Justin Chang

If you didn't know what they were about, you'd be forgiven for confusing the striking new movies Promising Young Woman and Pieces of a Woman. They do have similarities that go beyond their titles: Each is an intense but uneven film about the lingering effects of trauma and tragedy. And each one centers on an American woman played by an English actor doing her strongest work in some time.

Farewell Amor begins with a scene at JFK Airport, where a man greets the wife and teenage daughter he hasn't seen in years.

Back in 2017, the English writer and director Francis Lee made a wrenching drama, called God's Own Country, that I wish more people had seen. It told the story of two isolated young men on the rugged moors of North Yorkshire, tending a flock of sheep and falling passionately in love — sort of like a British Brokeback Mountain, only a lot more explicit and with a much happier ending.

Frederick Wiseman's new documentary, City Hall, was shot in 2018 and 2019, which means that it already plays like a pre-COVID-19 time capsule.

Roald Dahl's 1983 novel The Witches takes place in a world where witches really exist, though they don't wear pointy hats or fly around on broomsticks. Instead they walk among us, disguised as ordinary women but wielding extraordinary magical powers, which they use to wipe out young children — their greatest enemies.

Although it's not as widely known in the U.S. as his adventure tales like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, Martin Eden is now regarded as one of Jack London's greatest achievements.

I doubt I'm alone when I say that this year has been a blur: Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was going to the office or heading outside without a mask, and sometimes it feels as though an eternity has passed. This past week I watched two absorbing new documentaries that both seem to bend and distort our sense of the passage of time.

One of them, which is actually called Time, spans more than two decades. The other one, titled Totally Under Control, focuses on the very moment we're living in.

The Devil All the Time, now streaming on Netflix, has enough awful characters, festering secrets and dead bodies to furnish a whole TV series, though I'm not sure I'd want to see a longer version of this story. The movie is based on a densely plotted 2011 novel by the Ohio-born author Donald Ray Pollock, and it's grim in ways that can be both exciting and a little wearying: so many twists and betrayals, so many horrific acts of violence.

I'm glad to have seen Mulan in a theater months ago; having rewatched it recently at home from a digital screener, I can say that it isn't remotely the same experience.

The writer and director Michael Almereyda is making some of the most thoughtful and inventive biographical dramas of any filmmaker working today.

Since they were founded in the 1930s by the American Legion, the Boys State and Girls State programs have been giving high schoolers a practical education in how government works. Students in every state are chosen to take part in a week-long summer experiment in which they must form their own representative democracy. As we learn from the opening credits of the terrific new documentary Boys State, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and Cory Booker are just a few of the program's famous alums.

Given how much time some of us are spending at home these days, there might be something a little perverse about watching a movie that takes place in a haunted house. That's especially true of two terrific thrillers, Amulet and Relic, in which the characters' living spaces are infected with dark spirits and become inescapable prisons.

Welcome to Chechnya is a grimly ironic title for a documentary that plays like a chilling undercover thriller. The camerawork is rough and ragged; the sense of menace is palpable.

The movie opens on a dark street in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, where a man smokes a cigarette and arranges secret meetings and transports by phone. This is David Isteev, a crisis intervention coordinator for the Russian LGBT Network, and he spends his days helping gay and transgender Chechens flee a place where they are no longer safe.

Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods was supposed to open in select theaters, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced Netflix to change its plans. You could call that unfortunate timing, except that amid nationwide protests against racism and police violence, the movie could hardly be timelier.

I first saw Shirley months ago, back in January. It's strange to be revisiting it now. Like a lot of very good movies, it doesn't speak to this extraordinarily fraught moment, and it doesn't offer a mindless escape from it, either. What it does offer is a smart, fascinating glimpse into an artist's mind, and I hope you'll seek it out now or in the future.

At a time when many of us are staying home, with no plans to travel farther than the nearest grocery store, watching The Trip to Greece might seem like either a lovely escape or an exquisite form of torture.

