After ‘Jurassic World Dominion,’ we might just be racing toward the extinction of the Jurassic Park franchise.
Directed by Simon Curtis and written by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey: A New Era is a sequel to the 2019 film. You know the drill.
Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, and Anya-Taylor Joy star in Robert Eggers’ ‘The Northman,’ a viking revenge epic with blood to spare.
Idris Elba as Knuckles? You gotta be echidning me.
Pixar’s newest animated film, ‘Turning Red,’ is a beast when it comes to comedy. But will audiences appreciate its big, bold style?
Robert Pattinson plays a newer, younger, and darker Batman in Matt Reeves’ reboot also starring Jeffrey Wright, Zoë Kravitz, and Paul Dano.
Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg join forces to seek out the greatest treasure of all. No, not friendship. A new blockbuster franchise.
Charlie Day and Jenny Slate star in ‘I Want You Back,’ a new romantic comedy set to begin streaming on Prime Video.
Kenneth Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot in ‘Death in the Nile,’ the star-studded follow-up to 2017’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express.’
Kathryn Ferguson’s new Sundance documentary, ‘Nothing Compares,’ sets out to prove Sinead O’Connor’s musical depth was there all along.
Directed by Christian Tafdrup, Shudder’s ‘Speak No Evil’ might just make you rethink your vacation plans.
Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones star in this depraved, metaphorical horrror comedy, which literalizes the anxieties of modern dating.
We all screamed for more ‘Scream,’ and Hollywood was more than happy to answer the call for yet another meta-slasher-whodunnit.
Simon Kinberg’s sophomore feature film starring Jessica Chastain boasts an impressive cast and some decent action. But that’s about it.
Somehow, Boba Fett returned.
Lana Wachowski’s mind-bending return to the Matrix franchise is more than just deja vu. Usually.
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, stars Olivia Colman as an aging mother reflecting on her darkest choices.
Tom Holland returns, along with a cast of familiar faces from all across the Spidey spectrum and beyond. And beyond. And beyond some more.
Matthew Vaughn returns to the Kingsman franchise after years of delays and false starts. Is his new take on the action spy franchise, now with Ralph Fiennes in the lead role, the fresh spin this series needed?
Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, Mike Faist, and more star in this dazzling remake of the classic 1961 musical.
Oh, Coen brother.
Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, and many more star in this sweeping, grim-dark remake of the 1947 classic.
Simon Rex stars as a down-on-his-luck huckster who can’t seem to get over his nostalgic view of the past. Sound familiar?
Ridley Scott directs this supposedly captivating tale starring Adam Driver, Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, and the courage of Jared Leto’s stylist.
That’s right. PTA made a movie based in LA and the lead actors look like real people.
Will Smith swings for Oscar gold as Richard Williams, father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.
Nostalgia runs deep in this legacy sequel to the classic 1984 film.
Fans of the classic book series and beloved cartoon finally get the film adaptation this character doesn’t deserve.
Kenneth Branagh’s latest film is geared up for a Best Picture win at this year’s Oscars. But does it deserve all the awards-level hype?
Tom Hanks stars in probably the best ‘Fallout’ movie that isn’t actually connected to ‘Fallout.’
Pablo Larraín and Kristen Stewart team up to make biopics thrilling again.
Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy star in this brilliant, but messy trip to the 60s and beyond.
Chloé Zhao’s Marvel debut is big, bold, and thoroughly lacking.
The debut family feature from Locksmith Animation doesn’t glitch as much as you might expect.
Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, and plenty more star in Villeneuve’s out-of-this-world adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel.
Ridley Scott’s medieval ‘Rashomon’ redux boasts an epic cast and a killer titular duel.
Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Steven Levenson’s Broadway stage musical, Dear Evan Hansen, already felt a few years past its due date in 2016. Ben Platt, who starred in the original run and returns for this new film adaptation, already felt a little too old for the role in 2016. Live theater does wonders to mask sappy, dated material with the illusive immersion of being there, in the moment and right in front of the actors. Dear Evan Hansen isn’t a Cats-level misfire, but it’s certainly not deserving of an encore.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a film canon cluttered with familiar formulas and diminishing returns. So it’s genuinely exciting to see the newest MCU film, Shang-Chi, bucking expectations with viscerally engaging fight choreography and trope reversals of other origin stories (mainly Doctor Strange). But then it’s all the more disappointing to see Shang-Chi subsequently revert to some of the most glaring and gaudy Marvel missteps.
It turns out there’s still plenty of creativity and emotional stakes to be mined from the furiously picked over lore of King Arthur and his roundtable. The Green Knight openly advertises itself as a loose adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an anonymously-written poem that has long been considered an uncomfortable sticking point for religious authors and perhaps filmmakers who aren’t all that interested in tackling the spiritual politics between Christianity and the pagan roots of British folklore. Thank god (or gods?) for David Lowery.
Snake Eyes, also known as Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, is at constant war with itself, particularly over whether or not it wants to go full tilt into that clumsier, bulkier title connecting it to Paramount’s reboot of the G.I. Joe franchise, which fizzled out after just two tries, both of them colorful and surprisingly engaging for what they are, but ultimately too forgettable for audiences to collect ’em all.
The “hey, isn’t pregnancy pretty scary?” genre gets an all-new entry with A24’s False Positive, a deliriously bold and visually unflinching psychological horror from writer and director John Lee, who helmed a few episodes of “Broad City” with this film’s star, co-screenwriter, and co-producer Ilana Glazer. As an obvious homage to the chilling paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby, where a young woman suspects her neighbors might have dastardly plans in store for her unborn child, False Positive takes these similar themes, such as the plight of female agency in a male-dominated world, and adds even more contemporary topics like gaslighting in its effort to give this sub-genre a bit of a rebirth.
