If you saw Wonder over the weekend – and based on the film's unexpectedly massive box office, a bunch of you likely did – you may have seen it alongside a hefty number of elementary- and middle-school students. If so, I hope you experienced this family melodrama the way I did during my sold-old screening: hearing, with immense gratitude, a young crowd cheer and applaud a cineplex entertainment that wasn't a superhero epic, a Disney reboot, a Pixar animation, or anything that involved robots transforming into cars.

Four critically acclaimed titles – among them an Academy Award winner and two additional nominees – will be shared in Augustana College's annual French Film Festival, with the subtitled works presented in free, weekly screenings in the college's Olin Center for Educational Technology auditorium.

For the eighth Cinema at the Figge presentation, series programmers at Ford Photography will screen writer/director Chloé Zhao's Songs My Brothers Taught Me in a November 30 Figge Art Museum event, with the award-winning feature preceded by short films, live music, and complimentary beer samples from WAKE Brewing.

Plenty of better movies have been released this year. But few of them, for my money, have been more delightful surprises than Branagh's Orient Express, a showcase for Christie's fastidious Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot that initially seemed deeply unnecessary at best and tragically misguided at worst.

Last fall's Doctor Strange showed that there were vast, unexplored opportunities in terms of shaking up presentation, with its battle sequences thrilling precisely because they were so unpredictable. This summer's marvelous Spider-Man: Homecoming demonstrated the enormous benefits of going smaller, simpler, and more human. Ragnarok, by contrast, never stops feeling familiar, and even its more out-there flourishes, such as the priceless eccentricity of Jeff Goldbum, don't have long-term impact – they're distractions that momentarily amuse and vanish into the ether.

I probably would've had a better time at A Bad Moms Christmas if it reminded me more of last year's Bad Moms and less of last month's Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween.

“He came back from the dead?!”

“It wouldn't be the first time.”

In two lines of dialogue, that might be all you need to know about Jigsaw, the eighth – and quite possibly least-offensive – entry in the Saw franchise, and the first since 2010's now laughably titled Saw 3D: The Final Chapter.

Summer at the cineplex brings with it blockbuster franchises and potential tentpoles. The holiday season brings broad comedies and Oscar bait. Labor Day weekend brings bupkis. And the third weekend in October? That's when studios traditionally throw everything else at the wall to see if anything sticks, and almost none of it ever does.

Reginald Hudlin's period/courtroom/race drama – the pleasant start to my latest quadruple feature – is actually inspired by a 1941 case in the career of Thurgood Marshall, who, of course, later became the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. In other words, it's kind of like an origin story for the hard-living, harder-fighting lawyer, and the movie's great surprise is that it's closer in spirit to an enjoyable comic-book yarn than the prototypical Oscar Bait its subject matter would seem to dictate.

Yes, it's long. Yes, it's slow. Yes, it's so relentlessly downbeat that its only real laugh comes from a man pouring whiskey on the floor for his dog to lick. But I found Blade Runner 2049 overwhelming in the best possible way – a sci-fi dazzler of such intricate plotting, grand themes, visual wonder, and technical and performance-based pleasures that even though I was wiped out by the finale, I felt instantly ready to watch it again. Fun, of course, is always in the eye of the beholder, and while I don't know what it says about my personally beheld eye, Villeneuve's staggering achievement was about as much fun as I've yet had at the movies this year.

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