Opening This Week

Black Panther

T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his home country to assume the throne and ward off a catastrophe of global proportions.

Early Man Animated family feature about a caveman who unites his tribe to take on a mighty enemy.

A Fantastic Woman A transgender nightclub singer faces hostility from her boyfriend's family and suspicion from the police when he dies unexpectedly.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Dan DeLuca (D.D.), Gary Thompson (G.T.), and Nick Vadala (N.V.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.

Happy End Unfolding as a series of meticulously composed scenes held together with little or no exposition, this film is diffuse in its storytelling and serpentine in its construction. The Laurents are a multigenerational clan living in the French coastal city of Calais, and a sense of chilly, detached observation persists inside their home, where no tragedy seems capable of disrupting the family's routine. 1 hr. 47 R (language, sexuality) - W.S.

Lady Bird Funny, touching coming-of-age story about a Sacramento high school senior (Saoirse Ronan) who quarrels with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) about her determination to leave California for a more sophisticated life at an Eastern college. Written and directed with great affection, wisdom, and skill by Greta Gerwig. With Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein. 1 hr. 33 R (language, sexuality) - G.T.

Very Good (***1/2)

Molly's Game Jessica Chastain stars in the true story of Molly Bloom, a world-class skier who ran a high-stakes illegal poker game for many years. With Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera, and Kevin Costner. 2 hr. 20 R (language) - G.T.

Paddington 2 The family-friendly sequel to the 2014 film about a talking bear cub is a charmer from its first action-packed frames to its over-the-top jailhouse-musical scene during the end credits. Paddington 2 leans a little heavily on its simplistic message: There's good in everyone. Still, that's worth remembering during these divisive times. 1 hr. 43. PG - W.S.

The Big Sick Based on comedian Kumail Nanjiani's life, a funny, touching comedy of a Pakistani American caught between his religious family and the American woman (Zoe Kazan) he loves. With Holly Hunter, Ray Romano. 1 hr. 59. R (sexual references) - G.T.

The Post The story of the Washington Post (and the New York Times) challenging a Nixon administration attempt in 1971 to block publication of the top-secret Pentagon Papers, which revealed that America's political leaders were pouring men and money into a Vietnam War they viewed as unwinnable. With Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep. 1 hr. 55 PG-13 - G.T.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri From writer-director Martin McDonagh, a timely if scabrous story about a small-town woman (Frances McDormand) taunting the cops (Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell) who have failed to solve her daughter's murder. Contains the brutal violence, savage humor, and surprising moments of warmth that make up McDonagh's unique voice, and good performances as well. With Peter Dinklage, Lucas Hedges, and John Hawkes. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, language) - G.T.

Also on Screens

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero **

Animated epic, imported from the United Arab Emirates, about historical figure Bilal ibn Rabah, who rose from slavery circa 630 to lead a revolt against corrupt aristocrats, and became an early follower of Muhammad. Uneven mix of beautiful vistas and awkwardly animated human figures from a first-time animation studio. Featuring the voices of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Ian McShane. 1 hr. 47

PG-13

(violence) -

G.T.

Call Me by Your Name *** Handsome production set in 1983 Italy, where a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) is hosting a handsome student (Armie Hammer) who becomes involved with the professor's son (Timothee Chalamet). Sensitively told coming-of-age story that is well-acted by Chalamet and Hammer. 2 hrs. 11 R (sex) - G.T.

Coco *** In Mexico, a fatherless boy crosses into the colorful land of the dead to learn more about his family, and to pursue his forbidden dream of being a musician. Steeped in the customs and rituals of the Day of the Dead celebration, which provide Pixar animators an opportunity to work with a new range of colors and visual ideas. The music is first-rate as well, even if the story sometimes sputters. Not in a class with Pixar's best animation, but way better than Cars 3. Featuring the voice of Benjamin Bratt. 1 hr. 40 PG - G.T.

Darkest Hour *** Gary Oldman has great fun as Winston Churchill, and it's great fun to watch him play Britain's wartime prime minister, contending with political opposition while rallying his people and his king (Ben Mendelsohn) to the cause of opposing Germany in the face of the dire events at Dunkirk. 2 hrs. 5 PG-13 (language) - G.T.