The second episode of “Loki” has been out for some time now, and I’ve got to tell you, this is the hardest time I’ve had writing about one of these shows. Not because there isn’t anything to write about. Quite the contrary. After only two episodes, “Loki” has a lot of tricky, deep themes up its sleeve.
Okay guys, I know it. You’re tired of hearing about how good Marvel is. After thirteen years of existence, the MCU has produced hit after hit, with only the occasional Thor: The Dark World to leave a mark.
Do you remember the classic horror franchise A Nightmare on Elm Street? Remember the first film? An imaginative, ambient slasher with a strange but horrific premise? Remember when the third film, Dream Warriors, was announced? How bizarre it was to see the classic Krueger story transformed into a fantasy-horror-team-up film with a tone akin to that of a teen superhero movie? Because I don’t, I wasn’t born when those movies came out and I stopped my retro viewings after the second one. But I do imagine the feeling must have been pretty similar to how I felt walking out of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
In the original animated movie (and, by extension, the 1996 live-action remake), Cruella is a dashing, fittingly devilish fashion obsessive who craves to skin the coats of Dalmatians because, well, she’s cruel and narcissistic. Cruella, from director Craig Gillespie, mostly buries this aspect of the villain’s psyche by giving more time to explaining her ascent (or descent?) to becoming a fashion superstar from extraordinarily humble beginnings.
Angelina Jolie. The most household of household names. You won’t find anyone in the world who doesn’t know who Jolie is by name and name alone. Before we even get to her actual credentials — roles like Lara Croft in the original Tomb Raider movies, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, and Maleficent — she boasts accolades that include several Humanitarian awards and Oscars, and she even became a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She’s got a heavy business card, is what I’m getting at here. And it’s exactly that kind of star power and genuine, groundbreaking talent that serves not only as the shining light over Those Who Wish Me Dead from Warner Bros., but also the biggest obstacle standing in the way of an otherwise plain neo-western thriller.
Profile is caught in a curious frame. Inspired by Anna Erelle’s 2015 memoir, In the Skin of a Jihadist, director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) crafts a Facebook-focused thriller that was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in 2018, is based in the year 2014, and finally arrives in theaters nationwide in 2021. What we have, then, is a screen-share narrative that’s both forward-thinking when it comes to bridging the ever-shrinking cap between computer screens and the silver screen and an outdated hand-wagging parable about the terrors of technology and the ever-present dangers of social media (what a concept).
As we’re typically reminded by today’s news cycles, the immigrant experience is fraught with hardships and humility. The act of separating oneself from their homeland, their family, and sometimes their heritage causes one to drift between one nation to another, caught between two lands but never feeling connected to either — sometimes for a grueling sense of time. You’re caught in a perpetual state of limbo, which is befitting of sophomore writer/director Ben Sharrock’s BAFTA-nominated movie of the same name. To try to mine comedy from such a difficult experience can seem like a dangerous proposition, especially these days.
Roughly 13 years have gone by since the release of Iron Man, the film that introduced us to the Marvel Cinematic Universe — that may not seem like a long time, but keep in mind that last year (2020) counted as at least five. This, mixed with the fact that currently 23 movies and two limited series have come out since, proves it’s pretty impossible to undermine the legacy and longevity of the MCU. But as time goes on, this sprawling superhero franchise has seen quite a few major changes. The Avengers ushered in a “Heroic Age” of superhero films, but we now see Marvel attempting to dissect those very heroic ideals that previous films were built on.
Godzilla vs. Kong comes packaged with an easy enough proposition for monster movie fans who’ve been craving something larger than life to hit their screen this year. It’s the culmination of several films all building upon one another since Gareth Edwards’ reboot of the central character in 2014, but the irony is that you don’t really need to see any of those films (or remember what happened in them, honestly) in order to get the full experience of this globe-trotting, city-smashing, Kaiju death match.
There’s nothing quite like Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a film that feels more like a big-budget HBO mini-series in terms of format, but with all the whiz bang pop of a billion dollar summer blockbuster. It’s certainly bloated, though it’s coming out at a time when audiences are more starved than ever when it comes to cinematic spectacle. It’s about as ambitious in its labrynth of costumed subplots as something like Captain America: Civil War, but it’s a far more coherent and narratively rewarding picture than a lot of what Snyder has produced before, particularly compared to the mess of misery that was Dawn of Justice.
The undersea adventures of SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom-dwelling fans have been going on since 1999, entertaining multiple generations and sparking that age-old debate about which era of the sea sponge’s escapades is the best. Well, it’s not much of a debate per se, it’s more like the original generation of viewers (now fully-grown adults) yelling at the younger generation, who don’t seem to be paying much attention because they’re too busy trying to watch “SpongeBob.”
It’s not often we get a memoirist’s perspective on film. There are plenty of instances where directors write autobiographies, certainly. And there are plenty of novelists who’ve made the leap into screenwriting and directing. But it’s pretty rare for an author known for his best-selling life story to make the jump behind-the-camera. Of course, Eddie Huang hasn’t lived an ordinary life. The Fresh Off the Boat writer is an attorney, producer, television host, food personality, chef, and restaurateur, complete with his own gua bao eatery in Lower Manhattan, which gives you a glimpse into his wide-ranging skill set. This is a guy who really knows how to expand his reach.
