Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly bicker, bond, and chase a bounty as The Sisters Brothers

B

When Quentin Tarantino coined the term “hangout movie,” he was describing one of the greatest Westerns ever made: Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks’ 1959 masterpiece, which kills most of its running time just laying low with a small-town sheriff and the motley posse he’s assembled to guard a jailhouse, eavesdropping on their…

Eli Roth, of all directors, brings Amblin magic to the kid-lit horror of The House With A Clock In Its Walls

B

Striking the right tone for a family-friendly horror movie is tricky. You want it to be scary enough to freak out the big kids, but not so scary that the little ones cry and have nightmares for months. Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment banner arguably perfected the formula back in the ’80s with films like …

Keira Knightley’s charms fail to save the timely, tepid biopic Colette

C+

The life of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, better known as simply Colette, feels tailor-made for a biopic in 2018. Her first four novels—the Claudine series, about a French girl’s coming-of-age—were released at the turn of the century to acclaim and mild scandal, especially among the Parisian elite. Yet…

Michael Moore looks at and beyond Trump in the enraged but scattered Fahrenheit 11/9

B-

No right-wing troll could ever trigger liberals as effectively as Michael Moore does in the first few minutes of Fahrenheit 11/9. He opens his new agitprop state-of-the-union documentary with footage from election night 2016, dragging us again through the slow-motion car crash of the evening’s events: the festivities…

Intolerance gets Purged in Assassination Nation, a midnight movie more righteous than exciting

C+

In the tradition of William Castle, who enticed audiences with ostensible danger—taking out an actual life insurance policy on those who saw a particular screening of Macabre (1958); including a countdown to the scariest scene in Homicidal (1961), so that viewers had time to flee the theater—Assassination Nation kicks…

From the creator of This Is Us comes a melodrama even more dire than life itself

D

That our lives have an effect on total strangers is hardly news to ethicists, economists, or practitioners of the Golden Rule. But if goopy, everything-is-connected movies like Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself are to be believed, this simple fact of living in a world full of other people attests to nothing less than the…

For a tale full of blood and sexual tension, Lizzie is awfully dull

C+

Is Lizzie a tragic love story ? A proto-feminist statement? A slow-burn historical drama? A lurid tale of sex and murder? It’s all of those things, and none of them at the same time. It’s a film that’s very deliberate in its choices, but doesn’t seem to have thought them all through. And it’s a shame, really, because…

Ben Mendelsohn battles suburban ennui in Nicole Holofcener’s The Land Of Steady Habits

B-

Money, sex, marriage, death, and children. Those are the thorny topics writer-director Nicole Holofcener once claimed she could make at least 10 movies about. She’s one step closer to doing so with The Land Of Steady Habits—a Netflix original film enjoying a streaming debut just days after its…

Light, literate, and wickedly funny, A Simple Favor is Gillian Flynn for the mommy-blog set

B

A Simple Favor is a film that revels in light, feminine things: mommy blogs, designer clothes, ’60s French yé-yé pop, post-playdate gin martinis with a twist—and, of course, murder. It’s no secret that the audience for true-crime stories, and murder mysteries in general, is largely female, and the new film from Paul…

Hale County, This Morning, This Evening finds beauty in the small moments of black Southern life

B-

Hale County, Alabama, which has a population of just under 16,000, is best known as the subject of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans’ classic and influential book about the white rural poor. One can presume that this fact played a role in the conception of RaMell Ross’ Hale County, This…

It’s big trouble for Lil Chano in the wacky fast-food horror-comedy Slice 

C+

Making movies is grueling, expensive, and time-consuming work. But, under the right circumstances, it can also be a lot of fun. The intangible joy that bleeds through onto the screen when a cast and crew are having a blast on set can go a long way toward redeeming an otherwise flawed production. And Slice, A24’s new…

White Boy Rick struggles to find singular drama in an all-too-common story 

C+

With his unruly mop of hair and quizzical expression, teenager Rick Wershe, Jr. (Richie Merritt) resembles a confused, vaguely aggrieved English sheepdog—dangerous if cornered, perhaps, but fundamentally lovable. That’s very much by design, since White Boy Rick, a (mostly) fact-based crime drama, wants audiences to…

Unbroken gets a predictably preachy, faith-based sequel from the director of God’s Not Dead

C-

For those who’d read Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 bestselling biography of former Olympian and POW survivor Louis Zamperini, Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-ready adaptation Unbroken (2014) may have offered a rather unsatisfactory ending. Turns out that, by…

Nicolas Cage takes a chainsaw to ’80s action cheese in the heavy-metal fantasia of Mandy

B

Panos Cosmatos knows his audience. But does he know anything else? Both of his films to date (Beyond The Black Rainbow, the new Mandy) have been exercises in psychotronic drag-ass, best appreciated by a certain kind of movie freak—the devotees of the church of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Heavy Metal, in Mandy’s…

Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning spin their wheels in the hollow post-apocalyptic drama I Think We’re Alone Now

C

For the first 15 or so minutes of I Think We’re Alone Now, the sophomore feature from acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale director Reed Morano, Peter Dinklage walks around a desolate small town cleaning up after the apocalypse. He enters abandoned homes, collects batteries and family pictures, disposes of skeletal remains,…

Tradition and technology collide in the spellbinding, bone-dry satire of I Am Not A Witch

A-

Throughout I Am Not A Witch, Welsh-Zambian newcomer Rungano Nyoni’s satire of the picaresque adventures of a girl accused of witchcraft in contemporary Zambia, one image dominates: long white ribbons, fluttering in the breeze. These ribbons, attached with hooks to the backs of women (and, in the case of our heroine,…

Ethan Hawke introduces an unsung country renegade in the intimate biopic Blaze

B+

Of the many challenges writer-director Ethan Hawke dealt himself in dramatizing the life of unsung country musician Blaze Foley, the biggest of them is simply justifying the exercise. Foley wasn’t a household name, at least for anyone who didn’t grow up behind a Texarkana dive bar, and his discography is limited to a…