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‘The Greatest Showman’ turns Hugh Jackman’s P.T. Barnum into a hero, and cons the audience in the pr
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513854602

In a more honest or at least more interesting version of “The Greatest Showman,” P.T. Barnum, famed American ringmaster and skilled exploiter of misfits and outcasts, would have been the villain rather than the hero. But where would be the fun, the uplift or the box-office potential in that? Like...

‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ review: Sequel drops body-swapped characters into the wild
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513854602

More than two decades after Robin Williams conquered that pesky board game, "Jumanji" has been resurrected with more and glossier stars (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black), a comedy director and a "modern" twist. The result, "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle," is a very sweet, and generally...

Joachim Trier’s supernatural thriller ‘Thelma’ takes an unsettling look at religion and
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

“Thelma” begins in a remote stretch of wintry wilderness, where a man and his young daughter step gingerly across a frozen lake and into the woods nearby. The father has a rifle, presumably with the intention of shooting a fawn that pops into view. But after taking careful aim, he suddenly swings...

‘The Ballad of Lefty Brown’ review: Bill Pullman saddles up, gives one of his best performances
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

Imagine a Western in which Walter Brennan goes gunning for the varmints who bushwhacked John Wayne. That's pretty much the logline for "The Ballad of Lefty Brown," writer-director Jared Moshé's solidly entertaining period drama, which can be enjoyed as both a straight-shooting homage to crotchety...

‘Wonder Wheel’ review: Woody Allen, enough. Enough.
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

Set in 1950, which doesn’t stop one character from catching the 1933 movie “Flying Down to Rio” at the local bijou, Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” is narrated by a budding dramatist working as a Coney Island lifeguard. Justin Timberlake plays our host, who sleeps with a needy, disillusioned clam...

‘Ferdinand’ review: A bull who dances to his own beat
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

The beloved children's book "The Story of Ferdinand" by Munro Leaf, with illustrations by Robert Lawson, was published in 1936. But the simple, pacifist story about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight has resonated across generations. It's a natural progression that this favorite character...

‘The Shape of Water’ review: Del Toro’s fish tale is magical, romantic and dark
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513422602

“The Shape of Water” is a sexy, violent, preposterous, beautiful fantasy, co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro’s most vivid and fully formed achievement since “Pan’s Labyrinth” 11 years ago. Set in 1962, the story del Toro fleshed out with co-writer Vanessa Taylor marries “Creature from the...

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ review: Rey and the Resistance prove irresistible
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513163403

Great fun, and a reminder that unpopular political leaders mock the Resistance in other galaxies, too, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” boasts a bald-faced lie of a subtitle — sorry, folks, last Jedi, no more “Star Wars” movies! — and special guest appearances from some old, familiar faces. The oldest...

Jean-Pierre Léaud is the mesmerizing centerpiece of ‘The Death of Louis XIV’
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

For nearly all 115 minutes of “The Death of Louis XIV,” the hypnotically grueling new film from the Catalan writer-director Albert Serra, we are peering into a royal bedchamber at 18th century Versailles, watching as France’s longest-ruling monarch slowly succumbs to gangrene at the age of 77.

French thriller ‘Moka’ builds tension with a grieving mother on a mission
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

“Moka” is a tense psychological thriller whose twisty plot benefits from a bravura performance by Emmanuelle Devos.

Devos' work will not surprise French cinema fans. Though not a household word over here, she is one of her country's top working actresses, best known for her Cesar-winning performance...

Director-star Zoe Lister-Jones shines in the poignant dramedy ‘Band Aid’
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Zoe Lister-Jones might be best known to mainstream audiences for her role on the CBS sitcom “Life in Pieces,” but the actress has a long resume with roots in indie film.

She and her husband, Daryl Wein, arrived on the scene in 2009 with their film “Breaking Upwards,” which they co-wrote and Wein...

Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke inhabit drama ‘Maudie’ with hard-earned love
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Sally Hawkins turns a crumpled misfit into an affecting figure of fortitude and optimism in “Maudie,” a portrait of the artist as a hermit wife that overcomes some clunky early brushstrokes to achieve a genuine grace and considerable poignancy.

Though “Maudie” is a decades-spanning biography of...

Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan brave the hurdles of interracial romance in the delightful ‘The Big Si
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

“The Big Sick” begins with a meet-cute, proceeds confidently through flirtation, sex and full-fledged romance, then skids to a halt with a nasty breakup, followed by the kind of dire medical emergency that seems fated to end in reconciliation or grief.

It sounds like the stuff of a conventional...

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