Tell Me Who I Am (documentary)

B | Not-Rated |
"Tell Me Who I Am" belongs to the category of documentaries that are better enjoyed the less you know ahead of time. Netflix is a great home for these, as the 24/7 availability and near-zero cost make...

Jojo Rabbit

B+ | PG-13 |
The attention-grabbing pitch for "Jojo Rabbit" — a little German boy near the end of World War II has an imaginary friend, and it’s Hitler — is ultimately secondary in importance to the film’s more se...

In the Shadow of the Moon

B- | Not-Rated |
 "In the Shadow of the Moon" is a reasonably OK science-fiction police procedural that begins with a flash-forward to 2024, where Philadelphia is in ashy ruins and the U.S. flag has been reconfigured ...

Sister Aimee

B | Not-Rated |
According to the onscreen titles, "Sister Aimee" is "5 1/2 percent truth," the rest amusing, subversive, educated guesswork. What's definitely true is that in 1926, a charismatic evangelist, faith-hea...

The Golden Glove (German)

B | Not-Rated |
"The Golden Glove" is the remarkably unpleasant true story of a German serial killer in the 1970s, told with matter-of-fact, steely-eyed brutality by Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin. Jonas Dassler...

Downton Abbey

B | PG |
I stopped watching "Downton Abbey" near the beginning of season 4, when a character was raped and I realized the show was just a regular ol' soap opera now. The "Downton Abbey" movie wasn't made for m...

Rambo: Last Blood

D | R |
The Rambo franchise is about a U.S. veteran who keeps finding himself in situations where he has no choice but to kill dozens of foreigners. He's always just minding his own business, not killing anyb...

Synchronic

B | Not-Rated |
(Screened at Fantastic Fest; release TBA) Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have been floating around the edges of indie sci-fi/horror for the last few years, writing and directing thoughtful under-...

4×4 (Spanish)

B | Not-Rated |
(Screened at Fantastic Fest; release TBA) A fully loaded SUV, parked on a Buenos Aires street, is the setting for "4x4," a "Saw"-inspired take on income inequality from Argentine director Mariano C...

One Cut of the Dead (Japanese)

B+ | Not-Rated |
(In theaters and on Shudder.) •••You can tell pretty quickly that something is up with "One Cut of the Dead." It starts in an old warehouse serving as the set of an amateurish, low-budget zombie movie...

Hustlers

B+ | R |
Jennifer Lopez, who turned 50 years old six weeks before "Hustlers" was released, enters the film on a stripper pole, flawlessly executing (without a body double) an astonishingly sexy routine before ...

It: Chapter Two

C | R |
If the first half of the two-movie adaptation of Stephen King's "It" was more funhouse thrills than outright terror, "It: Chapter Two" leans even harder into that choice, yielding an epic-length but n...

Don’t Let Go

C+ | R |
David Oyelowo, the soulful actor who played Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma" a few years ago, deserves mainstream success if he wants it, and tossing off a few crowd-pleasing potboilers might seem li...

Angel Has Fallen

C- | R |
Gerard Butler is not good at anything, and it's time we stopped trying to make him be. He uses an American accent in almost every movie, yet is no better at it than he was 20 years ago. He is not conv...

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Spanish)

A- | Not-Rated |
(In theaters and on Shudder.) ••• A tough, beautiful urban fairy tale by Mexican writer-director Issa López, "Tigers Are Not Afraid" is a perfect example of how genre films can help us engage with rea...

Ready or Not

B | R |
It would be easy enough to make a horror movie out of the children's game hide-and-seek, just as it was no problem making one out of truth or dare last year. Making it into a good movie, though, takes...

Good Boys

B | R |
The characters in "Good Boys" were born the year "Superbad" came out (this very weekend in 2007), so they probably don't realize they're living in a remake of it. The girls in "Booksmart" didn't know,...

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

C+ | PG-13 |
Not having seen "47 Meters Down: Uncaged" is not a hindrance to understanding the sequel -- mistakenly titled "47 Meters Down: Uncaged" instead of "48 Meters Down" -- because the films have nothing to...

The Angry Birds Movie 2

B+ | PG |
I'll tell you what, the only thing a critic enjoys more than a good movie is a good movie that's a surprise. "The Angry Birds Movie" (2016) was a miserable affair reverse-engineered to explain why the...

