A Dog’s Way Home Goes Astray with Its Reductive Message About Canine Discrimination, January 11 2019: “On the other hand, there is the work of the film’s director, critter-feature veteran Charles Martin Smith…Using deft pacing (despite its episodic nature, the movie never drags), a light touch, and a compassionate approach to all those that Bella encounters along her path, he manages to wring real emotion out of a story that likely would have devolved into trite sentimentality in most anyone else’s hands.”
Jason Momoa’s Aquaman Looks Like an Abercrombie Model, Talks Like a Sixth Grader, December 21 2018: “That is not to say that the latest entrant in the DC Extended Universe—the RC Cola of synergistic corporate superhero undertakings—doesn’t have its occasional B-movie pleasures.”
If Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True Is Accurate, Then Shakespeare Was One Giant Walking Cliche, December 20 2018: “Their extended scene together is touching, with McKellen trying to reconnect with the ‘Fair Youth’ he once was in Shakespeare’s eyes and in his sonnets. It concludes with both of them reciting in its entirety Sonnet 29 (‘When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes…’), giving the two Royal Shakespeare Company veterans a chance to have a genuine dueling banjos moment.”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Is a Thrilling, Mind-Being Joyride, November 30 2018: “Watching the film—an animated superhero movie that takes full advantage of the visual and thematic freedoms these genres provide—in the midst of the lugubrious “important movie” season feels like sneaking off into your parents’ attic to dip into that one lone box of comics that has survived the purge.”
JK Rowling Is Getting Richer Off The Crimes of Grindelwald, but Her Wizarding World Is Losing Steam, November 15 2018: “The world Rowling dreamt up during the Tony Blair era is getting no richer after this installment, but its creator and various producers certainly will be.”
The Dizzying Digital Wonderland in Ralph Breaks the Internet Will Give You Whiplash, November 14 2018: “Watching it in a crowded movie theater is the equivalent of being wickedly hungover while trying to Red Bull through a 9 a.m. class called “Marshall McLuhan in the Information Age,” shopping the Disney Store website for sales, and texting with your best friend.”
The Girl in the Spider’s Web Is the Female-Fronted Kick-Ass Movie We’ve Been Desperate For, November 7 2018: “While we patiently wait for Brie Larson in next year’s Captain Marvel,touted as the rare superhero film fronted by a woman, this film shows that day has already arrived.”
Rosamund Pike Pulls Off One of the Most Complex Roles of the Season as War Journalist Marie Colvin, November 4 2018: “It struck me in a raw, emotional way that documentaries on the subjects—including Talal Derki’s 2013 The Return to Homs and Heineman’s own take on the subject, 2017’s City of Ghosts—have not. I must have cried for a good twenty minutes after it was over, if not longer.”
The Pretentious Suspiria Remake Asks, ‘Is Female Modern Dance Demonic?,’ October 25 2018: “From its stunt casting of Swinton as an old dude to its furtive camera work to its pointlessly crude expository, horror movies seldom come laden with more empty pretentiousness than this graceless art house reworking of the 1977 Dario Argento cult classic of the same name.”
Paul Dano’s Wildlife Is About Adultery and a Forest Fire, But It’s a Slow Burn, October 18 2018: “The An Education actress lays everything bare—her stymied sexual identity, her desire for a career, her dependence on a husband who is as unpredictable as the fires he has no business fighting—and yet somehow remains utterly inscrutable.”
Should Terrorist Attacks Be Movie Material? With 22 July, Paul Greengrass Doesn’t Convince Us, October 11 2018: “His film winds up uncharacteristically slack, even while the story it tells remains vital and sadly relevant.”
The Hate U Give Might Be a Hard Watch for Its YA Audience—And Maybe It Should Be, October 5 2018: “So what age is too young? I took my (white) 11-year-old daughter on a school night, and she cried through most of it. That the threat of violence, both from police and criminals, hung over every happy moment of the Carter’s life was overpowering to her, as it should be. When I asked if it was too much, she pinched her fingers together: Yes, just a little.”
