British actress Sally Hawkins gives the kind of performance Oscar loves in “Maudie,” a biopic about Maude Lewis, the late Canadian folk artist who gained fame in the 1950s. The story covers her struggle with crippling rheumatoid arthritis, her dysfunctional family, stark poverty in rural Nova Scotia and her awkward marriage to her boorish and sometimes abusive husband, well played by Ethan Hawke.
While it never gives us any insight into what made her great, the film’s sincere approach and the terrific performances transform “Maudie” into a touching and very warm character study.
From the other end of the cinematic universe comes “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” French filmmaker Luc Besson’s wacky adaptation of a sci-fi comic book series. Dane DeHaan plays Valerian, an intergalactic agent who upholds the law in multiple dimensions, aided by his partner and lover, Laureline, played by Cara Delevigne. The plot and dialogue are derivative and goofy in the extreme, but the movie’s giddy playfulness and impressive visuals should be enough to please fan boys.
“The Little Hours” is an adaptation of a couple of bawdy comedic stories from Boccaccio’s 14th century work, “The Decameron.” Alison Brie, Dave Franco, Aubrey Plaza and John C. Reilly lead the cast in the story of foul-mouthed nuns who have a sexual awakening when a handsome and virile laborer comes to work at the convent. It doesn’t all work, but the talented cast wrings some raunchy laughs from the irreverent material.
Also opening this week, “Dunkirk” is the acclaimed WWII epic from filmmaker Christopher Nolan about the evacuation of Allied troops from France. “Girls Trip” is an R-rated, ‘girls gone wild’ comedy from the African-American perspective. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith star. “Score” is a documentary about some of the world’s great film composers.