Summertime review

Carlos Lopez Estrada returns to the Sundance Film Festival two years after directing his feature debut, Blindspotting, a love letter to Oakland which included a few scenes of its lead characters freestyle rapping their emotions aloud to each other. In Summertime, his spiritual follow-up, Estrada turns his lens on Los Angeles and makes lyricism the movie’s dominant form of communication. Written by and starring 25 diverse Los Angeles poets, Summertime is a shaggy, criss-crossing saga of young people in L.A. exploring fame, rejection, ambition, and self-reflection – oh, and one of the characters really, really wants a cheeseburger. Picture a DVD of Richard Linklater’s Slacker being passed around as a totem in a slam poetry class, and that gets close to approximating the experience of watching this film.

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miss americana review

Taylor Swift sits in a window box, pouring over the diaries she kept when she was a kid. They’re childish, but they’re also full of big ambitions and dreams. She muses on the super seriousness of some of her words, and amusingly tells us that at one point she went through a phase where she wrote everything with a quill. “I had an inkwell,” she says before rolling her eyes at herself.

This is how Miss Americana begins, and we don’t know it yet, but it’s setting the stage for the story as a whole. This isn’t so much a documentary about Taylor Swift as it is a documentary about Taylor Swift growing up – letting go of childish things and realizing she’s much more than some “good girl.” It’s about a talented young woman spending the bulk of her life in the limelight before realizing she doesn’t have to worry about making everyone happy all the time.

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the gentlemen review

The Gentlemen is being touted as a return to form for Guy Ritchie — not the director behind blockbuster bombs like King Arthur or tepid Disney live-action remakes like Aladdin, but the electric, raucous auteur behind Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. And Ritchie is aware of this going into The Gentlemen, a contemporary gangster movie that has a sense of timelessness to it. But The Gentlemen is very much about the times, or rather, a time gone by: the era in which gangsters did things the old, mean, dirty way. But the times, they are a’changing, and a new guard of gangsters — represented by a delightfully unhinged Henry Golding — threatens to upend the balance. Or do they?

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weathering with you review

Makoto Shinkai is a filmmaker whose heart lies with the cosmos. The Your Name director looks at the world through a lens so expansive that sometimes humans can get lost in it — his earliest films more often than not forgot about the character and favored the awe inspired by natural phenomena: meteor showers, typhoons, the unchanging rhythm of the seasons. Like Hayao Miyazaki, who Shinkai has frequently been compared to as the anime legend’s widely regarded successor, Shinkai bows to the might of nature — though his films don’t have quite the deep political messaging as Miyazaki’s.

Shinkai’s strengths lie in his breathtaking animated tributes to the power of nature, rendered in stunning photorealistic animation, and the ripples that natural phenomena send to affect the little people on Earth. It’s why his early films would often feel cold and distant, and his characters vague outlines of people. But with the globally successful Your Name, Shinkai gained a sense of humor. He found a funny bone, a perfect compromise between his cosmic ambition and his intimate character writing. He swings even further in that lighthearted direction with Weathering With You, a whimsical supernatural romance with a pointed environmental message that is even more vibrant than his 2016 mega-hit, but doesn’t quite pack the same emotional wallop.

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dolittle review

Everyone was a little baffled when Robert Downey Jr. chose to follow his career-defining role as Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with…Dolittle. It turns out, they were right to be. The Stephen Gaghan-directed family adventure film reboots the Doctor Dolittle films, which last saw Eddie Murphy taking on the role of the animal-talking doctor in the 1998 modern-day comedy and its sequels. But Gaghan’s new film, like the 1967 musical starring Rex Harrison, takes more direct inspiration from the Hugh Lofting children’s novels set in the Victorian era. And like the infamously embattled Harrison film, it is a haphazard mess.

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bad boys for life review

Three things are essential to the Bad Boys franchise – or at least, they used to be. One is an often alarming cruelty – a disregard for anyone, and anything, all in the name of a near-sociopathic attempt at coolness. The second is what is commonly referred to as Bayhem – the wild, swirling, often incoherent action beats created by director Michael Bay. The third, and perhaps most essential, is the banter – and bickering – between leads Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.

What makes Bad Boys for Life, the third and presumably final chapter in this series, so special is the jettisoning of the first two elements while embracing the third. Bay is no longer in the director’s chair, and the overall nastiness – which was ramped up to the nth degree in Bad Boys II – is nowhere to be found. But that interplay between Smith and Lawrence is ever-present, and endlessly entertaining.

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like a boss review

Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish are both proven supporting players in raunchy R-rated comedies whose charisma is so strong, whose timing is so sharp, and whose deliveries are so hilarious that they have frequently threatened to upstage their leads. Byrne has played all manner of comedy wife or snobby socialite, while there isn’t an outrageous BFF that Haddish hasn’t been called up for. So put two and two together, and it sounds like you’ve got a buddy-comedy pairing for the ages, right?

Not so much. While Byrne and Haddish both sparkle onscreen in Like A Boss, which gives them the rare chance to be the leads for once (or at least to not have their name billed second to Seth Rogen or Kevin Smith), but they are ill-served by a generic workplace comedy movie.

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underwater review

How can such a predictable movie be so damn refreshing? In the storytelling department, Underwater is all washed-up, falling back on waterlogged horror cliches and heavily indebted to flicks like AlienThe Abyss, and The Descent. You know exactly where this freakshow is going from frame one. You know there will be loud clanging sounds against metal hulls. You know there will be trips down dark, soggy corridors. You know some wriggly wet monstrosity will rear its ugly head. This is paint-by-numbers moviemaking. And yet…it’s an absolute blast?

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the grudge review

The soggy scares of The Grudge are reborn yet again, this time in the hands of Nicolas Pesce, director of the horrifying The Eyes of My Mother. Pesce has a real knack for nasty nightmarish imagery, so handing him this franchise isn’t the worst idea in the world. At least on paper. Unfortunately, even though the filmmaker is working with a strong cast while conjuring up some haunting imagery, this Grudge fails to justify itself.

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Invisible Life Review

There came a point early on in Karim Aïnouz’s drama of separated sisters, Invisible Life, where I wondered if the way he depicted a scene veered a little too sharply into the melodramatic and borderline hysterical. Then I remembered how the poster billed the film: a tropical melodrama. Once I reset my bearings a bit, I found the narrative quite engrossing and the story rather moving.

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