Andrew Lapin

Adam Sandler has been playing jerks and sleazebags for most of his career, but until now his movies didn't make a habit of acknowledging it. So it's exhilarating to watch Uncut Gems, a gritty indie funhouse ride that sets Sandler loose in a world just as manic and angry as his character — a world in which his absurd, impulsive actions have real consequences. Like every straight male under the age of 40, the writer-director brothers Benny and Josh Safdie grew up with the sound of Sandler's screech in their brains.

The woman must not know that she is being painted. Her portrait is intended for some faraway suitor, and she refuses to pose for it, because sealing her likeness in a frame is the first step toward sealing her entire self inside a loveless marriage. And so the painter accompanies her subject on walks, gathering details of her face in furtive glimpses: the shape of her ears, the piercing stare of her eyes. Later, in secret, she will commit her memory of this face to the forbidden canvas — an act of love that isolates the lover.

In 21 Bridges, Chadwick Boseman is a policeman so haunted by the memory of his own cop father's death in the line of duty that he's built his entire reputation around his itchy trigger finger. He's the "cop killer" killer, the guy the force calls in when they need someone to enact white-hot revenge and spare families from the agony of a trial — shoot first, don't ask questions at all.

When a movie is called The Good Liar, you expect a certain amount of deception. So how many con jobs would you say, on average, you'd want out of a nearly two-hour con film to feel like you'd gotten your money's worth of swindles? Is it more than one or two? If so, bad news.

Last Christmas is moviemaking as a Top Chef challenge. Your assignment: Craft a warm, engaging, character-driven romantic comedy, a type in very short supply these days. Your must-use ingredients: Lots of Christmas tinsel and, for some reason, the entire back catalog of George Michael.

Netflix is the perfect home for low-budget stage adaptations, and the service should really be churning them out with the same frequency as its stand-up specials. Its take on American Son, the hyper-topical drama by Christopher Demos-Brown that premiered on Broadway last year, isn't trying to be fancy. The film is almost entirely contained inside the police station that serves as the show's setting, with occasional, unnecessary flashbacks to other moments and moods.

In the opening scenes of the new French drama By The Grace Of God, we see a Catholic family man named Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud) taking his wife and five kids to church. He's happy, excited to share his faith with his family. In voiceover, though, we hear him say he'd been molested repeatedly by his priest thirty years prior. What's more, he's recently learned the priest has returned to the area, and is again in close contact with children.

In Jexi, Adam DeVine's life partner calls him an idiot, a "little bitch," and many other, less printable things. The abuse is near-constant. The person heaping it on him is his phone.

Covering up a crime is hard work when you do everything half-assed. The Death of Dick Long, a gnarly new dark comedy about some misbehaving adult boys in Alabama, imagines what would happen if the dumbest people alive wound up with a dead body on their hands.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the movie hustler must always take the young upstart under her wing. In Hustlers, that moment comes when Jennifer Lopez, lounging on a New York roof in an elaborate white G-string, spreads her luscious fur coat and wraps Constance Wu's fresh-faced stripper inside with her. It's a glittery gesture of sisterhood, bestowed by the biggest star in the world, working a profession long derided by larger society as immoral.

We are still figuring out how to make compelling films about 21st-century geopolitics. The stakes in this arena have never been higher, but they've also never been less visually exciting. Most unscrupulous maneuvers these days occur not in secret parking-structure meetings or hotel rooms, but behind computer screens, where the good people can frown while squinting at emails and .wav files.

There are precious few victories to be found in Give Me Liberty, and yet the film feels victorious all the same. This madcap day-in-the-life indie about a medical transport driver, shot in Milwaukee with a cast of almost entirely nonprofessionals, walks a fine line between exuberant comedy and stress-inducing nightmare, yet ultimately endorses the idea that surviving another day in America is enough to feel good about.

The pictures are probably what you remember: shrieking witches and half-melted skulls leering out from jet-black pages; hideous creatures snarling on leashes; and tree branches lurching like tentacles from tombstones.

Jennifer Kent's historical revenge drama The Nightingale is a film we're not accustomed to, and one we'll not soon forget. Set in early 19th-century colonial Australia, it depicts acts of horrific brutality. Yet it's not a brutal movie. Scenes of murder, rape, and enslavement unfold in front of the camera not just to shock you, but to confound you; to make you think about the fates of nations forged in violence and cruelty, and of the humans at the receiving end who must endure all of it.

