to ex­plain, Billy Bob’s Wil­lie re­unites with his short part­ner in crime, Mar­cus (Tony Cox), to rob a hol­i­day char­ity. Kathy Bates pops up as Wil­lie’s equally foul-mouthed ca­reer crim­i­nal mother, and Thur­man Mer­man (Brett Kelly) in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­turns as a hu­man punch­line. Un­for­tu­nately, as in all com­edy se­quels, the plot feels forced and most of the jokes are re­runs. Yet while Mean Girls di­rec­tor Waters might not of­fer the pathos or ex­ag­ger­ated un­der­ground comic aes­thetic of Terry Zwigoff’s orig­i­nal, he can de­liver a de­cent fart or fuck joke with ease, and his cast is overqual­i­fied. The se­quel is amus­ing enough and cer­tainly bet­ter than any of the schmaltzy hol­i­day clap­trap the stu­dios clog up the mul­ti­plexes with this time of year. 92 min. NN (Phil Brown)

QUE­BEC: MY COUN­TRY, MON PAYS (John ñ

Walker) is a qui­etly per­sonal work from doc­u­men­tar­ian Walker that looks at the his­tory of Que­bec’s dis­tinct so­ci­ety. As an an­glo­phone born and raised in Mon­treal, Walker has a spe­cific per­spec­tive on the tra­di­tions, Catholic and other­wise, that shaped la belle province’s sense of it­self as a per­pet­u­ally be­lea­guered mi­nor­ity state. With con­text and commentary from fel­low direc­tors Denys Ar­cand and Jacques God­bout, screen­writer Louise Pel­letier and critic Paul War­ren – speak­ing in French and English – Walker finds a province (and a na­tion) strug­gling to tran­scend its deeply con­ser­va­tive wiring to build a bet­ter fu­ture. I hope we get there. 89 min. Some sub­ti­tles. NNNN (NW) WAIT TIL HE­LEN COMES (Do­minic James) is a hor­ror film about a fam­ily liv­ing in a con­verted church in the coun­try.

CELTIC SOUL (Michael McNa­mara) tags along with ac­tor Jay Baruchel and sports jour­nal­ist Eoin O’Cal­laghan – a Toron­to­nian and a Mon­trealer who’ve bonded over their love of Glas­gow’s Celtic Foot­ball Club – on a week-long jaunt to Ire­land and Scot­land to see Celtic play in Glas­gow at the sta­dium fans call Par­adise. It’s a charm­ing if light­weight doc­u­men­tary (which, hon­estly, we kinda need right now), and di­rec­tor McNa­mara makes the most of the se­quences in which Baruchel ex­plores his own Ir­ish an­ces­try. It’s also just plain fun to watch Baruchel and O’Cal­laghan get so caught up in a match that they for­get they’re be­ing filmed and just ex­plode with emo­tion. Foot­ball will do that to you, I’m told. 86 min. NNN(NW) DAUGH­TERS OF THE DUST (Julie Dash) is a re-re­lease of Dash’s in­flu­en­tial film set off the coast of South Carolina and Ge­or­gia. 112 min.

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