movie review Archives

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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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Judy—The frightened little-girl eyes, the face constantly shifting in an attempt to resolve itself into a mirthful expression, the reeling, infirm stage presence—Renee Zellweger captures the quality of the very late-period Judy Garland impressively in this biopic. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a great performance. Adapted by Tom Edge from a play by Peter Quilter and directed by Rupert Goold, the film dramatizes Garland in the late ‘60s, dragging her kids to low-paying...

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Opening this weekend: Rambo: Last Blood—With the obvious exception of Rocky Balboa, troubled Vietnam vet and former POW John Rambo has been Sylvester Stallone’s most enduring character. He debuted in First Blood, the 1982 adaptation of David Morrell’s novel, as a PTSD-afflicted ex-Special Forces drifter who makes some small-town deputies wish they hadn’t messed with him. It was one of Stallone’s more intense and poignant early performances. The 1985 sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II,...

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Opening wide this weekend: The Goldfinch—When he happens to be in the Metropolitan Museum of Art during a terrorist bombing, 13-year-old Theo takes the opportunity to walk out of the wreckage with the title painting, by Rembrandt’s student Fabritius. Motherless after the disaster, Theo is taken in by a rich Manhattan family led by weirdly knowing Mom Nicole Kidman, until his greedy washed-up-actor Dad (Luke Wilson) and Dad’s floozy girlfriend (Sarah Paulson) show up and...

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At Harkins Shea: One Child Nation—This is a riveting, deeply personal documentary on an epic, and appalling, theme: China’s one-child policy and the human rights outrages, little understood in this country, that it wrought. The director, Nanfu Wang (in collaboration with Jialing Zhang) was born in the rural Jiangxi province in 1985, but has lived in the U.S. for many years. Inspired by the birth of her own child, she returned to her hometown to...

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Opening this weekend: Good Boys—The title characters are three preteens; much has been made in the publicity of the fact that the stars are too young to see their own R-rated movie unaccompanied. Max (Jacob Tremblay from Room) is interested in girls, one in particular. His friend Thor (Brady Noon) aspires to sing, but aspires even more fervently to be thought cool and to shake off the nickname “Sippy Cup.” Lucas (Keith L. Williams) just...

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