Skimming other reviews of 1917, I have seen critics refer to it, time and time again, as a "piece of filmmaking". The term is entirely apt. For what sets 1917 apart from other war movies – indeed, from most movies in general – is its stagecraft. Arguably a higher priority than story, character, or theme, 1917's strength is its well-known… read more!
Movies Released in 2019 (in alphabetical order)
With its story set "in the near future", meaning at least 60-70 years from now, Ad Astra's protagonist is an astronaut named Roy McBride (Brad Pitt). After a mysterious space anomaly causes a global power surge that kills thousands of people across Earth, Roy is called into a top secret meeting at Space Command – think of it as NASA… read more!
Wrapping up eleven years and twenty one movies' worth of storytelling, Avengers: Endgame has a heavy burden to bear. But since most of its plot was carefully seeded across at least half of the preceding "Marvel Cinematic Universe" installments, one gets the notion that Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige knew his saga's, uh, endgame years ago, which is why everything… read more!
The Beach Bum
A companion piece of sorts to 2013's Spring Breakers, The Beach Bum finds writer/director Harmony Korine back amongst Florida's wealthy lowlifes. This time the focus is on a fictitious Miami/Key West legend named Moondog, played to the breezy hilt by Matthew McConaughey. By all appearances, Moondog is an obnoxious mess, drunk and/or stoned 24/7 and doing whatever he feels like… read more!
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
As the crowd-pleasing documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? was a surprise box office hit just last year, I was skeptical about the need for a biopic on Mr. Rogers, especially so soon, and especially one starring Tom Hanks, whose casting seemed simultaneously too on-the-nose (he's America's sweetheart) and too unlikely (he doesn't look or sound a thing like Fred… read more!
I never thought I'd describe a film as "simultaneously disturbing and breezy", yet Bombshell is precisely that: a based-on-fact narrative about rampant sexual harassment at Fox News that somehow whizzes on by, its 108 runtime a half hour too short. Taking place during the 2016 Republican primaries, Bombshell follows three Fox News employees: A-list anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron, spot… read more!
It's hard not to see Booksmart as a distaff variation on 2007's Superbad, since it's about two nerdy high schoolers hell-bent on having one legitimately wild night before graduation; since it aims to balance absurdist comedy with sincere coming-of-age drama; and since, let's face it, Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein is the lookalike kid sister of Superbad star Jonah Hill. If… read more!
Brittany Runs a Marathon
Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is a single New Yorker in her late 20s who is lonely, overweight, clueless about her future, and overly dependent on drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. Her go-to tack of brushing things off with a childish joke is wearing thin, and after her new doctor informs her that she is essentially obese, Brittany wakes… read more!
For every movie, and for every person watching that movie, there's what you might call a "line of involvement". A movie's goal is to get you to cross that line – to forget that you're watching actors reciting dialogue in front of a camera and to invest yourself in the story and the characters. Despite my own experiences as a… read more!
The big-screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera was a flop. The big-screen adaptation of The Cat in the Hat, featuring Mike Myers in gruesome cat makeup, was a flop. You'd think Hollywood would have learned from this. And yet we now have Cats, essentially a CG-laden hybrid of Phantom and Cat in the Hat. And it,… read more!
I've been infatuated with silent film star Louise Brooks ever since I was a teenager. Incredibly, for all her fame and influence, there has never been a proper biopic on Brooks before today, so when I learned that Julian Fellowes – he of Downton Abbey fame – had written the screenplay for a film about Brooks called The Chaperone, I… read more!
Todd Haynes seems a strange choice to direct a routine David vs. Goliath legal drama. The crossover king of postmodern and queer cinema, Haynes is renowned for reference-heavy period pictures like Velvet Goldmine and Carol, not for contemporary – or at least relatively contemporary – investigative thrillers. Dark Waters' opening scene at first suggests that Haynes is up to his… read more!
Some movies barely warrant an in-depth review. Downton Abbey is a good example. A feature-length sequel to the British TV drama that originally aired between 2010 and 2015, Downton Abbey is purely for the fans: if you're unfamiliar with the series, you have absolutely no reason to see this film; if you took pleasure in the series, as I did,… read more!
Moviegoers are clearly starving for a good old fashioned indie film in 2019, which may explain why writer/director Lulu Wang's second feature The Farewell has earned more money per theater in its opening weekend than Avengers: Endgame did. (Of course, we're comparing four theaters to four thousand, but still.) So is The Farewell worth all the hype it's gotten since… read more!
Ford v Ferrari
I have often mentioned my fondness for what I call Granny Movies – Florence Foster Jenkins, Last Chance Harvey, et al – but Ford v Ferrari falls into a category of films I don't see all that often: Dad Movies. In fact it may be the quintessential Dad Movie, being above all a paean to cars, but also to middle-aged… read more!
The Good Liar
Ian McKellen plays Roy Courtnay, a medium-time grifter living in London who places an ad in a senior citizen's dating site. Whether or not Roy has used this site before to scam old widows out of their money is not clarified, but can be inferred. This time, the woman who answers his ad – or whose ad he answers, it's… read more!
A Hidden Life
After a trio of personal, abstract, and, for many viewers, deeply boring and pretentious features, the ever-elusive Terrence Malick finishes up a shockingly prolific decade of filmmaking with his most coherent and accessible work since 1978's Days of Heaven. A Hidden Life is a worthwhile re-introduction to the writer-director's style and themes, even for those who have long given up… read more!
Shia LaBeouf certainly is an interesting personality, with a life that's gone from promising child actor to unlikely action film star to drunken public nuisance to genuine performance artist/weirdo. At the tender age of 33, LaBeouf has already joined the ranks of Crazy Veteran Actors, those idiot savants who are all id and right brain. They can deliver raw, real… read more!
I'm not sure what people expect from Hustlers. Most folks already know that the film, based on a true story, follows a quartet of ex-strippers – led by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu – who hatch a plan to skim massive amounts of cash off of rich Wall Street chauvinists. Aside from that, what are audiences looking for? A clever… read more!
As cinema's new normal continues to settle in, with top-shelf Oscar contenders now being produced by streaming services, Martin Scorsese's three hour, thirty minute crime epic The Irishman is given a mere monthlong theatrical run before it lands at its permanent home on Netflix, the studio that financed it. The film is based on Charles Brandt's nonfiction book I Heard… read more!