Throughout a nearly four-decade acting career, Robin Wright has capably channeled characters who carry a patient, dutiful sense of longing and/or silent dignity. Be it The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump, The Congress, or Netflix’s House of Cards, to name only a few notable movies and shows, Wright has often demonstrated a great talent for playing patient, mature women with complicated feelings and careful thinking.
We’re only a third of the way through “WandaVision,” but if this recent episode is any indication, we can expect an avalanche of strange occurrences and sudden twists to occur every single week. Episode 3 of “WandaVision,” aptly titled “Now in Color,” comes to Disney+ with another 40 minutes of laughs, love, and absolute madness. The show starts off how the second episode ended, in brand spanking new technicolor!
For those unaware, “WandaVision” is the newest project from Marvel Studios, and it’s the first in a long line of miniseries that all share a connection to each other and the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. It follows everyone’s favorite odd couple — Wanda Maximoff and Vision (last name not included) — after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Back when this idea was first announced, it was met with excitement from some and exhaustion from others. I’m only a little bit ashamed to admit that for a while, I landed on the latter.
Promising Young Woman is mad. Damn mad. And it damn well should be. The feature screenwriting and directorial debut of Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) is a consciously, thoughtfully thorny and confrontational revenge story, driven boldly by its star performance from Carey Mulligan. It tensely and intently examines the #MeToo era with a bold disregard for what anyone might think or say. Filled with simmering rage, and a film that’s often eager to examine the layers of hypocrisies through which a “boys will be boys” culture has been formed in institutions over the course of generations, this cinematic takedown is a vibrant effort to dispel “nice guys” and dismantle a society that often sides with men while disrupting women’s futures in the process.
Monday, the latest film from director Argyris Papadimitropoulos (Suntan), is a splashy and sensationalized effort, one that’ll possibly turn some folks off its intentional, unabashed abrasiveness. The response to the film’s debut appears to be divided, and understandably so. Seemingly by design, Papadimitropoulos’ latest film is a claustrophobic and unsettled viewing experience, and it matches the restless, unbridled feelings of our lovestruck, then lovelorn characters. If you don’t care for these characters, essentially, then you’re gonna have a hard time falling for this movie. Especially since the filmmakers seemingly don’t care if you like them or not. They’re not the most endearing duo, but they’re certainly amusing to watch in their debauchery. Well, at least, until they aren’t. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself already.
If you told me there was a movie being made about Ma Rainey, the legendary blues singer who inspired the likes of Bessie Smith and Langston Hughes, I’d sit back and buckle in for a jazz-filled good time. If you told me the movie was based off a play written by August Wilson of Fences fame, I would immediately unbuckle myself to go and grab a pair of tissues.
The films of David Fincher tend to obsess over the genius of severely tragic and damaged characters. So it’s no surprise that Mank, a period biopic now on Netflix about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, has been on Fincher’s cinematic to-do list for many years. His father, Jack Fincher, wrote the screenplay decades ago, but he passed before ever having a chance to see the film brought to the big screen. Now, arguably still at the peak of his filmmaking career, David Fincher returns to deliver this biting treatise on the making of Citizen Kane, without ever really exploring the classic film’s most fascinating details.
It’ll take some time before we really come to terms with the depths of COVID-19’s devastation. It’s hard to grapple with the severity of a disaster when you’re still caught in the eye of the storm. We haven’t seen the last of this deadly and debilitating disease, and it’s hard to know when we ever will. A year ago, you hardly heard a single soul utter the word “coronavirus.” Now, it’s hard to have a conversation where it’s not mentioned in the first few seconds. We’re in a new normal for the time being, and we shouldn’t take it lightly. Because at least for the United States, the worst is yet to come, unfortunately.
Fables are the fabric through which we weave our hopes, our morals from past failures, and our burning idealism into the consciousness of future generations. In the grand tradition of passing down stories and sharing grand memories to young and impressionable minds, Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine productions’ Wolfwalkers, the new animated movie from directors Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea) and Ross Stewart, is a lovely and winningly sincere 2D tale of friendship, acceptance, and the rapid dangers of societal mistrust.
The success of 2011’s Bridesmaids proved female comedies featuring the kind of bawdy, scattalogical humor typically seen in male-led comedies could lead to box office gold. In its wake came a wave of Bechdel-test-passing, R-rated comedies of varying degrees of success, including the smash hit Girls Trip in 2017. Chick Fight feels like the product of Bridesmaids-effect. The women of Chick Fight don’t give a damn about being “ladylike.” They’re badasses! They’re sexual like Melissa McCarthy in that plane scene! The romance is a side plot! But the movie lacks what set Bridesmaids and Girls Trip apart: authenticity.
I’m not exactly sure how to sell you on Frederick Wiseman’s City Hall. This sweeping, sprawling, four-and-a-half-hour documentary is a massive, city-wide examination of the inner workings of Boston’s government and public services. It’s an elaborate, expansive look at what makes a city the way it is, how its citizens and political leaders work hard to keep everything running, and the seemingly endless hurdles that poor and marginalized individuals often need to go through in order to make their voices heard. It’s a bulky, burgeoning enterprise of a documentary that’s as interested in watching town hall officials speak to the masses as it is watching the local garbagemen take out the trash on their regular circuits.