Private Life Is Comedy Gold, Which Is Why You Shouldn’t Have to Watch It on Netflix?, October 5 2018: “It should not be this way. We should not have to wait a decade for a new Tamara Jenkins movie. We should be treated to her urbane, profoundly intimate, and deeply funny worldview more often than we encounter, say, the census or a global recession.”
How Are We Supposed to Believe in the Smallfoot Yetis When They Don’t Have Noses?, September 27 2018: “Perhaps the fact that these creatures could thrive doing highly aerobic activity in an oxygen-deprived environment without the appendage that has been allowing mammals to breath easy since their evolution will not bother you. It did me, as well as one of my two 11-year-old companions—so much so that it took us out of the movie. (The other one didn’t notice.)”
A New Netflix Doc Presents Quincy Jones as an Agreeable Yoda, But No One Is Fooled, September 21 2018: “Race and death seem to be constantly on Jones’ mind, but these urgent matters are mainly ignored by the filmmakers, as if exploring substantive topics might harsh the chill mood—or ire a man they both obviously adore.”
The Real Killer in Chloë Sevigny’s New Lizzie Borden Biopic? Misogyny, September 14 2018: “There is a cool detachment to the presentation of the story that, while perhaps fitting for a movie about a crime so carefully calculated it defies imagination, nonetheless serves to undercut the film’s high stakes.”
A Simple Favor Is a Lot Like Real Estate Listings: Glossy, Mildly Interesting, September 14, 2018: “A Simple Favor looks flatter than a Zillow slideshow.”
What They Had Doesn’t Think Alzheimer’s Is Funny—But It Does Show the Humor We Need to Cope, September 12 2018: “Does mom answer the stapler instead of the phone? Go with it. Does she insist on calling her husband of 40 years her boyfriend? Well, technically he is. Does she make a pass at you on the way home from the hospital? OK, maybe that one you can deny.”
The Story of an Unsung Country Music Hero, Blaze Displays Ethan Hawke’s Directorial Chops, September 7 2018: “Hawke shares his Boyhood director’s lyrical curiosity and ability to let scenes breathe and take on lives of their own.”
Shockingly Predictable, The Nun Proves Old Habits…Aren’t Scary, September 6 2018: “There’s so much promise here that goes untapped for the least satisfying reason imaginable: the people who made the movie didn’t need to, because the film would still make money.”
The Happytime Murders: When Swearing Puppets Aren’t Enough, August 23 2018: “The Happytime Murders fatally confuses crassness with subversion.”
Peter Berg Can’t Keep His Camera Still, But You Can Still See Mile 22 Is a Mess, August 16 2018: “If you took the entire post-9/11 military industrial complex, cut it with terrorism paranoia from the same period, then snorted the whole thing up your nose and tried to make a bunch of artistic decisions, you would probably end up with something resembling Mile 22.”
The Dog Who Costars in Alpha Clearly Deserved More Screen Time, August 16 2018: “In the current film-going environment, a PG-13 movie spectacular this untethered from pre-existing corporate properties is something of a miracle, albeit a flawed one that is missing the feral spark that makes the best man and beast stories so powerful.”
Deep-Sea Shark Thriller The Meg Is a Shallow But Fun Creature Feature, August 10 2018: “It could have been the result of the world’s shortest and least inspired elevator pitch: “Jurassic Shark.” But on another, equally surface level: Oh, hell, yes.”
Some of the Best BlacKkKlansman Scenes Serve No Plot Purpose—And Save the Film, August 8 2018: “Some of the film’s strongest moments are those that don’t advance the plot at all, but rather shine a light on the culture that shapes the story like an invisible guiding hand.”
Christopher Robin Is So Depressing That Eeyore Actually Livens Things Up, August 3 2018: “While I have not seen the entire opus (though anyone who has ever lived with a toddler will feel like they have) it is safe to say that there has never been a more morose or less lively a rendering than Christopher Robin.”
Like Father Has No Idea What Kind of Movie It’s Trying to Be, August 2 2018: “Dante famously imagined purgatory as a seven tiered mountain in the southern hemisphere, but that was only because he never got a chance to see Like Father.”
