Review – Bad Boys for Life


FILM REVIEWBAD BOYS FOR LIFEWith Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio, Vanessa Hudgens. Written by Chris Bremner and Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan. Directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use. 123 minutes.

bad_boys_for_life_ver2Was there really this huge demand for another “Bad Boys” movie? Consider that a 25-year-old who went to see the original hit film in 1995 is now at or near 50. Its stars – Will Smith and Martin Lawrence – are 25 years older as well. Indeed, Lawrence’s character of Marcus Burnett seems to have morphed into the Danny Glover character from the “Lethal Weapon” movies as he becomes a grandfather and wants to retire.

In BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, it’s been 17 years since “Bad Boys II,” which means that Lawrence and Smith are following the path of action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in trying to revitalize careers by playing action roles that they long should have outgrown. Smith, at 51, and Lawrence, 54, aren’t exactly senior citizens, but they both seem past their sell-by date for this kind of movie. It says something that the movie is being dumped in January (the last film was a summer release).

The story involves Armando (Jacob Scipio) who has been sent to Miami from Mexico by his mother Isabel (Kate del Castillo) to avenge the death of his father. He’s been killing those responsible for the drug kingpin’s demise, but Mike Lowery (Smith) survives. Thus, much of the film consists of action set pieces, car chases, and Mike deciding that there’s no reason that a police detective has to abide by any sort of rules in seeking out the perpetrators.

The film is an uneasy mix of violent action, comedy, and maudlin drama. The film veers from goofiness to people being shot or otherwise violently killed to Mike or Marcus having an emotional moment. There’s a twist in the story – not revealed here – that comes across as contrived, even if it serves to set us up for yet another sequel. Whether that film ever happens will likely depend on the box office returns of this one.

In jumping between Miami and Mexico City, the film offers some colorful locations but fails to engage us in the concerns of either of its lead characters. That’s fatal since its success depends on us actually caring about where it ends up. The death of one of the supporting characters does resonate – briefly – but only because the actor gives the movie’s most engaging performance.

To be fair, after a lot of action scenes that are the cinematic equivalent of fast food, the set piece in the climax involving a showdown in an abandoned multistory hotel is impressive. It’s the moment where the filmmakers light up the screen figuratively and literally. It’s not enough to save the film, but it is an exciting sequence on its own.

Those who are invested in the series will no doubt want to see it, but if you haven’t even thought about these characters since 2003, watching “Bad Boys For Life” will feel like going to a high school reunion and running into people whose names and faces are, at best, dim memories.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Underwater


FILM REVIEW
UNDERWATER
. With Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr., Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller. Written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. Directed by William Eubank. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, brief strong language. 95 minutes.

The uninspiringly titled, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am aquatic misadventure UNDERWATER gets right down to business in its opening scene. No sooner have we watched Kristen Stewart’s Sigourney 2.0 rescue a stray spider from a sink drain while brushing her teeth (see folks, she’s kind) than the entire undersea oil rig she’s been working on for months begins collapsing upon itself in a watery cacophony of twisted metal. Stewart and the crew have been drilling seven miles down, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What could have caused this catastrophe? An earthquake, or something worse? (Spoiler: It’s something worse.)

An ideal January junk-food quickie like this knows we’ve already seen “Alien,” “The Abyss,” “Gravity” and all the other films from which it’s shamelessly stealing, so there’s no reason to fart around wasting everybody’s time with exposition or character development. Shot in 2017, “Underwater” has been kicking around the Fox/Disney release slate for some time and the final product feels edited down from a longer, more ambitious and presumably less propulsive picture. I think I like it better this way. Introductions are made on the fly while crucial information is often ADR-ed as the movie hustles along the ocean floor from one derivative but no less spine-tingling set-piece to another.

The secret weapon here of course is Stewart, and the chance to see the “Twilight” teen turned international art cinema icon battling nasty sea monsters in some slick schlock. Wearing a bleach-blonde buzz-cut and a bomber jacket over a sports bra, Stewart goes all in on the androgyny chic, showing no signs of slumming as she applies her trademark, inverted-Brando millennial murmurings to the screenplay’s stock scenarios. (I loved watching her in this.) Gallic maniac Vincent Cassel delivers a surprisingly tender turn as the doomed craft’s avuncular captain, and as they strap into their pressurized mech suits its easy to imagine these two sharing a downtime chuckle about how far they’ve strayed from the Cannes Croisette.

