Film

A BAG OF MARBLES

There was a time in which films set during the Holocaust were made with the expressed intention of keeping history alive for future generations. For my junior high history class, I analyzed three movies that observed the impact of Nazi atrocities from strikingly different perspectives—the encroaching dread of a family in hiding in George Stevens’ “The Diary of Anne Frank,” the visceral horrors of a concentration camp in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” and the monstrous denial of Nazi judges on trial in Stanley Kramer’s “Judgment at Nuremberg.” As a kid, this unofficial trilogy served as a sobering illustration of the unthinkable evil committed by ordinary human beings Read More

MIDNIGHT SUN

“Midnight Sun” does what it means to do for the people it means to do it for—and that might just be enough. The 12-year-old girls who are the film’s target audience probably won’t realize what it’s derivative of: a little bit of John Hughes and a lot of “Love Story.” “Midnight Sun” also bears more than a slight resemblance to last summer’s Young Adult drama “Everything, Everything,” in which a rare disease supposedly spells doom for a blossoming teen romance. (Director Scott Speer’s film is actually based on a 2006 Japanese film of the same name.) Xeroderma pigmentosum—a one-in-a-million skin ailment that makes exposure to the sun’s rays Read More

LOVE, SIMON

“Love, Simon” is a mainstream-styled teenage rom-com that uses every cliche in the book. There’s the nerdy Vice Principal, the bacchanalian high school party, supportive yet somewhat clueless parents, witty voiceover from the protagonist, public declarations of love in front of the whole school, all held together by a stream of catchy pop tunes. But “Love, Simon”‘s use of these cliches represents a huge first, because it is the story of a young closeted gay kid’s difficult and often humorous march towards coming out. Director Greg Berlanti, who has helmed a string of hit television shows as producer and writer, uses the familiar teenage romance genre to tell Read More

6 BALLOONS

It is incredibly difficult to love an addict. Not only does their addiction continuously define the dynamic of your relationship, but they are like a drowning man, able to take you down with them as they flail their arms and fight for air. Rarely has a film captured this better than Marja-Lewis Ryan’s “6 Balloons,” premiering next month on Netflix after its world premiere at SXSW. It features a pair of young actors who are mostly known for comedy in a heartfelt, scary drama about what addiction does to the people around the addict. We’ve seen countless stories of junkies trying to get clean, but how does Read More

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME

Hawking is the theoretical physicist whose theories about space, time and black holes have formed the way we now think about the universe. His brilliance takes on a poignancy because his mind occupies a body which has been wasting away for years with ALS, a disease that has left him incapable of speech or movement – except of a few fingers with which he uses a computer to communicate with the world. His voice, heard throughout the film, is synthesized. I saw him once, being pushed in his chair across a busy street in Cambridge, England, and I noticed that he was followed by the eyes of Read More

BLACK PANTHER

In 1992, a little Black kid on a makeshift basketball court in Oakland, California disrupts his game to glance up at the sky. Figuratively, he’s looking at the loss of hope, a departure represented by glowing lights drifting away into the night. As we learn later, those lights belong to a futuristic flying machine returning to the mysterious African country of Wakanda, the setting of “Black Panther.” The young man was once told by his father that Wakanda had the most wonderful sunsets he would ever see, so he cradles that perceived vision of beauty through his darkest hours. When he finally sees the sun go down over Read More

THE OUTSIDER

After struggling to be taken seriously as the Joker in “Suicide Squad” and being the arguably least impressive component of “Blade Runner 2049,” Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto has another big swing-and-a-miss with “The Outsider,” available on Netflix today. Contrasting the flair of those performances, Leto goes for a cold and calculated gang member, playing a former WWII soldier in 1954 Osaka, Japan who gets caught up in the murderous business of the yakuza. But as the story bloats to two hours by mistaking itself for an epic, “The Outsider” falls into a pit of boredom somewhere between the white savior complex of Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai” and the Read More

TWO LOVERS AND A BEAR

Tatiana Maslany and Dane DeHaan burn with a tormented love that’s so passionate, it threatens to melt the icy Canadian Arctic in “Two Lovers and a Bear.” Fair warning: If a romance about beautiful, miserable people is your least favorite indie subgenre, this may not be your cup of tea. But writer-director Kim Nguyen has some inspired surprises in store, for better and for worse, as well as some striking scenery and a pair of strong performances from its stars. He creates a vivid sense of place in the small-town far North – Iqaluit, Nunavut, is the setting – capturing vast expanses of white that are as Read More

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Writer/director Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a sprawling, incident- and character-packed extravaganza that picks up at the end of “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” and guides the series into unfamiliar territory. It’s everything a fan could want from a “Star Wars” film and then some. Even the sorts of viewers who spend the entire running time of movies anticipating every plot twist and crowing “called it!” when they get one right are likely to come up short here. But the surprises usually don’t violate the (admittedly loose) internal logic of the universe George Lucas invented, and when they seem to, it’s because the Read More

WONDER WHEEL

Given that it was very well received by an alarming number of colleagues when it played at the New York Film Festival in September, I’ve been trying to figure out a way that “Wonder Wheel” can be seen as good. Turgid even in its brightness, overwritten in a way that does nothing to camoflauge its first-draft quality, jaw-droppingly overacted by all but one of its central cast members; it’s a Woody Allen disaster that elicits both a cocked head and a dropped jaw. Given that Mr. Allen’s professional approach to moviemaking most resembles a basketball player’s free-throw practice—he endeavors to make a picture once a year, no Read More