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Movie Reviews

Table 19

B | PG-13 | March 3, 2017
In "Table 19," the title piece of furniture is at the back of a wedding reception, past the tables reserved for guests who matter. The outcasts back here are the people who were invited out of obligat...

Logan

B | R | March 3, 2017
"Logan" is the third standalone film for Hugh Jackman's knife-fisted X-Men maverick Wolverine, completing the weary trilogy with something fans have long waited to see: Wolverine's adamantium claws sl...

Before I Fall

C+ | PG-13 | March 3, 2017
"Before I Fall" is what would happen if Nicholas Sparks rewrote "Groundhog Day" as a teen-angst melodrama. The same lessons are to be learned, in the same order, only instead of a funny Bill Murray le...

The Girl with All the Gifts

B+ | R | February 24, 2017
••• With the post-apocalyptic setting of a young-adult novel and the slavering flesh-eaters of a zombie movie, “The Girl with All the Gifts” is a clever improvement on both genres, offering a rare lo...

Collide

B- | PG-13 | February 24, 2017
There is a certain movie formula where an ordinary man must do something illegal and dangerous (usually to save a loved one), but the task goes awry and he spends the next 24 hours running from bad gu...

The Great Wall

B | PG-13 | February 17, 2017
That long wall they've got over there in China has inspired many stories, some true and some fictional. "This," says the title card at the beginning of "The Great Wall," "is one of the legends." The f...

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

B | Not-Rated | February 24, 2017
••• A disaffected title like "I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore" could fit about 75% of Sundance films, but it's particularly apt for the one that uses it, an off-kilter, low-key comedy with...

Get Out

B+ | R | February 24, 2017
"Get Out" is a feature-length version of the not-quite-joking sentiment among African Americans that the suburbs, with their overwhelming whiteness and cultural homogeneity, are eerie twilight zones f...

Fist Fight

B- | R | February 17, 2017
Charlie Day has made a name for himself playing frenetic, high-pitched idiots in the "Horrible Bosses" movies and TV's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," so his performance in "Fist Fight" -- as a m...

XX

B- | Not-Rated | February 17, 2017
••• "XX," named after the chromosomes, is the first horror anthology written and directed entirely by women (not counting that one of the shorts is based on a Jack Ketchum story). That's a worthy ach...

A Cure for Wellness

B | R | February 17, 2017
Gore Verbinski has directed three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and "The Lone Ranger," plus "The Ring," "Rango," and "Mousehunt," as well as under-seen gems "The Mexican" and "The Weather Man." Wi...

John Wick: Chapter 2

B- | R | February 10, 2017
When last we saw John Wick, at the end of his out-of-nowhere 2014 cult hit, the grudgingly reactivated assassin had avenged, with extreme prejudice, the murder of his dog and the theft of his car and ...

Fifty Shades Darker

D | R | February 10, 2017
Fans of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie may have been nervous when they heard the sequel, nonsensically titled "Fifty Shades Darker," would have a different director. I'm kidding, of course; people w...

The LEGO Batman Movie

B | PG | February 10, 2017
Three years ago, "The LEGO Movie" surprised everyone by being very good despite having the flimsy premise of "What if we made a movie based on a toy?" What we feared would be a cynical feature-length ...

The Space Between Us

B- | PG-13 | February 3, 2017
As wholesome and sappy as a maple tree, "The Space Between Us" is an inoffensive teenage romantic drama, set in the near future, about a boy named Gardner (Asa Butterfield) who is the first person bor...

Rings

C | PG-13 | February 3, 2017
"The Ring" was my favorite of the remakes of Asian horror films in the early aughts. I'm on the record; I'm a Ring-leader. When Samara the stringy-haired wraith comes out of the TV at the end, there's...

War on Everyone

B | R | February 3, 2017
••• John Michael McDonagh's first film, "The Guard," had Brendan Gleeson as a racist, drug-using, rule-ignoring Irish police officer who didn't care about smaller crimes but would put forth some effo...

