My friend the movie producer is a major fan of Mad Max: Fury Road. He says it’s the best film he thinks he's seen in five years. This is interesting, because it's not the kind of movie he makes; he produces "indies," meaning films with relatively modest budgets that center on character rather than spectacle. By contrast, Mad Max: Fury Road cost $150 million, has very little dialogue, and has a story you have to piece together in your head because the film itself makes almost no effort to piece it together for you.
My friend the movie producer thinks this is beside the point and that my review of the movie ("Max Redux," May 25) did not do it justice.Read more
The Revenant is beautifully photographed. Really. It’s beautiful. I mean, you've never seen such beauty. We're talking nature here, people. Rivers. Mountains. Snow. Even an avalanche. Some fog, both early morning and late afternoon. Also, it's supposed to be set in 1823, so the idea is we're seeing land that few if any human beings have ever walked on. No footprints! No signs about cleaning up your campsite!
The Oscar-winning director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and the star, Leonardo DiCaprio, have done nothing for months but talk about how difficult it was to film The Revenant. It was so difficult, you wouldn't believe. They were out. In the cold. They had to haul equipment up mountains.Read more
Two years ago, the writer-director Quentin Tarantino announced his next picture would be a Western called The Hateful Eight. He sent his script to a few people, and it was leaked. Tarantino announced that he would not be making The Hateful Eight after all because he was so furious. Then he reversed his decision and made The Hateful Eight anyway. Having now seen the product of his filmmaking labor, I can only wonder whether his initial impulse to kill the project truly resulted from his anger—or whether it was because some part of him knew the script was terrible and the movie he would make from it would be a train wreck.
Because the script is terrible. And The Hateful Eight is a train wreck.Read more
There’s no upside for me in reviewing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If I say anything interesting about its plot, I'll be criticized for publishing spoilers. If I say anything critical, I'll be accused of raining on everybody's parade. If I praise it, I'll be attacked for excessive kindness and sentimentality. So let me just say that I thought it was pretty good, that I enjoyed watching it, and that it has all the strengths and weaknesses of every project with which its cowriter and director,
J. J. Abrams, is involved. Which is to say: Its first 45 minutes are sensational; it plays on the viewer's emotions expertly; and it is cast brilliantly.
Good acting is something new for the Star Wars franchise.Read more
There is a video on the World Wrestling Entertainment's website called "Donald Trump's Greatest WWE Moments," which invites you to "Watch Donald Trump put his money where his mouth is in some of his most memorable WWE appearances." The video lasts for three minutes. In it, you can watch Trump slam into and pummel Vince McMahon, WWE's color commentator and commissioner, and later shave McMahon's head in the ring. This was all part of what the WWE itself calls a "storyline," in which Trump "bought" the fake sports league from McMahon and then sold it back to him in 2009.
Three years earlier, a movie called Idiocracy sent its protagonist, a totally average guy named Joe, from the present day into an America 500 years in the future.Read more
Ryan Coogler, who conceived and directed the new hit film Creed, is up to something very tricky with this effort to update the Rocky films to the 21st century. Creed is not a Cinderella story about a working-class chump who gets an unexpected shot at glory, as the original Rocky was. Instead, it's a character study of a soul in quiet torment.
He is Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), and he's the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, the publicity-mad heavyweight champ who plucked the hangdog mug Rocky Balboa from the streets of Philadelphia to be his opponent in a bicentennial fight back in 1976.Read more
Colm Tóibín did something interesting and unusual when he wrote his novel Brooklyn, which was published in 2009. He chose to tell an immigration story about an Irish girl just out of her teens who has no particular desire to go to America, no particular drive once she arrives in America, and no particular ideological experience of America. What this girl, Eilis Lacey, goes through is far truer to the American immigrant experience than the grander existential and political dramas around which most such novels have been built.Read more
I went to see Spotlight out of a sense of dreary duty. The movie is being touted as an Oscar possibility and has received rapturous reviews, neither of which is any guarantee of quality or enjoyment. Quite the opposite, in fact: Last year’s Oscar winner, Birdman, was similarly praised; I found it annoyingly pretentious and overdone. In addition, I’ve found the past work of its director and cowriter, Tom McCarthy, unsatisfying.Read more
You readers flatter me. You send me emails and letters asking me to review certain movies you’ve seen because you want to know what I have to say about them. At times these missives make me feel guilty, because I know I’m going to let you down. Because it’s often the case that you want to hear my views on a movie I have simply decided I cannot bear to see.
