Mark Jenkins

In such half-seriously titled comic dramas as The Decline of the American Empire, writer-director Denys Arcand has chronicled the discontents of intellectuals in his native Montreal. He continues the series with The Fall of the American Empire, but with a significant wrinkle: This time, the characters include as many gangsters as PhDs.

In the bargain-basement-cosmic prologue to Jobe'z World, the title character muses on "the infinite void." In reality, rollerblader Jobe (Jason Grisell) lives and works in the tightly circumscribed universe known as lower Manhattan. He achieves escape velocity only via the "sick manga" he writes and draws, recounting the adventures of Celestial Steven, a planet-hopping EDM DJ.

In the opening sequence of the artful and distinctive yet finally unsatisfying Cold War, three minor functionaries of Poland's new Communist regime canvass a remote region. Armed with a tape recorder, the travelers seek genuine "peasant" music. But only one of them is truly interested in authenticity.

In the post-cataclysm future depicted by Mortal Engines, inhabitants of a steampunk city seek and collect pop culture relics and "old tech" from the 21st century. That's apt, since this visually lively but narratively inert movie is also assembled from such debris. The story derives from a young-adult fantasy novel, but most of the scenario echoes Star Wars, Mad Max, The Terminator or Howl's Moving Castle.

As an old-fashioned melodrama about a modernist artist, Never Look Away is philosophically vexing. But it's a good story well-told, and never grows tiresome despite its three-hour running time. Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, returning to the terrain of his Oscar-winning 2006 The Lives of Others, again proves himself glib in both good and bad ways.

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