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‘FIRST MAN’ IS A QUIETLY PROFOUND DRAMA

First Man is not the movie I expected—it’s better. It combines a truly immersive approach to space travel with an intimate story that helps define and celebrate Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. In adapting James R. Hansen’s book, screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight, The Post) and director Damien Chazelle have taken a macro and micro view of this astronaut’s journey. Much of that is interior, as he suppresses his overwhelming sadness over the death of a child, but that ruminative quality is accompanied by heart-pounding action. I can’t think of another 2018 movie that opens with such a “grabber” of a sequence, a highly-charged, first-person point-of-view scene that makes us feel as if we are actually experiencing space travel on the edge…

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BEAUTIFUL BOY

Standout performances by Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet make Beautiful Boy worthwhile and earmark it as Oscar material. It also has the novelty of being adapted from dual best-selling memoirs, Beautiful Boy by journalist David Sheff and Tweak by his son Nic Sheff. This would seem to promise fresh insights into the hell and heartbreak of addiction, but there is little here we haven’t seen before. The film is earnest but long and redundant. It feels like medicine that’s supposed to be good for us but lacks any redeeming flavor. Carell has proven himself a solid dramatic actor by now. He gives a moving performance as a father who is desperate to help his teenage son—who is sadly past the point of intervention. Chalamet, who made such a splash last year in Call…

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MALTINS ON MERCH

Well here are some words I never thought I’d say–I’ve got merch! The lovely folks at Tee Public reached out to us which got our creative juices flowing. Jessie has commissioned pieces from her talented friends and is working hard to create items that will appease and amuse cinephiles of all ages. This is definitely a work in progress, and we’re very happy to be sharing it with you. Go to https://www.teepublic.com/stores/maltin-on-movies. @leonardmaltin on twitter, instagram and facebook. @jessiemaltin on twitter and instagram. Emails can be sent to maltinmovies@gmail.com    

A STAR ISN’T BORN

The best compliment I can give the new version of A Star is Born is that I didn’t mind it. I’ve done my best to avoid previews and hype in order to view it with fresh eyes, and I think it’s pretty good. In a part crafted especially for her, Lady Gaga gives a decent-enough performance, but I can’t agree with the wild predictions I’ve read of movie stardom ahead. She has the ability to fill this specific role reasonably well, under the careful tutelage of her costar, Bradley Cooper. (Her singing voice is another matter: the woman has tremendous power and potency.) But it’s Cooper who walks away with the honors here. He is completely credible as a drug-and-drink-addicted country music star, and his vocals are…

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CRITERION SPOTLIGHTS DIETRICH, LOMBARD, AND LUBITSCH

The Criterion Collection remains the Gold Standard for DVDs and Blu-rays. While they cast a wide net over world cinema and contemporary releases by true auteurs, they truly win my heart when they approach Hollywood classics. Several new releases bear that out in fine fashion.   DIETRICH & VON STERNBERG IN HOLLYWOOD is a boxed set that scores an A+ for merely providing beautiful high-definition transfers of six of the most exotic, indulgently exquisite movies ever made: Morocco, Dishonored, Shanghai Express, Blonde Venus, The Scarlet Empress, and The Devil is a Woman. To quote the promotional copy, “Over the course of six films produced by Paramount in the 1930s, the pair refined their shared fantasy of pleasure, beauty and excess.” There are a variety of…

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THE OLD MAN & THE GUN

I’ve always enjoyed watching Robert Redford onscreen, and although he’s no longer a youngster he retains every bit of the star quality that blossomed sixty years ago. The Old Man & the Gun is a vehicle in the best sense of that term, a good story that showcases its leading man to best advantage. (Nothing if not self-aware, Redford acquired the screen rights to this true story as reported in The New Yorker and brought it to director David Lowery, whom he enjoyed working with on Pete’s Dragon.) He plays an unlikely character that I doubt anyone would invent because he’d scarcely be believable: a gentleman bank robber, and a good one at that. He’s been arrested sixteen times and managed to escape every single time. He is so  unassuming…

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THE PREDATOR

This continuation of the Predator series from writer-director Shane Black starts out well and then peters out. Too bad: I was in its grip for a long time. The storyline is difficult to synopsize—and that’s putting it mildly. Suffice it to say that a towering, ugly alien has landed on Earth. A secret branch of the U.S. government is examining him when he awakens and all hell breaks loose. A maverick Army sniper (Boyd Holbrook) accidentally gets involved, along with a gun-toting biologist (Olivia Munn). Holbrook winds up being committed to a psychiatric hospital and is placed in a bus with a bunch of “loonies.” They eventually band together to save themselves and, in the process, do the right thing…especially when Holbrook’s young son (Jacob Tremblay) is…

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