Movies With Milan


AQUAMAN--Sometimes too much is just right; other times it's simply overkill. This overproduced superhero movie about one of the lesser figures in the D.C. universe definitely falls into the latter group. Directed by James Wan who cut his teeth on "Saw" movies, it has a certain gaudy grandeur that's frequently eye-catching, but only truly catches fire in the final stretch with an apocalyptic battle sequence (yes, it's underwater) that wouldn't have been out of place on "Game of Thrones." As the titular half-man, half-fish, Jason Momoa brings attitude to spare and he's fun to watch. I just wish Wan had displayed a bit more self-control. At 90-odd minutes this coulda been a contender. (C.)

BEN IS BACK--When teenage opioid addict Ben (Lucas Hedges) arrives unannounced on Christmas Eve for a 24-hour visit, his mom (a superb Julia Roberts) refuses to cut him any slack. Or let him out of her sight. Coming on the heels of last fall's "Beautiful Boy" which covered much of the same suburban opioid turf, director Peter ("Pieces of April") Hedges' film doesn't add anything appreciably new to the addiction du jour story.

But it's so sensitively performed--especially by Roberts and Hedges who form a heartbreakingly credible parent/child bond--only the most stone-hearted viewer would dare kvetch. (B.)

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY--A whitewashed PG-13 (?!?) musical biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Director Bryan ("X-Men") Singer strains mightily to give Mercury and his music a significance/stature they don't really deserve, and Rami Malek's performance is pure karaoke mimicry. Hopefully the Elton John movie starring Taron Egerton coming out next year will be less cookie-cutter and more probing. (C MINUS.)

BUMBLEBEE--The "Transformers" origin story that nobody wanted--except maybe a few six-year-olds--turns out to be one of the season's more pleasant surprises. Teenage grease monkey Hailee Steinfeld makes the acquaintance of the titular Autobot during one of her frequent junk yard excursions, and they quickly become BFFs. While director Travis ("Kubo and the Two Strings") Knight somewhat overdoes the 1980's pop culture references (what hath "Stranger Things" wrought?), at least it's less oppressive than it was in "Ready Player One." Nice support from Pamela (FX's "Better Things") Adlon and John Cena, too. (B.)

CREED 2--In this enjoyable sequel to 2015's "Creed," Michael B. Jordan's pugilist squares off against Ivan Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the Russian boxer who killed his father in the ring. Once again serving as ringside mentor/de facto father figure is Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa. Although it piles on more boxing movie cliches than it can comfortably handle in 130 minutes, Jordan's performance is so magnetic you'd gladly follow him anywhere. Picking up the directorial reins from Ryan ("Black Panther") Coogler is Steven Caple Jr. whose "The Land" marked him as a filmmaker to watch three years ago. He still is. (B.)

A DOG'S WAY HOME--In the annals of "dog-finds-its-way-home-despite-seemingly-insurmountable-odds" movies that stretch back to 1943's "Lassie Comes Home"--if not silent-era Run Tin Tin--this is unlikely to rank among the pick of the litter. But if you're a pooch lover (or very, very young), it should have no trouble hitting your sappy-sweet spot. Not a sequel to 2016's sleeper hit "A Dog's Purpose:" that film ("A Dog's Journey") is set for release this May. (C PLUS.)

ESCAPE ROOM-- Adam ("Insidious: The Final Key") Robitel's dopey thriller wastes some good actors (including Logan Miller, Tyler Labine and

Taylor Russell) on frivolous material that wouldn't pass muster on Netflix or Hulu, let alone a multiplex screen. Think a "PG-13"-rated/YA version of venerable torture porn franchise "Saw." (D.)

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD--Overstuffed and underwhelming, the second part of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" follow-up is decidedly not fantastic. Some wonderful actors (Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Zoe Kravitz and "Fantastic Beasts 1" scene-stealer Dan Fogler) are adrift in a storm of CGI and competing, frequently confusing story threads. Eddie Redmayne as Newt remains a problem (I don't like the guy: sorry), and Late Period Johnny Depp as diabolical Grindelwald is a meh substitute for Colin Farrell in the previous movie. Because Rowling has three other sequels already mapped out, I hope director David Yates gets the narrative traffic jam worked out well in advance.


GREEN BOOK--Based on a true story, Peter ("There's Something About Mary") Farrelly's road trip/odd couple dramedy is a movie that might sound retro-ghastly on paper, but which quickly wears down your resistance. It certainly did mine. Much of the credit for the film's success belongs to Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen who are flat-out terrific as a brilliant African-American pianist and the Bronx goombah he hires as his driver/de facto manager for a 1962 concert tour through the Deep South. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2018 Toronto Film Festival--and, not surprisingly, a major awards contender--it's the very definition of a "feel-good" movie. (A.)

THE GRINCH--While this CGI animated Dr. Seuss adaptation is infinitely preferable to Ron Howard and Jim Carrey's awful 2000 live-action version, it still can't hold a candle to Chuck Jones' 1966 tube perennial. In an attempt to pad Seuss's slender tome to feature length (just barely: it clocks in at 71 minutes pre-end credits), the movie is overly busy and ultimately fatiguing. On the plus side, it looks great (Whoville has never looked better) and Benedict Cumberbatch--clearly having a ball--was an inspired choice to voice the titular green baddie. (C.)

GLASS--M. Night Shyamalan's 2000 masterpiece "Unbreakable" turned out to be the new millennium's most prescient film by essentially predicting the two dominant cultural themes/obsessions (domestic terrorism and comic books) of the 21st century. "Split," Shyamalan's 2017 serial killer suspenser, felt like a one-off until its twisty final scene which tied the universes of the two films together. In this conclusion to what's now being called the "Eastrail 177 Trilogy," Shyamalan tries to wrap up storylines and characters introduced nearly two decades ago. The result is a snake that eats its own tail: fatally ponderous at times, and more than a little strained in its "Big Theme" heavy-lifting. Shyamalan remains a master of mood and a first-rate director of actors (James McAvoy Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis are dependably good). I just wish that he'd hired a cowriter to help curtail some of his worst tendencies. (C.)

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK--Barry Jenkins' exquisitely crafted follow-up to his Oscar-winning "Moonlight" is another triumph: a poetic, pitch-perfect adaptation of James Baldwin's celebrated 1974 novel. Set in '70s Harlem, the film tells the moving story of a pregnant woman (Kika Layne's Tish) desperately trying to prove the innocence of her fiancé (Stephan James) after he's falsely accused of rape. As Tish's mother who takes it upon herself to assist in her daughter's seemingly quixotic quest for justice, Regina King delivers a devastating performance that will be studied in acting classes for generations to come. (A.)

INSTANT FAMILY--A childless couple Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne adopt three Hispanic siblings (Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz and Juliana Gamiz) and--voila!--become the titular unit. Despite the best efforts of Wahlberg and especially Byrne, director Sean ("Daddy's Home") Anders' big-screen sitcom too often confuses cute with cutesy and occasionally cloying. Not actively unpleasant--most of the time anyway--but wildly overlong at just under two hours. (C.)

MARY POPPINS RETURNS--This 54 years (!) later sequel to Disney's 1964 musical classic suffers from a Marc Shaiman score that can't hold a candle to even the lesser Sherman Brothers songs from the original film. Emily Blunt brings a welcome vinegary edge to Poppins, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is more charming than Dick Van Dyke ever was (and with a much better Cockney accent to boot). Cameos by Angela

Lansbury, Van Dyke and (her again?) Meryl Streep are more distracting than necessary, but Colin Firth makes a dandy villain and the kid actors are all good. (B.)

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS--Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are terrific as, respectively, Mary and Elizabeth I in British theater director Josie Rourke overly decorous take on the 16th century rulers who (famously) never actually met. Besides the liberties Rourke and screenwriter Beau ("House of Cards") Willimon have taken with historical record, the movie suffers from an overall lack of urgency. It's all very pretty, but generally underwhelming and even a wee bit dull. Don't blame Ronan and Robbie, though: not even the most valiant efforts of Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson could kick-start the same-named, equally moribund 1972 version of the story. (C.)

