The only local member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, three-time S.P.J. (Society of Professional Journalists) award-winning critic Milan Paurich takes a look at movies currently playing in area theaters as well as the latest home video releases.


ALL SAINTS--Another Christian homiletic masquerading as a theatrical release. The fact that sympathetic immigrant characters (Southeast Asians rather than "bad hombre" South Americans, natch) factor into the equation would seem to make it more, well, evolved than the normal "faith" film. But not when they're drawn with all the subtlety of Crayolas. Believers will sniffle while everyone else stifles yawns. (D.)

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

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

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

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

BLADE RUNNER 2049--Call it a sequel or a reboot; either tag will suffice. But the most important thing to know about this follow-up to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi masterpiece is that it's equally great, just very, very different. (Think Scott's "Alien" versus James Cameron's "Aliens.") Director Denis ("Arrival," "Sicario") Villeneuve is an extraordinary visual stylist and he does yeoman work here, assisted by virtuoso cinematographer Roger Deakins. Together they've created a sumptuous futurescape we've never seen before--except maybe in our dreams. Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford (reprising his Deckard role from the original "Blade Runner"), Robin Wright and Jared Leto star. They're all terrific. And it's one of the few recent movies that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. (A.)

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

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

THE EMOJI MOVIE--Proof that 21st century Hollywood will turn anything into a 3-D CGI 'toon. Stray flashes of wit occasionally seep through, but the animation--and the film itself--are drearily, predictably second-rate. (D PLUS.)

FLATLINERS--Another remake that nobody asked for, this flat (sorry) reboot of Joel Schumacher's entertainingly schlocky 1990 sci-fi thriller stars Ellen ("Juno") Page as a med student whose life-after-death experiments get, er, increasingly out of hand. An empty exercise in glossy style and cheeseball scare tactics, it lacks both heat and heart. And unlike the Schumacher version which featured a glittery cast (Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, et al), this one is conspicuously lacking in star wattage (Page, whose career peaked a decade ago, is the biggest name here). (C MINUS.)

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

FRIEND REQUEST--Oh look, a new teen horror flick! You'd think "It" wasn't still playing in theaters.

Not even the--yawn--social media angle can make it seem remotely fresh. (D.)

GIRLS TRIP--Unapologetically raunchy, sometimes very funny comedy about a group of African-American gal pals who stage an impromptu college reunion at New Orleans' Essence Fest. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett are the biggest names in the cast, but newcomer Tiffany Haddish steals the show. A good twenty (thirty?) minutes too long, though. (C PLUS.)

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

THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD--Hitman Samuel L. Jackson is escorted by bodyguard Ryan Reynolds on his way to testifying against big bad Gary Oldman in a silly, high-concept action-comedy. The performers are game, but the lazy, generic script feels like a Brett Rather reject from 1998. (C.)

HOME AGAIN--After splitting from her husband (an unctuous Michael Sheen), adorable Reese Witherspoon moves back in with mom Candice Bergen. She also begins a May-September fling with a twentysomething aspiring filmmaker (Pico Alexander). This luxuriously appointed rom-com, the first movie by Hallie Meyers-Shyer (daughter of Nancy, director of "It's Complicated" and "The Intern"), has a workable premise and a likable cast, but seems to exist in a hermetic bubble with little relevancy to 21st century life. (C.)

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

KIDNAP--Halle Berry chases the no-goodniks who kidnapped her six-year-old son in this long-delayed clunker that feels more like a bad cable movie than something you'd pay to see in an actual, y'know, theater. Berry deserves better; too bad she's made one bone-headed career decision after another ("Catwoman" anyone?) since winning an Oscar for 2001's "Monster's Ball." (D.)

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE--What made 2014's "Kingsman" so special was its bracing post-"Kickass," pre-"Deadpool" blend of comic book tropes and tongue-in-cheek ultra-violence. Plus, in a career-launching performance, Taren Egerton's megawatt charisma insured that it was goofy, disreputable fun every step of the way. "Kingsman 2.0" is guilty of coasting on Egerton's still formidable, if frequently misused charm and makes the same mistake as "X-Men: Apocalypse" by cramming in so many characters and subplots you'll need a glossary to keep track of them all. (Not surprisingly, it's also 20 minutes longer than the original.) While it's a hoot watching Julianne Moore camp it up as a Bond-ian villainess, the whole thing is so relentlessly, cartoonishly over the top that I was wiped out at the 90-minute mark. (C MINUS.)

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

mother!--A "Rosemary's Baby" for the Trump era, Darren ("Black Swan," "Requiem for a Dream") Aronofsky's go-for-broke freak-out is as impressive a studio flick as we've seen this decade. Jennifer Lawrence (fantastic as always) and Javier Bardem play a married couple whose houseguests (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris) turn out to be a lot more than they bargained for. If only all 21st century Hollywood releases were this ambitious, transgressive and creatively fecund. Definitely not for all tastes, but cult immortality is preordained. (A.)

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

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

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

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING--The second attempt to reboot Sony's Marvel franchise in five years does a lot of things right (a refreshing multiculturalism; casting appealing Brit Tom Holland as Spidey; and dispensing with the whole "how-I-developed-my-superpowers" backstory blather). Unfortunately, it fumbles as often as it scores. The action setpieces and CGI are resolutely ordinary; Michael Keaton's villain is woefully underwritten; it's a good 20 minutes too long; and the frequent attempts to shoehorn Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) into the movie seem awfully forced. Not bad, just not very good . (C PLUS.)

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES--The third (and final?) entry in Twentieth Century Fox's rebooted franchise creates as fantastic a digital universe as "Avatar" or "The Jungle Book." (Yes, you'll believe those apes are real.) Returning director Matt Reeves brings a true epic grandeur to the film that makes its myriad references to Old School Hollywood spectaculars (everything from "Spartacus" to "The Ten Command- ments") feel truly earned. As Caesar rallies his simian troops to battle a human army led by a fierce and terrifying Woody Harrelson, it completely delivers on the promise of its title. This is a war movie in every sense of the word ("Apocalypse Now" and "Full Metal Jacket" are both given shout-outs), and therefore probably not suitable for young children. It's a tad overlong--certain scenes drag on well past their expiration point--but as big-screen spectacles go, it's everything you'd want in a 21st century action tentpole. (B PLUS.)

