Andrew Lapin

In the opening scenes of the new French drama By The Grace Of God, we see a Catholic family man named Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) taking his wife and five kids to church. He's happy, excited to share his faith with his family. In voiceover, though, we hear him say he'd been molested repeatedly by his priest thirty years prior. What's more, he's recently learned the priest has returned to the area, and is again in close contact with children.

In Jexi, Adam DeVine's life partner calls him an idiot, a "little bitch," and many other, less printable things. The abuse is near-constant. The person heaping it on him is his phone.

Covering up a crime is hard work when you do everything half-assed. The Death of Dick Long, a gnarly new dark comedy about some misbehaving adult boys in Alabama, imagines what would happen if the dumbest people alive wound up with a dead body on their hands.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the movie hustler must always take the young upstart under her wing. In Hustlers, that moment comes when Jennifer Lopez, lounging on a New York roof in an elaborate white G-string, spreads her luscious fur coat and wraps Constance Wu's fresh-faced stripper inside with her. It's a glittery gesture of sisterhood, bestowed by the biggest star in the world, working a profession long derided by larger society as immoral.

We are still figuring out how to make compelling films about 21st-century geopolitics. The stakes in this arena have never been higher, but they've also never been less visually exciting. Most unscrupulous maneuvers these days occur not in secret parking-structure meetings or hotel rooms, but behind computer screens, where the good people can frown while squinting at emails and .wav files.

There are precious few victories to be found in Give Me Liberty, and yet the film feels victorious all the same. This madcap day-in-the-life indie about a medical transport driver, shot in Milwaukee with a cast of almost entirely nonprofessionals, walks a fine line between exuberant comedy and stress-inducing nightmare, yet ultimately endorses the idea that surviving another day in America is enough to feel good about.

The pictures are probably what you remember: shrieking witches and half-melted skulls leering out from jet-black pages; hideous creatures snarling on leashes; and tree branches lurching like tentacles from tombstones.

Jennifer Kent's historical revenge drama The Nightingale is a film we're not accustomed to, and one we'll not soon forget. Set in early 19th-century colonial Australia, it depicts acts of horrific brutality. Yet it's not a brutal movie. Scenes of murder, rape, and enslavement unfold in front of the camera not just to shock you, but to confound you; to make you think about the fates of nations forged in violence and cruelty, and of the humans at the receiving end who must endure all of it.

Beneath the washed-out, drab setting of The Mountain is a vein pulsing with rage. Set in the 1950s, the movie follows a veteran lobotomist, played by Jeff Goldblum, as he sets up shop in mental hospitals across America, snipping off chunks of his patients' brains through their eye sockets and leaving them in near-catatonic states. In the film, such procedures have reached the end of their era, on the verge of being replaced with psychotropic drugs amid mounting evidence the surgeries are causing serious widespread harm.

Richard Billingham grew up in a squalid tenement home in Thatcher-era Britain, in a region outside Birmingham commonly referred to as the Black Country. And true to its name, his upbringing was the blackest of circumstances. Billingham and his younger brother Jason wrestled with an alcoholic, withdrawn father and a violent, short-tempered mother, both habitually unemployed: a household constantly perched on the edge of chaos.

Toni Morrison had advice for the students in her Princeton University creative writing class: "I don't want to hear about your little life."

"This is going to end badly," Adam Driver says, over and over with slight variations, in the new zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die. It's both the movie's catchphrase and raison d'être. Things tend not to end well in general, because people have a habit of taking bad situations and making them worse, and there's no reason to suspect that will change when the dead are rising from their graves and feasting on the bodies of the living. To the extent that the film has a joke, this is it: Humans mess everything up, and in the end probably aren't worth saving.

Making Octavia Spencer the villain in a horror movie is one of those ideas that only seems great in retrospect. After all, Spencer's famous persona is the stoic, put-upon matriarch, usually one in a position of service to others, and she's carried her weary frown and warm, easy hugs to awards glory in The Help, Fruitvale Station, Hidden Figures,and The Shape of Water... and for a while entered Typecast Valley with The Shack, Gifted, and on and on. There was a period where it just seemed like the actress would be stuck in the roles of mother or maid.

We have always lived in Shirley Jackson's castle, whether we knew it or not. The Vermont author's fables — grim visions of humans driven mad by forces they don't understand — have been a part of the American subconscious ever since her breakout short story "The Lottery" sent New Yorker subscribers into dry heaves in 1948. As the modern horror/thriller world has largely gone stale outside of a rarified few voices like Jordan Peele, filmmakers have turned to Jackson like a study-abroad child who moves back home.

Cameos are expected in comedies, but it's a surprise when the guest roster trends a bit highbrow. Amy Poehler's new Netflix movie Wine Country, starring Poehler and her closest Saturday Night Live girlfriends on a romp through Napa Valley, doesn't trot out a big performer for its walk-on bit. Instead, the ladies cross paths with social work researcher Brené Brown, whose TED talk on "the power of vulnerability" went viral several years ago. And they treat her like a god ...

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