Scott Tobias

In the best Stephen King adaptations — and the best Stephen King novels, for that matter — there's precious little daylight between the psychic stress of the characters and the supernatural forces that torment them. Carrie, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Christine: All are defined by the frightening intimacy of terrors that come from within, rather than external forces that can be vanquished like a priest exorcising a demon or ghosts expelled from a haunted house.

The first words uttered by Frankie, the sexually confused teenager at the center of Eliza Hittman's Beach Rats, are a lie: "I don't really know what I like."

Based on Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle refers to the fanciful home an impoverished father intends for his family, one with glass walls that welcome natural light during the day and, at night, become a window to the stars. The structure never gets built, but it's the Burj Khalifa of metaphors, a symbol of big dreams and broken promises that rises majestically to the heavens. At one point in Destin Daniel Cretton's leaden adaptation, a young Walls and her three siblings help their father actually dig the foundation. Later, the foundation is filled with garbage.

When Martin Scorsese directed the nervy black comedy After Hours in 1985, it was both a catharsis and a reckoning, a means to reenergize himself after The King of Comedy flopped and address the hang-ups with women that united many of his characters. Instead of the jealous brutes in Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, and Raging Bull, that film follows an ineffectual office drone, played by Griffin Dunne, as a hoped-for sexual liaison turns into a luckless, surreal night in New York City.

Set in the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, Atomic Blonde takes place in an underworld where the Cold War is over but the conflict continues, like the throbbing of a vestigial limb. In that respect—and perhaps that respect only—it belongs to the tradition of post-war thrillers like Carol Reed's The Third Man or Andrzej Wajda's Ashes and Diamonds, where danger and intrigue exist where they shouldn't and the players involved are enmeshed in self-doubt and crippling mission drift.

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