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'Peter Rabbit': Hop to It!

Judging by the alternate cheering and jeering in reflection of this animated adventure yarn that at its heart is a morality tale, I was gladdened by the apparently uncorrupted devotion to truth and ethics. It gave me hope for the future they might demand.

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'Hostiles': Requiem for the Horse Opera

This is a very studied work, contemplative, moody, often slow and then jarringly punctuated with a brutally truthful, enigmatic and almost fatalistic violence that contradicts the glorifying horse operas that came before it, and in the bargain explains the genre's dwindling popularity.

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'Phantom Thread': When Love Is In Fashion

Thus, in a sly variation of Henry Higgins' Eliza Doolittle, enters stage right ingénue Vicky Krieps as Alma, the waitress up to the task of humbling for his own good, whilst concurrently and paradoxically aggrandizing, the great man.

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'The Post': The Stuff of Pulitzers

Although the film is an exciting, often heart-pounding chronicle of the Nixon-era Pentagon Papers scandal, we know full well that, just as the Korea-based "MASH" (1970) was about Vietnam, this past triumph is also crucial to the here and now.

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'Darkest Hour': Saving The World 101

Digging down into the cerebraly exhilarating and deliciously funky depths of his prime minister, Gary Oldman examples the DNA of democratic ideals with both grand conviction and charming whimsy.

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'LBJ': Offers Hope From the Past

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'Suburbicon': Where Seldom Is Heard a Tolerant Word

Here, in a rare departure of form, though co-writing and producing, they've chosen George Clooney to direct what nonetheless bears their unique signature. While I've dubbed the crime story "Fargo Light," it's far from their best effort.

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'Victoria and Abdul': The Queen and I

In this sweet, nicely filmed tale based on the actual relationship England's Queen Victoria had late in life with her Muslim Indian servant, Abdul Karim, oodles of feel-good charm temporarily anoint an egalitarian salve to a sense of fairness long abraded by social Darwinism.

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'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women': La Différence to the Rescue

What immediately came to mind as the fascinating biopic unreeled, beginning with Dr. William Moulton Marston's days as a heralded psychology professor, was how many second-tier, illustrious people there are: folks who did something major, but who are now all but forgotten.

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'Menashe': The Child is Father of the Man

While director Joshua Z. Weinstein's "Menashe" is on first blush a touching look into a child custody battle being waged by Menashe, a Hasidic grocery clerk in Borough Park, Brooklyn, further reflection reveals a much larger, equal opportunity meditation about the human condition.

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'A Ghost Story': Lacks Spirit

But while I was mostly bored during its screening, forced to contemplate loose ends that ultimately were never tied to my satisfaction, I haven't really stopped thinking about it.

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'The Big Sick': Has a Healthy Outlook

It's all well and good for starters ... ain't love grand? etc., etc. But the getting-to-know-you portions of this budding affaire de coeur, at first rollickingly humorous as Emily and Kumail embrace their cultural differences, eventually runs into reality.

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'Baby Driver': Runs on Hi-Test

Wright offers samples of utter venality in lazy-Susan style. And admittedly the shamelessly belligerent soliloquies and one-upmanship in praise of anti-social behavior are a bit wearing on the soul. But that's the message, to mirror in microcosm the raw exhibition of corruption in this second decade of the 21st century, when the real-life effort to subvert truth, decorum and ethics barely attempts to hide its nefarious aims.

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'My Cousin Rachel': Relatively Mysterious

The screenplay, adapted by Michell from Daphne du Maurier's novel, includes a slew of the author's slyly injected metaphors ... thoughts about the human condition you'll either agree with or disavow. On an objective note, viewers of a literary bent may venture a thought or two about the genre of fiction du Maurier chose to explore our behavior, decorum and proclivities

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'Wonder Woman': You Go Girl

Harking back to the original, uplifting purpose of superheroes, Jenkins' superbly directed meld of adventure, social conscience and eye-filling visuals should deservedly attract those filmgoers who otherwise wouldn't think twice of considering such fare. But there has been much buzz about its humanitarian notions regarding gender equality, civil rights and other sacred values our better instincts attempt to find in art whenever dark forces threaten to cloud them in reality.

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'Alien: Covenant': All's Lousy That Ends Lousy

If the raison d'etre for such a bleak vision was to stir the optimist in our national psyche into a resisting action, I might understand it. But that's the pie-in-the-sky, former hippie in me looking to see the bright side of something that is resolutely dark.

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'A Quiet Passion': Rhyme and Reason

And, because she is a woman nearly a century before suffrage is enacted, and slavery is still very much the law of the land among her Southern neighbors, these and other grave political matters can't hide from her condemnation, wittily slipped into the poet's politely acerbic commentary.

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'The Circle': The Shape of Things to Come?

Thus, while "The Circle" isn't enjoyable in the usually accepted definition of the term, the not so blurry mirror it holds up proves the cinema version of the horrific traffic accident from which we can't divert our eyes. It's too close to reality.

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'The Comedian': Requiem for a Funnyman

I've become magnanimous. All of which is my diplomatic, if not entirely apologetic way of touting a film that many of my so-called colleagues have marginalized if not downright denigrated. Well, they're all wrong. FAKE NEWS. Sad!

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'20th Century Women': Vive la Différence

The literary conceit is that women hold the secrets to the life force, or that they are at least more interesting than men. I won't argue with that. After several decades trying to unravel the conundrum that la difference poses, I've come to accede that being in a total muddle about this subject is key to our evolutionary survival. Besides, I've got other things to worry about, like how to finally get that Ferrari, ensure world peace and find out once and for all where that missing sock goes.

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'The Founder': The Original Hamburglar

It gets you thinking what you might have done, and wondering if you ever passed up such a seemingly divine signal. For when Kroc, the heretofore unsuccessful milkshake blender salesman, receives an order for not one but six blenders from San Bernardino's Dick and Mac McDonald, he isn't content to take the paltry commission. Nope, he gets out the map and makes a beeline for that first McDonald's eatery — a clean, shining example of gastronomic efficiency.

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'Hidden Figures': Amounts to an Important Tale

This is a civics lesson, especially important at this tremulous juncture when a sizable portion of our population wishes to forego the humanitarian advancement of our species for the sake of a personal interest that they've been tricked into believing is at war with all progressive thought.

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'La La Land': On the One Hand, and Then on the Other

The curious idea to have Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling play the sort of aspiring showbiz kids Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell portrayed in vehicles like "42nd Street" (1933) won me over despite the film's unrealistic plotting and a minor litany of incongruities.

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'Fences': Scales the Dramatic Heights

Denzel Washington's phenomenally touching, multitextured performance in August Wilson's "Fences" sings a heartrending paean to every dad who struggled to make a living, raise a family and preserve his human dignity in the face of herculean obstacles.

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'Ghostbusters': The Graces of Wraith

But while a sizable portion of the joy is also the sheer outlandishness of it all, it's the whimsical likeability factor of the main characters that ultimately puts it across. McCarthy, who has come into her own as a true original, is superb as the pushy entrepreneur of all gambles and ventures.

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