There comes a point in many people’s lives when they realize they’re not going to live up to their past potential. Whatever bright promise they once showed grows dim in the recesses of time, and the gradual steps toward the mediocrity and bitter acceptance of a middling adulthood come heavily. This is not autobiographical; I had little-to-no potential growing up, and I’m certainly not living up to it now! But it’s the tortured and tormented existence of Abe Applebaum, the former child protigee-turned-sad-sack protagonist of writer-director Evan Morgan’s dark noir dramedy The Kid Detective, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month before making its unexpected theatrical release (at least, for me) this weekend.
Babysitter’s Guide, directed by Rachel Talalay (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare), is based on a three-part book of the same name, written and adapted for the screen by Joe Ballarini. The movie takes place in Rhode Island where teen Kelly is a math whiz and social pariah, dubbed “Monster Girl” by her peers who still mock her for claiming to be have been attacked by a monster at age five. On Halloween night, Kelly learns monsters are, in fact, very real when Jacob, the boy she is babysitting, is kidnapped by the boogeyman himself. Kelly is joined by an underground society of monster-hunting babysitters to rescue Jacob and stop the boogeyman from releasing his army of nightmares on the world.
By now, you’re likely familiar with Greta Thunberg, a 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist who’s drummed up heaps of international press over her ongoing efforts to bring serious awareness to the increasing dangers of climate change, global warming, and the depletion of our global resources. It’s a problem impacting all of us, young and old. In fact, it’s the youth in particular who will need to live with the consequences of their elders if we don’t do something to prevent the aching calls of distress from our dying planet. It’s been noted several times by now that we’re currently at the brink of irreversible damage, and if something isn’t done imminently, we’ll suffer greatly from the extreme consequences of our inaction.
Matt Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band shocked mainstream audiences when it opened Off Broadway in 1968. It tells the story of seven gay men at a birthday party in a New York City apartment, which was groundbreaking at the time in how it pioneered representation of gay life. Now, the story is being brought to life once again in a new movie from Netflix and a team of producers that includes Ryan Murphy — as part of his $300 million deal with the streaming service.
The Babysitter: Killer Queen, directed by McG and starring pretty much the exact same cast as the first film, was released exclusively on Netflix earlier this month and is described by the service as a “teen comedy horror…sequel.” Thanks to the sequel’s release, the original went from a cult-favorite film to the first in a cult-favorite franchise. Much like the majority of its cast and crew, The Babysitter: Killer Queen is more of the same kind of material we got from the first movie. Yet, for whatever reason, I enjoyed this one a lot more.
Apples, the feature directorial debut of Christos Nikou, isn’t a horror film, though it does grapple with something that’s terrifying to think about. In the midst of a nationwide pandemic, where people instantly and inexplicably suffer from acute cases of severe amnesia, Number 14842, a.k.a. Aris (Aris Servetalis), is the latest patient who winds up in the Disturbed Memory Department, a mental rehabilitation center for people who cannot remember their identities, their past, their loved ones, or where they live.
I want to believe that most movies are made with good intentions. I have a hard time believing that a group of people would spend a year (or more) of their time working on something for shallow or potentially even cynical reasons. Yes, we live in a very cynical world, as Jerry Maguire once said. I understand that people are not always driven by pure desires and good deeds. But when it comes to art, especially art that is meant to be as emotionally engrossing as Good Joe Bell, the newest film from director Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men), I would believe — or, at least, hope — that the motivations behind this project were noble and good, as its dutiful title would suggest. Nevertheless, movies don’t give out prizes for good intentions.
Enola Holmes is based on the YA book series The Enola Holmes Mysteries by Nancy Springer. It tells the story of Enola Holmes, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, the former of whom is already famous by the time our story starts in 1884. After her father dies and her brothers leave home, Enola is left with her beloved but eccentric mother, Eudoria, at the family’s country estate. Then, on the morning of Enola’s sixteenth birthday, Eudoria disappears. Enola must follow her trail of clues and set out on an adventure to find her. The plot thickens when she meets Viscount Tewksbury, a runaway Marquess pursued by a mysterious assassin in a bowler hat. The game is afoot.
Directed and written by Sean Durkin in his latest film since 2011, The Nest tells the story of Rory O’Hara, portrayed by Jude Law, who after a seemingly successful life of entrepreneurism in the States, moves back to London in the late 1980s so he can work for his old company. Along with his loving wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their children Samantha and Ben (Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell), the family moves into a luxurious, countryside house, and as this summary might hint, things begin to take a “twisted turn” once they arrive.
In theory, there’s something quite lovely about David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, The Water Man. It’s a celebration of the power of storytelling and the ways in which we can use our imaginations to understand the intricacies of our realities. The execution is completely earnest and sometimes charming, particularly with a strong lead performance from newcomer Lonnie Chavis. The storybook quality, while not especially novel, certainly makes it an accessible film for young audiences, even when it deals with heavy subject matter. Despite its warm presentation, likable sincerity, and all its good intentions, there’s also a cold irony to how familiar and rudimentary it can be in its narrative structure.
Viggo Mortensen makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with Falling, a heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) family drama in which Mortensen also stars as John, a mild-mannered pilot who takes a week off from work in order to spend time with his critical, outspoken, set-in-his-ways father (Lance Henriksen), a brittle senior who is never afraid to yell, demean, and belittle anyone and everyone around him. John and his family, including his husband (Terry Chen), his adopted daughter (Gabby Velis), and his sister (Laura Linney), all try their best to put up with the old man’s endless torments. After all, it’s not looking good for his future. He’s a relic of the past who haunts his family — even as he’s still among the living (if only for so long). His disgruntled children do everything they can to keep their decades-spanning feelings of anguish, remorse, and frustration toward their father to themselves, but Mortensen’s moody movie is unafraid to turn up the dial until it’s almost unbearable for anyone (them or us) to want to spend even a minute longer in this man’s narrow-minded company.
