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March 16, 2017 12:00 AM

I am so utterly sick to death of human beings and their selfish, greedy, murderous ways that — when the latest incarnation of everyone’s favorite big ape finally shows up in Kong: Skull Island, swatting Vietnam-era whirlybirds out of the sky and otherwise tearing the invading army to shreds — I was rooting tooth-and-nail for Kong to finish the job and put a merciful stop to the next 90 minutes of misanthropic torment.

I am so utterly sick to death of human beings and their selfish, greedy, murderous ways that — when the latest incarnation of everyone’s favorite big ape finally shows up in Kong: Skull Island, swatting Vietnam-era whirlybirds out of the sky and otherwise tearing the invading army to shreds — I was rooting tooth-and-nail for Kong to finish the job and put a merciful stop to the next 90 minutes of misanthropic torment.

March 9, 2017 12:00 AM

If you’ve seen either of the previous Wolverine movies, you may harbor some entirely understandable skepticism about why the grumpy mutant needs a third solo outing. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine is mostly infamous for being the movie that sewed Deadpool’s mouth shut. 2013’s The Wolverine was better, but still a far cry from great. 

If you’ve seen either of the previous Wolverine movies, you may harbor some entirely understandable skepticism about why the grumpy mutant needs a third solo outing. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine is mostly infamous for being the movie that sewed Deadpool’s mouth shut. 2013’s The Wolverine was better, but still a far cry from great. 

March 9, 2017 12:00 AM

As is now somewhat of a tradition, this year’s annual HUMP! homemade porn festival — conceived and carried out by “Seattle’s only newspaper” The Stranger — descends on our fair city this weekend.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been. Up until this screener, I’d never seen what this festival had to offer and, admittedly, I had my own preconceived notions. 

As is now somewhat of a tradition, this year’s annual HUMP! homemade porn festival — conceived and carried out by “Seattle’s only newspaper” The Stranger — descends on our fair city this weekend.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been. Up until this screener, I’d never seen what this festival had to offer and, admittedly, I had my own preconceived notions. 

March 1, 2017 12:00 AM

Get Out’s opening scene appears, at first, disconnected from the main story — a moment that simply sets the stage. As a young black man lost on suburban streets jokes on his phone, a car pulls up alongside him. Just that is already creepy; it should remind you of countless images of horror — from the movies, and from real life.

How this scene connects to the rest of writer-director Jordan Peele’s debut feature film isn’t immediately clear, but the tone is deftly, elegantly set: What looks like a cozy quiet neighborhood to a white person looks like something else entirely if you’re black.

Get Out’s opening scene appears, at first, disconnected from the main story — a moment that simply sets the stage. As a young black man lost on suburban streets jokes on his phone, a car pulls up alongside him. Just that is already creepy; it should remind you of countless images of horror — from the movies, and from real life.

February 23, 2017 12:00 AM

James Baldwin is one of my all-time heroes. His writing, not to mention the mere fact of his life and times, inspires in me a devastating sense of humility, a leveling of intellectual pride that I always experience when confronted by a solitary artist speaking truth at every cost to himself.

Nothing I write could add to or elaborate or enhance Baldwin’s work in the least. He’s that good. Awe is my only response to the furious, righteous brilliance of his words and vision.

James Baldwin is one of my all-time heroes. His writing, not to mention the mere fact of his life and times, inspires in me a devastating sense of humility, a leveling of intellectual pride that I always experience when confronted by a solitary artist speaking truth at every cost to himself.

Nothing I write could add to or elaborate or enhance Baldwin’s work in the least. He’s that good. Awe is my only response to the furious, righteous brilliance of his words and vision.

February 16, 2017 12:00 AM

The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky invented the modern suspense thriller with Crime and Punishment, the story of a poor college student who murders his landlady with an ax and is hounded throughout the rest of the book by his conscience and a dogged detective who baits him mercilessly until he confesses.

The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky invented the modern suspense thriller with Crime and Punishment, the story of a poor college student who murders his landlady with an ax and is hounded throughout the rest of the book by his conscience and a dogged detective who baits him mercilessly until he confesses.

February 9, 2017 12:00 AM

Things to Come is an odd title (translated from the French L’avenir). Is it a threat or a promise? It’s a little of both, and all happening to Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert).

Things to Come is an odd title (translated from the French L’avenir). Is it a threat or a promise? It’s a little of both, and all happening to Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert).

January 19, 2017 12:00 AM

Oddly enough, it was a misguided defense of Elle that made me come around — to some degree — to Paul Verhoeven’s latest Rorschach test of a film. A tireless provocateur, Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, Showgirls) can also be tiresome, and Elle is a bit of both sides.

