Scott Douglas and Francis X. Friel pick their way through “a reasonable overview of a perfectly acceptable year at the movies.” 2018, they said, involved watching many good films but only a “very few great ones.”
The Story: A poor family of miscreants ekes out a modest living through petty theft until their adoption of an abused girl throws their precarious living arrangement into peril. The Lowdown: A remarkable film that's warm but not cloying, political but not polemical — a testament to writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda's sense of subtlety, and one of the best films…
The Story: Mary Stuart returns home from France to reclaim her throne in Scotland, but Elizabeth I of England has other ideas. The Lowdown: An occasionally compelling overview of a fascinating chapter in history, undermined by poor pacing even as it's buoyed by strong lead performances.
The Story: Michael and Jane Banks, now fully grown, call on Mary Poppins to help rescue the family home along with the childhood innocence of the next generation of Bankses. Lowdown: Supercrapifragilisticexpialatrocious.
The Story: Half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry must journey to Atlantis to oust his half brother from the throne and save the surface world from annihilation. The Lowdown: According to the dictionary: Wan (adj.) 1. Pallid; giving the impression of ill health. 2. Lacking in color or vitality. 3. Bearing the characteristics of an overpaid and uninspired director.
The Story: In the court of Queen Anne, a fallen lady climbs the ranks from scullery maid to royal consort through treachery, cunning and deceit. The Lowdown: In theory, I shouldn't love a hyperstylized two-hour catfight this much — but unless things change drastically in the next two weeks, it's likely to be my favorite film of the…
The Story: When the Kingpin tries to open a gateway between parallel realities, he inadvertently brings together multiple versions of Spider-Man, all determined to thwart his evil plan with the help of their newest colleague, Miles Morales. The Lowdown: The first Spider-Man movie that legitimately captures the feel of the comics is a blast, even if its…
The Story: A poor but educated young man falls for a girl from his village, only to have her taken from him by a rich playboy who may not be what he appears. The Lowdown: A scintillating slow-burn thriller that barely misses genuine greatness.
The Story: Troubled painter Vincent Van Gogh leads a turbulent life in the French countryside before his untimely demise. The Lowdown: A broad-strokes look at the painter's life that gambles and fails with a point-of-view gimmick that undermines the work of a strong cast.
The Story: A border guard with an unusual talent for literally sniffing out people's secrets encounters a strange man who forces her to question her identity. The Lowdown: An often grotesque little film that bites off more than it can chew thematically, but one that bears a strange sense of metaphorical resonance and sly capacity to challenge assumptions.
The Story: A biographical sketch of esteemed opera singer Maria Callas, told entirely through her own perspective. The Lowdown: Reverential but seldom revelatory, director Tom Volf's doting doc showcases Callas' prodigious talent while skimping on context.
The Story: A teen in 1960 Montana is forced into maturity far too soon when his father loses his job, leaving the boy and his mother to an uncertain fate. The Lowdown: Uncompromising emotional realism bolstered by a strong central cast lends Paul Dano's directorial debut a level of dramatic weight uncommon in small films about big themes.
The Story: When an ex-cop with PTSD takes on the night shift at the local morgue, she gets more than she bargained for in the form of a demonically possessed corpse. The Lowdown: A trash exploitation film with no grace in its possession. But hey, at least it's not a Christmas movie.
The Story: A black, homosexual pianist from New York hires a racist Italian-American enforcer to safeguard him on a concert tour through the ’60s segregation-era South. The Lowdown: A surprisingly affective drama from comedic director Peter Farrelly that, despite its best intentions, still manages to elide much of the ugliness of its subject matter.
The Story: When a player breaks the steering wheel on the "Sugar Rush" arcade cabinet, video game bffs Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope von Schweetz set out through a newly installed Wi-Fi router to find a replacement on the internet. The Lowdown: Eye candy that's roughly as good for you as its mouth-candy equivalent.
The Story: Newly minted heavyweight boxing champ Adonis Creed accepts a grudge match against the son of the man who beat his father to death in the ring, which ends disastrously until it very predictably doesn't. The Lowdown: A tepid sequel to an interesting reboot that sets a franchise on course to repeat the sins of its fathers.
In Brief: Bollywood-star-turned-director Aamir Khan and writer Amole Gupte may not exactly be household names in Western North Carolina, and while Khan's debut behind the camera for Like Stars on Earth (2007) may not be likely to remedy that state of affairs, there's still plenty about this teacher/student musical that should appeal to local audiences. A…
The Story: When their husbands rob the wrong people and wind up dead, their widows bands together to pull off a daring heist. The Lowdown: A compellingly gritty thriller that tweaks genre conventions in some interesting ways, even as it finds itself weighed down by extraneous plot threads.
The Story: Globetrotting war correspondent Marie Colvin risks her life, time and again, to report on the world's most dangerous conflicts. The Lowdown: An uneven film about an extraordinary subject, elevated by a dynamic performance from star Rosamund Pike.
The Story: Newt Scamander returns, confronted by a new threat to the Wizarding World in the form of Hitlerian magus Gellert Grindelwald. The Lowdown: A tepid sequel to an unnecessary prequel that accomplishes nothing more than keeping the Harry Potter money press running for another cycle.
In Brief: Director Michael Curtiz has 178 titles to his credit (according to IMDb), so he can be forgiven if some of them are less impressive than others. While 1961's Francis of Assisi certainly falls into the category of lesser Curtiz, it's not exactly bad so much as it is uninspired. This biopic covering the life of Francis…