Film

ROMA

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” opens with a close-up shot of a stone-paved driveway. We see soapy water cascade over the rock, as someone off-camera is cleaning it. In the reflection of the water, we can see the sky, although even that reflection undulates and changes as the water moves. A plane then moves across the field of view within the reflection. It sounds so simple but there is so much in this sequence of images that is reflected in the film to follow: a natural flow of life—water, stone, air—while also presenting us with the concept of the micro within the macro, like a plane against the sky. Read More

The Mule

Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule,” which he directed and stars in, is based on the incredible true story of an octogenarian who became an unlikely drug mule, transporting staggering amounts of cocaine for a major Mexican drug cartel. It features an esteemed cast including Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Dianne Wiest and Andy Garcia. And it grapples with several of Eastwood’s preferred themes over his legendary career, including regret, forgiveness and the inevitability of mortality. All the pieces would seem to be in place—on paper at least—for a rich and gripping grown-up drama. So why does the result feel so elusive and unsatisfying? Eastwood’s direction is elegant and efficient, Read More

JONATHAN

Literature teems with doppelganger/secret sharer stories in which one personality of two strives to dominate the other. In “Jonathan,” the hook isn’t a transformative agent, like in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” or a deep sense of denial as in “William Wilson.” The movie, directed by Bill Oliver from a script by Oliver, Gregory Davis, and Peter Nickowitz, opens with its title character speaking into a camcorder and describing the  details of his day. Played by Ansel Elgort, Jonathan is very proper. His posture is straight, he looks like he irons his hair rather than combs it. His videos get responses: from a guy who could be Read More

HOT SUMMER NIGHTS

When Hunter Strawberry (Alex Roe) makes his first appearance in “Hot Summer Nights,” writer/director Elijah Bynum’s feature film debut, we’ve been well prepared. People have talked about him constantly before he shows up, so we’re primed to gasp at his manliness, his sexy forehead wrinkle, his charismatic power. Hunter Strawberry is not only a legend in the small Cape Code town where he lives, he has a legendary name. Filmed like a Greek God Grease Monkey, Hunter emerges from his muscle car in slo-mo, aware that all eyes are on him, and yet he doesn’t preen. He’s self-possessed and powerful. Scrawny Daniel (Timothée Chalamet) stares, gaga. It’s Read More

FAHRENHEIT 11/9

FAHRENHEIT 11/9

Michael Moore is angry again. In fact, Michael Moore may be angrier than he’s ever been. And while a lot of that rage is directed at Donald Trump, it’s probably less than people who have already commented on this review without seeing the film may expect if they ever choose to watch it. Moore’s outrage machine is not aimed directly at the 45th President of the United States, but at, well, pretty much everyone. In asking how we got to this point in American history, a point in which some people are questioning how much longer we will have a democracy (or if we even still do), Read More

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN

David Lowery’s “The Old Man & the Gun” is as deceptive as its protagonist. It tells the story of a man so likable and gentlemanly that tellers and bank managers practically handed him their money as he went about one of the most infamous robbery sprees in American history. But however suave the movie itself may be, it’s another accomplished piece of work from a filmmaker who is now four for four, and continues to surprise with the range of his interests and output. And it’s a love letter to a cinematic legend, serving as a perfect final film for someone who long ago surpassed mere actor Read More

OPERATION FINALE

Sure, Oscar Isaac is a great actor, but is he Good For The Jews? The Guatemala-born performer is in this film asked to play a hero not just to Israel and the Jewish people but to civilization itself: Peter Malkin, the Mossad agent who apprehended the Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann in 1961, in Argentina, where Eichmann was hiding under an assumed name. “Operation Finale,” directed by Chris Weitz from a script by Matthew Orton, begins with Isaac’s Malkin in Austria, in 1954, conducting a raid on the home of a suspected Nazi; the fellow, who’s gunned down trying to escape, WAS a Nazi (we see him Read More

AMERICAN ANIMALS

“This is not based on a true story,” the onscreen title informs us at the beginning of “American Animals.” “This is a true story.” This is also a rip-off of “I, Tonya,” except instead of having the actors appear in the documentary-like segments interspersed between the scenes, “American Animals” interviews the actual people who committed the crimes it dramatizes. Writer-director Bart Layton treats this device as a cutesy conceit, but it plays more like Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 to Paris” crossed with a low-rent “Bonnie and Clyde.” At least the men in Eastwood’s film played themselves in the re-enactment—and are heroes, to boot. “American Animals” saddles us Read More

A QUIET PLACE

John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” is a nerve-shredder. It’s a movie designed to make you an active participant in a game of tension, not just a passive observer in an unfolding horror. Most of the great horror movies are so because we become actively invested in the fate of the characters and involved in the cinematic exercise playing out before us. It is a tight thrill ride—the kind of movie that quickens the heart rate and plays with the expectations of the audience, while never treating them like idiots. In other words, it’s a really good horror movie. With his script, co-written by Bryan Woods and Scott Read More

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO

At its best, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” reminds one of the work of Michael Mann, stories of macho men so released of restrictions on their behavior that they blur the line between good and evil. At its worst, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” reminds one of the straight-to-DVD sequels that flooded the market in the ‘90s and ‘00s, follow-ups to action hits that felt like mere shadows of what came before. It’s more often at its worst. The follow-up to the 2015 triple Oscar nominee has lost a few key players, including Oscar nominees Johann Johannsson and Roger Deakins, along with star Emily Bluntand director Denis Read More