I Am Michael

B- | Not-Rated | January 27, 2017
In 2007, a prominent gay activist named Michael Glatze produced shocked gasps and not a few eye-rolls by renouncing his homosexuality, declaring himself straight, and becoming a Christian minister. "I...

Sundance: Call Me by Your Name

A- | Not-Rated | January 1, 1970
"Call Me by Your Name," a gay coming-of-age romance set at an Italian villa in the summertime (the best possible location for such a story), isn't sexual so much as hormonal. It's not about doin' it; ...

Split

B+ | PG-13 | January 20, 2017
"Split," a return to form for once-beloved writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, is a psychological thriller disguised as a kidnapped-girls horror movie. After stifling himself to make the found-footage...

The Bye Bye Man

D+ | PG-13 | January 13, 2017
If "The Bye Bye Man" feels familiar, it's because you have seen movies before and your brain is capable of forming memories. Congratulations on that! You're more advanced than the people who made "The...

Patriots Day

C- | R | December 21, 2016
It's hard to narrow it down, but the most damaging mistake in "Patriots Day" might be the choice to focus on a single fictional character but surrounding him with real people. Peter Berg's nakedly ...

Silence

B | R | December 23, 2016
Martin Scorsese works with two of his favorite themes in "Silence" -- Catholicism and violence -- but not in the way he's done in the past. Slowly paced and, yes, often quiet, Scorsese's adaptation of...

Hidden Figures

B+ | PG | December 25, 2016
"Hidden Figures" belongs to the feel-good section of Films About Racism, the kind where racism is a problem that can be handled incrementally, with many small victories and bursts of happiness along t...

Underworld: Blood Wars

C | R | January 6, 2017
"Underworld: Blood Wars" is the fifth entry in the dimly lit, surprisingly resilient vampires-vs-werewolves franchise, but it's the first one where I generally understood what was happening and why. (...

Fences

B+ | PG-13 | December 16, 2016
As any seasoned pro will tell you, there's a difference between stage acting and movie acting. In the theater, your performance must reach every seat in the house, your physical gestures big enough to...

Moonlight (2016)

A | R | October 21, 2016
"Who is you?" That question, phrased in the vernacular of a demographic that is often scorned, ignored, or pitied, is asked more than once in "Moonlight," a quiet, poignant movie about many things, in...

Passengers

C- | PG-13 | December 21, 2016
"Passengers" sets out on a course for being good, then detours and misses good's orbit before landing clumsily on bad. It's a waste of a rich premise, excellent special effects, and a charismatic cast...

Toni Erdmann (German)

B | R | December 25, 2016
The title character in "Toni Erdmann" doesn't exist but is the alter ego of Winfried Conradi (played by Peter Simonischek), a mischievous old jokester who carries a wig and false comedy teeth with him...

Why Him?

B- | R | December 23, 2016
It's not often that Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally are the comedic saviors of a movie, but that's 2016 for you. Their years of practice improving sitcoms ("Malcolm in the Middle" and "Will & Gr...

Assassin’s Creed

D | PG-13 | December 21, 2016
In a just world, the late-December movie starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, and Brendan Gleeson would be a lush historical epic or period drama. But since...

La La Land

A- | PG-13 | December 9, 2016
"La La Land" is a musical from the writer-director of "Whiplash" (my favorite film of 2014), starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, set in Tinseltown, heavily influenced by "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"...

Manchester by the Sea

B+ | R | November 18, 2016
Some movies are about people being broken by tragedy and finding a way to carry on. "Manchester by the Sea" is about someone who was broken several years ago, who is now prompted by new circumstances ...

Lion

B+ | PG-13 | November 25, 2016
"Lion" is the incredible true story of why you should never have children in India. Based on Saroo Brierley's memoir "A Long Way Home," the film, an inspiring drama that earns tears without jerking th...

