Indie Stalwart Jeff Nichols, who's written and directed a series of dark, moody features (Mud, Take Shelter, Shotgun Stories), reteams with his regular star Michael Shannon for an ambitious film that blends standard family-on-the-run drama with bald-faced science fiction. The results are intriguing and original if not totally successful. Midnight Special concerns an 8-year-old boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) whose father (Shannon),… read more!
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I was one of the few people left unmoved by Ari Aster's debut horror feature Hereditary. I found it more overwrought than truly chilling. Still, I felt Aster showed promise as a visual stylist, so I was keen to check out his sophomore effort, Midsommar. The plot of Midsommar concerns a small group of twentysomethings – at least two of… read more!
The third official film from Denmark's ballyhooed "Dogme 95" collective – a group of filmmakers dedicated to a cinematic "vow of chastity" in which they only shoot on location with handheld cameras, use no artificial lighting or post production sound, etc. – is the most mainstream of the bunch, and it's no great wonder: Kragh-Jacobsen is a veteran filmmaker and… read more!
A Mighty Wind
Christopher Guest delivers another of his trademark mockumentaries about oddballs living on the fringes of the entertainment world, in this case a collection of corny 1960s folk musicians brought together for a reunion concert in Manhattan. Anybody who saw Guest's similarly-made Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show will recognize most of the returning ensemble, talented actors improvising their roles… read more!
Gus Van Sant's long-in-development biopic of Harvey Milk, the slain San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights activist, finally comes to the big screen as a somewhat buttoned-down, mainstream Hollywood movie, showing little of the experimental character of the director's last four features (possibly the most interesting second act in an American filmmaker's career). Sean Penn is perfectly cast as… read more!
Million Dollar Baby
Flawlessly old-fashioned character drama about a struggling female boxer (Hilary Swank) and the grizzled old trainer (Eastwood) who reluctantly takes her under his wing. I don't have much to add to the praise that's already been heaped upon this film, but I definitely want to opine that I think this is the best thing Eastwood's ever helmed - though that's… read more!
A sweet, old-fashioned drama about a Korean family who in 1983 moves from California to rural Arkansas, where the land is cheap and the soil holds promise for would-be farmer Dad (Steven Yeun). Even if you didn't know that Minari (named for a sort of Korean watercress that the family grows) was inspired by writer/director Chung's own childhood, there is… read more!
Tom Cruise plays a cop in a future where murderers are caught before they can even commit the murder they're charged with. Steven Spielberg is behind the camera. With a great setup and such A-list talent, is Minority Report the "thinking man's action picture" that some critics have purported it to be? No. But it does have plenty of nifty… read more!
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
For some reason, it seems that I only see the even-numbered Mission: Impossible films. In times past, I went because of the director: John Woo and Brad Bird helming M:I films was, once upon a time, a very big deal. So when Christopher McQuarrie took the reins on the fourth installment, Rogue Nation, I took a pass. Who cares about Christopher McQuarrie,… read more!
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
I've never been very interested in the Mission: Impossible film franchise, as I never watched the '60s TV series on which it is based and don't think much of Tom Cruise. I did check out the John Woo-directed second installment, which was okay, but essentially forgettable. So why did I see Ghost Protocol? One reason: Brad Bird. After knocking out… read more!
Mission: Impossible II
Or, Tom Cruise plays James Bond. The only major difference between the original Mission: Impossible TV series and the James Bond movies was that the IMF – Impossible Mission Force – was a team of spies, while Bond was a lone wolf. Not this time. Though assisted by the first film's only other returnee, Ving Rhames, Tom Terrific is basically… read more!
Screenwriter/playwright Sorkin, known for his chatty, chatty scripts, makes his directorial debut with Molly's Game, and it's pretty much what you'd expect. It's witty. It's fast-paced. It's clever but not as clever as it thinks it is. Sorkin-as-director shows no trailblazing visual flair, but he lets his fine cast do their jobs, and from the depths of seemingly standalone scenes… read more!
I'm not into baseball, I'm barely more interested in economics, and I only enjoy looking at statistics when they're about something fun. So a movie about the business of sports and the formulas of geeky statisticians should have kept me away. Why, then, did I like Moneyball? Because it's intelligent. Because it shines a light on an industry I know… read more!
Is Mira Nair an Indian filmmaker or an American filmmaker? Or both? Born in India, Nair moved to the US and honed her craft after graduating from Harvard. Her features reflect her mixed cinematic lineage: apart from the realism of her excellent debut Salaam Bombay! and the gloss of her unremarkable Hollywood effort The Perez Family, the director seems most at home… read more!
Tired of being known as merely a pretty face in Hollywood, actress Charlize Theron decided to put her money where her mouth was, not only by thoroughly deglamorizing herself to portray real-life convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, but by co-producing the much-anticipated Wuornos biopic as well. It paid off: Theron disappears into her role completely, giving us a spot-on interpretation… read more!
A super-downer of a drama starring Billy Bob Thornton as a guard on Georgia's death row and Halle Berry as the widow of the prisoner (Sean "Puffy" Combs) most recently sent to Georgia's electric chair. You can tell even from the ads that Thornton and Berry are going to hook up eventually, so it's a little to the story's detriment… read more!
Pixar's computer animated films are always easy reviews for me, because all I have to do is tell you how great they are, and leave them at that. Employing some of the most talented animators and story people in the industry, they have yet to make a dud, and even if Monsters, Inc. - about the secret world of the… read more!
It's been twelve years since Monsters, Inc. was released, and I must admit that I'd forgotten pretty much everything about it, other than it's about monsters and the two main characters are voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. And frankly, this prequel about how this mismatched duo met in college seemed to be a part of Pixar's recent slump… read more!
Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut assigned to man a lunar station all alone for three long years, in a future where 70% of the Earth's energy comes from something called "Helium 3" mined on the moon itself. His only company is a computer named Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey and an obvious homage to HAL in 2001). And… read more!
This isn't so much a documentary about David Bowie as it is an immersive odyssey through his career. It's chronological on a macro scale, focusing primarily on four periods: Bowie's Ziggy Stardust years in London in the early 1970s; his paranoid stay in Los Angeles in the middle of that decade; his experimental late '70s phase in Berlin; and the… read more!