Arrival Review

Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival begins with a premise we’ve seen in a hundred summer blockbusters. One day, aliens arrive on Earth, in the form of twelve mysterious ships scattered around the globe. Their purpose is unclear, and humanity is naturally both intrigued and terrified. Where it goes next, though, is a welcome return to grown-up sci-fi, more Contact or Interstellar than Independence Day.

For starters, the aliens don’t open with an attack. And we Earthlings don’t, either. Instead, the U.S. military calls upon Louise (Amy Adams), a linguistics professor, to try and make contact with the alien spaceship in Montana. From there, Villeneuve carefully unspools a story that’s equal parts heart and intellect, encompassing memory, language, loss, love, grief, and the passage of time.

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A Monster Calls review

J.A. Bayona‘s adaptation of Patrick NessA Monster Calls is a five-hankie sobfest, a ruthlessly effective tearjerker even by cancer drama standards. The sniffles start with the premise. A boy (Lewis MacDougall) struggles with his mother’s terminal illness, and calls upon a giant tree monster for help. The monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) forces a deal upon the boy: he’ll tell three stories, after which the boy will have to reveal his own deepest, darkest secret.

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Free Fire review

The third-act shootout is a staple of a certain kind of film, but in Ben Wheatley‘s Free Fire it’s essentially the entire movie. Against all odds, it works. Wheatley stages a never-ending knock-down-drag-out fight, trapping one woman and about a dozen men in an abandoned warehouse and then inviting us to sit back and watch as the bullets and the jokes ricochet off one another. The result is a furiously entertaining exercise that left me buzzing with energy long after I’d left the theater.  Read More »

The Bad Batch

Two years ago, Ana Lily Amirpour came seemingly out of nowhere with her singular first feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The black-and-white feminist Iranian vampire Western felt like nothing we’d seen before — heck, just the description “black-and-white feminist Iranian vampire Western” sounds like nothing we’ve seen before. Now all eyes are on her as she debuts her second film, The Bad Batch.

In concept and style, The Bad Batch is every bit as dazzlingly unique as Amirpour’s last film. It’s set in a dusty dystopian landscape that looks like Venice Beach by way of Mad Max, with some Burning Man and Electric Daisy Carnival thrown in for good measure. Our main characters are Miami Man, a hulking cannibal played by Jason Momoa, and Arlen, a tough bit of prey played by Suki Waterhouse, and the story follows their unexpected collision. But despite a promising start, The Bad Batch runs out of gas about halfway through, and spends the rest of its time meandering through a halfhearted narrative.  Read More »


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Loving review

Jeff Nichols has never been one for outsized drama. It’s not that dramatic things don’t happen in his movies — on the contrary, his films are full of superpowered kids and apocalyptic dreams and the like. But he often seems less interested in big events than in all the moments in between, the everyday bonds and minute details that make up the textures of everyday life.

In Loving, Nichols applies that same approach to the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which struck down anti-miscegenation laws across the country. Aided by awards-worthy performances from Joel Edgerton and especially Ruth Negga, Nichols delivers an intimate drama that feels all the bigger for keeping its scope so resolutely small.  Read More »


Clint Eastwood’s Sully has one of the most tense, nail-biting plane-landing sequences ever put to film. Based on the real-life story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s “Miracle on the Hudson,” Sully features Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckart as pilots flying US Airways Flight 1549 on the morning both of its engines failed shortly after takeoff. As the plane begins its descent into the Hudson River, we see diverse groups of New York civil servants galvanized into action, all of them attempting to save innocent passengers’ lives. It’s riveting and inspiring, even as we already know how this particular story will end.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film is not as compelling, featuring a few interesting ideas about the events of that day that are never fully explored. See my full video review of Sully below.
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Hacksaw Ridge Reviews - Andrew Garfield

There’s some big buzz surrounding another anticipated premiere out of the Venice Film Festival. This time, it’s Mel Gibson‘s return behind the camera for the first time in 10 years that is garnering plenty of attention.

Hacksaw Ridge is a war drama based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a young Seventh Day Adventist who drew criticism from his fellow soldiers for sticking to his Pacifist beliefs and never picking up a weapon during his time serving in the military during World War II. Miraculously, the soldier single-handedly rescued 75 of his wounded brothers in one night, earning him the Medal of Honor. The story paints the portrait of a man who stood by his own beliefs and credited God with his heroic feats, and Mel Gibson doesn’t shy away from a message of faith in the face of adversity.

The first Hacksaw Ridge reviews have arrived from the festival, where the film received a 10-minute standing ovation. While there’s plenty of praise for an astounding performance by Andrew Garfield and some incredible, harrowing battle footage in the vein of Saving Private Ryan, it sounds like the film has problems in its lack of subtlety. Read More »

Kevin Smith Reacts to Yoga Hosers Reviews

Right now you can see Yoga Hosers in select theaters if you’re in the mood to see the latest insane romp from Kevin Smith. The filmmaker behind Clerks, Dogma and most recently the weird horror movie Tusk has said that he set out to make a movie that he would have wanted to watch if he were a 12-year old girl. However, I’m not sure there’s anything in the movie that’s really appropriate for tweens to see. But that’s a different conversation entirely.

Regardless of the appropriateness of the movie for certain ages, the reviews of the movie haven’t been very kind. The movie stands at 21% on Rotten Tomatoes (with a 3.5 rating out of 10), and even Kevin Smith’s most loyal fans haven’t found much to like about the movie. But since Kevin Smith has made nice with critics (apparently by way of this very movie), he decided to face the criticism head-on by reacting to some of the more scathing reviews on a recent episode of his podcast Hollywood Babble-On with Ralph Garman.

Kevin Smith reacts to Yoga Hosers reviews after the jump along with a video featuring a clip where the director gets a little emotional while answering a question posed to him by the film’s star, his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith. Read More »

The Light Between Oceans Video Review

Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine blew me away when it debuted at Sundance in 2011, with its evocative style and its powerful performances. Thus, I was excited to learn Cianfrance would be applying his skills to a period drama starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander in The Light Between Oceans

Oceans is grander on every level — in its setting, its scope, its ambition, and the emotional heights of its performances. And while its latter half does give way to some overwrought moments and dialogue, I never lost sight of the central, compelling connection that the two protagonists had with each other. Hit the jump to see my full video review of the film.

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Kickboxer Vengeance review

Jean-Claude Van Damme’s franchises had a rough go back in the day. Both Bloodsport and Kickboxer continued with straight-to-video sequels that not only did not star Van Damme, but featured completely new characters. Yet reigniting Universal Soldier decades later on video signaled a return to form for Van Damme and delivered that franchise’s two best entries. So rebooting Kickboxer, primarily for VOD and limited theatrical release, is a smart proposition. It elevates the franchise from it’s Van Damme-less phase and exemplifies the kind of fighting that today’s martial artists can do.  Read More »