---Milan Paurich


ALIEN: COVENANT--The new "Alien" movie--directed by Ridley Scott who helmed the 1979 original and 2012's underrated "Prometheus"--ranks among the very best in this long-running sic-fi/horror series. White knuckle tension and great Scott style permeate every scene as a motley crew (including Danny McBride, Katherine Waterston, Damian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo and "Prometheus" star Michael Fassbender) battles a new interplanetary beastie. Best of all, it's not in 3-D. (A MINUS.)

ALL EYEZ ON ME--As late rap icon Tupac Shakur, newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. does a more than creditable job. The sprawling, messy and seriously overlong (140 minutes!) biopic surrounding him is strictly boilerplate, though. (C.)

BABY DRIVER--Edgar Wright's personal best since "Shaun of the Dead" is a sensationally entertaining joy ride, and the finest studio release of the year (so far anyway). Ansel Elgort is Baby, a getaway driver for Kevin Spacey's Atlanta crime syndicate whose surly ranks include Jamie Foxx and, in his best big screen role to date, Jon Hamm. Elgort and love interest Lily ("Cinderella") James are the cutest movie couple in recent memory, and the uber-cool soundtrack is worthy of vintage Tarantino. Don't miss it. (A.)

THE BAD BATCH--Set against a dystopian futuristic backdrop, this gleefully gonzo movie by Ana Lily Amirpour ("A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night") can't decide whether it wants to be "Mad Max" or "Southland Tales," but it's still compulsively watchable. (The scenes of cannibalism are probably too graphic for sensitive viewers, however.) Starring impressive newcomer Suzi Waterhouse, future Aqua-Man Jason Momoa, a barely recognizable Jim Carrey and Keanu Reeves as a pharmaceutically-inclined cult leader, natch. (B.)

BAYWATCH--So-so big-screen Seth ("Horrible Bosses," "Identity Thief") Gordon reboot of the campy David Hasselhoff/Pam Anderson tube perennial. While there are some big laughs (most of them provided by Zac Efron as a newbie lifeguard), the whole thing just grinds on and on--it's 119 minutes when 90 would have sufficed--cobbled by an idiotic action movie plot that we're asked to take seriously. Dwayne Johnson ably steps into the old Hasselhoff role, though, and Bollywood icon Priyanka Chopra is certainly an eyeful as the film's "Miami Vice"-esque villainess. (C.)

BEATRIZ AT DINNER--Salma Hayek has her best screen role since 2002's "Frida" as a New Age-y massage therapist invited to dinner at a wealthy client's home. Among Beatriz's fellow guests is a billionaire vulgarian (think Donald Trump) played with a twinkle in his eyes by a deliciously loathsome John Lithgow. Directed by Miguel Arteta and written by Mike White who previously teamed for, among others, "Chuck & Buck" and HBO's late, great "Enlightened," it's a stinging social satire about the way we live in 21st century America. (B PLUS.)

THE BEGUILED--Sofia ("Lost in Translation," "The Virgin Suicides") Coppola's gorgeous reimagining of the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood cult flick turns the original's luridly overripe Southern Gothic melodrama into a swoony hothouse fairy tale. An excellent Colin Farrell plays a

Union soldier who, after being wounded in battle, is rescued and nursed back to health by a group of women (including Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning). Everything is hunky-dory until each of them begins to develop romantic and/or lustful feelings for their hunky captive. Coppola won the Best Director prize at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival for the movie. (A.)

THE BIG SICK--Pakistani-American stand-up/"Silicon Valley" costar Kumail Nanjiani wrote this autobiographical rom-com with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, about their courtship, break-up and how her being in a coma brought them back together. Directed by Michael ("Hello, My Name is Doris") Showalter, the film manages to be tender and funny, usually at the same time. It's one of the few Sundance Film Festival "discoveries" in recent memory that actually merits the hype. Nanjiani (essentially playing himself), Zoe Kazan (Emily), Holly Hunter and Ray Romano (Emily's parents) are all letter-perfect. Finally, romantic comedy done right. (A MINUS.)

BLOW-UP--1967's "Bonnie and Clyde" is the film most frequently cited as the kickstarter of the New Hollywood Cinema. But a case could be made that Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 landmark

of Swinging England chic and existentialist ennui--despite being directed by an Italian Marxist and shot entirely on location in Great Britain--marked the true beginning of that halcyon movement. Financed and released by MGM, the same studio that gave us "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," "Blow-Up" was a critical and box-office sensation in its time (casual nudity! moral ambiguity! the Yardbirds!), and proved to be one of the most influential movies of its era: Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" and Brian DePalma's "Blow-Out" both owe a huge debt to Antonioni's masterpiece. As a jaded fashion photographer who unwittingly captures a murder on camera while snapping peekaboo shots of two lovers gamboling in the park, David Hemmings remains the quintessence of '60s cool. And Vanessa Redgrave's "Woman of Mystery" is as foxy (and hauntingly duplicitous) as ever. The newly released Criterion Classics Blu-Ray edition is the first time home video has done justice to the movie, and a newly restored 4K digital transfer insures that Antonioni's dazzling color palette pops the way he intended 50 years ago. A panoply of extras include a fascinating documentary about the making of the film; candid archival interviews with Antonioni, Hemmings and Jane Birkin; an erudite 2016 conversation between Redgrave and photography curator Philippe Garner; and a pocket-sized book featuring a scholarly essay by David Forages, an updated 1966 account of the film's production, and the 1959 Julio Cortazar short story that inspired Antonioni and Tonino Guerra's script. (A PLUS.)

THE BOOK OF HENRY--Dopey genre mash-up about precocious kids, a harried single mom, a sexual predator and a half-dozen other plot threads randomly tossed into the mix. Heavy-handed direction by Colin Trevorrow ("Jurassic World") doesn't help, and some very good actors--among them Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman, Dean Norris--are conspicuously wasted. (C MINUS.)