Collateral Beauty

D | PG-13 | December 16, 2016
"Collateral Beauty" is soggy garbage intended to make you cry, but it's so clumsy in its manipulations that you almost feel sorry for it, the way you would if you realized the mugger trying to take yo...

Rogue One

B- | PG-13 | December 16, 2016
Since the "Star Wars" prequels were successful, beloved by all, and in no way a blemish to the franchise's reputation, the new owners of George Lucas' toybox figured they should make another one. "Rog...

Miss Sloane

B+ | R | November 25, 2016
The title character in "Miss Sloane," played by Jessica Chastain, is a Washington D.C. lobbyist known for her tactical brilliance -- "the smartest operative on the Hill," someone calls her. That's all...

Office Christmas Party

C+ | R | December 9, 2016
"Office Christmas Party," like many actual office Christmas parties, is poorly organized, runs too long, and isn't as entertaining as it thinks it is. You can't say there weren't red flags, though. Th...

Jackie

A- | R | December 2, 2016
The first thing we hear in "Jackie" is Mica Levi's groaning, indispensable musical score, which conveys sonically the sensation of having the ground fall out from under you. It accompanies our first s...

Rules Don’t Apply

C | PG-13 | November 23, 2016
Warren Beatty has been thinking about making a Howard Hughes biopic for 40 years, yet somehow the creaky, lurching “Rules Don’t Apply” is what he came up with. Though rife with glossy Hollywood charm,...

The Edge of Seventeen

B+ | R | November 18, 2016
With painful accuracy and often hilarious insight, writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s “The Edge of Seventeen” explores the difficulties of being a “difficult” adolescent better than nearly any film ...

Bad Santa 2

C+ | R | November 23, 2016
It’s a delicate art, making a film that offends and entertains in equal measure, and “Bad Santa 2” botches it. Where its vulgar 2003 predecessor – with Billy Bob Thornton as an alcoholic, lascivious, ...

Moana

B | PG | November 23, 2016
“Moana” is an animated Disney film about a headstrong girl in the middle of the ocean whose kingly, overprotective father fears the world beyond their realm and forbids her from engaging with it. But ...

The Eagle Huntress (documentary; Kazakh)

B+ | G | November 2, 2016
To see a heartening example of affectionate parents encouraging their daughter to develop her talents even if it flies in the face of masculine tradition, we need look no farther than Mongolia! That’s...

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

C+ | PG-13 | November 18, 2016
It wasn’t until I watched the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” that I realized what made J.K. Rowling’s books and the movies based on them work so well, something that’s ...

Bleed for This

C | R | November 18, 2016
There’s been a lot of misinformation out there lately, and we’re starting to see the consequences. For example, it used to be common knowledge that football, baseball, basketball, and auto racing were...

Shut In

D | PG-13 | November 11, 2016
“Shut In” has some of the right ingredients for a good thriller, but it has them in the wrong proportions. (It also has some ingredients that are just wrong.) When the story’s central mystery is expla...

Arrival

A | PG-13 | November 11, 2016
Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics expert, knows how important word choice is when she tells her daughter, "I used to think this was the beginning of your story." We hear this at the beginning of "Arriva...

Elle (French)

B+ | R | November 11, 2016
"Elle" begins at the end of a rape: Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), an intense fiftysomething businesswoman, attacked in her home by a masked assailant. Though traumatized (she replays it in her h...

Doctor Strange

B+ | PG-13 | November 4, 2016
With its trippy inter-dimensional mysticism and heady philosophy, "Doctor Strange" marks the first time in a while that a Marvel Cinematic Universe™ movie has offered anything new to look at or think ...

Hacksaw Ridge

B- | R | November 4, 2016
"Hacksaw Ridge" begins with soldiers being set on fire in slow motion while someone recites Bible-y platitudes in a Southern drawl. In other words, it's a Mel Gibson film, his first opportunity since ...

