Movies With Milan

posted by thomasjohn -


ACRIMONY--Taraji P. Henson is a woman scorned in the latest Tyler Perry melodrama. Even worse than the Perry norm, it's so ludicrously over-the-top you'll be forgiven for thinking it was intended as self-parody. And Henson gives the first genuinely bad performance of her career. Sad.


ANNIHILATION--More brainy, great-looking sci-fi from Alex ("Ex Machina") Garland starring Natalie Portman as a biologist who embarks on a perilous trek to discover what happened to her military husband (Oscar Isaac) during his mysterious one-year disappearance. Aliens may or may not be involved. Creepy and compelling throughout, and Portman is dependably strong. While this femme-driven brain-scratcher is bound to be as divisive as Garland's previous work (including his screenplay for Danny Boyle's "Sunshine"), cult immortality is preordained. (B PLUS.)

BEIRUT--Smart, briskly paced adult drama about a former U.S. diplomat and some C.I.A. operatives trying to free an American captive in 1982 Lebanon. Directed by Brad ("The Call," "The Machinist") Anderson and featuring a terrific cast including Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Mark Pellegrino and Shea Whigham, it's a thinking-person's action thriller--something we haven't seen in awhile. (B.)

BLACK PANTHER--Ryan Coogler--director of "Creed," the best darn Rocky movie ever--works similar magic with Marvel in this exhilarating origin tale of the titular superhero played by Chadwick Boseman of "42" and "Get On Up" fame. Buttressing the comic book silliness--this is Marvel and not Shakespeare, after all--and giving it real emotional heft is a supporting cast with extraordinary bench strength (a scene-stealing Michael B. Jordan, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o and "Get Out" star Daniel Kaluuya). As the first African-American Marvel entry, "Black Panther" is already historic. It's also terrific entertainment. (A.)

BLOCKERS--The best raunchy comedy in eons stars John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz as overprotective parents trying to prevent their teenage girls from losing their virginity on prom night. Think a distaff version of "Super Bad" in which the quiet, tender moments are actually more memorable than the gross-out comic setpieces. (B.)

BORG VS. McENROE--Tennis buffs will dig this compelling docudrama about the 1980's "Fire and Ice" rivalry between American bad boy John McEnroe (Shia LeBeouf) and masterfully impassive Swede Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason). Directed by Denmark's Janus Metz ("Armadillo"), it features a standout supporting turn by Stellan Skarsgard as Bjorg's coach/mentor. (B.)

CHAPPAQUIDDICK--The late Ted Kennedy's tragic 1969 car accident that resulted in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne is the subject of an unusually thoughtful, refreshingly non-exploitative John ("The Painted Veil") Curran-directed docudrama. Despite not looking anything like Kennedy, Jason Clarke is very good, as is Kate Mara as Kopechne. (B.)

GAME NIGHT--Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams (both very good) host a murder mystery party that goes increasingly awry in a dark, sometimes dangerous comedy that, at its best, favorably recalls 80's classics like "After Hours," "Into the Night" and "Something Wild." A brave attempt at something different from the cookie-cutter Hollywood norm from John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (whose credits include writing "Horrible Bosses" and co-directing 2015's awful "Vacation" reboot). (B.)

GOD'S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS--AKA "God's Not Dead 3." Strictly for Evangelicals--i.e., fans of the first two entries in this meretricious franchise. (E.)

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE--More Evangelical Christian-pandering from the hackish Erwin Brothers ("Moms' Night Out") takes as its inspiration the story behind MercyMe's same-named song. Press notes describe it as "a gripping reminder of the power of true forgiveness." Whatever. But it's going to take me a long time to forgive Dennis Quaid and Cloris Leachman for wasting their talents on this tripe. (D.)

I FEEL PRETTY--After a freak accident, Amy Schumer's ugly duckling awakens with newly acquired self-confidence. Maybe too much self-confidence: she thinks she's a super model. Probably not very p.c. in the #MeToo era, but a fearless Schumer sells the movie's one-joke premise and makes it hum merrily along. The nicest surprise is a laugh-out-loud supporting turn from Michelle Williams. Who knew Ms. Method could be so funny? (B MINUS.)

ISLE OF DOGS--Wes ("Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Grand Budapest Hotel") Anderson's latest stop-motion animated treasure is brilliantly imaginative, visually resplendent, wryly amusing and effortlessly moving without an ounce of Disney treacle. Set in a future version of Japan in which the entire dog population has been relocated to an island waste dump by a cat-loving despot, the film has more heart, wit and, yes, soul than a dozen live-action movies. The vocal casting is wonderful, too: Bill Murray, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, Yoko Ono (yes, Yoko Ono!), Jeff Goldblum, etc. It's another instant classic by Anderson, my favorite contemporary American filmmaker. (A.)

LOVE, SIMON--Nick ("Jurassic World," "Everything Everything") Robinson plays a high school senior whose journey out of the closet is the subject of this warm and fuzzy dramedy from openly gay TV auteur Greg ("Riverdale," "The Arrow") Berlanti. A little too slick (and glib) for its own good, but its heart is definitely in the right place. Nicely acted by Robinson and the always welcome Jennifer Garner as his mom. (B.)

PACIFIC RIM UPRISING--I loved Guillermo del Toro's 2013 "Pacific Rim," but this slapdash, del Toro-less follow-up plays like a mediocre direct-to-video sequel. It's indifferently directed with laughably bad dialogue/performances, and the CGI is so oppressively omni-present I'm surprised they didn't bypass human actors altogether and just use holograms. Certainly they couldn't have been any worse than charisma and talent-deficient leads John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. (D PLUS.)

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST--While handsomely produced on a cable movie budget, this sluggishly paced New Testament spin-off is fatally lacking in drama/interest. Strictly for undemanding "faith" audiences who will buy a ticket to anything--and like it, dammit--that preaches to their

Evangelical choir. The biggest name in the cast is Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" Jesus, Jim Caviezel. (D PLUS.)

PETER RABBIT--The mix of CGI and live action is mostly seamless in director Will ("Annie") Gluck's occasionally belabored, intermittently charming attempt to take Beatrix Potter's cuddly bunnies into the 21st century. Ubiquitous, unctuous James Corden voices Peter which is why it sometimes feels like a feature-length installment of Carpool Karaoke. The first-rate supporting cast includes Sam Neill (as Peter's nemesis Farmer McGregor), Domhnall Gleeson and Rose Byrne as human antagonists (or friends). "I, Tonya" Oscar nominee Margot Robbie and "Star Wars" heroine Daisy Ridley provide the voices for Peter pals Flopsy and Cotton-Tail. (C PLUS.)

A QUIET PLACE--"Office" alumnus John Krasinski cowrote and directed this wonderfully creepy dystopian thriller set in a futuristic world where staying silent is the only way to stay alive. Kransinski stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt as the beleaguered paterfamilias attempting to save his family (Noah Jute and Millicent Simmonds are their kids, both excellent) from extinction. It ain't gonna be easy. As good as the best M. Night Shyamalan movies (think "The Sixth Sense" or "Unbreakable"). (A MINUS.)

RAMPAGE--Based upon the same 1986 arcade game that inspired Disney's "Wreck-it-Ralph," Dwayne Johnson's reunion with "San Andreas" director Brad Peyton is so ridiculous you almost want to cut it some slack. The ever-affable Johnson plays a primatologist whose favorite gorilla undergoes a top-secret genetic experiment that turns him into a rampaging monster. Soon, there's an outbreak of giant killer beasts and it's up to the former Mr. Rock to save us all from Armageddon. If you didn't laugh while reading that synopsis, this movie probably isn't for you. For anyone else, it nearly qualifies as "so bad it's almost good." (C MINUS.)

