Movie Reviews

Latest Movie Reviews

  • Justin Chon's drama 'Gook' revisits '92 L.A. riots with insight

    Justin Chon's drama 'Gook' revisits '92 L.A. riots with insight

    As its wounded, defiant provocation of a title suggests, “Gook” looks head-on at racial animosity, American-style. Set on the first day of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Justin Chon’s drama is uneven but bristling with life, and it offers a new perspective on a calamitous moment, one whose 25th anniversary...

  • Struggling actor's life crumbles in the weirdly charming comedy 'Lemon'

    Struggling actor's life crumbles in the weirdly charming comedy 'Lemon'

    What is the “lemon” of director/co-writer Janicza Bravo’s deliriously deadpan feature debut “Lemon”? Is it the turquoise jalopy of protagonist Isaac (co-writer Brett Gelman) that breaks down on him in a moment of extreme distress, or is it, frankly, the man himself? Partners in life and comedy,...

  • 'Game of Thrones' star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau breaks bad in crime thriller 'Shot Caller'

    'Game of Thrones' star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau breaks bad in crime thriller 'Shot Caller'

    The prison-tinged action drama “Shot Caller” arrives at a tension-filled national moment when a protagonist with WHITE PRIDE tattooed on his back might not be the antihero audiences care to see. The ink is a sign of the soul-tainting effects of the penitentiary system on a successful businessman...

  • Soviet-set drama 'The Fencer' deftly mixes sports and politics

    Soviet-set drama 'The Fencer' deftly mixes sports and politics

    “The Fencer,” Finland’s official Academy Award entry for 2016, is an effective mix of underdog sports drama and political thriller, inspired by the true-life story of celebrated fencing champ Endel Nelis. The 1953-set film finds Estonian resister Endel (a finely understated Märt Avandi) forced...

  • 'Women Who Kill' is a fresh twist on indie comedy, romance and serial killers

    'Women Who Kill' is a fresh twist on indie comedy, romance and serial killers

    Filled with a dry wit driven by its writer-director-star Ingrid Jungermann, “Women Who Kill” is a darkly comic indie that is a distinct product of its place and time. Its location is Park Slope in Brooklyn, and much of the drama takes place in a co-op grocery store, a quintessential neighborhood...

  • Muddled sci-fi thriller 'What Happened to Monday' is still fun and has Noomi Rapace times seven

    Muddled sci-fi thriller 'What Happened to Monday' is still fun and has Noomi Rapace times seven

    Anyone who already misses the clone-tastic science-fiction series “Orphan Black” may ease their suffering a bit with “What Happened to Monday,” a two-fisted futuristic thriller with Noomi Rapace playing seven lookalike siblings with differing personalities. The film isn’t as provocative as it means...

  • Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp star in haunting drama 'Planetarium'

    Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp star in haunting drama 'Planetarium'

    Although “Planetarium” may not wholly satisfy as the kind of statement film it so ambitiously aims to be, this intriguing drama, confidently directed by Rebecca Zlotowski (who co-wrote with Robin Campillo) proves a singular, at times haunting experience. In the late-1930s, as Nazi Germany tenses...

  • Continent-hopping caper flick 'The Adventurers' is no match for its precursors

    Continent-hopping caper flick 'The Adventurers' is no match for its precursors

    At every turn, the Chinese globe-trotting heist flick “The Adventurers,” with Andy Lau as international master thief Zhang and Jean Reno as his Javert, calls to mind better, craftier precursors. There’s the car chase along the coast of France that isn’t as enjoyable as the nail-biters in “The Transporter”...

  • Hostage drama '6 Days' proves duller than real-life

    Hostage drama '6 Days' proves duller than real-life

    As Ben Affleck’s “Argo” effectively demonstrated, movies based on real-life events such as the 444-day Iran hostage crisis can be every bit as tensely unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining as their entirely fictional counterparts. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the considerably...

  • Found-footage horror film 'The Monster Project' is logic- and scare-free

    Found-footage horror film 'The Monster Project' is logic- and scare-free

    When done well, found-footage horror films are effective and inventive, bringing the audience intimately into the action without the façade of narrative distance. Unfortunately, “The Monster Project” is one that breaks the rules of the subgenre, and it seems to do so more as a result of laziness...