King Cobra

C- | Not-Rated | October 21, 2016
Despite being a true story of jealousy and murder in the world of gay porn, “King Cobra” is neither thoughtful enough to find meaning in it nor seedy enough to turn it into trashy fun. Instead, it’s a...

Inferno

C | PG-13 | October 28, 2016
Did you like "The Da Vinci Code" and its sequel, "Angels & Demons"? Then don't bother -- wait, you did? Really? Huh. Well, I guess I have good news, then. The third one, "Inferno," is a lot like t...

In a Valley of Violence

B- | R | October 21, 2016
"I promised my dog I wasn't going to kill anybody on this trip." That's a great thing for a gunman in a Western to growl at somebody who's trying his patience, and Ethan Hawke growls it with aplomb in...

Ouija: Origin of Evil

B+ | PG-13 | October 21, 2016
I "missed" (if that is the right word) the 2014 film "Ouija," based on the pretend-satanic board game beloved by imaginative adolescents since time immemorial. It got almost nothing but bad reviews, a...

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

C | PG-13 | October 21, 2016
When "Jack Reacher" came out, in 2012, its box-office performance was only so-so, leading fans to worry that the snappy, raucous action flick wouldn't get a sequel. What a happy day when those fears p...

Keeping Up with the Joneses

C+ | PG-13 | October 21, 2016
In "Keeping Up with the Joneses," a mild, superfluous action comedy, Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play Jeff and Karen Gaffney, parochial suburbanites who are enchanted by their exciting new cul-d...

The Handmaiden (Korean/Japanese)

B+ | Not-Rated | October 21, 2016
One of South Korea's chief cinematic exports is vengeance, and one of its top manufacturers is Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy," "Stoker"), whose 10th film, "The Handmaiden," is a deliciously black-humored er...

Boo! A Madea Halloween

C | PG-13 | October 21, 2016
I saw 10 of the 11 movies that Tyler Perry made between 2005 and 2011, then missed the next five (spanning six years -- he slowed down!). So I didn't see it when Madea, the giant sassy Atlanta grandmo...

Christine

B+ | R | October 14, 2016
If you know the name Christine Chubbuck, you also know how her story turned out, as she's one of those unfortunate souls who were only made famous by tragedy. To make a film about such a person is tri...

The Accountant

B | R | October 14, 2016
Having already played Batman, Ben Affleck now sets his sights on another vigilante superhero: The Accountant! Prepare for number- and bone-crunching justice!* That's not entirely a joke, either. In...

Max Steel

C | PG-13 | October 14, 2016
This may come as a shock, but "Max Steel," a film based on a line of toys and dumped into 2,000 theaters without promotion by a small distributor, isn't very good. A retread of every superhero origin ...

Kevin Hart: What Now?

B- | R | October 14, 2016
"Kevin Hart: What Now?" is the comedian's fifth stand-up film since 2009 (the third to be released theatrically), comprising a total of around 6 1/2 hours of stage time. That's an extraordinary amount...

The Birth of a Nation

B | R | October 7, 2016
The greatest accomplishment of Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation" might be reclaiming that title from the important and influential but irredeemably racist "Birth of a Nation" released 101 years ea...

The Girl on the Train

C+ | R | October 7, 2016
"The Girl on the Train" is feel-bad misery porn that desperately wants to be "Gone Girl" but lacks that story's surprises and cathartic, twisted resolution. Based on Paula Hawkins' bestselling novel a...

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

B- | PG | October 7, 2016
As preteen fare goes, "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" is better than its bland, glib title, with some heart and soul beneath its pour-paint-on-the-principal shenanigans. Amid the cliches, ...

The Greasy Strangler

B | Not-Rated | October 7, 2016
The makers of "The Greasy Strangler" won't be offended when I say that it's not a film so much as an endurance test, an intentionally off-putting anti-comedy meant to try the patience even of people w...

