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‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail’ turns bankers into tragic heroes
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Only one bank faced criminal charges in the aftermath of 2008’s global financial meltdown, and it wasn’t one you might expect.

If behemoths like Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley were judged too big to fail, then tiny community-oriented Abacus Federal Savings in New York’s Chinatown — only the 2,651st...

Christopher Plummer is an uncanny Kaiser Wilhelm II in the romance thriller ‘The Exception’
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

“The Exception” is a handsomely mounted World War II-era romantic thriller, enlivened by vibrant performances and vivid sexual encounters and inspired by a little-known footnote to history, the story of a ruler who left but never went away.

That would be Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, engagingly...

‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ review: Fifth time’s the charmless
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Of course it’s not good. “Good” would only get in the way. The new "Transformers" movie sits right on the beam, qualitatively, with the previous three sequels (the first one was a mite less … I don't know, something). So be warned or be encouraged, depending on your allegiance to the earlier movies.

The playfully subversive ‘Okja’ proves Bong Joon Ho is one of the world’s most exciting filmmakers
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Meet “Okja.” The title character of the new film from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho is a marvel of contemporary technical wizardry and old-fashioned cuddliness, a CG fantasy mix of pig, puppy and hippo that makes for a genuinely lovable creature.

The unassumingly revolutionary movie that...

Edgar Wright’s exuberant ‘Baby Driver’ is an automotive musical like no other
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

“Baby Driver,” a new vehicular-action-thriller-jukebox-musical-romance from the British writer-director Edgar Wright, is almost as entertaining as it is hyphen-depleting. This is movie craftsmanship and showmanship of a very high order.

In the dazzling opening sequence, a red Subaru WRX carrying...

‘The House on Coco Road’ is a compelling take on an African American family’s odyssey
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

“The House on Coco Road” is the story of director Damani Baker’s family, particularly his mother, Fannie Haughton, and her remarkable life, reflective of the troubled history of race in America. Descended from Louisiana sharecroppers (the title refers to that home), and the product of the Great...

Sofia Coppola brings a ruthless precision to the artful Southern gothic ‘The Beguiled’
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Although it unfolds in and around a Virginia boarding school in 1864, a year before the end of the Civil War, Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” has some of the spooky, suggestive magic of a fairy tale.

The opening shot could be of an ancient grove at the witching hour, the chatter of cicadas merging...

‘Despicable Me 3’ is so bad it’s almost unendurable
BaltimoreSun.com / 1513077003

Even the title seems off.

If we needed this third film about a reformed supervillain named Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), his ever-expanding family, his endlessly merchandisable Minions and his increasingly tiresome Manichaean struggle, it really should have been called “Despicable We.” After all,...

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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