20th Century Women offers a compassionate take on generational shifts
If you were given just a thumbnail description of the plot of writer/director Mike Mills' 20th Century Women, you might think you'd know what to expect from the character of Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening). The 55-year-old single mother of a 15-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), in 1979 Santa Barbara, Dorothea struggles with the confidence that she can provide everything Jamie needs to grow up emotionally healthy.
Michael Keaton gives us the story of McDonald's in the Founder
Few things are more American than McDonald's, which is what makes The Founder rather horrifying. I found myself scribbling that word — horrifying — a lot during my viewing of the film, which condemns with its conclusion that the American dream at its apex is nothing more than rapacious bullshit.
Jackie keeps repeating its intriguing ideas about turning people into icons
Before a single image appears on screen in Jackie, there is a deeply unsettling swell of strings from Mica Levi's score; something that begins triumphant, then dips into a kind of horror-movie dissonance. Soon, the haunted face of Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) appears — eyes red-rimmed as she walks on the Kennedy family property in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, just a week after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy — the music continuing its eerie swing between glorious and terrifying.
Ben Affleck directs and stars in Live by Night, but forgets to add some excitement
With his fourth film as director, Ben Affleck has finally produced a stinker. Live by Night fails because it commits the cardinal sin of cinema: it's boring.
Hidden Figures rights wrongs both cinematic and historic
Once upon a time, such as during the early years of America's space program, "computer" meant "person who does manual calculations." This was considered rather menial labor, particularly when a woman did it... and lots of women did it.
A Monster Calls is a beautiful and unique story about children
Be warned. Yes, A Monster Calls is a fairy tale, but more of the Grimm (and grim) sort: no happy ending, no heroes or villains, just a lot of hard truths about life and human nature.
Celebrating the best in film for 2016
In case there weren't enough high-profile deaths in 2016 — Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, democracy — this was also the year, we were told repeatedly in entertainment industry headlines, that cinema died. But around the margins of the franchises that tend to suck up all the media attention, there were plenty of wonderful movies — enough worthy ones that a top 10 list is merely the tip of the iceberg.
The new musical La La Land isn't for everybody, but it might just work on you
For some reason, musicals dissolve the suspension of disbelief for the majority of moviegoers. The general public is totally on board with a perennially rebooting film franchise about a teenager who gets bitten by a spider, puts on tight pants, and shoots sticky goo out of his palms, but the thought of people spontaneously bursting into song and dance routines is a deal-breaker.
The sharp sci-fi of Passengers sputters before long
Though Passengers is based on an original concept, it feels as though it could be adapted from a golden-age Ray Bradbury tale, which is about the highest compliment I could give a sci-fi movie. The starship Avalon rockets to a distant planet, carrying more than 5,000 comatose earthlings.
Sing is a delightful and deep animated tale
Since the comparison is inevitable, let's get this out of the way right now: Yes, Sing — from Illumination, the animation studio which gave us the Despicable Me movies and The Secret Life of Pets, among others — bears a lot of similarities to Disney's Zootopia. Both are set in human-free worlds in which many species of anthropomorphized animals live together in relative harmony.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story leans on its characters to push through the bleakness
Expanding the Star Wars cinematic universe outside of the tent-pole-numbered episodes presents a dicey proposition for a number of reasons, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story checks all of the potentially worrisome boxes: diluting the brand and cheapening future anticipation (aka Marvel-ization), re-covering storytelling ground that the extended universe already did well (before Disney declared it all non-canon), and giving the side films to lesser moviemakers (Rogue One director Gareth Edwards' biggest credit is 2014's Godzilla). But while Rogue One lacks some of the signature Star Wars adventurous fun, there's enough creativity to make the first Star Wars spin-off succeed.
One size of loss does not fit all in Manchester by the Sea
Plenty of filmmakers have a favorite thematic subject. Few filmmakers, however, have shown Kenneth Lonergan's willingness to look at that same thematic subject from so many distinct perspectives.
Jessica Chastain is a crafty, badass D.C. lobbyist in Miss Sloane
Suggested alternate title for Miss Sloane: Bitches Get Shit Done. It would have been tough to market that, sure... or maybe not: just sprinkle a few asterisks across the posters, a few bleeps across the TV ads.
Moonlight beautifully examines the intersection of sexuality and masculinity
"What's a faggot?" 9-year-old Chiron (Alex Hibbert) asks local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) early in Barry Jenkins' revelatory Moonlight.
Simple, non-heroic love changes the world in Loving
Artists don't always choose to have their work say something particular about the time in which it appears. Sometimes, the time chooses the work.
The Magic Lantern Theatre is open again and featuring the delightful A Man Called Ove
The cranky curmudgeon in this Swedish import walks around with the puckered face of a man who's seemingly spent a lifetime sucking on lemons. He's the quintessential sourpuss.