“Underwater” was shot so long ago that disgraced comedian T.J. Miller plays the Bill Paxton comic relief role. A naturally unwelcome presence, during his introduction Miller calls Stewart “a flat-chested elfin creature” as if that were some sort of bad thing. (Then again, the whole trick with obnoxious characters like this is waiting to see what kind of grisly demise the filmmakers have cooked up for them. He gets a doozy.) Likewise stranded on the rig are a pair of moony-eyed lovers played by Jessica Henwick and John Gallagher Jr., along with Mamoudou Athie, who is the only black guy on the crew, so don’t get too attached.

The great cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (who’s worked with everybody from Abel Ferrara to Michael Bay) pushes the limitations of low-light digital, making striking use of luminescent beams swallowed up by the sickly green, underwater murk. I adored how the dive suits have small crescents of LED lights near their necks that frame the actors’ faces with the most lovely little shadings and patterns. But it’s exactly this kind of exacting detail work I worry will be massacred by the botched projection of modern multiplex screens. Not since Bradford Young’s boundary-pushing work on “Solo: A Star Wars Story” has a movie’s aesthetic been so prone to highlighting the weaknesses of current presentation standards.

(I had the pleasure of seeing “Underwater” via the pristine projection at Boston’s brand new, state-of-the-art ArcLight complex, but I can’t imagine how impossible it would be to try and follow the action with one of those cheapo AMC bulbs flickering and a 3D cap on the lens. Indeed, I’ve read quite a few reviews from other markets in which critics complained they could barely see what was going on. This reminded me of something I once heard about how The Rolling Stones used to test their final album mixes by playing them through the crappiest car radios they could find. Maybe cinematographers should do the same, holding test screenings at janky suburban mall theaters to see how their hard work is actually being viewed by the masses.)

“You have to take your pants off or the suit won’t fit,” Stewart advises the comely young Henwick while they’re putting on their dive gear. It’s one of those lines that lets you know these filmmakers and actors all knew exactly what they were doing here, providing the most hilariously transparent of excuses to get Stewart running around in her sports bra and Ripley-skivvies for the big finale. That’s the kind of movie “Underwater” is, and exactly what I wanted it to be.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Over the past twenty years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Review – 1917


FILM REVIEW1917With Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch. Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Directed by Sam Mendes. Rated R for violence, some disturbing images, and language. 119 minutes.

1917 is impressive and engrossing for two reasons, one cinematic and the other thematic. And once you get over the impressive look of the film, you’re still caught up in the story of how war looks to someone actually fighting it. It’s a story that couldn’t be more timely.

Set during World War I, the plot is deceptively simple. The Germans have retreated and Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) is prepared to lead British troops in to take advantage of that. However, General Erin More (Colin Firth) has received intelligence that it’s a trap and needs to get word to MacKenzie. Since it involves going on foot through potentially enemy territory, the task falls to Blake and Schofield (Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay), two lance corporals. The movie then follows the two as they attempt to get the message through.

The key word is “follows.” Through some cinematic sleight-of-hand by director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins, the movie is presented as if it was shot in a single take. It wasn’t, but you won’t be able to see the seams. This technique has been used in several films whether for long sequences, as in the opening of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” (1958), or entire films, like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” (1948) and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s more recent “Birdman” (2014).

The effect is to make viewers feel as if they are experiencing the story in real time, with no editing out of the down times where nothing much seems to be happening. Since it’s wartime, there’s no guarantee that a moment of quiet might not be shattered in the next moment by the sound of gunfire giving us a taste of the tension and uncertainty of the lives of people in combat. There are also no guarantees for the success for the mission or whether the two soldiers will even survive it.

While the acting is solid, it’s not the point of the film. Cumberbatch and Firth appear briefly, and it is Chapman and MacKay who get the most screentime. Everyone seems to realize that, beyond wanting to live to see another day, these characters have no “arcs.” This is not about Blake and Schofield coming of age or realizing the futility of war. While treated respectfully, the filmmakers use them much as their commanding officers do, as a means to an end. It’s about what they go through, not about how who they are. We find ourselves racing through trenches and bombed out villages, avoiding sniper fire, and encountering the local non-combatant victims of war. The locations are as much a character as any of the people, demonstrating how even the land pays a price.

Barely released at the end of 2019 (for awards consideration), “1917” becomes the first must-see movie of 2020.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Just Mercy


FILM REVIEWJUST MERCYWith Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx , Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson. Written by Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Rated PG-13 for thematic content including some racial epithets. 136 minutes.