Enemies of the State, from director Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird), doesn’t need to do too much to make audiences feel an unnerving sense of dread over the dangers of government surveillance in our current technological era. We, the people, are growing ever more aware of the uncovered truths in an age of Wikileaks and other online methods of taking off masks and discovering previously undisclosed secrets. But ironically enough, in an age where information can often be at the click of the button, what is actually true and what is being constructed by our government can become foggy in an age of post-truth and “fake news.” Are we sometimes too quick to assume what is true and what is fabricated? Are government figures merely looking out for their own interests, or do they have more specific agendas? At a time where we know more about the activities of the U.S. government than ever, we might have even more questions than ever regarding their activities and what they seek to find in American homes.
Director Antonio Campos wastes no time setting the tone of The Devil All the Time, his adaptation of the 2011 novel by Donald Ray Pollack. Within the first few minutes, Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), an American soldier in the South Pacific during World War II, finds the fly-ridden body of a marine crucified on a cross. The scene is the first of many bloody acts in the bleak film, and the theme of violence and sacrifice is explored even further throughout its 139 minutes.
No matter their political persuasion, most people can probably agree that there is a stark difference between the Obama presidency and the current one. Because this is an election year, we’ve been inundated with a seemingly endless stream of new documentaries reminding us of this fact and expanding upon various calls to action leaning one way or the other on who should run the country for the next four years. Perhaps the most unconventional of these recent docs is The Way I See It from director Dawn Porter, which showcases archived stills taken by President Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza, who also worked for the Reagan administration.
When I started Holler, the first feature film written and directed by Nicole Riegel and based on her short film of the same name, I had this ringing feeling. Its sense of place, warm authenticity, and bittersweet emotional core were all burning bright just as this homey small-town indie began. Aided by a bristling, genuine lead performance from Jessica Barden (The Lobster, The End of the F****** World), I was already feeling energized and enthusiastic about the wondrous possibility that I might be watching one of the finest debuts of this year’s highly unorthodox Toronto International Film Festival.
When it comes to psychological horror, there is one unwritten but common and maybe even obvious imperative: you have to mess with your audience’s mind. The true horror doesn’t come from a man in a papier-mâché Halloween mask or a creepy-crawly creature from the fifth dimension like you’ll see in other scary movies. It comes from mystery, the feeling that you never have any idea what is actually going on in the film you’re watching, as well as the sense of dread that confusion might entail. So I guess you could say Rent-A-Pal is a pretty good psychological horror — one certainly deserving the genre label.
If you search the name “Ellis Haizlip” in your preferred search engine of choice today, you won’t get a lot of results. There is no Wikipedia page, and his IMDB spotlight is slim, to say the least. Most of what you’ll get are stories and reviews about Mr. Soul, the documentary detailing the life and career of Haizlip and his time as the producer and host of “Soul!” from 1968 to 1973. A documentary, I might add, that most people wouldn’t even know to search the name of because much like the person it’s analyzing, it wasn’t massively advertised. Still, Mr. Soul is just as important to American life and TV as the man himself was.
In any other year, it wouldn’t be a question of whether or not you should see writer/director Christopher Nolan’s latest visual extravaganza on the big screen. It would just be a matter of how quickly you should go.
As a business model, Disney’s years-long effort to re-capitalize its most iconic animated films of yesteryear into big-budget, live-action (or live-action-esque in the case of last year’s The Lion King) reimaginings has been nothing short of a financial masterstroke, not too far below the juggernaut success of their Marvel and Star Wars acquisitions just a decade ago. In some ways, Mulan represents both the highs and lows of Disney’s trip down memory lane, from family favorites like The Jungle Book to more critically shrugged replicants like Beauty and the Beast. Either way, Mulan is sure to leave some audiences clamoring for more, while others might end up feeling somewhat cheated by what could’ve been.
She’s a litigator who spends her days in court defending the little man pro bono and her nights alone with nothing but Chinese takeout for comfort. He’s handsome, wealthy, and charming but totally incapable of falling in love — or so it seems. It’s the perfect setup. By the time the title card appears, accompanied by Tiffany’s 80s pop anthem “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Netflix’s Love, Guaranteed has laid out all the standard rules for the romantic comedy. The next 90 minutes won’t do much to challenge those rules, but it’s a fun 90 minutes nonetheless.
I’ll never claim to be a great source of knowledge when it comes to the works of Charles Dickens. My familiarity with his words derive through other sources, mainly various adaptations of varying faithfulness or stylistic-to-bombastic re-imaginings of his material that may or may not honor the “spirit” of his original scribbles. Therefore, I cannot tell you whether or not The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fitting adaptation, nor if it properly honors Dickens’ long-standing legacy and cultural relevance. But here’s what I can tell you.
The new Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix, directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, reflects on the history and impact of the Paralympic Games while telling the stories of several of its elite athletes. The first lines of the documentary draw a parallel between Marvel’s Avengers and Paralympians. Like comic book superheroes, each of the featured competitors has an origin story; a tale of facing obstacles, beating the odds, and unlocking great strength. As an introductory voiceover puts it, “The Olympics are where heroes are created. The Paralympics are where heroes come.”
Thanks to Disney’s Star Girl, I already know a movie like this — in which some poor young woman shows up from another town and sweeps a completely featureless guy off his feet — can still be made in 2020, but Chemical Hearts somehow takes this worn idea to another level.
