One of the joys of my experience watching 10 Cloverfield Lane is that I knew almost nothing about it going in, since über-producer J.J. Abrams kept the movie's very existence something of a secret until mere weeks before its release. In this spirit, I won't say much about it here. That said, you remember Cloverfield, the 2008 found-footage-style movie about a giant, probably alien… read more!
Movies Released in 2016 (in alphabetical order)
When Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were shopping around their Good Will Hunting screenplay in the '90s, a fair portion of it had Damon's math genius on the run from the NSA. The thriller elements were ultimately cut from the script, which allowed the story to focus on human drama. Years later, although Affleck didn't write The Accountant – one Bill Dubuque did that – it's as though he's finally… read more!
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!
This earnest yet cliche-ridden dramatization of Nat Turner's 1831 slave revolt takes a riveting moment in American history and sucks the energy out of it, leaving us with a rote and oddly unmoving biopic. Indeed, the public reaction to The Birth of a Nation has proven to be the more compelling story. Premiering at Sundance in the heat of the "Oscars So White" controversy,… read more!
Ordinarily I shy away from musician biopics, and from biopics in general. The human life just doesn't adapt well to a two-hour dramatic narrative. But I'd heard that Born to Be Blue, about jazz trumpeter Chet Baker in the late 1960s, was so fictionalized that you couldn't even really call it a biopic. I'd also heard that Ethan Hawke, as… read more!
I can't break down this film's plot to the uninitiated without feeling like an idiot. It's just too convoluted. Thankfully, Marvel presumes – arrogantly but correctly – that the uninitiated won't be seeing Captain America: Civil War. You pretty much have to be all caught up with Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man to get what's going on. I'll assume you are,… read more!
Before 2016, Ryan Reynolds really only had one box office hit: 2009's The Proposal, the success of which relied more on costar Sandra Bullock's rom-com rep than on Reynolds. Thirteen films later – most of them flops, including the unjustly abhorred Green Lantern – Reynolds finally makes good on his A-list potential. Deadpool works because it takes Reynolds back to the days of 2002's Van Wilder, the raunchy comedy… read more!
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!
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!
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!
This has been hailed as a "spiritual sequel" to writer/director Richard Linklater's 1993 ensemble comedy Dazed and Confused, since Dazed concerns Texas high school students in 1976 and Everybody Wants Some concerns Texas college students in 1980. All right, fine, I'll buy that. But Everybody Wants Some – its title taken from a Van Halen song, just as Dazed took its title from a Led Zeppelin song… read more!
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!
Who isn't ambivalent about the idea of a Pixar sequel? Sure, sometimes it works. But the studio is so adept at producing fantastic original material that I want to scream, You've got the talent, you've got the money, you've got the audience's good will – why waste time rehashing the old when you could be taking more risks? The answer, of course, lies within the Pixar/Disney… read more!
Yes, this is a granny movie. But I have a soft spot for granny movies. Proceed with this review accordingly. First of all, I'd like to point out the sub-classification of Meryl Streep movies that could be called "Lighter Streep for Older People", which have been rolling out in August for several years now: Julie & Julia in 2009, Hope Springs in 2012, Ricki… read more!
An all-female Ghostbusters team is the one genuinely inspired thing about this remake of the 1984 blockbuster. (If you think this film was unnecessary, imagine how pointless and cynical it would have been had it starred Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson.) Seeing this movie 32 years after I caught the original Ghostbusters, the distaff casting brought into relief all the changes between then and now. Comedy has changed. Star… read more!
This flagrantly weird account of a 1970s Australian girl's 15th birthday is decidedly not for everybody. What starts out as a cutesy, Wes Anderson-ish look at high school life (complete with the 4:3 screen ratio Anderson employed in The Grand Budapest Hotel) soon descends into a wild David Lynch-inspired nightmare – though to reveal that this lengthy, latter section of the film is "only a dream" is hardly a spoiler. The… read more!
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!
Hail, Caesar! has been marketed as a zippy farce. It is not. Coen Brothers devotees might instead expect a cutting, surreal black comedy. It is not that either. Truth is, I don't know what Hail, Caesar! is, though I can tell you what it isn't: very good. The film is set in 1951 Hollywood at the fictional Capitol Pictures. The plot – the MacGuffin, really – has the star (George Clooney)… read more!
This modern-day Western, about two bank-robbing brothers in West Texas, may be all cliché at its heart: you've got the unpredictable ne'er-do-well (Ben Foster), the handsome divorcé trying to do right by his family (Chris Pine), and the grizzled old Texas Ranger, on the very brink of retirement, who doggedly pursues them (Jeff Bridges). Yet Hell or High Water works wonderfully.… read more!
I never much cared for Sally Field in her '70s/'80s heyday. Her acting was too corny for my tastes. But lately, watching her in interviews, I've found her to be quite an interesting person. There's also a part of me that's forever 65 years old, which is why I can enjoy senior-oriented fare like Last Chance Harvey and The Intern. So… read more!