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By Karen Martin

This article was published March 16, 2018 at 1:46 a.m.

I, Tonya

I, Tonya,

directed by Craig Gillespie (R, 2 hours)

A bleakly comic mockumentary-style portrayal of Tonya Harding (played with flashy verve by Margot Robbie), a spirited, anger-driven Olympic figure skater who rises above her hardscrabble upbringing to find fame not only for her ferocious talent on the ice but for her part in the scandalous knee-bashing disabling of competitor Nancy Kerrigan in 1994. The outcome is not pretty. But it's the stuff of notoriety.

With Allison Janney as Tonya's brutally aggressive and vicious mother LaVona Golden and Sebastian Stan as her unruly ex-husband Jeff Gillooly. Also in the cast: Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace. Directed by Craig Gillespie.

The Shape of Water (R, 2 hours, 3 minutes) Winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Picture (along with best original music score, best production design, and best director in Guillermo del Toro), this exotic fairy tale of a love story set in Cold War-era Baltimore circa 1962 concerns mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a janitor in a high-security government laboratory, whose life changes when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. With Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones. DVD bonuses include five making-of featurettes and theatrical trailers.

Wonder Wheel, (PG-13, 1 hour, 41 minutes) As the unreliable narrator of Woody Allen's Wonder Wheel, Justin Timberlake breaks the fourth wall to speak to us in a way that seems old-fashioned, more like the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's Our Town than characters in The Big Short or I, Tonya.

Set on the beaches of Coney Island, Wonder Wheel feels like a project that has been sitting around for years, gathering dust in Allen's apartment. Yet it still has a first-draft feel about it, as though Allen trusted his cast to animate the words on the page.

Kate Winslet holds it together in the role of fading beauty Ginny, the mother of a 10-year-old pyromaniac, who once aspired to be an actress but ended up marrying neanderthal Humpty (Jim Belushi, who tries very hard in a thankless role that might have been interesting in the hands of a Jackie Gleason or an Ernest Borgnine). Winslet has a few moments of genuine power when she rises above the soapish melodrama and reveals her character's desperation and capacity for evil. (No one will ever accuse Allen of being soft on women.)

Humpty has a daughter by a previous marriage, Carolina (Juno Temple), who married into the mob but couldn't handle the pressure. So, for reasons that the script belabors, she has returned to Coney Island and her estranged father because that's the last place the wise guys would come looking for her.

Ginny begins an affair with lifeguard Mickey (Timberlake), who eventually decides he'd prefer to be with Caroline. Yes, Woody Allen goes there, as we knew he would.

All that said, Wonder Wheel is not a disaster. But it doesn't quite feel like a movie either, more like an unevenly cast play (neither Timberlake nor Belushi have any business trying to hang with Winslet or Temple; they get blown off the screen) with every character forced to mouth some lines that would have been improved if anyone had bothered to take a second pass at the script.

Thor: Ragnarok (PG-13, 2 hours, 10 minutes) Filled with humor, twitchy energy and decent performances, this third-in-a-franchise entry concerns Marvel's Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer. That's awkward since he's in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok -- the end of Asgardian civilization -- at the hands of ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett), the sister Thor never knew he had. With Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba; directed by Taika Waititi.

Bonus features include deleted scenes, outtakes, part three of the mockumentary Team Thor re-titled Team Darryl and featuring a new roommate, making-of featurettes, and audio commentary by the director.

The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG, 1 hour, 44 minutes) Here's the cheery, fanciful inside story behind the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol by author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens). With Christopher Plummer, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Callow, Jonathan Pryce; directed by Bharat Nalluri.

Faces Places (PG, 1 hour, 29 minutes) Revered French film director Agnes Varda and French pop art star JR strike out on a uniquely image-filled documentary journey through rural France taking photographs, installing photorealistic murals and becoming close friends. A little contrived, but charming in its intimacy and originality.

Novitiate (R, 2 hours, 3 minutes) An involving, thought-provoking drama that follows rural Tennessee-born Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) as she is drawn to a life devoted to serving God, first as a postulant, then to a sorely challenged novitiate as she faces issues of faith, sexuality and changes in the Catholic Church. With Melissa Leo, Julianne Nicholson, Dianna Agron; directed by Maggie Betts.

The Clapper (R, 1 hour 29 minutes) Losers and the jerks who ridicule them are the core of this poorly conceived and unfunny comedy in which absolutely unappealing Eddie (Ed Helms), who makes a living portraying a clapping audience on infomercials, becomes the focus of a running joke by a late-night talk-show host. That causes Eddie to lose his job and his gas station attendant girlfriend Judy (Amanda Seyfried). Insults and cruel wisecracks abound. Not funny. With Leah Remini, Tracy Morgan, Adam Levine, P.J. Byrne; directed by Dito Montiel.

Justice League (PG-13, 2 hours) Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. Fellow Justice Leaguers Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash lend support against a catastrophic world-wide assault. With Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen; directed by Zack Snyder.

Call Me By Your Name (R, 2 hours, 12 minutes) Luca Guadagnino's tender and intelligent film appeals to nostalgia in that it conjures a past too beautiful to be trusted, when emotions were too robust to contain.

It's about a summer romance between two attractive young men (Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamat), although its themes resonate with a wider audience than the LGBT community. Anyone who has had a doomed youthful fling might be susceptible to this charming, bittersweet film.

It's 1983 and Elio Perlman (Chalamat) is a serious-minded 17-year-old, a musical prodigy and bibliophile, who lives with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor of nautical archaeology, and mother (Amira Casar) in a small Italian village.

At first he's resentful of Oliver (Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student who is spending the summer with them, serving as his father's assistant. Oliver senses Elio's prickliness and at first does little to put him at ease. But gradually, the two begin to develop a teasing, easy relationship that obviously contains seeds of mutual desire

What saves the movie from seeming like a two-hour male fragrance ad is a scene near the end when Elio's dad sits down to deliver a remarkably affecting father-to-son talk that, while it quotes Montaigne in the original French, feels entirely organic and pierces through the movie's dreaminess to fix it in a real-feeling world. That and a final wordless shot of Elio's face snaps us out of our reverie: Love hurts.

Ferdinand (PG, 1 hour, 48 minutes) An attractive yet sweetly predictable family-friendly animated story of a huge bull who, after being mistaken for a dangerous creature and hauled away from his beloved home, undertakes a journey to return. With the voices of John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Gina Rodriguez, Bobby Cannavale; directed by Carlos Saldanha. Inspired by The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson.

MovieStyle on 03/16/2018

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