Tesla stars Ethan Hawke as the titular inventor who navigates life in the 1800s, one of America’s most “brainstormy” times. Around him are a handful of equally inventive and enigmatic characters, such as Anne Morgan, portrayed by Eve Hewson, and George Westinghouse, portrayed by Jim Gaffigan. And of course, you can’t have a Tesla movie without his famous frenemy and rival in the electricity circuit, Thomas Edison; a role that is perfectly performed by Kyle MacLachlan in small doses. Edison isn’t in the film a whole lot, but he manages to steal the show in a manner accurate to how his real-life inspiration repeatedly stole Tesla’s thunder.
It wasn’t too long ago that young adult coming-of-age movies started to multiply in number upon the box office success of The Fault in Our Stars, which injected the usual teen drama formula with a high-stakes catch. What if you fell in love with someone who has terminal cancer?
This film trend has slowed down somewhat, with the exception of sappy imitators like last year’s Five Feet Apart, and now Words on Bathroom Walls, which rests its central premise on a new question for the genre: what if you fell in love with someone who has schizophrenia?
Personally, I believe the horror genre doesn’t get nearly enough credit these days. I’ve struggled to figure out just why that is. Perhaps it’s because of the over-saturation of the genre, the fact that there are quite literally hundreds of films to choose from, many of them admittedly not exactly something to write home about. Maybe it’s because even when horror was at its peak, when the big monsters like Dracula or Jason Voorhees spooked audiences during the Halloween season, horror was advertised as something of a niche genre; meant only for those who could truly appreciate the shock, schlock, and gore of a scary movie. Or maybe it’s because no on-screen jump scare could ever compare to the horrors of reality that many of us have to live through on a daily basis. Either way, the horror genre is pretty underappreciated and often times overlooked when awards season comes around.
When it was announced that Jon Stewart would return with his sophomore feature film, since titled Irresistible, it made sense that folks assumed it would be the scathing satire that would criticize and bring damnation to the hotheaded personalities who take rotating chairs in the Big House. But Stewart’s new movie, his first directorial effort since 2014’s overlooked Rosewater, may not be what some folks expect. Indeed, this is not a takedown of the narcissistic, hypocritical right. Stewart isn’t here to put some right-leaning personalities into their place.
Eight complete strangers sectioned off into four curiously matched pairs awaken in various rooms of an unfamiliar suburban house. None of them can recall how they may have gotten there, nor is there any apparent method of exit. For the foreseeable future, they’re trapped, and none of them are alone. So describes the events of The Doors Between Us, a micro-indie film produced in Lakewood, Colorado, which held its one-night-only premiere on a single, exciting evening back in December.
Harmony is a utopia. But at what cost? The denizens of Trolls: World Tour, a sequel to the well-received DreamWorks Animation film from 2016, begin this self-examination in segregated exile. What is the world of Trolls if not a watermark of our own “United” States? Because these are trolls are a lot of things, but united is certainly not one of them.
With The Rise of Skywalker, we now have a definitive conclusion to the latest official trilogy from the official kingmakers at Disney, who set out to construct a brand new direction for a boundless franchise. As a capper to this corner of stories, The Rise of Skywalker is an incredible finale, no question. But like its central opposing forces, it’s filled with all the bad and only most of the good there is to be found in blockbuster cinema’s most beloved — and scrutinized — canon.
Director Trey Edward Shults has a clear interest in the tools needed for families to survive whatever dangers may come their way. His sophomore film from 2017, It Comes at Night—also an A24 film—explored a heightened metaphor for the terrors parents inflict upon their children just as easily as they themselves fear it, and in Waves, Shults presents a far more grounded, but equally as harrowing tale about the fragility of success in modern America.
A biopic about American historical figure Harriet Tubman has been long overdue. You can’t go through American history without reading or hearing her name and yet filmmakers have steered away from her story until now. Finally, Kasi Lemmons brings the legendary abolitionist’s life to the big screen in her biopic Harriet, and while her story is one every American should know, the way the film tells it is not without fault.
Since his first appearance in 1940, the Joker as a comic book villain (and later TV/Film/Video Game villain) has been an ever-evolving enigma, much like his darkly heroic counterpart. So it makes perfect sense for the films to continuously reinvent a character like the Joker, who serves a litany of important functions as an antagonistic presence.
It’s no secret Hollywood loves Hollywood (see: La La Land’s 14 Oscar nominations). A biopic about a beloved star of the Hollywood Golden Age? Singing? My first thought upon viewing the Judy trailer was Oscar. Fodder. But Renée Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland ultimately transcended my cynicism.
Cruelty is currency, and salvation is nothing more than a branch thrown into a ravaging, rapid river. This is the world Jennifer Kent throws her audience, unwillingly, into for her sophomore feature, The Nightingale. A divisive and often outright dread-inducing picture, Kent’s film rides through the Tasmanian wilderness with a steadfast purpose, to confront and kill the colonizing demons that haunt her main characters by body and land. To an extent, the vindictiveness of Kent’s picture thrives in the lush greenery of Tasmania. But the bonds that hold her characters together break under pressure.
This past weekend saw the release of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, a high-concept dram-com with a hint of romance in which an unprecedented global anomaly erases The Beatles (among other cultural bullet points) from history. The Fab Four are allowed to live on, however, in the baffled memory of struggling musician Jack (Himesh Patel), the only one with any understanding of what’s happened.
The seventh film in the Conjuring series and the third to focus on the now-famous Annabelle doll comes to us from first-time director Gary Dauberman, who previously wrote the first two Annabelle films and co-wrote The Nun, as well as the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It.