Oddly enough, it was a misguided defense of Elle that made me come around — to some degree — to Paul Verhoeven’s latest Rorschach test of a film. A tireless provocateur, Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, Showgirls) can also be tiresome, and Elle is a bit of both sides.

January 12, 2017 12:00 AM

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in a Dallas motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963 was a national tragedy, but it was also a nightmare, and one from which we’ve never recovered. The parameters of tragedy are timeless and defined, but a nightmare is a different beast altogether: disorienting, chaotic, darkly impressionistic and symbolic of reality in a way that is ominous, apocalyptic and forever ill at ease.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in a Dallas motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963 was a national tragedy, but it was also a nightmare, and one from which we’ve never recovered. The parameters of tragedy are timeless and defined, but a nightmare is a different beast altogether: disorienting, chaotic, darkly impressionistic and symbolic of reality in a way that is ominous, apocalyptic and forever ill at ease.

January 5, 2017 12:00 AM

Despite opening to a fairly lukewarm reception in 1943, Casablanca has become one of the most beloved, if not the most beloved, Hollywood films of all time. The film struck an unexpected chord in audiences, and it continues to do so, offering a bittersweet vision of love that is almost cosmic in its implications — a vision in which romantic possibilities remain only possibilities, and soul mates don’t always mate. This is less tragic than resigned.

Despite opening to a fairly lukewarm reception in 1943, Casablanca has become one of the most beloved, if not the most beloved, Hollywood films of all time. The film struck an unexpected chord in audiences, and it continues to do so, offering a bittersweet vision of love that is almost cosmic in its implications — a vision in which romantic possibilities remain only possibilities, and soul mates don’t always mate. This is less tragic than resigned.

Life is sad, Casablanca tells us, but it’s not the end of the world.

December 29, 2016 12:00 AM

For the first 30 minutes or so, Passengers is a decent film. If you like Chris Pratt, you’ll probably raise that decent to a “good” or “interesting,” as the first section is essentially a solo act for one of America’s Favorite Chrises.

For the first 30 minutes or so, Passengers is a decent film. If you like Chris Pratt, you’ll probably raise that decent to a “good” or “interesting,” as the first section is essentially a solo act for one of America’s Favorite Chrises.

On the good ship Avalon, which soars through space on a century-long mission to another planet, 5,000 passengers pass the years in hibernation — until Pratt’s Jim Preston wakes up, 90 years too soon. 

December 22, 2016 12:00 AM

There’s never been a Star Wars movie as simply beautiful to look at as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Whatever his other flaws as a director, Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) has set the bar on just how breathtaking this universe can be. The varied landscapes glimmer; a Rebel ship sets down gracefully on a desert world; a moon-sized weapon eclipses a distant sun. Costumes are practical; locations feel heavy and real.

There’s never been a Star Wars movie as simply beautiful to look at as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Whatever his other flaws as a director, Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) has set the bar on just how breathtaking this universe can be. The varied landscapes glimmer; a Rebel ship sets down gracefully on a desert world; a moon-sized weapon eclipses a distant sun. Costumes are practical; locations feel heavy and real.

December 15, 2016 12:00 AM

There came a moment early in Kenneth Lonergan’s new film when I knew I was in trouble, emotionally speaking: Led by the doctor into a viewing of his brother’s corpse on the hospital table, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) stands stiffly at the threshold of the room, incapable of approaching, his body coiled, his hands flexing and fidgeting before he slides them uncertainly into the pockets of his jeans.

There came a moment early in Kenneth Lonergan’s new film when I knew I was in trouble, emotionally speaking: Led by the doctor into a viewing of his brother’s corpse on the hospital table, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) stands stiffly at the threshold of the room, incapable of approaching, his body coiled, his hands flexing and fidgeting before he slides them uncertainly into the pockets of his jeans.

December 8, 2016 12:00 AM

Tom Ford’s second feature, Nocturnal Animals, is a movie within a movie, and while both are lushly attractive, full of precise light and deep reds, neither is very good.  

Ford, who is more famous as a fashion designer, has an eye for a certain kind of pristine, art-directed beauty — an eye that served him well in 2009’s A Single Man, the film that made me take Colin Firth much more seriously. But no one in Animals can bring the same soul to the movie’s multiple narratives. 

Tom Ford’s second feature, Nocturnal Animals, is a movie within a movie, and while both are lushly attractive, full of precise light and deep reds, neither is very good.  

Ford, who is more famous as a fashion designer, has an eye for a certain kind of pristine, art-directed beauty — an eye that served him well in 2009’s A Single Man, the film that made me take Colin Firth much more seriously. But no one in Animals can bring the same soul to the movie’s multiple narratives. 

December 1, 2016 12:00 AM

As a critic expected to say something moderately interesting and revealing about the film at hand, I find myself in a difficult position here. I walked into a screening of Moonlight knowing little about the movie, only that it was receiving a good amount of acclaim.

