Movie Reviews

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A critic’s memo to the academy on the eve of Oscar nominations

Critics don’t get to vote on the Oscars, as the pundits and prognosticators are often fond of reminding us. But if we were given ballots, it’s safe to say that our individual choices would look markedly different from those of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at large. Part of the...

  • 'Reset' charts the leaps, strides and missteps of the now-departed director of the Paris Opera Ballet

    'Reset' charts the leaps, strides and missteps of the now-departed director of the Paris Opera Ballet

    Befitting its name, the gorgeous dance documentary “Reset” has multiple dual situations to deal with.   As that title indicates, “Reset” focuses on the 2014 arrival of Benjamin Millepied as director of the Paris Opera Ballet and the change of cultures he began to implement as revealed through the...

  • Betsy Brandt captures a bereft wife's confusion and grief in 'Claire in Motion'

    Betsy Brandt captures a bereft wife's confusion and grief in 'Claire in Motion'

    “Claire in Motion” begins with a husband kissing his wife goodbye as he prepares to leave for a solo camping trip. “Be careful,” she tells him, half-asleep. “You know me,” he says. She doesn’t, and the surprising depth of her not knowing turns out to be the key to this somber and quietly affecting...

  • 'Silence,' 'Elle' and more critics' picks, Jan. 13-19

    'Silence,' 'Elle' and more critics' picks, Jan. 13-19

    Movie recommendations from critics Kenneth Turan, Justin Chang and other reviewers. Click title for full review. Arrival Amy Adams stars in this elegant, involving science-fiction drama that is simultaneously old and new, revisiting many alien-invasion conventions but with unexpected intelligence,...

  • Ecology doc 'Sea of Hope' explores national marine monuments

    Ecology doc 'Sea of Hope' explores national marine monuments

    One of President Obama’s perhaps lesser-known achievements — the recent expansion of a national marine monument in his native Hawaii — receives a well-deserved spotlight in the lovely and vital, if decidedly brief, conservation documentary “Sea of Hope: America’s Underwater Treasures.” Director...

  • Mexican art-house horror film 'We Are the Flesh' is not for the faint of heart

    Mexican art-house horror film 'We Are the Flesh' is not for the faint of heart

    Nothing’s off-limits in writer-director Emiliano Rocha Minter’s “We Are the Flesh,” a gory and sexually explicit art-horror film that’s both a commentary on modern Mexico and an exercise in shock for shock’s sake. Though more likely to appeal to devotees of Carlos Reygadas (who co-produced) and...

  • 'Top Coat Cash' beats tough-guy cliches into the ground

    'Top Coat Cash' beats tough-guy cliches into the ground

    Like a fog that corrupts your ability to be entertained, “Top Coat Cash” is genre amateurishness that neither thrills nor makes sense. A dim-witted mélange of testosterone and cliché, it begs to be treated as a “how many mistakes can you count” game for any moviegoer tired of the base competence...

  • Derivative horror film 'The Snare' relies on cheap shocks

    Derivative horror film 'The Snare' relies on cheap shocks

    Horror films that traffic in creeping dread are generally more sophisticated than ones that just jolt audiences with jump-scares, but when done clumsily, they’re no less clichéd. Writer-director C.A. Cooper’s “The Snare” is admirably artful and oblique in putting its own twist on the haunted-house...

  • Not even Idris Elba can elevate the pedestrian ensemble drama '100 Streets'

    Not even Idris Elba can elevate the pedestrian ensemble drama '100 Streets'

    Several unremarkable stories set within the same square mile of London crisscross to form the ho-hum ensemble drama “100 Streets.” It’s six or so characters in search of a meaningful movie. Idris Elba, also a producer here, plays Max, a dashing ex-rugby superstar-turned-celebrity party boy whose...

  • Seedy thriller '48 Hours to Live' grooves better than it tells a story

    Seedy thriller '48 Hours to Live' grooves better than it tells a story

    It’s not often that you get to experience a grimy criminal underworld thriller with sweet techno beats and sick dance moves, but the film “48 Hours to Live” is just that. The script by Gregory Ramon Anderson, Rashad El Amin and Hannah Macpherson is a Frankenstein’s monster of “Crank,” “Step Up”...

  • Flawed techno-thriller 'The Crash' is ripped prematurely from tomorrow's headlines

    Flawed techno-thriller 'The Crash' is ripped prematurely from tomorrow's headlines

    The theme of cyber terrorism plays a timely role in “The Crash,” an intriguing if flawed techno-thriller that gets an effective boost from a high-caliber cast. Set in late 2017, the film stars Frank Grillo as Guy Clifton, a smug, federally indicted stock trader whose talents for market manipulation...

  • Horror-comedy 'Bad Kids of Crestview Academy' fails by any measure

    Horror-comedy 'Bad Kids of Crestview Academy' fails by any measure

    Sequels frequently follow the law of diminishing returns, but what are you left with when even the first film didn’t make a dent? In this case, the first movie, “Bad Kids Go to Hell,” will likely draw blank stares from anyone unfamiliar with its comic book source material. The second film, “Bad...

