⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Amerikatsi, Unrated
Comic and tender, Amerikatsi (which means American in Armenian) follows the only boy in his family to survive the Armenian genocide by the Turks. After growing up in America and then hearing Stalin’s appeal for diaspora Armenians to return to the motherland and help rebuild, he enthusiastically responds, only to be slapped in a grisly prison, his passionate rediscovery of what it means to be Armenian reoriented in unpleasant ways. In a penal version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, he observes the family life of an artist-turned-prison-guard beyond his barred window and over a wall. Through this chink in his captivity, the prisoner gleans what it means to be Armenian by observing the music, celebrations and heartbreak of existence under a totalitarian regime. Starring, directed and produced by American-born Emmy winner Michael A. Goorjian, 52, Amerikatsi is a stirring labor of love that witnesses the darkness of the past, and seeks out the light. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Amerikatsi, in theaters
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ The Equalizer 3, R
Retirement is never absolute for vigilante Robert McCall (Denzel Washington, 68). In the last of his action trilogy, the ex-Marine and former DIA agent lands in scenic Sicily. After a scorched-earth mission, a bullet in the back keeps him recuperating there, righting local wrongs and protecting the happy villagers from the demonic Camorra. Having discovered a conspiracy involving the mafia, drugs and terrorists, McCall anonymously calls in the cavalry, including young DIA desk jockey Emma Collins (a forthright Dakota Fanning). While this outing is as gory as its predecessors — a bloody, bone-crunching, axe-to-the-head tale of right over wrong — it’s tempered by a high regard for craft and a reluctance to rush. The pace suits Washington. He’s magnetic as a righteous avenger eligible for Social Security who finally slows down long enough to appreciate the good life: not drugs and dollars but mutual respect, ritual, fresh fish and community. —T.M.A.
Watch it: The Equalizer 3, in theaters
You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah (Netflix)
Adam Sandler, 56, who’s all over Netflix after his reported $275 million deal there, adapts Fiona Rosenbloom’s 2005 young adult novel about a tween preparing for her bat mitzvah, and he stars alongside his wife, Jackie, and two daughters, Sadie and Sunny. Rounding out the cast are SNL’s Sarah Sherman as Rabbi Rebecca and Broadway legend Idina Menzel, 52, who plays Sandler’s wife in the film — a part that might seem familiar since they also played a couple in Uncut Gems.
Watch it: You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah on Netflix
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Golda, PG-13
While the controversy rages over Bradley Cooper’s prosthetic nose in the upcoming Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro, wait until you see the proboscis on Helen Mirren as Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. This gripping biopic focuses on the fraught and dangerous position the chain-smoking grandmother navigates during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. On the Jewish calendar’s holiest day, the Egyptian and Syrian armies have surrounded and surprised Israel. As the country’s no-nonsense political leader, Mirren embodies her character, transformed by wrinkles, jowls and chunky ankles. Between life-or-death decisions, the only powerful woman in the war room reveals her vulnerability as she leans on her assistant (Camille Cottin) during a radiation treatment for the lymphoma sapping her strength — while still puffing away. Perceptions may be colored by revisionist political opinions of Meir, but Mirren embodies a complex character of conscience and empathy, who feels deeply and acts decisively to preserve an independent state even as she herself is disappearing. A gem. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Golda, in theaters and on demand
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ The Hill, PG
Echoes of Norman Rockwell bounce off The Hill, a sincere, inspiring baseball movie grounded in a complicated father-son relationship. Stern but loving preacher James Hill (a weathered Dennis Quaid, 69) expects his exceptional but physically challenged son Rickey (broad-shouldered Colin Ford) to follow in his footsteps. But, no, despite crippling polio, Rickey is a natural who can knock a stone with a stick into the neighbor’s yard. He’s got the baseball bug, sensing that’s his calling. Based on a true story, it also stars the wonderful but wig-burdened Bonnie Bedelia, 75 (aunt of Home Alone’s Macaulay Culkin and Succession’s Kieran Culkin), as Gram and the gnarly dried-apple-faced Scott Glenn, 84, as a tough scout. Like baseball before the 2023 pitch timer rule, the movie stretches on for too long. It also bats the audience over the head with its message of faith, forgiveness and the power of miracles. But its sins can be forgiven for the love of baseball — and the Almighty. —T.M.A.
