A Madea Family Funeral

D | PG-13 |
"A Madea Family Funeral" is typical of Tyler Perry's Madea series: excruciating and baffling with occasional flecks of bemusement at how misguided it is; garishly lit and cheap-looking, like it was sh...

Greta

C | R |
We're so accustomed to stalker movies now that they can be told in shorthand. "Greta" is a too-efficient example of this, in addition to being a cautionary tale about why you should never do something...

The Hole in the Ground

B | R |
••• In the loudly menacing "The Hole in the Ground," a solid debut from Irish director Lee Cronin, young mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey), have just moved to an i...

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

B- | PG |
I loved the first two animated adventures about the Viking boy and his fire-breathing friend, but "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" falls a bit flat. Maybe too much time has passed? It's be...

Donnybrook

B | R |
••• Despite its happy, Irish-sounding title, "Donnybrook" is bleak misery porn about meth and meth-adjacent Midwesterners scrambling to survive and/or kill each other. It's compelling stuff, written ...

Mega Time Squad

B | Not-Rated |
••• We in the Northern Hemisphere have this image of New Zealand as Australia's sillier, goofier neighbor. "Mega Time Squad" does nothing to dispel that impression, being a manic, light-hearted comed...

Fighting with My Family

B- | PG-13 |
"Fighting with My Family" would be nothing more than a routine underdog sports story if it hadn't been written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the gangly Englishman responsible for most of the funny...

Alita: Battle Angel

C+ | PG-13 |
"Alita: Battle Angel," directed by Robert Rodriguez and co-written and produced by James Cameron, marks the first time the two filmmakers have collaborated. You can see Cameron's influence in the way ...

Happy Death Day 2U

B | PG-13 |
When we last saw plucky college student Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe), at the end of 2017's serviceable genre exercise "Happy Death Day," she had unmasked her killer and broken the time loop that was c...

Isn’t It Romantic

B | PG-13 |
The premise of "Isn't It Romantic" is similar to last year's "I Feel Pretty" in that both involve blondes getting bonked on the head and waking up in a fantasy version of Manhattan. In "I Feel Pretty,...

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part

B+ | PG |
There have been two other Lego movies since "The LEGO Movie" (a decent "LEGO Batman" and a headache-y "LEGO Ninjago"), but "The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part" is the first direct sequel to the origina...

What Men Want

C+ | R |
"What Men Want" is officially credited as a remake of 2000's "What Women Want," but the films have little in common beyond the central premise of someone being able to hear the thoughts of the opposit...

The Prodigy

B- | R |
You know how sometimes your intellectually gifted 8-year-old son starts lashing out in violence? And how he also has a sudden liking for paprika and has been muttering in a foreign language in his sle...

My 2019 Sundance Film Festival Diary

Day 1: Thursday, Jan. 24 Good news! They decided to have the Sundance Film Festival again this year. I'm here in Park City, Utah, for my 20th 'dance, having started in 2000, when Bill Clinton was sti...

Serenity (2019)

D | R |
Even if its plot twists weren't dumb (which they are), "Serenity" would be a bad movie because of its broad, hammy acting. Written and directed by Steven Knight ("Locke"), this perplexing noir misfire...

The Kid Who Would Be King

B+ | PG |
There's nothing the world needs less than another King Arthur movie (unless it's another Robin Hood movie), and that's why Joe Cornish didn't make one. Instead, the man behind minor cult hit "Attack t...

Glass

B | PG-13 |
Picking up a few weeks after "Split" and 18 years after "Unbreakable," M. Night Shyamalan's "Glass" concludes his weird comic book trilogy by bringing all the main players together, crossover-style. T...

Keep an Eye Out (French)

B+ | Not-Rated |
••• "Keep an Eye Out" is the latest absurdist lark from Quentin Dupieux, whose "Rubber" -- about a series of murders committed by a sentient automobile tire -- is one of my favorite absurdist larks o...

Replicas

D | PG-13 |
It's not fair to call "Replicas" the stupidest movie of 2019. The year is only two weeks old -- and besides, it was supposed to be the stupidest movie of 2017, before it got shelved for reasons that b...

A Dog’s Way Home

B- | PG |
If you think you would enjoy an uncomplicated, PG-rated movie about a dog traveling 400 miles to be reunited with her humans, there's an excellent chance you will enjoy "A Dog's Way Home," which is ex...