The Kitchen

B- | R |
"The Kitchen" is an exceptionally formulaic but not unenjoyable crime drama with Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss as the wives of Irish mobsters in 1978 New York who take over -- ...

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

B | PG-13 |
Though Alvin Schwartz's books were published between 1981 and 1991 and had timeless settings, the movie version of "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is set in 1968 -- at Halloween, specifically, whi...

Socrates (Portuguese)

B- | Not-Rated |
"Socrates," a low-key Brazilian vérité drama directed by Alexandre Moratto, was made by a crew of low-income São Paulo teens as part of a UNICEF program to foster social inclusion through filmmaking. ...

The Art of Racing in the Rain

C | PG |
Life is a lot like racing cars, as you know if you read Garth Stein's dependably sappy novel "The Art of Racing in the Rain." The movie version, directed by Simon Curtis ("Goodbye Christopher Robin") ...

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

B- | PG |
"Dora the Explorer," the educational animated TV show for preschoolers, gets a live-action movie adaptation that is, if not educational, at least harmless enough kiddie fare. Entitled "Dora and the Lo...

Help me move by getting rid of these books

UPDATE: You're too late, they're gone. I'm moving back to Provo in early September. I love Portland, but I want to be near my Utah friends and my niecephews (and their parents, I guess). That's ...

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

C+ | PG-13 |
"Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," a rare two-ampersand film, gives two of the supporting tough guys from the eight "Fast & Furious" movies their own blithe spinoff that keeps with t...

Airplane Mode

D+ | Not-Rated |
••• YouTube star Logan Paul assembled so many fellow YouTube stars to make "Airplane Mode" that it would be genuinely impressive if they were anyone but YouTube stars. Like, if you got this many famo...

Share

B | Not-Rated |
••• Mandy, the high school basketball player at the center of "Share," starts the film by waking up on her front lawn -- not an auspicious way to start the day (or a movie). Played by excellent newco...

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

B+ | R |
There was cause for concern when Quentin Tarantino announced he was making a movie involving the Manson Family murders. It seemed likely, given QT's usual approach, that the result would be tacky and ...

The Lion King (2019)

C | PG |
The idea behind this remake of "The Lion King" was to tell the same story but with real animals. That being impractical, however, they had to use computer-generated animals that merely look real and d...

Purge of Kingdoms

D- | R |
••• "Purge of Kingdoms" announces itself as "a pointless parody" of "Game of Thrones," which reminds me of a truism: Admitting you're terrible doesn't make you less terrible. Directed incompetently b...

Crawl

B | R |
Alexandre Aja, director of grisly but mediocre fare like "High Tension" and the remake of "The Hills Have Eyes," has delivered a B-movie worthy of the label (and the grade) in "Crawl," which combines ...

The Art of Self-Defense

B | R |
Jesse Eisenberg plays to his strengths in "The Art of Self-Defense," a deadpan comedy about a weak, timid, ineffectual dweeb named Casey (that's Eisenberg, obviously) who flirts with becoming an anger...

Stuber

C+ | R |
"Stuber" is a familiar product -- a violent action comedy about a civilian who gets dragged into police work -- with a twist that's more depressing than was probably intended. Kumail Nanjiani plays th...

Midsommar

B | R |
If books could always be accurately judged by their covers, the bespectacled, unassuming Ari Aster would be an accountant or an I.T. guy, not the fever-brained lunatic behind the deeply unsettling hor...

Spider-Man: Far from Home

B | PG-13 |
"It's easy to fool people when they're already fooling themselves," says the villain in "Spider-Man: Far from Home," the first superhero movie to address life in the era of deepfake videos and daily g...

Ophelia

B- | PG-13 |
Daisy Ridley stars as Hamlet's crazy ex-girlfriend -- or maybe she wasn't crazy after all? -- in "Ophelia," a sumptuous retelling of the story from her point of view, with a decidedly more feminist be...

Yesterday

C+ | PG-13 |
"Yesterday," a song about regret over the way things turned out, is perfect for the movie "Yesterday," which should have been better. Written by romantic-comedy veteran Richard Curtis ("Notting Hill,"...

Annabelle Comes Home

B | R |
"Annabelle Comes Home" is part of the "Conjuring" franchise, but you don't need to have seen any of those movies (which also include "The Nun" and "The Curse of La Llorona") to understand what's going...

