Elevator to the Gallows – 8

A wonderfully moody feature debut by the great Louis Malle from 1958, filmed in black-and-white – mostly black – with a perfectly adapted score by Miles Davis and sultry performances by Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet. The Hitchcockian tension begins with the opening shot and never lets up; the plot unfolds like a textbook tragedy – there is no way out; and the only smile comes from the cocky German tourist before he gets blown away. Movies (and the world) were slower paced back in the ’50s, but their power was just as great.

Hell or High Water – 7.7

This film takes place in the same country for old men made familiar by the Coen brothers’ classic, with a jowly Jeff Bridges reprising the role previously played by Tommy Lee Jones. Much less happens here, and that is the movie’s other strength – i.e., besides the gorgeously banal West Texas setting – its remarkable realism. No one here is larger than life; there are no gratuitous killings; our hero doesn’t miraculously dodge a fusillade of bullets; and everyone has a believable motive for what they do. The brothers rob banks – one because he desperately needs the money for his kids, the other because he needs the action. The Texas Ranger works his way through the case, plodding step by step – even recalling my favorite memory of “Maverick” by sitting in a rocking chair, waiting for the crime to come to him. We enjoy the people, the bit characters as well as Chris Pine; and in a clever play on our emotions, we are allowed to be happy that one of the crooks gets away, because it is really The Bank that is the Bad Guy.

Lo and Behold – 4

Two hours of my life I won’t get back, or more appropriately, two hours I could have spent more profitably surfing the web. Werner Herzog’s subtitled “Reveries of the Connected World” was a bunch of “reveries,” all right, but there wasn’t much connection. Herzog is one of my all-time favorite directors, and his sense of open wonder is usually refreshing, but here it came across as naivete, if not ignorance, as he asked his internet-savvy subjects such unhelpful questions as, “Do computers dream?” and “Could your soccer-playing robot discs beat Brazil?” The common thread through Herzog cinema is the oddball, and that continued here, in spades. On one end of the spectrum were the fruitcakes, cited as examples of the Internet’s harmful effects; on the other were computer geniuses, who only appeared odd because Herzog clearly had no idea what they were talking about. Anyone who went to this movie hoping to understand what the Internet is or how it works would walk out as baffled as ever. Anyone who was already worried about the fate of our civilization, however, would have added another potential cataclysm to fret: solar flares.

Cafe Society – 7.5

A sweet love story, depending entirely on your view of Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Unlike classic Woody Allen, the ancillary characters were ciphers and the jokes few and far between. The period clothes, settings and music, of course were impeccable. I have always been infatuated with Kristen Stewart, and she’s never been more seductive, in the emotions she portrayed as well as her looks. Eisenberg, however, represents the Woody Allen issue: the doofus whom the beautiful women find irresistible, and it’s hard to go along on that ride. Eisenberg has the same mannerisms he’s had in every role he’s played so far, which is also wearing thin. I fondly remember this same couple in similar roles in Adventureland seven years ago; you’d think Eisenberg would have outgrown some of his stutter by now. When we are asked to accept him as maitre-d’ of the hottest club in town, we realize we are lost in Woody’s fantasyland.

Captain Fantastic – 4.5

Second movie in a row about people living in the bush, although this one took itself more seriously, which was a mistake, because on a serious level this film was absurd. The children were engaging, and the movie moved briskly enough, as we never knew what was coming next, which was partly because nothing made much sense, including the Viggo Mortensen character. Swiss Family Robinson, as I remember it, had more subtlety.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – 6.5

Sort of a Revenant Lite, with a wild pig instead of a bear and a fat 13-year-old instead of Leo DiCaprio. How could you not be charmed, though, by chubby Ricky Baker, a budding juvenile delinquent who runs away cluelessly into the New Zealand outback, where the redoubtable Sam Neill grudgingly tolerates him, then grows fond. For comic relief, the Child Care Services’ version of Inspector Javert pursues Ricky Baker in a chase that culminates in full Mad Max mode. I never understand how people survive out there on berries, leaves and eels, but that wasn’t really the point.