All Hail Kate McKinnon as She Successfully Balances Diarrhea Jokes With Gory Murder, August 2 2018: “McKinnon carries within her nimble frame a fusion reactor of delight and can-you-believe-we-are-getting-away-with-this gusto that elevates audience enthusiasm whenever it starts to waver, something that happens routinely as the film’s body count climbs progressively skyward.”
The Gushy Violence of The Equalizer 2 Lands Differently This Time, July 18 2018: “Seeing Denzel Washington fillet a host of bad guys with corkscrews, garden clippers and even a drill, as the camera luxuriated over the details, was a cinematic experience you never thought you needed—until you saw it.”
Joaquin Phoenix Is Restrained and Exacting in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, July 12 2018: “Anchored by a Phoenix performance that is restrained, exacting and produced without a drop of sentiment, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is one of the more engrossing examinations of the long yet thrilling slog of recovery, a process that seldom gets its cinematic due.”
For a Classic Blockbuster Concept, Skyscraper Has Uncanny Cultural Relevance, July 11 2018: “This is worldwide summer entertainment at its most cynical and bombastic, all of it sold by a stalwart Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson using the over-aggressive earnestness of a late-night TV pitchman.”
Hotel Transylvania 3 Is the Closest Thing Today’s Kids Have to Classic Looney Tunes, July 10 2018: “No current animation franchise lays stronger claim to the snap, crackle and pop of cartoon entertainment than Hotel Transylvania. With its crew of misfits and its penchant for screen-stretching chases studded with visual gags, it exists in a sweet spot between the rudimentary character comedy of Hanna-Barbera and the visual anarchy of Looney Tunes.”
Comedy Was Having a Cold Streak. Sorry to Bother You Just Ended It., July 3 2018: “From there, things get really nuts.”
Sicario: Day of the Soldado is Relentlessly and Pointlessly Disturbing, June 29 2018: “The soundtrack, like the movie, is unrelenting, filled with dread, and never builds towards anything resembling a satisfying conclusion.”
Paul Rudd Brings the Party to the More Serious Sequel, Ant Man and the Wasp, June 27 2018: “As long Paul Rudd is invited, it’s still a party.”
Couldn’t Mackenize Davis Have Taken the Metro in Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town?, June 21 2018: “Troublingly, the L.A. the movie presents will be more familiar to people who know the city from the Missing Persons song or misguided New York Times think pieces than the one that actually exists today.”
Tag Is a Toxic, Clueless Example of Male Privilege, June 14 2018: "It is not terribly surprising that they made a movie about grown men playing the same aggressive and destructive game of tag for over 20 years. It is an idea that carries the pungent stink of inevitability.
If Director X's SuperFly Has a Social Justice Message, It Gets Lost in the Glitter, June 13 2018: "There is something narcotic and languid about his pacing and camera work that feels purposeful and stylistic when the script is focused but comes off as stumbling and haphazard when the story looses momentum, which is often."
You Rarely See a Sequel Like Incredibles 2, June 11 2018: "Brad Bird controls every aspect of this movie with many shades of humor, the ability to address important topics with a light touch, and a gracefully moving camera that responds to the action with the flowing artistry of Ginger Rogers following Fred Astaire in a waltz."
The Mister Rogers Documentary is What the World Needs Right Now, June 5 2018: "Despite sometimes coming off as a kind of 20th century Jesus in a cardigan, Mister Rogers is not coming back. But it looks like, as demonstrated in this remarkable film, he left a few things behind that just might be able to help."
Johnny Knoxville's Action Point is Like a Sad Jackass Meetup, June 1 2018: "The ball-smashing libertarianism on display in the new comedy Action Point—which the former Jackass majordomo stars in, co-wrote and produced—is one that bemoans the nanny state, helicopter parenting, and “corporate douchebags” who litigate the fun and creativity out of our lives."
Solo Builds a Sanitized Corporate Backstory for Everyone's Favorite Flyboy, May 24 2018: "Solo: A Star Wars Story won’t ruin anyone’s childhood. But it won’t make it much more interesting either."
Melissa McCarthy's Life of the Party Shows Gags Can't Stand in for Substance, May 11 2018: "Removal of the specs and a quick brush out of the mom perm is apparently enough to transform her, a la Sandy in Grease, into a party animal ready to grind on the dance floor with a cute frat brother."
