Mark Jenkins

In such half-seriously titled comic dramas as The Decline of the American Empire, writer-director Denys Arcand has chronicled the discontents of intellectuals in his native Montreal. He continues the series with The Fall of the American Empire, but with a significant wrinkle: This time, the characters include as many gangsters as PhDs.

In the bargain-basement-cosmic prologue to Jobe'z World, the title character muses on "the infinite void." In reality, rollerblader Jobe (Jason Grisell) lives and works in the tightly circumscribed universe known as lower Manhattan. He achieves escape velocity only via the "sick manga" he writes and draws, recounting the adventures of Celestial Steven, a planet-hopping EDM DJ.

In the opening sequence of the artful and distinctive yet finally unsatisfying Cold War, three minor functionaries of Poland's new Communist regime canvass a remote region. Armed with a tape recorder, the travelers seek genuine "peasant" music. But only one of them is truly interested in authenticity.

In the post-cataclysm future depicted by Mortal Engines, inhabitants of a steampunk city seek and collect pop culture relics and "old tech" from the 21st century. That's apt, since this visually lively but narratively inert movie is also assembled from such debris. The story derives from a young-adult fantasy novel, but most of the scenario echoes Star Wars, Mad Max, The Terminator or Howl's Moving Castle.

As an old-fashioned melodrama about a modernist artist, Never Look Away is philosophically vexing. But it's a good story well-told, and never grows tiresome despite its three-hour running time. Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, returning to the terrain of his Oscar-winning 2006 The Lives of Others, again proves himself glib in both good and bad ways.

Driving though the segregated South in 1962, an Italian-American bouncer from the Bronx introduces the pleasures of fried chicken to an African-American pianist originally from Pensacola, Fla. Anyone who finds that moment plausible is tuned to the same wavelength as Green Book, a well-meaning but glib and shallow ode to interracial healing.

As did its predecessors, The Girl in the Spider's Web shrieks its loathing of men who hurt women. It also wails over the threatened innocence of children, emits a primal scream at sexual trauma, and howls its disgust at the endemic corruption that renders gangsters and bureaucrats essentially identical.

But the message the movie yells most loudly is, "Reboot!"

As the maker of danger-zone documentaries Cartel Land and City of Ghosts, Matthew Heineman has a natural affinity for Marie Colvin, the real-life heroine of his A Private War. But the most significant thing Heineman and the late Colvin share is not fearlessness. It's their passion for confronting comfortable Americans and Europeans with global outrages they'd rather not acknowledge.

The title of Life & Nothing More, like the movie itself, is both modest and sweeping. At a time when several other notable films about the African American experience deal in satire or melodrama, director Antonio Mendez Esparza takes a documentary-like approach to the travails of a fictional black family.

Lisa Spinelli loves small children — their innocence, their enthusiasm, above all their promise. But The Kindergarten Teacher's protagonist, achingly played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, knows that most 5-year-olds don't grow up to be particularly creative or even interesting. Exhibit A: herself.

The central event of Monsters and Men is clearly based on the 2014 slaying of Eric Garner by NYPD officers on Staten Island, although writer-director Reinaldo Marcus Green has altered both the location and the cause of death. Yet the killing of loose-cigarette peddler Big D (Samel Edwards) takes place literally in the background. This evocative drama is most concerned about the aftermath, viewed from three different angles.

To rescue his kidnapped fiancee, an earnest dandy rides into the wilderness, accompanied by a fake preacher and a miniature horse. That's the setup for Damsel, a deadpan farce filmed on the rocky Utah turf of classic John Ford Westerns. David and Nathan Zellner are on another cinematic quest.

Stuffed with references to classic crime flicks, American Animals is British writer-director Bart Layton's clever and assured bid to rival Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino. The film is highly self-conscious, but no more so than its real-life antiheroes, a quartet of Kentucky college kids who study The Killing and Reservoir Dogs to plan a heist that turns out to be poorly scripted.

Among Isabelle Huppert's many impressively vehement roles are several murderers, a mother who seduces her son, and the abortionist who was the last woman France ever sent to the guillotine. So the first joke of the intriguing but bewilderingly scattered Mrs. Hyde (Madame Hyde) is director Serge Bozon's casting of the anything-goes actress as a shy, awkward schoolteacher.

As he announced with The Artist, writer-director Michel Hazanavicius makes movies about movies. So it was nearly inevitable that he would someday burlesque the work of Jean-Luc Godard, the Franco-Swiss director who virtually invented the meta-film. The result, Godard Mon Amour, is fascinating but not as much fun as the movies its title character made between 1959 and 1966.

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