READY PLAYER ONE--Steven Spielberg's wildly ambitious adaptation of Ernest Cline's 2011 cult novel is a cross between his underappreciated 2001 masterpiece "A.I.," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and Chris Columbus' woebegone "Pixels." A busy fanboy fantastia littered with the detritus of '80s pop culture, it's overlong, frenetic and alternately exhilarating or exhausting depending upon your penchant for virtual reality vidgames. Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn and current Spielberg muse Mark Rylance headline the cast, but the film's cutting edge CGI deserves top billing. (C.)

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO--WW I battle scenes compete for attention with a cute doggy mascot in this bizarre computer animated film that's too dark for small kids and too juvenile for grown-ups. A lose/lose proposition. (D PLUS.)

SHERLOCK GNOMES--A belated sequel to the 2011 animated sleeper adds a wry Arthur Conan Doyle spin to the mix. Intermittently amusing and good-looking with a solid vocal cast (Emily Blunt and James McAvoy reprise their roles as Gnomeo and Juliet, and Johnny Deep voices the titular gnome), it's a movie that grown-ups can watch relatively painlessly with their wee bairns. (C PLUS.)

SUPER TROOPERS 2--Belated sequel to the cultish 2002 Broken Lizards' stoner comedy about an inept group of Vermont state troopers. I didn't think the original was anything special; this sloppy seconds (and way too many years later) follow-up practically screams of desperation.


TOMB RAIDER--The timing for this reboot of the long dormant Angelina Jolie franchise couldn't be better. Post-"Wonder Woman" and #MeToo, there's a renewed urgency to Lara Croft's cartoonish heroics. Lending the film a gravitas it really doesn't deserve is Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who actually makes Lara seem like a flesh-and-blood action heroine rather than simply an airbrushed video game avatar. Not bad as far as 21st century CGI tentpoles go. (C PLUS.)

TRAFFIK--Trashy "B" action movie about a couple (the overqualified Paula Patton and Omar Epps) whose weekend getaway is spoiled by a

vicious biker gang. Directed by DeonTaylor whose previous film (2016's "Meet the Blacks") was equally rank. (C MINUS.)

TRUTH OR DARE--Sadly, not a reissue of Madonna's classic 1990 behind-the-scenes documentary, but a standard-issue teen horror flick in which the titular party game turns deadly for a group of Millennials. Probably not the worst PG-13-rated teen horror movie we're likely to see this year, but completely unremarkable and cookie-cutter generic just the same. (C MINUS.)

A WRINKLE IN TIME--Disappointing adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's kid-lit classic that's both over-produced and creatively underwhelming. Talented director Ana DuVernay ("Selma"), who's used to working on a vastly smaller scale and with a lot less money, is clearly in over her head. You quickly get the sense that this runaway Disney Corp. production just got the better of her. A wonderful cast (Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, et al) is left stranded, "Jumanji"-like, in a CGI Never Never Land. You'll feel their pain. (D PLUS.)

---Milan Paurich


ALL I SEE IS YOU--Blind Blake Lively has her sight restored which causes unexpected problems in her marriage to Jason Clarke. Half Lifetime movie, half artsy psychological drama, it fails on both counts. Director Marc ("Finding Neverland," "The Kite Runner") has done better. A lot better. (C MINUS.)

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD--Ridley ("The Martian") Scott's movie about the notorious J. Paul Getty kidnapping back in the late '70s is reasonably tense and decently acted (Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams star), but lacks any true focus or even point of view. Audiences curious to see how Scott digitally erased Kevin Spacey and replaced him with Christopher Plummer will be disappointed to learn that Plummer is hardly in the film. If the Getty kidnapping still intrigues you, it's probably best to wait for Danny Boyle's FX miniseries treatment due in 2018. (C.)

AMERICAN ASSASSIN--Dylan ("The Maze Runner") O'Brien is trained to be, well, precisely what the title suggests in Michael ("Homeland") Cuesta's entertaining, if largely forgettable action-thriller based on Vince Flynn's 16-book series. As his ex-Navy SEAL trainer, Michael Keaton steals every scene he's in. The movie might have been better if Keaton---who seemingly can do no wrong these days--had been the titular assassin. (C PLUS.)

AMERICAN MADE--Tom Cruise has his "Cruise"-iest role in years as an airline pilot who works as both drug runner for the Medellin cartel and a C.I.A. informant. Doug ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") Liman slickly directs this fact-based tale which has delusions of being another "American Hustle" or "Wolf of Wall Street," but the satire is a little too glib and its attempts at social commentary are skin-deep at best. Enjoyable while it lasts, though, and Cruise is clearly having more fun than he did in last summer's execrable "The Mummy." (B.)

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING--Amityville--at least the long dormant horror movie franchise--should have stayed asleep. (D.)

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL--Follow-up to the Oscar-winning 2006 documentary that brought climate change (and Al Gore) to multiplexes across America. And according to Gore, things have only gotten worse in the intervening decade, both domestically and internationally. While movies like this essentially preach to the converted, it also succeeds as a clarion wake-up call to anyone not yet up to speed on the perils of global warming. (B.)

ANNABELLE: CREATION--Prequel to the 2014 haunted doll horror flick which was itself a prequel to 2013's "The Conjuring." A slight improvement over the original (which made my 10-worst list that year), but still no great shakes. Egregiously overlong at 109 minutes, too. (C MINUS.)

A BAD MOM'S CHRISTMAS--This holiday-themed follow-up to the 2016 sleeper is just as crude, toxic and unfunny as the inexplicably popular original. Adding a patina of cloying Yuletide sentimentality to the mix isn't an improvement. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn and Christina Applegate all deserve better. As do you. (D PLUS.)

BATTLE OF THE SEXES--Emma Stone and Steve Carell (both terrific) play Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' richly entertaining look back at the gender/culture wars of 1973. Although it occasionally errs on the side of superficiality (look at those early '70s sideburns! wasn't Howard Cosell a hoot?), it's so much fun--and so unstintingly good-natured--you won't care. (B PLUS.)

BOO 2: A MADEA HALLOWEEN--Formulaic and utterly dreary sequel to Tyler Perry's Halloween-themed 2016 hit (his top-grossing film to date). Even hardcore Perry fans will want to sit this one out. (D MINUS.)

BRAD'S STATUS--Brad (Ben Stiller) takes his teenage son (a fantastic Austin Abrams) on a tour of East Coast colleges in writer-director Mike ("Chuck and Buck") White's witty, wise and exceedingly moving dramedy. Confronted with the relative mediocrity of his own life--especially when judged against fabulously successful old school friends played by Luke Wilson, Jermaine

Clement and Michael Sheen--Brad suffers a debilitating, cringe-inducing and occasionally very funny midlife crisis. One of the very few recent American movies brave enough to tackle the way we live now in the 21st century economy. (A.)

BREATHE--The true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield) who contracted polio in his twenties and spent the remainder of his life hooked up to a ventilator isn't as depressing as it sounds. If anything, first-time director Andy Serkis errs on the side of positivity: Cavendish's life couldn't have been nearly as rose-colored as depicted here. But Garfield and Claire Foy (as his supportive wife) are so good you're willing to cut it some slack. And it's less of a slog to sit through than 2014's "The Theory of Everything." (C PLUS.)

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME--During the summer of 1983, an American teenager (Timothee Chalamet) living in Italy has a life-altering romance with his college professor father's twentysomething research assistant (Armie Hammer). Directed by Luca ("I Am Love," "A Bigger Splash") Guadagnino and written by 89-year-old screen veteran James ("Howards End," "A Room With a View") Ivory, the film is an intoxicatingly sensual immersion into the ecstasies and agonies of young love and the many glories that comprise Italy. Chalamet and Hammer are pitch-perfect as the lovers, as is Michael Stuhlbarg as Chalamet's sympathetic dad. (A.)