MORTAL ENGINES--Crushingly dull dystopian YA franchise wannabe produced and cowritten by Peter ("Lord of the Rings," et al) Jackson.

Repeat after me: there won't be any sequels. (D.)

THE MULE--In his first screen role since 2008's "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood brings a suitably valedictory quality to his performance as an down-on-his-luck Korean War vet forced to work as a drug mule for a vaguely sinister Mexican cartel. Hot on his trail are F.B.I. agents Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena. While it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that this chase will not end well, the movie certainly does. It's tersely paced, suitably melancholic and full of spot-on performances (including a touching Dianne Wiest as Eastwood's ex). The fact that "The Mule" isn't receiving a year-end awards push from distributer Warner Brothers is mystifying. Along with "American Sniper," it's Eastwood's best directorial outing this decade. (A.)

ON THE BASIS OF SEX--Workmanlike biopic about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that can't hold a candle to "R.B.G.," last year's wonderful Bader Ginsburg documentary. Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer are appealing as Ginsburg and her uber-supportive husband Martin, but the script and direction (by Mimi Leder) are both formulaic to a fault. (B MINUS.)

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET--OK follow-up to Disney's 2012 'toon smash which--like Pixar's "Incredibles 2" this summer--never quite makes a convincing case for its existence. As Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) surf the internet looking for a replacement videogame part, directors Rich Moore and Phil Johnson take gleeful, sometimes labored satirical aim at Disney princesses and 21st century 'net culture. Besides being too scary for young children, much of the meta humor will probably go over their heads. Accordingly, it seems like that rare animated movie parents are likely to enjoy more than their kids. (B MINUS.)

REPLICAS--After his family is killed in an accident, biologist Keanu Reeves attempts to...well, the title pretty much gives it away, doesn't it? This long-delayed sci-fi actioner--it was shot in 2016 and sat on the shelf for two years--fails as both a cautionary tale about the perils of messing with Mother Nature and check-your-brains-at-the-door hokum. It more closely resembles the sort of anonymous title you skip over while perusing your cable's On Demand menu than something anyone would actually leave the house to see in a, y'know, theater. Pass. (D.)

SECOND ACT--Formulaic rom-com stars Jennifer Lopez as a middle-aged woman who crafts a phony resume to climb the corporate ladder.

Cute, but the 1960 version (with Doris Day?) wouldn't have been any less retrograde, coy or synthetic. In the Thelma Ritter role of the wise-cracking best friend, Leah Remini steals every scene she's in. (C.)

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE--Surprisingly engaging, cheeky and even borderline subversive CGI 'toon that puts Disney (and Pixar's) 2018 outings to shame. Produced by Chris Miller and Phil Ford (those wild-and-crazy guys who brought us "The LEGO Movie" and "21 Jump Street"), it's the best big-screen "Spider-Man" movie since 2004's "Spider-Man 2." (B PLUS.)

A STAR IS BORN--The fourth official iteration of the classic love story between an alcoholic star and a dewey ingenue gets its grittiest, sexiest treatment yet. Bradley Cooper directs and stars (very well on both fronts, thank you) as a country rock star with some formidable inner demons who meets and falls for an aspiring singer (Lady Gaga, terrific) whose career takes off just as his declines. As good as it is, it's not "Great" and I'm not entirely sure why. Did Cooper spend too much time in post-production tinkering away? Were the earlier and (reportedly) longer cuts better/richer? Terrific supporting work from Dave Chappelle, Andrew Dice Clay and especially Sam Elliott who deserves Best Supporting Actor consideration for his powerful turn as Cooper's brother. The score is just fine: I just wish the songs had been allowed to play out in their entirety. (A MINUS.)

THE UPSIDE--This OK English-language remake of the enormously popular, "based on a true story" 2011 French movie "The Intouchables" coasts on the odd couple chemistry between Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart as a billionaire quadriplegic and his African-American caretaker. Directed by Neil ("Limitless") Burger and written by Paul ("Bridesmaids") Feig, it goes down easily enough even if you won't believe a single minute of it. Nicole Kidman adds a soupçon of class in the underwritten role of Cranston's selfless Gal Friday. (C PLUS.)

VICE--Before directing 2015's "The Big Short," Adam McKay was primarily known as the director of the best Will Ferrell comedies ("Step Brothers," "Talladega Nights," etc.). Now he's an American Armando Iannucci: one of our finest and most fearless filmmakers, someone who speaks truth to power without ever losing his sense of humor or bilious outrage. Only McKay could make a biopic about G.W. Bush's veep Dick Cheney that's as outrageously, spectacularly entertaining as it is infuriating. Featuring one of the year's finest ensemble casts, too, including a career-best Christian Bale performance as Cheney that's downright (and hilariously) uncanny. (A.)

WELCOME TO MARWEN--Robert ("Forrest Gump") Zemeckis' obsession with creepy-crawly motion-capture animation sinks his well-intentioned version of a true-life story that was better and more thoughtfully told in the 2010 documentary "Marwencol." After surviving a hate crime which nearly costs him his life, eccentric artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) builds a fastidiously detailed WW II-era town in his backyard as a form of do-it-yourself psychotherapy. Some good actors--including Leslie Mann, Janelle Monae and Diane Kruger--are essentially reduced to props for the CGI which is no less off-putting than it was in past Zemeckis films like "The Polar Express," "Beowulf,"and "A Christmas Carol." (C MINUS.)

WIDOWS--Cowritten by Gillian ("Gone Girl," "Sharp Objects") Flynn, Steve McQueen's follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2012 film "12 Years a Slave" is a terrifically entertaining heist flick that also serves as a kind of de facto #TimesUp manifesto. After the death of her husband (Liam Neeson in a glorified cameo), Viola Davis recruits a motley crew of women (including Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki) to help pull a $5-million burglary. Everyone is terrific--particularly Colin Farrell as a mobbed-up pol and "Bad Times at the El Royale" breakout Cynthia Erivo--but the movie truly belongs to Davis whose performance is so intense she practically breathes fire. (A MINUS.)

---Milan Paurich


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. (D MINUS.)

ACTION POINT--"Jackass" nostalgists will have a field day with Johnny Knoxville's loosely scripted stunt comedy about a theme park where safety restrictions don't apply. For everyone else, a little bit of this politically incorrect, bone-crunching nonsense goes a long, long way.


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.)

ALPHA--Most prehistoric adventure movies (e.g., Roland Emmerich's 2008 dud "10,000 B.C.") have failed because it's hard to muster much interest in characters whose vocabulary is limited to grunts. Because this all-ages-friendly Albert ("The Book of Eli") Hughes saga tries something a tad different, it's considerably more successful--and satisfying--than the majority of its predecessors. Kodi Smith-McPhee (very good) plays a young hunter separated from his tribe who bonds with a wolf on his journey of survival. Think of it as an Ice Age variant on "The Black Stallion:" beautiful to look at (Martin Gschlacht did the award-worthy cinematography) and surprisingly moving. (B.)

AMERICAN ANIMALS--A truth-is-stranger-than-fiction true-life tale about a group of Kentucky college students whose attempted heist of some rare books from a school library in 2004 ended, well, badly. Director Bart Layton's ingenious meta-structure--the actual participants retrospectively comment on their exploits while they're being recreated--is strikingly original and wildly effective. Superbly acted by Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson and Barry Keoghan as the bungling quartet. Smart, funny and ultimately, unexpectedly moving. (B PLUS.)

