Posted in: Review

The Promise

Maybe there needs to be some promises made before filming well-intentioned dramatizations of historic atrocities. Like not filling the screenplay with a string of significant events containing the depth of Wikipedia bullet points. Or not using characters as empty ciphers purely to get from one development to the next. These, and several other, formulaic devices […]

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Free Fire

Two groups of unscrupulous characters convene in an abandoned factory for an arms deal. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, and in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire it does. Entertainingly so. The ‘70s styles are broad, the gunfire is loud, and the quips are sharp. The consequences for immoral operations are also gruesomely real, and […]

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Colossal

Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is an unconventional, and extremely enjoyable, monster movie that explores the self-destruction and collateral damage caused by a broken individual. The fact that she’s controlling a giant kaiju laying waste to a city halfway around the world only raises the stakes, be they logical, emotional, or even comedic. Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, […]

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The Ticket

A blind man regains his sight in The Ticket, which plays like a one-stanza fable extended to feature-length screenplay without any complexity added to the moralizing. The title refers to an anecdote within the anecdote, a yarn about a man who prays to win the lottery but never buys a ticket. The central character touched […]

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Song to Song

Of the films in Terrence Malick’s uncharacteristically productive post-Tree of Life period, Song to Song is the best and most accessible. That doesn’t mean it’s a conventional, or even an easy, watch. The auteur’s latest is just as poetic, dialogue-averse, and irregularly constructed as To the Wonder and Knight of Cups, but its themes are […]

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Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island is simultaneously grand and bland. The large-scale monster mayhem is technically dazzling, but the lack of convincing purpose for the human characters leaves the action feeling cold. The film is designed around a series of sequences where Kong throws palm threes through helicopters, fights other spectacular indigenous wildlife, and so on. While […]

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Personal Shopper

Maureen has ghosts. One of them she’s trying to make contact with, literally, and her quest is quietly entrancing. At a deliberate pace, Personal Shopper, an artful, introspective ghost story, poses existential questions about coping with grief in a straightforward, affecting way. It also gets weird. And achingly tense. Kristen Stewart plays Maureen, an American […]

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Logan

Seventeen years. That’s how long Hugh Jackman has remained committed to playing Wolverine. And through nine films of varying quality with changing casts, questionable continuity, and even time travel, the actor has remained a consistent highlight of the X-Men franchise. While much of that cinematic history is middling, without that past as prologue Logan wouldn’t […]

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A Cure for Wellness

Studio films rarely get as bonkers as A Cure for Wellness. While admirable for its audacity, Gore Verbinski’s stylish gothic horror throwback is plagued by a drawn-out twisty plot and allusions to several other existential chillers that undermine the demented experience. There’s a bizarre, discomforting thriller trapped inside the film’s prolonged 146-minute runtime, but there’s […]

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John Wick: Chapter 2

It’s only chapter two and the story of John Wick is getting stale. The 2014 film that introduced us to the legendary hitman established an appealing, stylized society of modern assassins operating with well-defined rules. John Wick also worked because it was an energetic, inventive, straight-ahead revenge actioner with some emotional stakes. Chapter 2 builds on […]

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xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) was dead. And so was the franchise that killed him off, so it seemed, after the tepid response to 2005’s Diesel-less xXx: State of the Union. Now, 12 years later, both have been resurrected without much explanation or purpose for a silly, hackneyed adventure that’s way out-of-date. The X Games meets […]

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Split

I’m a little torn on Split. The latest from M. Night Shyamalan contains intriguing concepts and two solid performances, though they feel a bit wasted in an overlong exercise that fails to pay off. Instead, a showy ending tag undercuts any emotional resonance. In many ways, Split is a return to Shyamalan’s early form in […]