Movie Reviews


Manchester By The Sea

Release Date: November 18, 2016

December 02, 2016 by

Drama

People are praising Casey Affleck's acting in Manchester By the Sea, and he'll probably get the Oscar for it—it's a solid, often surprising, sometimes monotonously drilling performance. Affleck's usually cracked voice is sure and under control. He can be menacing and enigmatic at times, playing a character who has all but tattooed himself with the mark of Cain. The mild yet omino... Read More

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Loving

Release Date: November 4, 2016

November 30, 2016 by

Drama

After the election, the Internet was full of evidence of the contempt liberal city dwellers had for the country. The charges included southern stereotypes in the popular media: JoeDirt, Hee Haw, Deliverance, and so forth. A longtime moviegoer might counter with a much longer roster of films about green fields, fat chickens, and honest, plain-spoken people…the cherished heartland as ... Read More

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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Release Date: November 10, 2016

November 28, 2016 by

Drama War

Ben Fountain's novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, is a bitter book, but these are bitter times. Given the way it blunts the sharper observations of a bright novel, its adapter—Ang Lee (Life of Pi)—keeps the salt of the earth salty. On the whole, it's a worthwhile film, often sage, sometimes sweet, and you'd have to be half-way drunk to consider it a dumb flag-waver, though that... Read More

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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Release Date: November 16, 2016

November 19, 2016 by

Action/Adventure Family

J.K. Rowling's ingenuity, now free of old Hogwarts, gets a real workout in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Credited as scriptwriter and co-producer, Rowling has a fresh backdrop, the New York of 1926. She and director Peter Yates, a longtime vet of the Harry Potter film series, charm us with the critters, but really hook us with the characters. This warmly cast comedy has a... Read More

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Moonlight

Release Date: October 21, 2016

November 17, 2016 by

Drama

REMARKABLE is the only word for Moonlight. It’s a love story and a story of childhood; it’s also a movie about being, in jazzman Charles Mingus’ phrase, “beneath the underdog.” Across several episodes, Barry Jenkins (of Medicine for Melancholy) directs the story of some 12 years in the life of Chiron, an undersized boy from the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami. Chiron is played... Read More

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Gimme Danger

Release Date: October 28, 2016

November 11, 2016 by

Documentary

In a day and age when the first name Iggy is too often paired with "Azalea," a study of the original is more than justified. It says a lot about Iggy Pop's career that you can cut about 20 years out of it, as Jim Jarmusch did for his exuberant Gimme Danger, and still have enough material for a prime rock documentary. Interviewed by Jarmusch, Iggy is seated in a gilded Louis XVI-i... Read More

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Doctor Strange

Release Date: October 25, 2016

November 04, 2016 by

Action/Adventure Sci Fi/Fantasy

Will Rogers, who was sort of the Garrison Keillor of his day, once was asked to pronounce on the future of the movies: “Run ’em backwards, it can’t hurt ’em and it’s worth a trial.” The most unusual material in the highly likable Doctor Strange comes during a battle scene in Hong Kong. Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a magus of great power, arrives at a typical scene of Marve... Read More

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Aquarius

Release Date: October 14, 2016

November 03, 2016 by

Drama

In the 1980s, Sonia Braga was an idol of Brazilian film. Her coolness, her mahogany-colored body and her magnificent black tresses still stir the memory of longtime filmgoers. Now 65, she still has the hair, as Aquarius demonstrates; Braga winds it, unfurls it, tosses it for the camera. Aquarius is a tribute to Braga. It's a Brazilian vacation with a civics lesson on the side. Br... Read More

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Raising Cain

Release Date: August 7, 1992

October 27, 2016 by

Suspense/Thriller Horror

We live in in an age allergic to magnificence in acting—we call it camp, we call it ham, when we ought to show similar skepticism to thespians who prefer a dull, "natural" demeanor. True, Samuel L. Jackson is one of the hardest working men in showbiz, and he loves flamboyance. John Lithgow, currently in the hit The Accountant, is capable of reticent performances; then again he we... Read More