ANDREI RUBLEV--The version of Andrei Tarkovsky's visually sumptuous 1966 marathon magnum opus that had its belated U.S. premiere at the 1973 New York Film Festival ran just 146 minutes. No wonder critics and audiences didn't quite know what to make of it at the time. Fortunately--for both the film and Tarkovsky's international reputation as the most important Russian filmmaker to emerge since Sergei Eiseinstein--longer (and considerably less choppy edits) eventually emerged. The newly issued Criterion Collection 2-disc Blu-Ray includes both Tarkovsky's preferred 183-minute director's cut, as well as the original 205-minute version that played throughout Europe in the late '60s. (Not surprisingly, it was originally banned in Soviet Russia.) Inspired by the life and times of the titular medieval-era Russian icon painter, it's less a biopic in the conventional sense than a typically Tarkovskian dreamlike cinematic odyssey where narrative is less important than pure sensory experience. In an essay included in the Criterion set, critic J. Hoberman describes the film as "more an icon than a movie about an icon painter." True dat. Extras include "The Steamroller and the Violin," Tarkovsky's 1961 student thesis film; 1966 documentary, "The Three Andreis," about the writing of the "Rublev" script; archival footage of the making of the film; new interviews with film scholar Robert Bird, actor Nikolai Burlyaev and cinematographer Vadim Yusov; selected scene commentary from Tarkovsky authority Vlada Petric; a video essay by filmmaker Daniel Raim; and a new, improved English subtitle translation. (A PLUS.)

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.)

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP--The "Ant-Man" movies are sort of outliers in the Marvel Corp. universe. Unlike their more somber, heavy-breathing brethren (take "The Avengers:" please), Paul Rudd and Peyton ("Bring It On") Reed's "Ant"-franchise ("Ant-chise"?) is essentially comic. I just wish the films themselves were funnier and not so toothless-bland. In the second "Ant" adventure, the titular insect dude helps the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) retrieve her mother--none other than the great Michelle Pfeiffer--from something called the Quantum Realm. Like in the 2015 "Ant-Man," the best moments belong to goofy sidekick Michael Pena who really deserves his own stand-alone vehicle. At least it's that increasingly rare Marvel movie that clocks in at under two hours. (C.)

ASSASSINATION NATION--A "Heathers" for the social media age? While too glib and self-satisfied for its own good, this is an interesting Millennial update of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" for midnight movie fans. (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.)

A.X.L.--A boy-and-his-dog story in which the "dog" is actually a computerized pooch hatched in a top-secret military lab and the "boy" is a sullen, male model-handsome teenager. Too violent for small children; too juvenile for anyone else. Send this bow-wow directly to the pound. (D.)

BAD SAMARITAN--After discovering a woman being held captive in a home that he's burglarizing, the thief anonymously calls the police. But that good deed soon gains the unwanted attention of his psychotic mark. A sadistic cat and mouse game ensues. Directed by Dean ("Geostorm") Devlin, it's icky, overextended and actively unpleasant. Skip. (D.)

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE--For '90s nostalgists, Drew ("The Cabin in the Woods") Goddard's Quentin Tarantino pastiche will seem like an early Christmas present. Set at a rundown Lake Tahoe motel in 1969, this metaphysical jigsaw puzzle of a movie introduces a rogue's gallery of disreputable characters (played by, among others, Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson and Jon Hamm), mixes them up like a cocktail shaker then watches gleefully as they combust. Nobody is who you think they are (or even who they think they are in some cases) which guarantees either a grand old meta time or a migraine headache. Either way, it's wildly overlong at 141 minutes. (C PLUS.)

BEAST--A troubled young woman (Jessie Buckley) who lives with fiercely overprotective parents in an isolated rural community finds herself drawn to a handsome stranger (Johnny Flynn) who may or may not be a serial murderer. Enigmatic and provocative, it's beautifully played by the two leads and casts a haunting spell. (B.)

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.)

BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB--Inspired by a true story about financial chicanery and fast-living in mid-1980's L.A., this James ("Wonderland") Cox-directed docudrama wants desperately to be a West Coast variant of "The Wolf of Wall Street." Despite a terrific cast (Ansel Elgart, Taron Egerton, Kevin Spacey, Emma Roberts, et al), it's mostly a tone-deaf embarrassment, misfiring on virtually every count. Sad. (D PLUS.)

BLACKKKLANSMAN--In 1970's Colorado, an African-American cop (John David Washington from HBO's "Ballers") somehow manages to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK with the help of his Jewish partner (Adam Driver). Sounds crazy, right? Believe it or not, Spike Lee's 2018 Cannes Golden Palm winner is actually based on a true story. This wildly kinetic, terrifically entertaining film is the "Do the Right Thing" director's most audience-friendly joint since 2006's "Inside Man," and just the shot of cinematic adrenaline the August movie doctor ordered. (A.)

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.)

BLINDSPOTTING--Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are childhood friends navigating race and class issues in Oakland, CA. First-time director Carlos Lopez Estrada is maybe a little too indebted to "Mean Streets" (and "The Pope of Greenwich Village" for that matter), but his film has real heat and urgency in the #BlackLivesMatter era, and the chemistry between Diggs and Casal is palpable. (B MINUS.)

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.)

THE BOOKSHOP--Charmingly old-fashioned dramedy about a struggling bookshop owner (Emily Mortimer) in 1959 England who finds an unlikely ally in a curmudgeonly reclusive (Bill Nighy). The wonderful Patricia Clarkson steals every scene she's in as the snooty crank who wants to shut down the store for personal reasons. Directed by Isabel ("Elegy," "Learning to Drive") Coixet. (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.)

BOUNDARIES--Vera Farmiga takes a road trip from Seattle to L.A. with her tweener son (Lewis MacDougall), estranged, pot-dealing dad (Christopher Plummer) and multiple stray dogs. While that set-up portends "cutesy" and/or "cloying," writer-director Shana ("Country Strong") Feste's nicely acted dramedy is considerably better than that. Farmiga and Plummer are especially good, and there are scene-stealing supporting turns from Peter Fonda, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Lloyd. I never quite believed a minute of it, but had a decent enough time for the duration of the (very scenic!) ride. (B 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.)

THE CATCHER WAS A SPY--Paul Rudd plays Mo Berg, a major league baseball player recruited as a spy for the U.S. government during WW II. Despite the potentially fascinating "truth is stranger than fiction" story it's based on, this is a surprisingly clumsy and unconvincing docudrama that squanders a first-rate cast (including Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Sienna Miller, Guy Peace and Jeff Daniels). Directed by Ben Lewin who had considerably more success with "The Sessions" starring Hank Azaria and Helen Hunt a few years back. (C MINUS.)

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.)

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN--Gentle, sweet-natured Disney movie about the grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) getting reacquainted with childhood pals Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, et al to help cure his midlife malaise. Directed by Marc Forster who mined similar territory in 2004's "Finding Neverland," it's blessed with a screenplay--cowritten by "Spotlight" director Tom McCarthy and indie wunderkind Alex Ross Perry--of surprising delicacy and restraint. Kids will dig the cute CGI A.A. Milne characters; adults will like, and appreciate, its life lessons even more. (B PLUS.)

COLD WATER--Olivier ("Personal Shopper") Assayas' 1994 coming-of-age film has been conspicuously MIA in the U.S. since two screenings at that year's New York Film Festival. For Assayas fans like me, it's always been a bit of a Holy Grail. But thanks to the Criterion Collection, Assayas' first masterpiece is finally available on home video in a 4K digital restoration. It was worth the wait. A quasi-autobiographical account of teen lovers (Cyprien Fouquet's Gilles and the ethereally beautiful Virginie Ledoyen's Christine) whose high school romance takes them to the edge of the abyss, it's both stunningly visceral and remarkably vivid. Each character, no matter how seemingly peripheral to the main action (e.g., Gilles' grandmother or Christine's mom and immigrant boyfriend), makes an indelible impression. The movie's justly lauded (nay, legendary) third act party sequence almost has the feel of ritual: a sacred rite of youthful passage as much heathen as spiritual. (The fantastic rock soundtrack--featuring songs by Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Nico among others--was apparently the stumbling block to the film acquiring a domestic release back in the day because the music rights were considered prohibitively expensive.) For a Criterion release, the extras are rather skimpy (too-brief 2018 interviews with Assayas and nonpareil cinematographer Denis Lenoir; excerpts from a '94 French television program shot on location at the Cannes Film Festival where the movie had its world premiere in the Un Certain Regard program; an essay by critic Girish Shambu). But the film itself makes it worth every cent. (A.)

