Movies With Milan

posted by thomasjohn -

NOW PLAYING IN AREA THEATERS:

ADRIFT--Young lovebirds Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin fight for survival after a sailing accident in Baltasar ("Everest," "2 Guns") Kormakur's disaster flick cum love story. Woodley is typically great, but Claflin remains a bit of a pretty cipher. Too bad Miles Teller, originally tapped for the male lead, dropped out pre-production due to scheduling conflicts. (C PLUS.)

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR--Is it just me, or is every "Avengers" movie pretty much the same? The latest--third?; fourth?; I've lost count--is also the longest, running over two-and-a-half hours which is an hour too long if you're not a Marvel-head. As usual, the most enjoyable parts are the "office" banter/bickering between the Avengers crew (Robert Downey Jr. remains an irrepressible cut-up); they're the only thing that makes it seem like a real movie instead of merely an excuse to blow things up and demonstrate how cutting-edge 21st century CGI is. (C.)

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.)

BOOK CLUB--A wonderful cast (Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen) topline a borderline-terrible comedy about a senior book club rediscovering the joys of sex after reading "50 Shades of Grey." While all the actresses are terrific, bringing a much-needed humanity to their cartoonishly drawn characters, I've seen funnier "Golden Girl" reruns. (C MINUS.)

BREAKING IN--Gabrielle Union gets a rare starring role as a woman fighting tooth and nailgun to protect her family from home invaders. Disposable trash from James McTeigue who seemed like an up-and-comer with "V for Vendetta" a dozen years ago, but never delivered on his early promise. (D PLUS.)

DEADPOOL 2--Fun sequel to the surprise 2015 Marvel blockbuster ("surprise" because it was rated "R" and Deadpool himself was a third-tier comic book superhero) proves that Ryan Reynolds is still a master of snarky deadpan. The plot--involving a massively muscular villain played by CGI and Josh Brolin--is, of course, utter nonsense, but if you're willing to go with the gleefully anarchic flow, you'll have a good time. Bonus points for casting "Atlanta" breakout star Zazie Beetz as Domino. (B MINUS.)

HEREDITARY--After the matriarch of a family dies, her brood goes a little--well, a lot--crazy, chief among them daughter Toni Colette. If you like smart scary movies that play tricks with your head (think last fall's wildly divisive "mother!" or this winter's equally divisive "Annihilation"), this will be right up your alley. A very impressive, remarkably assured first film for Ari Aster with a fantastic performance by Colette that deserves to be remembered at awards time. (A MINUS.)

HOTEL ARTEMIS--2028 Los Angeles is the setting of this uncategorizable whatzit? about a group of crooks (among them Charlie Day, Jenny Slate and "This is Us" breakout star Sterling K. Brown) who descend upon the titular hostelry for medical treatment from Jodie Foster's enigmatic nurse. OK, that's the basic set-up, but trying to make sense of the rest of this weirdly comic (and comically weird) movie takes a stoner's logic and probably a Ph.D in 1990's Sundance cinema. After a promising start, I found it more exhausting than entertaining. Foster completists will want to check it out, though: she's predictably terrific and the best thing here. (C MINUS.)

I FEEL PRETTY--After a freak gym 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.)

INCREDIBLES 2--Satisfactory follow-up to the beloved 2004 Pixar 'toon about a family of super hero crimefighters. It's colorful and fun, but due to the Marvel glut of the past fourteen years, some of the bloom--and specialness--is inevitably off the rose. It's also maybe a half hour

too long. The last indisputably great Pixar movie was 2015's "Inside Out." I'm still waiting for them to regain their footing. (B.)

LIFE OF THE PARTY--To help rebound from a messy divorce, Melissa McCarthy (who cowrote the screenplay) returns to college to complete her bachelor's degree. Needless to say daughter Maddie (appealing newcomer Molly Gordon) is, er, conflicted about having mom on campus. Formulaic, sitcom-y fare made enjoyable, even oddly endearing by McCarthy and an ace supporting cast (including Gillian Jacobs, Maya Rudolph and Julie Bowen). Helmed by McCarthy's husband, Ben Falcone, who previously directed her in 2014's "Tammy" and 2016's "The Boss." (B MINUS.)

OCEAN'S 8--A fun, glossy, femme-centric reboot of Steven Soderbergh's early-'00s retooling of the Camelot-era Frank and Dino warhorse. Sandra Bullock confidently steps into George Clooney's Italian loafers as the mastermind of a jewel heist at the Met Gala. The cast (including Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson and Anne Hathaway) is aces, and director Gary ("The Hunger Games") Ross does yeoman work moving the chess pieces around and not getting in the way of all that estrogen. (B.)