The Upside

D | PG-13 |
Everything about "The Upside" feels contrived and phony, like the movie version of an inspiring-but-fake anecdote your aunt shared on Facebook. Which is impressive, considering it's a true story. O...

The 2018 End-of-the-Year Reckoning

Hello, readers and illiterates who have this site read to them! We’ve just finished the third full year of my Patreon campaign, wherein you pay $1 (or more) per month and I review as many films as I c...

Escape Room

B- | PG-13 |
There's something comforting about the fact that any popular new phenomenon will eventually be turned into the premise for a horror movie. For example, escape rooms are big lately. You and a few frien...

2018 Films: Miscellaneous Data

Based on my own research. Films included only if they played theatrically. Corrections and additions are welcome (@ me). For comparison's sake, here's the 2017 edition.   Total wide releases (6...

Media Inventory: What I Watched and Read in 2018

This is the 15th year I've done this. As always, it might only matter to me and will not be on the midterm. MOVIES I watched 381 movies in 2018. It could have been a lot more -- there were 105 days ...

The Best and Worst Movies of 2018

The usual disclaimers apply: I didn't see every movie, I'm an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about, etc. I note that four of the 10 were directed by women, and nine of them were "festival mo...

Stan & Ollie

B+ | PG |
You don't need any more than a passing familiarity with old-timey comedy duo Laurel and Hardy to enjoy "Stan & Ollie," a loving biopic set primarily during a U.K. tour in 1953, years after their h...

Wide releases of 2018: a handy list

For people who like lists of things, here is a list of all the wide releases (600+ theaters) of 2018. There were 161 of them, which is about average. Movies that opened small and eventually expanded a...

Vice

B- | R |
"Vice," about VP Dick Cheney (it's not a biopic, it's a Dick-pic), was written and directed by Adam McKay, who made the similarly themed "The Big Short." McKay is better known, though, as an "SNL" wri...

On the Basis of Sex

B | PG-13 |
The documentary "RBG" gives a fine overview of the life and work of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but the fictionalized version, "On the Basis of Sex," isn't entirely redundant. Directed ...

Destroyer

B+ | R |
"Destroyer" begins with a bedraggled, hungover L.A. police detective being summoned to a crime scene: a man with a distinctive tattoo on the back of his neck shot dead, surrounded by ink-stained money...

Holmes & Watson

C+ | PG-13 |
Etan Cohen didn't write "Holmes & Watson" as a vehicle for Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Indeed, at one point Ferrell was going to play Dr. Watson, with Sacha Baron Cohen (no relation) as Sherl...

Welcome to Marwen

D+ | PG-13 |
"Welcome to Marwen" is the latest Robert Zemeckis film to use state-of-the-art technology in the service of a story that's cold and emotionless even though it's supposed to be the opposite of that. It...

Bumblebee

B | PG-13 |
One hesitates to mention right off the bat that "Bumblebee" is a "Transformers" prequel, lest discerning readers assume "Bumblebee" is bad and should be ignored. But it is a prequel, and if the other ...

Aquaman

B- | PG-13 |
We learn in "Aquaman" that the amphibious superhero is the product of a brief but passionate romance between a lighthouse keeper named Tom (Temuera Morrison) and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), queen of Atla...

Mary Poppins Returns

B | PG |
"Mary Poppins" is one of my all-time favorite movies, so while I'm not usually given to alarm over proposed sequels and remakes -- it's not replacing the original; get a life, nerds -- I assumed that ...

Mortal Engines

C | PG-13 |
A thousand years in the future, when the population has been decimated by war and society is starting over again, the hot new trend in municipal planning is "traction cities," where entire towns are b...

The Mule

C+ | R |
Clint Eastwood's 37th directorial effort, "The Mule," has all the hallmarks of an Eastwood enterprise -- unfussy direction, efficient but unhurried, moderately entertaining but nothing special -- and ...

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

A- | PG |
There were two excellent Spider-Man movies in the early 2000s, followed by a mediocre one, a mediocre reboot, and a mediocre sequel to that reboot. Last year's reboot, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," balanc...

Clara’s Ghost

B- | Not-Rated |
••• It's a family affair in "Clara's Ghost," written and directed by — am I reading this right? — “Bridey” Elliott? That seems like a typo. She’s the daughter of Chris Elliott and sister of Abby Elli...