COLETTE--Keira Knightley stars as the titular French writer whose unconventional private life (an open marriage to an older man; bisexuality; etc.) and naughty books made her the toast of late 19th century Paris. Knightley turns in one of her finest screen performances to date, and Dominic West is equally good as her reprobate husband/mentor. Directed by Wash ("Still Alice") Westmoreland, it's a fun, consistently entertaining romp although its portrayal of Colette herself is only skin-deep. (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.)

CRAZY RICH ASIANS--Journeyman helmer John M. Chu (whose most noteworthy previous credits are two "Step Up" movies) was somehow entrusted with the big-screen adaptation of Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel of the same name--and actually pulls it off. NYU economics professor Constance Wu has her mind blown and her cosseted world shaken when she visits boyfriend Henry Golding's obscenely wealthy family in Singapore. (The great Michelle Yeoh of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" fame plays Golding's gloriously imperious mom.) A fun, glossy romp with a scene-stealing supporting turn from Awkwafina ("Ocean's 8") as Wu's BFF. It's like a Bollywood movie with a different kind of Asian cast, no musical production numbers and a shorter run time. (B.)

DAMSEL--Wild West homesteader Robert Pattinson searches for abducted fiancee Mia Wasikowska in an inventive revisionist western by David and Nathan Zellner that keeps pulling one twist and surprise after another. Pattinson continues to impress as one of the most gifted (and daring) actors of his generation. (A MINUS.)

THE DARKEST MINDS--Or "The Divergent Maze Games." Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson ("Kung Fu Panda 2") and based upon Alexandra Bracken's YA trilogy of novels, this is yet another franchise hopeful that brings nothing appreciably new to an already hackneyed template that wore out its welcome around the time Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook." Tweens might find it exciting; anyone else will likely be as bored and impatient as I was. (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.)

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.)

DOG DAYS--Kinda lame, sorta cute rom-com about looking-for-love Los Angelenos (among them Vanessa Hudgens, Nina Dobrev and Adam Pally) and their pooches. Feels a bit like a Hallmark Channel movie that accidentally wound up on the big screen. Never actively unpleasant, though. (C MINUS.)

DON'T WORRY, HE WON'T GET FAR ON FOOT--A terrific Joaquin Phoenix plays John Callahan, a Portland drunk who, after a near-fatal accident that leaves him handicapped, sobers up and becomes a celebrated cartoonist. Based on the real Callahan's well-regarded autobiography, this Gus ("Good Will Hunting") Van Sant-helmed docudrama is blessed with the director's typically askew view of the "straight" world and some wonderful performances. Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara are very good as, respectively, Callahan's AA sponsor and girlfriend. (B.)

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.)

EIGHTH GRADE--Wonderful coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old girl (fantastic newcomer Elsie Fisher) navigating the perils of a typical 21st century adolescence. A spectacularly impressive writing-directing debut by YouTube favorite Bo Burnham, it's possibly the best, funniest and most empathetic "teenage girl figuring things out" movie since John Hughes' "16 Candles." An instant classic. (A.)

THE EQUALIZER 2--Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua reteam for a generally satisfying, tough-as-nails follow-up to their 2014 hit based on the '80s Edward Woodward tube series. It's as slick, cynical and unapologetically nasty as the original, and Washington again proves why he's one of the only true movie stars left. The two-time Oscar winner delivers an effortlessly commanding performance, and you can't imagine the film working without his mega-watt charisma. (B MINUS.)

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.)

FAHRENHEIT 11/9--Michael Moore's latest documentary isn't the Trump-bashing screed many were hoping for. Not entirely anyway. Instead, Moore takes an interesting and unexpected direction: positing the end of the world--or at least America--as we know it. Sobering, infuriating and ultimately inspiring, the only question is whether Moore still has a sizable enough audience for his films to merit a theatrical release. Maybe it would reach more sympathetic eyes and ears on Netflix. (B PLUS.)

FEMALE TROUBLE--As Dawn Davenport, the ineffable, well-nigh unforgettable anti-heroine whose Candide-like journey takes her from high school delinquent to the electric chair in John Waters' 1975 masterpiece, the late Divine delivered a performance of such blistering, take-no-prisoners brilliance that even mainstream critics were forced to take notice. Which certainly wasn't the case with earlier Waters-Divine collaborations like midnight sensations "Pink Flamingos" and "Mondo Trasho" which were largely ignored except by their coterie of underground admirers. "Female Trouble" was also the first Waters joint accorded daytime performances in theaters. The fact that you didn't have to wait for the witching hours to get your freak on signaled a seismic change in both American movies and American life. Its historical (and artistic) import can't be emphasized strongly enough. Forty-plus years later, "Trouble" still has the ability to shock, awe and delight. Indeed, its acid-tinged, candy-colored social satire--a delirious mash-up of Douglas

Sirk's 1950's domestic melodramas and the Manson Family--feels springtime fresh. And in a veritable rogue's gallery of Divine divas (Babs Johnson, Tracy Turnblad, et al), Dawn remains the most iconic and irresistible. "Crime is beauty" indeed. In the newly issued Criterion Collection Blu-Ray, the film looks better than ever. Certainly better that the battered and bruised print I saw on a double-bill with "Flamingos" at New York's Cinema Village back in January 1977. And because it's Criterion, the cornucopia of extras are guaranteed to keep fans and non-fans alike busy for days. There's a 2004 Waters audio commentary; new and archival interviews with cast/crew members (Mink Stole, Pat Moran, production designer Vincent Peranio, costume designer/makeup artist Van Smith, et al); a 1975 interview with Waters, Divine, Stole and David Lochary; deleted scenes and alternate takes; behind-the-scenes documentary footage; a new conversation between Waters and critic Dennis Lim; and a terrific essay by freelance journalist Ed Haller that contextualizes the film (and Waters' place) in cinematic history. (A PLUS.)

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.


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.)

FINDING YOUR FEET--After splitting from her cheating husband of forty years, Imelda Staunton finds late-in-life love with Timothy Spall in a senior dance class. Innocuous and predictable, but nicely played and the cliches go down easily enough. (C PLUS.)

FIRST MAN--Damien ("La La Land") Chazelle's stirring, beautifully crafted account of Neil Armstrong (an Oscar-worthy Ryan Gosling) and the Apollo 11 program that put a man on the moon is a fantastic blend of wonky science, human drama and edge-of-your-seat suspense even though everyone (I hope) knows how things turned out 49 years ago. The best movie about space exploration since 1983's "The Right Stuff," it has all the earmarks of an instant classic. (A.)

THE FIRST PURGE--Ever wonder how The Purge started? Me neither, but in Universal's tireless attempt to extend their low-budget. highly profitable franchise, we finally get some answers. In their queasy mix of sociology and grindhouse, the "Purge" movies remain shining exemplars of termite art. This fourth entry in the series--sort of a blaxploitation riff--is no exception. (B MINUS.)

FIRST REFORMED--Writer-director Paul ("American Gigolo," "Affliction") Schrader's best film in decades stars a never-better Ethan Hawke as an upstate New York pastor experiencing a crisis of faith after meeting a pregnant woman (Amanda Syfried) and her suicidal environmental activist husband (Philip Ettinger). Shocking and convulsively, profoundly moving, it's an American masterpiece. (A.)

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.)

FORTY GUNS--Sam Fuller's pulpy 1957 feminist Barbara Stanwyck western has frequently been compared to (and confused with) Nicholas Ray's campy 1954 feminist Joan Crawford western, "Johnny Guitar." The Criterion Collection's digitally restored new Blu-Ray should go a long way toward eliminating any future confusion. Jessica Drummond, Stanwyck's rancher baron, was clearly the template for her matriarchal role on the long-running ABC tube series "The Big Valley" a decade later. It's great fun seeing the black-clad Stanwyck--"a high-riding woman with a whip"!--in one of her juiciest post-1940's screen roles. The chemistry between Stanwyck and gunslinger-turned-marshall Barry Sullivan is as electric as the movie's frequent bouts of sadistic violence are wildly kinetic in classic Fuller fashion. The disc's extras are up to Criterion's usual Tiffany standards, including "A Fuller Life," Samantha Fuller's 2013 feature-length documentary about her father; new interviews with Samantha and Fuller's widow, Christa Lang Fuller, as well as critic Imogen Sara Smith, author of "In a Lonely Place: Film Noir Beyond the City;" a rare 1969 audio interview with Fuller conducted at London's National Film Theater; an essay by scholar Lisa Dombrowski; and "Stuffed With Phalluses," a chapter from Fuller's posthumously published 2002 autobiography, "A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking." (A.)