BORN IN CHINA--Disney's latest "Earth Day"-timed nature documentary, and it's actually a pretty decent one. But since you can see pretty much the same thing for free on The National Geographic Channel, why bother paying first-run prices? (C PLUS.)

THE BOSS BABY--Pretty much the nadir of post-"Shrek" DreamWorks Animation, this snarky, pun-filled slab of CGI nonsense has a surface slickness, even beauty at times that belies its creatively bankrupt, generally witless script and grating stock characters. Babysitter fodder at best. (D PLUS.)

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE--DreamWorks Animation strikes again with yet another CGI 'toon so aggressively in your face that the only options are surrender or retreat.

Your choice depends on how much pop culture smack talk (and potty humor) you can handle in 90-odd minutes. Better than "The Boss Baby" or "Trolls" (a live-action sock puppet scene actually made me laugh out loud), but it's still a far cry from DreamWorks' halcyon days of "Shrek" or even "Antz." (C PLUS.)

THE CASE FOR CHRIST-- More Christian doggerel for the already converted. How Faye Dunaway, Robert Forster and Erika Christensen wound up in the cast is more interesting than the actual movie. (D.)

CHUCK--Affable, low-key biopic about former heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner. Liev Schreiber is terrific as Wepner, and Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts deliver solid support as the women in his life. It doesn't reinvent the wheel--and it's certainly no "Raging Bull," "Rocky" or "Creed"--but boxing enthusiasts will eat it up. (B.)

CHURCHILL--Brian Cox is very good as the former British Prime Minister in this sluggishly paced, dramatically inert WW II flick. The always welcome Miranda Richardson costars as Mrs. Churchill, and "Mad Men" alumnus John Slattery does an unconvincing Dwight Eisenhower imitation. Because there's a much better Churchill movie (Joe Wright's "Darkest Hour" with Gary Oldman) on the horizon, just wait for that. (C.)

THE CIRCLE--Dave Eggers' novel has been turned into a provocative James ("The Spectacular Now," "The End of the Tour") Ponsoldt movie that has "Future Cult Item" written all over it. After taking a job with a Facebook/Google-type company, Emma ("Beauty and the Beast") Watson discovers the secret behind this seemingly utopian, cult-like organization that...well, best not to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn't read the book. A cast-against-type Tom Hanks is aces as the guru-like CEO. (B.)

COLOSSAL--Part monster movie, part rom-com, part substance abuse melodrama, this well-nigh uncategorizable whatzit? from cult director Nacho ("Timecrimes," "Extraterrestrial) Vigalondo starts out like gangbusters before devolving into chaos, confusion and ultimately incoherence. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are both very good; too bad the movie surrounding them is so terminally, stubbornly and maddeningly unfocused. (C MINUS.)

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL--The fourth entry in the big-screen franchise adapted from Jeff Kinney's popular kid-lit series recasts the lead roles (Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott are the new parents; Jason Drucker plays "Wimpy Kid" Greg) and is neither appreciably better or worse than its mediocre predecessors. If you're not a fan, the film's title is likely to seem as painfully accurate as it was for me. (C MINUS.)

THE DINNER--Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall sit down for a meal at a posh restaurant to discuss their delinquent teenagers and prove to be just as deplorable as their kids. Nicely acted, especially by Linney and Gere, but the heavy-handed script and uninflected direction (by the talented Oren Moverman who should know better) renders the whole thing much ado about nothing. Based on Herman Koch's international bestseller that's already been filmed (twice!) previously. (C MINUS.)

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING--Sappily earnest YA flick about a germ-imperiled "Bubble Girl" (appealing newcomer Amanda Stenberg) and her burgeoning friendship/romance with the hunky boy next door (Nick Robinson from "Jurassic World"). Probably best appreciated by starry-eyed tweeners. (C MINUS.)

THE EXCEPTION--Hugely entertaining movie-movie about a dashing young Nazi officer (Jai Courtney) who falls in love with the comely Jewish maid (Lily James from Disney's "Cinderella") working at the Dutch residence of deposed Kaiser Wilhelm (Christopher Plummer) on the cusp of World War 11. Sexy, suspenseful and luxuriously crafted, it's the sort of film Alfred Hitchcock would be making if he were still alive today. The feature debut of British theater wunderkind David Leveaux, it features strong supporting work from Eddie Marsan and Janet McTeer. (A MINUS.)

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS--More sound and fury signifying very little. The eighth edition of the vroom-fest franchise that started all the way back in 2001 adds two Oscar winners to the mix (Charlize Theron as the chief villain and Helen Mirren in a glorified cameo as Jason Statham's mum), but very little has changed. While F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton") is a slight upgrade over the usual studio hacks assigned to helm these things, any sort of meaningful directorial innovations are hard to discern. The stunt work is as ludicrously oversized (and unrealistic) as usual, though, so fans--and apparently they're legion although I've never joined this particular mass-cult--will go home satisfied, guaranteeing a ninth installment, probably in two years. Whatever. (C.)

47 METERS DOWN--Cheeseball shark flick that makes "The Shallows" look like "Jaws." Originally slated for a 2016 direct-to-video release, it now finds its natural home in the living rooms of undemanding couch potatoes everywhere. (D PLUS.)

FOX AND HIS FRIENDS--The leading filmmaker of the German New Wave, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was--along with Jean-Luc Godard--the greatest European director and the most radical innovator to emerge in the post-WW II era. Wildly prolific, enfant terrible Fassbinder completed over 14 movies in a fourteen year period before dying in 1982 at the age of 36. Maybe because Fassbinder's oeuvre is so expansive (and has largely been released in dribs and drabs on American home video in generally subpar editions), he's not as well-known by younger audiences as he should be. Fortunately, the Criterion Collection is doing their part to once again make Fassbinder a household name among discerning cineastes. 1975's "Fox and His Friends," one of Fassbinder's greatest and most accessible films, is the latest recipient of Criterion's TLC. Thanks to their 4k digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack, the movie certainly looks and sounds better than ever (certainly better than the rep house print I saw in the late '70s).

