Game Night (2018) ****
Clever, playfully convoluted and featuring an endlessly appealing cast, it’s hard to imagine a movie being more fun. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams play a married couple who get together with friends every week for game night. Then then one week his jet-setting brother comes to town and sponsors an epic game night that may or may not involve an actual murder mystery. Writer Mark Perez mines the best elements of films like Date Night, After Hours, and David Fincher’s little-seen 1997 thriller The Game, starring Michael Douglas. But mostly, co-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein let their stars roll the dice, scampering from scene to scene with frantic enthusiasm.
Gaslight (1944) *****
In the past couple weeks alone, I've heard two people use the term "gaslight" — in this case referring to some politician they believed was was trying to make people doubt their grasp on reality by insisting that something demonstrably true was actually false. This 1944 Hollywood classic (along with a 1940 British version) is the genesis of that term — a chilling portrait of an evil husband (Charles Boyer, snake-like yet charming) trying to drive his wealthy wife (tragically vulnerable Ingrid Bergman) stark raving mad. Look for 19-year-old Angela Lansbury, who earned her first Oscar nomination as a bad girl maid.
Geostorm (2017) **
Killer satellites are wreaking havoc on our weather! Thousand-foot-high tsunamis! Airliners freezing solid! Tornadoes by the dozen! Only Gerard Butler can save us! So many exclamation marks!
Get On Up (2015) *****
Chadwick Boseman explodes across the screen as James Brown (FULL REVIEW)
Get Out (2017) *****
A black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) visit the remote home of her creepy parents Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) in this whip-smart horror film that’s also an unsettling meditation on race.
Getaway (2013) ***
Not to be confused with Sam Peckinpah’s 1972 shoot-em-up starring Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, this action flick has Ethan Hawke as a retired race car driver who steals a sweet Shelby Cobra Mustang (along with its owner, played by Selena Gomez) in the course of trying to save his wife from a cruel criminal, played by the always-interesting Jon Voight.
A Ghost Story (2017) ***
Casey Affleck spends much of the movie under a white sheet, playing a silent specter watching his widow (Rooney Mara) slowly get over her loss. Frustratingly slow, but nevertheless haunting in memory (FULL REVIEW)
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) ***
After years of domestic sex comedies (and it’s hard to believe that label was ever attached to those now family-friendly farces), Doris Day offered a nod to the spy movie craze with this often-engaging outing. Doris is the daughter of a Catalina Island tour boat captain (Arthur Godfrey, who, dear children, was once one of the most famous men on the planet), often donning a mermaid suit to entertain dad’s customers. She meets “cute” with a handsome visitor (Rod Taylor), and soon becomes involved in an unlikely case of international intrigue. Today the chief joy of The Glass Bottom Boat comes from basking in the sheer star power of Day, who ingeniously balanced girl-next-door perkiness with an almost subliminal sexy streak. The cast is a gallery of familiar ‘60s faces, including Paul Lynde, Dom DeLuise, Dick Martin, Alice Pearce and, in an amusing cameo, Man From U.N.C.L.E. Robert Vaughn. Directed by Frank Tashlin, drawing heavily on his long experience as a director of Warner Bros. cartoons.
Gloria Bell (2018) *****
Julianne Moore gives a heart-stopping performance in this seamless Americanization of the landmark 2013 Chilean film,Gloria. Writer/director Sebastian Lelio (A Fantastic Woman), who created the original, follows lonely Gloria as she looks for love, or at least some level of connection, in a sterile Los Angeles.
Every supporting player is first-rate, especially John Turturro as Gloria's hapless new boyfriend, Holland Taylor as her mom, Rita Wilson as her best pal, Brad Garrett as Gloria’s put-upon ex-hubby — and Sean Astin in a wordless cameo as a Vegas high roller. Most memorable is the sight and sound of Gloria, driving toward the sunset on Wilshire Boulevard, singing her little heart out to the radio, self-medicating with 80s oldies. (FULL REVIEW)
Going in Style (2017) ****
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin and Ann-Margret are all the reason you need to see this caper flick about three old guys who decide to rob the bank that liquidated their pensions.(FULL REVIEW)
Gold (2017) **
Matthew McConaughey fattens up to play a portly gold prospector in this true story of greed and boardroom intrigue, but the film doesn't pan out (FULL REVIEW)
The Goldfinch (2019)****
As he did in his previous film, Brooklyn, director John Crowley has made a very quiet film about explosive emotions. In this case Crowley also throws in a literal explosion, — a terrorist attack at a Manhattan museum — although he manages to depict even that catastrophe in his trademark muted manner. It is this thoughtful restraint that makes The Goldfinch as much a work of art as the painting at its center.