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.)

GOOSEBUMPS 2: HAUNTED HALLOWEEN--Lazy, uninspired but very, very busy follow-up to the 2015 kidflick hit based on R.L. Stine's endless series of "Goosebumps" books. The Halloween setting pretty much guarantees it'll be old news by the time you toss your rotting Jack-o-Lantern to the curb. (C MINUS.)

GOTTI--Embarrassingly bad mob flick about the former New York City don (laughably impersonated by John Travolta in yet another career nadir). With the "Godfather" movies readily available, why waste your time on a sloppy poseur like this? (D MINUS.)

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.)

HALLOWEEN--David Gordon Green and Danny McBride's reboot of the long-running horror franchise asks us to forget every "Halloween" iteration since the 1978 John Carpenter original. Since most of those were pretty terrible, that's a leap of faith I was willing to take. Jamie Lee

Curtis gamely reprises her signature role as Laurie Strode, still reeling from the night Michael Myers stalked and terrified her (not to mention killed several of her friends). When Myers escapes while being transferred to a new prison, she's more than up for the task of turning the tables on the boogeyman. Skillfully done on all levels, it's as enjoyable a scary movie as we've seen in quite some time. My only fear is that it will be such a monster hit a groaning board of unworthy sequels will follow in its wake, just like the first time. (B PLUS.)

THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS--Imagine "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" if potty-mouthed puppets had replaced the 'toon characters and Melissa McCarthy subbed for Bob Hoskins. If you enjoyed the raunchy frathouse humor of movies like "Sausage Party" and "This is the End," you'll probably dig this. Despite some bright moments, the whole thing feels a tad overextended even at 90 minutes. Maya Rudolph earns MVP honors as a tough-talking secretary who could have stepped out of a 1940's film noir. (C MINUS.)

THE HATE U GIVE--Based on Angie Thomas' topical 2017 YA novel, George ("Soul Food," "Men of Honor") Tillman Jr.'s solid film adaptation casts an excellent Amanda ("Everything, Everything") Stenberg as a 16-year old African-American high schooler who becomes a social activist after her childhood friend is killed by a white police officer. At two-hours-plus it does run on a bit, becoming a tad preachy in the home stretch. Fortunately, the performances (Regina King, Common and Russell Hornsby contribute indelible supporting performances) make it engrossing every step of the way. (B.)

HELL FEST--A serial killer goes on a murderous rampage during an amusement park's Halloween-themed "Hell Fest." Despite the semi-novel setting, this is just an Old School slasher flick, and not a particularly distinguished one at that. (D PLUS.)

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.)

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3--Three isn't the lucky number for Adam Sandler's low-ambition monster mash 'toon franchise. Drac and his family take a luxury cruise where he--oops!--hooks up with Van Helsing's great granddaughter (Kathryn Hahn). If you think that's funny--or missed Kevin James' Frankenstein and Steve Buscemi's Wolfman characters--you (and your kids) will probably have a good time. Personally, I couldn't wait for it to end. (C MINUS.)

HOT SUMMER NIGHTS--"Call Me by Your Name" Oscar nominee Timothy Chalamet plays a restless 1980's teenager who gets into some serious trouble one summer in Cape Cod when he begins selling drugs and, even more dangerously, falls for the wrong girl. An impressive filmmaking debut by Elijah Bynum, it's flawed in the ways that a young man's first film should be (occasional overreaching and a plethora of show-offy influences). But a first-rate cast--including Alex Roe, Maia Mitchell, Maika Monroe, Emory Cohen and Thomas Jane--makes it compulsively watchable from start to finish. (B PLUS.)

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS--As crazy as it sounds, extreme horror director Eli ("Hostel," the original "Cabin in the Woods") Roth's first family film--produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin, no less--is quite the charmer. An orphan (Lewis Vaccaro) has a magical adventure with his eccentric uncle (Jack Black, of course) and a mysterious neighbor lady (a delicious Cate Blanchett!). Yes, a hidden clock is involved. Based on the 1960's kid lit fave by John Bellairs. (B.)

HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES--In 1977 London, a punk rocker wannabe (Alex Sharp) falls for a pretty alien tourist (Elle Fanning). If you have a soft spot for Julien Temple's "Earth Girls Are Easy," this entertaining John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Shortbus") sci-fi comedy-romance should be right up your alley. A smashing supporting turn from Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole" star, Nicole Kidman. (B.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

ISMAEL'S GHOSTS--Mathieu Amalric is understandably flummoxed when his MIA wife (Marion Cotillard) returns after a 20-year absence. Needless to say her reappearance causes considerable strain on his relationship with new partner Charlotte Gainsbourg. Since the film was written and directed by the great Arnaud Desplechin ("A Christmas Tale"), don't go in expecting a Gallic "Philadelphia Story." Desplechin has much bigger fish to fry, all of them uniquely fascinating and infinitely tasty. (A.)

I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW--Peter Dinklage plays a guy in a small upstate New York town who thinks he's the last survivor of a nuclear disaster...until Elle Fanning shows up. Her fraught

backstory--involving the always welcome Paul Giamatti and Charlotte Gainsbourg--turns his life (and the movie) upside down. Consistently compelling and extremely well-played even if the third act doesn't quite work. (B MINUS.)

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN--A (very) belated sequel to Rowan Atkinson's 2003 and 2011 007 spoofs that I'm pretty sure nobody--except maybe Atkinson's agent--was asking for. The humor is so muffled and slight you'll forget to laugh. Makes the old Austin Powers movies seem like vintage Marx Brothers (or Mel Brooks) by comparison. (C MINUS.)

JULIET, NAKED--This charmingly low-key rom-com based on a Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity") novel stars Ethan Hawke as a cultish former rock star who begins a platonic romance with Rose Byrne. The fact that Byrne's longtime boyfriend, Chris O'Dowd, is a super fan of the reclusive rocker just complicates things even further. Directed by Jesse ("My Idiot Brother," HBO's "Girls") Peretz. (B.)

JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM--A marginal improvement over 2015's middling "Jurassic World" thanks to a better director (J.A. Bayona of "A Monster Calls" and "The Orphanage" fame), but the thrills remain as mechanical and rote as a second-tier theme park ride. Chris Pratt confirms my suspicion that he lost "it" after dropping his "Parks and Recreation" weight, getting buff and began headlining generic franchise fare like this and the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies. Sadly, he's become nearly as tiresome a screen presence as costar Bryce Dallas Howard. (C.)

KIN--Ex-con Jack Reynor and his adopted kid brother (appealing newcomer Myles Truitt) are pursued by small-time hood James Franco in first-time directors' Jonathan and Josh Baker's disappointing thriller that combines boilerplate sci-fi with generic action movie tropes. A first-rate supporting cast (including Dennis Quaid, Carrie Coon, Zoe Kravitz and--in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him role--the estimable Michael B. Jordan) has little to do but hit their marks. Sad. (D PLUS.)

LEAN ON PETE--Director Andrew ("Weekend," "45 Years") Haigh's first American-lensed film is a small miracle: a boy and his horse story (well, sort of) that's also a masterpiece of empathy. After an orphaned 15-year-old (Charlie Plummer, remarkable) rescues the titular ailing racehorse, they embark upon a cross-country journey to reunite with the boy's estranged aunt (his only living relative). Beautifully lensed and impeccably acted (Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Travis Fimmel and Amy Seimetz all make indelible impressions), it's a movie to treasure. The tears it earns are both cathartic and joyful. (A.)

