Razor-sharp script, shots race across screen in Sundance favorite

Clothes obviously change throughout the film, but the dress code for Reynolds and Amanda is always constant — high collars and tiny shorts or skirts. Since they’re mostly shot from the waist or neck up, it’s always kind of a shock when their legs make it into a shot and they’re suddenly revealed to be half-naked. In a film this meticulous, there’s obviously some degree of meaning there. Images courtesy Focus Features.

9/10 With Hollywood seemingly unable to produce more than a few movies a year without obvious gaffs, Thoroughbreds is a refreshing spurt of disciplined, technically perfect filmmaking and the birth of a new star in writer/director Cory Finley.

In a wealthy Connecticut suburb, childhood friends Lily Reynolds (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) are consumed by wealth-driven apathy. Amanda suffers from borderline personality disorder and is under investigation for brutally killing her family’s horse. Reynolds is still reeling from the death of her father years earlier, which is exacerbated by her new stepfather Mark (Paul Sparks) being a giant prick. Together, they plot to blackmail a hapless drug dealer, Tim (Anton Yelchin), into murdering him.

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All-world lead can’t elevate hum-drum ‘Tomb Raider’

Image courtesy Warner Bros.

6/10 They’ve remade Tomb Raider. They’ve remade everything, so that makes sense.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is living a hard-knock life in London as a courier. It’s tough to feel bad for her though since there’s a fortune waiting for her when she has her father Richard (Dominic West), who has been missing for seven years, declared dead. When she finally starts the paperwork, she discovers clues that lead her to The Devil’s Sea, where her father was searching for the tomb of Himiko, an ancient Japanese shaman-queen. There, she comes up against rival archaeologist Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins).

Alicia Vikander is perfect and wonderful and can do no wrong, but all Tomb Raider does with her is demonstrate how little a great actor really helps these action franchises. Given one of the most talented actors in the world and one who was fiercely dedicated to the role, the movie, and her character in particular, still falls flat.

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‘A Wrinkle in Bad’

There’s a lot that could be made of A Wrinkle in Time’s multi-racial casting decisions that really hasn’t been, and that’s nice. I think this is the way things should be moving forward — a clear effort toward diversity, but in a movie marketed on its own merit. Images courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

2/10 They should call this movie A Wrinkle in Bad, because it’s so bad.

A Wrinkle in Time is based on the beloved 1962 young adult novel by Madeleine L’Engle. It follows Meg Murray (Storm Reid), who is tormented at school by classmates and at home by the disappearance of her father, Alex (Chris Pine), four years prior. She and her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), a powerful psychic, are recruited by Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey) to become warriors of the light in an interstellar battle against the darkness, a giant, over-the-top metaphor for both communism and Satan that is responsible for all negative thoughts.

A Wrinkle in Time fails on a basic information transfer level. I have never seen a movie where I have so often found myself wondering what I’m looking at — and I don’t mean the cool physics stuff, which is mostly ignored, I mean characters will jump to the other side of the set from shot to shot. From a basic blocking, who-is-where onstage perspective, I don’t know what’s going on in most of this movie.

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Jennifer Lawrence’s movie about spies from Russia completely unwatchable

I normally go for stills, but this promotional image is much more interesting than anything in the movie. Images courtesy 20th Century Fox.

2/10 Red Sparrow started its existence in the public eye at a disadvantage, known primarily as a reminder of the Black Widow standalone movie that Marvel Studios will never get around to producing. Anyone who actually ventures into a screening will find pretty much the opposite of a Marvel movie, one filled with sex and gore and grimy colors and hefty themes.

That makes it sound like it might be pretty good, but it isn’t. Oh goodness, it is not.

Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a ballerina from Russia, suffers a gruesome, career-ending injury as Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), an American spy, gets made. Egorova is forced into servitude for the intelligence agency from Russia as a sparrow, a spy trained specifically to use her body for espionage. Egorova is sent to Budapest to seduce Nash and discover his contact in the heart of the government from Russia.

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Stop what you’re doing and go see ‘Annihilation’

Images courtesy Paramount Pictures.

10/10 Annihilation is a soaring triumph of science-fiction adventure. It is jaw-clenching, deliriously beautiful and overwhelmingly weird.

Ex-military cellular biology teacher Lena (Natalie Portman) is in mourning for her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac), who has been away for a full year on a classified mission and presumed dead. He suddenly reappears in their home, but something is clearly wrong, and the couple is apprehended by a security force. Lena learns that her husband was inside the Shimmer, an alien field situated on the U.S.’ southern coast. The field has been expanding for three years and will soon envelop major cities. Kane, now barely clinging to life, is the only thing that has ever entered it and come back. Desperate to save her husband, Lena joins an expedition to find the field’s source.

As the group goes deeper into the Shimmer, they also go deeper into themselves. The all-women expedition, which is the first to be comprised of scientists instead of soldiers, is on a suicide mission, and each of them has a reason they don’t mind dying. The film is framed as Lena’s debriefing after she returns to the Southern Reach.

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