Scott Tobias

In a hospital in the late 1950s, the wheeze and ca-chunk of the respirators sound like the inside of an Industrial Age factory, only the product being churned out is another few seconds of life. Compared to the elegant organism that is the healthy human body, the inflation and collapse of the pump is a tired accordion, and the hose connecting the machine to the patient's neck is bandaged and ungainly.

The Sundance-winning documentary Dina is a tale of two movies, sometimes at odds with each other: One is a quirky indie rom-com about two people on the autism spectrum who are getting ready to tie the knot. The other is an unvarnished verité about the difficulties they have with sexual intimacy. Directors Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles structure and frame the film so carefully that it almost seems like the staging of a script, rather than real life unfolding before the camera.

The first time we meet Zach and Josh, two high-schoolers and best friends who gets tangled up in violence, guilt, and psychosis in Super Dark Times, they're hanging out in the basement, assessing photos of girls in the yearbook and watching softcore porn through the bars on a blocked cable channel. The year is 1995, but it's little details like this that make the time stamp unnecessary.

There's one extraordinarily beautiful shot in Stronger that helps account for why this inspirational drama, about a man who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, stands out from other films of its kind. As the city of Boston processes this traumatic event and the manhunt that followed, Jeff Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, braces himself for the agony of having the dressing removed from his amputated limbs for the first time.

In the best Stephen King adaptations — and the best Stephen King novels, for that matter — there's precious little daylight between the psychic stress of the characters and the supernatural forces that torment them. Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Christine: All are defined by the frightening intimacy of terrors that come from within, rather than external forces that can be vanquished like a priest exorcising a demon or ghosts expelled from a haunted house.

The first words uttered by Frankie, the sexually confused teenager at the center of Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats, are a lie: "I don't really know what I like."

Based on Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle refers to the fanciful home an impoverished father intends for his family, one with glass walls that welcome natural light during the day and, at night, become a window to the stars. The structure never gets built, but it's the Burj Khalifa of metaphors, a symbol of big dreams and broken promises that rises majestically to the heavens. At one point in Destin Daniel Cretton's leaden adaptation, a young Walls and her three siblings help their father actually dig the foundation. Later, the foundation is filled with garbage.

When Martin Scorsese directed the nervy black comedy After Hours in 1985, it was both a catharsis and a reckoning, a means to reenergize himself after The King of Comedy flopped and address the hang-ups with women that united many of his characters. Instead of the jealous brutes in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, that film follows an ineffectual office drone, played by Griffin Dunne, as a hoped-for sexual liaison turns into a luckless, surreal night in New York City.

Set in the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Atomic Blonde takes place in an underworld where the Cold War is over but the conflict continues, like the throbbing of a vestigial limb. In that respect—and perhaps that respect only—it belongs to the tradition of post-war thrillers like Carol Reed's The Third Man or Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds, where danger and intrigue exist where they shouldn't and the players involved are enmeshed in self-doubt and crippling mission drift.

Among the four stars of Girls Trip — the third and funniest summer comedy about hard-partying women in trouble, following Snatched and Rough Night — Tiffany Haddish is the least well-known, having bounced around in minor roles on film and television before landing a spot as a series regular on The Carmichael Show. All that stands to change overnight. As Dina, a pleasure-seeker of unapologetic, bull-in-a-china-shop relentlessness, Haddish is so incandescently filthy that a new ratings system should be developed to accommodate her.

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