Movie Reviews

Latest Movie Reviews

  • 'Star Trek Beyond' boldly goes kind of where you expect it to, but with style

    'Star Trek Beyond' boldly goes kind of where you expect it to, but with style

    Taking its celebrated “Live long and prosper” salute to heart, “Star Trek” has become not just a movie franchise but a pop culture empire. About to turn 50, it has spawned 13 films and six TV series, sold more than 100 million books, comics and magazines and continues to have such cachet that Amazon’s...

  • The fresh horror film 'Lights Out' feeds on audience's fear of the dark

    The fresh horror film 'Lights Out' feeds on audience's fear of the dark

    Exploiting our fear of the dark is a trick as old as the movies themselves, but it’s hard to recall the last picture that took the idea to such literal-minded extremes as “Lights Out.” The tale of a restless evil spirit who suffers from an extreme aversion to light, this nifty little chiller may...

  • 'Indian Point' sagely examines the nuclear power debate from all sides

    'Indian Point' sagely examines the nuclear power debate from all sides

    In a world where unabashed advocacy documentaries are thick on the land, Ivy Meeropol's expert "Indian Point," an evenhanded look at the issues surrounding nuclear power, is a welcome exception. With no end in sight to global energy demands, questions about nuclear's place as a possible solution...

  • 'Summertime' a warm embrace of a French same-sex couple's evolving relationship

    'Summertime' a warm embrace of a French same-sex couple's evolving relationship

    Artfully calculated and authentically felt, the unexpectedly effective "Summertime" combines the conventional structure of classic movie romance with a sensual same-sex frankness that couldn't be more up-to-date. Better still, as directed by France's Catherine Corsini, "Summertime's" costars Cecile...

  • 'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie': Bloody good summer fun

    'Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie': Bloody good summer fun

    In “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” a sensible young woman asks her hard-partying grandmother to explain the endurance of a decades-long friendship, a seemingly unbreakable bond forged on champagne and mischief. “Because it’s bloody good fun,” her grandmother answers, matter-of-factly. That’s as...

  • The fifth 'Ice Age' cometh, but feel free to misseth

    The fifth 'Ice Age' cometh, but feel free to misseth

    Fourteen years after the first “Ice Age” animated film was a hit, the fifth installment in the franchise, “Ice Age: Collision Course,” rolls into theaters. Is it inevitable? Yes, 2012's “Ice Age: Continental Drift” was the highest-grossing animated film that year. Is it necessary? Absolutely not....

  • 'Don't Worry Baby' takes high road in father-son paternity sweepstakes

    'Don't Worry Baby' takes high road in father-son paternity sweepstakes

    The terrific young actor John Magaro, so good in David Chase’s little-seen “Not Fade Away,” again brings his A-game to “Don’t Worry Baby,” a bittersweet indie comedy that marks an impressive feature writing-directing debut for Julian Branciforte.  The film’s high-concept story, one that in past...

  • Rebellious teen looking for answers in sad/funny 'Quitters'

    Rebellious teen looking for answers in sad/funny 'Quitters'

    A disaffected teen’s dad isn’t too far off the mark when he calls him “a mean-spirited little …” in “Quitters,” an unapologetically candid, melancholic coming-of-age comedy from first-time filmmaker Noah Pritzker. When his emotionally brittle, prescription drug-dependent mom (an effective Mira...

  • Timely 'President' maps a fallen leader's journey after a bloody coup

    Timely 'President' maps a fallen leader's journey after a bloody coup

    Although Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf says “The President” was inspired by the turbulent events of the Arab Spring, there’s also a timeless quality to this absorbing and powerful fable that provides added resonance.   Makhmalbaf (“Kandahar”), who directed and co-wrote with Marziyeh Meshkiny,...

  • Quick Korean zombies take 'Train to Busan' for station-to-station action

    Quick Korean zombies take 'Train to Busan' for station-to-station action

    It’s chew-chew on the choo-choo with “Train to Busan,” a Korean zombie flick from Yeon Sang-ho (“The King of Pigs”) that has more in common with high-speed disaster films and train thrillers than slow-walking undead sagas. Animator Yeon’s first feature-length live-action movie takes its sweet time...

  • Hand-drawn 'Phantom Boy' is a welcome break from CG animation

    Hand-drawn 'Phantom Boy' is a welcome break from CG animation

    Like their Oscar-nominated “A Cat in Paris” (2010), “Phantom Boy” by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gangol is a modest, engaging film that reminds viewers of the intimate pleasures of drawn animation in an era of CG blockbusters. While in the hospital, 11-year-old Leo (Gaspard Gagnol) discovers...

