An undercover DEA agent attempts to bust an international smuggling operation. A bereaved mother hunts those responsible for her teenage son's overdose. A tenured professor contemplates blowing the whistle on unethical Big Pharma practices. Haven't we all sat through previous versions of these shopworn tales before? Maybe even with Crisis leads Armie Hammer, Evangeline Lilly, and Gary Oldman starring in them?

Nomadland is a true anomaly: a low-key slice of life that's shot, and feels, like an epic. And it's a thing of singular, wondrous beauty no matter how you watch it – though maybe not if you watch it on your phone.

The completist in me is so delighted to be catching four new movies – three of them recently nominated for Golden Globe and/or Screen Actors Guild Awards – that I don't even mind that the collective titles are tackling subjects such as murder, suicide, imprisonment, torture, spousal abuse, a debilitating stroke, and temperatures even colder than the ones we're currently facing. Okay: I mind a little.

Your overall enjoyment of Sam Levinson's Netflix release will likely depend on whether you view its only two characters as charismatic, damaged souls whose epic meltdowns both mask and reveal their deep love for another, or as helplessly, and hopelessly, gabby, self-centered whiners who just need to put a lid on it already. Levinson's film isn't hard to sit through, and it boasts outstanding individual moments, but it's frequently a pain.

Has late-middle-age paunch ever looked better on an actor than it does on Denzel Washington?

This past weekend, our area's two debuting cineplex options were Our Friend, which is primarily about a young woman dying of cancer, and Heaven, which is peripherally about a young woman dying of cancer. It probably goes without asking, but no matter how much some of us may relish trekking to the movies these days, what kind of masochist would voluntarily make a double-feature out of such an ostensibly depressing two-fer?

This kind! So let's dive in, shall we?

One Night in Miami … , Regina King's debut as a feature-film director, boasts a premise that sounds like the beginning of a joke: “Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown walk into a motel room … .” Yet while King's adaptation of screenwriter Kemp Powers' stage play is no joke, it is funny, as well as tender, and powerful, and absolutely riveting.

Over the past two weeks, barring review-writing and performing general upkeep on the Reader Web site, I've been on vacation. And I did what many of my fellow stay-cationers likely did during the holidays this year: I watched movies. Lots of movies. A few of them at an actual movie theater.

How is it that Tom Hanks portrayed Mister Rogers only last year and has already landed in the role of someone just as upstanding, decent, and effectively communicative with children?

There might be a perfectly valid, comic-book-related reason for this that I neither know about nor particularly care about. But seriously: Why, in director Patty Jenkins' sequel to her 2017 smash, are we watching a Wonder Woman adventure set in the mid-'80s?

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