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Review: ‘Venom’ is not worth the $15 ticket, unfortunately

(10/09/18 6:10am)

When I was eight years old, I begged my mom for weeks to let me see “Iron Man.” I remember the excitement I felt when she finally relented and said yes. I saw it opening weekend, and it was everything I dreamed of and more. That moment began a 10-year love affair with superhero movies that, while tested at times, is still going strong. “Venom” is one such movie that tests that love.

Review: 'Sorry to Bother You' is an insane, surrealist ride

(10/09/18 6:05am)

There’s crazy, there’s satire, there’s dystopian and then there’s “Sorry to Bother You.” Musician Boots Riley’s 2018 directorial debut takes place in an alternate universe’s Oakland — but don’t let the term “alternate universe” fool you. The film is a funhouse mirror for our world that only reflects everything going on in our reality.

Review: Melissa McCarthy stuns in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

(10/05/18 6:00am)

“I have a hangover that is a real museum piece,” Lee Israel writes, imitating writer Dorothy Parker in a particularly famous forgery of Parker’s letters. Israel, a biographer who became a literary forger in the 1990s as her writing career came to a standstill, is the subject of the Telluride selected film, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Melissa McCarthy gives incredible nuance to her role as Israel, offering both sympathy and humor to her portrayal.

Review: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ is eviscerating of contemporary America

(10/02/18 6:10am)

Spike Lee’s latest film, “BlacKkKlansman” is very much a movie created for and about the current American political and racial environment. Though set in the 1970s, Lee’s film is an unsubtle indictment of a Trumpian America that finds itself battling a harsh racial divide despite expectations that our progress and modernity should have left such racism behind long ago.

Review: ‘Girl’ is a coming-of-age story based on metamorphosis

(09/28/18 6:05am)

“Late at night my mind would come alive with voices and stories and friends as dear to me as any in the real world. I gave myself up to it, longing for transformation,” quips Winona Ryder as the enviable Jo March in the 1994 film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s coming-of-age classic “Little Women.” Just as Alcott’s Jo sought to find her place in the world, so too does Lara of “Girl” strive to establish herself as a woman and artist. With “Girl,” Flemish director Lukas Dhont offers a more contemporary coming-of-age story whose plot turns on the very idea of self-driven metamorphosis. “Girl,” a deceivingly simple title which contains multitudes, is the story of 15 year-old Lara, a transgender girl from Belgium who, like Jo March, longs for transformation. Lara does not only yearn to change her body, but wants more than anything to become a ballerina. The movie frames a period of major transition for Lara: she’s just moved to a new city, is living in a new apartment, is preparing for transition surgery and has begun training at the prestigious Royal Ballet School of Antwerp.

Review: ‘Lady Bird’ is charming, honest and Oscar-worthy

(02/27/18 5:00am)

It’s hard not to ask what the best film of 2017 was, given that the 90th Academy Awards are less than a week away. But if you’re like me, it’s also surprisingly difficult to settle on a definitive answer. About a year ago, I reviewed “Moonlight” and called it the rare, transcendent cinematic experience that I’m lucky to have even once a year. “Moonlight,” to be clear, was precisely that film for 2016. Yet I had no such similar experience in 2017.

Review: 'Black Panther' departs from superhero cliches

(02/20/18 6:10am)

There is an old truism that posits that the best superhero films are those that first and foremost aim to be different. For instance, it is often argued that a film like “The Dark Knight” is a cut above other Batman movies because it is constructed as a gritty crime drama, not a superhero adventure flick. While statements like this occasionally rankle die-hard comic book fans, I think it really just speaks to the utterly arbitrary nature of the superhero genre label. Consider that both “The Punisher” and “The Incredibles” are both typically classified as superhero films even though they have next to nothing in common.

Review: 'Call Me By Your Name' is curiously haunting

(02/13/18 7:30am)

As the 90th Academy Awards ceremony draws closer, it’s hard not to compare the various nominees, particularly those in the Best Picture category. After all, cinema does not exist in a vacuum. When one considers “Call Me By Your Name” from that perspective, it does have at least one noteworthy quality that, for better or for worse, distinguishes it from the pack: The film has the ability to haunt the viewer. One leaves the theater enveloped by the film’s narrative and everything it entails, both the good and the bad. “Call Me By Your Name” didn’t move me as much as “Lady Bird”did, nor did it elicit the same visceral bodily reactions as “Dunkirk.” It didn’t make me think as much as “Get Out,” and it wasn’t as beautiful or profoundly simple in its execution compared to Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.” But “Call Me By Your Name” stayed with me. In fact, it is still with me — even as I try to write this review, I occasionally find myself not being able to decide how to address my overall experience. For a film that tries so hard to be like a window into reality, it has a surprisingly hallucinatory power.

Review: Ridley Scott is back to form with “All the Money in the World”

(02/06/18 7:25am)

Last year, Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” premiered, but does anyone even remember the film? Neither do I, which is kind of astonishing given its recent release date. I mention this, not because this is a review of “Alien: Covenant,” but because the release of both “Alien: Covenant” and “All the Money in the World” in the same year illustrates the most fascinating and contradictory qualities associated with Scott’s skills and limitations as a filmmaker. “Alien: Covenant” was awful, easily one of the worst films in recent memory. In fact, it was so dreadful that I kyboshed my plans to review the film and instead implored my editors to let me do a retrospective on the revival of my favorite TV series, “Twin Peaks.” This was made all the worse because Scott had recently launched a successful career comeback with 2015’s crowd-pleasing “The Martian.” This all speaks to a long-standing truism about Scott — he is only as good as the script he’s working from. At this point in his career, no one would deny that he is a master of his craft; each of his films is, without fail, gorgeous and technically impeccable. Indeed, when he has a great script, like “Blade Runner,” he does a wonderful job at visually highlighting and complementing the complex themes and ideas that are often interwoven so beautifully into the story. The problem is that Scott seems utterly incapable of discerning between a great script and a terrible script. No director should be able to list “Thelma & Louise” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings” on the same résumé.

Review: ‘The Florida Project’ is good, depending on definition

(11/14/17 5:00am)

A few weeks ago, my editors acquiesced to my request to drop the numerical ratings system in my reviews. I felt the ratings were becoming increasingly arbitrary. Not just arbitrary in the sense that one number is a rather weightless way of expressing an opinion, but also in the sense that the distinction between “good” and “bad” cinema was becoming more and more blurry to me. Thanks to some of my film studies courses, I began to appreciate how limiting these categories were. Of course, I wouldn’t write film criticism week after week if I didn’t feel that discussing the quality of films had some value. I’ve come to realize that the way I define “quality” is somewhat complicated.

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