Deepwater Horizon

C+ | PG-13 | September 30, 2016
This week's dramatization of a recent disaster is "Deepwater Horizon," in which director Peter Berg ("Lone Survivor," "Battleship") tells how the offshore-drilling rig went kablooey in April 2010, kil...

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

B | PG-13 | September 30, 2016
Tim Burton directed "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," and while it's a perfect fit for the whimsically macabre filmmaker, he doesn't do much to make it his own. No, the bulk of the story'...

American Honey

B+ | R | September 30, 2016
"American Honey" won't make you feel very hopeful about The Kids These Days, but it may fill you with compassion for a generation of unwanted young Americans left to fend for themselves in a cratered ...

My Blind Brother

B | R | September 23, 2016
As a general rule, we do not make jokes at the expense of the handicapped. The bitterly funny, just-sweet-enough "My Blind Brother" gets away with it because the jokes aren't about his blindness per s...

Queen of Katwe

C+ | PG | September 23, 2016
"Queen of Katwe" is a mild Disney film telling the true story of a slum-dwelling Ugandan girl who becomes a chess master (mistress?). Directed by the esteemed Mira Nair, a sensitive chronicler of cult...

The Magnificent Seven

B+ | PG-13 | September 23, 2016
Except for some slightly more graphic violence and language than its forebears used to get away with, the new version of "The Magnificent Seven" is a Western in the old-fashioned style. That's mostly ...

Safe Neighborhood

B- | Not-Rated | January 1, 1970
It suffers a bit in the execution, but conceptually, "Safe Neighborhood" is the best twist on the "home invasion" thriller that the sub-genre has seen in a while, a consistently surprising story with ...

Bridget Jones’s Baby

B- | R | September 16, 2016
"Bridget Jones's Baby," in which our favorite diary-keeping singleton has a (spoiler alert) baby, begins with Ms. Jones (Renee Zellweger) alone on her 43rd birthday, listening to "All By Myself." This...

Snowden

C | R | September 16, 2016
"Snowden," the story of a man blowing the whistle on a secret government surveillance program, seems like a perfect match for Oliver Stone, a paranoid moonbat who loves a good rant. Yet his docudrama ...

Blair Witch

B- | R | September 16, 2016
Not that "The Blair Witch Project" needed a sequel, but if had to get one, the team of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett were a good choice. They've made a handful of intense horror featu...

Other People

B- | Not-Rated | September 9, 2016
There's a tendency among first-time filmmakers to assume that being autobiographical makes a movie unique, even when it addresses subjects and situations that have been covered a thousand times before...

Sully

C+ | PG-13 | September 9, 2016
Today on "Why Is This a Movie?," we're talking about "Sully," Clint Eastwood's dramatization of the January 2009 incident where Capt. Chesley Sullenberger (not a fake name) landed a plane full of pass...

Morgan

C+ | R | September 2, 2016
Arrogant scientists create something unnatural and underestimate how powerful it is in ... well, in a lot of movies, now that we think about it. Maybe two-thirds of all science fiction? But "Morgan" i...

Yoga Hosers

F | PG-13 | September 2, 2016
It's bad form to spoil a movie's best joke in a review, but "Yoga Hosers" only has one joke, so we don't have much choice. Here's the joke: Canada, am I right?? From what's left of the mind of Kevin S...

Hands of Stone

C- | R | August 26, 2016
The life of Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran has featured enough drama, setbacks, and victories to make for a terrific movie. Maybe someday someone will make one. In the meantime, here's "Hands of Stone...

The Hollars

D+ | PG-13 | August 26, 2016
Stop me if you've heard this one before. "The Hollars" is a Sundance dramedy about a mope who returns from the big city to his hometown to deal with family issues, and finds both the hometown and the ...

Complete Unknown

B | R | August 26, 2016
"Complete Unknown" begins with fractured clips of the same woman -- or at least the same actress (Rachel Weisz) -- in multiple professions, going by multiple names. Are these fantasies? Past lives? So...

