Reviews

A still from 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

Review: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

In today’s New York, West Village is one of the city’s most expensive neighborhoods. It wasn’t always that way, as Marielle Heller’s new film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, will remind audiences. This is the neighborhood where the Stonewall riots took place,... Read more

A still from 'Suspiria'.

Review: 'Suspiria'

First things first: Director Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is not really a remake of Dario Argento’s inimitable 1977 giallo-turned-fantasia of the same name, at least not in any remotely meaningful sense of the word. Both films are (loosely) horror... Read more

A still from 'Mid90s'.

Double Take: 'The Hate U Give' and 'Mid90s'

There’s lately been a resurgence of films centered on teens, but these features don’t quite resemble either John Hughes’ watershed films of the 1980s or the light comedies and slashers of the late 1990s that used the late director’s work as a templates. The... Read more

A still from 'Halloween'.

Review: 'Halloween'

Director John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) is not the first modern English-language slasher film: That honor goes to Bob Clark’s eerie sorority-house bloodbath Black Christmas (1974), or perhaps Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre... Read more

A still from 'First Man'.

Review: 'First Man'

The 1950s - 70s heyday of the United States’ manned space program has been a relatively successful (if strangely infrequent) source of compelling cinematic stories, inspiring both rousing dramas (The Right Stuff [1983], Apollo 13 [1995]) and... Read more

A still from 'A Star Is Born'.

Review: 'A Star Is Born'

Not long into A Star is Born, it's become apparent that Bradley Cooper will be a real contender as a filmmaker. His visual influences are evident: Martin Scorsese’s gliding and orchestral tracking shots; Terrence Malick’s unencumbered camera with its awe-... Read more

A still from 'Venom'.

Review: 'Venom'

Undoubtedly, Sony Pictures’ decision to produce a new film centered on Spider-Man’s icky alien nemesis Venom – sans the Web-Slinger – seemed like a clever idea at the time to the studio’s financially-minded executives. Although Sony essentially leased... Read more

A still from 'The Land of Steady Habits'.

Review: 'The Land of Steady Habits'

The title The Land of Steady Habits may be misleading. It suggests portraiture of a menial but well-meaning life, and to some, it reads as pejorative against a perceived life not lived. For filmmaker Nicole Holfcener’s characters, the idea of this state... Read more

A still from 'Blaze'.

Review: 'Blaze'

The whiskey-soaked Outlaw Country biopic Blaze is Ethan Hawke’s fourth feature film as a director, and the second that entails a deep dive into the life and times of a professional musician. Seymour: An Introduction, Hawke’s 2014 documentary... Read more

A still from 'We the Animals'.

Review: 'We the Animals'

In queer film studies, one must accept that the definition of the central concept of interest — “queerness” — is perpetually in flux. It simply gestures toward meaning and is not confined to the same empirical categories that are associated with “gay” and “lesbian... Read more

A still from 'The House with a Clock in Its Walls'.

Review: 'The House with a Clock in Its Walls"

Eli Roth’s directing credit follows soon after Steven Spielberg's Amblin Studio logo, and it comes as the first surprise of the YA horror-novel adaptation The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The director’s debut feature, Cabin Fever (2002), is... Read more

A still from 'Lizzie'.

Review: 'Lizzie'

Director Craig William Macneill’s Gilded Age true-crime thriller Lizzie assumes the stance common to most mainstream historical accounts and dramatic depictions of Lizzie Borden. Namely, it takes as a given that Lizzie hacked to death with a hatchet both... Read more

A still from 'White Boy Rick'.

Review: 'White Boy Rick'

When Rick Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) begins peddling dope on the streets of Detroit, Mich., he’s a mere 15 years old. He’s doing so at the behest of a pair of FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) and a local cop (Brian Tyree Henry), three officials... Read more

A still from 'A Simple Favor'.