Fassbinder himself plays the titular character, a proletariat naif whose life becomes unmoored after winning the lottery. Exploited by his bourgeois boyfriend and their backbiting circle of friends, Fox's Candide-like journey is as harrowing to watch as it is tragically inevitable. You can interpret the film as a resonant political metaphor--the working class gets the shaft from the 1%--or simply

as a haunting precursor to America's Queer Cinema movement of the 1990's. Either way it's a masterpiece. Extras include new interviews with Fassbinder repertory player Harry Baer and American director Ira ("Love is Strange") Sachs; excerpts from a 1975 interview with Fassbinder; and a provocative essay by critic Michael Koresky. (A.)

FRANTZ--A mysterious young French man (Pierre Niney) visits a family in Germany shortly after the end of WW I, claiming to be a friend of their son who was killed in combat. The dead man's fiancee (a fantastic Paula Beer) soon strikes up a friendship with him, and a love connection seems to be in the offing. But director Francois ("Swimming Pool," "8 Women") Ozon's hauntingly enigmatic film has a twist (or two) up its sleeve. As suspenseful as vintage Hitchcock and as luxuriously romantic as a classic '50s Douglas Sirk melodrama, it's one of the most impressive European films in recent memory. (A.)

FREE FIRE--Nihilistic black comedy about an arms deal gone very, very bad in 1970's Boston featuring an all-star cast of indie stalwarts (Oscar winner Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor, et al). Directed by Britain's Ben ("High Rise," "The Kill List") Wheatley, it's more fun than a blood-soaked, thoroughly disreputable movie oughta be. (B.)

GHOST IN THE SHELL--If Scarlett Johansson's wonderfully outre 2013 arthouse hit "Under the Skin" had been redesigned as a kickass action franchise wannabe, it might resemble this amusingly unhinged Rupert ("Snow White and the Huntsman") Sanders adaptation of the 1995 Japanese anime cult classic. Fans of Johansson's "Lucy" will feel right at home with the sensation-over-sensibility aesthetic. Anyone else will just groove on the trippy visuals and uber-cool supporting cast: Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, oh my! (B.)

A GHOST STORY--Dead guy Casey Affleck returns as a ghost to keep a watchful, melancholy eye on his grieving widow (Rooney Mara). Directed by David ("Ain't Them Bodies Saints," 2015's groovy "Pete's Dragon" reboot) Lowery, it's poetic, beautifully understated and exquisitely moving.

Just don't expect another "Ghost" with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. (A MINUS.)

GHOST WORLD--Terry ("Crumb," "Bad Santa") Zwigoff's glorious 2001 teen dramedy based on Daniel Clowes' cult comic finally gets the Criterion Collection treatment its many fans--myself included--have always felt it deserved. Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch (both letter-perfect) play recent high school graduates whose nonconformity reaches new heights when they befriend a curmudgeonly vinyl fetishist played by a never-better Steve Buscemi. Zwigoff finds the ideal balance between sour and sweet, and never caricaturizes or condescends to his lovably quirky/prickly characters. Zwigoff and Clowes would reteam five years later for the underrated "Art School Confidential." Hopefully Criterion will release it some day. The Blu-Ray extras include a Zwigoff/Cloves commentary track; contemporary interviews with Johansson, Birch and costar Illeana Douglas; a generous sampling of the 1965 Bollywood movie, "Gumnaam," used in the opening title sequence; an essay by critic Howard Hampton; Zwigoff riffing on the movie's primo soundtrack of golden nuggets; and reprinted excerpts from Clowes's original comic. (A.)

GIFTED--A big-screen Lifetime movie starring a Marvel super hero (Chris Evans) and an Oscar winner (Octavia Spencer) about a blue collar guy (Evans) raising his 7-year-old math prodigy niece (newcomer (McKenna Grace) in central Florida. Directed by Marc ("500 days of Summer," the "Amazing" Spider-Man movies) Webb, its heart is unmistakably in the right place. Too bad its brain is Play-Do mush. (C.)

GOING IN STYLE--A Zach Braff-directed remake of the 1979 Martin ("Beverly Hills Cop," "Midnight Run") Brest heist comedy. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin replace George Burns, Lee Strasberg and Art Carney, but it's pretty much the same movie: disenfranchised senior citizens pull a robbery to help their dwindling resources. Charming and nicely-played; too bad its attitudes towards the AARP brigade come off as a trifle condescending. (B MINUS.)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOLUME 2--The Marvel sequel that everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived and, sadly, it's just another sequel. Longer, louder and even more frenetic than the ADD 2014 original, it's like being trapped in a room with someone who can't stop poking you in the ribs as he tells an interminable joke with no punchline. Chris Pratt's Star-Lord remains the franchise's undisputed ace in the hole, but even he seems flummoxed by director/screenwriter James Gunn's decision to go big, bigger, biggest when a Mystery Science Theater pretzels and beer budget would have only enhanced its termite charms. (C.)

THE HERO--Sam Elliott knocks it out of the park as a former movie cowboy whose twilight years prove the adage that old age isn't for sissies. There's not much more to it than that, but Elliott makes this a laid-back pleasure just the same. (B.)

THE HOUSE--Will Farrell and Amy Poehler turn their home into a gambling casino to help finance their daughter's college tuition. Sadly, that high-concept premise is more depressing than funny in the current economic climate. Not even farceurs as gifted as Farrell and Poehler can make this sour one-joke comedy fly. (D.)

HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER--Broad, sitcommy farce about an aging lothario (Eugenio Derbez) who, after getting dumped by his wife of 25 years, tries passing himself off as a young stud with predictably embarrassing results. The game supporting cast (Kristen Bell, Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Michael Cera and former screen icon Raquel Welch) help make it quasi-bearable. (C MINUS.)

IT COMES AT NIGHT--No sophomore jinx here. Trey Edward Shults' follow-up to his brilliant 2016 debut "Krisha" is flat-out terrific: a psychological horror movie so strikingly assured that it feels like the work of a veteran filmmaker. In the aftermath of a global pandemic, Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo reluctantly invite strangers Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough into their secluded home. The terrors that await them are both shockingly visceral and remarkably subtle. (A MINUS.)

