Where'd You Go, Bernadette, PG-13
In an eagerly awaited adaptation of the best-seller by Maria Semple, 55, a TV auteur (Arrested Development, Suddenly Susan, Mad About You), Seattle MacArthur genius architect Bernadette (Cate Blanchett, 50) and her workaholic, TED-talking Microsoft millionaire husband Elgie (Billy Crudup, 51) are in a midlife marital muddle that he'd like to unload entirely on her. Since the story about the hunt for vanished Bernadette is by Emmy nominee Semple and the film is cowritten and directed by five-time Oscar nominee Richard Linklater, 59, you expect great things. But it's neither organic nor grounded in reality like Linklater's best work. Bernadette's visionary architecture is well constructed, but this movie is a mess of tone and timing. The best moments celebrate the Gilmore Girls-like intimacy between Bernadette and younger-yet-wiser daughter Bee (Emma Nelson), as when they carpool-karaoke the movie's signature oldie, “Time After Time.” Bernadette is a vibrant creative spirit, and Blanchett blithely gives the character her all. But you can't build a satisfying comedy on a cracked foundation. —Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.)
Also New in Theaters
Blinded by the Light, PG-13
The alienated teen son (Viveik Kalra) of a laid-off Pakistani immigrant in uncool Luton, England, in the depths of 1980s bad hair and worse pop music finds hope and purpose in the tunes of Bruce Springsteen, who inspires him to win love, happiness, the writing career of his dreams and the Boss's approbation. It's a high-concept premise that sounds ridiculous — but it pretty much happened to the film's writer. Sweetly exhilarating and winsomely innocent, it should make a star of Kalra, just as director Gurinder Chadha's comparably delightful Bend It Like Beckham made a star of Keira Knightley. —Tim Appelo (T.A.) FULL REVIEW
Still in Theaters
The Kitchen, R
Melissa McCarthy (who turns 49 Aug. 26), Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss play penniless wives whose oppressive Irish gangster husbands go to jail, so they become much smarter gangsters, seizing control of New York's Hell's Kitchen in 1978. You'd think it would be a female-bonding comedy, but it's gritty, violent and slightly realistically inspired by the actual Westies gang whose husband-and-wife contract killers were in cahoots with the Mafia. McCarthy expands her dramatic range to a startlingly dark place, and Margo Martindale, 68, is vivid as the senior gangster wife who thinks the youngsters should defer to her. Not nice ladies like Ocean's 8, this gang shoots straight — often at each other. — Tim Appelo (T.A.)
The Art of Racing in the Rain, PG
Warning: You may get the sniffles from this shamelessly tearjerking adaptation of the best-selling novel about a dog, Enzo (voiced by Kevin Costner, 64), who bonds with his race car driver owner Denny (Milo Ventimiglia). Enzo senses that something is wrong with Denny’s wife (Amanda Seyfried) before she knows it – though not before we guess it, because we can see every plot point coming down the track for a country mile! If you've ever loved a dog and felt he knew you deeply, you'll forgive the simplistically manipulative script and direction, and the clunky subplot with Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan as Seyfried's meddlesome parents. Costner is a pro-dog activist and deeply in love with his own pooches, and he aces his first voiceover role. —T.A. READ KEVIN COSTNER INTERVIEW
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, PG-13
Want to see a summer blockbuster about two stars in a two-fisted bromance with lots of flamethrower action? If you already saw Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, go see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, 47, and Jason Statham, 52, in the latest spin-off of the $5 billion Fast & Furious franchise. They squabble and punch each other while trying to prevent Idris Elba, playing a Terminator/Robocop-like mechanized superman, from destroying the world with a virus that's about to spread and melt the intestines of everyone on earth. But not if our quarrelsome duo can stop it, by driving fast cars in insanely improbable maneuvers and insulting each other every chance they get. Directed by the action-expert auteur of John Wick and Deadpool 2, this movie is total fun, the most over-the-top entry in the series. — T.A.
Octavia Spencer, 47, is getting early Oscar buzz as a high school teacher suspicious of a star student, a former African child soldier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who was adopted by white liberals (Naomi Watts, 50, and Tim Roth, 58). Luce seems like a young Barack Obama but may actually be succumbing to scary political ideas. A thriller that addresses serious social issues and the perils of marriage and parenthood. — Bruce Fretts (B.F.) FULL REVIEW
Quentin Tarantino's eagerly awaited, Oscar-fated epic about the era of the Manson murders turns out to be more about life than death. It's a day in the life of a washed-up star of a ‘50s TV cowboy show (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman and best pal (Brad Pitt, 55). Their sinister encounters with the Manson family are, at first, just another part of the background of Hollywood back then. It's an incredibly, obsessively detailed portrait of pop culture in Tarantino's youth, with a tone that's comic, sad and as nostalgic as Alfonso Cuarón's Roma. The vast cast is great, DiCaprio is better, and Pitt steals the picture. — T.A. FULL REVIEW
Musician David Crosby, 77, has no filter. The raconteur's scorching honesty and humor, and a soundtrack dominated by his supergroups Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, make A.J. Eaton's moving-and-grooving documentary among this summer's most delightful and insightful films. Producer and Almost Famous director Cameron Crowe, 62, conducts candid interviews that expose an artist with a lust for life and a penchant for conflict. Crosby is currently feuding with former bandmates Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Neil Young. And, yet, despite strife, a liver transplant, heart disease and diabetes, the ex-con and recovering addict has yet to hang up his guitar. Retire? Not Crosby, who continues to create and evolve, addressing the rage that consumed him even as his harmonious vocals defined his songs. — Thelma M. Adams (T.M.A.) READ DAVID CROSBY INTERVIEW
The Lion King, PG
This innovative cinematic hybrid version of Disney's $8.1 billion blockbuster epic, using visual effects, live action and computer-generated images, definitely offers some dazzling moments, and fine performances by James Earl Jones, 88, as the elder royal lion Mufasa, Chiwetel Ejiofor as wicked Scar, and John Oliver as Mufasa's confidant, Zazu. But Beyoncé and Donald Glover are surprisingly meh, and grownups are likely to prefer the 1994 animated original or the Broadway version. However, if you take youngsters to see it, they're apt to just love it. This one's for the cubs. — Lisa Kennedy (L.K.) FULL REVIEW
Sword of Trust, R
Comic Marc Maron, 55, is funny on his talk show Maron and as the women's wrestling coach on the must-see show GLOW, but as a Birmingham, Ala., pawnshop owner trying to sell a Confederate heirloom sword to crazy conspiracists who think it proves the South won the Civil War, he's both hilarious and touching. The cartoonish eccentrics congregated in his pawnshop are perfect foils for Maron's sardonic commentary, and his character has a moving backstory about his sad past with a drug-troubled ex (ably played by the film's Sundance prizewinning director, Lynn Shelton, 54), who's followed him to Alabama. The shaggy-dog story about the sword's sale, which loses momentum toward the end, matters less than the incomparable, semi-improvised ensemble acting. It's often as funny as, and almost as good as, BlacKkKlansman. — T.A.