JUST MERCY has everything going for it. Based on a true story, it is about how lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) takes on the case of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillan (Jamie Foxx) who sits on death row in Alabama, awaiting execution for a crime he did not commit. This cuts right to the heart of the debate over capital punishment: can we accept the state executing some people who may be innocent in order to protect the public? Why, then, is the film such a disappointment?

It’s not the cast. Jordan follows in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier (in “In the Heat of the Night”), as an African-American man from the North navigating a racist system in Alabama. He gathers evidence that shows that McMillan’s trial was flawed in not calling witnesses who would have testified he was nowhere near where the murder took place. He finds a a witness (Tim Blake Nelson) who did testify subsequently recants and admits he was coerced into lying under oath. However, neither the prosecutor nor the courts seem interested in doing justice. Jordan is tightly coiled as he suffers indignities and setbacks but remains committed to his cause.

Likewise, Foxx plays McMillan as a man caught up in a system where he knows the deck is stacked against him, and yet finds common ground with the young attorney wanting to fight on his behalf. He gets emotional moments – such as getting to see his family after a court appearance – without going over the top. When he does lose it at one point it’s not only justified but seems to a release of all the anger that he’s kept pent up. Brie Larson has less to do as Eva Ansley, McMillan’s partner in what became the Equal Justice Initiative. She’s there as a sounding board, helper, and moral support, but we don’t get to know her as we do with Stevenson and McMillan.

The problem is that director Destin Daniel Cretton – who adapted the script with Andrew Lanham from Stevenson’s book – has absolutely no sense of how to make this story interesting. The movie proceeds at a leaden pace draining the drama from much of narrative. It’s almost as if he’s internalized the attitude of many of the film’s characters to stoically endure the racism and injustice in hopes of a better outcome. When McMillan’s son explodes in anger against a judge who ignores the evidence in the case it’s a rare instance where we can see that it’s blood and not ice water flowing through the veins of these characters.

Although Cretton attracted some attention for his first feature, “Short Term 12” (2013) – which also starred Larson – his next film – “The Glass Castle” (2017) had the same problems “Just Mercy” has: too long, a meandering narrative, and a talented cast left to their own devices. The story of McMillan (who died in 2013) and Stevenson deserved much better than what they get here.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Sean’s 10 Worst Films Of 2019

SEAN’S 10 WORST FILMS OF 2019

by Sean Burns

Every year around this time the usual scolds chime in, tut-tutting and finger-wagging about the practice of making a Ten Worst List, claiming that film criticism should be about sharing enthusiasm and uplifting good work instead of dwelling on the bad. These days I’m lucky enough to be able to spend the majority of my time writing about stuff I enjoy and championing smaller films that don’t have the benefit of multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns. But I also have to watch a lot of crap. And since people were paid very handsomely to make this garbage, then turned around and asked you fork over the cost of a ticket, overpriced concessions, parking and a sitter to watch such dreck, I humbly submit that they should be able to handle a parting shot or two before we ring in the new year.

  1. JOKER

An empty simulacrum of feel-bad ‘70s-cinema signifiers, the year’s most bafflingly popular blockbuster mashes up and hollows out “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” among other classics, carefully side-stepping any of the issues explored in the films it’s stripping for parts. This is a cowardly, tedious corporate product posing as quote-unquote dangerous art. I guess every era gets the Joker it deserves, so this one wallows in victimhood and self-pity while the movie feints at blaming “society” for his actions but is really more interested in setting up sequels.

  1. BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON

Almost every year the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award goes to the movie I hated most. Picked up by Amazon Studios at the tail end of the fest for an obscene $14 million, this is one of those ghastly-looking lil’ indies thrown together with such indifference to aesthetic concerns they might as well have left the lens cap on. Jillian Bell stars as a flip, sardonic party girl who takes up jogging — losing weight along with any vestige of a personality. Self-help affirmations ensue. This is why people hate runners.

  1. RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

A reactionary crock even by Stallone standards, Sly’s boringly sadistic, molasses-paced finale to his ultra-violent adventures in ideological incoherence gets a MAGA makeover. With his long hair, headband and hunting bow, our disaffected Vietnam Vet was always visually coded as a Native American warrior, a man apart fighting alone. Now he’s all cleaned up with a cowboy hat and Winchester rifle, a rancher defending hearth and home from bad hombres and foreign hordes. It doesn’t even feel like a “Rambo” movie so much as an even more racist remake of “Taken.”