  • 'Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies' doesn't remotely live up to its title

    'Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies' doesn't remotely live up to its title

    As soon as filmmakers come up with a title as fun as “Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies,” most of their work has been done — at least as far as the marketing. It takes more effort to whip up a movie as wacky as the name. And although Austrian writer/director Dominik Hartl has the right spirit for...

  • Belgian crime drama 'The Ardennes' veers off course

    Belgian crime drama 'The Ardennes' veers off course

    Belgian filmmaker Robin Pront’s debut feature “The Ardennes” is an odd mixture of glum-chic style and emotional curiosity, a story of brotherly tensions that primarily comes off like a movie posing as a story of brotherly tensions. With elliptical brevity in the early minutes, we glean that a botched...

  • 'Monster Trucks' is a mild creature-feature ride on the eco-friendly side

    'Monster Trucks' is a mild creature-feature ride on the eco-friendly side

    It defies expectations that a film titled “Monster Trucks” bears a strong anti-corporate, conservationist message, but these aren’t the car-crunching monster trucks of yore, heralded by the siren calls of “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!” There are actual monsters inside these trucks, so the punny title...

  • Don’t let 'The Bye Bye Man' fool you, there’s fun to be had in the horror

    Don’t let 'The Bye Bye Man' fool you, there’s fun to be had in the horror

    First things first, let's get it out of the way — “The Bye Bye Man” is an absolutely ludicrous title for a horror movie. However, it's pretty obvious that the filmmakers are in on the joke. If we're laughing, it's with the movie, not at it. The most fun horror movies are often the ones that deliver...

  • The tragicomic whimsy of 'The Book of Love' is not enough

    The tragicomic whimsy of 'The Book of Love' is not enough

    As Maisie Williams’ narration starts in “The Book of Love” — in her best raspy bayou drawl — over a scene of boaters finding a mysterious journal lost at sea, it’s clear what kind of film this is, or that it’s trying to be. It’s a newish genre, a tragicomedy awash in whimsical realism. “The Book...

  • Jamie Foxx goes undercover in the moody but rote Vegas cop thriller 'Sleepless'

    Jamie Foxx goes undercover in the moody but rote Vegas cop thriller 'Sleepless'

    More honesty in criticism is one of my New Year’s resolutions, so here goes: “Sleepless,” a Las Vegas-set cop thriller starring Jamie Foxx, actually put me to sleep for a few minutes. Fortunately, like the character who bumps his head and almost drowns in a women’s spa, I wasn’t unconscious for...

  • There's a message to the madness of animated 'One Piece Film: Gold'

    There's a message to the madness of animated 'One Piece Film: Gold'

    If you’re under 30, “One Piece” may well be your favorite anime comedy-adventure; if you’re over 30, it’s the biggest franchise you’ve never heard of. Since Eiichiro Oda began the manga in 1999, almost 400 million “One Piece” books have been sold. The TV series has passed the 750-episode mark,...

  • Kate Beckinsale fights on and 'Underworld: Blood Wars' is as satisfyingly big, dumb and loud as its predecessors

    Kate Beckinsale fights on and 'Underworld: Blood Wars' is as satisfyingly big, dumb and loud as its predecessors

    With four previous films under its weapons-packed belt, “Underworld: Blood Wars” hasn’t lost any of its predecessors’ lust for blood. It won the gore-loving hearts of audiences with a particularly brutal final kill in the 2003 original, and this entry won’t disappoint hardcore fans. The fifth film...

  • Experimental Peruvian drama 'Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes)' blurs the lines of reality

    Experimental Peruvian drama 'Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes)' blurs the lines of reality

    Peru’s foreign language Academy Award submission “Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes)” troubles the line between our idea of reality and the realities of networked, online relationships. Junior (Terom), a porn-obsessed gamer, has a lot of conspiracy theories about the Mayan apocalypse and computer-simulated...

  • 'Two Lovers and a Bear' is a cinematically thrilling drama with hits and misses

    'Two Lovers and a Bear' is a cinematically thrilling drama with hits and misses

    Filmmaker Kim Nguyen goes out on an artistic limb with his new feature, setting the tale of raw, callow love against an Arctic landscape of hallucinatory beauty and deadly extremes. Not all of his gambles pay off, but “Two Lovers and a Bear” is above all thrillingly cinematic, even when its elements...

  • Drama 'Retake' intriguingly captures haunted gay man's replay of his past

    Drama 'Retake' intriguingly captures haunted gay man's replay of his past

    A potentially precious and maudlin conceit gets an absorbing and intriguing treatment in “Retake,” an impressive road drama about a middle-aged gay man who hires a young hustler to join him on a life-changing ride to the Grand Canyon. Tuc Watkins (TV’s “One Life to Live,” “Desperate Housewives”)...

