Movie Reviews

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1988 Armenian tragedy plays out in 'Earthquake'

“Earthquake” proves an earnest, deeply felt drama set against the 1988 calamity that devastated a large swath of northern Armenia (then part of the Soviet Union) and caused more than 25,000 deaths. What the film lacks in high-octane disaster-movie thrills it makes up for with its focus on personal...

  • In documentary 'Mifune: The Last Samurai,' Spielberg, Scorsese and others shed light on the legendary Japanese actor

    In documentary 'Mifune: The Last Samurai,' Spielberg, Scorsese and others shed light on the legendary Japanese actor

    Toshiro Mifune was a name to conjure with. A galvanic performer who was as present in his roles as anyone who ever lived, the legendary Japanese actor is the subject of "Mifune: The Last Samurai," a smart and thoughtful examination of who the man was and how he got that way. As directed by Oscar-winning...

  • '77 Minutes' is a gritty immersion into grim criminal territory

    '77 Minutes' is a gritty immersion into grim criminal territory

    The 1984 massacre at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, Calif., in which a gunman killed 21 people and wounded 19 others, is revisited in the tough and emotional, if slightly overlong, documentary “77 Minutes.”  Although this horrific event, then the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, may seem a bit...

  • Mackenzie Davis brings an edge to the sharp vacation thriller 'Always Shine'

    Mackenzie Davis brings an edge to the sharp vacation thriller 'Always Shine'

    The frenemies at the center of the sleek psychological thriller “Always Shine” are actresses of the same age. That’s where their similarities end — unless you count their mutual envy and the rules of female comportment that neither can escape. Quickly and venomously, a jaunt to Big Sur brings their...

  • 'Solitary' shines light on a murky corner of the justice system

    'Solitary' shines light on a murky corner of the justice system

    The penetrating “Solitary” is a sobering account of life (without parole) inside the Red Onion, a super-maximum security prison ensconced in Virginia’s Appalachians. Home to the worst-behaving offenders in the state, most sent from other institutions for violating prison rules, the facility sequesters...

  • 'Incarnate,' the latest Blumhouse shocker, takes a little too long to get to its chills

    'Incarnate,' the latest Blumhouse shocker, takes a little too long to get to its chills

    The latest mid-budget Blumhouse thriller “Incarnate” is a demonic possession picture for folks who’ve seen too many devil movies, and are hankering for anything new. Dense with plot and mythology, the film is refreshingly unpredictable — if only because guessing what comes next would require understanding...

  • In 'SiREN' a bachelor party goes oh, so wrong

    In 'SiREN' a bachelor party goes oh, so wrong

    Based on one of the best segments from the hit horror anthology “V/H/S,” the slick thriller “SiREN” loses the found-footage format of the original but keeps the concept of randy bros getting in over their heads. Director Gregg Bishop re-imagines David Bruckner’s grubby “Amateur Night” into something...

  • The dreary ‘Run the Tide’ is no place for likable Taylor Lautner

    The dreary ‘Run the Tide’ is no place for likable Taylor Lautner

    Still struggling to find his place in a post-“Twilight” universe, likable Taylor Lautner tries a family drama on for size, but the bland, incessantly mopey “Run the Tide” will make you pine for his pouty Jacob the werewolf days. Lautner plays Rey, a quietly resentful gas station employee who has...

  • Offbeat ‘Fools’ weaves a romantic fantasy world for two troubled strangers

    Offbeat ‘Fools’ weaves a romantic fantasy world for two troubled strangers

    Two imaginative misanthropes connect over a wordless interaction on a Chicago train in the offbeat romantic drama “Fools,” written and directed by Benjamin Meyers. Both Sam (Michael Szeles) and Susan (Mary Cross), find themselves in various states of arrested development. Sam is continually getting...

  • Railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor: That's 'Evan's Crime'

    Railroaded by an overzealous prosecutor: That's 'Evan's Crime'

    It’s a bit of a structural and thematic hodgepodge, and a few key moments feel cursorily handled, but “Evan’s Crime” remains an effectively scrappy and involving us-against-them drama. Evan White (Douglas Smith) is a 20-year-old Baton Rouge, La., college student and musician with a pretty girlfriend...

  • Beneath the shiny facade of 'Anonymous,' nothing but emptiness

    Beneath the shiny facade of 'Anonymous,' nothing but emptiness

    The biggest con that “Anonymous” features isn’t any of the identity theft, credit card forgery or upending of the global financial systems its unlikable characters commit; instead, it’s the wool pulled over the eyes of an unsuspecting audience. Director Akan Satayev’s hacker thriller looks gorgeous,...

  • Documentarian Greg Reitman traverses the globe looking for enlightenment in the warm and fuzzy 'Rooted in Peace'

    Documentarian Greg Reitman traverses the globe looking for enlightenment in the warm and fuzzy 'Rooted in Peace'

    Setting out to determine if human beings have the potential for enlightenment, “Rooted in Peace” finds environmental filmmaker Greg Reitman embarking on a lively, if peripatetic, quest for personal betterment.   Acknowledging that the world is a violent place, Reitman -- clutching a bonsai tree...