LEAVE NO TRACE--Director Debra Granik's long-awaited follow-up to "Winter's Bone" (the 2010 Best Picture Oscar nominee that helped catapult Jennifer Lawrence to stardom) is a low-key, beautifully-played drama about a vet and single dad (Ben Foster, superb) raising his 13-year-old daughter (impressive newcomer Thomas McKenzie) off the grid in an Oregon forest. (B PLUS.)

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.)

THE LITTLE STRANGER--Atmospheric British ghost story based on Sarah Waters' graphic novel about a young doctor summoned to a stately manor in the summer of 1948 where mysterious things are afoot. Despite a first-rate cast (Charlotte Rampling, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter and the ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson as the M.D.) and talented director ("Room" Oscar nominee Lenny Abrahamson), it never evinces much of a pulse. Lots of high style, but precious little suspense. (C.)

LIZZIE--Lizzie Borden buffs will dig this artful biopic about the infamous axe murderess (superbly played by Chloe Sevigny) whose psychosexual demons and, er, daddy issues contributed to the breakdown that resulted in the bloody deaths of her parents. Kristen Stewart turns in another solid performance as the Irish maid Lizzie develops a yen for. (B.)

LOVE AFTER LOVE--Andie McDowell rebounds and blossoms after the death of her long-time husband. Her grown sons (Chris O'Dowd and James Adomian)? Not so much. I'm not sure whether first-time writer-director Russell Harbaugh was going for ersatz (John) Cassavetes, an American indie (Ingmar) Bergman pastiche...or something else. But the result is fascinating, albeit discomfiting to watch and beautifully acted, especially by McDowell who hasn't been this good since 1995's "Unstrung Heroes," maybe "sex, lies and videotape." (B.)

LOVE, GILDA--An affectionate documentary chronicling the life and times of the late, great Gilda Radner. Her Detroit childhood and Second City roots; the SNL years; married bliss with Gene Wilder; a losing battle with ovarian cancer: it's all here. Even more touching than the testimonials from old friends/colleagues (Chevy Chase, Paul Shaffer, Laraine Newman, et al) and many of the funny ladies who followed in her wake (including Melissa McCarthy, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph) are the home movies and archival clips from Radner's television and stage career. Considering the fact that she died in 1989, it's inevitable that the film is something of a downer. But it's the celebration of her life (and immense talent) that matters, and which makes this a must-see for any and all Radner-philes. (B.)

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.)

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN--Donna's daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is pregnant, triggering a series of flashbacks to 1979 explaining how/when/why mom (Lily James from "Baby Driver" and Disney's "Cinderella) hooked up with her three potential dads once upon a time. Directed by Ol Parker (the "Marigold Hotel" movies), this is a rare sequel that actually improves upon the original. For starters, it's better photographed, making the idyllic Greek isle setting (actually played by Croatia!) as paradisiacal as it's supposed to be. And--hallelujah--Meryl Streep is sidelined with an extended cameo: a blessing since her annoyingly mannered, cutesy performance helped make "Mamma Mia!" well-nigh insufferable. The radiant James pretty much owns the movie, and may very well steal your heart. Oh yeah, Cher sings "Fernando." THE Cher. Do I really need to say anything more? (B MINUS.)

MANDY--Nicolas Cage gives his best performance in years as a grieving lumberjack who goes on a murderous rampage to punish the psycho cult responsible for the kidnapping and murder of his girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough). If the "Fire Walk With Me"-era David Lynch had tackled a vigilante exploitation flick, it might have looked something like this. Director Panos Cosmatos (whose previous film, 2011's "Beyond the Black Rainbow," was equally trippy) is the real deal. But this splatterific acid trip of a movie is definitely not for all tastes. (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.)

THE MEG--Or "Sharknado"-on-a-slightly-bigger budget, this brain-dead Jason Statham shark flick fails as both horror flick and campy put-on. "Sharks on a Plane" anyone? (D.)

MEMORIES OF UNDERDEVELOPMENT--If Michelangelo Antonioni had gone to Cuba for a sabbatical instead of Great Britain in the mid-'60s where he made "Blow Up," the result might have looked something like Tomas Gutierrez Alea's 1968 masterpiece of alienation. Disenchanted bourgeois intellectual Sergio (who could have he stepped out of Antonioni's "L'Avventura") is left

rudderless and becomes increasingly unmoored after his wife and family flee the country in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Days stretch into nights as Sergio's roaming--both physical

and spiritual--is beautifully captured in Ramon F. Suarez's striking b&w cinematography. A subplot in which Sergio seduces a working class woman (Daisy Granados) by promising her a screen test with his movie director friend (played by Gutierrez Alea) sits a tad uneasily in the "Time's Up" era, but feels integral to comprehending the privileged mindset of someone like Sergio who thinks they're above any legal or societal strictures. The elliptical editing, which encompasses flashbacks as well as documentary and archival footage, seems borrowed from the memory films of Alain Resnais (and anticipates future Nicolas Roeg jigsaw puzzle movies like "Don't Look Now" and "The Man Who Fell to Earth"). Although 1995's Oscar-nominated "Strawberry and Chocolate" was Gutierrez Alea's most widely-seen U.S. release (it was an arthouse hit for Harvey Weinstein's Miramax shingle back in the day), "Memories of Underdevelopment" is the work that has secured him a place in film history books. The Criterion Collection's digitally restored edition includes new interviews with critics B. Ruby Rich and Jose Antonio Evora and novelist/screenwriter Edmundo Desnoes; a 2008 feature-length documentary, "Titon: From Havana to 'Guantanamerca,'" about Gutierrez Alea's life and career; a 1989 audio interview with Gutierrez Alea; 2017 interviews with Granados and editor Nelson Rodriguez; and an essay by author Joshua Jelly-Schapiro whose description of "Memories of Underdevelopment" as "an empathetic portrait of an unsympathetic man" perfectly captures the movie's genius. (A.)

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.)

MID90s--The directing/screenwriting debut of Jonah ("Superbad") Hill is an unvarnished gem: a beautifully drawn, heartbreakingly empathetic look at adolescent life in 1990's SoCal. Stevie (fantastic newcomer Sunny Suljic) is a 13-year-old kid navigating a miserable home life (Katherine Waterston and Lucas Hedges play his mom and abusive older brother), bullying at school and his makeshift family of fellow skateboarders. Unstintingly raw and real, it automatically catapults Hill to the top tier of young(ish) American filmmakers. (A MINUS.)

MILE 22--Or, "What would a 'Mission: Impossible' movie minus slam bang action setpieces and Tom Cruise look like?" Peter Berg's brisk, efficient actioner starring current muse Mark Wahlberg (the pair previously teamed on "Lone Survivor," "Deepwater Horizon" and "Patriot Day") as a CIA agent on a top-secret mission qualifies as a satisfactory late-summer time-killer. Unfortunately, an overarching lack of ambition and/or gravitas means the film never truly rises above the mundane. At least a fat-free 95-minute run insures that it's never boring. (C.)

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE--FALLOUT--Helmed by "Rogue Nation" director Christopher McQuarrie, this is the best darn action movie since "John Wick, Chapter 2," maybe "Spectre." At 56, the indefatigable, seemingly indestructible Tom Cruise just keeps barreling ahead. Long may he run, jump, dive, pummel, get the point. The best time I had at the movies last summer. (A.)

MONSTERS AND MEN--John David Washington of "BlacKkKlansman" plays a Brooklyn policeman who begins to reevaluate his choice of career after witnessing a fellow cop shoot and kill an unarmed black man.Because first-time director Reinaldo Marcus Green does such a splendid job with his actors (besides Washington, Anthony Ramos and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are also very strong), it's too bad his script bites off more than it can comfortably digest. Green introduces too many underdeveloped subplots into the film's relatively brief 95-minute run time. And like too many Sundance movies, it doesn't so much end as stop. (C PLUS.)

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.)

