movie review Archives

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At West Wind Glendale Drive-In: Sonic the Hedgehog—At this writing, it is still possible to go out to the movies here in the Valley, if you really want it; the West Wind Drive-In on 55th Avenue in Glendale is still open for business. Even though some of the fonder memories of my childhood and youth involve seeing stuff like The Valley of Gwangi and Food of the Gods and The Giant Spider Invasion and Horror Hospital and The Concrete Jungle at drive-ins back in my beloved...

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On VOD: Emma—This adaptation of the Jane Austen classic was released to the multiplexes in mid-February, and then to on-demand services when the theaters were closed in response to the current pandemic. It’s an idyllic deadpan comedy that might pass two hours of “shelter in place” quite agreeably. Austen’s “handsome, clever and rich” title heroine fancies herself a superb matchmaker, and amuses herself with meddling in the engagements of others. Most recklessly, she encourages her...

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This week at FilmBar, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Chandler and Harkins Tempe Marketplace: Extra Ordinary—The adorable Maeve Higgins is Rose, a driving instructor who used to be a psychically talented investigator and exorcist. She meets Martin Martin (Barry Ward), who is still haunted by helpful reminders from the ghost of his naggy wife. Initially posing, unconvincingly, as a driving student, Martin persuades Rose, very reluctantly, to come out of psychic retirement, partly because she’s a lonely...

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In wide release: The Invisible Man—After the dispiriting Tom Cruise version of The Mummy in 2017, Universal turned to Blumhouse Productions for their next monster reboot. Good move, as it turned out. This new version of the story of a see-through madman has little in common with the 1897 H. G. Wells yarn, or the classic 1933 James Whale film adaptation, beyond the name of the title character: Griffin. Played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen, he’s a...

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Playing at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 15, at several Harkins Theatres Valleywide: Spartacus (1960)—One of the last great leading men of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Kirk Douglas, departed last week at the age of 103. In his honor, Harkins Theatres is showing one of the best and most famous Douglas films, Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 epic Spartacus. If you haven’t seen the movie, or not in a long time, or if you’re a benighted post-Boomer who doesn’t...

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Opening this weekend: The Gentleman—Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Pearson, a wildly wealthy weed kingpin in the UK. By virtue of the fact, which Mickey himself points out, that his illicit product doesn’t kill people like heroin does, he’s the least despicable boss in this latest of writer-director Guy Ritchie’s gangster comedies. Mickey would like to divest himself of his massive subterranean pot empire and live the life of a gentleman, so he makes an offer...

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Opening this week: 1917—It’s April of the title year in France, and two young British soldiers are ordered to take a hike. Their mission, which they have no choice but to accept, is to cut across no man’s land to warn another battalion a few miles away but cut off from radio communication with headquarters, not to attack as planned; they’re heading into a German trap. One of the men has a brother in this...

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Time for the movie critic’s annual exercise in self-importance (as opposed to all those weekly exercises in self-importance): The Top Ten List. Here are the ten films from the past year that seem like the best to me, at least at the moment: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood—As with Inglourious Basterds, tolerance for Quentin Tarantino’s provocative do-over of 1969 in general and the Manson murders in particular will be a matter of personal taste; I...

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Little Women—There have been multiple screen adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved novel, and all of them have their merits. Katherine Hepburn seemed born to play heroine Jo March in George Cukor’s 1933 film, and Elizabeth Taylor seemed born to play Amy in Mervyn LeRoy’s 1949 rendering. For my money, the best, most balanced and beautiful version yet was Gillian Armstrong’s, from 1994, with Winona Ryder’s best performance ever as Jo, and a luminous Claire...

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Opening wide this weekend: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—Final thirds of trilogies of trilogies don’t come along every day. Yet, here we are marking the last chapter of the nine-movie Star Wars cycle that began in 1977, and it feels, to me at least, if not a non-event, then just another blockbuster movie. In the film, the heroes visit a festival on a planet that, C-3PO tells us, is only celebrated “every 42 years.”...

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Opening this weekend: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood—The life and career of Mr. Rogers is a truly remarkable story, and it was very capably told in last year’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This drama, in which the kid-show host is played by Tom Hanks, is trying for something different. To begin with, Mr. Rogers isn’t the central character; most of the movie’s screen time is devoted to Matthew Rhys, as a fictionalized...

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At Harkins Fashion Square: The Report—From its generic title on, this political drama is all business. Even the protagonist, played by Adam Driver, has a generic-sounding name: Daniel J. Jones. If memory serves, there isn’t a single scene in the film that shows him at his home, or tells us anything more about his personal life than that he was a jogger. The focus of the film, written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, is...

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Opening wide this weekend: Last Christmas—The holiday season is here, whether we approve of it starting so early or not; the first Christmas movie of the season has opened. The title of this English romcom refers, of course, to the Wham! hit of 1984 penned by George Michael, and the soundtrack (and soundtrack album; the perfect stocking-stuffer) is packed with other Michael favorites. So for some audience members it might be a relief simply that...

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In wide release: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil—Not really evil, exactly. In her live-action star vehicle from 2014, the horned sorceress from Sleeping Beauty, here played by Angelina Jolie, got both a backstory and a whitewash. She placed the curse of perpetual sleep on poor innocent Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), sure, but she was driven to it when Aurora’s jerk father did her wrong, and she later repented her spite and became the girl’s doting godmother....

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Opening this weekend: Joker—This is an origin story for Batman’s white-faced, green-haired original nemesis, probably the most famous of all super-villains. Debuting in Batman’s first adventure in 1940—his appearance is said to have been based on Conrad Veidt in 1928’s The Man Who Laughs—the character helped to popularize the “sinister clown” archetype that ultimately led to Pennywise. But this new film, directed and co-written by Todd Phillips of the Hangover flicks, shows us the Clown...

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