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Certain Women

Release Date: October 14, 2016

October 27, 2016 by

Drama

Montana at its most impassive: Certain Women sums up emotional conflict during the cold months, in the newest by Kelly Reichardt (Meek's Cutoff). It's based loosely on short stories by Maile Meloy, looped lightly into a trilogy. The third tale tops it all, thanks to a sweet, tough performance by Lily Gladstone as Jamie, a stocky Native American stablehand. Lit up with love, Gladston... Read More

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Inferno

Release Date: October 13, 2016

October 27, 2016 by

Action/Adventure Suspense/Thriller

Ron Howard’s follow up to The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons is more interesting than its predecessors, though it’s just as preposterous. Tom Hanks is in a crazily non-linear adventure with hallucinations galore. Our two-fisted symbologist Robert Langdon (Hanks) is struck with amnesia after taking a bullet to the head. He wakes up in Florence, tended by a British physician—tha... Read More

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Denial

Release Date: September 30, 2016

October 14, 2016 by

Drama

Who doesn't wish that Auschwitz was just a bad dream? The middling yet entertaining movie Denial concerns David Irving, one of the world's most unappealing contrarians, and the Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt, whom Irving sued for libel in the British high courts. Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is a renowned expert on the Holocaust at Emory University. In one of her books, t... Read More

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Accountant

Release Date: October 14, 2016

October 14, 2016 by

Drama Suspense/Thriller

In between 'Batman' movies, Ben Affleck decided to play Batman again. The Accountant amps up the Aspergery side of Our Hero, disposing of his cape but not his fantastic fighting abilities. And Bruce Wayne is disguised as a midwestern bean counter. Affleck is aliased as "Christian Wolf"—the Christian helps the weak, the wolf punishes the strong, deep thoughts, indeed. "Wolf" descr... Read More

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Birth Of A Nation

Release Date: September 9, 2016

October 07, 2016 by

Drama

Filmmakers who serve as director, writer and actor are usually more talented in one aspect of their hyphenate than the others. The Birth of a Nation, by the much-hyped hyphenate Nate Parker, is best in one aspect: Parker has an actorly presence that makes this film immediate and powerful. It's the story of Nat Turner's slave rebellion in the early 1830s, which terrified the South... Read More

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Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Release Date: September 28, 2016

September 30, 2016 by

Sci Fi/Fantasy

Ever since 1989's Batman, Tim Burton has been called a director more interested in visuals and ambience than plot. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children doesn't free him of the charge. The young adult novel plot schematics really show through the tremendous invention, enchantment and incomparably strange humor that only Burton can weave. When the adolescent Jake (the Bud Co... Read More

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Deepwater Horizon

Release Date: September 29, 2016

September 30, 2016 by

Drama

Before declining into standard uplifting moments of waving flags, prayer and action movie super-feats, Deepwater Horizon is a thrilling procedural about the worst oil rig disaster in history. Director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) approaches these roughnecks from the opposite angle that Michael Bay would have taken: they're more soft spoken and less profane than you'd expect. The ex... Read More

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Magnificent Seven

Release Date: September 14, 2016

September 22, 2016 by

Action/Adventure

Oversized without being big-hearted, The Magnificent Seven has an acceptably interesting gun battle finale. But it removes the element of desperation from the story of the hired defenders of a small Western frontier town. In the latest iteration of this story, they're reduced to a band of fun-loving, wise-cracking mercenaries, just here to have a good time. The hamlet of Rose Cre... Read More

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Snowden

Release Date: September 15, 2016

September 21, 2016 by

Drama

Oliver Stone's over-emphatic style can be alienating, particularly when he's over-explaining things that don't need explaining, while glossing over the more interesting details. Whether it was fair or not, W. had juice. Snowden is more of a generic hero's struggle that ends upbeat, with the title whistleblower (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receiving hugs and applause. Edward Snowden was... Read More

