|The Birth of a Nation|
|Command and Control|
|The Girl on the Train|
|Kevin Hart: What Now?|
|A Man Called Owe|
|Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children|
I hate to do this, but a trip to Philly has left me with time only for a data dump on the nineteen latest movies. Just a few words about each, in alphabetical order:
"The Accountant" - Several funny lines at the ends of scenes, but what precedes them is a preposterous, bloated bore.
"Amanda Knox" - Breezy Netflix doc provides useful recap for those (like me) who didn't follow the saga, but leaves the victim and the true perpetrator mostly ciphers.
"American Honey" - Andrea Arnold achieves grandeur with this 162-minute road epic, featuring a career-best Shia LaBeouf and magnetic newcomer Sasha Lane, about life at the margins of America and the daily decision whether to sell oneself (and if so, for how much).
"Aquarius" - Sonia Braga commands the screen, appearing in almost every frame of this quietly observant 142-minute Brazilian import that takes an unfortunate turn into plotting at the end.
"Being 17" - André Téchiné's film about the love-hate relationship between two high school boys has a strong sense of place (the French Pyrenees) and a mix of scenes that ring true and false.
"The Birth of a Nation" - Regular readers know Nate Parker is a personal favorite as an actor, but his artless directorial debut lacks nuance and coherence. It's pure slavery porn.
"Blue Jay" - Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass give a master class in acting in a black-and-white, mumblecore Netflix original. It's like a great short story that builds to a shattering climax.
"Certain Women" - Kelly Reichardt's unhurried adaptation of stories by Maile Meloy delivers painterly beauty, poignancy and deep truths in its depictions of a Montana lawyer (Laura Dern) and a ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) with a crush on a visiting school law teacher (Kristen Stewart). The middle story, with Michelle Williams as an underappreciated wife and mother, is less compelling.
"Command and Control" - Documentarian Robert Kenner hits again with the frightening true story of an accident at an Arkansas nuclear missile storage site that could easily have ended in catastrophe.
"Deepwater Horizon" - A somnambulant mess of a movie that turns an important tragedy in contemporary American history into fodder for a generic Mark Wahlberg survival vehicle.
"Denial" - The true story of a Holocaust denier's UK libel lawsuit against a Jewish Studies professor from Queens is elevated by the performances of Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and especially a love-to-hate-him Timothy Spall.
"The Girl on the Train" - All the mysteries left to the reader's imagination in Paula Hawkins' best-seller are spelled out in this deplorable, thrill-free thriller that luxuriates in brutal violence against women. Emily Blunt hams it up as the titular drunkard.
"Kevin Hart: What Now?" - Simply the best comedy concert movie since "The Original Kings of Comedy" and before that "Eddie Murphy Raw." Hart commands the stage of a packed Philly football stadium with stories grounded in reality and his honest, admittedly imperfect reactions.
"A Man Called Owe" - The considerable comic charm of this grumpy-old-man Swedish import is powerless to overcome the nonstop contrivance of its plot.
"Mascots" - The Christopher Guest formula is wearing awfully thin - and the strain to recapture the glory of "Best in Show" is painfully evident - but this Netflix original still yields a few laughs from its competition among team mascots for the coveted Golden Fluffy.
"Masterminds" - Zach Galifianakis is well-cast and quite funny as an armored car driver who robs his company for the love of his co-worker (Kristen Wiig), but Kate McKinnon steals the show as his ex, Jandice, a totally original comic character who's smarter and more interesting than everyone else onscreen.
"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" - Another great looking movie from Tim Burton, but this one has just enough of a story and a sense of humor to stagger across the finish line.
"Sand Storm" - Boring import about how tough life is for mothers and daughters among the Islamic Bedouins of Israel. Gee, what did you expect when you signed up?
"Tower" - A documentary by Keith Maitland of great immediacy and power, reliving the day (August 1, 1966) when a sniper took up position atop the tower at the University of Texas - Austin, killing 16 and injuring 33. Uses the rotoscope animation style pioneered by Richard Linklater in 2001's "Waking Life."