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD--Perversely misjudged Guy ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") Ritchie reboot of the King Arthur story with Charlie Hunnam--the best thing here--stepping in as Mr. Camelot. While far too enamored with "Game of Thrones"-era sword-and-sorcery cliches (and Ritchie's typically aggravating ADD style editing), it's at least marginally better than Antoine Fuqua's somnambulant 2004 "King Arthur." (C MINUS.)

L'ARGENT--The 13th and final film by French master auteur Robert ("Au Hasard Balthazar," "Pickpocket") Bresson receives the Criterion Collection's Blu-Ray treatment, and it's cause for celebration in cinephile circles. Austere and rigorous in the hallowed Bressonian tradition, the

movie--adapted from a Tolstoy novella--tracks a counterfeit bill as it crosses hands across Paris, culminating in a harrowing act of violence as devastating as it is seemingly preordained. Among the most spiritual of directors, Bresson's films achieve an emotional transcendence that make them among the most unique, enduring and, yes, sacred works of art ever committed to celluloid. Since Bresson's career preceded and outlived the French New Wave, it's no wonder he's always seemed both timeless and eternal. The extras include a press conference from the 1983 Cannes

Film Festival with Bresson and cast members; a fifty-minute video analysis of Bresson and "L'Argent" by scholar James Quandt; an essay by critic Adrian Martin; and a 1983 Bresson interview conducted by French critic Michel Ciment. (A.)

THE LAST FACE--Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem are relief workers who fall in love while toiling in a war-torn African country. Directed by the estimable Sean Penn ("Into the Wild," "The Pledge"), it's a tone-deaf, perversely misjudged failure that doesn't succeed on any level. No wonder it was booed off the screen at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and received only a perfunctory U.S. theatrical release. (D.)

LIFE--Hybrid sci-fi/horror flick with two marquee leads (Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds); a director, Daniel Espinosa, with a spotty track record ("Safe House;" good; "Child 44," bad); and a plot that feels recycled from dozens of "Alien" rip-offs. Occasionally effective, but the story beats are so thuddingly predictable you can see them coming a mile away. (C.)

THE LOST CITY OF Z--James ("The Immigrant," "Two Lovers") Gray's sensational adaptation of David Grann's 2009 best-selling novel casts a never-better Charlie Hunnam as British explorer Percival Fawcett who vanished while attempting to locate a lost Amazon city in the 1920's. Gorgeously shot by ace veteran cinematographer Darius ("Se7en," "Midnight in Paris") Khondji, it's the kind of cerebral epic David Lean specialized in, but with a distinctly modernist sensibility. The supporting cast includes Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and new Spider-Man Tom Holland, all first-rate. (A.)

THE LOVERS--Debra Winger and Tracy Letts are terrific as a long-married couple whose separate extra-marital affairs reignite a romantic spark between them. Nice work by director Azazel ("Terri") Jacobs; I just wish that he'd spent more time exploring the farcical potential of his film's delicious premise. Too much of it feels glum and even borderline depressive.


LOWRIDERS--Set against the backdrop of L.A.'s Hispanic car culture, this affecting family drama pits a recovering alcoholic/body shop owner (Demian Bichir) against his rebellious sons: graffiti artist Danny (Gabriel Chavarria) and ex-con "Ghost" (Theo Rossi). The excellent lead performances help elevate familiar material. (B MINUS.)

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

MEGAN LEAVEY--Kate Mara (very good) plays the titular real-life Marine corporal who bonded with her German shepherd combat dog, Rex, while serving in Iraq. Moving without being mawkish--especially if you're a dog lover--and inspirational in the best sense of the word. Nicely directed by documentary filmmaker Gabriela (2013 Sea World expose "Blackfish") Cowperthwaite with a breakout supporting turn by Ramon Rodriguez as a fellow soldier who strikes up a romance with tough chick Leavey. (B.)

MINE--Armie Hammer plays a marine trapped on a desert land mine in this grimly over-determined (and wildly over-directed) war flick. Hammer--who also co-produced--certainly gives it his all, but it's such a grueling slog you'll secretly hope the mine explodes if just to end the movie.


MULTIPLE MANIACS--I never thought I'd live to see the day when the tony Criterion label would release an embossed Blu-Ray rendering of a vintage John Waters movie. But I'm sure glad I did. Waters' 1970 sophomore feature--shot in black-and-white for a piddling $5,000--has never looked better, and the ensuing decades have proven exceedingly kind. What seemed a lot like amateur hour madness at pot-stoked midnight screenings in the '70s now seems very much like brilliantly, rigorously controlled chaos. Divine, Waters' favorite leading lady, plays Lady Divine (duh), the star of a rolling circus ("The Cavalcade of Perversion") whose romantic travails set off a string of

grisly murders. Waters' repertory players (including Mink Stole, David Lochary, Cookie Mueller and the inimitable Edith Massey as--I kid you not--the Virgin Mary) remain the very best sort of company, and the cinematic and real-life references--Vietnam, the Manson Family, Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew," et al--fly by fast and furiously. Climaxing with Divine's rape by a 15-foot crustacean ("Lobstora"), it's definitely not for the faint of heart. Waters aficionados, however, will think they've died and gone to heaven. Not quite as many extras as the standard Criterion Blu-Ray, but the 4K digital restoration is so stunningly gorgeous you're unlikely to care. There's an audio commentary from Waters (who remains one of the best raconteurs in the business), present-day interviews with cast and crew members, a fun video essay by Gary Needham and a scholarly appreciation by film critic Linda Yablonsky. (A.)

THE MUMMY--Dreary reboot of the horror movie staple that plays more like a creature-feature "Mission Impossible" installment than the old Boris Karloff (or Brendan Fraser) "Mummy"s. Tom Cruise barrels through the film's many action setpieces like, well, Tom Cruise, but a hammy Russell Crowe earns a few stray giggles as Dr. Henry Jekyll (yes, that Dr. Jekyll). While ridiculously overproduced like just about every 21st century tentpole, a relatively circumspect 110-minute running time (including end credits) insures that you're not totally wiped out by all the CGI bombast. That's not a recommendation. (D PLUS.)