Mechanic: Resurrection

C | R | August 26, 2016
Reader, I'm not going to demean us both by pretending to remember anything about "The Mechanic" (2011) except for the fact that I saw it. (I already looked to see if I wrote a review. I didn't.) It wa...

Don’t Breathe

B+ | R | August 26, 2016
"Don't Breathe" is satisfying, meat-and-potatoes horror, the kind that takes a simple premise, adds a couple of flourishes, makes the most of it for 85 minutes, then gets out before it can overstay it...

Southside with You

B- | PG-13 | August 26, 2016
Whatever you think of Barack Obama as a president, his loving, affectionate relationship with Michelle sets a good example for all married people, and might be the most unassailable aspect of his lega...

Morris from America

B | R | August 19, 2016
As you may recall from when it happened to you or from the many movies you've seen on the subject, growing up is hard. That's especially true for kids with single parents, and for minorities, and for ...

Kubo and the Two Strings

B | PG | August 19, 2016
There's something broken in my head that causes me to like and respect Laika's stop-motion animated films without falling in love with them, some emotional circuit that's not being completed. "Coralin...

Ben-Hur (2016)

C | PG-13 | August 19, 2016
Here's a fascinating bit of trivia about the 1880 novel "Ben-Hur" that you would never guess from watching Timur Bekmambetov's pedestrian new movie version: it was subtitled "A Tale of the Christ," an...

War Dogs

C | R | August 19, 2016
In "War Dogs," the title epithet is a derogatory term for dishonest, bottom-feeding greed-monsters who profit from war by selling weapons to the Pentagon. The fact that the bros to whom the term is ap...

Pete’s Dragon

A- | PG | August 12, 2016
Released any time of the year, Disney's in-name-only remake of "Pete's Dragon" would be a delicate and refreshing treat. But it's especially welcome as it comes near the end of a loudly disappointing ...

Sausage Party

B | R | August 12, 2016
The most surprising thing about "Sausage Party" -- a hard-R-rated cartoon conceived as a filthy version of "Toy Story" with food instead of playthings -- is that it's not a one-joke movie. Yes, it has...

Florence Foster Jenkins

B+ | PG-13 | August 12, 2016
Florence Foster Jenkins (the person) was a 1940s Manhattan socialite and arts patron whose desire to be a professional singer, shall we say, outpaced her abilities. "Florence Foster Jenkins" (the movi...

Hell or High Water

B+ | R | August 12, 2016
Most Westerns made in the last 50 years, whether set in the past or the present, have been at least partially about how the West has changed from how it was in the Westerns made in the previous 50 yea...

Suicide Squad

D | PG-13 | August 5, 2016
"Suicide Squad" is the equivalent of a band releasing a "greatest hits" album that's all new songs and covers, and not very good ones. The same cart-before-the-horse mentality that leads to Part Twos ...

Nine Lives (2016)

C- | PG | August 5, 2016
Wow, what a mixup! "Nine Lives" -- a benign, cheap-looking family comedy about a workaholic dad who learns What's Really Important when he becomes trapped in the body of a house cat -- was clearly sup...

Bad Moms

B- | R | July 29, 2016
"Hangover" scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have certainly found their niche. Their debut as writer-directors, "21 & Over," transferred "Hangover"-style debauchery to a college setting, and their...

Indignation

B | R | July 29, 2016
"Indignation" is the story of a headstrong Jewish atheist from New Jersey who goes to college in Ohio in 1951, feels repressed religiously and romantically, then receives a first-date sexual favor tha...

Jason Bourne

C | PG-13 | July 29, 2016
Maybe too much time has passed since we last saw Jason Bourne, in "The Bourne Ultimatum," in 2007. Maybe his quest for answers went as far as it needed to go and didn't require an extension. Maybe the...