In theaters: 'Nightmare Alley'
Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro's first feature since 2017 Best Picture The Shape of Water stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle, a drifter turned carny huckster dreaming of the big con. Carlisle thinks he's met the perfect accomplice in nefarious psychiatrist Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett)—the two specialize in putting on fake seances to fleece the rich—but he may have met his match instead. Featuring a uniformly excellent cast, including Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara and Ron Perlman, plus typically terrific direction from del Toro, Nightmare Alley is the second film adaptation of the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham. Del Toro wrote the script with Kim Morgan.
In theaters: 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'
The 27th film in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe is here. The latest in the Spider-Man saga, and the sequel to 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home, finds Peter Parker—played by Tom Holland—lamenting his lack of anonymity. To remedy the issue, he asks Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange to magically restore his secret Spider-Man identity. It's a reasonable request, to be sure, but unfortunately the consequences are grave, with Strange's efforts leading to an explosion of sorts that rocks the entire multiverse to its core. Whoops. Directed by two-time Spider-veteran Jon Watts, working from a script from Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the movie also features Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei, with a host of cast members reprising their roles from Sam Raimi's and Marc Webb's previous Spider-Man iterations.
In select theaters: 'The Tender Bar'
Oscar winner George Clooney directs fellow Academy champ Ben Affleck in The Tender Bar, a charming coming-of-age tale set in Long Island, based on the 2005 memoir by J.R. Moehringer. Affleck plays Charlie Moehringer, uncle to the young J.R. (Tye Sheridan), who takes the boy under his wing and into the comfy confines of his favorite salt-of-the-earth saloon. Written by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed) and shot by Martin Ruhe, who was also DP on Clooney's previous picture, The Midnight Sky. Also stars Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd and Daniel Ranieri.
Streaming on Apple TV+: 'Swan Song'
Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali produces and stars in this science fiction drama written and directed by Benjamin Cleary, whose film Stutterer picked up an Oscar for Best Live Action Short in 2016. Ali plays Cameron Turner, a family man confronted with a terminal diagnosis who decides he'll secretly clone himself to thwart the illness. Naomie Harris takes an excellent turn as his wife, Poppy, while Awkwafina and Glenn Close ably co-star—but it's Ali's terrific lead performance that anchors the film, along with director Cleary's somber and steady commitment to the material.
Pick it up on Criterion Blu-ray: 'The Learning Tree'
Based on his own novel of the same name, Gordon Parks' The Learning Tree arrives on Criterion this week in a beautiful rerelease. In addition to directing the film—he was the first African American to helm a major studio production—Parks also served as producer, screenwriter and composer. The 1969 film centers on Newt Winger, played by Kyle Johnson, a young man hailing from a family of Exodusters—the term for Black Southerners who were driven out of the Deep South into Kansas following the dismantling of Reconstruction. Parks' poignant coming-of-age portrait is set against the backdrop of continuing racial injustice and social inequities; Parks presents a clear-eyed view of reality far too infrequently depicted onscreen, particularly in the era of the movie's release. It's also beautifully shot by Burnett Guffey. Co-starring Alex Clarke, Estelle Evans and Dana Elcar.