Movie Reviews

Starring: Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, David Gulpilil, John Meillon, Robert McDarra


In Brief: Prior to Walkabout (1971), Nicolas Roeg had co-directed (with Donald Cammell) only one film, the astonishing Performance, so a good deal was riding on the cinematographer-turned-filmmaker’s second outing. Could Roeg pull off a solo film? Indeed, he could. In so doing, he established himself as a filmmaker with a unique, if not always completely penetrable,…
Starring: Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper, Charles Laughton, Cary Grant

Devil and the Deep

In Brief: A legacy from that brief period when Paramount was determined to make Tallulah Bankhead into a movie star (they gave up after this one), Marion Gering's Devil and the Deep was also meant to introduce the movie world to Charles Laughton. Back in 1932, it wasn't especially effective at either, but today it plays as deliciously overheated…
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, David Costabile

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

The Story: The supposedly true story of the attack on the embassy in Beghazi. The Lowdown: Michael Bay blows up stuff, unleashes massive firepower and concludes not much of anything in this jingoistic mess of a movie.
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, Benjamin Bratt, Olivia Munn

Ride Along 2

The Story: Two odd couple cops (and soon to be brothers-in-law) head to Miami to take down a drug kingpin. The Lowdown: A noisy, aimless and cliched rehash of the first in the series.
Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, Bill Finley, Lisle Wilson, Barnard Hughes


In Brief: Sisters (1973) is by no means the first Brian De Palma film, though it might fairly be called the first De Palma film as we know them. The theme is, in part, voyeurism — so we're right at home from the onset. The tone is set as much by Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) as it…
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken

The Forest

The Story:  A girl searches for her twin sister in Japan's notorious "Suicide Forest." The Lowdown: Whether or not the Aokigahara Forest prompts people to commit suicide, chances are good that this first release of the new year will put you to sleep.
Spooks poster
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Bobby Jordan, Sunshine Sammy Morrison, Dave O'Brien, Dorothy Short, Angelo Rossitto

Spooks Run Wild

In Brief: The second of Bela Lugosi's Monogram Nine, Spooks Run Wild, mixes horror with comedy as it finds Lugosi going up against producer Sam Katzman's other major property of the era, The East Side Kids, a slightly cleaned-up version of The Dead End Kids from Sidney Kingsley's play (and film) Dead End. In other words, these…
Starring: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon De Wilde, Jack Palance, Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan


In Brief: George Stevens' post-WWII films tend to be an acquired taste which I've never really managed to acquire. They're too heavy-handed, too self-conscious, too self-important and, invariably, too long. The first time I saw Shane (1953) was at a kiddie matinee in 1963 or thereabouts. (Our local theater ran a lot of old Paramount and…
Starring: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, Louis Armstrong, John Lund

High Society

In Brief: No, this musical version of The Philadelphia Story is not a great film by any means. Charles Walters' direction is at best workmanlike, at worst pedestrian. It has the air of canned theater in many scenes, along with that typical 1950s overlit look of most MGM musicals. But it does combine the talents of Bing…
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Birchir, Tim Roth, Michae; Madsen, Bruce Dern, James Parks

The Hateful Eight

The Story: Eight people — all with secrets and hidden motives — are trapped in a cabin in a snowstorm.  The Lowdown: A sprawling, darkly funny Western that's really more of a whodunit than a Western. Violent, bloody, provocative, likely to upset some audiences and one of the best films of the year.
Starring: Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana, Feodor Chaliapin Jr., Barbara Cupisiti, Asia Argento

The Church

In Brief: Michele Soavi's 1989 film was originally intended to be part of producer and co-writer Dario Argento's loosely connected Demons movies. While it retains elements of those films — especially contagious possessions and trapping the cast in a single location — it is mostly its own beast. And a very curious beast it is. Like most…
Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Ellison, Charles Bickford, Helen Burgess, Porter Hall

The Plainsman

In Brief: Yes, Wild Bill Hickok (Gary Cooper), Calamity Jane (Jean Arthur) and Buffalo Bill Cody (James Ellison) really existed. For that matter, so did a lot of the characters in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), but nearly every connection to reality ends there — and the film is pretty upfront about it. Right…
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, John Magaro


The Story: Romance between an older woman and a younger one in the early 1950s. The Lowdown: Beautifully crafted, meticulously detailed, wonderfully performed, yet somehow a little too cool to work quite as well as it should.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck

The Revenant

The Story: Fact-based tale of survival in the wilderness of 1820s American frontier.  The Lowdown: Technically marvelous, but emotionally it's pretty much a dreary dead end.
Starring: Nastassja Kinski, Rolf Hoppe. Herbert Gronemeyer, Anja-Christine Preussler, Edda Seippel

Spring Symphony

In Brief: Reasonably accurate (with a modicum of subtext that's so slight as to be almost nonexistent) account of the early years of composer Robert Schumann (Herbert Groenemeyer) and Clara Wieck (Nasstassja Kinski). Spring Symphony (1983) is the sort of biopic that gives biopics a bad name. It runs no risks and is so intent…
Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress

Daddy’s Home

The Story: A stepfather yearning for the acceptance of his wife’s children suddenly finds himself competing with their biological father, who’s decided to return to their lives. The Lowdown: About 30 minutes worth of plot stretched over an hour and a half, with the added benefit of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg at their most…
Starring: Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, Woody Allen, Ursula Andress

What’s New Pussycat?

In Brief: When it came out in 1965, Clive Donner's What's New Pussycat? was considered rather distasteful — even vulgar — as well as frantic, unstructured and rather silly. All of this is perhaps true, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. (Not everyone disliked it; Andrew Sarris championed the film in 1965.) It's unlikely a…
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen, Isabella Rossellini


The Story: The story of the woman who created the Miracle Mop. The Lowdown: Call David O. Russell's latest a magnificently wayward and uniquely American success story. It's by turns funny and charming — and, yes, it's a little shaggy, but that may be part of its quality.
Starring: Sophia Loren, Richard Harris, Martin Sheen, O.J. Simpson, Lionel Stander, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner

The Cassandra Crossing

In Brief: The Velveeta runs thick in this Lew Grade and Carlo Ponti co-production that tries cash in on the waning days of the 1970s disaster movie craze with this weird hybrid medical-thriller-and-disaster picture. The Cassandra Crossing (1976) is directed with minimum artistry by George Pan Costamos (who would change the Pan to "P" and…
Starring: Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Ray Winstone, Teresa Palmer, Matias Varela

Point Break

The Story: A former “extreme poly-athlete” and current FBI recruit infiltrates a crime ring of thrill-seeking Robin Hoods. The Lowdown: For all the supposedly exciting stuff happening in this movie, what a boring slog it is — short on intelligent plot and anything resembling a sympathetic character.
Starring: Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, John Carradine, Wanda McKay, Michael Ames, Henry Hall

Voodoo Man

In Brief: That existential classic Voodoo Man (1944) was specifically chosen for New Year's Eve because its brevity allows the viewer ample time to start off the evening with the movie and be safely home and out of harm's way before the madness kicks in — or, alternatively, to go become a part of the madness. It's…