The Only Living Boy in New York is Glazed in White Rich Male Privilege, August 9 2017: "This may be the absolute worst time in American history to make a sex fantasy for a privileged white bro child, which is all this light variation on the theme from The Graduate ultimately is."
Quiet Columbus Crafts a Cinematic Love Story for Mid-Century Modernist Architecture, August 3 2017: "This stroll through a living museum of Modern masterpieces has a grandeur and precision that deserves to be witnessed in a movie theater. Save The Dark Tower for VOD; get in the car to see Columbus."
Part Fiction, Part Documentary, Yiddish Menashe Lacks Cohesion, July 27 2017: "Considering the talent involved, and the rare opportunity presented to visit intimately with people many of us know best as fellow strap hangers on the subway, both we and them deserve a little bit better."
Work of Art War for the Planet for the Apes Redeems Summer Spectacle Season, July 13 2017: "This is a morally and artistically complex film, one that expertly melds high and low, significant and silly."
Lady Macbeth: An Odd Little Period Thriller Doesn't Quite Come Together, July 7 2017: "As much as the rather dimwitted Sebastian enraptures Katherine, there is a sense that she chose to have an affair to break the monotony of her day, which is largely consumed by napping. Indeed, Sebastian’s initial come-on to Katherine is to inquire if she is bored. Turns out, she was."
13 Minutes Is a Gripping Melodrama about a Lost Hero of the Resistance, June 30 2017: "It is high time that we not only knew Georg Elser’s name and story, but took a moment to recognize that his was a true act of heroism."
Spider-Man: Homecoming Is Good Fun, But Tony Stark Has Got to Go, June 30 2017: "When Downey Jr. first played the playboy defense contractor almost a decade ago, Stark’s flaws were fascinating, informed as they were by the actor’s own troubled past. Now he just seems like a petulant jerk with way too much power."
The Big Sick Is as Honest, Funny and Romantic As We Need It to Be, June 23 2017: "By borrowing from their real life, Gordon and Nanjiani have crafted the rare romance that sparkles with real life emotion. By the time we reach its well-earned ending, you are left with the powerful sense that for this pair, things have only just begun."
Transformers: The Last Knight Is Sloppy, Stupid and Quite Possibly Evil, June 21 2017: "It is loud and dumb and it expects its fans to be the same in its defense— to decry anyone who might take issue with it as elitist members of this summer’s no fun squad."
Beatriz at Dinner Boasts Dynamite Performances, But About That Ending…, June 9 2017: "Who would have guessed that Hayek and Lithgow — and not, say, a pair of alien-born transforming cars — would provide this summer’s most compelling and dynamic head-to-head face off."
My Cousin Rachel is a Bloodless Gothic Romance, June 8 2017: "Both the film and the chemistry generated between Weisz and Claflin feel about as smoldering and lustful as a tub of margarine."
Captain Underpants Is an Inspired and Subversive Piece of Animated Silliness, June 2 2017: "…Perhaps you just appreciate a good night of fun at the movies, which this candy colored and pure hearted collection of potty humor serves up with enough postmodern glee and subversion that it is likely to entertain those of us who don’t drink sugar water out of Mylar pouches."
A Woman's Life Is a Deeply Felt, Exquisitely Rendered French Drama, May 12 2017: "It’s a little long, profoundly sad, and filled with moments of minutiae that we are forced to interpret rather than have their intended meanings stapled to them like garage sale signs onto telephone poles."
Risk Is Muddled, Complicated Peek Into Julian Assange's Toxic Narcissism, May 5 2017: "We may not get a perfect documentary with Risk, but at least we get a very real and truthful sense of just how hard these kinds of movies are to make."
The Fate of the Furious, or Stop Worrying and Love the Fast and Furious Films, April 13 2017: "Jason Statham's balletic airborne martial arts dance while holding a baby is not only one of cinema’s cleverest John Woo tributes, but a joyfully absurd way to kick off the summer movie season."
The Boss Baby: The Meme Pretending to Be a Movie, March 30 2017: "I guess baby butts are funny or cute or something, but only in the right context and in far more limited doses than this."