OVERBOARD--Harmless gender-switched reboot of the 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell rom-com. Fitfully amusing thanks to the always welcome Anna Farris as a plucky single mom who gets the upper hand after her pampered moneybags (Eugenio Derbez) boss experiences a bout of amnesia. Overlong and silly, but relatively painless just the same. (C.)

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.)

R.B.G.--The life and times of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are chronicled in this remarkably candid, hugely entertaining documentary. Whether you love or revile her, there's no disputing the fact that Ginsburg is one of the most compelling and significant figures in modern American history. The film does both her life and legacy Supreme justice. (A MINUS.)

SHOW DOGS--Awful kidflick about a canine cop who goes undercover at a dog show. Seriously; that's the plot. Has all the panache and wit of a basic cable movie your wee bairns would probably turn off after 15 minutes. On the bright side, there's only four weeks to go until "Incredibles 2" opens. (D.)

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY--A roguishly charming Alden Ehrenreich hits it out of the park as the young Han Solo in this engaging "Star Wars" spin-off. Ron Howard is the director of record and he does a commendable job of making this Disney train run on time, even if it's maybe a half hour too long at 135 minutes. Too bad producer Kathleen Kennedy axed "LEGO Movie" auteurs Phil Lord and Chris Miller midway through the film's production: I bet their version would have been friskier and funnier. Good supporting turns from Donald Glover (as Lando Calrissian), Thandie Newton and Woody Harrelson. (B.)

SUPERFLY--Slick and stylish reboot of the 1972 blaxploitation classic that actually surpasses the original thanks to a terrific cast (including Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams and Trevor Jackson as the titular Atlanta coke dealer). Props to the filmmakers for having the good taste to recycle some of the greatest hits from Curtis Mayfield's original soundtrack. (B MINUS.)

TAG--Childhood friends (Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress and Ed Helms) take their schoolyard game of tag to near-sociopathic extremes. A one-joke movie that works more often than not thanks to its first-rate cast. (C PLUS.)

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.)

UPGRADE--After being paralyzed in a robbery that killed his wife, Logan Marshall-Green undergoes a newfangled surgical procedure that implants an artificial intelligence unit inside his body giving him superhuman strength and an appetite for vengeance. Skillfully made trash, but ultimately too sadistic and unsavory for anyone but insatiable gore-hounds. (C MINUS.)

---Milan Paurich

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

THE DEATH OF STALIN--Set in 1953 Moscow, this brilliant dark comedy by "Veep" creator Armando Iannucci deals with the political fallout after Joseph Stalin unexpectedly drops dead. Among the apparatchiks jockeying for positions of power are a motley crew of seasoned farceurs, among them Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi and Simon Russell Beale. Iannucci has delivered a "Dr. Strangelove" for the new millennium (I actually think it's funnier), and he displays the same painstaking formal rigor that distinguished Stanley Kubrick's entire oeuvre. I can't recommend it highly enough. (A.)

DEATH WISH--Extreme horror director Eli ("Hostel," "Cabin Fever") Roth's tone-deaf reboot of the 1974 Charles Bronson vigilante meller. Bruce Willis picks up where Bronson left off, and the body count has grown exponentially along with the original template's moral rot. In an era where

gun casualties are as commonplace as the flu, it plays like a PSA for the NRA. Ugh. (D MINUS.)

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.)

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.)

DOUBLE LOVER--Lip-smackingly decadent movie-movie by former French enfant terrible Francois ("Swimming Pool," "8 Women") Ozon plays like an '80s Brian De Palma thriller if DePalma had relocated to France. A mentally unstable young woman (Marine Vacth) begins an affair with her shrink (never a good idea) who's actually the twin brother of her boyfriend (Jeremie Renier doing yeoman double duty as the twins). Sexy and suspenseful, it's what the "Fifty Shades" movies had only wished they'd been. (A.)

EVERY DAY--Tweener bait adapted from David Levithan's best-selling YA novel about a 16-year-old whose new crush switches bodies on a daily basis. Not as terrible (or confusing) as it

sounds--the young leads are appealing--but unlikely to spawn a franchise either. (C.)

A FANTASTIC WOMAN--The 2017 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film is a deeply empathetic blend of magical realism and soapy melodrama, telling the story of a transgendered Chilean woman (the remarkable Daniela Vega) whose life implodes after her lover dies. Although director-writer Sebastian ("Gloria") Lelia is clearly beholden to the combined oeuvres of Pedro Almodovar and Douglas Sirk, he manages to make his film seem completely sui generis just the same. Wonderful. (A.)

