Reviews

Unplanned REVIEW

Unplanned (2019)

“My story isn’t a neat and tidy one,” Abby tells us at the start, but this telling is still pretty neat and tidy. Perhaps the real story was messier.

Dumbo REVIEW

Dumbo (2019)

The Disney nostalgia train rumbles on with Tim Burton back at the throttle — not quite throttling the iconic tale of the flying baby elephant, but only barely rising to the challenge, sort of like Casey Junior struggling to clear that daunting hill.

Captain Marvel REVIEW

Captain Marvel (2019)

At this stage in Marvel Cinematic Universe history you almost need a Tolkieneque set of appendices and diagrams to make complete sense of everything.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World REVIEW

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

The two sequels greatly expand the world and the mythology of the original Dragon. Yet our hero’s personal self-development was pretty much complete at the start of Dragon 2.

Aquaman REVIEW

Aquaman (2018)

Like the Star Wars prequels, like James Cameron’s Avatar, it’s a movie with tons of problems, but it also contains images that made me catch my breath — gorgeous and even numinous sights I will remember forever.

Mary Poppins Returns REVIEW

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Nostalgia for the original pervades virtually every aspect of the new film, from the production design of Cherry Tree Lane, where Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins arrives to look after the next generation of Banks children, to the beat-for-beat exactness with which the sequel follows the original.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse REVIEW

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Here, at last, is the Spidey that family audiences need and the Spidey they deserve — and that’s just two of them!

The Grinch REVIEW

The Grinch (2018)

Replacing Karloff-ian malice and spite / Cumberbatch-ian grousing makes this one Grinch-lite. / It’s a kinder and gentler tale than we’ve seen / Of course he’s not nice, but this Grinch is less mean.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms REVIEW

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

There’s something genuinely depressing about seeing one of the most audacious experiments in animation history used not for actual inspiration, but as a kind of scrap heap for spare parts.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer REVIEW

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (2018)

Gosnell is subtitled The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (echoing the similar subtitle of the book by producers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney) — but notorious abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell isn’t the only one on trial here.

First Man REVIEW

First Man (2018)

First Man is Damien Chazelle’s third film in a row about special individuals whose quest to achieve great things is linked to emotional isolation from others.

Operation Finale REVIEW

Operation Finale (2018)

It was the experience of reporting in Jerusalem on the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial for The New Yorker that led the philosopher Hannah Arendt to coin her famous phrase “the banality of evil.”

Christopher Robin REVIEW

Christopher Robin (2018)

When such movies are done well, you get, say, The Incredibles or John Favreau’s Chef. When they aren’t, you get Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins or Steven Spielberg’s Hook — possibly the closest analogy for Christopher Robin, though Hook, for all its flaws, was clearly a personal film for Spielberg, whereas Christopher Robin feels cobbled together from bits and pieces of other movies without a cogent vision of its own.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout REVIEW

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout completes possibly the most improbable cinematic hat trick in Hollywood history: An unpromising series that began with three patchy, uneven entries has now produced three terrifically entertaining ones.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation REVIEW

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018)

I’m not thrilled about the lack of worthy romantic leading men in recent Hollywood animation, but I prefer the theme in Frozen, about needing to get to know someone before deciding to get married, to this series’ magical, inexorable “Zing” moment.

Ant-Man and the Wasp REVIEW

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

In some ways Ant-Man and the Wasp is the kind of movie I wanted Ant-Man to be: namely, a refreshing antidote to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom REVIEW

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Apparently velociraptor is the cowbell of dino design and the filmmakers are Christopher Walken.

Incredibles 2 REVIEW

Incredibles 2 (2018)

As The Incredibles in its day towered over the Hollywood animation landscape of the last decade, so in some measure does Incredibles 2 in this decade — but what a different and diminished landscape it is today.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? REVIEW

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

For a few formative years of our lives, Mr. Rogers showed us the way. Why don’t we walk that way? Because of all the voices dominating the discussion ever since.

First Reformed REVIEW

First Reformed (2018)

Schrader makes greater use than ever before of what he calls the “transcendental toolkit” — but it’s still very much a film from the writer of Taxi Driver. If Toller partly evokes Bresson’s wan, saintly curé, in time we see that he’s also part Travis Bickle, which can be as difficult to watch as it sounds.