  1. THE FANATIC

This year’s terrible John Travolta movie finds the wayward superstar giving an awfully committed (and committedly awful) performance as an imbalanced superfan obsessed with a horror movie has-been, charmlessly played by real-life horror movie has-been Devon Sawa. Ineptly directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, it’s a grindingly unpleasant little picture, wallowing in misery and running down the clock until the inevitable, ugly bloodshed. The only respite comes when two characters kick back and listen to some sweet Bizkit tunes on the car radio. (This is seriously something that happens.)

  1. GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS

There were probably worse blockbusters this year but none so baseline incompetent at visual storytelling. This is a movie that kills off a major character but you can’t see it happen so they put a picture of her up on a computer screen with the word “DECEASED” over her face. I learned days later that Ziyi Zhang is actually supposed to be playing two separate roles here but the movie is edited so incoherently it’s impossible to tell. And what kind of director gets a bad performance out of Kyle Chandler?

  1. GLASS

In the curious case of M. Night Shyamalan, I find myself torn. On one hand you’ve gotta salute his heroic commitment to wrestling this singular, specific and often very strange creative vision through a studio system increasingly hostile to anything a shade off from homogenous anonymity. But on the other hand I think his movies are stupid and boring, with this ret-conned trilogy-capper prompting a particularly egregious round of logy eye-rolling. When I told my friends what happens to Bruce Willis at the end of this picture none of them believed me.

  1. THE LION KING

You could throw this summer’s “Aladdin” in here as well, in so far as Disney’s joyless, weaponized nostalgia re-enactments don’t work as movies in their own right, but rather exist as a depressing form of corporate brand extension, sucking all the life, wonder and color out of beloved cartoon classics. The whole concept of this one confuses me. No expense has been spared to painstakingly mimic the fur patterns and limited movements of actual jungle cats, who I guess are supposed to look like real animals while they’re singing Elton John songs.

  1. CATS

Tom Hooper’s gaudy, guileless big-screen blow-up of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gibberish Broadway perennial is already being hailed as a disaster of legendary proportions. The un-kitty valley CGI turning these mugging performers into “Island of Dr. Moreau” half-feline hybrids is deeply disturbing, with their monkey tails and the not-to-scale, super-sized sets making you wonder if anyone involved has even seen a cat before. This may sound like a kitsch classic, except remember the show is just the same scene over and over again and feels like it’s never going to fucking end.

  1. LUCY IN THE SKY

The most mystifying of this year’s massive flops starred Natalie Portman in a puzzling adaptation of that tawdry 2007 tabloid tale about a NASA Space Shuttle Commander who wore adult diapers while trying to kidnap a co-worker. Prestige TV auteur Noah Hawley leaves out all the interesting, pulpy parts in favor of doom-laden, metaphysical free-associations and annoyingly ever-changing aspect ratios. Leering, sexist and over-directed within an inch of its life, the film wastes an unhinged Portman going full “Hee-Haw” on a movie where the meaning seems to escape its maker.

  1. JOJO RABBIT

No movie in years has made me angrier than this cutesy-wutsey take on the Holocaust from writer-director Taika Waititi, who had the unmitigated gall to make an Anne Frank story with a happy ending. It turns out fascism is just a phase you’ll grow out of if you’re lucky enough to find a cool Jewish girlfriend in the cupboard. Gross in so many ways, it’s a movie made by and for those of an insulated and intensely arrested sensibility, processing atrocity via anachronistic in-jokes and audience-flattering asides. Watch it win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Over the past 20 years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and RogerEbert.com. He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Dan’s 10 Best Films of 2019

10 BEST FILMS OF 2019

by Daniel M. Kimmel

If you look at the ratings at Rotten Tomatoes, which includes the reviews here, it is near impossible for even the most popular film to score 100% and even the worst reviewed to get 0%. There are almost always minority views that are just as valid because these are opinions, not pronouncements. 2019 was a middling year at the movies and so my 10 Best are the ones that stayed in the memory at year’s end.

YESTERDAY – Richard Curtis, who wrote “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love Actually,” came up with this endlessly inventive comedy of an aspiring musician who emerges from a coma to discover he’s in a world that has never known the Beatles. Instead of taking the easy way out (“It’s all a dream!”), the movie follows that premise in surprising ways.


MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN – Edward Norton, wrote and directed, took film noir into 1950s New York as a detective with Tourette’s Syndrome trying to solve the murder of his boss. Harking back to movies like “Chinatown” and “L.A. Confidential,” it delves into the sins that created the modern city all the while evoking the era with stunning visuals and an evocative score by Daniel Pemberton.