CERTAIN WOMEN--Regional minimalist Kelly ("Wendy and Lucy," "Old Joy") Reichardt continues to go against the grain of contemporary American independent cinema. Even when working in ostensible genre terrain (eco-thriller "Night Moves" and revisionist western "Meek's Cutoff") she somehow managed to avoid the cliches lazy directors traditionally cling to. The fact that Reichardt still hasn't broken through commercially probably isn't coincidental. Adapted from three short stories by Maile Meloy, Reichardt's "Certain Women" didn't win her any new fans in theaters, but home video should prove to be a more conducive home for its ephemeral charms. Composed of three self-contained but interlocking vignettes--all set against the backdrop of small town Montana life--Reichardt's triptych provides meaty roles for some of our finest actresses. While the Michelle Williams and Laura Dern episodes are compelling in their own right, the standout segment features Kristen Stewart (wonderful as always) as a night-school teacher who befriends a lonely Native American ranch hand (remarkable newcomer Lily Gladstone). Don't be surprised if you find yourself wiping away tears at the end. One of the rare contemporary films released by the Criterion Collection, it features only a handful of extras (interviews with Reichardt, producer Todd Haynes and Meloy; an essay by film critic Ella Taylor), but is still worth seeking out. (A MINUS.)

COCO--Aspiring 12-year-old musician Miguel visits the Land of the Dead in the latest CGI Pixar 'toon. As visually resplendent as it sometimes is, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen this movie before. (And I had: 2014's underrated "The Book of Life.") More culturally sensitive and politically correct than your average Disney production. (B.)

THE COMMUTER--Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra reteam for a fourth Hitchcockian pastiche ("Non-Stop," "Unknown" and "Run All Night" were their previous collaborations). Neeson plays an ex-cop taking the Metro-North train from Manhattan during rush hour who's approached by a fellow passenger (Vera Farmiga) with an offer he can't refuse. Hokey and instantly forgettable, but entertaining while it lasts. (C PLUS.)

CROOKED HOUSE--Based on a lesser known Agatha Christie murder mystery, this entertaining adaptation gets great mileage out of a spectacular English country estate, 1950's period trappings and an amusingly eclectic cast (Glenn Close, Terrence Stamp, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, et al). Cowritten by Julian Fellowes of "Gosford Park" and "Downton Abbey" fame. (B.)

DADDY'S HOME 2--Yuletide-themed sequel to the 2015 hit adds Mel Gibson and John Lithgow (both perfectly cast) to the mix as, respectively, Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell's dads. The humor is once again as broad as a barn (and as subtle as a network sitcom), but fans of the original are unlikely to care. (C.)

DARKEST HOUR--Gary Oldman is electrifying as Winston Churchill in WW II-era England. Churchill's bid to become Prime Minister is set against the dramatic backdrop of the Dunkirk evacuation. Kristen Scott-Thomas and Lily James provide invaluable distaff support, but this is Oldman's show every step of the way. And his tour-de-force performance just might win him the Oscar he's been denied for three decades. Directed by the estimable Joe ("Atonement," "Anna Karenina") Wright, it's the artistic equal to Chris Nolan's "Dunkirk." (A.)

DEN OF THIEVES-- Another glorified "B" movie toplining Gerard Butler, an actor who's made so many lousy career choices over the past decade that his SAG card deserves to be revoked. Clocking it at a derriere-numbing 140 minutes, this wannabe Michael Mann policier-noir about an elite unit of the L.A. County Sheriff's Office infiltrating a cadre of bank robbers is slightly more ambitious than, say, Butler's recent "Geostorm," but not appreciably better. (D PLUS.)

DESPICABLE ME 3--Former baddie Gru is reunited with long-last twin brother Dru (both voiced by Steve Carrel) and battles a new super villain (Trey Parker) in the third--and least--entry in the Illumination CGI 'toon franchise that turned Minions into household names. It's fast-paced and silly enough to amuse small fry; adults will probably grow restless long before it's over. I did. (C.)

THE DISASTER ARTIST--James Franco's hilarious new film affectionately chronicles the making of one of the worst movies ever made (Tommy Wiseau's 2003 jaw-dropper "The Room"), and it's an unbridled delight. So good it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Tim Burton's 1994 masterpiece, "Ed Wood." (A.)

DOWNSIZING--Don't go into Alexander ("Sideways," "The Descendants") Payne's terrific new movie expecting the goofy, "let's get small" comedy being sold in the ubiquitous trailer. It's actually a good deal more serious--and much better--than you might think. In the not too distant future, Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play middle-class schlubs who decides to join a colony of miniatured citizenry in an effort to help the environment and elevate their standard of living (money goes a lot farther when you're little). The first half is consistently amusing, but the film has far weightier concerns than just making you laugh. The end result is both surprising and surprisingly moving. (A.)

DUNKIRK--At 107 fat-free minutes, visionary auteur Christopher ("The Dark Knight," "Inception") Nolan's hotly anticipated WW II epic is a tour de force of kinetic action cinema. An ensemble piece in the truest sense of the word (Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Kenneth Branagh are the most familiar faces, all first-rate), the real marquee star is Nolan. It's among the "Dark Knight" helmer's finest directorial achievements to date. (A.)

FACES PLACES--French New Wave veteran Agnes Varda and modernist shutterbug JR teamed for this captivating, Oscar-nominated documentary in which they travel through rural France, engaging with the locals and taking their pictures for an ambitious collage-art project. It sounds boring, but is anything but. The odd-couple friendship that develops between octogenarian Varda and thirtysomething hipster JR is--like their film--charming, funny and deeply, inexorably moving. (A.)

FATHER FIGURES--This long-delayed Owen Wilson/Ed Helms comedy finally hits theaters, and is every bit as terrible as its two years on the shelf intimated. Wilson and Helms play fraternal twin brothers who embark upon a road trip to find their biological dad out of a long list of suspects (including Christopher Walden, J.K. Simmons and former Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw) mom Glenn Close canoodled with back in her Free Love days. Gross, witless and seemingly endless at 113 minutes. (D MINUS.)

FERDINAND--As in "Ferdinand the bull," the same pacifist bovine immortalized in the storybook perennial and Oscar-winning 1938 Disney short. This version, expanded to feature length, lacks

the charm, wit and artistry of the original, but it's not terrible by current CGI animation standards. John Cena voices Ferdinand and Kate McKinnon steals the show as his goofy goat sidekick.


FILM STARS DON'T DIE IN LIVERPOOL--Annette Bening deserved an Oscar nomination for her wonderful performance as screen icon Gloria Grahame in this only fitfully effective docudrama. Grahame's late '70s/early '80s May-December romance with a young British actor (nicely played by Jamie Bell) is the narrow focus of the film, but it's not enough to sustain interest for two hours. Bening is fantastic, though. Too bad Paul McGuigan's movie isn't always worthy of her talent. (C.)

THE FLORIDA PROJECT--Sean ("Tangerine") Baker's neorealist slice of contemporary life pivots around the comings and goings in a "no tell" motel located near Orlando's theme parks. Amazing first-time juvenile actor Brooklynn Prince plays a spunky little girl who lives there with her skanky mom (equally remarkable newcomer Bria Vinaite). The only source of humanity in their lives is provided by Willem Dafoe's compassionate motel manager. (A.)

THE FOREIGNER--After his daughter is killed in a London terrorist bombing, Jackie Chan goes on the warpath, ruffling the feathers of ex-IRA deputy minister Pierce Brosnan. Directed by Martin ("The Mask of Zorro," "Casino Royale") Campbell, it's a moderately compelling actioner for anyone suffering withdrawal pains between Liam Neeson's "Taken" movies. (C PLUS.)

