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'Annihilation,' 'The Post' and other movie picks for Feb. 23

'Annihilation,' 'The Post' and other movie picks for Feb. 23
Natalie Portman in the film "Annihilation." (Paramount Pictures)

Movie recommendations from critics Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang.

Annihilation Natalie Portman plays a biologist who joins an all-female expedition into the heart of an environmental disaster zone in this eerily beautiful and hypnotically unsettling mind-bender from "Ex Machina" writer-director Alex Garland. (Justin Chang) R.

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Black Panther A superhero movie whose characters have integrity and dramatic heft, filled with engaging exploits and credible crises grounded in a vibrant and convincing reality, laced with socially conscious commentary as well as wicked laughs, this is the model of what an involving popular entertainment should be. And even something more. (Kenneth Turan) PG-13.

Call Me by Your Name Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer give superb performances as two young men falling in love in the northern Italian countryside in this rapturously beautiful collaboration between director Luca Guadagnino and screenwriter James Ivory. (Justin Chang) R.

Double Lover A Parisian woman (Marine Vacth) begins seeing identical twin psychiatrists (Jérémie Renier) in François Ozon's delirious cracked mirror of an erotic thriller, which plays like the kinky love-child of David Cronenberg and Brian De Palma. (Justin Chang) NR.

Early Man Four-time Oscar-winning director Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit, is back with a droll romp through prehistoric times that will put a smile on your face. (Kenneth Turan) PG.

A Fantastic Woman Chilean writer-director Sebastián Lelio's follow-up to "Gloria" is a compassionate and captivating portrait of a young transgender woman (a superb Daniela Vega) dealing with hostility and intolerance in wake of her lover's death. (Justin Chang) R.

Lady Bird As warm as it is smart, and it is very smart, this portrait of a high school senior year marks actor-screenwriter Greta Gerwig's superb debut as a solo director and yet another astonishing performance by star Saoirse Ronan. (Kenneth Turan) R.

Loveless A story about a broken marriage and a missing child becomes a withering snapshot of Russian social malaise in this bleak and beautifully shot drama from the gifted Andrey Zvyagintsev ("Leviathan"). (Justin Chang) R.

Paddington 2 Everyone's favorite Peruvian-born, London-based bear is back, this time facing off against a nefarious stage actor (Hugh Grant) in this beautifully structured and executed comedy from director/co-writer Paul King. (Justin Chang) PG.

The Post Director Steven Spielberg and stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks combine for a thriller cum civics lesson showing the value of newspapers hanging together and holding government accountable for deception. (Kenneth Turan) PG-13.

The Shape of Water Magical, thrilling and romantic to the core, a sensual and fantastical "Beauty and the Beast" tale with moral overtones, Guillermo del Toro's film plays by all the rules and none of them, going its own way with fierce abandon. (Kenneth Turan) R.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Building and improving on "The Force Awakens," writer-director Rian Johnson's grand space opera is the first flat-out terrific "Star Wars" movie since "The Empire Strikes Back," full of dramatic echoes of George Lucas' original trilogy but also rich in surprise and imagination. (Justin Chang) PG-13.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Uncommon writer-director Martin McDonagh and a splendid cast top-lined by Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell present a savage film, even a dangerous one — the blackest take-no-prisoners farce in quite some time. (Kenneth Turan) R.

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