Review: 'A Simple Favor'

A Simple Favor is a weird film, tonally speaking. It’s not the first foray into more bloody-minded fare for comedy-inclined director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids [2011]; Spy [2015]; Ghostbusters [2016]). Before breaking out as one of... Read more

A still from 'Support the Girls'.

Review: 'Support the Girls'

Andrew Bujalski hides his cinematic modus operandi inside a joke during the first act of Support the Girls. Lisa (Regina Hall), the general manager of a Hooters-like “boobs, bros, and beers” bar, Double Whammies, is conspiring with her right-hand... Read more

A still from 'The Nun'.

Review: 'The Nun'

One of the unlikelier developments in horror cinema during the 2010s has been the expansion of director James Wan’s musty ghost story The Conjuring (2013) into a full-fledged cinematic universe, complete with sequels, prequels, and spinoffs. Although Wan’... Read more

A still from 'Papillon'.

Review: 'Papillon'

Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1973 film Papillon was mostly a vehicle for its star, the ever-cool Steve McQueen, as well as a cash-in adaptation of the popular memoir of the same name by Henri Charrière. It’s a shaggy hybrid of prison-escape drama and adventure... Read more

A still from 'McQueen'.

Review: 'McQueen'

For those already familiar with the well-publicized life and highly regarded work of Alexander McQueen, there’s nothing revelatory in Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s McQueen. The biographical documentary — that most popular of nonfiction subgenres — ... Read more

Review: 'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot'

Gus Van Sant has always been somewhat of an experimental filmmaker, working both in and just outside of Hollywood. He ascended into the ranks of vital indie filmmakers as a member of the New Queer Cinema movement with features like Mala Noche (1986), ... Read more

A still from 'Eighth Grade'.

Review: 'Eighth Grade'

When you’re 13 years old, reality can feel mutable and devouring. A week of boredom and discomfiture can dilate into a dreary eternity. A passing moment of awkwardness can mushroom into a humiliating cataclysm. The mélange of roaring hormones and bewildering... Read more

A still from 'Unfriended: Dark Web'.

Review: 'Unfriended: Dark Web'

Cinematic universes are all the rage these days, despite the fact that Marvel is the only studio that has truly cracked how to successfully translate the daunting challenges of such long-term pop storytelling into box-office billions (and modest critical acclaim... Read more

A still from 'Sorry to Bother You'.

Review: 'Sorry to Bother You'

Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield), the beleaguered protagonist of Sorry to Bother You, has problems. Young, black, and unemployed in Oakland, Calif., he’s living in his uncle’s (Terry Crewes) garage and four months behind on his rent. He’s so... Read more

A still from 'Damsel'.

Double Take: 'Damsel' and 'The Great Silence'

It’s common for film writers to note that the Western has waxed and waned in popularity over the course of cinema’s history. While that may be true, the genre contains such a breadth of ideas and archetypes that its malleability allows for it to be remixed and... Read more

A still from 'Leave No Trace'.

Review: 'Leave No Trace'

Writer-director Debra Granik’s incisive and affecting new drama, Leave No Trace, begins within the hushed, verdant cathedral of Portland, Ore.’s Forest Park, one of the largest urban forest reserves in America. Among the towering, second-growth conifers... Read more

Still from 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom'.

Review: 'Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom'

[Note: This review contains spoilers.]

As genetically engineered as its new super-dino, the Indoraptor, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is designed to trigger specific responses from and ingratiate itself with an increasingly jaded audience... Read more

 A still from 'Hearts Beat Loud'.

Review: 'Hearts Beat Loud'

Nick Offerman has carved out quite the niche over the past decade with variations of the earthy but deadpan Ron Swanson he played on television’s Parks and Recreation (2009-15). He’s cropped up in other works with supporting parts that borrowed Swanson’s... Read more

Review: 'Ocean's 8'

Brian De Palma’s Femme Fatale (2002) opens on the miraculously sleek and labyrinthine heist of a diamond necklace from an actress’ neck at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a thrilling  meta-movie moment that recalls Jules Dassin’s Rififi (1955) and... Read more

A still from 'Hereditary'.

