Chadwick Boseman's 21 Bridges and Vanessa Hudgens' The Knight Before Christmas also debut.

By Joey Nolfi
November 21, 2019 at 11:00 AM EST

EW wants you to make good choices when going to the movies (or spending a night in Netflix-and-chilling) this weekend, and our new, recurring movie preview guide will keep you informed about the best new blockbusters, indie gems, sturdy holdovers, and fresh digital standouts up for your viewing pleasure (plus a bonus box office preview to wrap it all up).

Across perhaps the sweetest weekend in cinema history, audiences get to choose between movies starring a pair of beloved Disney sisters, Tom Hanks as friendly icon Fred Rogers, and High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens as a hopeless romantic who falls for a time-traveling knight on Christmas Eve. If those descriptors alone aren’t enough to send you into a pre-Christmas sugar coma, satiate yourself with more of EW’s delectable coverage of this week’s new releases — including Frozen 2, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Knight Before Christmas, and more — below.

STXfilms; Disney; Lacey Terrell/Sony; Brooke Palmer/Netflix

New wide releases in theaters

Frozen 2

Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: B (read full review)

It only took six years for you to finally stop hearing “Let It Go” on repeat in the back of your mind, but, fear not, as the infectious earworm — as well as a fresh soundtrack of new jovial tunes — is poised to soundtrack your every waking thought as the Disney sequel Frozen 2 storms theaters this weekend. With a returning voice cast including Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell as sisters Elsa and Anna who, three years after the events of the first film, travel beyond the realm of Arendelle to discover the source of the former’s magical powers.

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Starring: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Tammy Blanchard
Directed by: Marielle Heller
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: B+ (read full review)

Authenticity was key to Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller‘s latest film, a fantastical, often surrealist drama (that absolutely is not a biopic!) about a cynical journalist (Matthew Rhys) whose perspective on fatherhood radically alters after his publication sends him to Pittsburgh to profile legendary children’s host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Inspired by real-life writer Tom Junod’s experience in writing about Rogers, Heller wanted the audience’s experience in meeting Mister Rogers through Hanks’ portrayal to brim with authenticity; So, she imported vintage Ikegami cameras to mimic the look and feel of Rogers’ beloved daytime TV show and raided the real-life icon’s tie collection (with permission from his wife, Joanne) for Hanks’ on-screen wardrobe.

“[He calls for] us to be our best selves, and I think that’s required of parents in order to be patient and see these little people we’re bringing into the world with compassion,” Heller previously told EW of her passionate connection to Rogers’ legacy — which partially inspired her, as a new parent herself, to make the film. “Mister Rogers helped break down those things in a way that, as a parent, you can gain a lot of compassion that translates beyond just your relationship with your children; it translates into your relationship with your partner or spouse, or relationships at work. I know it translated into how I wanted to make this movie, and the process by which we work creatively and how we treat the crew. I approached every decision with the movie as: ‘How would Fred approach this? How can we treat everybody with a level of emotional empathy and compassion that shows that we value everyone?’ That was his main message: Everyone is valued.”

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21 Bridges

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Keith David, Taylor Kitsch, J.K. Simmons
Directed by: Brian Kirk
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: B (read full review)

Director Brian Kirk helms a Marvel reunion as Black Panther‘s Chadwick Boseman leads this crime thriller from producers (and Avengers series directors) Anthony and Joe Russo. Judging by early previews, the result appears to be a pulse-pounding thriller — about a NYPD detective who puts Manhattan on lockdown in pursuit of a pair of renegade cop killers — that also happens to be the second film of 2019 in which Sienna Miller speaks with a deliciously over-the-top accent.

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New limited, indies, specialty, and streaming gems

The Knight Before Christmas

Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui
Directed by: Monika Mitchell
Release type: Streaming (Netflix)

It’s time to accept that indulging in the sweet insanity of bonkers Christmas movie concepts isn’t a guilty pleasure, but a decadent treat. That’s never been more evident than in Vanessa Hudgens‘ new Netflix romp The Knight Before Christmas, in which she stars as a small-town science teacher, Brooke, who falls for a time-traveling knight, Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse), after a sorceress sends him from 1300s Britain to present-day Ohio on a quest to become a true servant of the monarchy. While it boasts all of the saccharine pleasures you expect from a holiday-themed rom-com, Hudgens’ chemistry with her leading man (as well as some clever running jokes) elevates The Knight Before Christmas to another level as a joyous cinema equivalent to a Christmas bonbon.

“The time travel aspect made it feel fresh and new within the realm of the Christmas genre, but I love my character,” Hudgens recently told EW of guiding Brooke’s arc as an executive producer. “She’s a strong, independent woman who believes that you don’t need a knight in shining armor to save the day, and that you can get things done yourself. But, she ends up meeting an actual knight, and he tells her: ‘I don’t know how or why I’m here, but the fact is, I am,’ and she’s like, ‘Time travel isn’t a real thing!’ But he’s like, ‘Just because I can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it can’t be.’ That’s a beautiful thing, because that’s faith. You don’t have to see it in order to believe it.”

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Dark Waters

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, Bill Pullman
Directed by: Todd Haynes
Release type: Theatrical (limited)
EW grade: B- (read full review)

Erin Brockovich, Karen Silkwood, and the whistleblowers of cinema history welcome Mark Ruffalo’s Robert Bilott — a corporate lawyer railing against a chemical company over its long history of pollution — as acclaimed director Todd Haynes returns to the big screen this weekend with an adaptation of the real-life Bilott’s book Exposure.