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Sully

Release Date: September 7, 2016

September 14, 2016 by

Drama

Giving the audience what they want—a fantastic aerial disaster in which no one gets hurt—Clint Eastwood's often-pretty-good Sully is highlighted by the self-effacing underacting of Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger. This time, Eastwood is certainly lionizing a higher grade of person than American Sniper's Chris Kyle. Appropriately, Hanks plays the Diablo Valley-based pilot as a d... Read More

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Max Rose

Release Date: September 2, 2016

September 14, 2016 by

Drama

Decades after his heyday, Jerry Lewis is still a dreadful and awesome figure overshadowing comedy. Lewis has a vast wavelength: sometimes he's great, and when he's bad, he's even greater. Daniel Noah's 2013 indie movie Max Rose—was it released or did it escape?—gives Lewis a well-deserved part. If the movie is tripe, Lewis fills a lot of ruminative closeups. It gives him a chance to... Read More

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Indignation

Release Date: July 29, 2016

September 07, 2016 by

Drama

What's a nice Jewish boy doing in a movie like this? The answer is that the often squirm-inducing Indignation is adapted from a novel by Philip Roth, in whose work nice Jewish boys are often cast far out of their comfort zones and into the wide, treacherous world. Roth published the book in 2008, but the story looks back in anguish at the bad old days of social repression and parano... Read More

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Intolerance (1916)

Release Date: September 4, 1916

August 31, 2016 by

Drama Romance

Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation, opening in October but already a cinch for the Oscars, will draw attendees who certainly won't decode the title's reference. Parker's story of the American avenger Nat Turner appropriates the title of D.W. Griffith's 1915 Civil War epic. Birth of a Nation was cinema's first blockbuster. Even in 1915, there were those who objected to Griffith's vil... Read More

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Morgan

Release Date: September 1, 2016

August 31, 2016 by

Sci Fi/Fantasy Suspense/Thriller

In essence, Morgan is a heinously overproduced student film, complete with a scad of actors who are too good for it, and a twist ending you'd guess even if director Luke Scott weren't the offspring of Blade Runner's Ridley Scott. A generous person could call Morgan as a prequel to that vaunted, cult sci-fi film from 1982. It's about the creation of genetically altered replicants by ... Read More

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Kubo And The Two Strings

Release Date: August 18, 2016

August 24, 2016 by

Animation

Fans are startings to look forward to a new Laika film the same way we used to look forward to a new Pixar. Kubo and the Two Strings is the newest 3-D stop-motion animation from the Portland-based studio responsible for Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls. One scene has a backdrop of what looks like the famed Rashomon gate next to sequoia-sized trees; this ravishing, delicate sto... Read More

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Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World

Release Date: August 19, 2016

August 17, 2016 by

Documentary

Technologies shape us before we even halfway sense their presence. Werner Herzog examines the internet itself in Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected World, a documentary in 10 chapters, with commentary by local engineers such as Elon Musk and Stanford's Sebastian Thrun. The foreboding words, "What hath God wrought?" were the first ever transmitted via telegraph; the first mess... Read More

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Hell Or High Water

Release Date: August 12, 2016

August 17, 2016 by

Drama

Noticeably overwritten, yet tremendously exciting—Hell or High Water well deserves its growing rep as one of the best movies of the year. In West Texas, a pair of brothers turns modestly criminal, wearing black ski-masks and raiding the cash drawers of several half-dead small-town banks. There is a Robin Hood element to the crimes: they're intended to pay the mortgage on a family ra... Read More

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Release Date: May 6, 2016

August 10, 2016 by

Comedy Drama

Something that's really perfectly awkward is, in essence, perfect. Florence Foster Jenkins is Stephen Frears' biopic of a show-business legend who deserves her place next to The Shaggs and Ed Wood. Meryl Streep certainly sentimentalizes this deluded woman's life, but she also honors it. Frears is crafty, not letting the cat out of the bag until the right time. It was fun to watch... Read More