Mary Queen of Scots

B | R |
"Mary Queen of Scots" is a lavish period piece starring Saoirse Ronan as the 16th-century monarch who has a claim to the English throne occupied by Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) but is having enough tro...

Vox Lux

B | R |
"Vox Lux," a sober but spicy drama written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Brady Corbet, is about a teenage Staten Island girl named Celeste who barely survives a horrific act of gun violence t...

Tyrel

C+ | Not-Rated |
Prolific Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva had five movies play at Sundance before "Tyrel" premiered there, including two in the same year ("Magic Magic" and "Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus," 20...

Anna and the Apocalypse

B+ | R |
"Anna and the Apocalypse" is a Scottish zombie high school musical comedy set at Christmastime. Does it fulfill every magical possibility of that delicious combination of themes? No, but let’s be reas...

The Possession of Hannah Grace

C | R |
Hannah Grace is already possessed when "The Possession of Hannah Grace" begins, and she dies during a botched exorcism before the opening credits roll. The movie isn't about her anyway: It's about Meg...

The Favourite

A | R |
You wouldn't want to make them the staple of your cinematic diet, but movies where the main characters are all corrupt or vain are...

Ralph Breaks the Internet

B- | PG |
The premise of Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph," you'll recall, was, "What if 'Toy Story' but with video game characters?" For the sequel, "Ralph Breaks the Internet," it's, "What if 'Toy Story' but with the...

Creed II

B- | PG-13 |
The financial and artistic success of "Creed," a "Rocky" sequel that was thoughtful and character-driven in a way that most "Rocky" sequels aren't, inspired optimism that subsequent chapters would fol...

Robin Hood (2018)

C | PG-13 |
The latest familiar story to be revised by a narrator who implores us to "forget what think we know" about it is the tale of Robin Hood, captured in "Robin Hood" (not to be confused with the 11+ othe...

Widows

B+ | R |
"Widows," a sprawling crime drama from director Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave"), begins with a sharp, fragmented sequence that ends with the deaths of four Chicago men and the creation of the title...

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

C- | PG-13 |
After seven books and eight movies, we really came to love those Harry Potter characters, didn't we? We watched them grow and learn and evolve -- not just the kids, but the adults too. The prequel ...

Green Book

B- | PG-13 |
Racism is solved one moron at a time in "Green Book," a lighthearted, vaguely true story set in 1962, with bigoted Bronx-Italian meathead Tony "Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) hired as chauffeur and...

At Eternity’s Gate

C | PG-13 |
Fans of Vincent van Gogh who have been clamoring for a lifeless, inert biopic, your prayers are answered! "At Eternity's Gate," from director Julian Schnabel ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"), fli...

Instant Family

B+ | PG-13 |
"Instant Family" may not be the most wonderful movie of the year, but it's certainly the most surprisingly wonderful. Inspired by a true story, the premise threatens a sappy, manipulative Hallmark mov...

Cam

B- | Not-Rated |
Most of us don't have the exact problems that Alice in "Cam" has because most of us aren't webcam performers who make a living doing sexy shows online for tips (not that we're judging). But this intr...

The Grinch

B- | PG |
"The Grinch," an 85-minute animated retelling of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" -- which was already adapted perfectly in 1966 as a 26-minute Chuck Jones cartoon -- is fitfully amusing, h...

Overlord

B- | R |
Hard to imagine what could have given filmmakers in 2018 the idea that moviegoers want to see Nazis get killed, but hey, we'll take 'em. "Overlord," a violent, horror-tinged, sci-fi take on Germany's ...

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

C | R |
After "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" author Stieg Larsson died, his publisher hired David Lagercrantz to write more sequels, like those Jason Bourne books that weren't by Robert Ludlum. Coincidenta...

The Front Runner

B- | R |
"The Front Runner," Jason Reitman's political dramedy and light satire about Gary Hart, is set in a quaint, bygone era when adultery could derail a politician's career and when there were no news netw...

Boy Erased

B | R |
The Australian filmmaker Joel Edgerton, who directed "The Gift" and played Uncle Owen in the "Star Wars" prequels, is not gay. This felt apparent to me, a gay, watching "Boy Erased," which Edgerton ad...

Bodied

A- | R |
My understanding of battle rap — informed entirely by Joseph Kahn’s "Bodied," a devastatingly funny social commentary — is that it’s like a no-holds-barred comedy roast except the jokes have to rhyme,...