19 years of X-Men films have led to one very awkward moment. A patchwork of sagas ranging from transcendent to bottom-dweller couldn’t have a picked a flatter vehicle for punctuating a complex legacy now in the hands of Disney upon the Disney-Fox merger. And to make matters more confused, we still have another one of these ancillary films, New Mutants, delayed to next spring for an unrelated and likely inconsequential misadventure. For now, Dark Phoenix effectively closes the book on a story that already has two, maybe three endings as it is.
Where there once stood the pillar of the white, male gaze in literature, Toni Morrison exchanged her chisel for a sledgehammer and there, knocked it down. The author, editor, and icon has amassed a following worthy of her extraordinary verve. A towering figure in the world of fiction, Morrison’s titles include The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved, among many others. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner in literature and, will have you know, she makes the best carrot cake you will ever have.
Over the past 65 years, there have been 35 films featuring Godzilla (or 38 if you’re being technical), a super-powered reptilian giant and titan of the ancient world, born against his will from the complicit ashes of mankind’s mistakes. He’s a rightful god among monsters and humans alike, and such is the case in this latest outing of the world’s favorite monster, in which there might be some serious competition for the title of “King.”
Sifting through Netflix’s endless rolodex of content can be daunting. What should you watch? What are the streaming overlords recommending? Is there a category curated specifically for one’s own tastes? Mind-boggling algorithms aside, there are sometimes those movies that just pop up out of nowhere (fine, not out of nowhere exactly, I just went through the algorithm process). But these are the movies that always seem to simply say, “maybe.” Maybe this is the one. And this time, that “maybe” is literal in Always Be My Maybe, which is now streaming on Netflix and stars Ali Wong and Randall Park.
Every teen generation tends to get defined by the media they consume and how they consume it. Sure, not everyone can relate with the exact feeling a single song from the 70s can invoke when played in a film like Dazed and Confused, or perhaps what an early 2000s pop culture reference might inform in Superbad. But in Booksmart, the tradition of expanding relatability beyond the constraints and memories of a given era continues in this lovingly ambitious feature debut from actor-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde.
In my view, 2014’s John Wick is the ultimate Redbox movie. On the surface, it looks like your typical, generic B-movie action thriller. It features a recognizable actor who was out of the limelight at the time, and to some, past his prime. In this case, that actor was Keanu Reeves, and this revenge tale looked like any other generic action romp, the likes of which you typically find crowded in those recognizable movie machines outside of Wal-Mart.
I can still recall…The Last Summer.
In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the rules of Pokémon and perhaps video game movies in general are turned on their head to seemingly serve a single purpose: give the people what they want. But what do audiences really want in a new Pokémon movie? A stylish film noir? A diversely casted Zootopia narrative? Dozens of CG monsters to adore and collect? The Ryan Reynolds brand of comedy under a PG rating? Or perhaps simply a reminder that when many of you were young, Pokémon (in some fashion) was a big deal to you, and now it can be a big deal to your kids.
Filmmakers generally build their stories around proven formulas. Either intentionally or not, most movies you see at your local theater follow a predictable series of set ups and payoffs. Sometimes this can be grating, and other times, it’s part of the charm. In one’s mundane day-to-day living, a familiar, run-of-the-mill story can be dull, meandering, or frustrating. You’ve almost certainly heard someone ask, “Why won’t Hollywood make something new?” But in other cases, a film that’s light, good-natured, and winningly by-the-books can invoke a welcome sigh of relief.
For reasons that may be obvious, critically analyzing a film intended for children can be a difficult task. There’s a prevailing notion that kids, due to their general lack of experience, have very low standards and will eat up whatever colorful media they’re given. There may certainly be some truth to that sentiment, given that children and adults consume art very differently, but one of our responsibilities as critics is to thoroughly clarify how disparate age groups might react to a film, especially one made for kids to enjoy.
Pristinely lined upon walls in America’s capital are the imposing, glorifying portraits of the fathers of our nation. Men who may have written moving words, but did so using the backs of women, people of color, and disenfranchised groups as the desk to write upon. It’s a tiring cycle; to be told the people have power only as far as the ballot box, and only if they can even get there. But in Netflix’s new documentary Knock Down the House, director Rachel Lears follows four women and their personal, political battles against a broken system.
The set up and payoff structure of the Marvel films beginning with Iron Man in 2008 may never be fully realized. These stories will continue on for as long as audiences continue to be fans of the material, so any definitive ending for a saga of episodic films requires a conclusion to at least one prominent idea, not necessarily an entire world of characters and their respective potential as branched franchises. This is why Avengers: Endgame is a film deftly committed to playing out the first and last revelation of such a film series. Tony Stark is Iron Man. And the Avengers are the Earth’s mightiest heroes. Everything else in Endgame is secondary, including its villain.
The Curse of La Llorona is the sixth film in the ongoing Conjuring series. Released through Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, the film is helmed by first-time director Michael Chaves (the director of next year’s The Conjuring 3), written by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis, and stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velásquez. The story is based on the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, also known as The Weeping Woman, and follows Anna (Cardellini), a widowed mother of two in 1970s Los Angeles, who must protect her children from the supernatural entity in question (Marisol Ramirez).
Merriam-Webster Dictionary should be on the lookout. Paying attention to the latest changes in the English language, the millennial vernacular has birthed some questionable terms in its wake: “Extra,” “Slay,” and the ever-practical “Lit” have found their way into the jargon of many young folks. But above all other terms, there is one that shames them all. Adulting. Defined: “to behave like an adult, to do the things that adults regularly have to do,” as per Merriam-Webster. This is the very word encompassing the Netflix nexus of Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s neon-lit directorial debut, Someone Great.