THE 15:17 TO PARIS--Clint Eastwood's new film about the August 2015 French terrorist attack foiled by three American tourists is what "Sully" might have looked like if Sully had played himself instead of Tom Hanks. These earnest young men (Alek Skarlatos, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler) are clearly not actors: their halting, deer-caught-in-the-headlights amateurishness, ironically, takes us out of their own true story. Tautly paced and expertly crafted on a tech level (Eastwood remains a master filmmaker), but ultimately lacking in any true emotional impact.

(C PLUS.)

FIFTY SHADES FREED--Free at last! The conclusion of the mildly smutty, inordinately tedious S&M franchise is for completists only. Hopefully Dakota Johnson will move on to bigger and (far) better things. She has been the only element in this trifecta of soft-porn silliness to emerge unscathed from all the heavy-breathing insipidity. (C MINUS.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

GRINGO--Entertaining shaggy dog story about a buttoned-down businessman (David Oyelow) who loses his bearings--and nearly his life--on a trip in Mexico. (Drug cartels, the DEA and the CIA are involved.) A deliciously venal Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton play the conniving work associates responsible for his, er, predicament, and Amanda Seyfried is a good samaritan who tries to help. A fun throwback to the Tarantino derivatives that popped up on a regular basis during the '90s. Directed by Nash Edgerton (yes, Joel's brother). (B 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.)

THE HURRICANE HEIST--Dully generic heist/disaster movie hybrid about a bunch of dimwit crooks who try and pull a robbery of the U.S. Treasury during a Category 5 hurricane. Since Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace and "True Blood" alum Ryan Kwanten don't have characters to play, they're reduced to running around in some really terrible weather shouting laughably expository dialogue at each other. Directed by Rob ("The Fast and the Furious," "XXX") Cohen who once upon a time made some pretty good movies ("A Small Circle of Friends," "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story"). Apparently those days are long behind him. (D MINUS.)

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.)

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.)

THE INSULT--Set in present-day Beirut, this 2017 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film tells the story of a court case pitting a Lebanese Christian against a Palestinian refugee that becomes a national cause celebre. Directed by Ziad ("The Attack") Doueiri, it's taut, topical and unexpectedly moving. (B PLUS.)

IN THE FADE--Diane Kruger won the Best Actress award at Cannes last year for her harrowing portrayal of a German wife/mother whose life irrevocably spirals out of control after her Turkish-born husband and son are killed in a neo-Nazi terrorist attack. Director Fatih ("Soul Kitchen," "Head On") Akin's film may not be the subtlest you'll ever see, but it sure packs an emotional wallop. Winner of the 2017 Golden Globe and Critics' Choice awards as Best Foreign Language Film. (B PLUS.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

LOVELESS--A divorced couple (Aleksey Rozin and Maryana Spivak, both tremendous) uneasily reunite after their young son disappears. The bitterness and acrimony that wrecked their marriage immediately comes to the forefront, and the missing child is nearly forgotten amidst all the toxicity and bile-spewing. As devastating and damning an indictment of life in present-day Russia as director Andrey Zvyagintsev's previous masterpiece, 2014's "Leviathan." (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.)

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.)

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.)

MIDNIGHT SUN--Sappy star-crossed YA romance that somehow bypassed the Hallmark Channel and made its way onto the big screen. Not for long, I suspect. Neither Bella Thorne or Patrick Schwarzenegger (yes, Ahnud's son) can make it even borderline tolerable for anyone old enough to drive. (D.)

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.)

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.)

NOSTALGIA--Memory and loss are the themes of this intricately structured drama written by indie wunderkind Alex Ross Perry and directed by Mark Pellington. It doesn't entirely work--the stop-and-start rhythm built into the material takes some getting used to--but very much worth seeing for the superb performances of Ellen Burstyn, Jon Hamm and Catherine Keener. (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.)

