Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern duel over their shared creation in the one-sided biopic JT Leroy

B-

No credits appear until the end of JT LeRoy, but it’s not hard for viewers familiar with this real-life literary saga to guess, long before official word arrives, that its screenplay was cowritten by Savannah Knoop. For one thing, Knoop, who embodied the nonexistent author LeRoy in public, is played by Kristen…

Rooney Mara is Mary Magdalene and Joaquin Phoenix is Christ in a holy bore of a biblical drama

C

For a long time, the one thing that most people knew about Mary Magdalene was her status as a “fallen woman” who washed Jesus’ feet and begged forgiveness for her carnal sins. Today, it’s more widely known that Mary Magdalene wasn’t a prostitute or an adulterer—that Pope Gregory invented that backstory for her in the…

This week, and maybe any other, the terrorist-attack docudrama Hotel Mumbai is a grueling watch

C

Hotel Mumbai, a brutally realistic dramatization of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, can’t help but inspire some thorny ethical questions. It arrives in theaters exactly one week after the nightmare in Christchurch, New Zealand—apparently, distributors are now resigned to every date on the calendar being in close…

The director of the Oscar-winning Son Of Saul dives back into the disturbing past with Sunset

B+

Three years ago, something rather extraordinary happened: A Holocaust drama won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. That in itself is nothing unusual, of course—when in doubt, while filling out your Oscar pool, always pick the movie involving Nazis (assuming there’s only one, that is), and you’ll rarely…

Keira Knightley steps into the dully familiar post-war love triangle of The Aftermath

C+

Steven Soderbergh’s initial idea for Sex, Lies, And Videotape, as jotted down in his journal, was a mere eight words long: “Friend on the couch. Affair with the wife.” The Aftermath, by contrast, was adapted from a semi-autobiographical novel (by Rhidian Brook, who also cowrote the screenplay), and is set in a very…

Oscar Isaac and Ben Affleck blunder through a heavy heist in J.C. Chandor’s Triple Frontier

B-

Exactly 50 years ago, the U.S. Federal Reserve, which had previously issued bills with values as high as $10,000, made it all about the Benjamins. Every bill more valuable than $100 was officially discontinued. (They’d stopped being printed decades earlier, but many had kept circulating.) One of the stated reasons for…

Birds Of Passage traffics in cliché, wrapping a familiar crime yarn in fascinating cultural fabric

C+

The first thing we see in Birds Of Passage, a drama set among the Wayúu people of northern Colombia, is a ritual courtship dance that seems to accompany a young woman’s coming-of-age ceremony. Entering a circle of family and friends, the man seeking the woman’s favor proceeds to run backwards, while she, face painted…

An award-winning lead performance can’t steer The Heiresses into insightful drama

C

How much sympathy should one feel for the formerly wealthy? That’s one of many questions barely explored by The Heiresses, Paraguay’s submission to the foreign-language competition at this year’s Oscars. (It didn’t make the shortlist.) The film begins with its protagonist’s decline already in progress, as Chela (Ana…