  • Women's distance-running breakthroughs highlight documentary 'Free to Run'

    Women's distance-running breakthroughs highlight documentary 'Free to Run'

    It wasn’t always a runner’s world, as a new, eye-opening documentary attests. Tracing the sport’s transformation over the last half-century from a few fitness-minded oddballs to an egalitarian social phenomenon to big business, director Pierre Morath covers a lot of ground in “Free to Run.” Some...

  • Horror documentary 'Blackout Experiments' pushes limits of experience

    Horror documentary 'Blackout Experiments' pushes limits of experience

    Rich Fox’s unsettling documentary/horror hybrid “The Blackout Experiments” concerns a form of entertainment so twisted that it immediately raises two questions. Who’d want to experience this? And who’d want to design it? Fox doesn’t really answer the second question because of  circumstances mostly...

  • Women let their fists do the talking in amateurish 'Fight Valley'

    Women let their fists do the talking in amateurish 'Fight Valley'

    Written and directed by Rob Hawk, “Fight Valley” starts with a premise that isn’t half bad, considering the inroads into Hollywood blockbusters made by popular female mixed-martial artists Gina Carano and Ronda Rousey. With their high-profile success, it makes sense to capitalize on the popularity...

  • In polemical 'Hillary's America,' D'Souza rakes Clinton over long-cooled coals

    In polemical 'Hillary's America,' D'Souza rakes Clinton over long-cooled coals

    Considering it’s from the same individual responsible for “2016: Obama’s America,” it should come as no surprise that Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America” is another shrewdly timed, heavy-handed agenda in the guise of a truth-seeking, nonfiction film. But just like the avidly right-wing filmmaker’s...

  • Woody Allen finds himself at ease in his lush Hollywood story 'Cafe Society'

    Woody Allen finds himself at ease in his lush Hollywood story 'Cafe Society'

    With white on black titles on the screen and vintage jazz on the soundtrack, “Cafe Society” opens the way Woody Allen films have opened for time out of mind. But this one, this one does things a little differently. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and the protean Steve Carell, “Cafe Society” is...

  • Nostalgia haunts the brilliant women who possess the new 'Ghostbusters'

    Nostalgia haunts the brilliant women who possess the new 'Ghostbusters'

    After months of being trashed online by some of the nastier basement dwellers in the fanboy universe, Sony’s female-powered “Ghostbusters” update certainly represents progress of a sort, if not necessarily the kind its makers were aiming for. A cheerful summer lark that briefly achieves comic liftoff...

  • 'Under the Sun' goes inside North Korea to expose its carefully managed public face

    'Under the Sun' goes inside North Korea to expose its carefully managed public face

    As previous documentaries ranging from the serious ("Kimjongilia") to the frivolous ("Dennis Rodman's Big Bang In Pyongyang") demonstrate, North Korea is one strange place, a truly foreign country where they do things differently. The nation is so strange and different, in fact, that each new glimpse...

  • Bryan Cranston goes deep undercover in engrossing 'The Infiltrator'

    Bryan Cranston goes deep undercover in engrossing 'The Infiltrator'

    Much of what happens in “The Infiltrator,” a smart, engrossing, fact-based glimpse into the 1980s world of Colombian drug trafficking and money laundering, is bookended by two tracking shots of two different sting operations in progress, both framed from the back of a man’s head. The camera snakes...

  • Moody dystopian romance 'Equals' doesn't measure up

    Moody dystopian romance 'Equals' doesn't measure up

    “Equals” unfolds in a post-apocalyptic future in which a human remnant lives on as a rigidly controlled society called the Collective. The men and women here speak in flat, hushed voices, their faces blank and immune to the animating forces of anger, delight or surprise. The uniforms they wear...

  • Norman Lear documentary celebrates the good times of the TV legend's '70s heyday

    Norman Lear documentary celebrates the good times of the TV legend's '70s heyday

    For a movie about the creator of some of the most pointed, controversial comedies in television history, “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” has a curious habit of sidestepping some of the thornier and more interesting aspects of its subject’s life. The brisk documentary, co-directed by...

  • For the Mexican wrestlers of 'Lucha Mexico,' the mask rarely comes off

    For the Mexican wrestlers of 'Lucha Mexico,' the mask rarely comes off

    There’s a great moment near the end of “Lucha Mexico,” an insightful and wildly entertaining look at the wrestlers who ply their trade south of the border, where we see a child approach the legendary Shocker for an autograph. In the middle of a match. Just as he’s about to reenter the ring and...

