Dark Web has more sadistic, inventive fun with Unfriended’s online-horror premise

When Unfriended hit theaters in the technologically primitive past of three years ago, it looked like a brand-new kind of movie. Unfolding exclusively across the LCD canvas of a terrified teen’s desktop, this ingenious ghost-in-the-machine potboiler spoke a distinctly modern language, telling its hoary horror story of…

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again with more brain-dead ABBA karaoke

Here we are again, back in Greece, enchanted land of weathered baby-blue everything and swarthy fishermen who smack their chests and shout “Opa!,” for another two hours of watered-down soap opera and ABBA karaoke. What did these creators of catchy ’70s Europop par excellence do to deserve not one, but two dull jukebox…

Denzel Washington squanders his gifts again on the cut-rate vigilante action of The Equalizer 2

He doesn’t wear a costume or even go by the titular moniker. All the same, Robert McCall, the ex-special-ops vigilante Denzel Washington plays in The Equalizer and its crummy new sequel, is essentially a superhero. Like Spider-Man, he seems to possess a kind of infallible danger sense, and he shares with Batman keen…

The director of The Queen Of Versailles takes a shallow look at materialism in Generation Wealth

The photographer Lauren Greenfield, whose documentary The Queen Of Versailles profiled a mega-rich Florida family and their unfinished 85,000 square foot house, offers a career survey in Generation Wealth, revisiting her earlier books, photo assignments, and short docs in a purported overview of our global culture of…

Before winning the top prize at Cannes, Hirokazu Koreeda bungled the case of The Third Murder

The first and second murders in The Third Murder take place some 30 years before the movie begins, and are never shown on screen, even in flashback. No need to wait around for number three, though. Just a few seconds into the very first shot, a middle-aged man named Misumi (Kôji Yakusho), who’s walking with another…

Daveed Diggs blends comedy, drama, and a portrait of Oakland in the impressive Blindspotting

If the recent Sorry To Bother You presents a head-trip, music-video vision of trying to get by in Oakland, California, then Blindspotting offers a more grounded tour of the city, addressing some of the same or related problems: racism, gentrification, systemic oppression. Given the proximity of the two movies both at…

Joaquin Phoenix limits his movement and kicks the bottle in Gus Van Sant’s uneven new biopic

Playing a quadriplegic represents a challenge for any able-bodied actor, but it must be particularly frustrating for someone like Joaquin Phoenix, who uses his body no less expressively than he does his face and voice. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot largely confines Phoenix to a motorized wheelchair, though…

A helpless teen is banished to a country she doesn’t know in What Will People Say

It’s hard not to feel empathy for a child who finds herself abruptly sent back to a birth country she doesn’t even remember—that’s why a path to citizenship or legal residency for DACA recipients has comparatively broad bipartisan support, even as every other element of immigration policy remains deeply polarized.…

The creators of Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals go hunting for a plot in The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter

Jody Hill’s comedies of testosterone-fueled burnout are better suited to TV. Still, the co-creator of HBO’s Vice Principals and Eastbound & Down attempts an unassuming return to film (okay, Netflix) with The Legacy Of A Whitetail Deer Hunter, his first feature since the misanthropic Observe And Report. Familiar…

Just in time for Independence Day, The First Purge pulls more thrills from America's ills

Are the Purge movies the crude, sick political parables our crude, sick political age demands? Set in an alternate United States where, for 12 hours once a year, all crime is legal, these dystopian B-movie actioners create a grotesque funhouse reflection of Paul Ryan’s dream for America, imagining a version of the…

In a pop star’s life and death, Whitney finds an American tragedy

The Houstons were as classic an American saga as the Ambersons or the Glass family, and the life and untimely death of their golden child, the global pop diva Whitney Houston, bore the weight of their ambitions and failures. John Houston, Whitney’s imperious father, worked in zoning for the corrupt mayor’s office of…

Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield headlines the inventive, sometimes exhausting satire Sorry To Bother You

In a year featuring multiple cinematic depictions of Oakland, California (including the flashbacks from Black Panther and the entirety of the upcoming Blindspotting), it’s hard to imagine one as grabby or arresting as the Oakland of Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You. Though it uses real locations from the city,…

A bitter divorcée stalks and terrorizes his family in the tense, disturbing Custody 

If this month’s audience-antagonizing Hereditary is horror that occasionally seems to morph into straight domestic drama, Xavier Legrand’s Custody is close to the opposite: a stripped-down domestic drama that tightens the screws and builds the dread as relentlessly as a horror movie. The horror, in this case, is of an…

Leave No Trace is a moving return to backwoods drama for Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik

Deep within Forest Park, an eight-mile stretch of woodland reserve in northwest Portland, Will (Ben Foster) squats with his 13-year-old daughter, Tom (newcomer Thomasin McKenzie). The two have carved out a makeshift encampment on the outskirts of civilization. By day, they forage for supplies, cook mushrooms using a…