The Good Liar (2019) ***
Director Bill Condon (Dream Girls, Mr. Holmes) tries his hand at an old-fashioned two-hander whodunnit in the tradition of Sleuth and Death Trap — this time with Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen trading twists and exchanging upper hands. McKellen is a con man ready to pounce on Mirren's unsuspecting widow, but who's conning whom? You'll probably guess, but getting to the end is all the fun here.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) ****
The Blu-ray edition of this, the apex of the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood Old West cycle, etches Leone's searing vision on your TV screen. Turn up the volume for Ennio Morricone's throbbing theme music.
Good Time (2017) ****
DIrectors Benny and Josh Safdie are accomplished documentary makers, and it shows in this gritty, head-spinning fictional film. Robert Pattinson inhabits the role of a small-time crook desperately trying to break his mentally disabled brother (played by co-director Benny) from police custody after a bank robbery goes wrong. The frantic story unfolds over a single night—and by the time it's all over, we share the characters' anguish and exhaustion. Spoiler alert: The title is ironic.
Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) ***
I'm pretty sure the Kleenex company is a secret investor in this gauzily sentimental account of how struggling young writer A.A. Milne came to write his beloved Winnie the Pooh books for his young son, Christopher Robin. Domhnall Gleeson is affecting as the mild-mannered author, haunted by the horrors of World War I yet determined to connect with his boy. When fame comes, father and son must deal with the darker elements of fame.
Grandma (2015) ***
A convoluted tale benefits from Lily Tomlin's crowning performance as a tough-love grandma and Sam Elliott as her still-loving ex (FULL REVIEW)
Gravity (2013) ***
Stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are fine and the film’s visual re-creation of a space voyage is breathtaking (especially in 3-D), but cowriter/director Alfonso Cuaron should have launched with a decent script.
Grease (1978) ****
Olivia Newton John and John Travolta are way too old to be playing high schoolers, but this high-flying big screen version of the Broadway musical became an all-time box office champ on the strength of its energetic cast, breezy score, and boundless sense of goodwill.
The Great Wall (2017)**
Get a taste of Matt Damon's tale of a European mercenary helping defend China's Great Wall and an hour later you'll still be hungry for a better movie.
Green Book (2018) *****
An unbridled delight, this fact-based buddy flick teams Moonlight costar Mahershala Ali as “Doc” Shirley, a distinguished 1960s African American concert pianist, with plumped-up Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga, a Brooklyn bouncer hired as his driver. Actually, Doc’s record label wants Tony to do more than just drive: He also doubles as Doc’s bodyguard as they motor through a perilous 1962 Deep South performance tour. After a comically rough start, Doc and Tony — known as Tony Lip — hit it off. Doc shatters Tony’s racist presuppositions about black people…and Tony, ironically, exposes Doc to the marvels of popular black music, including Aretha Franklin and Little Richard. On the road, both learn a lot about the ugly side of humanity as Doc is hit with one indignity after another: Offstage he’s treated like a pariah even by the posh society figures who’ve just given him standing ovations, and the film’s title comes from a motorist’s guide to “Negro Only” motels and restaurants in the South. Through it all, the stars draw us into their characters’ growing alliance as they realize the curses of a cruel world can be repelled with the grace of one true friend.
Greta (2018) ****
Writer/director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) plays his audience like a fiddle with this old-fashioned, twisty thriller with plenty of jumps, scares, and a supremely satisfying wrap-up. Isabelle Huppert is galvanizing as a seemingly sweet “old lady” (and it’s got to be the first time anyone has ever called her that), who becomes obsessed with a young Manhattan woman (Chloe Grace Moretz). (FULL REVIEW)
The Grinch (2018) ***
Dr. Seuss told us how the Grinch stole Christmas in 69 pages. Animator Chuck Jones did it (indelibly) in 30 minutes. Now here comes the second big-screen version of the good doctor's Yuletide yarn, weighing in at a trim 90 minutes, yet despite its translation into 3-D animation, so much flatter than the pen-and-ink originals. Much labor is spent explaining how the Grinch got so Grinchy, and the Grinch himself, despite no visible means of support, seems to have an awful lot of fancy gadgets hanging around. The nasal voice work of Benedict Cumberbatch tends more toward Maxwell Smart than Boris Karloff and the Whos of Whoville — who this time around are stripped of the fanciful qualities Dr. Seuss bestowed upon them — are dismayingly bland. Here's my Christmas tip for parents planning to take their kids: Sit with them through the TV original, then use that extra hour to go outside and build a snowman together.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) ***
The Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is back with another classic music mix tape. Things blow up; wisecracks ensue.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) ****
The brutal truth about heroism haunts Mel Gibson’s war drama, based on the true story of World War II Army medic Desmond Doss (FULL REVIEW)
Hail Caesar (2016) ****
In this love letter to old Hollywood, George Clooney and the Coen brothers explore the stories we tell ourselves (FULL REVIEW)
Hands of Stone (2016) ***
Robert De Niro nearly saves the day as compassionate boxing trainer Ray Arcel (FULL REVIEW)
The Happytime Murders **
You'll laugh out loud at times during this gross, sleazy, oversexed movie about murderous puppets, but you won't feel good about it. Melissa McCarthy provides the human element, playing an LA cop reluctantly teamed up with her former partner — the first puppet ever on the force — to find out who's killing members of the puppet community in the most grotesque ways imaginable. McCarthy always makes her material better than it is, and here she's clearly biding her time until the release of her Oscar-worthy Can You Ever Forgive Me? In this case, Melissa, no. No we can't.