Spring 2017's Top 10 Unmissable Movies, March 29 2017: "In contrast to his gangsta image, Tupac Shakur could at times be a real goofball."
Un Padre No Tan Padre Is a Pleasing But Familiar Family Comedy from Mexico, January 27 2017: "By the time it's over, you feel a bit like you don't want the vacation to end even though it rained for the last few days."
13th Is a Dense, Compelling Encyclopedia of Woke, November 7 2016: "It feels like the manifestation of that ghostly Encyclopedia of Woke many of us have been grasping for since the Black Lives Matter movement sprung up following the acquittal of the man who killed Trayvon Martin."
Antithetical Anti-Hazing Frat Film Goat Fails to Get It, September 14 2016: "By the end you feel like one of the pledges disappointed by the outcome of all that humiliation. Why did we even bother? Dude, I have no idea. I have no idea, bro."
Author, The JT Leroy Story Is a Compelling Exploration of Deception and the 1990s, September 6 2016: "The film effectively explores the nature of identity, celebrity, and the creative process in a way that is satisfying, even if many of the questions it raises don't get entirely answered."
Southside with You is Powerfully Romantic, Despite Classic Biopic Pitfalls, August 25 2016: "There are instances in Southside with You that inspire incredulous groans and seem lifted from a parody of a biopic of the early life of an Incredibly Important Person."
War Dogs: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing, August 19 2016: "Much of the early film is spent with the boys scouring the government bid website like a couple of Hummel collectors looking to make a few bucks flipping figurines on eBay."
Imperium, Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Is a Sadly Relevant Crash Course in Racism, August 19 2016: "Still, there are moments when Imperium is plenty cheesy. Most of them come courtesy of Toni Collette as Radcliffe's FBI handler; she chews gum in every scene – presumably because the scenery did not provide enough sustenance."
Kubo and the Two Strings Review: A Cool But Flawed Stop-Motion Masterpiece, August 18, 2016: "The film can strut its Joseph-Campbell-by-way-of-Akira-Kurosawa pedigree like a third-year film student and sometimes seems to prefer to astound and amaze rather than entertain."
In Florence Foster Jenkins, Meryl Street and Hugh Grant Make Cluelessness a Virtue, August 16, 2016: "The film belongs to the iron lady."
Disney's Pete's Dragon Reboot Pits Mickey Against Magic, August 16, 2016: "While Pete's Dragon does manage to take flight and occasionally soar, like the overgrown golden retriever at its center, it just can't seem to stick the landing."
Indignation: A Sexy Philip Roth Romp, July 27, 2016: "Finally, a Philip Roth book that has been properly adapted into a movie!"
Into the Forest: Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood Make a Home in the Dark, July 27 2016: "One of the more intimate and thoughtful takes on the post-apocalypse in cinematic memory."
What Mr. Right Gets Wrong: Pretty Much Everything, April 2 2016: Mr. Right isn't a bad movie as much as it is two-and-a-half, maybe three bad movies playing all at the same time."
Louder than Bombs: A Moving Take on Family, War and Loss, April 8 2016: "This is a movie that captures, with singular intimacy and humanity, just how difficult it can be to communicate with the people you love most."
What to Stream: Future True Detective Director Finds the Gothic Horror in Jane Eyre, September 2 2014: "This is Jane Eyre should be, a rough and tumble proto-feminist film noir that's closer to a horror story than a Victorian romance."
Plate Throwers, Donkey Acts, and Jerry Lewis. Why Wouldn't We Want You to See Funny Bones?: "If it all sounds a bit cute, I assure you it’s not. Funny Bones comes off as profoundly personal on behalf of its Blackpool-born director. But cute? No movie that features Jerry Lewis standing on a beach telling his comedian son that he isn’t funny could ever be branded as such."
If Amy Broke Your Heart, Brace Yourself for Senna: "This is a movie electric with you-are-there immediacy, whether behind the wheel of a terrifyingly fast car on the streets of Monaco, or at a testy drivers-only meeting that teems with love and resentment."
