Reviews

The Great Wall REVIEW

The Great Wall (2017)

The Great Wall is one of those movies that is more interesting for what it portends and the discussion around it than for what is actually onscreen. Not that what is onscreen, in the most literal sense, is bad or uninteresting.

The Lego Batman Movie REVIEW

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Despite the villainous full-court press, Batman’s victory is so assured that no one is even worried about it. Clearly, something subversive has to happen to kick things out of superhero-movie business as usual and challenge Batman to his core. Would you believe … a giant swirling energy portal in the sky?

The Leopard REVIEW

The Leopard (1963)

One comes, like these Redshirts, as a cultural sightseer to The Leopard, with its palatial grandeur, replete with lavish, painterly images of the bygone glory of the Italian aristocracy: already in their own day semi-mythological figures, as we see in a vignette in which Father Pirrone, tries to explain to the common people the mysterious ways of the nobility: “They live in a world apart, not created by God, but by themselves.”

Paterson REVIEW

Paterson (2016)

For the second year in a row, my favorite film is a winning love story named for an urban area more or less in my backyard.

Passengers REVIEW

Passengers (2016)

If you had to cast two Hollywood actors to watch being all by themselves in a luxury starliner on a doomed 90-year voyage to a planet they will never live to see, you might just pick Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. In a way, that’s the problem with Passengers, or where the problems begin.

Silence REVIEW

Silence (2016)

When 17th-century Japanese authorities in the time of the Tokugawa shogunate found it necessary to send the colonial powers of Europe packing and their European Jesus with them, they didn’t just shatter the missionaries’ bodies. They shattered their narrative.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story REVIEW

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

All this raises a question: When is a Star Wars movie not a Star Wars movie?

Spirited Away REVIEW

Spirited Away (2001)

No film in Miyazaki’s oeuvre haunts me like Spirited Away. One reason is the evocation of a seemingly impenetrable, incalculable world with rhythms and rituals that seem all the more opaque and unnerving because they are routine and transparent to those that are of that world.

Moana REVIEW

Moana (2016)

It would be going too far to say that Moana combines everything I enjoy about contemporary Disney with everything I dislike, but it’s got quite a bit of both.

Arrival REVIEW

Arrival (2016)

In some ways it warrants comparison with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, if only because Arrival achieves much of what I was hoping for from Interstellar.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them REVIEW

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

The fact is, moving from the Harry Potter films to Fantastic Beasts feels a bit like moving from the original Star Wars trilogy to the Star Wars prequels.

Hacksaw Ridge REVIEW

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Gibson crafts a resolutely traditional exercise in Hollywood mythmaking: a tale of a man who stoically endures accusations of cowardice before being vindicated as the bravest of all, a man of integrity who stands by his unpopular principles regardless of the consequences; a pious man whose sincere faith eventually wins the respect and admiration of his less devout comrades.

Doctor Strange REVIEW

Doctor Strange (2016)

Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Marvel’s sorcerer supreme, is a rare action blockbuster — and an even rarer superhero movie — that really ought to be experienced, not only on the big screen, but in 3D — and if possible in IMAX.

The Birth of a Nation REVIEW

The Birth of a Nation (2016)

The prominent, polyvalent exploration of the uses of religion and especially Scripture, both to condone slavery and to condemn it, to sedate slaves and to inflame them, is one of the most striking and welcome things about the film.

It’s a Wonderful Life REVIEW

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The truth is that It’s a Wonderful Life is both darker and more subversive than its popular reputation as cheery holiday “Capra-corn” would suggest, and more robustly hopeful than cynics and hipster deconstructionists would have it.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children REVIEW

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

1999 was a very good year for film, and how much more peculiar Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children might have been had it come out that year, before the X-Men and Harry Potter franchises were launched in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

Deepwater Horizon REVIEW

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

The film sketches in these characters just enough to hold the story together. What really interests Berg is exploring how the disaster happened, what it was like, and how those 126 people responded, for better and for worse.

Queen of Katwe REVIEW

Queen of Katwe (2016)

There are so many reasons Queen of Katwe shouldn’t even exist, and just thinking about them all makes me even more vexed at Hollywood for its desperate obsession with exhausted franchise fare when there are winning and wonderful stories like this to be told.

Hillsong – Let Hope Rise REVIEW

Hillsong – Let Hope Rise (2016)

Possibly the best and most cinematic sequence in Hillsong – Let Hope Rise is a montage that strikingly captures how the music of the Australian Evangelical church-based praise band Hillsong United touches, and unites, people all around the world.

Sully REVIEW

Sully (2016)

Many actors come to own the roles they play so completely that once you see them, you can’t imagine anyone else in the part. Tom Hanks plays roles in which you can’t imagine anyone else even before you see him.