FOREVER MY GIRL--A country music star (Alex Roe) returns to his hometown hoping to win back his childhood sweetheart (Jessica Rothe).

Nicholas Sparks with a twang. (C MINUS.)

GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA: A SELF PORTRAIT--Barbet ("Reversal of Fortune," "Barfly") Schroeder's provocative 1974 documentary about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has finally been released on Blu-Ray by the Criterion Collection, and it remains one of the most definitive portraits of evil ever captured on celluloid. Schroeder had extraordinary access to Amin and the strongman turned on the charm offensive, never realizing that he was being set up. (Can you say "Hanging yourself with your own petard?") Whether staging "national pride" rallies or faux military escapades for the benefit of Schroeder's crew (Oscar-winning cinematographer Nestor Almendros was the film's DP), Amin's quicksilver temperament turns on a dime. Even at his most foolish/silly he exudes a blood-curdling menace that makes it easy to believe the very worst about this egomaniacal baby man. For a Criterion release, the extras are surprisingly skimpy: two Schroeder interviews, from 2001 and 2017 respectively; an interview with journalist Andrew Rice about Amin's reign of terror; and an informative essay by former Village Voice critic J. Hoberman that neatly contextualizes "General Idi Amin: A Self-Portrait" within Schroeder's eclectic oeuvre and the history of documentary cinema. (A MINUS.)

GEOSTORM--With all the disasters--natural and otherwise--occurring on a daily basis, another ecological disaster movie hardly qualifies as "entertainment." Lousy acting, stupid script, hackneyed execution, no fun. Skip it. (D.)

GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN--Domhnall Gleeson (very good) is kid-lit author A.A. Milne, a WW I combat vet suffering from PTSD who wrote his Winnie the Pooh books as a way to forge a bond with his lonely young son (the titular Christopher Robin). Much darker than you were probably expecting, the film is actually a tale of inadvertent child abuse as Christopher is exploited as a marketing prop to help sell Milne's books to the world. Margot Robbie brings a suitably icy hauteur to the role of Mrs. Milne, and Kelly McDonald supplies much-needed warmth as Christopher's beloved nanny. (B.)

GOOD TIME--Former "Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattison kills it as a small-time hood willing to do anything to protect his mentally challenged brother (Benny Safdie) in the latest pressure cooker from the Safdie Brothers (Josh and Benny). Gritty and sometimes unbearably intense, it's an apt companion piece to Martin Scorsese's 1973 masterpiece "Mean Streets." (A MINUS.)

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN--This white-washed musical biopic about legendary circus impresario P.T. Barnum starring Hugh Jackman was a stealth blockbuster when it was released over the holidays. Mildly entertaining as a sort of "whatzit?," but so misconceived on a conceptual level that you have to wonder what the filmmakers were thinking. Jackman's song-and-dance man roots insure that he doesn't embarrass himself, and Zac Efron (with "High School Musical" musical roots of his own) scores in a supporting role. But Michelle Williams is so completely out of her depth that her wan performance as Barnum's wife inspires more sympathy than scorn. The film's bench strength lies in the excellent musical score by Oscar-winning "La La Land" composers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek. Good thing the sing-a-long addition that played in select theaters is included in the film's 2-disc Blu-Ray edition. Additional extras include an audio commentary by director Michael Gracey; a making-of documentary; featurettes on each of the songs (the rehearsal footage for "This is Me" will be particularly thrilling to "Showman" fans); and a stellar behind-the-scenes look at the painstaking work turned in by the film's various craft departments. (The movie itself deserves just a "C PLUS," but the Blu-Ray extras elevate the entire package to "A MINUS" territory.)

HAPPY DEATH DAY--If "Groundhog Day" had been a slasher flick--and set on the campus of a generic U.S. college instead of Punxsutawney, PA--it might have looked something like this half clever/half silly throwaway. Director Christopher Landon did a better job with 2015's "Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse." (C MINUS.)

HAPPPY END--Because this is a film by world class misanthrope Michael ("Amour," "Funny Games") Haneke, the title is meant ironically. Certainly happiness of any kind isn't in the cards for the wealthy French industrialist family at the center of Haneke's typically bleak, perversely comic film. Not one of the director's masterpieces, but splendid performances by Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert and Matthieu Kassovitz (among others) insure that your attention never lags. (B.)

HOSTILES--Christian Bale gives a career-best performance in writer/director Scott ("Black Mass," "Crazy Heart") Cooper's masterful new film which deserves a slot in the canon of great revisionist westerns. Bale plays a hardened army captain charged with escorting a Cheyenne Indian chief (Wes Studi) and his family to their Montana home in 1892. During the course of the journey, Bale's career soldier is forced to confront his innate racism--as well as some equally fraught physical perils along the way. Rosamund Pike, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Ben Foster and "Call Me By Your Name" Best Actor nominee Timothee Chalamet (among others) provide solid thesping support. (A.)

INGRID GOES WEST--Aubrey Plaza travels cross country to meet her social media "friend" Elizabeth Olsen. As a clear-eyed look at Millennial myopia--and the perils of confusing Instagram "like"s with real life--the film is quietly devastating. It's also pretty funny. (B.)

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY--A sequel to 2015's "Insidious, Chapter 3" (which was itself a prequel to the first two films), this edition is so confused and confusing you'd swear everyone was making it up as they went along. Let's hope the title's a promise because this teen horror franchise is now officially running on fumes. (D.)

IT--Moderately successful adaptation of Stephen King's 1,138-page magnum opus wisely elects to tell only half of the story (the part with the Losers Club), the better to play up its "Stand by Me" similarities. Directed by Andy ("Mama") Muschietti, it's chockablock with spooky setpieces, appealing juvenile performers ("St. Vincent" alumnus Jaeden Lieberher is a standout), and a classic, Freddie Krueger-esque boogey man in Bill Skarsgard's Pennywise. If the whole thing feels a tad lumpy and unfinished, it's probably because we'll have to wait for the in-the-works sequel to see how it all turns out. Or you can just read the book. (B.)

I, TONYA--Craig ("Lars and the Real Girl") Gillespie's laugh-till-you-cry quasi-biopic revisits 1994's infamous "Tonya-Gate," and explores pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about onetime Olympic hopeful Tonya Harding but were afraid to ask. The performances by Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney as Harding, Jeff Gillooly and Harding's tough-as-nails mom are unimpeachable. (A MINUS.)

JIGSAW--The return of the original torture porn franchise that nobody, expect maybe a few sadists, were clamoring for. If this is your cup of fright film arsenic, knock yourselves out. Anyone else has been warned. Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig who did much better work with the 2010 Ethan Hawke vampire opus, "Daybreakers." (D.)

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE--A pointless reboot of the so-so 1995 Robin Williams kidflick in which some nerdy teens transport themselves into an old video game in which Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black become their online avatars. The overreliance on CGI is distracting; the absence of any discernible wit or creative imagination is deadly. Nostalgists and kids both deserve better. (D.)

JUST GETTING STARTED--Morgan Freeman plays a former mob lawyer in the Witness Protection Program who strikes up an unlikely friendship with mystery man Tommy Lee Jones while eluding an inept hit man. Both leads are OK, but this is middling AARP fare at best. Hard to believe writer/director Ron Shelton once made great movies like "Bull Durham" and "White Men Can't Jump." (D PLUS.)

JUSTICE LEAGUE--D.C.'s attempt to forge their own "Avengers"-style franchise is a hit-and-miss affair that largely coasts on the goodwill generated from last summer's "Wonder Woman." Ben Affleck's Batman, Henry Cavill's Superman (well, sort of) and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman are the marquee players, but Jason Momoa makes a pretty good case for himself as the newly anointed Aquaman. The rest of the newbies (Cyborg and the Flash) tend to blend into the CGI scenery, but it's passably entertaining and--at just under two hours--mercifully brief considering the bloated run times of most recent comic book flicks. (C PLUS.)