Ronin Outsmarted (And Outdrive) the Average Action Film: "My favorite hero moment of any action flick is the self-stitch. You know, that scene where the fallen champion grits his teeth, yanks a bullet from his belly or arm, then calmly sews it all up again like a grandmother darning a sock…The king of the self-stitch (or the near self-stitch) is Robert DeNiro in the 1998 gem Ronin."
The Babadook is the Horror Film for Adults: "This is the most genuinely terrifying thing to come out of movie darkness since Norman Bates first started chattering on about his taxidermy collection."
You ARE Being Watched; So You Should Watch The Lives of Others: "If you are are looking for a bit more ice–and verisimilitude–in your Cold War cocktail, you can do no better than 2006's The Lives of Others."
How Walk Hard Made Every Other Music Biopic Obsolete: "What Austin Powers did for James Bond, Dewey Cox does for every music legend whose life story has been adapted for the screen. And even though it's complete fiction, it's a pretty accurate history of rock n'roll."
The Darkly Obsessive Big Fan Made Us Even Bigger Fans of Patton Oswalt: "The cynicism in Big Fan's soul is real and it's pitch black: the movie's message, at least in part, is that for common folk, our only heroic option is to take our beat downs gladly and and without complaint. But the film's most shocking element may just be its tenderness."
The Haunting is Scorcese's Favorite Horror Film. It Should Be Yours Too: "Like the very best films that freak us out–Psycho and The Shining top that list–The Haunting's scares are the result of the meticulous planning of a master craftsman. Wise–who won two Oscars for directing and producing West Side Story two years earlier and was nominated for editing Citizen Kane–is firing on all cylinders with this genre piece."
Robot Love: If Frank Langella Can Form a Bond with a Robot, Anyone Can: "With its view of technology as a potential cure for rather than cause of human loneliness, Robot & Frank would make an inspired double feature with Spike Jonze's more celebrated Her. Like most art worth your time, heart, and dollar, both films are about the triumph of love at its most unlikely."
The Kinda-Documentary Stories We Tell Is About Everything that Matters: "This is a movie that shows us that any answer to a question is itself another question, and that the stories we tell are as much a mixture of the joy and longing that animate our spirit as they are truthful recollections of the past."
The Savages Might Be the Greatest Philip Seymour Hoffman Performance You Missed: "The Savages is a 1927 Yankees kind of film, where every element–the intimately framed cinematography, the precisely realized set design, the piano-based score–performs at its peak. This is especially true of the acting: for all his Capotes and Masters, Hoffman was always most affecting when playing a character most like himself."
The Mad Men to Watch While You Wait for the Other Mad Men to Return: "It's a happy film about sadness, a film with a dark heart that looks like a bag of Skittles. Whether on a Caddie fin, the plush carpet of a row house, or the evening jacket of Fine Young Cannibals frontman Roland Gift, the colors in Tin Men pop and glisten, just like Levinson's language."
Let the Right One In is a Stunning Meditation on Childhood Love, Loneliness, and Um…Vampires: "In many ways, Let the Right One In is a blood-soaked take on classic Peanuts, only Charlie Brown gets his happy ending and the little red-haired girl scales walls and rips faces off of neighborhood drunks."
Before Midnight and Now You See Me, June 10 2013: "Hawke and Delpy respond to each other with such easy intimacy that it's impossible to imagine that they haven't spent the past nine years together."
Morning Glory and Unstoppable, November 22, 2010: "It's fun watching Rachel McAdams' unsinkable spunk square off with Harrison Ford's epic grump, but the film lacks the amorous fizz that powers the best romantic comedies."
Review: Kestral's Eye, January 30 2000: "In what could be a textbook on how to construct a story without plot or dialogue, Kristersson pieces together a cohesive narrative about two animals' quest for survival and proliferation in an indifferent world."
Review: Cremaster 2, October 25 1999: "In crafting American pop-culture detritus into an idiosyncratic biography, Barney's experimental film is not unlike its more mainstream counterparts, such as Being John Malkovich."
Review: The Old Man and the Sea, September 13 1999: "While Petrov and the film's producers deserve admiration for undertaking such a painstaking and ambitious independent project, Old Man leaves one wondering what Hollywood animators could do with Imax's seven-story screens."