The only sympathy available to most of the characters in director David Cronenberg’s latest deadpan creation, “Maps to the Stars,” is of the same kind you might offer a monster. Like the wretch at the center of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” they aren’t necessarily at fault for being utterly repulsive. After all, they were born and bred, not in a lab as a result of scientific hubris, but in a much seedier, greedier place: Hollywood, where horrible people are produced just as often as horror films. Cronenberg, from a script by Bruce Wagner, has made one of the latter about the former. But by setting his film within the claws of the movie industry, he’s twisted the genre. Unlike Shelley’s disfigured monster, who hid from the world, Cronenberg’s are entitled, shameless. They walk in broad daylight, and they look like Julianne Moore and Robert Pattinson.
“Predestination,” a time-travel thriller with some transgender themes, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, shrouded in itself. Though the film’s concluding sequence gives the impression that it’s wrapping up the twisty, time-bending narrative, a closer look reveals the plot to be even more pleasantly confounding than initially suggested. Like the great time-travel movies of the past, this one doesn’t make any sense. And yet the question at its core is perfectly clear, and delightfully explored, revealing the futility of the conceit: what good is altering the past if human nature will never change?
In “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” war is glorious and sorrowful — it is the stuff of legend, and, as the title suggests, it is the point. If you enter the movie theater looking for character nuance or an exploration of the great themes that prompt the titular onslaught, then turn away from this third and last chapter in a series of films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s children’s book. But if your eye is fixed on baser things, like rip-roaring action and some genuinely inspired fantastical sequences, then, in honor of the dwarf king Thorin’s final request to his company, I will follow you, one last time.
It has always been director Christopher Nolan’s gift to take cinematic ideas with widespread commercial appeal and infuse them with his idiosyncratic vision. As evidenced by his “Dark Knight” trilogy, and the dream caper “Inception,” his films are bombastic and intimate, products and poetry. His latest film is no different. A space-travel, sci-fi epic about humankind’s search for a habitable planet to replace a dying Earth, “Interstellar” is the best kind of blockbuster: it offers sights, sounds and some feeling too.
There aren’t many movies like “John Wick,” an absurdly simple shoot-em-up starring Keanu Reeves that says absolutely nothing ardently and with lots of style. The film’s many pleasures and problems are purely cinematic. Its meaninglessness is part of its charm.