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER--Yorgos Lanthimos' follow-up to 2016's "The Lobster" is an equally discomfiting tale of a respected surgeon, husband and father (Colin Farrell) whose perfect life comes undone when he befriends the disturbed teenage son (Barry Keoghan) of a former patient who died in the operating room. Part pitch-black comedy, psychological horror film and Grimm Brothers fairy tale, it's not as metaphorically rich or resonant as "The Lobster," but so masterfully written, directed and acted (Nicole Kidman is superb as Farrell's understandably bewildered spouse) that it grips--and amuses--every step of the way. (A.)

LADY BIRD--Director/screenwriter Greta Gerwig's semi-autobiographical coming-of-age movie is so pitch-perfect and beautifully realized on every front that you'll be in tears when you aren't laughing your ass off. Saoirse ("Brooklyn") Ronan plays a high school senior in Sacramento, CA circa 2002 whose parents (Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts, both wonderful) mean well, but are driving her bonkers. All she wants is to skip town after graduation and head east for college. "Manchester by the Sea" Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges plays Ronan's too-good-to-be-true-because-he-isn't boyfriend. An instant classic, it's a spiritual prequel to Noah Baumbach's great "Frances Ha" (which Gerwig wrote and starred in). (A.)

LAST FLAG FLYING--A kind of spiritual sequel to Hal Ashby's 1973 New Hollywood masterpiece "The Last Detail," Richard ("Boyhood") Linklater's beautifully acted three-hander casts Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne as three old sailors who reunite for a road trip to

bury Carell's fallen Marine son. Funny and even bawdy at times, but powerfully moving. (A.)

L.B.J.--As the titular former POTUS and Lady Bird Johnson, Woody Harrelson and Jennifer Jason Leigh are the best things in Rob Reiner's overly prosaic biopic. Jay Roach's 2016 HBO movie "All the Way" with Bryan Cranston as L.B.J. is the better Johnson flick. Rent that instead. (C PLUS.)

THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE--The third--and least special--LEGO 'toon is sort of what "Kung Fu Panda" would look like minus the pandas and with, y'know, LEGOs. While great-looking and intermittently engaging/amusing, it's just not up to the same level of creativity and wit that distinguished the first two LEGO iterations. (C PLUS.)

LE SAMOURAI--If Jean-Pierre Melville had never been born, would Michael Mann have existed?

Discuss. In the meantime, check out the Criterion Collection's breathtaking new hi-def digital restoration of Melville's 1967 masterpiece starring Alain Delon as the coolest contract killer on the Champs-Elysees. Delon's Jef Costello--wearing Gallic sangfroid as effortlessly as he does his sporty fedora and trench coat--must contend with a cop on his tail and an employer even more ruthless than he is. But plot matters less than mise-en-scene, and the whole thing is uber-stylized, infused with an Asian lone-wolf sensibility that wouldn't have been out of place in one of Kurosawa's classic samurai flicks. The extras are less bountiful than usual for a Criterion Blu-Ray, but still choice. There are archival interviews with Melville, Delon, Francois Perier, Cathy Rosier and Nathalie Delon, and 2005 interviews with two Melville scholars (Ginette Vincendeau, author of "Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris," and Rui Nogueira, editor of "Melville on Melville"); a 2011 short exploring the relationship between Melville and Delon; an essay by critic David Thomson; an appreciation by none other than Melville acolyte John Woo; and excerpts from the afore-motioned "Melville on Melville." (A.)

LOVING VINCENT--Gorgeous hand-drawn animation propels this investigation into the death (suicide? murder?) of Vincent Van Gogh in late 19th century France. The decision to give the film the post-Impressionist look of a Van Gogh canvas pays off in spades: it's the most visually striking animated film of 2017. The storyline isn't terribly compelling if you're familiar with Van Gogh's Wikipedia page, but it's still a veritable feast for the senses. (B PLUS.)

THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS--Fanciful account of the real-life story behind Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Quaintly old-fashioned, but I wish another actor had played Dickens. Dan Stevens' callow smugness can spoil even the jolliest holiday party. Good support from Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce among others, though. (B MINUS.)

MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE--As the Watergate whistle blower immortalized as "Deep Throat" by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who used him as a source for their Washington Post reportage, Liam Neeson is strikingly good. The parallels between Watergate and Russiagate are devastating, especially when you consider that the film wrapped well before Trump's inauguration. (B PLUS.)

MARSHALL--Earnest, but never stodgy biopic about Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman), the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. The movie focuses on a case from Marshall's early years when he defended a black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown of "This is Us") charged with sexual assault and attempted murder. The sensational Boseman, who's already played Jackie Robinson ("42") and James Brown ("Get On Up"), makes the movie worth seeing all by himself. And it's a lot easier to sit through than your average high school civics class. (B MINUS.)

MAUDIE--Sally Hawkins is wonderful as true-life Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis whose hardscrabble early years helped fuel her paintings. Ethan Hawke (also very good) plays her curmudgeonly, not particularly supportive mate. Beautifully directed by Aisling Walsh. (A MINUS.)

MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE--Another dystopian YA franchise signs off. Dylan O'Brien has grown in the lead role of Thomas, and has become a formidable action hero in the process. He's the best thing here. Unfortunately, in an attempt to give a series that always prided itself on unpretentiousness--certainly in comparison with, say, the "Divergent" movies--"epic" weight, a certain ponderousness has set in. It's a (too) leisurely paced 142-minute sprint to the finish line. (C PLUS.)

MOLLY'S GAME--As Molly Bloom, the former Olympic hopeful who ran high-stakes poker games on both the east and west coasts earlier this millennium, Jessica Chastain gave my favorite performance of 2017. Aaron Sorkin's long-awaited directorial debut deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as "The Social Network" and "The Big Short." His whip-smart dialogue ricochets across the screen like tennis balls at Wimbledon. It's positively exhilarating. As the ultimate in tough-love dads, a superb Kevin Costner deserves to be remembered at Oscar time as surely as Chastain and Sorkin. (A.)

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US--After miraculously surviving a plane crash, Kate Winslet and Idris Elba fight for survival in freezing conditions while stranded atop a mountain. Brrr. Not bad per se and both leads are reliably strong, but we've already seen this movie before many times before both on cable and in theaters. Oscar-nominated director Hany Abu-Asad ("Omar," "Paradise Now") has done better, less generic and certainly more distinctive films. (C.)

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS--Kenneth Branagh directed and stars as super sleuth Hercule Poirot in this sumptuously produced adaptation of the Agatha Christie perennial, previously filmed by Sidney Lumet in 1974 with Albert Finney essaying Poirot. The all-star cast--including Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp--is clearly having a ball, and their enjoyment is infectious. Even if you guess the killer from a mile away, it's still fun watching Poirot (and Branagh) at work. (B.)

MY LITTLE PONY--The '80s kiddie sensation is reprised in a thoroughly unremarkable, paint-by-numbers 'toon. Strictly for the youngest, most undemanding moviegoers. (D.)

