Love and Friendship – 7.8

May there always be an England, particularly an England of manor houses, landed gentry, beautiful clothes and complete paragraphs – even better when described by Jane Austen. Kate Beckinsale is marvelous as the conniving Lady Susan of the book’s title and everyone else revolves around her, with the men rather more buffoonish and the women more engaged in society as a sport. Writer-director-producer Whit Stillman has the right amount of fun presenting his tableaux, with beautiful music and gorgeous settings. We can all concur as we laugh at the gentleman’s comment, “I think everyone should live on their own land.”

Sunset Story – 5.5

Aimless and about an hour too long, it gave the impression of being transcribed from the Scottish equivalent of Gone With the Wind and better suited to a TV miniseries – both of which turn out to be the case. Just when we thought we’d reached the end of a pointless but pleasant glance at life in rural Scotland, the “bad thing” we sort of knew was coming showed up and made a mess of the story. We did get a view of Scotland as a very different place with a lot of taciturn folk.

The Nice Guys – 6.5

A fine comedic performance by Ryan Gosling as a bumbling L.A. private eye in this silly but harmless piffle that echoes much better noir films of the past. Russell Crowe lends heft to the proceedings, which go a little haywire once bullets, sadly but inevitably, start to spray.

Weiner – 7

1. Why would anyone let documentary filmmakers into their private lives when the backdrop is a national scandal?

2. Why would they let the filming continue when a new scandal erupts and all your relationships are under major stress?

3. That said, I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner who – major foible aside – seemed smart, reasonable and trying to do his best, mainly because

4. The press came off as badly as in all the fictional films where I feel they are being unfairly characterized: camera trucks on the lawn, etc.

5. Did Weiner really want and intend to fight for the little guy, or is that just a line to get elected? And which is the case for Hillary, and every other politician who says the same thing?

In short, this was a provocative movie to watch during election season, both for what it suggests about the people running for office and the way the electorate gets its information. As a study in narcissism, it is merely a primer for what we are seeing with Donald Trump.

Popstar: Don’t Stop Don’t Stopping – 5

This Andy Samberg update of Spinal Tap never got off the ground for me. I kept waiting for something to laugh at, or for music to enjoy, but the whole thing was too self-referential, too tongue-in-its-own-cheek, too artificial. Maybe if I thought Andy Samberg was funny – or at least interesting – I would have enjoyed it more.

Maggie’s Plan – 7.3

Another cuddly Greta Herwig vehicle – does she ever play other than the lovable not-quite-loser but not exactly Julia Roberts? There are a bundle of pleasantly smile-inducing moments, especially early on before a plot takes over, including a marvelous cameo for Wallace Shawn. Ethan Hawke is convincing as a charmer whose narcissism is overlooked but always present. My main problem was the Julianne Moore character: why did she have to have her hair pulled up to look so unattractive and speak with a Danish (?) accent to sound so unattractive? There needed to be some reason John would want to go back to her, and it wasn’t there.