When I first saw the lovely independent film Driveways last fall, I didn't know that I was watching one of Brian Dennehy's final performances. I remember thinking he was wonderful in the movie, which in itself was no surprise. I also remember wishing that this great American actor, so acclaimed for his work on stage and television, had been given more of his due in movies.

What kind of movie watcher are you in the age of coronavirus? While sheltering at home, do you seek out joyous Hollywood classics like Singin' in the Rain? Or do you lean into tales of terror, madness and social breakdown, like all those viewers who have made Contagion one of the year's hottest rentals?

The latest adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma is as handsome, clever and rich as its famous heroine — and I mean "rich" in the caloric sense, as well. I wanted to snack on every pastel-hued surface of Kave Quinn's production design, which suggests nothing less than a frosted cupcake come to life — a feast of lace bonnets and high collars, gilded frames and glass chandeliers.

I emerged from an early screening of The Assistant a few weeks ago to the news that a jury had been selected in Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault and rape trial.

Over the past few weeks I've had people ask me about the new Little Women with equal parts excitement and nervousness: Was it any good? After so many earlier screen adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel — from the 1933 Katharine Hepburn film to Gillian Armstrong's 1994 version — did we really need another go-round with the March sisters?

For the past few years I've gotten in the habit of not only ranking my year-end favorites, but pairing them together thematically. I saw no reason to quit the habit this year, given how many great movies I saw in 2019 and how many of them seemed to be in conversation with each other.

Martin Scorsese has made so many terrific crime pictures that you would be forgiven for doubting whether he had another one in him. The great surprise of his haunting and elegiac new movie, The Irishman, is that it doesn't play like a retread so much as a reckoning.

Academy Awards voters can rarely resist a celebrity impersonation, judging by some of the star turns that have won Oscars in recent years. These aren't just performances; they're jaw-dropping feats of mimicry. Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill! Rami Malek is Freddie Mercury!

The writer-director Richard Linklater has said that he cast Cate Blanchett in his new comedy, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, because, in his words, "only a genius can portray a genius believably."

The title character in the coolly engrossing new movie Luce is a high school student who seems exemplary from every angle. Played in a remarkable performance by Kelvin Harrison Jr., Luce Edgar is handsome and popular, an academic and athletic star who gives inspiring speeches at school assemblies.

The best scene in Disney's incredibly photo-realistic remake of The Lion King features a computer-generated beetle rolling a ball of computer-generated dung across a computer-generated African landscape. It might sound mundane, but this particular ball of dung is carrying a tuft of fur from the runaway lion Simba, and its eventual discovery will renew hope that the rightful king of the savanna is alive and well. It's a funny, touching reminder that in the circle of life, every little creature and every lump of waste has an important role to play.

In the viscerally unnerving films of Ari Aster, there's nothing more horrific than the reality of human grief. His haunted-house thriller, Hereditary, followed a family rocked by traumas so devastating that the eventual scenes of devil-worshipping naked boogeymen almost came as a relief. Aster's new movie, Midsommar, doesn't pack quite as terrifying a knockout punch, but it casts its own weirdly hypnotic spell.

The Toy Story movies are about the secret lives of dolls and action figures that find their deepest fulfillment in a child's embrace. But they're really about what it means to be human: the joys of love and friendship and the pains of rejection and loss. But even more than the earlier films, Toy Story 4 feels haunted by the idea of impermanence. What happens when we outgrow something we once cherished? To put it another way: After three Toy Story movies, do we really need a fourth?

The first time we see Elton John in Rocketman, he's wearing a spangly red devil costume with sharp horns and enormous wings. It's one of the many glorious, glittery things we see him wear in the movie, although on this occasion, he isn't dressed for a concert. It's around 1990, and Elton, played by Taron Egerton, is attending a group therapy session. He may be one of the world's most successful rock stars, but he's also being eaten alive by sex addiction and substance abuse, and also by feelings of abandonment that go back to his childhood.

Pages