Overstated though most of them seemed to be, I enjoyed the mean-spirited take-downs of Cats as much as the next guy. But I think I've figured out why director Stephen Gaghan's new family adventure Dolittle – a far worse movie – hasn't suffered nearly the critical indignities of Tom Hooper's musical train wreck: It's so tediously by-the-numbers, and so predictably awful in all the expected ways, that it simply saps your will to mock.

Although many audiences would disagree, not all movies need to be fun, and Sam Mendes' 1917 is the perfect example of a film that's not only more fun than it needs to be, but more fun than it should be.

There are certain things you expect from any film or television version of Little Women: coltish enthusiasm courtesy of Jo; homespun wisdom courtesy of Marmee; buckets of tears, our tears, courtesy of Beth thanking Mr. Laurence for the piano and eventually succumbing to terminal illness. (I'm presuming that plot points from a 150-year-old novel can't possibly qualify as spoilers.) One thing you don't expect, however, is the unexpected, which turns out to be what writer/director Greta Gerwig's glorious, exceedingly original take on Louisa May Alcott delivers in spades.

'Tis the season of forgiveness, so I hope I'll be pardoned for this combined review that'll likely annoy two distinct sets of readers: Star Wars fans who couldn't care less about a furry stage sensation from the 1980s, and movie fans of all types who've been relishing the vicious, snarky take-downs of this year's (this decade's? this century's?) biggest movie fiasco and don't want one interrupted by any mention of Star Wars. Try as I might, though, I can't separate the experiences of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Cats quite as simply as I'd like – partly because I saw the two within mere minutes of each other, and partly because, when all was said and done, I had a better time at Cats. I'm guessing there will now be a few additional sets of readers whom I'll have to ask for forgiveness.

Sexual-harassment dramas aren't designed to be fun. Try telling that to my expression, however, as I grinned and occasionally giggled throughout Bombshell, director Jay Roach's and screenwriter Charles Randolph's fictionalized account of how longtime Fox News chairman and chief executive Roger Ailes was eventually brought down by his, and his network's, systemic mistreatment of women.

The best thing about Clint Eastwood's new bio-drama Richard Jewell is, thankfully, Richard Jewell himself, or at least the version of him as played, in a sensational breakthrough performance, by Paul Walter Hauser.

I loved Netflix's Marriage Story, and a day after seeing it, eagerly returned to writer/director Noah Baumbach's dramatic comedy for a second go-around. My verdict? It's a great movie. Just not an extraordinary one. And maybe, when all is said and done, not even a great one – merely, or rather “merely,” greatly entertaining.

At one point in Todd Haynes' Dark Waters, the heroic attorney played by Mark Ruffalo finds himself in a traffic jam, and as he surveys the gridlock through his windshield, he notices a single red balloon floating above the stopped cars. And we all know what that portends, right? A-a-a-a-aa!!! It's Pennywise! Hide the children!

Knives Out, the star-studded comic whodunit by writer/director Rian Johnson, debuted the day before Thanksgiving, and for just over two hours, the film is what every Thanksgiving spread strives to be: loaded with familiar elements (some presented in delectable new ways), utterly delicious, and enormously satisfying.

Considering that I was able to watch Martin Scorsese's new gangster epic from the comfort of my couch – and after a full plate of Thanksgiving leftovers, no less – the personal astonishment of Netflix's The Irishman wasn't that I made it through all three-and-a-half hours in one sitting. It was that, with only a couple hours' break, I then proceeded to watch all three-and-a-half hours again.

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