Harriet (2019) ****
Sprawling, inspiring, and downright enthralling, this biopic of Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave who courageously kept returning to the South to usher fellow slaves to freedom, is historical drama of a scope we seldom see anymore. Cynthia Erivo arrives as a legitimate big-screen powerhouse in the title role, playing Tubman as a diminutive dynamo who answers to no one but God — to whom she seems to have a supernatural hotline. Skeptics will scoff at the passages where Tubman’s divine chats result in inspired changes of strategy and last second, slave hunter-avoiding detours. But there’s no arguing with the breathtaking success Tubman had against long odds, skittering back and forth across the Mason-Dixon line with scores of escaping slaves in tow on the Underground Railroad. Director Kasi Lemmons (Black Nativity, Eve’s Bayou) shows herself to be a visionary filmmaker with an unerring eye for both spectacle and intimacy. (FULL REVIEW)
Heaven is for Real (2014) ****
Greg Kinnear lifts the story of a Dad facing a spiritual crisis (FULL REVIEW)
Hello, My Name is Doris (2016) ****
Sally Field proves her adorable quotient has diminished not one whit in this thoughtful comedy about a spinster with an impossible office crush (FULL REVIEW)
Her (2013) ****
What happens if you love your technology just a tad too much? Joaquin Phoenix finds out when he falls hard for the seductive female voice (Scarlett Johansson) in his computer operating system. Writer/director Spike Jonze creates a compelling portrait of a near future when people would rather interact with their machines than each other.
The Hero (2017) ***
Sam Elliott is the best thing—and a very good thing indeed—in the story of a one-time Western movie star who must come to terms with a lifetime of bad decisions.
The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) ***
For this action/buddy flick about a security expert (Ryan Reynolds) escorting a notorious hitman (Samuel L. Jackson) across Europe while dodging assassins at every turn, director Patrick Hughes seems to have stood his stars in front of the camera and simply said, "Guys, just be yourselves!" Freed of the requirement to actually act, the pair engage in foul-mouthed banter and trigger-happy mayhem, all leading up to a supernova climax.
Honey Boy (2019) ****
Movie making doesn’t get much more personal than this fiercely autobiographical film from writer/costar Shia LaBeouf. He plays a version of his own father — an emotionally abusive rodeo clown/ex-felon — raising his son Otis (A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe) in a seedy motel room while nakedly cashing in on his boy’s promise as a young actor. Lucas Hedges plays Otis as he gets older — just at the point where the acidic residue of his childhood is beginning to burn through. It all could have devolved into an exercise in cinematic therapy, but director Alma Har’el — an award-winning documentarian making her first narrative feature — has fashioned a big-hearted look at the little tragedies that add up to make us the people we are. ****
Movie making doesn’t get much more personal than this fiercely autobiographical film from writer/costar Shia LaBeouf. He plays a version of his own father — an emotionally abusive rodeo clown/ex-felon — raising his son Otis (A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe) in a seedy motel room while nakedly cashing in on his boy’s promise as a young actor. Lucas Hedges plays Otis as he gets older — just at the point where the acidic residue of his childhood is beginning to burn through. It all could have devolved into an exercise in cinematic therapy, but director Alma Har’el — an award-winning documentarian making her first narrative feature — has fashioned a big-hearted look at the little tragedies that add up to make us the people we are.