  • The activist documentary 'Behind 'The Cove'' falls short of the mark

    The activist documentary 'Behind 'The Cove'' falls short of the mark

    In this era of the activist documentary, you’d think we’d have more rebuttal movies, the documentary equivalent to answer songs. Considering the shocked reaction to “The Cove,” for instance -- Louis Psihoyos’ Oscar-winning agitprop smash exposing mass dolphin killings in the Japanese fishing village...

  • 'Solitary' chillingly looks at life at a supermax prison in the Appalachian mountains

    'Solitary' chillingly looks at life at a supermax prison in the Appalachian mountains

    The penetrating “Solitary” is a sobering account of life (without parole) inside the Red Onion, a super-maximum security prison ensconced in Virginia’s Appalachians. Home to the worst-behaving offenders in the state, most sent from other institutions for violating prison rules, the facility sequesters...

  • Hong Kong action auteur Ringo Lam returns to the scene with overblown 'Sky on Fire'

    Hong Kong action auteur Ringo Lam returns to the scene with overblown 'Sky on Fire'

    Hong Kong filmmaker Ringo Lam’s action bona fides are unquestioned, and after a long break out of the director’s chair, he’s thrown himself back into his signature genre with guns blazing and cars careening. Last year’s aptly titled “Wild City” has been followed up with “Sky on Fire,” a title perhaps...

  • 'Pocket Listing' can't make the sale with its strange design and poor taste

    'Pocket Listing' can't make the sale with its strange design and poor taste

    When you peel back the aggressive soundtrack, offensive racial stereotypes, gratuitous nudity, and music-video style editing, one finds that the Los Angeles real estate drama “Pocket Listing” is essentially a bonkers, beefed-up episode of the Bravo reality show “Million Dollar Listing.” The main...

  • Boldly creepy 'Pet' tweaks captive-captor conventions

    Boldly creepy 'Pet' tweaks captive-captor conventions

    The psychological horror thriller “Pet,” directed by Carles Torrens and written by Jeremy Slater, takes a familiar trope and turns it on its head. The caged woman, imprisoned by a male captor, is unfortunately an image seen all too frequently in horror and possibly even more frequently on the news....

  • 'The Duelist' may miss the mark, but it's dazzling to watch

    'The Duelist' may miss the mark, but it's dazzling to watch

    The sumptuously shot, costumed, designed and scored Russian import “The Duelist” dazzles and provokes as it makes little real sense beyond the confines of its hermetic milieu. Still, patient viewers should find writer-director Alexey Mizgirev’s often bloody, overheated action-drama set in 1860...

  • 'Finding Babel' chronicles a grandson's search for the legacy of one of the Soviet Union's greatest writers

    'Finding Babel' chronicles a grandson's search for the legacy of one of the Soviet Union's greatest writers

    Legacy documentaries about history’s gifted writers can sometimes be tough going if the filmmaker hasn’t figured out how to convey the life and the literature on screen in a way that commands your attention without making you just want to quit watching and read the subject’s words yourself. There...

  • 'The Eyes of My Mother' is a lyrical, grisly horror film that upends expectations

    'The Eyes of My Mother' is a lyrical, grisly horror film that upends expectations

    “The Eyes of My Mother,” Nicolas Pesce’s hypnotically eerie debut feature, builds calmly and quietly to one of the most appalling sequences I’ve seen in a film this year. I’ll keep the details vague; anyone inclined to seek out this movie’s dread-soaked pleasures may as well take their poison straight....

  • Isabelle Huppert stuns as the formidable woman at the heart of 'Things to Come'

    Isabelle Huppert stuns as the formidable woman at the heart of 'Things to Come'

    The superb French actress Isabelle Huppert has appeared in more than 100 films in a career that began a decade before writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve, who has made five, was even born. Yet their strong joint commitment to emotional truth above all else has produced the quietly wonderful "Things...

  • Robert De Niro amuses, but 'The Comedian' doesn't kill

    Robert De Niro amuses, but 'The Comedian' doesn't kill

    Jackie Burke, the 67-year-old funnyman played with a wink and a scowl by Robert De Niro in “The Comedian,” originally came to fame as the star of a hugely popular, thoroughly dreadful sitcom called “Eddie’s Home.” Everywhere he goes, Jackie is greeted by nostalgic fans (“Eddie! Eddie!”) who demand...

  • Tragedy hovers over the haunting Nick Cave documentary 'One More Time With Feeling'

    Tragedy hovers over the haunting Nick Cave documentary 'One More Time With Feeling'

    About 10 minutes into “One More Time with Feeling,” when Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds begin playing the first of an album’s worth of songs, a wave of sadness surges, bone-deep and breathtaking. The craftsmanship and beauty of the track, “Jesus Alone,” is undeniable, but something else, something...