Den of Thieves **1/2 Gang of efficient and highly motivated bank robbers is shadowed and surveilled by a mirror-image group of law-enforcement officers. A knowing knock-off of Michael Mann's "Heat" that invites the audience to enjoy the way it riffs on Mann's classic, sort of a bro-movie version of a Sound of Music singalong. Some of the plotting also filches from another famous genre picture. Which one? We'll never tell. Starring Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, and O'Shea Jackson Jr. 2 hrs. 0. R (violence) - G.T.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool**1/2 Based on the memoir of Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), an aspiring stage actor who had a brief affair with Hollywood star Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening). Offbeat romance with a melancholy tone, helped by first-rate performances from Bening and Bell, who has his most rewarding role since Billy Elliot. With Julie Walters, Vanessa Redgrave. 1 hr. 45 R (sex) - G.T.

The Florida Project *** Engaging slice-of-life look at residents of an Orlando motel, the adults living paycheck to paycheck, their free-range kids having an improbably wonderful time on the ragged fringe of the Magic Kingdom. Written and directed by Sean Baker. With Willem Dafoe, Brooklyn Prince. 1 hr. 45. R (language) - G.T.

Forever My Girl ** Corny, twangy romance about a debauched country star (Alex Roe) who returns to his Louisiana hometown to get his life in order and to sort things out with the high school sweetheart (Jessica Rothe) he left at the altar seven years earlier. Wholesome and generic, but the country music actually is pretty good, either performed by Roe or selected for the soundtrack. Travis Tritt sings in a cameo. 1 hr. 40. PG (drinking) - G.T.

I, Tonya *** Margot Robbie produces and stars in this biography, told with elements of black comedy, of notorious figure skater Tonya Harding (Robbie), implicated in the conspiracy to injure competitive rival Nancy Kerrigan. The movie tells you things you probably didn't know about the scandal, and manages to build empathy for Harding, who saw skating as a refuge from a life of poverty and abuse. Allison Janney and Sebastian Stan are Harding's abusive mother and husband, Bobby Canavale a cynical tabloid TV reporter. 1 hr. 59 R (violence) - G.T.

In the Fade *** Diane Kruger won the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her riveting turn here as a German woman (in subtitled German with some English) whose Turkish/German husband and son are killed in a terrorist bombing. Absorbing if excruciating portrait of grief and fury, and an offbeat spin on the response-to-terror scenario - the targets are immigrants and the perpetrators are neo-Nazis. 1 hr. 40 R (violence) - G.T.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle *** A complete reboot of the 1995 original. The magical board game is now a magical video game, where archetypal teens (jock, nerd, popular girl) find themselves inhabiting in-game avatars that are the opposite of their real-world personalities. The hulking football player becomes pint-size Kevin Hart, the nerd becomes Dwayne Johnson, the pretty girl becomes Jack Black, and the actors have more fun than you might expect playing teens. Co-starring Karen Gillen and Nick Jonas. Directed by Jake Kasdan. 2 hrs. 2 PG-13 (language) - G.T.

The Shape of Water *** Adult fable from Guillermo del Toro, set in Cold War Baltimore in 1962, about a lonely woman (Sally Hawkins) working on the cleaning staff in a government lab who falls in love with the amphibious creature (Doug Jones) brought there for study. Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer have charming roles as the woman's friends and co-conspirators in a plot to save the creature. Michael Shannon - surprise - is the heavy. Full of strange ideas and twists, unified by first-rate visual presentation that somehow maintains the movie's tone of enchantment. 2 hrs. 5, R (nudity) - G.T.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi *** Rian Johnson's competent, crowd-pleasing addition to the franchise, expanding on J.J. Abrams' reboot. Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to recruit Luke (Mark Hamill) to join the resistance led by his sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher), threatened by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). A blend of the old and the new - Finn (John Boyega) is off on a renegade mission of his own. 2 hrs. 35 PG-13 (violence) - G.T.