Mark Jenkins

In The Infiltrator's opening scene, Bob (Bryan Cranston) swaggers through a Florida bowling alley. He's just about to make a massive drug deal when he feels a burning pain in his chest. The cause is a ready-made metaphor: Bob is an undercover cop, and the microphone strapped to his torso has overheated, making his secret identity a searing liability.

She's only eight years old, but Zin-Mi knows a lot about her homeland. It is, she says, "the land of the rising sun" and "the most beautiful country." Of course, North Korea is the only place Zin-Mi has ever seen, and the only place she's ever likely to see.

Mathilde (Lou de Laage), the young French Red Cross doctor at the center of The Innocents, is in late-1945 Poland to tend to injured French POWs, patching them up so they can be sent home. She could hardly have expected to be summoned to a local convent to care for nearly a dozen pregnant nuns.

Is there anything to be learned from watching the same scenario play out multiple times? Regular viewers of Hong Sang-soo's psychologically acute work have probably been asking themselves that for years, as many of the Korean filmmaker's movies spin variations on a single setup: a middle-aged art-film director dallies, often inconclusively, with a pretty young woman (or two).

In Benoit Jacquot's Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen), the vivacious 18th-century protagonist moved purposefully through dark passageways reserved for royal servants. In the director's Journal d'une Femme de Chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid), set a century or so later, our heroine spends more time in the sunlight, but has scarcely more freedom.

Three other things the two films share: the ever-watchable Lea Seydoux, a mix of opulent costume-drama sensibility and unadorned new-wave style, and a setting near the end of a rotten era.

Blood-spattered thriller The Wailing is, in part, a two-and-half-hour sit-down at Korea's spiritual smorgasbord. The exuberantly desolate movie opens with a verse from the Gospel of Luke, and the characters include a traditional shaman, a Christian deacon, and a mysterious Japanese newcomer who's reputed to be either a Buddhist monk or a demonic ghost.

Writer-director Hany Abu-Assad doesn't tell simple stories, even when he does. His latest, The Idol, is about a man who wins a talent contest, a narrative that's elementary enough for "reality" TV. But the singer is a Palestinian from the blockaded Gaza Strip, and his success is a triumph over his own culture as much as anything else.

There's a moment in Weiner, the documentary about the disgraced ex-congressman's disastrous run for mayor of New York, in which viewers may actually feel for the guy. Anthony Weiner is in a Jewish bakery when he is challenged by a yarmulke-wearing customer. The candidate reacts with a raw fury that's as politically self-destructive as his scandalous cellphone self-portraits.

The financial legerdemain lampooned in The Big Short was designed to be opaque and arcane — so much so that even the supposed experts didn't really know what they were doing. The scenario of Money Monster is much simpler, which is both a strength and a weakness. The movie is easier to understand, but that's because, as with so many Hollywood conspiracy thrillers, the big payoff is actually pretty small.

Set amid Sicily's stark volcanic landscape, L'Attesa (The Wait) is a visually powerful, impeccably acted mood piece. But the movie is not for the literal-minded — a group that, at times, includes director and co-writer Piero Messina.

By 1970, some people worried that the United States had gone seriously off track. Two great American leaders were sure of it, and so a summit was arranged. Problem is, Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon didn't really agree on what needed to be done — or even what the problem was.

Here's a recipe for the ideal man: Take the speed and ruthlessness of a brain-damaged sociopath and combine them with the smarts and tenderness of a CIA agent who's also a husband and father. Yet for some reason, the new movie about this champion is titled not The Perfect Guy, but Criminal.

Near the end of Louder than Bombs, Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier's first English-language film, a narrator arrives to inform us that one of the characters will remember that particular moment years later. The intrusion is unexpected, but perhaps less so for people who've seen Trier's 2006 debut, Reprise. That playfully serious movie was about the making of a writer's consciousness, so its literary flourishes were apt.

"Who needs France without the Louvre? Or Russia without the Hermitage?"

These questions, addressed to Francofonia's audience by director and narrator Alexander Sokurov, may recall Russian Ark, the Siberia-born filmmaker's best-known (and arguably best) movie. But while his new film is nominally about the Paris museum, it's less focused than Russian Ark. That 2002 cinematic pageant presented Russian history in a single, unedited 87-minute take that danced through the St. Petersburg landmark.

The weepiest man in country-music history, Hank Williams is an unlikely icon of the usually macho genre. But the composer of "Weary Blues from Waitin'," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive" was firmly rooted in the South. As he shifted from blues to gospel to "hillbilly," he remained a good ol' boy.

Paul Dedalus can be a man of action. The middle-class protagonist of the dynamic yet ultimately melancholy My Golden Days carries a gun into a tense negotiation with a drug dealer, and happily accepts a secret mission to carry documents and cash to Jewish refuseniks while on a high-school trip behind what was then the Iron Curtain.

In A War, a Danish commander whose troops are under attack by the Taliban calls in an air strike, and later has to answer for it in a courtroom. Eye in the Sky mashes those two narratives together. While a drone pilot in Nevada prepares to hit al-Shabaab terrorists in Nairobi, the morality of this potential action is debated by politicos in London.

Enigmatic writer-director Terrence Malick has made what is essentially the same movie three times in a row: Tree of Life, To the Wonder, and now Knight of Cups. It's time to ask if he knows what he's doing.

In Triple 9's beyond-shadowy opening, a group of reprobates discusses plans for a military-precision bank robbery. The illumination is so dim that a bit of Anthony Mackie's brow is about all that's visible. Subsequent scenes allow a little more light, yet this laughably nihilistic movie just gets darker and darker.

A river cruise is like a movie. The boat glides from scene to scene, the travelers get to know each other, and around the final curve awaits resolution, or perhaps revelation.

Chinese writer-director Jia Zhangke's films are grounded in the reality of his frigid, coal-dusted hometown, Fenyang. But that doesn't mean he's a realist. His complex latest film, Mountains May Depart, begins in Fenyang in 1999 as a stylized romantic melodrama and ends, two chapters later, in a place that's not yet actual: Australia in 2025.

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