The Five


Optimus Prime is relegated to the sidelines for this terrific Transformers origin story, in which autobot Bumblebee comes to Earth and befriends an unhappy teen (Steinfeld). There’s unexpected humour – Bumblebee, who happens to have shown up in the late 1980s, learns that the Smiths are an acquired taste – and a sweet nostalgic glow that reaches back to E.T., Short Circuit and even The Love Bug.

Bird Box

In the unnervingly intense Bird Box, the world has gone mad – and we don’t mean just Brexit, Paris or Trump meeting Pelosi. An inexplicable force – possibly invisible aliens, possibly an airborne bio-warfare agent – has caused most of the population to die by violent suicide. The only way to survive is to paper over the windows and keep your eyes averted from “it,” which passes over you like a biblical plague. Bullock, as a woman who’s lived with this hell for as long as she can, learns that there’s a sanctuary downriver, past some white-water rapids — over which she and two children will have to canoe blindfolded. It’s a sci-fiDeliverance. 


Christian Bale put on 40 lbs. – he looks like a blood-engorged tick – to deliver an impeccable impersonation of Dick Cheney, the most controversial Vice President of the past century. Directed by Adam McKay, Vice dislikes Cheney too thoroughly to bother to make him interesting – the film almost seems to suggest that he didn’t deserve the fresh young heart that replaced his rotten old one in 2012. It’s the funny, vinegary supporting cast that makes this a hoot: Amy Adams as wife Lynne, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush and Steve Carrel, barking with laughter, as Donald Rumsfeld. 

The Mule

Director Clint Eastwood plays Earl, who once ran a nice little operation growing daylilies. But the business has wilted and died, and his alienated family still smarts from years of neglect. He’s the Lear of horticulture. Then he finds work as a drug mule, transporting cocaine in his pickup. Earl isn’t too concerned about the criminality of all this – he’s tickled, in fact, to donate the pay to his VFW hall. Mule doesn’t always hold together, but this feels less like implausibility than like life’s own fragility: You can blossom more than once, but each time the petals are fewer and fall faster. At 88 Eastwood knows some things. 

Watership Down

Only a courageously foolish imagination would ask us to believe that one rabbit would say to another: “The fields are filled with blood.” More, that this rabbit is a seer envisioning the apocalypse. Novelist Richard Adams was a visionary himself: His dark fantasy about the bunny-verse, adapted into a cartoon mini-series, is enthralling. Not for kiddies.