Movie Reviews

Starring: Alex Honnold

Free Solo


The Story: Rock climber Alex Honnold achieves the unthinkable by scaling the 3,000-foot El Capitan with no ropes. The Lowdown: A visually stunning and almost unbearably tense documentary that chronicles one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of rock climbing.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Denise Gough, Fiona Shaw, Al Weaver

Colette


The Story: The early life and career of French writer Colette and her marriage to the author Willy. The Lowdown: What could've been a simple biopic instead becomes a tale of art, authorship, love, sexuality and gender, with a wonderful cast and a thoughtful approach.
Starring: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Joan Plowright

Tea With the Dames


The Lowdown: Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright sit down for tea and gossip. The Lowdown: A fun little doc that gives viewers some quality time with a quartet of charming ladies, even if it's too slight to be considered essential cinema.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman

Bad Times at the El Royale


The Story: A group of strangers converges on a motel hiding almost as many secrets as its guests. The Lowdown: It's a Royale with plenty of cheese, but I wouldn't call it a bad time.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit

First Man


The Story: Neil Armstrong's triumphant journey to the moon is marred by tragic loss and personal struggles. The Lowdown: A significantly overlong biopic that lacks a clear thematic stance or well-established emotional heart.
Starring: Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Mick Wingert, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween


The Story: A haunted ventriloquist dummy turns a small town into a "living Halloween" by bringing to life Halloween costumes and decorations. The Lowdown: A sometimes inspired but overall chaotic grab-bag of kiddie horror imagery that will entertain, if not exactly scare, its target audience.
Starring: Jafar Panahi

Taxi


In Brief: There's censorship, and then there's the Iranian government's treatment of director Jafar Panahi. Despite a 20-year ban on making films or writing screenplays, Panahi has continued to work and rack up festival awards, smuggling his films out of the country in defiance of all efforts to silence him. Winner of the 2015 Berlin International…
Starring: Diana Wynyard, Anton Walbrook, Frank Pettingell, Cathleen Cordell

Gaslight


In Brief: No, this is not the Gaslight you're thinking of — this is the 1940 original that you've probably never seen, starring Diana Wynyard and Anton Walbrook in the roles Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer would make famous four years later for MGM. Directed by Thorold Dickinson, this version is definitely not as polished as George Cukor's 1944…
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters

Venom


The Story: A down-on-his-luck journalist finds an unlikely path to redemption when an alien life-form invades his body, giving him superpowers and a hunger for human flesh. The Lowdown: A silly, mindless comic book movie that drops the pretension and revels in its own ridiculousness.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott

A Star Is Born


The Story: A rock star with addiction problems falls in love with a talented singer-songwriter after an unlikely meet-cute and fosters her career, only to see their relationship unravel as her success eclipses his own. The Lowdown: A classic story made utterly redundant and irrelevant by deficient writing and direction — but partially redeemed by a strong…
Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann

M


In Brief: Yes, Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M (1931), has a few awkward moments, in which Lang hasn’t quite mastered the new medium, but this old warhorse of art cinema works more than it doesn’t and still registers as a compelling work by one of the undisputed masters of film. And calling it an old…
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Flemyng, Greta Scacchi, Colm Feore, Jean-Luc Bideau

The Red Violin


In Brief: The so-called portmanteau film — a collection of stories in a single vessel — is by its very nature a tricky proposition. Even the best of them — Julien Duvivier’s Tales of Manhattan (1942), the multidirector Dead of Night (1945) — rise and fall on the quality of the individual episodes. Duvivier’s film, for…
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Leonardo Ortizgris, Alfredo Castro, Lisa Owen, Bernardo Velasco, Leticia Bredice

Museo (Museum)


The Story: Two veterinary students pull off an impossible museum heist but find themselves unprepared for what comes next. The Lowdown: A remarkably stylish and visually inventive crime thriller that breaks new ground in an old genre.
Starring: Benjamin Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Josh Hamilton, Charlie Sexton, Sam Rockwell, Steve Zahn, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Linklater, James Ourso

Blaze


The Story: A biographical dramatization of the tragic life and untimely death of influential country singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. The Lowdown: A touching and evocative portrait of a troubled genius dragged down by inner demons in a classic case of life imitating art.
Starring: (voices) Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, LeBron James, Common

Smallfoot


The Story: A young yeti begins to question everything he's believed in when he meets a seemingly mythical human being. The Lowdown: A pleasant and frantic animated movie with a worthy message, but nothing really inspiring to set it apart.
Starring: Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish

Night School


The Story: A dyslexic high-school dropout must attend night school and get his GED to land his dream job and win back the love of his life. The Lowdown: Try as he might, director Malcolm D. Lee can't recapture the near-transcendent raunchiness of his hard R-rated Girl Trip within the softer, cuddlier PG-13 formula.
Starring: Emma Thompson, Fionn Whitehead, Stanley Tucci, Ben Chaplin, Eileen Walsh

The Children Act


The Story: A judge must weigh her legal obligations against her emotions when she decides the case of a young Jehovah's Witness refusing medical treatment for his leukemia. The Lowdown: A bloated melodrama with no clear objective and a murky moral sensibility.
Starring: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Tony Todd, Roby Attal, Christian James, Matt Mercurio, Stephen Conroy

Hell Fest


The Story: Six hormone-addled college students must evade a masked killer in a horror-themed amusement park. The Lowdown: What the actual hell.
Starring: Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti, Lea Massari, Dominique Blanchar

L’Avventura


In Brief: When this ran in 2007, I wrote: “The four-star rating I’ve afforded Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) is born of a desire to approach the film as objectively as possible. Objectively, this is an important film — maybe even close to a great film. The rich, detailed, deep-focus black-and-white images that make up the…
Starring: Chevy Chase, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Melissa McCarthy, Lorne Michaels, Paul Shaffer, Cecily Strong, Laraine Newman

Love, Gilda


The Story: A biograpic documenting the life of comedian and cancer crusader Gilda Radner. The Lowdown: A lightweight but professional doc that provides little in the way of new insight but plenty of personality thanks to its scintillating subject.