Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

C | R |
••• It was inevitable that a former teen star from the Disney Channel would eventually play a serial killer, if not actually become one. Zac Efron, whose breakout performance in "High School Musical"...

Amazing Grace (documentary)

A- | G |
"Amazing Grace," Aretha Franklin's 1972 double-album of gospel songs, was the top-selling record of her career and the bestselling live gospel album of all time. (There might have been more live gospe...

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

C+ | PG |
As neither a child of the '90s, a current child, or a person who has ever played Pokemon, I am not the target audience for "Pokemon: Detective Pikachu," a kid-focused, live-action PG adventure that as...

Poms

D | PG-13 |
I appreciate it when movies are short, especially bad movies like "Poms." But "Poms" would have been better if it had taken more time to establish the characters and their motivations -- if it had act...

The Hustle

B- | PG-13 |
The story and premise of "The Hustle" are so elegant in their simplicity that it's no surprise this film has already been made twice: first as "Bedtime Story" (1964), with Marlon Brando and David Nive...

Wine Country

B- | R |
••• The premise behind "Wine Country" is that "SNL" alumnae Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Ana Gasteyer, and "SNL" writers Paula Pell and Emily Spivey, wanted to make a movie where the...

Long Shot

B+ | R |
"Long Shot" has the skeleton of a romantic comedy, but the flesh on those bones has a lot of flavors: political satire, odd-couple comedy, celebrity culture, and '90 nostalgia, to name a few. The scre...

The Intruder

C | PG-13 |
The only way to enjoy "The Intruder," a mediocre domestic thriller with a plot that's entirely predictable (and totally spelled out in the trailer) is to pretend it has more subtext than it does. View...

UglyDolls

C+ | PG |
The main purpose of the animated "UglyDolls" film is to make viewers aware that there is a line of plush toys called UglyDolls that they can buy. In that sense, the movie is a rousing success. No one ...

Avengers: Endgame

B | PG-13 |
(Note: I'm going out of my way not to "spoil" anything here, including things that happen within the first 20-30 minutes that would normally be fair game in a review. You're welcome, nerds.) When w...

I Trapped the Devil

B- | Not-Rated |
••• Full disclosure: One of the producers of this film, Scott Weinberg, is a longtime friend and colleague, and writer-director Josh Lobo is a pal I've socialized with at film festivals. Honestly,...

Family

B | R |
"Family," a sunny and likable small-scale comedy from first-time filmmaker Laura Steinel, belongs to the subcategory of movies in which bad role models and hopeless kids are paired up so they can lear...

The Curse of La Llorona

C | R |
Like most movies, "The Curse of La Llorona" is part of the extended "Conjuring" universe. The connection is negligible -- the older priest in this one had an encounter with the evil doll in "The Conju...

Hagazussa (German)

B | Not-Rated |
••• Etymology time! “Hagazussa” (“hedge sitter”), an Old High German word that gave us witchy terms like “hag” and “hex,” refers to the old women who would sit near the hedges that separated cultivat...

Little

C | PG-13 |
Here's an amusing coincidence. "Little," which is a reversal of the Tom Hanks classic "Big," was written by Tina Gordon Chism, who also wrote "What Men Want," a reversal of "What Women Want." Chism's ...

Missing Link

B- | PG |
"Missing Link" is Laika's fifth gorgeously detailed work of stop-motion animation and the fourth to leave me kind of cold. Only the studio's debut, "Coraline," had the intended impact; "ParaNorman," "...

Wild Nights with Emily

B | PG-13 |
There are two things I know about Emily Dickinson: She was a reclusive spinster, and many of her poems can be sung to the tune of "Yellow Rose of Texas." The second thing, which is definitely true, is...

Hellboy (2019)

C- | R |
The R-rated "Hellboy" is a comedically gory but otherwise not particularly funny reboot of the comic book character (previously brought to PG-13-rated life by Ron Perlman and director Guillermo del To...

Native Son

B- | Not-Rated |
••• Little had to be changed about the plot of Richard Wright’s 1940 novel "Native Son" to make it work with an adaptation set in the present, but something must have been lost in translation. As dir...

The Best of Enemies

C+ | PG-13 |
Hollywood continues to solve racism one bigot at a time with "The Best of Enemies," a shiny, shallow trinket based on true events that, in the hands of first-time feel-good filmmaker Robin Bissell, se...

Unplanned

C- | R |
The interesting thing about anti-abortion propaganda film "Unplanned" is how little it tries to persuade anyone of anything. Preaching to the choir, it presupposes that everyone already agrees abortio...

Pet Sematary

C+ | R |
The whole point of "Pet Sematary" -- both Stephen King's 1983 novel and the effective 1989 movie version -- is that you shouldn't revive the dead because they won't be the same when they come back. (I...

Shazam!

B- | PG-13 |
Despite their adventures ostensibly being aimed at kids, most superheroes aren't children themselves. Except for the Spider-Men and occasional moments with the younger X-Persons, we rarely see a super...

Dumbo (2019)

D+ | PG |
The self-cannibalization at Disney continues with "Dumbo," a turgid, labored, bloated live-action remake of the 1941 animated classic with precisely none of the original's emotion, charm, or joy. Why ...

The Beach Bum

C | R |
The title character in "The Beach Bum," a stoner-poet named Moondog, is the part Matthew McConaughey was born to play, and he is indeed at his McConaughey-est here: grinning, giggling, pontificating, ...

Us

B | R |
Jordan Peele, the newly minted horror auteur behind "Get Out," gives us a lot to process in the early minutes of his follow-up, the suspenseful and more overtly horrific "Us." We're told of a network ...

Hotel Mumbai

B | R |
The title character in "Hotel Mumbai" is actually called the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, or the Taj for short, and it was one of a dozen Mumbai locations attacked by Islamic terrorists on November 26, 200...

Relaxer

B+ | Not-Rated |
One thing you can say for sure about "Relaxer": There will never be a gender-swapped remake of it. The story, first juvenile and then surreal, only makes sense in the context of men's craving for comp...

Captive State

B | PG-13 |
"Captive State" is geeky, serious sci-fi told with a straight face and no comic relief. This is essential because, like most geeky sci-fi, it's a hair's breadth from cheesiness: A few missteps and the...

Wonder Park

D+ | PG |
The setting of "Wonder Park," a goopy pile of trash made by a third-tier animation studio, is an amusement park called ... Wonderland. Why isn't the movie called "Wonderland"? Probably because there a...

Starfish

B- | Not-Rated |
An apocalyptic event happens so subtly in "Starfish" that you almost don't notice it. The reasons for that are probably more practical than artistic -- it costs money to show widespread devastation --...

Five Feet Apart

B- | PG-13 |
The disease in "Five Feet Apart," the latest romantic drama about two teens in love where at least one of them has an incurable disease, is cystic fibrosis, and they both have it. They meet in the hos...

Captain Marvel

B- | PG-13 |
Many of the people seeing "Captain Marvel" (myself included) won't know anything about the character going in except that she's from Marvel Comics and that you'd think she'd be a bigger deal given tha...

Level 16

B | Not-Rated |
••• The plucky, rough-around-the-edges Canadian thriller "Level 16" is a "Black Mirror"-lite story about teenage girls being trained in a creepy, militaristic sort of finishing school called the Vest...

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...

Giant Little Ones

B- | R |
Coming-out stories have become common enough that movies are starting to tell them with nuance. The "Am I gay?" question no longer has only two possible answers; there's a whole spectrum, as 17-year-o...

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...