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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
The Story: A retrospective examination of the life and work of artist Yayoi Kusama. The Lowdown: A thorough and compelling doc that probes the inner workings and cultural context of an artistic visionary.
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.
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…
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Story: Six hormone-addled college students must evade a masked killer in a horror-themed amusement park. The Lowdown: What the actual hell.
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…
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.