Review: 'Hereditary'

Every cinematic experience is inherently subjective, but the horror genre presents a particularly vivid illustration of just how personal responses to films can be. Fear is a primeval emotion – perhaps the  primeval emotion – and as such it’s tremendously... Read more

A still from 'First Reformed'.

Review: 'First Reformed'

The fundamental paradox of films about religious faith – at least in the West – is that the outstanding examples of the form are so often the work of apostates, heretics, and nonbelievers. Filmmakers who fit these descriptors crafted some of the 20th century’s... Read more

A still from 'Let the Sunshine In'.

Review: 'Let the Sunshine In'

In Claire Denis’ last film, the director left viewers with the most unsettling images of her career. Her 2013 feature Bastards was a time-hopping narrative of betrayal and murder, culminating in the reveal of an incestual rape. While not exactly a change... Read more

A Still from 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'.

Review: 'Solo: A Star Wars Story'

For decades, it was an open secret among serious Star Wars fans that some of the franchise’s most imaginative and stimulating stories could be found not on the silver screen, but in the so-called Expanded Universe (EU) of novels, comics, video games, and... Read more

A still from 'The Rider'.

Review: 'The Rider'

Director and writer Chloé Zhao’s film The Rider opens on hypnotic equine images. The camera glides along the tan mane of a horse in slow motion, fading into other closeup images of its snarling mouth, the muscles writhing beneath its thick skin, and... Read more

Review: 'Revenge'

Although it remains a somewhat contentious subgenre, the rape-revenge thriller has a rich (if not exactly respectable) pedigree, extending back to seminal exploitation features like Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973), I Spit on Your Grave (1978),... Read more

Review: 'Lu Over the Wall'

For Japanese animation aficionados whose primary point of reference is the output of Studio Ghibli, Masaaki Yuasa’s vibrant, toe-tapping fable Lu Over the Wall will come as a modest surprise. This isn’t to say that the sprightly Lu isn’t... Read more

Review: 'Avengers: Infinity War'

It’s quite challenging to talk about Marvel Studios’ all-hands-on-deck superhero cavalcade Avengers: Infinity War without heading deep into spoiler territory. This isn’t just the usual critical reluctance to discuss crucial plot twists or the who-lives-... Read more

Still from 'A Quiet Place'.

Review: 'A Quiet Place'

Writer-director John Krasinski’s scary-good creature feature A Quiet Place is bookended by a pair of gestures that reveal, through counter-example, just how timid and senselessly self-indulgent most popcorn features have become in the 2010s. They aren’t... Read more

Review: 'Isle of Dogs'

One of the hidden depths to be found in DreamWorks Animation’s proudly anachronistic fantasy romp How to Train Your Dragon (2010) is an allegorical one. Angle it the right way, and Dean DeBois and Chris Sanders’ feature can be viewed a lucid metaphor for... Read more

Still from 'The Death of Stalin'.

Review: 'The Death of Stalin'

Tragedy plus time equals comedy, or so the saving goes. A handful of topics are so heinous, however, that they seem to defy this formulation. It’s now been more than eight decades since the end of World War II in Europe, and although some stand-up comedians have... Read more

Review: 'Thoroughbreds'

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy were born to be film actresses. Certainly, many performers of their generation can claim both sizable dramatic talent and the sort of strange, striking beauty that sets fashion photographers swooning. What make Cooke and Taylor-Joy... Read more

Review: 'Red Sparrow'

Director Francis Lawrence’s agreeably trashy cloak-and-dagger potboiler Red Sparrow feels like a throwback in several ways. Most conspicuously, it takes many of its unabashedly sleazy cues from the erotically charged dramas and thrillers that were a part... Read more

Still from 'Annihilation'.

