• Queen of Katwe

    Queen of Katwe

    ★★★

    The acting and cinematography (particularly the film's vibrant color) help balance out a rather long and drawn out story (using years as chapters makes it seem even more interminable when you know you want to get to 2011...when you start at 2008). Still, the movie is beautiful to look at and director Mira Nair occasionally gets to the heart of what slum life is really like, but the main reason to see it are the astonishing performances: Lupita N'yongo and…

  • Other People

    Other People

    ★★★★½

    Other People is one of the simplest, yet most profound, films of the year. Molly Shannon is devastatingly honest and funny in this dramedy about a mother dying of cancer and her last months with her family. Jesse Plemons plays her gay son, an aspiring writer living in NYC who returns to be with his mother and homophobic father, played by Bradley Whitford. The story by Chris Kelly is heartfelt and hysterical in qual measure, so bring tissues and prepare to laugh at this intimate look at family and loss.

  • Me Before You

    Me Before You

    ★★★★

    Top notch acting and actual moral stakes elevate this romantic drama past the "Lifetime" level of quality plaguing most films of this genre over the last few years (thanks, in large part, to the slow and painful decline of Nicholas Spark-type stories...I miss the days of A Walk To Remember and The Notebook...). The chemistry between Emilia Clark and Sam Claflin is explosive, moving, and incredibly thoughtful as the story navigates a very touchy subject matter with grace. Though not…

  • Finding Dory

    Finding Dory

    ★★★½

    Pixar was 50/50 in terms of putting out creatively successful sequels (monetarily speaking, they are ALWAYS successful...), so Finding Dory was poised to swing that statistic one way or the other. In the end, though it's quite not as emotionally satisfying as the Toy Story sequels, Andrew Stanton's return to the sea, this time with a focus on Finding Nemo's breakout side character, Dory, feels like a natural progression rather than a money grab (ahem...Cars 2). The animation is beyond…

  • Weiner

    Weiner

    ★★★★

    That "truth is stranger than fiction" is usually the case with the best documentaries, but this one will leave your jaw on the floor. It's a mesmerizing inside look at, not just a political campaign, but at one embroiled in public scandal, warring perceptions, and the tabloid culture as it applies to politics. It asks the question, do we put politicians on pedestals only to gleefully knock them down when their personal lives implode? What does it say about people…

  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

    Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

    ★★½

    A maddening film in it's attempts to be something great only to get lost amidst studio mandates and a director who just can't seem to grasp the concept of character motivation. Bludgeoning at times, but beautiful to watch at others, the film is a mess as a standalone story. And yet, I find myself intrigued by the universe...well, at least for next summer's Wonder Woman. Poor Superman, though. Sigh.

  • Midnight Special

    Midnight Special

    ★★★★½

    Proof that even with a much bigger budget, director Jeff Nichol's is driven by characters and their relationships with each other, rather than spectacle (though he's getting fairly good at that too). Michael Shannon is, once again, simply astounding as a father trying to save his unusual son at any cost. Joel Edgerton continues to impress me and Kirsten Dunst does admirable work too. The film is a bit too long and the questions it raises aren't always answered, but…

  • Rashomon

    Rashomon

    ★★★★★

    After seeing Rashomon the first time, I couldn't help but wish that I could go back in time and experience it with the rest of the world in 1950. As gorgeously shot and thematically provocative as it was for me, it was downright revolutionary for it's time. By recounting a terrible story about rape and murder four times by four different witnesses, each with his or her own motivations to tell the story differently, Kurosawa introduced a level of moral…

  • Straight Outta Compton

    Straight Outta Compton

    ★★★★½

    Like the group itself, this film is creating it's own set of controversies, but that seems appropriate given it's subject matter: the rise and fall of the first reality rap group and how it's members changed the face of music...not to mention history. Director F. Gary Gray is a vibrant and compelling filmmaker and his three leads: Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, , Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and O'Shea Jackson Jr., portraying his own father, Ice Cube, bring humor, emotion,…

  • The Sting

    The Sting

    ★★★★½

    The trifecta of Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and director George Roy Hill was a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood as, together, they helped create two very different, yet legendary, films: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting. Both movies toyed with their genres in fun and unexpected ways, not to mention made use of the incredible chemistry between Redford and Newman. Though his Sundance Kid is perhaps considered the more iconic role, I simply adore Redford…

  • Double Indemnity

    Double Indemnity

    ★★★★★

    When I first saw Double Indemnity, I was entirely blown away by the moody acting, gritty storytelling, and absolutely stunning cinematography. I now understand that what I was reacting to - it's literal and metaphorical darkness, cynicism, and sexual innuendo - is the meat and potatoes of the genre known as film noir. Wilder, with the help of the great crime novelist Raymond Chandler, and actors Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, created this genre, which has become…

  • Inglourious Basterds

    Inglourious Basterds

    ★★★★½

    Some thoughts on Quentin Tarantino:
    This movie took me by surprise and Tarantino hadn't done that, for me, since Pulp Fiction. I can distinctly remember the feeling of awe and glee I felt in the theater when I realized he was actually going to kill Hitler. For some reason I didn't think he was going to re-write history, so when he did I had a genuine gut reaction to it and I loved it! And of course I've re-watched it…