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Sausage Party

Release Date: July 11, 2016

August 10, 2016 by

Animation Comedy

Wrong on so many levels, the R-rated Sausage Party is a parody of Toy Story; one abject bath salts-abuser drives around with a "Pixar" bumper sticker on the back of his beater car. In a supermarket, the joyous pack of hotdogs can't wait to get between the vertical lips of the waiting buns who are saving themselves for when they're purchased. That day will come soon, since the store ... Read More

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Jason Bourne

Release Date: July 27, 2016

August 03, 2016 by

Action/Adventure

Bereft of humor or sex, the Bourne series gives audiences a choice of brands. If James Bond is Fodor's, Bourne (Matt Damon) is Lonely Planet. But is it really fair to call this series grittier or more mature than 007? The last Bourne introduced super-soldier pills: "chems," they were called. This fifth movie based on the adventures of Robert Ludlum's assassin, gives us a morose D... Read More

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Suicide Squad

Release Date: August 2, 2016

August 03, 2016 by

Sci Fi/Fantasy Action/Adventure

In Suicide Squad, a group of super-villains is harnessed by a covert government organization to fight superhuman threats—to begin with, a pair of brother and sister Elder Gods trying to kick-start the apocalypse. David Ayer, the talented director of the WWII film Fury, has to mix styles and flavors. In an atmosphere-free cocktail lounge, loud music is used to set the mood. Needle dr... Read More

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Star Trek Beyond

Release Date: July 7, 2016

August 02, 2016 by

Sci Fi/Fantasy Action/Adventure

Multi-culti ‘Enterprise’ crew save the day in ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ By Richard von Busack SEEING SUCH A reassuring message about plurality seems fitting and timely, especially after last week’s atrocity in Cleveland. Among other things, the starship Enterprise is our own leaky American ship as we love to envision her, stuffed with benign, theatrically accented foreigners all pul... Read More

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Microbe & Gasoline (Microbe Et Gasoil)

Release Date: July 1, 2016

August 02, 2016 by

Comedy

The Straight Story LIKE A KID’S movie that stumbles into adult terrain, Michel Gondry’s Microbe and Gasoline seems caught between worlds. The newest by the director of The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the film is set in Gondry’s childhood home, Versailles. Despite the locale, none of the characters are palace-dwellers. Daniel (Ange Dargent) is a... Read More

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Café Society

Release Date: May 11, 2016

July 27, 2016 by

Comedy Romance

Narratively speaking, Café Society is the film version of a Grandpa Abe Simpson anecdote. Famous names are dropped, pointlessly. Trivial matters about the past are flaunted without much context. Director, writer and producer Woody Allen narrates, announcing the qualities of his characters, even as we're trying to watch them and figure them out. There's no comedic understatement, ... Read More

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Ghostbusters

Release Date: July 14, 2016

July 20, 2016 by

Action/Adventure Comedy

Wielding an electronic ghost detector that resembles a little rotating neon vulva, a triumphant Melissa McCarthy leads this female-powered Ghostbusters reboot. The remake clearly has a chip on its shoulder over fanboi venom. It acknowledges the "raped childhood" posts all splattered over the internet. Learning that the Ghostbusters would feature an all-women cast, thousands of ma... Read More

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Captain Fantastic

Release Date: July 2, 2016

July 13, 2016 by

Drama

Berkeley-raised director Matt Ross stays true to his roots with Captain Fantastic—which will surely seem a deep movie in that city, thanks to its spirit of political grievance, its mottos, and its fantasy of chucking it all to head for the redwoods. (It's firs and pines, actually; set in Washington state, the film is shot in Canada.) In the film's opening scene we see a many-pron... Read More

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Hunt For The Wilderpeople

Release Date: March 31, 2016

July 06, 2016 by

Action/Adventure Comedy

A joke that you can tell anyone—that's rare. So is a movie that can be recommended with pleasure to anyone, of any age. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Taika Waititi, lush landscapes of the rainforest of New Zealand counter a sense of humor so toast-dry that it makes the British Ealing comedies of the 1950s seem overripe. Co-star Sam Neill is both touching and funny—Oscar-worthy,... Read More

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