  • Dev Patel digs into the role of an orphaned Indian boy who finds his way home in 'Lion'

    Dev Patel digs into the role of an orphaned Indian boy who finds his way home in 'Lion'

    A real-life fairy tale several times over, "Lion" is blessed with a Ripley's Believe It or Not story line that would warm the heart of a stone. But as the Brothers Grimm knew, fairy tales present obstacles along with blessings, and that is the case here as well. The problem "Lion" has to deal with...

  • Jessica Chastain galvanizes in the timely political melodrama 'Miss Sloane'

    Jessica Chastain galvanizes in the timely political melodrama 'Miss Sloane'

    Madeline Elizabeth Sloane, the brilliant, high-powered lobbyist at the center of John Madden’s timely new movie, does not suffer fools gladly. A barracuda in a business suit who rarely sleeps and never loses, she has a well-earned reputation for being cold, calculating and monstrously aloof. She...

  • 'Daughters of the Dust,' Julie Dash's 1991 triumph, makes a welcome return

    'Daughters of the Dust,' Julie Dash's 1991 triumph, makes a welcome return

    “Daughters of the Dust,” Julie Dash’s magical 1991 debut feature, captures a sad, thrilling moment of transformation for a community of Gullahs, who are the descendants of African slaves who lived on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. On an August day in 1902, several...

  • 'On the Map' reveals the basketball contest that gave Israel a sense of sporting and national pride

    'On the Map' reveals the basketball contest that gave Israel a sense of sporting and national pride

    Sport, it's been said, is the toy department of our culture, but even diversions can have their moment of unforeseen socio-political relevance. That's what happened in 1980, when a young U.S. Olympic ice hockey team surprised the mighty Soviets and won the gold medal in a contest that's been described...

  • The opposite of nurture on display in creepy French horror fantasy 'Evolution'

    The opposite of nurture on display in creepy French horror fantasy 'Evolution'

    A striking and maddening delivery system for art house creepinesss, Lucille Hadžihalilović’s “Evolution” dreams up a cloistered island community of ailing young boys and unsmiling adult women that feels like the exact opposite of a nurturing paradise. As bad vibes go, the scenario is certainly...

  • Heroin afflicts Long Island family in addiction drama 'Adrift'

    Heroin afflicts Long Island family in addiction drama 'Adrift'

    The epidemic rise of heroin-addiction in suburban Long Island serves as the backdrop for some heavy-duty emoting in “Adrift,” a stagy melodrama written and directed by Christopher James Lopez. Schoolteacher Cecelia Fernandez (Lauren Luna Velez) once thought she, her husband (Tony Plana) and three...

  • 'Baden Baden' charts off-center path for spirited young Frenchwoman

    'Baden Baden' charts off-center path for spirited young Frenchwoman

    As the delightfully off-center “Baden Baden” opens, 26-year-old Ana, played with gawky charm by Salomé Richard, is working as a driver for a film production and doing a lousy job of it. “I’m sure you’ll find a job that suits you better,” the film’s lead actress tells her with sincerity. That’s...

  • Documentary 'Best Worst Thing ...' chronicles the rare Stephen Sondheim flop

    Documentary 'Best Worst Thing ...' chronicles the rare Stephen Sondheim flop

    The superb documentary “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened,” directed by Lonny Price, covers a rich swath of emotional and creative ground as it tracks the unexpected failure of theater gods Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince’s hugely anticipated 1981 Broadway collaboration “Merrily We...

  • 'Magnus' checks out the pressures and loneliness of a chess grandmaster

    'Magnus' checks out the pressures and loneliness of a chess grandmaster

    The loneliness of the long-distance chess grandmaster is affectingly conveyed in “Magnus,” an intimate portrait of the game’s reigning champ, 25-year-old Magnus Carlsen. Starting with his formative years in his native Norway, where as a youngster Magnus could often be found sitting by himself away...

  • A dad goes it alone in the earnest autism drama 'Po'

    A dad goes it alone in the earnest autism drama 'Po'

    A good-hearted dad must juggle a high-pressure job, the passing of his beloved wife and the demands of their special-needs child in “Po,” an earnest drama that could have used a subtler, less didactic approach to its tender subject matter. In telling the story of David (Christopher Gorham) and...

  • Horror and war without much payoff in 'Tank 432'

    Horror and war without much payoff in 'Tank 432'

    Writer-director Nick Gillespie’s horror/war hybrid “Tank 432” aims for queasily unsettling ambiguity, but lands in a place that’s more tedious and confusing. Similar to the work of the film’s producer, Ben Wheatley — for whom Gillespie regularly works as a camera operator — “Tank 432” is a genre...

  • 'Seasons' takes a visually dazzling journey into the animal kingdom

    'Seasons' takes a visually dazzling journey into the animal kingdom

    “Seasons,” the new wildlife documentary epic from award-winning French co-directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, is another testament to the breathtaking wonder of the natural world. After celebrated journeys alongside denizens of the air (“Winged Migration”) and sea (“Oceans”), the pair...

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