Hostiles (2017) ***
Writer/director Scott Cooper's sweeping Western saga is more of a meditation than an action movie. A battle-scarred cavalry officer (Christian Bale) is ordered to escort his sworn enemy, a defeated and dying Indian chief (Wes Studi) on a treacherous trip from New Mexico to the chief's Montana homeland. Between occasional attacks by Indians and White Men, the soldiers and their charges spend lots of time reflecting on the horrors they've visited upon each other. Adding to the pensive mood is the presence of a frontier woman (Rosamund Pike) who has lost everything to the brutal realities of the West. Cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi's breathtaking landscape provides stark contrast to the dark souls trudging across its face.(FULL REVIEW)
The House of Tomorrow (2018) ****
Ellen Burstyn stars as a former acolyte of architect/philosopher Buckminster Fuller — raising her grandson (Asa Buttrtfield) in a dome home while desperately trying to shield him from the corrupting outside world. But she doesn't figure on his unlikely friendship with a teen punk rocker (Alex Wolf). (FULL REVIEW)
How To Talk to Girls At Parties (2017) ****
Director and co-writer John Cameron Mitchell’s supremely imaginative tale of three teenaged punk rock pals encountering a colony of space aliens in 1977 Croydon, England, surprises and delights at every turn. His appealing cast is headed by Alex Sharp (evoking a young Hugh Grant) and Elle Fanning, whose doe-eyed luminescence draws even the most skeptical viewer into the film’s improbable yet engrossing story.
The Hummingbird Project (2019) ***
You can choose to watch this techno thriller in one of two ways. On one hand you can marvel at the technical and logistical challenge of digging a perfectly straight trench between Kansas and New York City, laying a fiber optic cable in it, and then hooking it up to a computerized stock-buying program that enables traders to stay a millisecond ahead of their competition. Or you can just sit back and enjoy watching Jesse Eisenberg do his insecure genius thing, stuttering and stammering as his character battles impossible odds and a manic ex-boss (Salma Hyek) to complete the project before his impatient creditors slam the door on the project. I prefer the latter: Eisenberg is always fun to watch, Hyek chews the scenery with gusto, and writer/director Kim Nguyen helps us not to feel too dumb.
Humor Me (2017) ***
Elliot Gould and Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) star in this appealing comedy about a struggling younng playwright who moves in with his dad at a retirement home.
I Called Him Morgan (2017) ****
In this music-infused documentary about Jazz legend Lee Morgan, Kasper Collin pieces together archival footage and a rare 1996 interview with his widow Helen. Spoiler alert: Helen shot her husband dead during a 1972 NYC nightclub gig.
I Think We're Alone Now (2018) ****
Peter Dinklage continues to prove himself an actor who elevates the level of everything he touches in this sci-fi drama that casts him as the apparent last man on earth. A loner at heart, he settles into a contented solitary existence — which is shattered by the arrival of a woman (Elle Fanning). Complications and revelations ensue, and while director Reed Morano (The Skeleton Twins) never lets things get out of hand, the script by Mike Makowsky stumbles into a third act that seems like it's out of another movie.
I, Tonya (2017) ****
Margot Robbie brings complex layers to the Olympic skater we thought we knew, and Allison Janney is uncannily creepy as her domineering mom. The 1994 Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Olympic spectacle is a fading memory for most of us, but director Craig Gillespie (Lars And the Real Girl) makes their rivalry — and its violent climax — seethe with urgency. Tonya emerges as a rough-edged but sympathetic figure, relentlessly pushed by her mother; cruelly rejected by a sport that bitterly resents her humble roots.
Ice On Fire (2019) ****
The title of this thought-provoking climate change documentary comes from a truly bizarre scene in which researchers punch holes in the ice on an Arctic lake, strike a match — and jump back as five-foot-high jets of flame shoot into the air. It's methane gas, released from the lake floor as the Arctic's permafrost thaws. But after an hour or so of the usual gloom-and-doom about the environment, director Leila Connors does something unexpected: She presents us with a checklist of ways the climate can be saved — and, indeed, how scientists and industry are right now pushing back against rising temperatures. Leonardo DiCaprio provides the heartfelt narration.
