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Di­rec­tor Denis Vil­leneuve, adapt­ing Ted Chi­ang’s story about large space­crafts that have landed all over Earth, gives us a quiet thriller that plays like an art­house ver­sion of Close En­coun­ters of the Third Kind. Amy Adams stars as a brilliant lin­guist who, along with a physi­cist (Jeremy Ren­ner), is charged by an Army colonel (For­est Whi­taker) to com­mu­ni­cate with the aliens. This the­mat­i­cally rich story un­folds slowly, of­ten with­out mu­sic, but never feels slow. It of­fers philosophical ques­tions and em­pha­sizes the im­por­tance of lan­guage and to­geth­er­ness — the story’s big­gest bar­ri­ers are not between peo­ple and aliens but between Earth’s na­tions. Ex­pect a few big plot twists, which not only daz­zle you with their clev­er­ness but also add re­newed emo­tional heft to every­thing that has come be­fore. Nom­i­nated for eight Acad­emy Awards, in­clud­ing Best Pic­ture and Best Di­rec­tor. Rated PG-13. 116 min­utes. Vi­o­let Crown. (Robert Ker)


Julie Dash’s lu­mi­nous 1991 film, the first movie writ­ten and di­rected by an African-Amer­i­can woman to have a gen­eral the­atri­cal re­lease, is back, buoyed by a Bey­oncé boost (the singer draws on the film’s early-1900s aes­thet­ics in her 2016 video al­bum Le­mon­ade), along with a dig­i­tal restora­tion and new color grad­ing. A vi­tal doc­u­ment of African-Amer­i­can tra­di­tion and con­nec­tiv­ity, it tells the story of a Low­coun­try fam­ily on the verge of “cross­ing over” not only from their Sea Is­land home to the main­land, but from the spec­tre of slav­ery to the prom­ise of the fu­ture. The story’s hy­brid­ity — of his­tor­i­cal scars and clean slates, black and white, is­land and main­land, African and Amer­i­can — feels as rel­e­vant as ever to the Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence. Not rated. 112 min­utes. In English and Gul­lah with sub­ti­tles. The Screen. (Molly Boyle)


Train­ing golden ea­gles to aid the Kazakh hunters of Mon­go­lia has been a tra­di­tional skill, handed down from fa­ther to son, for gen­er­a­tions. The Ea­gle Hun­tress tells the dra­matic story of one girl, thir­teen-year-old Aishol­pan Nur­gaiv, who trains with her fa­ther to be the first fe­male ea­gle hunter in her fam­ily. This mov­ing doc­u­men­tary by di­rec­tor Otto Bell, bal­ances a por­trait of Kazakh fam­ily life and cul­ture with breath­tak­ing aerial footage of the Al­tai Moun­tains. Aishol­pan in­hab­its a harsh, un­for­giv­ing ter­rain, where the Kaza­khs live in sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with their en­vi­ron­ment and hunt out of ne­ces­sity. An in­ti­mate look at the re­la­tion­ship between fa­ther and daugh­ter, the film is a feel-good, in­spi­ra­tional story for all ages, es­pe­cially for young girls. Rated G. 87 min­utes. In Kazakh with sub­ti­tles. Vi­o­let Crown. (Michael Abatemarco)


“The rape joke cries out to be told,” writes Pa­tri­cia Lock­wood in the 2013 vi­ral poem “Rape Joke.” That’s one way to look at Paul Ver­ho­even’s darkly comic French­language thriller star­ring Is­abelle Hup­pert (nom­i­nated for a Best Ac­tress Os­car here). The ac­tress por­trays Michéle Leblanc, who is vi­o­lently raped by a masked man in the movie’s open­ing. Fol­low­ing her as­sault, rather than call the po­lice, she charges head­long back into her messy life. The sus­pects are nu­mer­ous, and when the per­pe­tra­tor is re­vealed, she begins to toy with him. Ver­ho­even (Basic In­stinct) loves a de­mented woman, and Michéle’s de­tached machi­na­tions are the most com­pelling as­pect of Elle, boosted by a Te­flon per­for­mance from Hup­pert. But de­spite the film’s hav­ing been touted as an em­pow­er­ing tale of re­venge, its un­der­cur­rents are uglier, emp­tier, and much more cyn­i­cal than cathar­tic. “Imag­ine the rape joke look­ing in the mir­ror, per­fectly re­flect­ing back it­self, and groom­ing it­self to look more like a rape joke,” Lock­wood writes, and therein lies an­other way of look­ing at Elle. Rated R. 130 min­utes. In French with sub­ti­tles. Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts. (Molly Boyle)


Au­gust Wil­son’s prize-win­ning drama, Fences, has fi­nally made it from Broad­way to the screen, and now it’s been nom­i­nated for four Acad­emy Awards, in­clud­ing Best Pic­ture. Much of the film takes place in the back­yard of a house in a run­down black neigh­bor­hood of Pitts­burgh. The house be­longs to Troy Max­son, a fifty-three-year-old for­mer Ne­gro League ballplayer whose best years are be­hind him. Den­zel Wash­ing­ton, who plays Troy, also directs, and match­ing him stroke for stroke is the great Vi­ola Davis as Rose, Troy’s long­suf­fer­ing wife, who pro­vides wis­dom and bal­last to his mood swings. Both ac­tors were Os­car-nom­i­nated for their roles. The apartheid that robs the dig­nity of a black man in Amer­ica is the fo­cus of Wil­son’s story, but in Davis’ Rose we see an­other rung down the lad­der: a black woman. Wash­ing­ton’s di­rec­tion hon­ors his fine cast, and cel­e­brates the words of the play­wright, who also got an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for his adap­ta­tion. Rated PG-13. 138 min­utes. Re­gal Sta­dium 14. (Jonathan Richards)


John Lee Han­cock’s iron­i­cally ti­tled biopic might be con­sid­ered the first movie of the Trump era. It’s the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), not the founder of the

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