NIGHT SCHOOL--High school dropout Kevin Hart tangles with teacher Tiffany Haddish while trying to earn his GED. A high-concept comedy that (barely) coasts on the charisma and comedy chops of its talented leads, both of whom have been a lot funnier (and definitely raunchier) in other movies. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee ("Girls Trip," "The Best Man Holiday") who's an old pro at comfort-food big-screen sitcoms. (C.)

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.)

THE NUN--The fourth horror flick spun off 2013's "The Conjuring"--joining an official 2016 "Conjuring" sequel and two "Annabelle" movies--shifts the action to a 1950's Romanian convent where a tormented priest (Demian Bichir) and a tremulous novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) investigate the suicide of a young sister. (Don't be surprised if demon nun Valak is somehow involved.) Pokily paced and thuddingly predictable, it's strictly for the most hardcore fans of this so-so Blumhouse franchise. (C 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.)

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN--In what could be his final screen appearance, Robert Redford plays true-life gentleman bandit Forrest Tucker who's being pursued by a dogged detective (Casey Affleck) after his latest prison break. Things get complicated when Tucker meets--and falls for--a feisty small town widow (beautifully played by Sissy Spacek). Director David ("A Ghost Story," "Ain't Them Bodies Saints") Lowery's film is as charmingly laidback and quietly touching as Redford's (valedictory?) performance. Swell supporting cast (Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, John David Washington, Keith Carradine), too. (A MINUS.)

ON CHESIL BEACH--Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle share a disastrous wedding night in 1962 that proves to have life-altering consequences for both. Skillfully adapted from Ian McEwan's acclaimed novel, it's a nuanced, intelligent film for adult audiences that deserved to find a bigger audience in theaters last spring. First-rate supporting turns from Samuel West and Emily Watson as Ronan's, uh, complicated parents. (B.)

OPERATION FINALE--The 1960 hunt for former Nazi Adolf Eichmann by members of the Mossad is dramatized in director Chris ("About a Boy") Weitz's historical thriller. Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley topline a solid multi-national cast and their fiercely committed performances help the movie transcend its sometimes halting pace and overlength. (B MINUS.)

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 habitués, 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.)

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.)

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.


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.)

PAPILLON--Middling remake of the 1973 Devil's Island escape flick with Charlie Hunnam (very good) and Rami Malek (blah) assuming the Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman roles. Although it's fifteen minutes shorter than the original, it feels twice as long. (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.)

PEPPERMINT--Jennifer Garner returns to her "Alias" salad days in an action/revenge melodrama by "Taken" director Pierre Morel. After her husband and daughter are murdered by members of a drug cartel, Garner's character undergoes a metamorphosis that turns her into a one-woman hit squad. Implausible and even occasionally risible, but Morel's action chops and Garner's innate likability make it an OK time-killer. (C.)

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.)

THE PREDATOR--Shane ("The Good Guys," "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") Black's reimagining of the long-dormant sci-fi/horror franchise is fast-paced, frequently funny, extremely gory and exceptionally well-cast (Boyd Holbrook, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, "Wonder" boy Jacob

Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, et al). The best movie with "predator" in the title since the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger original. (B.)

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.)

PUZZLE--Neglected suburban housewife Kelly Macdonald develops a passion for jigsaw puzzles which takes her into the world of puzzle competitions. (Yes, that's a thing.) Serving as her mentor/potential love interest is wealthy eccentric Irrfan ("The Lunchbox") Khan. Sweet, unstintingly good-natured--there are no villains here: not even Macdonald's insensitive husband and clueless sons are demonized--and very nicely played by its two leads. (B.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

REVENGE--Ultra-violent, surprisingly effective thriller about a young woman (the statuesque Matila Anna Ingrid Lutz) who enacts grisly revenge on the trio of men (headed by an unctuous Kevin Janssens) who gang-raped her and left her for dead in the desert. First-time director Coralie Fargeat's spiked water-cooler movie is like an uber-stylized cross between vintage grindhouse ("I Spit On Your Grave," "Last House on the Left") and the #TimesUp movement.


THE RIDER--An extraordinary movie by director Chloe Zhao about a young Native American bronco rider (Brady Jandreau) whose promising rodeo career is cut short by a near fatal head injury. Like Zhao's previous neorealist marvel, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me," the cast is comprised of non-pros essentially playing fictionalized versions of themselves. It's a risky gambit that doesn't always work (see Clint Eastwood's clunky "The 15:17 to Paris"), but does so beautifully here. It's as visually resplendent as your average Terrence Malick movie--and just as besotted with nature and a kind of secular spiritualism--but with more narrative meat on its bones. Like that other 2018 boy-and-his-horse story, Andrew Haigh's wonderful "Lean on Pete," it's a humanist masterpiece that deserves to be seen by the widest possible audience. (A.)

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.)

SAWDUST AND TINSEL--What's most startling about Ingmar Bergman's first masterpiece (believe it or not, it was his 13th film) is how grown-up and sophisticated its treatment of sexuality feels: not just in comparison with Hollywood movies of the 1950's, but Hollywood movies today. I can only imagine the seismic impact it must have had on American arthouse audiences when it was released here in 1956 (three years after its European premiere) under the titillating title of "The Naked Night." Historically significant for being the first of Bergman's many collaborations with virtuoso cinematographer Sven Nykvist, the film's visual lushness and use of shadow imagery is evocative of German expressionism. And the storyline--with its themes of sexual degradation and humiliation played against the tawdry backdrop of a flea-bag traveling circus--foreshadows many of the greatest films of German New Wave auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder. As the lumpen ring master protagonist, Ake Gronberg is extraordinary (think Emil Jannings in Josef von Sternberg's "The Blue Angel"), and Harriet Andersson--a future member of Bergman's repertory company--gives one of her most incandescent and sensual screen performances as his conniving young mistress. The digitally restored new Criterion Collection Blu-Ray has less extras than the boutique label's norm: a 2007 audio commentary by Bergman expert Peter Cowie; a 2003 introduction by Bergman (!) himself; and an essay penned by legendary New York film and theater critic John Simon, a longtime Bergman acolyte. (A.)

THE SEAGULL--Streamlined Chekov adaptation by theater director Michael Mayer has a first-rate cast (including Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan, both of whom are wonderful), but the whole thing feels choppy and only partially realized. For a better stage-to-screen transfer of the Russian masterpiece, seek out Sidney Lumet's underrated 1968 version with James Mason, Simone Signoret and Vanessa Redgrave. That one's a keeper; this iteration is just so-so. (C.)

SEARCHING--When his teenage daughter doesn't return home one day, an understandably distraught single dad (John Cho of "Harold and Kumar" fame) begins a frantic online search to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Although the movie follows in the formally restrictive path of former digital thrillers like the junky "Unfriended" movies, first-time director Aneesh Chaganty makes the spatial limitations work beautifully for him. The result is a tense nail-biter that will linger long after you hit the parking lot. (B PLUS.)

7 DAYS IN ENTEBBE--The 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Avid to Paris is chronicled yet again in a workmanlike, yet curiously flat docudrama from director Jose (Netflix's "Narcos") Padilha. A good cast (Daniel Bruhl, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan) hits their marks: nothing more, nothing less. (C.)

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.)

SHOCK AND AWE--The build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq is revisited in Rob Reiner's fact-based docudrama. Two Knight Ridder reporters (Woody Harrelson and James Marsden) don't believe the weapons of mass destruction propaganda emanating from the White House and decide to suss out the truth. It's no "All the President's Men" or even "The Post," but it's still an entertaining ride. (B 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.)

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO--Solid follow-up to the 2015 Denis Villeneuve masterpiece in which human trafficking replaces drug trafficking as the hot topic du jour. Josh Brolin and Benecicio Del Toro reprise their roles as a CIA handler and his most ruthless enforcer, and the film takes an intriguing "Man on Fire" turn when Del Toro's Alejandro rescues the kidnapped 12-year-old daughter (Isabela Moner) of a cartel kingpin. Like the original, it was written by the estimable Taylor ("Hell or High Water," "Wind River") Sheridan and it bears all the earmarks of his terse, bruising economical style. Stefano (Netflix's "Gomorrah") Sollima subs for Villeneueve and does a more than creditable job. (B PLUS.)