As a critic expected to say something moderately interesting and revealing about the film at hand, I find myself in a difficult position here. I walked into a screening of Moonlight knowing little about the movie, only that it was receiving a good amount of acclaim.

In other words, I had no expectations, which allowed the film to wash over me unfiltered by any of the preconceived notions that, no matter how hard we try to stay open-minded, inevitably frame our experience.

November 23, 2016 12:00 AM

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was once a slim little book, a for-charity effort pretending to be a Hogwarts textbook. Fantastic Beasts the film (written solely by Harry Potter et al. author J.K. Rowling) bears very little resemblance to that tiny tome, apart from containing many beasts.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was once a slim little book, a for-charity effort pretending to be a Hogwarts textbook. Fantastic Beasts the film (written solely by Harry Potter et al. author J.K. Rowling) bears very little resemblance to that tiny tome, apart from containing many beasts.

November 17, 2016 12:00 AM

If you’re looking for a distraction from the state of the world, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival both is and isn’t the movie you’re looking for. The film’s previews suggest an actiony alien invasion, and while there are aliens, they’re hardly the angry insects that infest so many science fiction films. Instead, they look like hands with too many fingers, suspended, tips down. They sound like whalesong mixed with the groans of a building in a storm — a language Louise Banks (Amy Adams) can hardly hope to speak.

If you’re looking for a distraction from the state of the world, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival both is and isn’t the movie you’re looking for. The film’s previews suggest an actiony alien invasion, and while there are aliens, they’re hardly the angry insects that infest so many science fiction films. Instead, they look like hands with too many fingers, suspended, tips down. They sound like whalesong mixed with the groans of a building in a storm — a language Louise Banks (Amy Adams) can hardly hope to speak.

November 10, 2016 12:00 AM

Some people say there are two sides to every story. Others say three. I wonder how many Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst) would argue for. Park’s latest film, the stunning The Handmaiden, is a glorious exploration of the truth, or a truth: People are made up of the stories they tell, and those stories are rarely entirely reliable.

Some people say there are two sides to every story. Others say three. I wonder how many Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst) would argue for. Park’s latest film, the stunning The Handmaiden, is a glorious exploration of the truth, or a truth: People are made up of the stories they tell, and those stories are rarely entirely reliable.

November 3, 2016 12:00 AM

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

October 27, 2016 12:00 AM

“Not all opinions are equal.” This statement, tucked into Denial with little fanfare, forms the meat of the film’s focus. A sturdy yet affecting courtroom drama, Denial is about a lot of things, including a man’s desire to be bigoted and racist without being called out for bigotry and racism. 

“Not all opinions are equal.” This statement, tucked into Denial with little fanfare, forms the meat of the film’s focus. A sturdy yet affecting courtroom drama, Denial is about a lot of things, including a man’s desire to be bigoted and racist without being called out for bigotry and racism. 

October 20, 2016 12:00 AM

Denial

October 13, 2016 12:00 AM

Reviews of The Birth of a Nation, Hell or High Water, Girl Asleep & Eight Days a Week

The Birth of a Nation:

Director Nate Parker purposely reclaims the title of perhaps the most racist film of all time, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation of 1915, and retools it as a tale based on the true story of Nat Turner, an enslaved African-American who helmed a slave rebellion in 1830s Virginia. (Bijou Art Cinemas)

 

Hell or High Water

October 6, 2016 12:00 AM

Movies about being a teenager have come a long way since I was a teen. (Let’s not talk about exactly how long it’s been.) The last few decades of teen storytelling have their charms, from John Hughes to 10 Things I Hate About You, but many teen movies have looked outward in a way that doesn’t always feel true to adolescent life, when the mess of things going on inside is as distracting, or maybe all-consuming, as school and friends and mean girls and attraction.

Movies about being a teenager have come a long way since I was a teen. (Let’s not talk about exactly how long it’s been.) The last few decades of teen storytelling have their charms, from John Hughes to 10 Things I Hate About You, but many teen movies have looked outward in a way that doesn’t always feel true to adolescent life, when the mess of things going on inside is as distracting, or maybe all-consuming, as school and friends and mean girls and attraction.

September 22, 2016 12:00 AM

Of all the literary devices used to grant a physical wallop to a character’s metaphysical situation, I suppose making a pathological narcissist blind isn’t the worst. I mean, it ain’t Ahab’s missing leg or the impotence of Jake Barnes, but what the hell? It works, in a slight to middling way.

Of all the literary devices used to grant a physical wallop to a character’s metaphysical situation, I suppose making a pathological narcissist blind isn’t the worst. I mean, it ain’t Ahab’s missing leg or the impotence of Jake Barnes, but what the hell? It works, in a slight to middling way.