Slut in a Good Way is directed by French-Canadian actress Sophie Lorain and stars Marguerite Bouchard, Romane Denis, and Rose Adam as Charlotte, Mégane, and Aube respectively, a trio of teenage girls who are hired to work part-time at a toy store during the winter holidays. Over the course of the season, they each engage in various romantic and sexual exploits with their coworkers and are suddenly forced to reckon with the frustrations and uncertainties that arise when it comes to adult relationships.
For many film fans, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has taken on a bit of a mythic quality since its inception. Either fittingly or ironically, this long-in-the-works passion project centered (in part) around the literary icon is one that has often alluded the Brazil director. For the past 30 years, Gilliam has tried — with only fleeting success — to bring this mischievous fable to the big screen. Despite every intention and aspiration to make it a reality, Don Quixote yet remained a fantasy.
The escapist horror of Stephen King is known and perhaps beloved for its eery “other” worlds and frightscapes mirroring our own reality, yet are not quite the same. Something is always off in the very best of King’s written stories and media adaptations, and in the same way, Pet Sematary (a remake of the schlocky 1989 horror hit) contains just about everything recognizable in a memorable, unshakeable King horror, but something here inevitably strikes as a bit twisted and wrong.
Robin Bissell has produced, though not frequently, films of varying quality over the years, primarily under director Gary Ross. If you’ve watched Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, or Free State of Jones, for instance, then you’ve had a chance to spot his name in the credits. And now, after two decades of bringing films to the big screen, Bissell has jumped into the director’s chair with his own screenplay for The Best of Enemies, a lukewarm debut for the veteran producer under the STX Films brand.
There’s a moment in Unicorn Store when frustrated Kit (Brie Larson) is coaxed to sit down at the kitchen table for a chat with her mom, Gladys (Joan Cusack). During their mother-daughter heart to heart, Gladys tells Kit, “The most grown-up thing you can do is fail at something you love.” This is the gamble Brie Larson takes on as director and star of the latest Netflix original film. Unicorn Store is not a failure by any means, but it’s also quite far from brilliance.
If there’s one adjective I typically abhor when it comes to describing films, it’s “cute.” Cute, to my disgruntled ears, comes off as cheap, lazy, and non-descriptive. It’s a broad word that doesn’t really get to the meat of one’s feelings beyond the surface level. It’s a deflection term, often used to describe the exterior of a film while avoiding anything specific, intellectual, or meaningful. It’s an inoffensive word, certainly; there’s really no sense in getting mad about its overuse beyond my (admittedly) overbearingly high literary standards. But I still find it ceaselessly grating. What exactly does it mean to be “cute” anyway? It looks nice? A squeaky-clean disposition? Positive vibes? Good morals? It’s a placeholder word when others fail you.
Shazam! is probably the last film a lot of superhero movie fans expected from the expanded cinematic universe of DC stories, which have recently taken a turn for the colorful and fantastical with Aquaman, as well as the dynamic and righteous Wonder Woman. Unlike those entries into the ever-growing mythology of live-action gods and heroes, this new film from oft-horror director David F. Sandberg is a heartfelt family comedy with an authentically “teen” edge, boasting far more angst to chew on than its closest rival, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
In the light of day, the American prairie is an open and endless field of grass. Landscapes of the Old West stretch on for miles, and the golden plains evoke a warm, welcoming feeling. But at night, the howling wind creeps in through the windows. Candles flicker and the once open country becomes a claustrophobic nightmare, where nature speaks and shrieks. This is the visage first-time director Emma Tammi captures in The Wind, a psychological western-horror hybrid with haunting elements that work separately, but never coalesce into something truly frightening.
In 2001, the four members of the 1980s rock band Mötley Crüe chronicled their drug and sex laden escapades in a tell-all book entitled The Dirt. It was far more about sex and drugs than it was rock ‘n’ roll; detailing stories of trashed hotel rooms, struggles with addiction, and personal pitfalls over the sake of living the rockstar life doled out in absolute chaos. The film incarnation is, unfortunately, much of the same. Netflix’s adaptation of the tumultuous, vile story of Mötley Crüe never finds the right tone and ultimately hits all the wrong notes.
Captive State has a lot going for it: a talented cast and crew, a solid visual and narrative aesthetic, and an interesting premise rife with potential to explore the faith we bestow upon our leaders. It deeply saddens me, then, to report that the film misses nearly every opportunity to create something meaningful, original, or memorable. It fails to deliver on any of the promises it makes from the outset and winds up feeling like a wholly unrewarding chore to watch.
Though it is not based on a young adult novel, despite what my brain might tell me (Side note: it’s all the more confusing because they made a novelization and released it at the end of 2018), Five Feet Apart is centered around Stella Grant (Richardson), a bright, motivated teenager who cannot live her fullest life due to the limitations of her cystic fibrosis (CF) diagnosis.
At one point in The Kid, a new western directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, someone utters the tremendously bold statement, “It only matters the story they tell when you’re gone.” With all due respect to real-life outlaw “Billy the Kid,” you probably deserve the story this film decides to tell about you.
Keeping your emotions in check means maintaining a semblance of control. Don’t be hysterical, don’t lose your cool, don’t show your feelings or risk being called weak. This is what the titular Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson) is struggling with when we first meet her training on the planet Hala, far from the Earth we know in more ways than one.