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‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ review: Annette Bening shines as a star in her final act
BaltimoreSun.com / 1518865801

Happily offering a good time to James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” driving Humphrey Bogart to murderous distraction in “In a Lonely Place,” the sullenly sensual Hollywood legend Gloria Grahame lived a turbulent life (four marriages, one to her stepson by onetime husband Nicholas Ray) that...

‘Early Man’ review: ‘Gromit’ creator returns to animation
BaltimoreSun.com / 1518865801

Surrounded by body parts in a former aluminum warehouse on the outskirts of Bristol, in the southwest of England, Nigel Leach enthusiastically hands me an arm. "Feel that," he says, as I gingerly pinch the disembodied limb.

Rather than a grisly crime scene, I'm on a tour of the puppet-making department...

‘Black Panther’ review: A sleek Marvel of a kingly superhero
BaltimoreSun.com / 1518865801

“Just because something works does not mean it cannot be improved.”

So says the tech-wizard sister of the title character in “Black Panther.” It’s an apt credo for this soulful, stirringly acted and pretty terrific movie’s place in the Marvel Studios realm.

As a rule, these movies basically work,...

‘Peter Rabbit’ review: Beatrix Potter’s bunny hops down path of violent mayhem
BaltimoreSun.com / 1518261002

Hollywood studios have recently been pillaging the literary canon of beloved children's literature, digging up fodder for animated feature films. The best of these, like the "Paddington" movies, successfully meld nostalgia with modern and exciting filmmaking, while the more questionable ones, like...

‘The 15:17 to Paris’ review: Clint Eastwood’s dramatic re-creation stalls at the station
BaltimoreSun.com / 1518261002

An oddly misguided act of generosity, director Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris” may be the first film from Eastwood that lacks a storytelling compass and a baseline sense of direction.

The docudrama follows a screenplay by first-timer Dorothy Blyskal, taken in turn from the nonfiction account...

‘Fifty Shades Freed’ review: Marriage, wealth and a wink to kink
BaltimoreSun.com / 1518261002

The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of...

Philippe Garrel’s ‘Lover for a Day’ plays out a delicate, wistful emotional triangle
BaltimoreSun.com / 1517569803

One of the first things you hear in the sweetly melancholy new French film “Lover for a Day” is the sound of a young woman in the throes of sexual ecstasy. From her breathlessly enthusiastic shrieks, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that she and her partner were making love in a university restroom....

‘Bilal: A New Breed of Hero’ review: Violence, never-ending platitudes impede plot
BaltimoreSun.com / 1517569803

Dubai's first animated feature puts top-class artwork to use in a story designed to preach about the inclusive, non-discriminatory aspects of the Muslim faith to younger audiences. Loosely based on the life of Bilal ibn Rabah, a companion of the Prophet who was born a slave and became the first...

‘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...

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