Arrrgh, It Blows!

Arrrgh, It Blows!

It may have raked in billions, but the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has run aground
OK, make it stop. This amusement park ride has gone on long enough.

A Real Fixer-Upper

Richard Gere sheds his movie star persona as a glad-handing, elbow-rubbing wiseguy in Norman
The pretty-boy veneer that has often overshadowed some of Richard Gere's best performances is nowhere to be found in the finely honed character study Norman, which has been aptly subtitled The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer. The popular actor disappears into the title role, a New York Jew who wants nothing more than to be connected to the movers and shakers of the world, to walk beside them as a valued player and associate, but who has no ambition to be a leader himself.

Space Oddity

Director Ridley Scott's third foray into the Alien universe is hardly a resurrection
To watch the Alien prequels — Prometheus (2012) and now Alien: Covenant — is to marvel at the changes in astronaut hiring practices that must have been implemented between the earlier chapters and the later ones. The characters in Ridley Scott's 1979 original, set in 2124, are competent spacefarers who encounter difficult situations.

Pure Poetry

The latest from writer-director Terence Davies beautifully evokes the pains and pleasures of Emily Dickinson's life and writing
Unlike most films about great artists, A Quiet Passion is about repression rather than expression. It chronicles the lonely, unfulfilled life of the poet Emily Dickinson, from young adulthood to her death in 1886, and it's fascinated with how she related to a world that didn't have much need for her.

Still Hooked on a Feeling

It's more of the same, but the second Guardians of the Galaxy film is just as irrepressibly entertaining as its predecessor
There's a moment midway through Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, as the Yaka Arrow of the whistling Yondu (Michael Rooker's blue-skinned, mohawked mercenary) weaves a neon trail through the chest cavities of an array of disposable baddies, that a secret element of the surprise blockbuster franchise becomes evident: Guardians of the Galaxy is basically a cinematic laser-light show.

Weak Signal

The Circle not only forgets it's supposed to be a paranoid thriller, it completely misses its own point
I read Dave Eggers' 2013 novel The Circle with some trepidation, fully expecting it to devolve into a creaky, finger-wagging cautionary tale about how scary and dangerous the internet can be (as if we didn't already know). And it is that, to an extent, but it's also surprisingly plausible in its depiction of one woman's methodical indoctrination into an organization that only gradually reveals its nefarious inner workings.

Into the Wild

The Lost City of Z is a curiously muted, elegantly made portrait of one man's dogged obsession
The Lost City of Z is as much about the euphoria of discovery and exploration as it is failure and disappointment, the story of a man whose reputation as an iconoclast and trailblazer was bound to the same South American jungles that would also devour him. At its core, the movie, adapted by writer-director James Gray from David Grann's nonfiction bestseller, is a portrait of reckless obsession, but it's remarkably low-key in its approach, almost to a fault.

Yawn Yawn, Bang Bang

An A-list cast indulges in target practice in the one-note shoot-'em-up Free Fire
Ben Wheatley's Free Fire is a period piece in more ways than one. It's set in Boston in the 1970s, an era of face-consuming sideburns and leisure suits with mile-wide collars, but it plays like one of those forgettable Quentin Tarantino rip-offs that we saw a lot of in the wake of Pulp Fiction's surprise success.

Casualties of War

Frantz is a beautifully mounted, black-and-white period piece that's occasionally hobbled by its own tricky structure
François Ozon's Frantz is named for a dead man, a German soldier killed in France during World War I, whose tombstone sits atop an empty grave in a modest cemetery in his hometown of Quedlinburg. That's where Anna (Paula Beer), the woman to whom the late Frantz Hoffmeister was engaged, sees a strange fellow weeping and dropping roses on her fiancé's grave.

A Beautiful Mind

A lovely child performance anchors the satisfying family drama Gifted
Film history is packed with precociously adorable children who made a splash, from Shirley Temple and Jackie Cooper to Drew Barrymore and Macaulay Culkin, and they've proven a reliable way to give viewers — as the kids say these days — all the feels. But the moppet-based movie is also fraught with peril.

Running on Fumes

The eighth time is really not the charm for the long-running Fast and Furious franchise, which is dumb enough to drive a critic mad
There's no point, there's no point, there's no point.

Artificial, Not So Intelligent

Ghost in the Shell is a flat, unimaginative repackaging of a cerebral, groundbreaking anime
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, even if it's been surgically implanted in a fully synthetic, military-grade body. So, too, is a good premise, especially one that previously anchored a landmark sci-fi film and has now been listlessly recycled into a tiresome, dead-eyed blockbuster.

Blue in the Face

Doubling down on regressive gender stereotypes, The Lost Village is a Smurfing disaster
The problem with the Smurfs — apart from the fiery rage they inspire to stomp them into blue goo — is Smurfette. (Typical.

An Animated Adolescence

In the bittersweet, Oscar-nominated My Life as a Zucchini, an orphan finds his place within a quirky surrogate family
There's nothing remotely realistic about the animation style of My Life as a Zucchini. Its characters resemble painted ceramic or clay figures, with big, bulbous heads, protruding ears and eyes that take up nearly half of their faces.

Zero Gravity

The killer-alien thriller Life is a slick retread of much better movies
Stop me if you've heard this one before: There's a small crew of astronauts on the International Space Station who obtain a sample which definitively proves the existence of life beyond Earth. This single-cell organism grows into a pulsating, writhing glob resembling translucent seaweed, and it displays intelligence, curiosity and, eventually, malevolence.


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