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE--Aki Kaurismaki, Finland's answer to American indie mainstay Jim Jarmusch, has been making wonderfully quirky, wry, minimalist slices of life-on-the-fringes for more than 30 years. "Hope" ranks with "The Match Factory Girl" and "Ariel" as one of his greatest works to date. The global refugee crisis comes to Kausimaki's beloved Helsinki when a displaced Syrian (Sherwan Haji) strikes up an odd-couple friendship with a recently divorced salesman (Sakari Kuosmanen) who dreams of becoming a restauranteur. Like Jarmusch, Kaurismaki has always been a bit of an acquired taste, even for arthouse habitu├ęs, but if you can get on his deadpan wavelength, the rewards are considerable. An old-fashioned humanist in the tradition of Jean Renoir or Milos Forman, Kaurismaki shows that nuggets of empathy can make even the hardest of hard scrabble existences not only bearable, but maybe even transcendent. The newly issued Criterion Collection Blu-Ray has less extras than one associates with the Tiffany home video label, but they're choice nonetheless. Included are an interview with Haji; a short film by Daniel Raim based on a 1997 essay by critic Peter von Bagh to whom Kaurismaki dedicated the film; press conference footage from the 2017 Berlin Film Festival featuring Kaurismaki and the film's stars; music videos; and an essay by critic Girish Shambu. (A.)

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.)

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.)

THE PARTY--On the night she's elected Prime Minister, Kristin Scott Thomas (terrific) learns that hubby Timothy Spall is (a) dying of a terminal disease, and (b) leaving her for a younger woman. Party guests Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer and Cillian Murphy join in the titular celebration's bleakly comic madness. The most purely entertaining film by cult British feminist director Sally Potter since 1993's "Orlando." (A MINUS.)

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.)

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.)

PLEASE STAND BY--Dakota Fanning plays an autistic woman living in a San Francisco group home who embarks upon a road trip to Paramount Studios in Los Angeles to deliver her entry in a "Star Trek" screenwriting competition. Overly determined and even borderline trite, but Fanning makes it compelling even for non-Trekkies. Co-starring Toni Collette and Alice Eve. (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.)

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.)

RED SPARROW--Jennifer Lawrence reteams with her "Hunger Game" director Francis Lawrence for a bristling, uber-stylish espionage thriller about a Russian ballerina turned international spy in Putin-era Russia. While the movie somewhat overstays its welcome at 140 minutes, a kick-ass Lawrence and the top-notch supporting cast (including Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts and the sublime Charlotte Rampling) insure that it's never boring. (B.)

SAMSON--A Biblical "epic" done on the cheap is no epic. It's fodder for low-rent cable networks which is where this holier-than-thou bilge belongs. (D MINUS.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT--More a spin-off than a sequel to the 2008 home invasion thriller in which the masked psychopaths have downgraded to trailer parks. (Hey, it's the Trump era.) Leads Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson, both clearly better than their Grade-B material, somehow manage to acquit themselves with a modicum of dignity. As devoid of style, suspense and technical competence as director Johannes Roberts' inexplicable summer 2017 sleeper, "47 Meters Down." (D PLUS.)

THOROUGHBREDS--Affectless, upper-class Connecticut teens Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy plot a murder in writer-director Cory Finley's strikingly accomplished debut movie. Alternately funny and horrifying, this pitch-black comedy marks Finley as a filmmaker to watch. (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.)

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.)

TWELVE STRONG--Chris Hemsworth plays a member of a Special Forces Green Beret unit assigned to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Newbie director Nicolai Fuglsig can't decide whether he wants to make a rah-rah slice of America First agitprop or a more nuanced, morally ambiguous "Black Hawk Down"-style procedural. That innate schizophrenia sabotages the movie's best intentions. Good supporting cast (Michael Shannon, Bill Fichtner, Michael Pena and Taylor Sheridan), though. (C.)

UNSANE--Steven Soderbergh's snake pit suspenser--shot exclusively on iPhones--is a terrific showcase for "The Crown"'s Claire Foy who delivers a bravura performance as a woman mistakenly locked up in a sinister mental hospital. Gleefully lurid and hugely entertaining for anyone (guilty as charged) who remembers and digs vintage 1970's grindhouse cinema. Solid support from Juno Temple as a fellow patient and Amy Irving as Foy's mom. (B PLUS.)

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.)

(B MINUS.)

WINCHESTER--Oscar winner Helen Mirren plays a member of the Winchester rifle family convinced that her mansion is haunted by gunfire victims. Don't you hate when that happens? An old-fashioned, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night ghost story in the "Woman in Black" tradition directed by the Spierig Brothers whose horror flicks (e.g., "Jigsaw," their recent "Saw" reboot) are usually a lot more gruesome and graphic. Underwhelming and not particularly scary, but still better than "Insidious: The Last Key." (D PLUS.)

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.)

WONDERSTRUCK--A magical journey into the past (1927 and 1977 respectively) by Todd Haynes that feels like an instant classic. Make that "cult classic" since virtually nobody saw it in theaters. Future generations will mock 2017 audiences for being so deaf, dumb and blind. (A.)

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.)

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.)

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.

(A PLUS.)

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