“I’ve gotten to know Rob very well and have a tremendous amount of admiration for him and the work that he’s done,” Ruffalo says of the source material’s author in an exclusive interview excerpt published by EW. “[I want] to help have this information be disseminated out into the world. It’s really important. It’s been underreported and it touches all of our lives. It transcends politics and ideologies. It’s one place I think where we can meet communally.”

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Hala

Starring: Geraldine Viswanathan, Jack Kilmer, Gabriel Luna, Anna Chlumsky
Directed by: Minhal Baig
Release type: Theatrical (limited), Streaming (Apple TV+ on Dec. 6)

“I was thinking a lot about that moment in my life, where it was the senior year of high school and I was starting to kind of break away from my family a little bit and started to act independently,” director Minhal Baig told EW at the Sundance Film Festival of writing and directing the Apple TV+ drama Hala, about a Muslim teenager grappling with her family’s unraveling while she matures on her own terms. “That was something I wanted to document in the story. I didn’t know how exactly I was going to do that, but I knew it was going to be very personal. I didn’t have those stories growing up, for myself, and so I really wanted that for, like, the teenage me.”

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Citizen K

 

Directed by: Alex Gibney
Release type: Theatrical (limited)

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, who’s tackled subjects from Scientology to Enron across his prolific career as a non-fiction filmmaker, sets his sights on Russian politics in this searing chronicle that traveled the festival circuit from Venice to Toronto. Here, the 66-year-old examines the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky who, after rising to prominence in the 1990s as one of the richest men in the country, served 10 years in prison before becoming a key figure in the anti-Vladimir Putin movement.

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Notable holdovers and expanding titles in theaters now

Ford v Ferrari

Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe
Directed by: James Mangold
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: B+ (read full review)

Revving up in pole position atop last weekend’s box office chart, Ford v Ferrari — about car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles’ real-life battle against corporate interference as they attempt to build a revolutionary vehicle for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 — is also primed for snatching Oscar attention as awards season kicks into high gear. Following an impressive debut on the festival circuit, the James Mangold-directed film will definitely catch voters’ attention after barreling past the competition to cross the finish line in first place with big bucks in tow.

“This is David vs. Goliath vs. Goliath,” Bale previously told EW of the film. “You’ve got the industrial Goliath with Ford and the charismatic Goliath of reputation with Ferrari, and then this true story of the triumph of the misfits.”

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Charlie’s Angels

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: B- (read full review)

As the headline for EW’s latest digital cover asks: Who run the world? The ace cast (Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska) of Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels revival, that’s who. For the first time in history, the decades-old franchise will be told entirely from a female point of view — writer-director Banks’, to be exact. And she made sure her spy-action flick had a massive heart to go along with its spectacular dressings.

“I was adamant that there be hugging in the movie,” Banks, who plays Bosley in the film, recently told EW. “That’s what distinguishes Charlie’s Angels from James Bond, Jason Bourne, Mission: Impossible. This is what you get to do in the girl version of this movie that draws you in because it feels real. It is real. I cry at work.”

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Marriage Story

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever, Julie Hagerty, Azhy Robertson
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Release type: Theatrical (limited), streaming (Dec. 6)
EW grade: A- (read full review)

Get your tissues ready, because Oscar season is in full swing as Noah Baumbach unleashes his emotionally ruining divorce drama, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a bitter, uncoupling pair fighting for custody of their young son.

“I mean, as an actor you can’t dream up speeches that delicious! It’s just crazy amazing,” Laura Dern, who plays Johansson’s attorney in the film (and is getting enthusiastic Oscar buzz for it), previously told EW of her part. “But let me just say, I’ve never cried so hard as when I first read the script. It wasn’t just the emotion of reading the story, it was the perfection of the screenplay. [And] being a parent, I understood this unbelievably sad, broken moment.”

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Nov. 22-24 weekend box office preview:

It’s a battle of America’s beloveds at the weekend box office, as Disney looks to heat up the season with the return of its iconic Frozen series, which goes head-to-head with America’s dad, Tom Hanks, as Mister Rogers in Marielle Heller’s likely Oscar contender A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.

As indicated by the first Frozen film’s $400 million domestic gross, Disney will easily take the top spot with a total that, judging by recent sequels to the mouse’s popular titles (Finding Dory scored $135 million in 2016, Incredibles 2 earned $182 million just last year), could hover in the $150 million range.

Hanks’ star wattage, positive Oscar buzz, and hunger for Mister Rogers’ enduring legacy should propel Beautiful Day to a healthy opening weekend before it sprouts sturdy legs across the traditionally lucrative Thanksgiving frame ahead (en route to an ultimate total that could approach $100 million). Heller’s latest film will have to contend with Ford v Ferrari as last week’s strongest holdover, as overwhelmingly enthusiastic word-of-mouth will see the James Mangold-directed drama dipping slightly from its robust $31.5 million bow last week.

Boasting a big star, Chadwick Boseman, reuniting with his Marvel family on 21 Bridges (Avengers directors Anthony and Joe Russo produce), the crime-thriller should hold its own in fourth place, playing as effective adult counter-programming to the family oriented Frozen 2 and the mature demographic that will likely fuel Beautiful Day‘s bow.

1) Frozen 2 — $140 million

2) Ford v Ferrari — $20 million

3) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood – $20 million

4) 21 Bridges — $9 million

5) Playing with Fire — $5 million

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