Wind River is a satisfying and well-crafted slow-burn thriller set in an all too often ignored part of America. Director Taylor Sheridan clearly took influence from Scandinavian neo-noirs, and, while the writing is not as memorable as the best of those films, the result of his efforts is a solid movie which brings attention to an important social issue.
Killing Them Softly is a reasonably clever criticism of American capitalism thinly disguised as a gangster movie. While it has all the subtlety of a shotgun blast and is at times intentionally unpleasant, it makes its point quite effectively.
Gladiator is the epic story of a general who is enslaved and forced to fight in the Coliseum in a low fantasy world loosely based on the Roman Empire. Jokes about the complete lack of historical accuracy aside, Gladiator has some strong points - Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) makes for a decent villain, the camerawork is strong, and the action, while occasionally spoiled by the dated slow-motion effects, is satisfying. Unfortunately, the screenplay is entirely unbefitting a Best Picture winner. It is full of pseudo-profundities and is unnecessarily depressing, fridging the main character's family almost immediately in the most horrific way possible. Worse, the awful events Maximus experiences provoke little character development beyond making him a bit bitter. He is not the only one with vague characterization: the screenplay provides little in the way of coherent character motivations for the actors (save perhaps Phoenix) to work with, and perhaps consequently, almost every line is delivered like a speech or soliloquy even when this is inappropriate for the context. Gladiator is an alright film if you want to turn your brain off and enjoy the sights, but critics often present the film as intellectually-engaging art, a modern Spartacus, which it most definitely is not.
Scanners is most known for the scene in which a man's head literally explodes, but it has much more to offer than simply body horror. The film has a lot to say about social progress, generational differences, and the general paranoia of the '70s and early '80s. Featuring an excellent score by Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore and the shocking gore effects one would expect from a Cronenberg film, Scanners manages to be both transgressive SF horror and a thoughtful meditation on the anxieties of the era.