Watch it: The Hill, in theaters and on demand
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Theater Camp, PG-13
Broadway’s Ben Platt, fresh off a Tony nom for Best Musical Revival Parade, leads this nutty, nostalgic romp. It’s set at the fictional, but all too familiar, AndirondACTS, an upstate New York summer camp like a shabbier Stagedoor Manor. Here, the show must go on despite mosquitoes, runaway hormones and past-due bills. Joining Platt’s hilariously frustrated actor are two cast favorites from TV’s The Bear: Molly Gordon (who also codirected) and Ayo Edebiri, who embrace broad comedic parts that couldn’t be further from their roles in that buzzy Chicago pressure cooker. When the bank threatens foreclosure, the counselors and campers follow in the tap shoes of young Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, trying to save their beloved summer home away from home by antically staging an offbeat musical masterpiece. For theater nerds, and the ambitious young thespians they foster, this Sundance gem is likely to be the summer’s funniest feel-good film. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Theater Camp, in theaters and on Apple TV, Prime Video, Vudu and Hulu
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Oppenheimer, R
Ounce by ounce of plutonium, this biopic of the father of the atomic bomb is pretty genius — but it’s no Albert Einstein (played by Tom Conti, 81, in an essential cameo). The story ricochets through time and space fast as a photon, plotting the arc of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Oscar-bound Cillian Murphy). As head of the Manhattan Project, the left-leaning, womanizing physicist passionately pursues pioneering atomic science. But he can’t live with his baby, the bomb that decimated Hiroshima, ending World War II. The sprawling drama is a dazzling cinematic achievement boosted by muscular performances from Robert Downey Jr., 58, Matt Damon, 52, and Jason Clarke, 54, and a huge cast of characters with complicated collisions. Showstopper Florence Pugh seduces as the communist mistress Oppie dumps for career and the missus (Emily Blunt). Perhaps in trimming the story to three hours, some of the male-female narrative connective tissue was cut, which may be why, for all its fascinating moving parts, the busy biopic isn’t more emotionally explosive. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Oppenheimer, in theaters
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Barbie, PG-13
Hot pink in the summertime: That’s the new Barbie. And, whoopsie, she’s having an existential crisis. When the Mattel doll (a perfectly cast Margot Robbie) leaves her platonic pal Ken (hunky Ryan Gosling) for the real world, she gets a big surprise. Unlike her native Barbieland, a girl-power utopia where plastic playthings are presidents and Supreme Court justices, she confronts the patriarchy. Over at Mattel, the CEO (Will Ferrell, 56) presides over an all-male board that won’t play nice and wants to put her in a box. Throughout, the tone is playfully ironic with a side of preach. The biggest joy is in the endless runway of familiar doll costumes and the cotton candy sets. Robbie makes a genial ringmaster, with a terrific cast that includes Rhea Perlman, 75, America Ferrera and a slew of starry Barbies and Kens. Is Barbie a feminist? The movie replies with a chorus of “yes!” —T.M.A.
Watch it: Barbie, in theaters and on demand
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, PG-13
Tom Cruise, 61, returns as secret agent Ethan Hunt in the seventh M:I flick. He nails a nearly impossible mission: becoming the summer’s box office savior riding a sequel, again, while performing stunts that would terrify actors half his age, and hunting his old nemesis Gabriel (Esai Morales, 60) from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam and aboard the Orient Express. Read the full review here.
Watch it: Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, in theaters
⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Past Lives, PG-13
When her childhood friend Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) visits from their native Korea, Nora (Greta Lee, The Morning Show) — a modern Korean American woman — finds herself at a romantic crossroads. Will she remain with her supportive hipster husband, Arthur (John Magaro), with whom she shares a downtown Manhattan apartment? Or is the power of the past so compelling that she’ll embrace her soulmate/best friend whom she left two decades before when she emigrated with her family as a schoolgirl? In this leisurely, graceful, mesmerizing romance, the magnetic Lee navigates between the past and the present, pragmatism and magical possibilities, who she was versus who she is — and weighs the life she’s chosen against what might have been, and still could be. Consider this film the indie romance of the summer. —T.M.A.
Watch it: Past Lives, in theaters and on demand