Nobody’s Fool

C- | R |
Though written and directed by Tyler Perry, "Nobody's Fool" starts out bearing little resemblance to a Tyler Perry film. For one thing, it's just called "Nobody's Fool," not "Tyler Perry's Nobody's Fo...

Suspiria

B+ | R |
"Suspiria," from "Call Me by Your Name" director Luca Guadagnino, is a remake of a 1977 cult favorite by Italian horrormeister Dario Argento -- but don't feel bad if that means nothing to you. Argento...

Bohemian Rhapsody

C | PG-13 |
I'm far from the first one to point this out, but "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- a biopic of Freddie Mercury (and, to a lesser extent, the band he fronted, known as Queen) -- is the sort of watered-down pablu...

Burning (Korean)

B- | Not-Rated |
"Burning" is a mystery. I don't mean that its plot involves a mystery (although it does), but that the film itself is hard to pin down. Based on a short story ("Barn Burning") and directed by South Ko...

Johnny English Strikes Again

C | PG |
Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson's bumbling James Bond character who is a more talkative version of his Mr. Bean character, returns for a third outing in "Johnny English Strikes Again," a family-friendl...

Hunter Killer

B- | R |
The rather arbitrarily titled "Hunter Killer" is a submarine movie for dads, based on a novel called "Firing Point" (another random title) that looks like it is probably only for sale in airports. The...

The Hate U Give

B- | PG-13 |
It takes its time getting there, but you know "The Hate U Give" is going to turn serious on us because it starts with our narrator, 16-year-old Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), telling us about the ti...

Mid90s

B | R |
For maximum nostalgia, "Mid90s" is presented not in widescreen but in 4:3, the way it would have looked on TV or videotape back in the day. "Maximum nostalgia" is the motivating factor for almost ever...

Wildlife

B | PG-13 |
Based on a 1990 novel by Richard Ford, "Wildlife" has a literary feel to it and comes across as a well-acted, well-produced drama for adults. Its protagonist is a kid, though: 14-year-old Joe Brinson ...

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

B+ | R |
Lee Israel was a cranky journalist who made a living writing biographies before falling on hard times after the failure of her unauthorized 1985 Estee Lauder book, which Lauder undermined by preemptiv...

Halloween (2018)

B- | R |
The 2018 "Halloween" is a direct sequel to the 1978 "Halloween," and it exists in a timeline where there were never any other sequels, not even the one that erased the other ones. Michael Myers killed...

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn

D | R |
••• “An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn” is Jim Hosking's followup to his infamously irritating/amusing “The Greasy Strangler," which I enjoyed as a you-gotta-see-this provocation. I was curious to se...

The Guilty (Danish)

B+ | R |
••• “The Guilty” is a tight, efficient, 85 minutes set in a single location: the 911 call center in Copenhagen. (Except it’s not 911 over there, it’s 112. What a country!) Police officer Asger Holm (...

Beautiful Boy

B | R |
In 2008, journalist David Sheff and his son Nic published parallel memoirs, "Beautiful Boy" and "Tweak," detailing Nic's struggles with drug addiction and David's efforts to help him. Both books are c...

The Oath

B- | R |
The premise behind Ike Barinholtz's dark comedy "The Oath" is ripe with possibilities: A liberal man and his wife host his conservative relatives for Thanksgiving week, which coincides with a particul...

Terrified (Spanish)

B- | Not-Rated |
Buenos Aires is rife with supernatural activity in Demian Rugna's "Terrified" ("Aterrados"), much of it centralized to a particular street (perhaps because of zoning?). The manifestations are frequen...

Jane and Emma

B | PG |
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or MOTCOJCOLDS for short) know Emma Hale Smith, wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as a loving spouse who put up with a lot of garbage. Long ...

Bad Times at the El Royale

B | R |
Drew Goddard wrote for TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Lost" before he started making movies, and it shows. His first film as writer/director, "The Cabin in the Woods," had a Buffy-like self-awar...

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

B- | PG |
The first "Goosebumps" movie wasn't an adaptation of one of R.L. Stine's tween-horror books but a story about the "Goosebumps" books, in which Stine (played by Jack Black) had the power to bring his s...