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD--Would "The Walking Dead"--and the cottage industry that sprung up around it--even exist without "Night of the Living Dead"? Discuss. Or better yet, buy the Criterion Collection's stunningly comprehensive new Blu-Ray edition of George A. Romero's grassroots zombie trailblazer. Shot in Pittsburgh on a $100,000 budget, Romero's 1968 masterpiece left an indelible footprint in both the horror genre and indie film circles. Decades before "Get Out," Romero was combining genre tropes with the type of scathing social criticism that would have never been allowed in a more "reputable" mainstream release. It was truly a "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" moment, even if no one quite realized it at the time. Fifty years later, Romero's movie still has the ability to send goosebumps down your spine--and make you laugh your ass off if you're so inclined. Criterion's 4K digital restoration (supervised by, among others, Romero, co-screenwriter John A. Russo and sound engineer Gary R. Streiner) insures that this "Living Dead" looks vastly superior to any previous versions: it's certainly an improvement over the distressed print I saw back in the day on a double-bill with "Dr. Who and the Daleks" at a neighborhood theater. The extras are an embarrassment of geek-riches, beginning with "Night of Anubis," a previously unseen work-print edit of the film and an equally rare 16 mm dailies reel. There are two--count 'em--audio commentaries from 1994 featuring Romero, Russo, producer Karl Hardman and actor Judith O'Dea (Barbara) among others, and archival interviews with Romero and actors Duane Jones (Ben) and Judith Ridley. Also included are programs featuring Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro and Robert Rodriguez rhapsodizing over Romero's visionary genius, and Russo dishing on the commercial and industrial-film company where he and Romero began their careers. There are also new interviews with Streiner and producer Russell Streiner; newsreels from 1967; original trailer, radio and TV spots; and an essay by "Nation" critic Stuart Klawans."They're coming for you, Barbara!" indeed. (A PLUS.)

NOVITIATE--First-time writer/director Maggie Betts' moving account of the spiritual and emotional journey of a young woman (Margaret Qualley) who enters a convent in the early 1960's marks her as a filmmaker to watch. Betts' superb cast (including the remarkable Qualley, "Glee" alum Dianna Agron and a ferocious Melissa Leo as the convent's imperious Mother Superior) never makes a false move. For most of its run time, neither does the movie. (A MINUS.)

ONLY THE BRAVE--The Granite Mountain Hotshots--an elite corps of Arizona fire fighters--are the subjects of an impressively visceral action flick that proves 1991's "Backdraft" wasn't the last word on firemen movies after all. Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges and Taylor Kitsch star in aptly uber-macho mode. Amidst all this roiling testosterone, Jennifer Connelly manages to turn in her best screen performance since "Requiem for a Dream" as Brolin's long-suffering wife. Nice. (B.)

OTHELLO--Thanks to The Criterion Collection, Orson Welles' cinema maudit (literally translated as "cursed film") receives the bells-and-whistles treatment Welles and Shakespeare buffs have been clamoring for. Shot over three years in Italy and Morocco--depending on when/where the latest infusion of cash arrived--"Othello" somehow managed to triumph despite all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that rained down on Welles during the movie's troubled production. The two-disc Criterion Blu-Ray includes gorgeously restored 4K digital transfers of both the 1952 European version as well as the 1955 U.S. cut. And because it's Criterion, there's a veritable treasure trove of supplements, including Welles' last completed work, the 1979 docu-essay, "Filming Othello." Other choice extras include: a well-nigh definitive 1995 audio commentary with director/Welles BFF Peter Bogdanovich and Welles expert Myron Meisel; the 1953 short film, "Return to Glennascaul," made during the film's protracted shooting by "Othello" actors Hilton Edwards and Micheal MacLiammoir; and a 1995 documentary about the movie's ethereal Desdemona, Suzanne Cloutier, directed by Francois Girard. There are interviews with Welles biographer Simon Callow; "Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race and Contemporary America" author Ayanna Thompson; writer Joseph McBride; and scholar Francois Thomas who compares and contrasts the two extant versions of "Othello." If that's not enough, there's even a smashing print essay ("In Pieces") by film critic Geoffrey O'Brien. It's the most impressive--and impressively packaged--Blu-Ray release I've seen all year. (A PLUS.)

PADDINGTON 2--Innocuous follow-up to the popular 2015 kidflick. Sally Hawkins and High Bonneville return as adoptive "parents" to a twee CGI bear who once again wreaks benign havoc on their proper British household. Small children will love it. Anyone else? Snoozeville. (C.)

PHANTOM THREAD--From the opening strains of Jonny Greenwood's lushly retro score, Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will be Blood," "Boogie Nights") sucks you into his seductive tale of codependent love taken to pathological extremes. Daniel Day Lewis (in his final screen appearance?), Vicky Krieps and Leslie Manville form the year's most exquisite thesping trilogy. A masterpiece. (A.)

PITCH PERFECT 3--Sadly, the third entry in the popular a cappella series is more depressing than entertaining. After experiencing professional disappointment in the post-collegiate world, the Bellas (Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, et al) reunite for an overseas USO tour as a sort of last hurrah. If you're a fan, you may find it intermittently amusing. If not, you should have probably gone to another movie instead. (C MINUS.)

PLANETARIUM--While I was never entirely certain whose (or what) story this period piece wanted to tell, the performances of Natalie Portman and Lily Rose Depp (yes, Johnny's teenage daughter) as clairvoyant American sisters in WW II-era Paris kept me engaged. Part supernatural mystery, part Holocaust drama and part showbiz saga (the sisters get cast in a movie), it's a bit of a mess but consistently watchable nonetheless. (B MINUS.)

THE POST--An entertaining account of the true-life story behind the rocky 1971 publication of Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers is briskly paced and nicely acted (multi Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep play Washington Post icons Ben Bradlee and Kay Graham), but director Steven Spielberg's rush to finish for a 2017 awards season launch definitely shows. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer's overly glib script needed an additional polish, and the period details--especially costuming, hair and make-up--seem to have been laid on with a trowel. (The "hippies" in the background look like they wandered in from a community theater production of "Hair.") "All the President's Men" it's not. Fortunately, the newly released Blu-Ray edition has the sort of tantalizing extras that enhance the overall viewing experience. Included on the two-disc set are features on Graham and Bradlee; a making-of documentary; background on the cast (and their real-life characters); and Inside Baseball stuff about the movie's production design/period recreation and John Williams' typically stellar score. ("B" for the movie, but the extras elevate the overall package to "B PLUS" territory.)

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN--Intriguing true-life docudrama about psychologist William Marston (Luke Evans), creator of the Wonder Woman comic book. The movie spends as much time delineating Marston's, er, unconventional living arrangements--he and his wife (Rebecca Hall) share a home and bed with his mistress (Bella Heathcote)--as it does on his feminist comic icon. Entertaining and well-played even though the filmmaking itself never rises above a basic cable level of competence. (C PLUS.)

PROUD MARY--"Empire" diva Taraji P. Henson plays a mob hitwoman in a junky, thoroughly disreputable genre flick that could have been tailor-made for Pam Grier back in her blaxploitation heyday. Dumb, excessively violent and a thorough waste of Henson's considerable talents. (D.)

REBECCA--1940's Oscar-winning Best Picture has always been a peculiar case in that it's a great movie, but not necessarily a great "Alfred Hitchcock Movie." Hitch himself said that uber-producer David O. Selznick was the true auteur of the picture, and it feels as though it could have been directed by William Wyler, George Cukor, Michael Curtiz or any number of Old Hollywood master craftsmen. Adapted from Daphne du Maurier's novel, the film stars Joan Fontaine as the blushing bride of brooding widower Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier in his follow-up to Heathcliff in Wyler's "Wuthering Heights") whose arrival at Manderlay stirs up the ghost of de Winter's late wife (the titular Rebecca), as well as the dander of spooky housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson in an unforgettable performance). The Criterion Collection's 4K digital restoration insures that the movie has never looked better, and there are a treasure trove of yummy extras for Hitchcock completists. Chief among them are an audio commentary with film historian Leonard J. Leff; a conversation between critic Molly Haskell and scholar Patricia White; an interview with archivist Craig Barron on the visual effects; 2016 French television documentary, "Daphne du Maurier: In the Footsteps of 'Rebecca;'" a 2007 making-of doc; casting gallery with notes from both Hitchcock and Selznick; a 1975 television interview

Hitchcock did with Tom Snyder for NBC's old "Tomorrow" show; three radio versions of "Rebecca," including Orson Welles' 1938 Mercury Theater adaptation; screen, hair, makeup and costume tests with Fontaine, Vivien Leigh, Anne Baxter, Loretta Young and Margaret Sullavan; 1986 audio interviews with Fontaine and Anderson; an essay by Selznick biographer David Thompson; and Selznick production correspondence with (among others) Hitchcock. (A.)