MY COUSIN RACHEL--Rachel Weisz is spellbinding in an only fitfully effective reboot of the Dauphne du Maurier mystery previously filmed in 1952 with Olivia de Havilland and Richard

Burton. As the alluring woman of mystery who may or may not be a murderess, Oscar-winner Weisz blows neurasthenic wimp Sam ("Me Before You") Clafin off the screen. Directed by Roger ("Notting Hill," "Changing Lanes") Michell. (C PLUS.)

NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER--A never-better Richard Gere headlines director Joseph ("Footnote") Cedar's smart, savvy, frequently very funny character study of a wannabe Master off the Universe. As Norman watches his world slowly collapse around him through a combination of hubris and naivete, it's hard to remain unmoved. The first-rate supporting cast includes Michael Sheen, Steve Buscemi and Charlotte Gainsbourg. (B PLUS.)

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

PARIS CAN WAIT--A radiant Diane Lane returns to "Under the Tuscan Sun" turf for a pleasantly scenic road trip rom-com directed by Eleanor Coppola (yes, Francis Ford's wife). It's featherweight fare aimed strictly at the AARP crowd, but a modest pleasure nonetheless. (B MINUS.)

PHOENIX FORGOTTEN--Chances are you'll have already forgotten this Grade-D, Ridley Scott-produced found-footage horror flick by the time you hit the parking lot. (D.)

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES--This fifth Jack Sparrow outing sports a Paul McCartney cameo (?), two Oscar-winning villains (Javier Bardem as longtime Sparrow nemesis Captain Armando Salazar and returning heavy Geoffrey Rush) and a whole lot of hooey. On the plus side, Johnny Depp does more than phone it in this time and fresh-faced Brenton Thwaites is a nice substitute for Orlando Bloom (he's actually playing Bloom and Keira Knightley's son), but I expected more from co-directors Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg of Oscar-nominated "Kon-Tiki" fame. Although shorter and less self-indulgent than previous "Pirates" movies ("Dead Man's Chest," I'm looking at you), it's not exactly memorable either. (C.)

THE PROMISE--Glacially paced Terry ("Hotel Rwanda") George quasi-epic about the 1915 Armenian genocide. Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale lend their combined gravitas, but the entire movie is such a stodgy, sanctimonious slog you're better off renting or streaming Atom Egoyan's underrated "Ararat" from 2002 instead. (D PLUS.)

QUEEN OF THE DESERT--While hardly the disaster many have claimed, this glossy biopic about early 20th century British adventuress Gertrude Bell is definitely the most impersonal film ever made by visionary auteur Werner Herzog. (It might as well have been directed by Justin Chadwick or John Maddin.) Nicole Kidman is very good as Bell, and there are strong supporting performances from Damian Lewis and Robert Pattinson as T.E. Lawrence. On paper, Bell might seem like kin to previous Herzogian protagonists like Aguirre and Fitzcaraldo, but their electrifying conquistador madness is absent. Bell seems much too demure and level-headed to flip out.


A QUIET PASSION--"Sex and the City" alumnus Cynthia Nixon is superb as poetess Emily Dickinson in master filmmaker Terrence ("The Long Day Closes," "Sunset Song") Davies' elegiac and ultimately heartbreaking cradle-to-the-grave biopic. The wonderful Jennifer Ehle comes close to stealing the movie as Dickinson's supportive younger sister. (A.)

RAW--Stylish, albeit stomach-churning French flick about a virginal veterinary student (Garance Marillier) who inherited her family's cannibalism gene. First-time director Julia Ducournau strikes a nice balance between the droll and the nauseating. Rabah Nait Oufella steals the movie as Marillier's decidedly non-stereotypical gay roommate. (B.)

ROUGH NIGHT--"Rough" indeed. Scarlett Johansson's bachelorette party goes toxic after a male stripper is accidentally killed while performing a lap dance. Her gal pals (including Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon and MVP Jillian Bell) rise--and fall--to the, er, challenge. This distaff version of 1998 cult comedy "Very Bad Things" is rudely funny at times (first-time director Lucia Aniello did get her start on "Broad City" after all), but too much of it seems forced and aggressively mean-spirited. (C MINUS.)

RUMBLE FISH--Francis Ford Coppola described his second 1983 S.E. Hinton adaptation as an "art film for teenagers," and that might explain why it never found much of an audience.

Like Hinton's "The Outsiders" (a commercial hit for Coppola the same year), "Rumble Fish" traffics in the sort of juvenile delinquent tropes that probably seemed dated back in the days of "Rebel Without a Cause." But Coppola's rarefied, brazenly uncommercial handling of the frankly dime store material--b&w cinematography with its evocative nods to German expressionism; French New Wave attitudinizing; etc.--help make it one of the more fascinating curios of the "Godfather" director's eclectic oeuvre. Starring Matt Damon and Mickey Rourke as estranged Tulsa brothers (dad is Dennis Hopper which gives you some idea of this family's screwy gene pool) attempting a rapprochement after years apart, the movie keeps surprising you with its creative audacity, visual experimentation/beauty (Stephen N. Burum did the phenomenal cinematography) and dazzling procession of up-and-coming actors (including Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Spano and Chris Penn). The new Criterion Collection Blu-Ray is a marvel, and the extras are up to Criterion's usual standards of excellence. Besides a Coppola audio commentary, there are present-day interviews with Coppola, author/co-screenwriter Hinton, Dillon and Lane; a 1984 French television interview with Rourke; "Locations: Looking for Rusty James," a 2013 documentary about the film's far-reaching influence; deleted scenes introduced by Coppola; and much more. If you've never seen "Rumble Fish"--and few did at the time of its truncated '83 theatrical release--what are you waiting for? If, like me, you have warm and fuzzy memories of it from back in the day (#6 on my 10-best list that year!), it's like going home again. Either way, this is one of the most impressively packaged Blu-Ray releases so far this year. (A.)

