Lars von Trier’s latest provocation is less an erotic epic and more an elegant meditation on good and evil. Seligman (Stellan Skarsgaard) finds Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) lying in the street. He takes her home, and she confesses her sins to him. Curiously, Seligman compares Joe’s losing her virginity and seducing men on a train to fly-fishing. More curiously, while Nymphomaniac showcases genital montages and some explicit sex, the best vignettes are a darkly funny sequence featuring Mrs. H. (Uma Thurman) visiting her husband at Joe’s, and a tender episode involving Joe’s hospitalized father (Christian Slater). While Joe may be numb to feeling, viewers will certainly be stimulated by this first installment of Nymphomaniac. —Gary M. Kramer
Wes Anderson’s eighth feature film is, well, Wes Anderson-y. How many filmmakers make you conjure their style with the mere utterance of their name? Tarantino, maybe. Altman, absolutely, but he’s gone. Anderson’s meticulously crafted worlds are unlike anyone else’s. Sure, they are precious, yet when he’s on, he’s a joyful master. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a magnificent lark set between World Wars—a microscopic farce about the end of not just civilization but a civilized way of life (embodied, imperiously, by a spirited Ralph Fiennes). Unless you absolutely loathe Anderson’s sophisticated storybook fables, you’ll want to check in to this hotel immediately. —Dan Loughry
Jason Bateman’s a dick. Not the actor, but his character Guy Trilby, a middle-aged malcontent in Bateman’s directorial feature debut, Bad Words. Trilby finds a loophole in the spelling bee guidelines and proceeds to antagonize the spelling bee bureaucrats, overzealous parents and pre-teen competitors that he undermines mercilessly. Andrew Dodge’s screenplay is cruel and concise, Bateman’s direction assured and his rapport with his actors flawless—especially Kathryn Hahn as an investigative journalist and Rohan Chand as the young loner who befriends Trilby. Bad Words is wildly inappropriate on many levels, but also one of the best comedies in recent years. —D.L.