Review: 'Annihilation'

In the past decade, few filmmakers have burst out of the starting gate as strongly as Alex Garland. His remarkable, assured directorial debut, Ex Machina  (2015), signaled that the English novelist (The Beach) and screenwriter (28 Days Later... Read more

Review: 'Hostiles'

Like all the director’s features, Scott Cooper’s bleak, slow-burn Western Hostiles manages to eke out rough success, despite the familiarity of its story components. Cooper’s works are consistently constructed according to durable, masculine formulae: the... Read more

A still from 'The Final Year'.

Review: 'The Final Year'

In a time of marked polarization and hostility in American politics, the most obvious dilemma that faces Greg Barker’s new documentary feature, The Final Year, is the kneejerk partisan response of the viewer. The film provides a behind-the-scenes,... Read more

A scene from 'Phantom Thread'.

Review: 'Phantom Thread'

The opening lines in Paul Thomas Anderson’s new feature Phantom Thread are spoken by Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young British woman with an indefinite Continental slant in her accent. In hushed, carefully-chosen words, she tries to articulate—to an initially... Read more

Review: 'Call Me By Your Name'

Broadly speaking, romantic coming-of-age dramas—which are typically centered on a formative, head-over-heels relationship—often follow one of two approaches. Some films aim primarily for social and emotional realism, erecting an authentic... Read more

Review: 'The Shape of Water'

If Guillermo del Toro’s monster vs. battle-bot indulgence Pacific Rim (2013) is the film that an eight-year-old version of the director might have wanted to see, then del Toro’s latest effort, The Shape of Water, is the sort of feature that might... Read more

Review: 'The Disaster Artist'

James Franco is a bit of an enigma. Following his breakout in the television series Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films (2002-2007), Franco has become a ubiquitous presence as an actor: shoring up broad, bro-friendly... Read more

Review: 'Justice League'

The conventional wisdom is that Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v. Superman (2016), the first two entries in the wannabe “DC Extended Universe”, were critical duds partly due to their unremittingly dour tone. The grim, brooding... Read more

Review: 'The Square'

Viewers who have experienced the delectable agony of director Ruben Östlund’s international breakout Force Majeure (2014) doubtlessly have some expectations regarding the Swedish filmmaker’s... Read more

Review: 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'

The characters in Yorgos Lathimos’ films don’t talk like normal people. In the case of the Bizarro clan in the director’s pitch-black absurdist masterpiece Doogtooth (2009), the family’s speech patterns reveal their insular enforced... Read more

Review: 'Wonderstruck'

Wonderstruck is vivid case study in how things can go subtly awry when there is a mismatch between a film’s source material and its director. The feature was adapted from the 2011 illustrated novel of the same name by Brian Selznick,... Read more

Review: 'Thor: Ragnarok'

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always had an irreverent side, going back to the feature that started the whole multi-media merchandising colossus, Iron Man (2008). As inhabited by Robert Downey Jr., war profiteer-turned-hero Tony... Read more

Review: 'The Florida Project'

The lyrics to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1976 single “American Girl” contain references to the heartache and recklessness of young adulthood, but the song could easily describe the life of Moonee, the precocious 6-year-old heroine of ... Read more

Review: 'The Foreigner'

The Foreigner is a broken film, but it is broken in such an oddly narrow way that it still manages be entertaining, and even mildly invigorating within the limits of its generic formulae. The film’s fundamental flaw is that it is, in fact, two... Read more

Review: 'Marshall'

Thurgood Marshall is the sort of American legal and political titan who practically demands a biopic, but it was probably inevitable that said biopic would turn out to be such a dispiritingly middlebrow affair. The film that director Reginald Hudlin (House... Read more

Review: 'Blade Runner 2049'

Director Ridley Scott’s 1982 feature Blade Runner is the kind of epochal genre film whose stylistic influence is so enormous, it can be difficult to accurately assess the feature’s merits and flaws in isolation. Blade Runner changed science... Read more

Review: 'The Mountain Between Us'

Whether entirely fictional or inspired by true events, tales of people enduring extraordinary circumstances and coming out alive are generally viewed as fertile soil for filmmaking. All on its own, however, the simple fact of survival isn’t... Read more