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING--Jim Broadbent takes an unwelcome trip down memory lane in a touching British drama about a man confronting the truth about his past and not liking it very much. Splendidly acted (especially by Broadbent, Harriet Walter and the sublime Charlotte Rampling) although director Ritesh ("The Lunchbox") Batra's back-and-forth storytelling device comes off as a tad mannered. (B.)

THE SHACK--Based on the best-selling novel, this Christian inspirational is a tad less icky than most faith-fueled films thanks to an excellent cast (Octavia Spencer, Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, Graham Greene) who nearly make the homiletic drivel palatable. Wildly overlong at 130 minutes, though. (C MINUS.)

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

SLEIGHT--An itinerant L.A. street magician (Jacob Latimore) deals drugs to help support his younger sister in writer/director JD Dillard's intriguing debut effort. The title refers to "sleight of hand," and Dillard has quite a few tricks up his sleeves, both narratively and visually. It's an arresting first film although only partially realized due to conspicuous budgetary constraints. (C PLUS.)

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE--Unlike Sony's previous "Smurfs" kidflicks, this one is 100% animated and devoid of distracting human actors. And despite a topical feminist message (really), it's also well-nigh insufferable for anyone over the age of 5. (D PLUS.)

SNATCHED--Shrill high concept comedy partially redeemed by the inspired casting of Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn as mother and daughter. Directed by the estimable Jonathan ("50/50," "The Night Before") Levine, it's fast-paced and fitfully amusing. Just don't go in expecting "Trainwreck 2." (C PLUS.)

SONG TO SONG--Another of Terrence ("Days of Heaven," "The Thin Red Line") Malick's rarefied visual tone poems, this one set against the backdrop of Austin's music scene. Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender and Rooney Mara star. If you're a fan like me, it's nirvana: Malick's best and most accessible film since "The Tree of Life." Non-believers, however, will think they're watching paint dry for two-plus hours. (A.)

STALKER--Poet, mystic and visionary, the late Andrei ("Solaris," "Andrei Rublev") Tarkovsky was often described as the Jean-Luc Godard of Soviet cinema because of his bold formal experimentation and intellectually rigorous films. 1979's "Stalker," the last movie Tarkovsky directed in Russia before moving to Western Europe, has all the earmarks of his rarefied oeuvre: stream-of-consciousness techniques; surrealistic imagery; complex editing rhythms; and metaphysical resonance. Adapted from a cultish sci-fi novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the movie is set in a spooky dystopian future in which a stalker/guide (Alexander Kaidanovsky) escorts a writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and professor (Nikolai Grinko) onto the site of an ecological disaster seeking a place (the quasi-mythical "Room") where dreams come true. The Criterion Collection's stunning new 2K digital restoration of Tarkovsky's most accessible and entertaining film makes this one of the year's few truly essential Blu-Ray releases. The disc's bountiful extras include an interview with Geoff Dyer, author of "Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room;" interviews with the set designer and composer; a mid-1990's interview with nonpareil cinematographer Alexander Knyazhinsky; and an essay on the meaning (and making) of the film by critic Mark Le Fanu. (A PLUS.)

STRAW DOGS--Brutal and brilliant, Sam Peckinpah's ultra-violent 1971 masterpiece was famously described by Peckinpah cheerleader Pauline Kael as "a fascist work of art." Which, I suppose, makes the timing of this newly issued Criterion Collection Blu-Ray perfect in the Age of Trump. Dustin Hoffman (terrific) plays David, a milquetoasty American mathematician who moves with his British wife (Susan George putting the voom into va-va-voom) to the cloistered village where she was raised. Tensions soon escalate between David and some loutish locals--most of whom share a, uh, carnal history with his spouse--leading to a tour-de-force action climax that remains as shocking, and shockingly inevitable, as it was 46 years ago. Since this is a Criterion release, the bonus features are dependably first-rate: audio commentary by Peckinpah scholar Stephen Prince; "Mantrap," a 2003 documentary about the making of the film; new and archival interviews with, among others, Ms. George and Roger Spottiswoode, one of the movie's editors; a 1993 career appreciation doc ("Sam Peckinpah: Man of Iron"); an essay ("Home Like No Place") by critic Joshua Clover; and a rare 1974 print interview with Peckinpah by French-Canadian journalist Andre Leroux. (A.)

TABLE 19--Cute, if mildly forced wedding-themed rom-com starring Anna Kendrick as a jilted maid of honor. A terrific supporting cast (Margo Martingale, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant, June Squibb, Lisa Kudrow, Wyatt Russell, et al) makes it seem better than it is. Directed by Jeffrey ("Rocket Science," "Spellbound") Bitz and written by Mumblecore vets Mark and Jay Duplass. (C PLUS.)

TAMPOPO--A truck driver/noodle connoisseur (Toshiro Mifune doppelgänger Tsutomu Yamasaki) takes a comely young widow (Nobuko Miyamoto) under his wing, tutoring her on the intricacies and artistry of great noodle making in Juzo ("A Taxing Woman") Itami's delightful 1987 arthouse sensation. An ode to the perfect noodle (how to make, cook, serve and eat them), it turned an entire generation of American moviegoers onto the glories of Japanese cuisine, non-sushi variety. Even if you don't know soba from ramen, it's literally a feast for the senses. And Itami's free form approach to narrative remains as exhilarating and (seriously quirky) as ever. "Tampopo" belongs in the pantheon of all-time great foodie movies--"The Grand Bouffe," "Babette's Feast," "Big Night"--and it's possibly the funniest, too. The recently issued Criterion Collection Blu-Ray includes copious extras, including a 90-minute documentary ("The Making of 'Tampopo'") narrated by Itami; new interviews with Miyamoto, food stylist Seiko Ogawa, ramen scholar Hiroshi Oosaki and superstar chefs; Itami's 1962 debut short, "Rubber Band Pistol;" an essay by food/culture writer Willy Blackmore; and lots more. (A.)

