Current Reviews (in alphabetical order)

Arrival

Arrival

Twelve gigantic black pods have suddenly appeared in the skies across earth. Clearly they are alien spacecraft, but what do they want? Are they invaders? Scientists? Tourists? Do they come in peace or do they pose a threat? The US military hires expert linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to find out. They've been allowed access into one of the… read more!

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe catches up with the old Marvel comic books in terms of an expansive breadth of superheroes, we now get a movie about one of the comics' more exotic outliers, the mystical Stephen Strange. In my late '70s/early '80s childhood – the so-called "Bronze Age" of comics – I saw the good doctor as one of Marvel's few "older" protagonists, with his gray temples and fatherly mustache. He… read more!

The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen

Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig presents a convincing argument that teenage life hasn't changed much in the last thirty years, in this appealing John Hughes-ish dramedy about an angst-ridden high school junior (Hailee Steinfeld) navigating the ups and downs of her suburban Oregon existence. The Edge of Seventeen has just a wisp of plot: acid-tongued Nadine (Steinfeld) finds her world turned upside… read more!

Elle

Elle

Although Paul Verhoeven's Hollywood heyday is far behind him, the Dutch provocateur, now 78, is still reveling in his obsessions with sex, violence, betrayal, depravity, and dark humor with his latest feature Elle. The opening scene sets the tone, as the camera opens on Michèle (Isabelle Huppert), co-founder of a Paris video game company, being raped by an intruder in her flat. Afterwards, she has her locks… read more!

The Eyes of My Mother

The Eyes of My Mother

With its slow, international film festival-style pacing and its exotic Portuguese star, you might assume that The Eyes of My Mother is a European production. Nope – this gothic chiller was made right here in the USA. The film covers three chapters in the life of Francisca, a woman growing up on an upstate New York farm, who rather inexplicably gains her immigrant parents'… read more!

The Handmaiden

The Haidmaiden

In 1930s Korea, during the Japanese occupation, a grifter (Ha Jung-woo) sets his sights on a beautiful Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) with an aim to woo her, marry her, commit her to an asylum, then abscond with her vast fortune. To this end, he finagles a naive apprentice (Kim Tae-ri) to get a job as the heiress' handmaiden and encourage the heiress to wed this so-called "Japanese count". A… read more!

Jackie

Jackie

This semi-abstract portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy during the immediate aftermath of her husband's assassination is more a showcase for Natalie Portman than anything else. However, history buffs – specifically, Kennedy fetishists – will surely be drawn in. Chilean director Larraín likes taking risks with format: his breakthrough feature No, set in the late '80s, was shot on '80s-era video. This time he and his DP… read more!

La La Land

La La Land

From its opening number through much of the film, I have to say that I liked La La Land very much, but I could not love it. Writer/director Damien Chazelle caused such a stir with his incendiary first feature Whiplash that, when I heard he was following it up with an old-fashioned musical about Los Angeles, I couldn't wait. And who can resist the pairing… read more!

Loving

Loving

The title may suggest a generic romance, but Loving actually refers to Richard and Mildred Loving, the real-life interracial couple whose 1958 marriage was illegal in the state of Virginia (and nearly two dozen other states with anti-miscegenation laws), and who fought for years to have said law overturned. It's always ironic to see foreign actors cast as historic Americans – Australian Joel Edgerton plays Richard; Irish-Ethiopian Ruth Negga plays… read more!

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

This is the third feature film from not-especially-prolific writer/director Kenneth Lonergan, following the lovely You Can Count on Me and the overrated Margaret. Like its predecessors, Manchester by the Sea explores what happens to ordinary people after tragedy strikes. It does so with honesty and a scruffy, foul-mouthed grace, even if its story unfurls over familiar ground. Casey Affleck is Lee, a taciturn Boston janitor… read more!

Moonlight

Moonlight

Although 2016 kicked off with the underwhelming The Birth of a Nation poised as the "great black hope" of indie film, this gentle drama about a closeted gay man – showing him as a child, then as a teenager, and finally as an adult – came out of nowhere to blow everyone away, subverting all preconceptions about both black and gay cinema in the process. Moonlight's wisp… read more!

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

If you're put off by the thought of obese naked women dancing around in slow motion, you'd best skip the opening credits of Nocturnal Animals. Beats me, though, if this sequence has anything to do with the film's themes; the women are merely part of an art installation overseen by Los Angeles gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams), filthy rich but stuck in a loveless marriage.… read more!

Rules Don’t Apply

Rules Don’t Apply

Warren Beatty has led one of the most charmed lives in Hollywood, and does not need my pity. Yet pity him I did when I saw that his long-gestating passion project, a biographical fantasy about Howard Hughes, opened to an abysmal $667 per-screen average, making it the biggest flop of 2016. (Why it even opened on over 2,000 screens, instead of… read more!