  • 'Lycan' recycles werewolf and horror formulas with little payoff

    'Lycan' recycles werewolf and horror formulas with little payoff

    An indistinct muddle of werewolf mythology, slasher formula and “teenagers in the woods” clichés, the horror pastiche “Lycan” might’ve been a passable picture if writer-director Bev Land had settled on what he was making. While its DIY spirit is admirable, this tedious shocker feels like it was...

  • California coastal drama 'Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey' is one long journey

    California coastal drama 'Liza, Liza Skies Are Grey' is one long journey

    A nostalgic look at first love on the open road in the ’60s, “Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey” feels like the work of a first-time filmmaker, though it comes from veteran writer-director Terry Sanders. With a résumé primarily populated by documentary films, two-time Oscar winner Sanders might be forgiven...

  • 'The Ice Cream Truck' soft serves its horror

    'The Ice Cream Truck' soft serves its horror

    The arty slasher picture “The Ice Cream Truck” proceeds from the oft-deployed premise that the suburbs are inherently creepy. While writer-director Megan Freels Johnston makes some unusual choices that set her film apart from run-of-the-mill low-budget horror, too much of her movie feels warmed-over....

  • Portrait of an artist unraveling in horror comedy 'Dave Made a Maze'

    Portrait of an artist unraveling in horror comedy 'Dave Made a Maze'

    While the dramatic underpinnings could have used more work, the labyrinth that’s the focus of “Dave Made a Maze” is truly an amazingly inventive sight to behold. Determined to finally complete something of significance, frustrated artist Dave (Nick Thune) pours every ounce of his creative juices...

  • A glamorous Penélope Cruz can't transcend spotty comedy 'The Queen of Spain'

    A glamorous Penélope Cruz can't transcend spotty comedy 'The Queen of Spain'

    By turns sedate and breathless, the pitch-perfect 1950s newsreel footage that opens Fernando Trueba’s new comedy promises an intriguing mix of fiction and history. But though “The Queen of Spain” looks terrific and features a warm, glamorous performance by Penélope Cruz, that promise is fulfilled...

  • Medieval action film ‘Pilgrimage’ is beautifully shot, powerfully violent

    Medieval action film ‘Pilgrimage’ is beautifully shot, powerfully violent

    Faith and fear collide in the medieval action film “Pilgrimage.” For all its bloody and violent genre trappings, “Pilgrimage” — directed by Brendan Muldowney and written by Jamie Hannigan — is a gorgeously shot film that carefully renders the details of this fascinating historical period. The year...

  • Dazzling visuals in fantasy-adventure 'Once Upon a Time'

    Given that the lavish Chinese import “Once Upon a Time” is about as sensible as a “Transformers” movie, it’s best not to attempt to fathom too much of what goes on in this colorful fantasy-adventure and simply take in its lushly shot and designed visuals, eye-popping effects, lively action and...

  • Siri-type app turns lethal in 'Bedeviled' 

    Siri-type app turns lethal in 'Bedeviled' 

    Bringing new meaning to the phrase “killer app,” the monster movie “Bedeviled” imagines a malevolent version of Siri coming to life to scare teenagers to death. What ensues is a competently made take on the slasher picture, but never as cutting-edge as the premise promises. Brothers Abel and Burlee...

  • 'The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature' is more, and less, than the average animated sequel

    'The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature' is more, and less, than the average animated sequel

    You never know where you’re going to find the most radical ideas. A sub-par animated film sequel intended to quiet the kids for a few hours on a weekend afternoon burns with a proletarian rage. You’d never expect that from “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature,” but somehow, it’s true. First, a warning...

  • A well-ordered world is upended in the exquisite 'In This Corner of the World'

    A well-ordered world is upended in the exquisite 'In This Corner of the World'

    “In This Corner of the World” is as cozy as it sounds. Until it isn't. A prizewinner at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, this Japanese feature is a low-key triumph, a surprisingly affecting epic of the everyday written and directed by Sunao Katabuchi, a protégé of Hayao Miyazaki...

EDITION: California | U.S. & World
68°