Justin Chang

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.

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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?

I'm reluctant to explain why Eliza Hittman's new movie is called Never Rarely Sometimes Always. It's a mouthful, to be sure; few people I talked to at this year's Sundance Film Festival could remember it correctly. But then we saw the movie — and after that, a lot of us knew the title would stay with us forever.

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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.

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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.

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This is FRESH AIR. After winning the Golden Globes for best motion picture, drama and best director, the new war movie "1917" opened wide this past weekend to a strong box office, and on Monday, it received 10 Oscar nominations. Set over two days during World War I, the movie follows two English soldiers trying to stop an impending attack and save the lives of their comrades. Film critic Justin Chang has this review.

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.

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The emotionally turbulent drama Waves revolves around an African American family living in South Florida, and I mean "revolves" quite literally. In an early scene, the camera swivels a full 360 degrees around the inside of a car, as a teenager named Tyler Williams and his girlfriend, Alexis, drive along the oceanfront.

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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.

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I was fortunate enough to go into Parasite knowing almost nothing about it. Bong Joon-ho's brilliant new movie packs the kinds of stunning, multi-layered surprises that deserve to be experienced as fresh as possible. I'll tread as cautiously as I can, but suffice to say that Parasite is a darkly comic thriller about two families: the Parks, who are very rich, and the Kims, who are very poor.

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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!

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This is FRESH AIR. The science fiction drama "Ad Astra" stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who sets out on a dangerous voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system. It's the latest picture from writer-director James Gray, whose earlier movies include "We Own The Night," "Two Lovers" and "The Lost City Of Z." Our film critic Justin Chang says "Ad Astra" is a space odyssey that sometimes stumbles but ultimately soars.

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