THE IRISHMAN – Martin Scorsese presided over this gangster film reunion with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino, with the actors doing some of their best work in years. This is a genre piece by people who helped define that genre over the past few decades and is as impressive in its way as what Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” did for the western.


LITTLE WOMEN – Did we really need yet another version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel? Writer/director Greta Gerwig showed that we did in this beautifully mounted and acted adaptation. Amidst the bombast of other holiday season offerings, this film quietly showed itself to be the class of the field.


JOJO RABBIT – Filmmaker Taika Waititi brings a unique comic sensibility to this story of a young German boy trying to make sense of Nazi Germany while his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish woman. It’s a delicate balancing act that won’t work for everyone but manages to evoke both laughter and horror in the right places, with the director playing the boy’s imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler.


KNIVES OUT – The late film critic John Simon acerbically noted that movies ought to be art or else great entertainment. This comedy/mystery is very much in the latter category with a great ensemble cast involved in solving the murder of a wealthy writer (Christopher Plummer) tired of supporting his adult children. Oh, and Daniel Craig sings.

THE ART OF SELF DEFENSE – One of the year’s quirkiest films came and went quickly and isripe for discovery. Jesse Eisenberg plays a meek man who is viciously mugged and resolves to learn how to defend himself, falling under the sway of a charismatic martial arts teacher. As he progresses, he learns that not everything is as it seems. Like “JoJo Rabbit,” it’s not for every taste.


TOY STORY 4 – Pixar Animation has had some misfires, but they’re still in the forefront of American animation. After the perfection of the third film in the series, there was no reason to return to these characters, and yet they cleverly pulled it off with wit and the occasional tear along with Forky, easily the most unexpected animated hero of the year.


MIDSOMMAR – I was not taken by writer/director Ari Aster’s 2018 “Hereditary,” but his latest offering – while overlong and owing much to “The Wicker Man” – slowly draws the viewer into a world that is increasingly nightmarish, demonstrating that horror can take place in broad daylight. The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski is dreamlike, beautiful to look at even while things spin out of control.


AVENGERS: ENDGAME – All right, there are too many superhero movies. There’s no gainsaying the achievement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, in building its storyline over 16 years and multiple films, before finally bringing everything and everyone together in an exciting and satisfying conclusion. Not every entry was a success, but this one – featuring a final cameo by the late comic book legend Stan Lee – was a fitting capstone.


Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His new latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Little Women


FILM REVIEWLITTLE WOMENWith Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig. Rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking. 134 minutes.

little_women_ver10LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa May Alcott’s novel about the four March sisters coming of age in mid-19th century New England, is a classic of popular literature and one that has inspired numerous adaptations for film and TV. Greta Gerwig’s new version is an impressive response to the question whether we really needed another one.

For those coming in fresh, the story centers on Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and their mother Marmee (Laura Dern), who are trying to keep the home fires buring while their father (Bob Odenkirk) is off at war. Each has their own story, with Jo wanting to be a writer, Meg falling in love, Amy wanting to paint, and Meg wanting to play the piano. Gerwig gives us insight into the characters by not presenting the narrative in a linear fashion but letting us see how the women they are becoming were formed in their childhood.

Money is tight in the March household, but Marmee teaches the girls that there are people far worse off than they and ought to help those less fortunate. In turn we see some of the wealthier people in their lives helping them, from the benevolent neighbor Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper) to the sharp-tongued Aunt March (Meryl Streep), a wealthy widow who seems to determined to help one of the sisters… after a fashion.

While the film is gorgeous to look at, from the simple March household to some of the grander homes and locations, it is the finely-etched characters brought to life by a strong ensemble cast that ensures the film’s success. The four young actresses bring to life the four sisters in ways where each stands out in her own way and yet also provides able support for the others. Two of them (Ronan and Pugh) may find themselves on Oscar ballots, as will several of the veteran cast members. Streep, of course, is nearly always a delight to watch, but Dern and Cooper deliver performances that, coincidentally, are stark contrasts to their turns in other current films. Dern, playing the moral anchor to the March family, is also the ruthless divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story” while Cooper’s genial presence here is the mirror image of his father who abandoned his family in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Perhaps the reason “Little Women” has remained popular as a book and on screen, is that it presents a variety of role models of women making their way in the world in both traditional and non-traditional roles who do so without compromising their own values. Whether it’s the best version or not can be debated by others. What’s certain, though, is that this is simply the latest one and, most assuredly, not the last.

The Boston Society of Film Critics has named this the best film of 2019.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books including Jar Jar Binks Must Die. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.