Bit

B- | Not-Rated |
The narration at the beginning and end of "Bit" (and it's never a good sign when a movie only has narration at the beginning and end) suggests something more satiric and self-aware than what we actual...

Toy Story 4

B | G |
"Toy Story 3" was such a perfect culmination to the series that any "Toy Story 4" is going to be met with wariness. The "Toy Story 4" we got does nothing to allay those concerns -- it is, as expected,...

Child’s Play (2019)

C | R |
The remake of "Child's Play" was positioned to be one of the more logical reboots of recent years, until they did a bad job of it. The concept of a murderous doll (Cabbage Patch size, not Barbie) make...

Anna

C | R |
Noted French pervert Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element," "Lucy") is back with another story of a badass woman who happens to be everything a horny screenwriter could want her to be -- avidly bisexual, ea...

Men in Black: International

C | PG-13 |
It takes considerable effort to render a pair as charismatic as Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson boring, but the makers of "Men in Black: International" are up to the task. This completely forgettab...

Shaft (2019)

D+ | R |
The new "Shaft," starring Jessie T. Usher as anxious FBI data analyst John Shaft, is a direct sequel to the 2000 "Shaft," which starred Samuel L. Jackson as badass police detective John Shaft, who was...

The Secret Life of Pets 2

B- | PG |
Coming on the heels of its shaky predecessor, "The Secret Life of Pets 2" is a mild, playful surprise with the confidence of a long-running franchise. This week's other new movie, "Dark Phoenix," feel...

Dark Phoenix

C- | PG-13 |
After a while I started getting offended at how much "Dark Phoenix" assumed I remembered about the previous Teenage X-Men movies. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), whose ill-defined powers include telekinesi...

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

B+ | R |
"The Last Black Man in San Francisco" sounds like a play on a science-fiction concept, but this gorgeously filmed semi-autobiographical story is grounded in all the realities of the modern, changing w...

Late Night

C | R |
There are two things happening simultaneously for Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson), the only female host in late night, in "Late Night," a mild satire written by Mindy Kaling. One is that she's being...

Rocketman

A- | R |
Having seen your share of formulaic biopics, you brace yourself when the first scene of "Rocketman" has Elton John (Taron Egerton) in full concert regalia (orange bird-man costume with devil horns) st...

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

C | PG-13 |
"Godzilla: King of the Monsters" is a sequel to 2014's "Godzilla," though the only returning characters are the title abomination and a few ancillary figures played by Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, and...

Ma

C+ | R |
While the category of "horror" is broad enough to include "Ma" (especially the last 20 minutes of it), you'll be disappointed if you're expecting anything scary or suspenseful. It's more of a psycholo...

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 devastati...

Aladdin (2019)

C | PG |
The new "Aladdin," directed by English film lad Guy Ritchie ("Snatch"), is unnecessary even by the standards of unnecessary remakes. It has the exact same plot as the 1992 animated classic, slowed dow...

Booksmart

B+ | R |
I'm sure the people who made "Booksmart" don't want it to be shorthanded into "'Superbad' for girls," but I'm equally sure that their hopes are in vain. If you don't want to be compared to "Superbad,"...

Brightburn

B- | R |
As horror premises go, "What if Superman were a sociopath?" is among the best I've heard lately. "Brightburn," a scruffy, nasty, low-budget effort produced by "Guardians of the Galaxy" director James ...

The Sun Is Also a Star

B- | PG-13 |
If Richard Linklater made a junior version of "Before Sunrise," it might look like "The Sun Is Also a Star," in which two teens meet and have only one day in which to fall in love before they go their...

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum

B | R |
John Wick's first line of dialogue in "John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum" is an instruction to a taxi driver: "The New York Public Library." How cool that an elite assassin is also a reader! Shortly ...

Trial by Fire

C | R |
The true story that "Trial by Fire" is based on, told by David Grann in a 2009 New Yorker article, is fascinating and suspenseful, full of twists that make you reexamine your assumptions, but the movi...

A Dog’s Journey

B- | PG |
Stay with me here. "A Dog's Journey" is a sequel to "A Dog's Purpose" (2017), both based on novels by W. Bruce Cameron. They're similar to "A Dog's Way Home" (from earlier this year) but aren't connec...

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...

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...

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Hello friends and strangers! Thanks for reading my word piles about movies. In May I will have been a Serious Film Critic for 20 years, and later in 2019 I'll write my 4,000th review. Four thousand...

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 ...