  • Documentary reveals 'Yarn' as surprisingly radical art

    Documentary reveals 'Yarn' as surprisingly radical art

    It’s not uncommon to spot yarn bombing in urban areas — colorful hand-knit textiles enveloping street lights and parking meters, little moments of whimsy in an otherwise drab cityscape. “Yarn,” a documentary directed by Montreal-based Icelandic filmmaker Una Lorenzen, explains these pieces as radical...

  • 'Men Go to Battle': A grimy micro-brew of Civil War drama

    'Men Go to Battle': A grimy micro-brew of Civil War drama

    Zachary Treitz’s debut feature, “Men Go to Battle,” is a Civil War story in indie miniature, a tale of struggling sibling Kentucky farmers whose bond fractures over the course of a year as the conflict encroaches. This isn’t high-toned period melodrama about the sweep of history and mythological...

  • Baseball comedy 'Undrafted' strikes out swinging

    Baseball comedy 'Undrafted' strikes out swinging

    Drawing upon his own brother’s experiences as a once-promising college baseball player, actor Joe Mazzello’s directorial debut, “Undrafted” is an amiable if aimless ensemble comedy that’s unable to overcome its amateur status. When we’re first introduced to the fictional D-Backs, a heavily white ...

  • Low-rent western 'Outlaws and Angels' is overburdened by Tarantino influence

    Low-rent western 'Outlaws and Angels' is overburdened by Tarantino influence

    Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” took a low-budget B-western premise and staged it like an expensive old-time Hollywood epic. Now the similar “Outlaws and Angels” shifts the genre back toward the gritty, though ironically, writer-director JT Mollner’s own Tarantino-esque pretensions get...

  • Political sex farce 'C Street' fails big-time

    Political sex farce 'C Street' fails big-time

    As if approval ratings for Congress weren’t low enough, along comes the execrable sex farce “C Street” to bury the institution altogether. It’s one of the most ineptly crafted, thuddingly unfunny movies to show up on a big screen in recent memory. Although it aims to be a kind of Capitol Hill version...

  • 'The Secret Life of Pets' doesn't actually contain any secrets worth spilling

    'The Secret Life of Pets' doesn't actually contain any secrets worth spilling

    Why does “The Secret Life of Pets” exist? I mean besides the obvious reasons, like the bankability of family-friendly animation, the ticket surcharges for 3-D or the fact that Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment are trying to boost their share of the non-Minion collectible toy market....

  • Father doesn't always know best in the slick 'Captain Fantastic'

    Father doesn't always know best in the slick 'Captain Fantastic'

    There’s a moment early on in “Captain Fantastic” when Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), while driving his six kids around in a lovingly refurbished old school bus, catches one of his teenage daughters reading “Lolita.” For Ben, a fount of erudition and progressive thinking, this discovery is not cause for...

  • A family grows and deepens in the warm, rewarding 'Our Little Sister'

    A family grows and deepens in the warm, rewarding 'Our Little Sister'

    “Our Little Sister" has to be seen to be believed. Not because it depends on huge explosions or special effects but because it doesn't. A delicate, unforced meditation on the bonds of family and the joys and wonders hidden in everyday life, this film is able to move audiences without apparent effort,...

  • Alex Gibney's 'Zero Days' is a chilling account of cyberwarfare

    Alex Gibney's 'Zero Days' is a chilling account of cyberwarfare

    The title of “Zero Days,” Alex Gibney’s chillingly astute glimpse into the shadowy world of global cyberwarfare, refers to what is known as a zero-day vulnerability — a security gap in a piece of software or hardware that, once exploited for the purposes of an attack, leaves the defender no time...

  • Stars of 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates' get sacrificed at the comedy altar

    Stars of 'Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates' get sacrificed at the comedy altar

    Although the premise is spelled out right there in the title, “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” makes very little sense. That's despite it being based (shockingly) on a book. Well, a “book,” written by brothers Mike and Dave Stangle as an obligatory cash-in on their viral Craigslist ad. But even...

  • 'Nuts!' blends fact and fiction in this tale of eccentric inventor John R. Brinkley

    'Nuts!' blends fact and fiction in this tale of eccentric inventor John R. Brinkley

    Hey there, how’d you like to see a part-animated, research-rich, narratively fleet documentary about an early 20th century doctor who a) discovered an impotence cure by grafting goat glands onto human testicles; b) was nearly elected governor of Kansas on a write-in ballot; c) built the world’s...

  • Documentary 'At the Fork' opens our eyes to the food we eat

    Documentary 'At the Fork' opens our eyes to the food we eat

    Persuasively putting a face on the meals most of America consumes regularly without coming across as a sanctimonious expose, “At the Fork” serves up an even-handed perspective on the subject of eating ethically. Meat-eating filmmaker John Papola, at the behest of his longtime vegetarian wife, Lisa...

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