Movie Reviews


I Am Not Your Negro

Release Date: February 3, 2017

February 10, 2017 by

Documentary

Raoul Peck’s tremendous documentary I Am Not Your Negro shows great intelligence and relevance. Rather than a rehash of the 1960s struggle, it’s a demonstration that the struggle never ended. The subject is James Baldwin, and an unfinished manuscript. Baldwin never got farther than 30 pages into his study of three lives in the Civil Rights movement. All three of the leaders were mar... Read More

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Nineteen Eighty Four

Release Date: October 10, 1984

February 10, 2017 by

Drama Romance

For some reason, George Orwell's 1984 is a current best-seller on Amazon. Something to do with the new administration and its forward-thinking views on the mutability of facts? I wouldn't want to speculate. Orwell's satire was based on the author's time working for the good guys—at the BBC, where he was a wartime propagandist. He even named his protagonist "Winston" as if to hono... Read More

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Salesman (Forushande)

Release Date: June 24, 2016

February 02, 2017 by

Drama

In The Salesman, we have a look at how Iranian artists are standing on crumbling ground. It was a winner at Cannes, for best actor and script, and now it's national news because of the Trump administration's ban on Iranians entering our nation. Academy Award winning director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) has said he's not attending the Oscars this year, even if the ban is lifted.... Read More

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Toni Erdmann

Release Date: December 25, 2016

January 26, 2017 by

Drama

Loveable if not ordinarily hilarious, Toni Erdmann explores both sides of a situation familiar to many. Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is "Dude" Lebowski's German cousin, a shaggy joker retired from something or other. After his elderly dog dies, he's at loose ends. So he decides to surprise his daughter Ines (Sandra Huller) at her job in Bucharest. She works as a consultant—which is ... Read More

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Founder

Release Date: January 20, 2017

January 26, 2017 by

Drama

Director John Lee Hancock (The Alamo) has gone from Davy Crockett to Ray Kroc—arguably a lesser kind of American hero. Kroc was the burger baron who franchised McDonald's from the original owners, a pair of idealistic restaurateurs from San Bernardino. The McDonalds' "Spee-dee" assembly line method revolutionized the way Americans and a lot of the world eat. Making the Golden Arches... Read More

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20th Century Women

Release Date: December 28, 2016

January 23, 2017 by

Drama

There is weight in the charming 20th Century Women—seriousness that keeps it from blowing away like a load of Styrofoam peanuts in the wind. That weight comes from the realization of how remote the seemingly near past actually is. Mike Mills' third and best film (after Beginners and Thumbsucker) is also the closest to his models in the French New Wave. This fictionalized memoir r... Read More

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Julieta

Release Date: December 21, 2016

January 12, 2017 by

Drama

Living a long life means dwelling on a stage with numerous trapdoors. Players vanish or reappear, as part of some grand design that becomes all the more baffling as time passes. Three stories by the Nobel laureate Alice Munro, from her 2004 collection Runaway, were the source for Pedro Almodóvar's latest film, the serious but never somber Julieta. Here the Spanish master presents... Read More

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Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God

Release Date: December 23, 2016

January 12, 2017 by

Drama

Martin Scorese's dream project, Silence, is done at last, and it's one large, dry hunk of crisis of faith. It's a less bloody but still torture-wracked remake of The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), complete with the temptation to a peaceful life. It's seemingly the longest and most pulse-free of Scorsese's primarily religious movies, including Kundun (1997) and Last Temptation (19... Read More

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Things To Come (L'avenir)

Release Date: December 2, 2016

January 05, 2017 by

Drama

An acute portrait of a woman of a certain age, Things To Come towers over Isabelle Huppert's much-vaunted performance in Elle. Huppert plays Nathalie, an aging philosophy teacher who needs all the consolation her discipline can provide. Her neurotic mother (Edith Scob, of the horror classic Yeux Sans Visage) is prone to suicide threats and anxiety attacks. Nathalie's husband, Hei... Read More

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Hidden Figures

Release Date: December 25, 2016

January 05, 2017 by

Drama

It's clear that Hidden Figures is a story that demands to be told, and it's a pity it wasn't told better. It honors the essential work that three African-American number-crunchers did at Langley, Virginia, in 1961-62, shortly before NASA moved to Texas. Room-sized IBM 7090s were being used to figure out how to bring home Col. John Glenn (Glen Powell) after his orbit around the earth... Read More

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Fences (2016)

Release Date: December 16, 2016

December 19, 2016 by

Drama

TROY MAXSON IS a 53 year-old Pittsburgh garbageman. In his earlier years, he was a Negro League player on the Homestead Grays. He’d hit seven homers off Satchel Paige himself. Roberto Clemente is starting to make a name for himself on the Bucks. But the desegregation of major league baseball is no consolation to the protagonist of August Wilson’s Fences—directed with surpassing powe... Read More

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La La Land

Release Date: January 13, 2017

December 19, 2016 by

Comedy Drama

Wide-eyed Emma Stone is the draw in La La Land, an emulation of 1950s widescreen era musicals. Stone plays Mia, a barista/actress from Boulder City riding the wheel of auditions in Hollywood. She’s starting to lose hope when she has a meet-cute on a crowded freeway flyover with the similarly frustrated Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). He orders her car out of his way, she flips him the Dri... Read More

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Release Date: December 16, 2016

December 19, 2016 by

Action/Adventure Sci Fi/Fantasy

The stand-alone Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a battle movie, heavy on the war, light on the stars. Many have heard that George Lucas once cut footage from WWII dogfights into the work-print of the first Star Wars film, to give previewers an idea of what the film would look like once the effects were done. Rogue One, then, comes full circle. It's a World War II movie in space. ... Read More

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Jackie

Release Date: December 2, 2016

December 19, 2016 by

Drama

In some 2050s university class on "The Celebrity Interview as Literature," the film Jackie might get taught as an example of the push and pull between lofty subject and noodging journalist. Nothing as vulgar as spin goes on—just gentle, forceful pressure from above. The freshly widowed Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) is hiding out in Hyannis Port, Mass., during the cold Nove... Read More

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Nocturnal Animals

Release Date: December 9, 2016

December 12, 2016 by

Drama Suspense/Thriller

Watching Nocturnal Animals is essentially like watching a Charles Bronson retrospective in a plush, red velvet-wrapped salon during some minor European city's film festival. The trappings give aesthetic importance to what's going on up front, culturally validating something that isn't all that different from a Golan and Globus rape-revenge shocker. Celebrities turn up (including Mic... Read More

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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 29, 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 11, 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 18, 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 16, 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: November 4, 2016

November 03, 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 28, 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 13, 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 13, 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: October 7, 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 30, 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 30, 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 23, 2016

September 21, 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 16, 2016

September 20, 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 9, 2016

September 13, 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 13, 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 06, 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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