REBEL IN THE RYE--In his best performance since "About a Boy," Nicholas Hoult plays the young J.D. Salinger in this affecting biopic about the "Catcher in the Rye" author's formative years. Kevin Spacey (excellent) is Salinger's literary mentor, and Zooey Deutch casts a winsome spell as erstwhile lover Oona O'Neill. Screenwriter Danny ("The Butler") Strong has made an impressive first film. (B PLUS.)

SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME--After siting on Paramount's shelf for more than two years, this Renee Zellweger/Greg Kinnear soaper finally hits theaters via faith-based shingle Pure Flix. You have been warned. (D PLUS.)

THE SHAPE OF WATER--Cold War thriller, creature feature, fairy tale and romantic comedy, Guillermo del Toro's well-nigh uncategorizable new film is his best since "Pan's Labyrinth." Sally Hawkins (wonderful) is a mute janitor at a government research facility circa 1962 who makes a love connection with a scaly aquatic beast that's being held captive. She teams up with coworker Octavia Spencer and closeted gay neighbor Richard Jenkins to rescue the creature and return it to the sea. Michael Shannon plays a sadistic G-Man and Michael Stuhlbarg is a Soviet double-agent who wants to take the monster back to Soviet Russia. Yes, it sounds completely bonkers, but del Toro's humanity, whimsicality and soulfulness make it one of the most unique and unforgettable love stories in recent memory. (A.)

SID AND NANCY--What ever happened to Chloe Webb? That's the question I kept asking myself while watching the Criterion Collection's restored 4K digital transfer of cult director Alex ("Repo Man") Cox's 1986 masterpiece. As Sid Vicious soulmate Nancy Spungen, Webb practically burns a hole through the screen with her voracious, unbridled intensity. Along with Debra Winger in "An Officer and a Gentleman" and Jessica Lange in "Sweet Dreams," Webb's searing turn is one of the truly great movie performances of the '80s. A sort of punk rock "Days of Wine and Roses," "Sid and Nancy" paints an indelible portrait of co-dependent addiction and l'amour fou set against the backdrop of the second British Invasion. Playing a snarling Romeo to Webb's smack-addicted Juliet, Gary Oldman is equally brilliant, but Oldman got a chance to play everyone from Lee Harvey Oswald to Beethoven to Joe Orton and Dracula after his star-making performance. And Webb? Despite winning the New York Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics Best Actress awards, a supporting role opposite Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzengger in 1988's "Twins" was the best Hollywood could offer. Not fair. Another thing that popped out on a second viewing--I hadn't seen the film since its original 1986 theatrical release--was Roger Deakins' crystalline cinematography. Deakins, who would emerge as one of the finest DPs of his generation, does amazing work here, crafting a graffiti-sprawled tapestry of squalor and snot as visceral as it is weirdly, hauntingly beautiful. Which makes it the perfect visual metaphor for Vicious and Spungen's star-crossed junkie romance. The newly issued Criterion Blu-Ray offers a cornucopia of extras: two audio commentaries (from 1994 with Oldman, Webb and rock historian Greil Marcus, and an alternate 2001 track with Cox); a 2016 Cox interview; a 1987 making-of documentary; a 1976 television interview with the Sex Pistols; a Vicious telephone interview from 1978; interviews with Spungen and Vicious from 1980 documentary, "D.O.A.: A Right of Passage;" excerpts from "The London Weekend Show," a 1976 British TV show, and a 2016 doc, "Sad Vacation," about Vicious and Spungen; an essay by author Jon Savage; and Cox's 1986 musings about the titular couple and the making of the film. (A.)

SMALL TOWN CRIME--John Hawkes (first-rate) is an alcoholic ex-cop turned P.I. in this tasty slice of neo-noir by the Nelms Brothers (Ian and Esham). A first-rate supporting cast (including Robert Forster, Octavia Spencer and Anthony Anderson) helps sell the goods: think early '70s Don Siegel crossed with a post-Coen Brothers Sundance indie vibe. Laudably economical at a 92 terse minutes, it's the kind of movie that's worth seeking out if you're burned out on bland, bloated Hollywood fare. (B.)

THE SNOWMAN--Lackluster Tomas ("Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy") Alfredson adaptation of the best-selling 2007 Jo Nesbo serial killer procedural. The great Michael Fassbender sleepwalks through his role as a detective on the case with a serious drinking problem; Rebecca Ferguson

provides what little spark the movie has as his rookie partner. Considering the talent involved (Martin Scorsese is an executive producer!), the tepid results mark this as one of the season's most disappointing films. (C.)

THE STAR--Ever wonder what barn animals at the Nativity were thinking? Me neither. Blandly inoffensive pabulum for the very youngest among the Sunday School set. (D PLUS.)

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI--The third entry in the new "Star Wars" generation of movies boasts the best director (Rian Johnson of "Looper" and "Brick" fame), but is the least satisfying overall. The film is so busy spinning off into parallel story threads (Rey and Luke Skywalker; Poe and the rebels; Finn doing whatever he's doing; Kylo Ren's identity crisis; etc.) that it never finds a focus. Plus, there are far too many cutesy space critters for anyone over the age of 6. (If you hated the Ewoks, beware.) Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro join the cast and acquit themselves nicely. Maybe they'll actually have substantive roles to play in future installments. Too choppy and, at 152-minutes, definitely too long. (C PLUS.)

STRONGER--Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance as Jeff Bauman who lost both legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. David Gordon Green's film takes a warts-and-all

approach to its true-life subject (Bauman's bad behavior isn't glossed over like it would have been in a more conventional, sanitized biopic), and that honesty feels both bracing and welcome. An unrecognizable Miranda Richardson plays Bauman's tough-as-nails mother and, as his long-suffering girlfriend, Tatiana Maslany reminded me of the early-'80s Debra Winger. High praise indeed. (A MINUS.)

SUBURBICON--This uber-quirky dark comedy set in a prototypical 1950's American suburb was directed/ cowritten by George Clooney and adapted from an original Coen Brothers screenplay. While not a total success (too much of it feels overly broad, even cartoonish at times), there are enough interestingly subversive elements--and strong performances from Matt Damon, Oscar Isaacs, Julianne Moore and fantastic kid actor Noah Jupe among others--to keep you happily jazzed. (B MINUS.)

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE--Returning serviceman Miles Teller suffers from PTSD in a touching homefront drama, the first film directed by "American Sniper" screenwriter Jason Hall. The ensemble cast is superb (including an unrecognizable Amy Schumer), and Hall deftly sidesteps most of the cliches inherent in the genre. (B.)

THOR: RAGNAROK--Entrusting the latest entry in the "Thor" franchise to New Zealand wunderkind Taika ("What We Do in the Shadows," "Hunt for the Wilderpeople") Waititi was the smartest decision in Marvel Land since Robert Downey Jr. landed his "Iron-Man" gig. Wapiti's screwball humanism is the perfect tonic, and everyone involved seems newly energized and inspired to do their best work. Chris Hemsworth--with newly shorn locks; hurray!--Tom Hiddleston, Tessa ("Creed") Thompson, Jeff Goldblum and Mark Ruffalo are clearly having a blast, as is delicious new series villain Cate Blanchett. It's maybe 20 minutes too long, but entertaining (and laugh-out funny) from start to finish. (B PLUS.)