  • Despite a bit of dance, slasher movie 'Pitchfork' doesn't stray from tedium

    Despite a bit of dance, slasher movie 'Pitchfork' doesn't stray from tedium

    Roughly 20 minutes into the barnyard slasher flick “Pitchfork,” the cast gathers on a dusty old Michigan farm and performs a fairly elaborate line-dance, halfway between Bollywood and a boot-scootin’ boogie. It’s a weird but welcome moment of personality in a horror exercise that’s otherwise tediously...

  • Coming-of-age comedy 'Hickey' is stuck in a '90s time warp

    Coming-of-age comedy 'Hickey' is stuck in a '90s time warp

    A generic coming-of-age comedy that feels inextricably stuck in the ’90s, “Hickey” serves as the feature debut of TV commercial director Alex Grossman and plays like a never aired UPN series pilot. Troy Doherty, an actor who possesses goofy charisma, plays the title role of Ryan “Hickey” Chess,...

  • WW II action comedy 'Railroad Tigers' makes one yearn for the Jackie Chan of old

    WW II action comedy 'Railroad Tigers' makes one yearn for the Jackie Chan of old

    The new Jackie Chan action comedy “Railroad Tigers” — about ragtag Chinese thieves taking on the Japanese Imperial army — is set in the early 1940s, but you wish it had been made in 1992, at the height of the Hong Kong superstar’s agility and comic prowess, and when his movies were last consistently...

  • Family drama 'Lost & Found' moves in mysterious, if not always satisfying, ways

    Family drama 'Lost & Found' moves in mysterious, if not always satisfying, ways

    The family drama “Lost & Found” opens with a series of old newspaper headlines that succinctly sketches the history of a remote Pacific Northwest Island developed in the 1960s by an eccentric World War II code breaker-turned-magnate named Richard Walton. Pay attention: Those headlines are clearer...

  • Romantic drama 'Between Us' blends familiar observations with experimental style

    Romantic drama 'Between Us' blends familiar observations with experimental style

    Writer/director Rafael Palacio Illingworth explores the complications of  a long-term relationship in the romantic drama “Between Us.” Olivia Thirlby and Ben Feldman are well matched as Dianne and Henry, a Los Angeles couple marching inexorably toward marriage and a lifetime together despite their...

  • Supernatural thriller 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ builds tension with pros Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch

    Supernatural thriller 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ builds tension with pros Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch

    As a horror exercise, the supernatural suspense picture “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is sometimes too low-key, favoring spooky atmosphere and slow-drip storytelling over visceral kicks. But as an acting showcase, the film’s a winner, getting plenty of juice from the performances of two reliable pros....

  • Too soon? Crime drama 'Arsenal' may be the worst movie of 2017

    Too soon? Crime drama 'Arsenal' may be the worst movie of 2017

    It’s just a handful of days in, but 2017 already has a viable contender for Worst Movie of the Year. Despite attracting some top-drawer talent, “Arsenal” is a brutally unpleasant, bottom-of-the-barrel crime drama that unsuccessfully attempts to drown the terrible dialogue and pedestrian direction...

  • Unseen films of 2016 feature Nick Cave, teens and the best use of a Stones track ever

    Unseen films of 2016 feature Nick Cave, teens and the best use of a Stones track ever

    Our reviewers weigh in with lists of under-seen movies from 2016, as well as trends they’d like to see more and less of. “A Bigger Splash”: Four dangerously beautiful people share an uneasy island idyll in Luca Guadagnino’s sensual siren song of a drama. Tilda Swinton’s character barely speaks...

  • Character-driven, kinetic filmmaking crosses genres in 2016

    Character-driven, kinetic filmmaking crosses genres in 2016

    Our reviewers weigh in with lists of under-seen movies from 2016, as well as trends they’d like to see more and less of. “Krisha”: A superior blend of cinematic vivacity and commanding star turn, this turbulent family holiday drama marked a killer debut for director Trey Edward Shults, who cast...

  • Paternity issues, a father figure and the rise of diversity in film for 2016

    Paternity issues, a father figure and the rise of diversity in film for 2016

    Our reviewers weigh in with lists of under-seen movies from 2016, as well as trends they’d like to see more and less of. “Too Late”: This unique, neo-noirish mystery, which unfolds in a series of five 20-minute, uncut — and nonlinear — takes, proves a technical and narrative masterwork from first-time...

  • Thrillers, a rock doc and a ghost story mesmerize, but bad horror drags down 2016

    Thrillers, a rock doc and a ghost story mesmerize, but bad horror drags down 2016

    Our reviewers weigh in with lists of little seen movies from the past year. “Only Yesterday”: Made in 1991 but finally released in America this year, this Studio Ghibli gem is a lovely ode to the female adolescent experience. Isao Takahata’s animated drama revels in memories big and small with...

  • 2016 presented some gripping documentaries and extraordinary visions

    2016 presented some gripping documentaries and extraordinary visions

    Our reviewers weigh in with lists of under-seen movies from 2016, as well as trends they’d like to see more and less of. “De Palma”: Brilliant, oft-misunderstood director Brian De Palma talks to fellow filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow about his tumultuous career, going movie by movie in...

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