THEIR FINEST--Lone ("An Education," "Italian for Beginners") Scherfig's warmly nostalgic look at a disparate group of civilians hired by the British government during WW II to help boost morale by making propaganda films. A charming Gemma Arterton is the ostensible lead, but scene-stealers like Richard E. Grant, Bill Nighy and Jeremy Irons pretty much run away with the movie.


TRAINSPOTTING: T2--Danny Boyle's spotty sequel to his 1996 breakthrough revisits the lives of some junkie lowlifes (Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner and Robert Carlisle all reprise their roles) and discovers that not much has changed. While Boyle's filmmaking is nearly as flashily bravura as it was in "T1," the mood is a lot more downbeat this time. I guess 20 years of hard living will do that to you. (C PLUS.)

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT--Having enjoyed the last two "Transformers" movies, I was genuinely looking forward to this fifth (and final?) entry, especially since it stars Mark Wahlberg who headlined the previous (and best) "Trans" movie and brought a welcome sense of humanity that was absent from the previous installments. Sadly, even judged on a Michael Bay curve, it's just not very good. Wahlberg tries to rouse the troops with his prole charm, but the robot-on-robot action seems seriously arthritic this time. And a snooze-inducing 2 1/2 hour running time does nobody--especially the audience--any favors. Stray moments of visual beauty aside, this is the weakest "Transformers" since 2011's unspeakable "Dark of the Moon." If this really is the end of the franchise, it's going out on a bummer note. (C.)

UNFORGETTABLE--Wanna bet? Except for Katherine Heigl's perfect Aryan features, this could be a particularly dopey iteration of a Screen Gems post-Labor Day release ("When the Bough Breaks," "The Perfect Man," etc.). Rosario Dawson does her best as the imperiled new wife of cuckoo bird Heigl's ex (Geoff Stults), but the movie is all about gimmicky plotting and has little to do with old-fashioned verities like acting, direction or building even a modicum of suspense. (D.)

A UNITED KINGDOM--True-life story of the mixed marriage between King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and a white British woman (Rosamund Pike) in the late 1940's. Directed by Amma ("Belle") Asante, it suffers from a decorous, overly prosaic approach that renders the central love story more soporific than compelling. For a superior film about an interracial marriage during an unenlightened era, rent last year's "Loving" instead. (C.)

WAKEFIELD--Bryan Cranston plays a hot-shot New York lawyer who pulls a disappearing act and moves into an attic above the garage (while still keeping a watchful eye on his daughters and wife Jennifer Garner). Despite strong, sympathetic performances from Cranston and Garner, the movie plays more like a fanciful literary conceit--John Cheever meets Rod Serling--than a satisfying drama. (C PLUS.)

THE WALL--Soldiers Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena are pinned down by an Iraqi sniper in director Doug ("The Bourne Identity," "Edge of Tomorrow") Liman's terse, stripped-down action thriller. Gripping enough while it lasts, but ultimately too minimalist to leave much of a lasting impression. (B MINUS.)

WILSON--Adapted by Daniel Clowes ("Ghost World") from his own graphic novel, this Craig ("The Skeleton Twins") Johnson-directed dramedy stars Woody Harrelson as a middled-aged misanthrope reconnecting with his ex (the always welcome Laura Dern) and getting to know a teenage daughter he never knew existed. While a little too beholden to Sundance (Film Festival) "Little Man" cliches, it's a nicely acted character study with some big laughs and an even bigger heart. (B MINUS.)

WISH UPON--A bullied teen (Joey King) uses a sinister music box to enact revenge on her tormenters. In other words, just another YA horror flick. Better than some, I suppose, but not remotely special. (C MINUS.)

WONDER WOMAN--Will "Wonder"s never cease? Leave it to a female director (Patty Jenkins who hasn't helmed a feature since 2003's slightly overrated "Monster") to deliver one of the better D.C.E.U. movies of recent vintage. Yes, it's another origin story, but Jenkins makes it all seem remarkably fresh, maybe because we're not as familiar with the roots of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as we are with, say, Spider-Man or Superman. Set mostly against the backdrop of WW I, the film has a wide-eyed innocence to match the period and a game supporting cast (including Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis and a truly badass Robin Wright) to help sell the corn. Even with her thick Israeli accent, Gadot makes us buy her character's emergence as D.C.'s most formidable female firepower. (B PLUS.)

THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT--When Jacques Demy's candy-colored homage to 1950's Hollywood musicals opened domestically in 1968, it was flanked by New Hollywood benchmarks like "The Graduate" and "2001." Accordingly, few moviegoers were interested in an uber-stylized Gallic ode to the Golden Age of MGM musicals. At the time, it felt like a film seriously out of step with its time. Yet, like a lot of movies that flopped in their original release, age has been exceedingly kind and the film now seems positively timeless. Real-life sisters Catherine Deneueve and the late Francoise Dorleac play small-town twins (one's a dance instructor; the other's a music teacher) who ache for the excitement and romance of big city life. When a traveling carnival comes to town, they finally get their chance to grab the brass ring (and hitch a ride to Gay Paree). The supporting cast--Hollywood royalty Gene Kelly; "West Side Story" alumnus George Chakiris; Michel Piccoli, Danielle Darrieux--is as delectable as the enchanting visuals. The bouncy score is by Demy's "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" collaborator, Michel Legrand and it's eminently hummable even if you don't speak French. The newly released Criterion Collection Blu-Ray edition has a bounty of extras: a 1966 French television interview with Demy and Legrand; a 2014 chat between Demy biographer Jean-Pierre Berthome and costume designer Jacqueline Moreau; a 1966 making-of featurette shot for Belgium television; "The Young Girls Turn 25," a 1993 documentary by Demy's widow, Agnes Varda; and an essay by redoubtable Chicago film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. (A.)

THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE--Based on the non-fiction best-seller by Diane Ackerman, Niki ("Whale Rider") Caro's overly decorous film tells the story of a couple (Jessica Chastain and Johan Heldenbergh) who helped save hundreds of Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Nicely acted--Chastain is always a pleasure to watch--but too prosaic for its own good. As a result, it lacks the emotional punch this type of gut-punching material demands. (C PLUS.)