Ideal Home (2018) ***
He's cashing bigtime pay checks playing Ant Man, but thank goodness Paul Rudd still knows how to apply his easy charms in lovely small films like this one, an Odd Couple for our time. Rudd and Coogan play Paul and Erasmus, a sadly mismatched, constantly bickering, but hopelessly in love couple, living a self-indulgent lifestyle in Santa Fe New Mexico. Erasmus is a basic cable TV star, something of a gay Martha Stewart, and Rudd is his ever-exasperated producer. Into their glittery universe drops Coogan’s grandson, whose ne'er do well dad has just landed in prison. Ideal Home has all the expected Hollywood messages regarding the true meaning of family, but the two stars bring so much goodwill to their characters it's easy to forgive the film's predictable trajectory.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) *****
By all rights, the story of a passionately devoted Harlem couple torn apart by racism and hatred should leave its audience stupefied with despair. But in his triumphant screen adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1973 novel, visionary writer/director Barry Jenkins harnesses Baldwin’s ear for the poetry of everyday life to create a film that miraculously manages to be an affirmation of the human spirit. (FULL REVIEW)
In The Heart of the Sea (2015) ***
Ron Howard's version of the true story behind Moby Dick starts out splendidly, then takes on water (FULL REVIEW)
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017) **
Sounding the alarm over global warming In his Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, Al Gore almost came off as one of us. This time, though, he steps off his private jet in tongue-lashing mode, a god descending from on high to browbeat us into doing the right thing. Please. We've got enough people yelling at us.
The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) **
Lily Tomlin would probably prefer to be remembered for classics like 9 to 5or late-career triumphs like Grandma. But as far as we know, this sci-fi comedy marks the only big-screen appearance of her characters Edith Ann and Ernestine.
Indivisible (2018) ***
Three appealing stars from TV's Gray's Anatomy — Justin Bruening, Sarah Drew and Jason George — lend fine performances to this based-on-fact story of an inexperienced U.S. Army chaplain (Bruening) thrown into the bloody maw of 2007 Iraq. At first the chaplain and his wife (Drew) view the assignment as something of an adventure, confident their faith and love will make the whole experience more interesting than perilous. But war is Hell (or Heck, as this sweet-natured couple might say), and soon he's pulling dead children from bombed-out cars and she's paying tortured visits to women who've just lost a husband on the battlefield. His return doesn't bring much respite, as PTSD turns him into a sullen loner prone to temperamental outbursts. Ironically, the chaplain finds his way only when a member of his unit (George), who had resisted spiritual guidance while at war, reminds the reverend of his own war zone sermonizing. Unusually for a faith-based film, Indivisible explores the dark relationship between faith and doubt — and raises the stark possibility that faith without doubt is, perhaps, no kind of faith at all.
Inferno (2016) ***
Tom Hanks in the best of the three (so far) Dan Brown book adaptations (FULL REVIEW)
The Infiltrator (2016) ****
Bryan Cranston stars as a family man going undercover with a Colombian drug lord (FULL REVIEW)
Ingrid Goes West (2017) ***
Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) salvages this offbeat comedy about a young woman who thinks social media "friends" are actually friends and "likes" represent real sentiments. An outlook like that will inevitably lead to a nervous breakdown, and so it does for Ingrid. But the film asks a legitimate question: How far off are most social media junkies from similarly unraveling?
Inherit The Wind (1962) ****
Spencer Tracy, Frederic March and Gene Kelly bring megastar wattage to a drama based on the famed Scopes Monkey Trial. Stanley Kramer's version of the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee seems stubbornly stage-bound, and the script definitely stacks the deck in Spence's favor, but the performances are uniformly gripping.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) ****
Writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s most balanced movie ever is a fond look at the early 1960s Greenwich Villlage folk music scene-a moment or two before Bob Dylan turned up and changed everything with his blend of folk and rock. Oscar Isaac is irresistibly mopey as the title character, a struggling folkie for whom suffering is an end to itself. But the real treat comes about halfway through, when Llewlyn hitches a ride to Chicago with a blustery, bloated blues musician played with great aplomb by John Goodman.
The Insult (2017) ****
This powerful Lebanese film about an escalating conflict between a Christian (Adel Karam) and a Palestinian immigrant (Kamel El Basha) explores the dark eccentricities of human prejudice — and the ever-so-slight hope that we can overcome them.
The Irishman (2019) ****
Martin Scorsese returns to his gangster genre roots — and brings along longtime co-conspirators Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci (making his first major film appearance in more than a decade. Don't stay away that long again, Joe). The film marks a return to form for all involved, outlining in stark narrative the story of a mob enforcer (De Niro) and his complicated, shall we say, relationship with Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. Scorsese and company have an interesting theory regarding what happened to Jimmy. Spoiler alert: He doesn't end up under the end zone at Giants Stadium (FULL REVIEW)
Isle of Dogs (2018) ****
Wes Anderson's second foray into stop-action animation lacks the bite of his first (Fantastic Mr. Fox), but he fills his screen with meticulously designed sets and set pieces. It's the kind of film you'll want to see a second time, just to make sure you didn't miss anything first time around (and believe me, you did!).
It (2017) ***
Those who suffer from coulrophobia would best avoid this big-screen adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel, about a group of young friends decide to track down a supernatural killer clown.
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