There’s nothing spooky and a lot irritating about the showbiz-family affair Claras Ghost

C-

Art imitates life a bit too strenuously in Clara’s Ghost, the first feature written and directed by Bridey Elliott. (She’s probably best known for her starring role in the indie comedy Fort Tilden.) Set almost entirely in a rich Connecticut family’s home, this clumsy quasi-supernatural psychodrama features the entire…

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem open old wounds in Asghar Farhadi’s too familiar Everybody Knows

B-

Most great filmmakers stumble eventually, and they often do so in a particularly dispiriting way: attempting to rehash a previous triumph. Before winning two foreign-language Oscars (for A Separation and The Salesman), Iran’s Asghar Farhadi made a splash on the festival circuit with 2009’s About Elly, in which the…

This year’s big Cannes winner, Shoplifters, is an affecting ode to the families we choose

B+

Kids partaking of the ol’ five-finger discount is a common sight in the movies. Sometimes it’s an early indication of serious trouble; more often, minor larceny is merely intended to suggest a character’s rebellious nature. Either way, one assumes that the parents, if they knew, would disapprove. So it’s slightly…

Willem Dafoe plays Van Gogh, a man 25 years his junior, in the reductive biopic At Eternity’s Gate

C+

For the first time since he turned to filmmaking with 1996’s Basquiat, celebrated painter Julian Schnabel (whose other movies include Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell And The Butterfly) has paid tribute to a fellow artist. Unlike Jean-Michel Basquiat, however, Schnabel’s latest subject isn’t exactly someone…

Opening on Election Day, The Front Runner is the absolute worst movie for the political moment

C

A little over a month ago, Brett Kavanaugh sat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee and delivered an angry, disqualifyingly partisan diatribe in which he not only denied the sexual assault accusations against him but also expressed outrage that he’d even been obligated to respond. “This is a circus,” Kavanaugh…

Searching For Ingmar Bergman doesn’t uncover much fresh insight about his life and work

C+

Margarethe von Trotta begins her documentary Searching For Ingmar Bergman with a personal anecdote, describing in detail her first encounter with Bergman’s work. As Max von Sydow’s chess-playing knight challenges Death to a game early in The Seventh Seal (1957), von Trotta analyzes the sequence shot by shot, then…

Right now, even Frederick Wiseman shouldn’t get away with an apolitical look at small-town America

C+

A few years ago, legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman made one of his occasional geographical portraits, capturing an entire community rather than focusing intently on how one of its institutions works (or doesn’t work). In Jackson Heights had a lot of ground to cover, as that particular Queens…

Mélanie Laurent makes an uneven but urgent crime drama from Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston

B-

In the decade (nearly) since Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino has directed two films—three, if you want to count his Manson Family picture, due next summer. Mélanie Laurent, who played the vengeful Shosanna in Basterds, has since directed five features, maintaining a steady acting career all the while. It’s an…

The fountain of wit dries up in The Happy Prince, an Oscar Wilde biopic about his sad last days

C-

As a general rule, biopics fare better when they focus on a relatively thin sliver of the subject’s life, rather than chronicling everything from cradle to grave. And there’s nothing wrong with avoiding a celebrated figure’s glory years in order to explore less familiar biographical terrain. The Happy Prince, however,…

Intolerance gets Purged in Assassination Nation, a midnight movie more righteous than exciting

C+

In the tradition of William Castle, who enticed audiences with ostensible danger—taking out an actual life insurance policy on those who saw a particular screening of Macabre (1958); including a countdown to the scariest scene in Homicidal (1961), so that viewers had time to flee the theater—Assassination Nation kicks…

The past is the present in Robert Greene’s latest eerie nonfiction experiment, Bisbee ’17

B

On July 12, 1917, roughly 1,300 striking copper miners—most of them recent immigrants—in the town of Bisbee, Arizona were rounded up at gunpoint, loaded onto cattle cars, transported 200 miles to New Mexico, and ordered never to return. A century later, documentary filmmaker Robert Greene (Actress, Kate Plays Christine