Consider this a critic’s confession.Read more
Five years ago in these pages, I called The Social Network “a two-hour exploration of a single question: Is Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, an assh—?” Now Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter of The Social Network, has just written a movie called Steve Jobs. It is a two-hour exploration of a single question: Was Steve Jobs, the man behind Apple Inc., an assh—? Steve Jobs has a fancy director in Danny Boyle, who made Slumdog Millionaire.Read more
When was the last time a movie was just, you know, lovable? Guardians of the Galaxy, maybe—all the more so because its lovability was so unexpected, coming as it did from the Marvel comic book movie factory. The same is true of The Martian, a movie so spectacularly winsome it’s almost beyond criticism. How could this have happened with this piece of hard science fiction, full of talk about orbiting distances and vectors and botany, derived from a nerdy novel first published chapter by chapter on the writer Andy Weir’s blog?Read more
If you are a person of a certain age—by which I mean a person who receives unsolicited mailings from AARP—and you don’t mind old-fashioned dirty talk, you will likely find yourself utterly entranced by a wonderful new documentary called Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead. That’s especially true if you watch Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead On Demand, which you can right now, because you can pause it to take those restroom breaks you are probably finding an increasingly urgent call on your attention.Read more
Black Mass is the latest cinematic portrayal of the life and career of James “Whitey” Bulger, the gangster who ran roughshod over Boston for nearly 20 years with the odd assistance of an F B I agent whose secret informant he was. Nine years ago, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed merged the plotline of a Hong Kong movie called Infernal Affairs with l’affaire Bulger and came out with a terrific Oscar-winning picture.Read more
Meryl Streep is so extraordinary she can do anything—anything, that is, except play an ordinary person. She’s only tried to do so twice in her 35-year career as a leading lady, and in both cases she was called upon to embody an unsatisfied suburban wife, first in 1984’s Falling in Love and almost three decades later in Hope Springs (2012).Read more
Just as Philip Larkin sighed that the sexual revolution “came too late for me,” I had already aged out of rap as it emerged with enormous force in the 1980s. I was then in my twenties and, listening to it, I felt for the first time the same sort of generational disdain that adults of the 1950s had felt upon listening to rock ’n’ roll. It was a lot of noise, you couldn’t understand the words, and everybody who performed it was just too angry and hyper-sexualized.Read more
The Gift—a compact picture written and directed by the Australian actor Joel Edgerton—is the best American thriller in 20 years or more. On its own limited terms, The Gift is an almost perfect piece of work; in an extraordinarily controlled debut behind the camera, Edgerton doesn’t make a false move.Read more
Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation makes no sense. Even more striking, this fifth installment in the Tom Cruise movie series based on the 1960s television show doesn’t even try to make sense.Read more
In the uplifting, if somewhat confusing, film Tomorrowland, George Clooney plays a brilliant scientist who suffers from a broken heart. Long ago and far way, he fell in love with a girl named Athena when they were children. Athena was smart and spunky and seemed genuinely to like George Clooney as a boy. But over the next four decades, the relationship never went anywhere: It never developed, it never evolved, they did not live happily ever after. Not even close.Read more
With Trainwreck, the comedy impresario Judd Apatow has once again made a movie about an irresponsible adult-child who is compelled to grow up by the end of the film. This was the plotline of both The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, the two box-office sensations that made Apatow’s career, and it resurfaces here.Read more
Every now and then, on Twitter or Facebook, I find myself referring to something I really enjoyed as “genius” or “a work of genius” or “pure genius.” Why do I do this? After all, I don’t actually think Richard Benjamin’s performance as an unhinged Jewish Van Helsing in the 1979 Dracula parody Love at First Bite is “genius.” I think it’s hilarious and unexpected and that Benjamin’s turn raises the movie’s comic game.Read more
The new Pixar film about an 11-year-old girl’s moment of crisis and change is called Inside Out, and it’s a perfect title—maybe too perfect for its own good. Everything the movie shows going on inside Riley’s head is glorious. And that’s most of what we see, so Inside Out deserves to be called the best American movie of the year so far.Read more
Jurassic World is a movie about itself. It tells a story about the difficulty of making special effects exciting when it seems like audiences have already seen it all. In the movie, the titular theme park has been built on the same island that hosted the old Jurassic Park back in the day when people would gasp upon seeing a realistic-looking T. rex—just as many of the same multiplexes that are showing Jurassic World showed Jurassic Park 22 years ago.Read more
As a comic actress, Melissa McCarthy resembles a first-rate baseball pitcher—because, unlike many of her brethren, who have a singular shtick and stick with it, she has both a curve and a fastball.Read more
William Butler Yeats might have described an old person as a “paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick,” but then Yeats didn’t live to see the 72-year-old actress Blythe Danner bloom like a bird of paradise in the first starring role she’s had on screen in her 43-year career. I’ll See You in My Dreams was made over the course of 18 days for $500,000, and its modesty is evident in every frame.Read more
One Friday evening in 1980, I journeyed to the far West Side of Chicago to a drive-in on Cicero Avenue and attended what may have been the strangest double feature in the history of the world. The top of the bill was The Gong Show Movie, a film written by, directed by, and starring Chuck Barris, the host of the TV show of the same name. The B-picture was something called Mad Max.Read more
Offering an opinion of Avengers: Age of Ultron is like reviewing Chex Mix. According to what stand-ard should one judge this mixture of breakfast cereal and pretzels and croutons and salt? Even if you find it bland or uninteresting you’ll probably have a few handfuls anyway. And if you love it, you love it uncritically and unreservedly—until, perhaps, you eat too much of it and then feel a little sick.Read more
There are several key shots in movies—the visual strategies directors and cinematographers and editors use to establish scene, mood, movement, and dramatic tension, guiding the viewer’s eye to important information.Read more
Run All Night is unquestionably the best of the seemingly endless series of thrillers Liam Neeson has made since 2008’s Taken made him a most unlikely action star at the age of 56. And yet, rather than being celebrated for rising above the others, Run All Night has been received so poorly by moviegoers one must now presume that Neeson’s surprising later-in-life dash through the international box office as one of the cinema’s most reliable money-makers is nearing its end.Read more
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