Bad Reputation – 7.5

Who knew that Joan Jett was still rocking? Somehow, despite all the sturm und drang of a typical rock biography – rejection, no respect, getting ripped off, amazing highs of fleeting fame, falling-out with bandmates, etc., etc. – she resisted and survived, not only setting an example but mentoring other female rockers. After the sold-out preview at the Riviera, we were treated to a 2018 sound check with Joan and the Blackhearts pounding out Fresh Start, Cherry Bomb and Bad Reputation like it was 1980. Joan herself was an engaging interviewee, and the other talking heads were generally additive, not duplicative, including Michael J. Fox on Joan’s acting career and (gorgeous) Kristen Stewart on the movie Joan produced about the Runaways. And of course the music, while not quite the Ramones, was worth hearing again.

Lizzie – 7

A beautiful period piece, with visuals of ladies in ruffles straight out of William Merritt Chase, plus a nod to de La Tour and some Sargent. When Bridget is seen on a train to Montana at the end, you realize that there hasn’t been any color or fresh air or distance in any shot that has come before. The film is helped by the fame of its plot: we want to know exactly why and how Lizzie Borden took an axe, etc. And it doesn’t hurt that we are watching Chloe Sevigny and the wondrous Kristen Stewart (who looks about 17) the whole time. While sufficiently engaging, the film doesn’t raise any goosebumps or grab your heart. The characters are without ambiguity – especially the men – and we know what’s coming. And when the job was neatly done…

The Wife – 7

This was shaping up as an excellent study of a marriage, with Glenn Close accommodating herself to the shadow cast by her Nobel Prize-winning husband, but then it took a horribly wrong and totally unnecessary turn that was both totally unbelievable and made us rethink, and doubt, the wonderful characterization that Close had offered before. It didn’t help that the Jonathan Pryce character was presented without redeeming qualities and that the son was introduced mainly for Pryce to be mean to. I don’t see Close winning the rumored Oscar for this, but I will say the movie lends itself to discussion.

Searching – 7.5

The whole film is told by looking at computer, iPhone, TV and other screens, which provides a subsidiary comment on how “we” communicate and even live our lives in this modern age. The story itself is a missing “Gone Girl” mystery, with an intricate puzzle plot that makes sense, except for the speed of the denouement. The central father-daughter relationship could pair with Eighth Grade in a study of difficult adolescence. But what most struck me was the unremarked multi-ethnicity of the cast (as well as the people who made the film): a Korean-American family was presented, without comment, as normal subjects for a missing-girl mystery.

Juliet, Naked – 7.9

A charming rom-com in the Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts mold that might have scored even higher if I could have understood the English (Irish/Australian) accents. All four characters were delightful: the beauteous Rose Byrne, the humorously cloddish Chris O’Dowd, the talented slacker Ethan Hawke and the precocious Azhy Robertson, who at maybe 9 years old was clearly the sanest of the bunch. As befits a Nick Hornby story, the music was fabulous: “Different Drum,” “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl,” “Waterloo Sunset” as well as the not-bad “Tucker Crowe” originals. What fun to watch an easy-to-follow movie with no bad guys, no nervous or cringing moments, just a path full of interesting details for the characters to figure out their way in life.

Madeline’s Madeline – 7

An innovative and rather intense look inside the mind of a 16-year-old biracial girl (Helena Howard), who comes in and out of focus, both literally and figuratively. Actually, more interesting is her relationships with, or maybe it is just her views of, two white mother figures, played adroitly by Molly Parker and Miranda July, whose vulnerability builds as Madeline’s feline ferocity strengthens. Then there is the bizarre improvisational theater troupe, which seems absurd but maybe is what they do in Brooklyn.