Beneath the washed-out, drab setting of The Mountain is a vein pulsing with rage. Set in the 1950s, the movie follows a veteran lobotomist, played by Jeff Goldblum, as he sets up shop in mental hospitals across America, snipping off chunks of his patients' brains through their eye sockets and leaving them in near-catatonic states. In the film, such procedures have reached the end of their era, on the verge of being replaced with psychotropic drugs amid mounting evidence the surgeries are causing serious widespread harm.

Richard Billingham grew up in a squalid tenement home in Thatcher-era Britain, in a region outside Birmingham commonly referred to as the Black Country. And true to its name, his upbringing was the blackest of circumstances. Billingham and his younger brother Jason wrestled with an alcoholic, withdrawn father and a violent, short-tempered mother, both habitually unemployed: a household constantly perched on the edge of chaos.

Toni Morrison had advice for the students in her Princeton University creative writing class: "I don't want to hear about your little life."

"This is going to end badly," Adam Driver says, over and over with slight variations, in the new zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die. It's both the movie's catchphrase and raison d'être. Things tend not to end well in general, because people have a habit of taking bad situations and making them worse, and there's no reason to suspect that will change when the dead are rising from their graves and feasting on the bodies of the living. To the extent that the film has a joke, this is it: Humans mess everything up, and in the end probably aren't worth saving.

Making Octavia Spencer the villain in a horror movie is one of those ideas that only seems great in retrospect. After all, Spencer's famous persona is the stoic, put-upon matriarch, usually one in a position of service to others, and she's carried her weary frown and warm, easy hugs to awards glory in The Help, Fruitvale Station, Hidden Figures,and The Shape of Water... and for a while entered Typecast Valley with The Shack, Gifted, and on and on. There was a period where it just seemed like the actress would be stuck in the roles of mother or maid.

We have always lived in Shirley Jackson's castle, whether we knew it or not. The Vermont author's fables — grim visions of humans driven mad by forces they don't understand — have been a part of the American subconscious ever since her breakout short story "The Lottery" sent New Yorker subscribers into dry heaves in 1948. As the modern horror/thriller world has largely gone stale outside of a rarified few voices like Jordan Peele, filmmakers have turned to Jackson like a study-abroad child who moves back home.

Cameos are expected in comedies, but it's a surprise when the guest roster trends a bit highbrow. Amy Poehler's new Netflix movie Wine Country, starring Poehler and her closest Saturday Night Live girlfriends on a romp through Napa Valley, doesn't trot out a big performer for its walk-on bit. Instead, the ladies cross paths with social work researcher Brené Brown, whose TED talk on "the power of vulnerability" went viral several years ago. And they treat her like a god ...

Say you're a filmmaker and you want to make a movie about Ted Bundy, arguably the most notorious serial killer of the 20th century. It's a normal impulse to have. The guy's an irresistible figure to storytellers: pure misogynistic evil who disguised himself for a decade under swashbuckling charm. Sure, maybe it's not the most original idea (again: "most notorious serial killer of the 20th century"), but Bundy existed, he killed somewhere between 30 and 100 young women, and people should remember that. So now, how do you tell them?

The literary world was a more interesting place with JT LeRoy around, even though he never was, really. The pen name of author Laura Albert, "JT" was an androgynous former truck-stop sex worker who supposedly channeled his sordid upbringing into raw, autobiographical fictions that captivated hip circles in the late '90s and early 2000s. Albert played JT on the page and in phone calls with journalists and famous admirers, duping the public into believing the guise was real.

When they write the bible on the great trolls of history, the Satanic Temple should be on the cover. Founded in 2013 as a poke in the eye of religious conservatism, the organization has since transitioned into a fully sincere spiritual movement itself, one advocating principles of nonviolence, religious pluralism, scientific inquiry, individual liberty and Dungeons & Dragons garb.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The center of Paris is Notre Dame.

This is true both literally and figuratively. The Gothic cathedral is there on Île de la Cité, the island in the Seine in between Paris' Left and Right banks, convenient and inescapable for the estimated 13 million people who visit it every year. Just outside, a Point Zero marker measures the distance to everything else in France. And Notre Dame is there in more than 850 years of French history: in paintings, daguerreotypes, songs, novels, war photos, awed selfies.

The spaceship hurtling away from Earth is staffed with men and women sprung from death row to aid in a mysterious science experiment. The once-condemned crew believe they've been given a chance to redeem themselves and do one final good deed for humanity. Only later, as their signals to Earth begin to go unanswered and their true mission comes into focus, do they realize they have in fact been condemned twice.