‘Clemency,’ ‘Dolemite’ on the list of movies to see this year

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CAROLYN COLE/LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge star in “Clemency,” the Sundance award-winning drama as a conflicted prison warden in moral crisis over the case of one of her inmates, played by Hodge, who is sentenced to die. They were photographed in Los Angeles on Dec. 16, 2019.

BY JUSTIN CHANG AND KENNETH TURAN
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

The following are movie recommendations from Los Angeles Times critics Justin Chang (J.C.) and Kenneth Turan (K.T.). All titles are in general release unless otherwise noted. 

“Atlantics” – A worthy winner of the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival, this feature directing debut from French Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop tells a hypnotic story of migration and abandonment, romance and ghosts. (J.C.) NR. Netflix 

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – A deeply moving companion piece to last year’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” Marielle Heller’s subtly directed drama casts an excellent Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers and Matthew Rhys as a cynical journalist who is transformed by their encounter. (J.C.) PG. 

“Clemency” – Chinonye Chukwu’s gripping new movie, starring Alfre Woodard as a death-row prison warden, is a sterling piece of American realism, powered by the transfixing spectacle of a great actor at the peak of her powers. (J.C.) R. Limited 

“Cunningham” – Written, directed and edited by Russian-born Alla Kovgan, this documentary on Merce Cunningham, the revolutionary American choreographer whose decades of work changed the very nature of dance, is a visual wonder that involves from start to finish. (K.T.) PG. Limited 

“Dark Waters” – If this story sounds familiar – a whistleblower attorney who worked for more than 20 years to expose decades of heedless environmental contamination – to a certain extent, it is. But this film is not business as usual, with the presence of director Todd Haynes and star Mark Ruffalo the key reasons why. (K.T.) PG-13. Limited 

“Dolemite Is My Name” – Eddie Murphy is back, and both his old gifts and some new ones are on engaging display in the rowdy, raunchy, inescapably funny film, a gleefully profane biopic and a passion project the star nurtured for years. (K.T.) R. Netflix 

“Ford v Ferrari” – A barnburner of a motion picture that mainlines heart-in-mouth excitement and tug-at-the-heart emotion in a career-defining effort by director James Mangold, this glorious throwback combines a smart, modern sensibility with the best of traditional storytelling, plus sterling acting by stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale and a tiptop supporting cast. (K.T.) PG-13. 

“A Hidden Life” – A lyrical, forceful drama of spiritual and political resistance, Terrence Malick’s best film since “The Tree of Life” tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), an Austrian farmer who became a conscientious objector during World War II. (J.C.) PG-13. Limited 

“I Lost My Body” – As inventive a piece of animation as you’re likely to see, this extraordinary film is about a hand with a mind of its own, and if that sounds a little crazy, this dark, strange and altogether wonderful feature will make you believe. Directed by France’s Jérémy Clapin. (K.T.) NR. Netflix 

“Invisible Life” – Directed by the gifted Karim Aïnouz and set in 1950s Rio de Janeiro, it’s a drama of resilient women, thoughtless men and crushingly unrealized dreams, told with supple grace, deep feeling and an empathy that extends in every direction. (J.C.) R Limited 

“The Irishman” – Its possibly true story of the life and crimes of a Mafia hit man, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, is a revelation, as intoxicating a film as the year has seen, allowing director Martin Scorsese to use his expected mastery of all elements of filmmaking to ends we did not see coming. (K.T.) R. Netflix 

“Knives Out” – Rian Johnson’s deliriously entertaining country-house murder mystery brings together a splendid cast (led by Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas), an ingenious script and a razor-sharp indictment of class inequality and moral rot in contemporary America. (J.C.) PG-13. 

“Little Women” – As written and directed by Greta Gerwig and starring a transcendent Saoirse Ronan, the seventh and latest big-screen version of Louisa May Alcott’s novel is here and it’s a pip, with its strong, unmistakable message and even stronger emotions reinforcing each other to splendid effect. (K.T.) PG 

“Marriage Story” – An emotionally lacerating experience, a nearly flawless elegy for a beautifully flawed couple played by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, both in peak form. Writer-director Noah Baumbach, a peerless observer of domestic pettiness and passive-aggressive behavior, puts every unflattering detail under his dramatic microscope. (J.C.) R. Netflix 

“Parasite” – Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Bong Joon Ho’s deviously entertaining thriller about two very different families is an ingenious weave of domestic dark comedy, class allegory and, ultimately, devastating tragedy. (J.C.) R. Limited 

“The Two Popes” – Who knew that serious talk about the future of the Catholic Church could be the source of so much fun? Written by Anthony McCarten, directed by Fernando Meirelles and starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, this sprightly film offers spirited conversations as well as a playful side. (K.T.) PG-13 Netflix 

“Uncut Gems” – Adam Sandler gives the performance of his career as a Manhattan jewelry dealer and gambling addict pinballing from one bad decision to the next in Josh and Benny Safdie’s relentlessly tense thriller. (J.C.) R. Limited

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