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI--This whimsical dramedy by writer/director Martin ("In Bruges") McDonagh gives Oscar winner Frances McDormand her juiciest big-screen role since 1996's "Fargo." She plays Mildred, the grieving mom of a dead teenage girl whose killer (or killers?) was never caught. Because Mildred harbors a grudge against local law enforcement for not solving the crime, she blows her life savings on the titular billboards which accuse police chief Woody Harrelson of criminal negligence. Smashingly written and directed with one of the year's finest ensemble casts (Sam Rockwell is a standout as an idiot cop), it's a film whose impact will linger long after you've hit the parking lot. And you can't say that about a whole lot of movies today. (A.)

THE TRIP TO SPAIN--Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reteam for another gastronomic travelogue, this time (you guessed it) in Spain. While Coogan and Brydon remain an entertaining duo, riffing off each other like they've been doing it their whole lives, some of the bloom is off the rose in "Trip" #3. Directed once again by Michael Winterbottom who really knows how to photograph landscapes and food. (B.)

VICEROY'S HOUSE--"Downton Abbey" alum Hugh Bonneville plays Lord Mountbatten, the last British viceroy in India whose task was overseeing the country's transition back to independent rule in 1947. Directed by Chadra ("Bend it Like Beckham") Chadra and sporting an esteemed supporting cast (including Michael Gambon, Simon Callow and Gillian Anderson as Mrs. Mountbaten), it's the kind of lushly appointed, old-fashioned period piece that used to be catnip with arthouse audiences. Slightly stodgy, but enjoyable nonetheless. (B MINUS.)

VICTORIA AND ABDUL--Judi Dench returns to the role of Queen Victoria that she essayed in 1997's "Mrs. Brown" for a fanciful account of the British monarch's friendship with an Indian Muslim (Ali Fazal). Because it feels more like a movie from 20 years ago than today where comic book tentpoles rule, audiences of a certain age should find it well-nigh irresistible. Directed by Stephen Frears ("Philomena," "The Queen") who knows a thing or two about royalty. And Dame Judi. (B.)

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES--Sofia Coppola's lovely, deeply affecting 2000 directorial debut finally gets the Criterion Collection treatment it deserves. Sensitively adapted from Jeffrey Eugenides's acclaimed YA novel, the film marked Coppola as a distinctive new voice in American cinema. Anchored by Kirsten Dunst's mercurial performance as the eldest of five daughters chafing under repressive helicopter parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) in 1970's suburbia, the movie has a dreamy, plaintive melancholy that will haunt you long after it's over. I hadn't seen "The Virgin Suicides" since its original theatrical release, and like other first films by auteur directors (Wes Anderson's "Bottle Rocket;" Spike Jonze's "Being John Malkovich;" the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple;" etc.), it's fascinating to discover all the various tropes/motifs one associates with their later works in its nascent stage. The bountiful extras on the digitally restored Criterion Blu-Ray include new interviews with Coppola, cinematographer Ed Lachman, Dunst, Josh Hartnett and Eugenides; a 1998 making-of documentary directed by Coppola's mother, Eleanor; Coppola's 1998 short film, "Lick the Star;" a music video, "Playground Love," directed by Coppola and her brother, Roman; and a thoughtful, appreciative essay about Coppola and the film by novelist Megan Abbott. (A.)

WALKING OUT--Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins play a father and son whose Montana hunting trip takes a disastrous turn in Alex and Andrew Smith's emotionally grueling, albeit beautifully shot survival tale. Bomer--cast against type as a rugged outdoorsman--is very good, but this is Wiggins' movie every step of the way. He's one of the best young American actors to emerge since early-'90s Leo DiCaprio. Why isn't he getting the type of high-profile roles/movies his British and Aussie contemporaries are? (Yes, I'm looking at you "Amazing Spider-Man" Tom Holland.)


WOMEN IN LOVE--Ken Russell and Larry Kramer's Academy Award-winning 1970 D.H. Lawrence adaptation has aged remarkably well--and, nearly 50 years later, still has the power to shock and awe. Compared to the puritanical movies released by Hollywood these days, its unabashed eroticism and full frontal nudity make it seem downright liberating. Blessed with inspired casting (Glenda Jackson and Jennie Linden as the titular women; Oliver Reed and Alan Bates as their equally besotted male counterparts) and Billy Williams' gorgeous, sun-dappled cinematography, it could almost be construed as a #MeToo siren call in its emphasis on female empowerment and women, yes, doing it for themselves. Jackson deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as the imperious Gudrun Brangwen, and her 1976 interview is one of the many extras on this beautifully restored new Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. Also included are two 2003 commentaries featuring Russell and Kramer; a 2007 Russell interview for the BAFTA Los Angeles Heritage Archive; "A British Picture: Portrait of an Enfant Terrible," Russell's 1989 auto-biopic; interviews with Kramer and Linden conducted during the movie's 1969 production; new interviews with Williams and editor Michael Bradsell; a 1972 short based on a Lawrence story produced by and starring Bates; and an insightful essay about the film and Russell's career by scholar Linda Ruth Williams. Fingers crossed that Criterion will some day get around to releasing Russell's 1971 magnum opus, "The Devils." (A.)

WONDER--Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson play the parents of facially disfigured Jacob Tremblay in director Stephen ("The Perks of Being a Wallflower") Chbosky's warm and fuzzy dramedy about inclusiveness and celebrating difference. While it's no "Mask," the gentle, non-dogmatic tone marks it as one of the more satisfying feel-good movies of recent vintage. Bring Kleenexes. (B.)

WONDER WHEEL--Woody Allen's latest stars Kate Winslet (superb) as a bored housewife in 1950's Coney Island whose infatuation with a strapping young lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) is compromised when he redirects his charms on her comely step daughter (a wonderful Juno Temple). The overripe melodrama is redolent of both vintage Tennessee Williams (there's more than a touch of Blanche DuBois in Winslet's deluded hausfrau) and the florid domestic dramas of Douglas ("Imitation of Life," "Written on the Wind") Sirk. Stunningly lensed by veteran cinematographer Vittorio ("Apocalypse Now," "The Last Emperor") Storaro. (B PLUS.)

WOODSHOCK--As a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Kirsten Dunst (dependably good, but clearly struggling with a nonexistent role) is the entire show in a narcoleptic, fussily pretentious co-directorial debut by fashion designer sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Resembles a feature-length perfume ad...for anti-depressants. As insufferable as it sounds. (D.)

YOUNG MR. LINCOLN--The best Hollywood movie of 1939 wasn't "Gone With the Wind" or even "The Wizard of Oz," but this elegiac John Ford masterpiece about the early years of Honest Abe Lincoln, memorably played by Henry Fonda in one of his greatest screen performances. The film's stunning black-and-white photography (by frequent Ford collaborator Bert Glennon) has never looked better than in this new Criterion Collection Blu-Ray edition. Glennon's richly burnished images practically glisten. If you've never seen "Young Mr. Lincoln"--shockingly, the movie isn't as well-known as it should be: it's frequently overshadowed by Ford's "Stagecoach" released that same year--this is a fantastic introduction to one of the most enduring classics of

the American cinema. The extras are, per the Criterion norm, suitably choice: an audio commentary with Ford biographer Joseph McBride; Lindsay Anderson's profile of Ford's life and work prior to WW II; a 1975 talk show appearance by Fonda; audio interviews from the seventies with Ford and Fonda conducted by Ford's grandson; a radio dramatization of the film; an essay by critic Geoffrey O'Brien; and a Ford homage by master Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.




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