The Farewell, PG
Awkwafina, the rapper and actress who struck comic gold in Crazy Rich Asians, breaks out as a dramatic actress in a more poignant story based on what really happened to director-writer Lulu Wang: When her grandmother in China got a cancer diagnosis, the family kept the news from her, and the clan flew in from America and Japan — ostensibly for a family wedding, but really to say goodbye while keeping Grandma (Shuzhen Zhao, 75) in the dark about her condition. The intergenerational bonding is beautifully moving. A tale as heartwarming as August: Osage County or The Wedding Banquet. — T.M.A. FULL REVIEW
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, R
In 1968, gifted director Nick Broomfield, now 71, had an affair on the romantic Greek isle of Hydra with Marianne Ihlen. She was also Leonard Cohen's lover, the pop star who inspired tunes such as “Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye” and “Bird on the Wire.” In this documentary, Broomfield — sensitively, using you-are-there archival footage — explores Ihlen and Cohen's story, which grew troubled once Judy Collins recorded Cohen's songs and launched him to fame. Cohen would go on to sleep with Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell, among many others; spend five years as a Buddhist monk; go bankrupt, thanks to an embezzling manager; and make a comeback at 74, grossing $149 million on tour. His last love letter to Ihlen, when both were dying in 2016, will make you cry. Though Broomfield shows their lives were a trifle darker and less noble than you might have thought, this brilliant film will make you wish you were 20 on a Greek beach in 1968, living on $83 a month, reading by moonlight, devoting sunny days to swimming, lovemaking and art that knew no limits — not yet. — T.A.
What if suddenly everyone on earth forgot about the Beatles but you, a struggling singer-songwriter? Would you claim you wrote the Beatles’ songs and earn worldwide fame and the love of an adorable girl (Lily James, Downton Abbey's Lady Rose)? Find out what that would feel like by watching this rom-com wish-fulfillment fantasy by the makers of Love Actually and Slumdog Millionaire. —Bruce Fretts (B.F.) FULL REVIEW
The summer's most inspiring superhero is a petite Englishwoman named Tracy Edwards, 56. In the ‘80s, Edwards (then in her 20s) wanted to crew on the famed Whitbread Round the World yacht race — but none of the all-male teams would hire her, even as a cook. So she single-handedly raised the dough to purchase a yacht, assembled an all-female crew and entered the 1989 competition. Alex Holmes’ documentary, which mixes breathtaking race footage and contemporary discussions with Edwards and crew, is a thrilling, often weepy tale of female empowerment. It's skippered by a complicated character who's plagued by doubts yet driven by belief in her abilities. The Oscar-bound doc exhibits more raw emotional power and innate wisdom than any summer movie on the horizon. — T.M.A.
It's tough to make a movie about a fiction writer's life — they mostly sit around typing — but not when you've got a subject like the Nobel Prize-winning author of Beloved. Her life sounds like a movie: born poor, a black single mom raising two kids, Morrison became the most important editor of books by black authors like Angela Davis, and then a best-selling millionaire who gave Oprah Winfrey her best movie role. She's very guarded, but a friend, director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, got her to open up in a fascinating way. —T.M.A. FULL REVIEW | READ DIRECTOR TIMOTHY GREENFIELD-SANDERS INTERVIEW
Is this Elton John biopic as good as the Freddie Mercury hit Bohemian Rhapsody? It's a blow-the-roof-off rock ‘n’ roll epic with even catchier (and more popular) tunes and a more inspiringly melodramatic rise-and-fall-and-rise-again story. As Elton, Taron Egerton is as good as Rami Malek's Oscar-winning turn as Mercury. And it's Taron singing, not Elton (though they duet during the end credits). —Dana Kennedy FULL REVIEW
The incredibly durable star Keanu Reeves, 54, makes a comeback in a cartoonishly violent, wildly successful action trilogy directed by his stuntman for The Matrix, and stranger still, the third one is the best. Don't see it if shoot-'em-up video-game cinema is anathema to you, but if you've got a taste for shadowy conspiracies, retro weaponry, horseback chases, ninja sword fights on motorcycles, fistfights, knife play, choreographed kung fu ballet, actual ballet, lively turns by Anjelica Huston, 67, and Halle Berry, 52, and battles with shattering glass that remind you of the hall of mirrors in Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai, this movie's for you. — T.A. FULL REVIEW