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  • A Simple Favor

    A Simple Favor

    ★★★

    At its best when a hilarious Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick are playing off one other, A Simple Favor is a (knowingly) dumber and trashier Gone Girl mixed with Pretty Little Lies. Kendrick’s mom vlog bits are pretty great, but the underlying mystery doesn’t amount to much. Plot threads and characterizations start to unravel the more they’re considered, and I’m not sure Feig (who’s not bad here overall) can quite capture and integrate the tone of a few weird subplots. For the second straight theatrical release, Henry Goulding co-stars as a handsome sack of potatoes [B-]

  • Die Hard 2

    Die Hard 2

    ★★★

    Entertaining, but an at times contrived and bloated retread that includes more callbacks to the original than the new Ghostbusters. Set at a snowbound D.C. airport at, you guessed it, Christmas, this has inferior villains and supporting characters, but it’s at least notable for inspiring the great Ben Stiller Show parody (and it’s waaaaay better than Die Hard 5). It’s still got some good set pieces, and the novelty of watching McClain maneuver his way through (some outlandishly) tight spots…

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  • Philomena

    Philomena

    ★★★★

    A compelling, devastating, and twisted true story about a former Magdalene girl trying to find her long-lost son. Judy Dench is poignant and often hilarious as the chatty and provincial Philomena, who easily could have slipped further into characterture in less capable hands. Coogan has some nice scenes throughout that transcend the familiar trappings of the skeptical, depressed, and put-upon journalist trying to resurrect his career. The screenplay is a bit too efficient and on-the-nose at times, and even though…

  • mother!

    mother!

    ★★½

    Guinness World Record holder for most metaphors used to say pretty much the same thing over and over and over again. It's impressive technically (particularly in the last 20 minutes), but it's so monotonous and one note on a character and thematic level that being shotgun in the face with the overarching allegory in its third act feels like diminishing returns instead of elevating and crystalizing what came before [C].