Movie Reviews

Starring: Lily James, Jai Courtney, Christopher Plummer, Janet McTeer, Ben Daniels, Eddie Marsan, Anton Lesser, Mark Dexter, Kris Cuppens

The Exception

The Story: A disgraced Nazi officer assigned to protect exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II in the early days of World War II encounters romance and intrigue when he meets a beautiful house servant with a secret. The Lowdown: An engaging quasi-thriller hamstrung by a contrived and misguided central romance.
Starring: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Nick Offerman, Krysten Ritter, Katharine Ross, Ali Wong, Cameron Esposito, Patrika Darbo

The Hero

The Story: A washed-up Western actor negotiates a new romance amid attempts to resurrect his flagging career and reconcile with his estranged family after a cancer diagnosis forces him to confront his impending mortality. The Lowdown: A predictably stellar turn from Sam Elliot can't save this exercise in septuagenarian navel-gazing from being torn uncomfortably between comedy and melodrama.
Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jayda Fink, Yolonda Ross, Corey Roberts, Louie Lopez, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey, Diego Luna

The Bad Batch

The Story: A young woman exiled to a post-apocalyptic wasteland navigates a minefield of cannibals and cult leaders as her quest for vengeance takes an unexpected turn when she comes between a warlord father and his young daughter. The Lowdown: A visually engaging but conceptually challenged stab at grindhouse greatness from a promising writer/director that…
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Vivian Wembley, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner, John Turturro

Transformers: The Last Knight

The Story: The Decepticons make their play to destroy the Earth while the Autobots, along with an ancient brotherhood tasked with protecting them, must race against the clock to save it. The Lowdown: Total Bayhem.
Starring: Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Elsa Lanchester, Akim Tamiroff

Naughty Marietta

In Brief: Ah sweet mystery of life, I wish you'd stayed lost. It's hard to imagine a film more thoroughly outside my proverbial wheelhouse than W.S. Van Dyke's 1935 adaptation of Victor Herbert's 1910 operetta Naughty Marietta. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against opera in the traditional sense — schmaltzy movie melodramas with extensive musical components,…
Starring: Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, Beatrice Campbell, Coco Aslan, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Ernest Thesiger

Last Holiday

In Brief: Alec Guinness' first star vehicle finds him playing an unassuming salesman of agricultural equipment who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. Emptying his bank account — and decked out in exquisitely tailored secondhand clothes — he heads off to a posh resort hotel to enjoy the "high life" before he dies. To his…
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Dylan McKiernan, Briana Shann, Kate Rutter, Sharon Percy, Kema Sikazwe

I, Daniel Blake

The Story: An aging British carpenter must navigate a never-ending maze of ludicrous obstruction when a heart attack forces him to turn to his nation's failing social safety net for survival. The Lowdown: A tragi-comic humanist parable that aptly demonstrates director Ken Loach's continuing capacity to devastate audiences with a smile on his face.
Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Chloë Sevigny, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, David Warshofsky, John Early

Beatriz at Dinner

The Story: A sensitive massage therapist confronts racism, class warfare and a man who represents the imperialistic capitalism that destroyed her native Mexican village when she's stranded at a client's business dinner. The Lowdown: Despite a bleak worldview and half-baked climax, Salma Hayek's performance alone deserves your attention.
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Starring: (voices) Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Larry the Cable Guy

Cars 3

The Story: While quickly being pushed out of racing by a younger, faster generation of cars, Lightning McQueen looks for one last shot at glory. The Lowdown: A serviceable animated film that gets some things right but is never the type of movie to get excited about.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay, Sarah Silverman, Dean Norris, Lee Pace, Maddie Ziegler, Tonya Pinkins, Bobby Moynihan

The Book of Henry

The Story: A gifted 11-year-old struggles to support his single mother and younger brother until the discovery of a classmate's abuse at the hands of her stepfather gives him a larger problem to solve. The Lowdown: It's the brilliant-tween-dramedy-cancer-molestation-murder-thriller you never knew you needed (because you probably don't).
Starring: Mandy Moore, Claire Holt, Matthew Modine

47 Meters Down

The Story: Two sisters vacationing in Mexico get trapped on the ocean floor, where they struggle to keep calm, conserve oxygen and fend off the sharks they thought would make for some cool photo souvenirs. The Lowdown: A decent little indie thriller with some tense moments, good scares and appropriately claustrophobic cinematography that make it…
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, Zoë Kravitz, Paul W. Downs, Ryan Cooper, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore

Rough Night

The Story: A political candidate attends an ill-advised bachelorette party at the behest of her college BFFs, but things go predictably awry. The Lowdown: A great cast is hamstrung by a weak script and derivative premise, and the jokes that land never make up for the film's lack unwillingness to take risks.
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Starring: Diane Lane, Arnaud Viard, Alec Baldwin, Elise Tielrooy

Paris Can Wait

The Story: The underappreciated wife of a busy movie producer takes an impromptu road trip with a decadent Frenchman. The Lowdown: A generally pointless, meandering attempt at an adult romantic drama, with no romance, no chemistry and no real plot.
Starring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, Hill Harper, Jamal Woolard, Dominic L. Santana

All Eyez On Me

The Story: The life of slain gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur, from his early days in Brooklyn and Oakland to his meteoric rise and eventual murder. The Lowdown: A worst-case scenario of a biopic, the film tells us almost nothing about its subject, showing us what happened without ever giving us a reason to care.
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, Pierre Clementi

Belle de Jour

In Brief: That most playful of surrealists Luis Buñuel had one of his greatest successes with his 1967 essay in erotica Belle de Jour — in part, I suspect, because it is one of his least overtly surreal works (which may make it all the more surreal). But more, it was — and is — promoted…
Starring: Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Trevor Morgan, Ellary Potterfield

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

In Brief: One of the more perplexing mysteries of modern studio practices is just why Dreamworks Pictures abandoned The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, a 2005 release that played on a mere handful of screens to mixed (though often glowing) reviews. It boasted a box-office draw in both star Julianne Moore and its popular literary source…
Starring: Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbra Bel Gedes, Tom Helmore


In Brief: I'm going to make a potentially controversial statement here, but before you jump in the comment pool to argue with me, be forewarned that I'm prepared to defend this assertion: Vertigo is the best film Alfred Hitchcock ever made. As I was programming this month's AFS Big Screen Budget presentation, I was shocked to find that…
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Starring: Bruce Weber, William McDonald, Margalit Fox, William Grimes, Jack Kadden


The Story: A look inside the world of The New York Times obituary writers. The Lowdown: An interesting behind-the-scenes view into a fascinating, complicated aspect of journalism that's often ignored.
Starring: Kate Mara, Ramón Rodríguez, Tom Felton, Bradley Whitford, Will Patton, Sam Keeley, Common, Edie Falco

Megan Leavey

The Story: A shiftless shirker joins the Marines and finds her calling as a trainer working with explosive detection dogs, but her attempts to adopt the dog that saved her life are met with callous disregard and bureaucratic ineptitude. The Lowdown: A heartwarming true story tragically underserved by a fatally flawed script.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Simon Atherton, Stephen Thompson

The Mummy

The Story: An Egyptian tomb unearthed by looters in Mesopotamia unleashes a 5,000-year-old mummified princess hellbent on revenge. The Lowdown: Naysayers not withstanding, The Mummy" is a serviceable slice of summer schlock spectacle.