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


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


For years, Pixar focused on original films, ignoring the sequel trend so prevalent in children’s entertainment. Sure, there were two sequels to “Toy Story,” but that was the exception. Now, the company regularly alternates original projects like “Inside Out” with sequels to “Cars,” “Monsters Inc.,” and “Finding Nemo.” But even as critics bemoaned the sequelitis that inflicted the company, there was always a caveat. “No more sequels … well, maybe The Incredibles.” Brad Bird’s 2004 animated classic felt like the most sequel-ready film in the entire Pixar canon. It was an origin story, the first chapter of a universe waiting to be explored. For some reason, it Read More


How should a dinosaur movie be? The makers of the first dinosaur movies, clearly drunk on their imaginations and the way their visions could be realized with then-new effects technology, did not have the self-consciousness to ask the question. The two early landmarks, 1925’s “The Lost World” and 1933’s “King Kong,” in which the giant creatures roamed the modern world courtesy of stop-motion animation conceived and executed by Willis O’Brien, were straightforward spectacles with nasty racialized touches, but they’re still valid (and in many respects thrilling) because they do their jobs: creation and destruction, things you’ve never seen before wreaking havoc on the world you live in. Read More


In September, 1983, Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her fiance, Richard Sharp, were hired to take a 44-foot yacht on a 4,000-mile journey from Tahiti to San Diego. About halfway through their cross-Pacific journey, they ran into Hurricane Raymond, a tropical storm which had been building in power for a couple of weeks. They struggled to control the yacht in 145-knot winds, and Sharp was washed overboard, lost in the mountainous seas. Ashcraft had a head injury, and the yacht was badly damaged, but she managed to jerry-rig a sail and then navigated her way—manually, using a sextant and a watchover 1,500 miles to Hawaii. It took her Read More


No stunt doubles. No computer graphics. No strings attached. These nine words represent the most astonishing element of “Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior,” the first Thai film to break through in the martial arts market. Having seen documentaries showing how stunt men are “flown” from wires that are eliminated in post-production, having seen entire action sequences made on computers, I sat through the movie impressed at how real the action sequences seemed. Then I went to the Web site, and discovered that they were real. Yes, they do a lot with camera angles and editing tricks. With the right lens and angle and slow-motion, you can make it Read More


“Can you just let me sit with my own memories?” This plea, from Jennifer (Laura Dern) to her mother (Ellen Burstyn), is a key moment in “The Tale,” an extraordinary and disturbing new film directed by Jennifer Fox, based on Fox’s own experience with childhood molestation. It’s key because “The Tale” is, in many ways, about memory, and memory’s unreliability and slipperiness. Memory can cloak trauma in another “better” narrative, sparing us until we’re ready to deal. Joan Didion famously wrote “We tell ourselves stories in order to live” (Jennifer quotes this in “The Tale” during a lecture to her film students). Didion’s words are often recast Read More


As unnecessary prequels go, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” isn’t bad. It’s not great, either, though—and despite spirited performances, knockabout humor, and a few surprising or rousing bits, there’s something a bit too programmed about the whole thing. It has certain marks to hit, and it makes absolutely sure you know that it’s hitting them. Everything that you expect to see visualized in “Solo,” based on your experience with previously stated “Star Wars” mythology, gets served up on a silver platter, from young Han Solo’s first meeting with Chewbacca to Han winning the Millennium Falcon in a card game from its original owner, Lando Calrissian, and making the Read More


Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed,” in which Ethan Hawke brilliantly plays an alcoholic Protestant minister undergoing a profound spiritual and psychological crisis, is a stunning, enrapturing film, a crowning work by one of the American cinema’s most essential artists. Yet in the moment I deliver that unstinting endorsement, I feel compelled to add that this is a very special film for a certain, inevitably rather limited audience. In line with other Schrader movies, but perhaps more so than any, it defines itself against many of the central assumptions and conventions of most mainstream moviemaking. In his seminal 1972 book Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer (written at age Read More


Making a debut at Sundance is an ambitious film by Carlos López Estrada’s “Blindspotting,” a movie that has already been criticized for some tonal jumps in the final act. Sure, the film bites off a bit more than it can chew, but I’ll go to bat for a creative team that tries something this ambitious and culturally resonant instead of so much of the lazy indie filmmaking we so often see. “Blindspotting” is a raw, abrasive call for an adjustment in the way we see each other. It is so much a film of its moment that there were also opening night criticisms arguing it was too on Read More