First Man

B | PG-13 |
Ryan Gosling is a handsome man, but it's his profile that's most aesthetically pleasing. We saw a lot of it in "Drive," where he sat behind the wheel of a car and was was often photographed from the p...

The Happy Prince

C | R |
As a very funny gay person who never has enough money, I am the target audience for an Oscar Wilde biopic. But despite Rupert Everett's passion as writer, director, and star -- this is clearly the mov...

Private Life

B | R |
The title of "Private Life," starring Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn as an upscale Manhattan couple trying to have a baby, is ironic. There are fertility issues for both of them — he’s 47; she’s 41 (...

Venom (2018)

C | PG-13 |
Iron Man, Captain America, and the others in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would probably like to make it clear that "Venom" isn't part of their program (though it's better than at least one of the "T...

A Star Is Born

B+ | R |
Because of her outlandish costumery and made-up name, it's easy to dismiss Lady Gaga as a gimmicky pop star. What we discover in the sturdy, old-fashioned "A Star Is Born" (if we hadn't already) is th...

Tales from the Hood 2

B | R |
••• I never saw "Tales from the Hood," but if "Tales from the Hood 2" is any indication, I must go back and watch it posthaste -- though I wonder if the racial climate of 1995 could have inspired ...

Night School

D+ | PG-13 |
The premise of "Night School," an overlong, under-funny comedy starring Kevin Hart, is that a 35-year-old high school dropout named Teddy Walker has to get his GED in order to get a job. That scenario...

Free Solo (documentary)

B+ | PG-13 |
In the parlance of rock-climbers, to "free solo" means to climb alone and without a rope -- basically, to remove all margin for error. If you make a mistake, you die. What you must keep reminding your...

Little Women (2018)

B- | PG-13 |
(Full disclosure: The director of this film is the wife of a friend of mine, who is one of the producers. You shouldn't listen to anything I say about this or any other movie.) Louisa May Alcott's ...

Hold the Dark

B | Not-Rated |
Continuing the "Wind River" cycle of movies about outsiders going to cold, sad Indian reservations to investigate tragedies, here's "Hold the Dark," another brutally chilling drama from "Green Room" ...

Smallfoot

B | PG |
"Smallfoot" is a light animated adventure set in a remote Himalayan village occupied by yetis, aka Abominable Snowmen (and Snowwomen), who have lived in isolation for generations. Though they have a c...

Hell Fest

B- | R |
The rare slasher film that's not a sequel to or remake of a previous one, "Hell Fest" exploits the premise of a traveling Halloween carnival being infiltrated by an actual masked killer who avoids det...

The Old Man & the Gun

B | PG-13 |
David Lowery's last movie, "A Ghost Story," was about a ghost but wasn't a horror film. His new one, "The Old Man and the Gun," is about a career bank robber but isn't a heist thriller. Lowery keeps y...

The Sisters Brothers

B | R |
See, they're a couple of brothers whose last name is Sisters. "The Sisters brothers." Get it? As a novel, much of what made "The Sisters Brothers" so entertaining was author Patrick DeWitt's amusingly...

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

B | PG |
Jack Black opted out of the "Goosebumps" sequel in order to make "The House with a Clock in Its Walls," which is basically a "Goosebumps" movie but based on a different set of YA novels. Kids' movies ...

Assassination Nation

B- | R |
“Assassination Nation,” based on the hashtags #woke and #metoo, is an in-your-face, self-consciously edgy satire about a town called Salem that goes witch-hunting after everyone's online accounts are ...

The Predator

B- | R |
Unlike the late entries in some horror franchises, "The Predator" doesn't pretend any of its predecessors didn't happen, but you don't need to have seen them, either. Directed and co-written by Shane ...

A Simple Favor

B | R |
Based on Darcey Bell's novel, which must have been inspired by Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl," "A Simple Favor" is a funny, dark-edged, lurid mystery-melodrama starring Anna Kendrick as a naive stay-at-h...

Mandy

B- | Not-Rated |
••• “Mandy” stars Nicolas Cage, with Andrea Riseborough as his wife, the two of them living a lumberjack’s life in the Pacific Northwest in 1983. Intercut with scenes of their idyllic existence, read...

White Boy Rick

B+ | R |
It's unlikely (I hope) that the Wershe family of Detroit will remind you of your own clan. As portrayed in "White Boy Rick," a compelling if familiar fact-based drama set in 1984-88, the Wershes are l...