A SIMPLE FAVOR--"Gone Girl" and "Big Little Lies" fans will dig this Paul ("Bridesmaids," "Spy") Feig-directed suspenser about a Connecticut mommy blogger (Anna Kendrick) who turns sleuth after her best friend ("Gossip Girl" alum Blake Lively) goes missing. Although there are maybe a half dozen flashbacks too many, strong performances and a slick, sexy sheen insure that your attention never lags. Costarring "Crazy Rich Asians" hunk Henry Golding as Lively's not-as-concerned-as-he-oughta-be hubby. (B.)

SKYSCRAPER--Dwayne Johnson plays a military vet with a prosthetic leg whose high-tech security job pits him against a group of terrorists atop a 240-story Chinese office building. Director Rawston Marshall Thurber ("Dodgeball," "Central Intelligence") is clearly aiming for a new Millennium "Die Hard," but it lacks the wit and hair-trigger timing of that 1988 John McTiernan/Bruce Willis classic. On the plus side, it's so dumb it's kind of fun. Think of "Skyscraper" as 103 minutes of CGI air conditioning. (C PLUS.)

SLENDER MAN--Rotten teen horror flick about a viral boogey man stalking dumb teenagers. It's nothing we haven't seen before many, many times in "Rings," "It," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," "Candyman," ad nauseam. Strictly for bored high schoolers desperate to get out of the house on a summer night. (D MINUS.)

SMALLFOOT--Standard-issue 3-D CGI 'toon in which a Yeti (that's Abominable Snowman to you) embarks on a journey of self-discovery to determine whether humans are indeed real, learning acceptance and tolerance in the process. While this product from Warner Brothers' animation department has a fairly breezy pace and some inspired Looney Tunes style slapstick antics, its unrelenting preachiness is a major turn off to both kids and grown-ups alike. Voices supplied by, among others, Channing Tatum, Zendaya, Common and the ubiquitous James Corden. (C.)

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.)

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU--Boots Riley's feature directing debut is a crazy quilt of a movie: sort of a Trump-era mash-up of Mike Judge's "Idiocracy" and Spike Lee's "Bamboozled." Lakeith Stanfield plays a slacker from Oakland who takes a phone sales job where his "white voice" turns him into an overnight sensation. The always welcome Tessa ("Creed") Thompson plays his starving artist girlfriend and Armie Hammer is a hoot as a Silicon Valley honcho. Not always thematically or even stylistically coherent, but it's alive in ways most movies aren't anymore. I liked it a lot. (B PLUS.)

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME--A totally unhinged mix of shocking (how shocking? it makes "The Equalizer 2" look like "Won't You Be My Neighbor?") and laugh-out-comedy that shouldn't work, yet does. I can't remember the last time a movie finessed those two disparate extremes as well as director Susanne Fogel does here. Kate McKinnon and Mia Kunis make a great buddy team, and Jane Curtin and Gillian Anderson contribute hilarious supporting turns. I liked Fogel's minutely scaled 2014 indie "Life Partners," but it didn't come anywhere near to suggesting that she had a big-scale production like this--with beaucoup action setpieces, a large international cast and numerous European ports of call--in her future. It deserves to be a late-summer sleeper. (B PLUS.)

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.)

SUBMISSION--College professor Stanley Tucci gets more than he bargained after beginning his mentorship of an ambitious student (promising newcomer Addison Timlin). Tucci is dependably strong and Kyra Sedgwick makes her every scene count as his scorned wife. I just wish that the whole thing felt more like a movie than an off-Broadway play. (B MINUS.)

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. For such a testosterone-fueled movie, it's a tad ironic that the two funniest performances are turned in by women (Leslie Bibb and Isla Fisher respectively). (C PLUS.)

TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES--This big-screen spin-off of the Cartoon Network series may seem, on paper anyway, like a junior varsity "Incredibles 2." But it's actually a good deal better--and smarter--than that. While the animation may lack Pixar's pizzaz, there's more than enough winking meta humor and genuine wit to amuse any grown-ups roped into accompanying their small fry. (B MINUS.)

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.)

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS--Documentary about triplets separated at birth who discovered their shared DNA by accident in 1980 and briefly became media darlings.

A fascinating story given first-rate treatment, it's full of surprises even if you think you already know the full story. (A MINUS.)

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.)

TULLY--Charlize Theron plays a stressed out suburban wife/mother whose quality of life improves exponentially after hiring "night nanny" Mackenzie Davis. Witty, warm and wise with a twist ending you won't see coming, it's another strong collaboration between director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody who previously teamed on "Juno" and "Young Adult." (A MINUS.)

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.)

UNCLE DREW--Silly and strained big screen spin-off of the Pepsi commercials in which NBA star Lyrie Irving dons old man make-up to fool gullible hoop-sters. Tiffany Haddish, Nick Kroll and Shaquille O'Neal add some spice, but the material is just too thin to sustain 105 minutes. Directed by Charles Stone III whose best movie remains 2002's "Drumroll." (C MINUS.)

UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB--In this quasi-sequel to 2014's "Unfriended," a teenager gets into hot water when his new (albeit used) laptop's previous owner decides he wants it back. Clunky, paint-by-numbers horror flick as lacking in imagination as it is genuine scares. (D PLUS.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

WE THE ANIMALS--Strikingly poetic coming-of-age movie set in the 1980's about a young boy (promising newcomer Evan Rosado) experiencing his first intimations of homosexuality. Raul Castillo and Sheila And provide solid support as his combative parents. Sort of a Puerto Rican answer to Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight," it marks novice filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar as a director to watch. (A MINUS.)

WHAT THEY HAD--Robert Forster and Blythe Danner are wonderful in this touching indie about a long-married couple whose world begins to crumble when the wife begins evincing signs of Alzheimer's. As the adult children forced to assume caregiver duties for their elderly parents, Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon are also very good. I just wish that first-time writer/director Elizabeth Chomko hadn't taken so many easy outs with the material. Her script could have definitely used a much tougher, less sentimental rewrite. (B MINUS.)

WHERE IS KYRA?--Michelle Pfeiffer is stunning as the title character, a disappointed-in-life middle-aged woman who moves back in with her ailing mom in a Brooklyn walk-up. After her mother dies, Kyra's financial support system disappears and she's forced to make some tough choices. Providing what little help he can is new boyfriend Kiefer Sutherland (also very good).

Directed by Andrew ("Mother of George") Dosunmu, it's stripped down, too arty for its own good, but quietly devastating thanks almost entirely to Pfeiffer's performance. (B.)

WHITE BOY RICK--Based on the true story of a Detroit teenager (promising newcomer Richie Merritt as the titular "White Boy") who became an undercover police informant and drug dealer in crack-infested 80's Detroit, Yann ("71") Demange's flashy docudrama is a juicily acted, compulsively watchable entertainment. Unfortunately, it can't shake a sense of deja vu, especially if you've seen as many Martin Scorsese (especially "Good Fellas" and "The Wolf of Wall Street") and David O. Russell (particularly "American Hustle") movies as I have. The very good cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane. (B MINUS.)

WHITNEY--A warts-and-all documentary about the too brief life and times of superstar Whitney Houston that feels definitive. If you are--or ever were--a Houston fan, this is mandatory

viewing. It's also inordinately depressing. Consider that a recommendation, and a warning. (B.)

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.)

WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?--Fred Rogers--Mr. Rogers to you--gets the big-screen treatment in Oscar-winning director Morgan ("20 Feet from Stardom") Neville's stirring, deeply felt documentary about the Pittsburgh kid TV pioneer's life, times and legacy. If you're burned out by today's lack of civility and the general meanness in our body politic, think of it as a balm for the soul. Inordinately lovely and quietly amazing, it's the perfect antidote to everything Trump. (A.)

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.



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