Eli Roth, of all directors, brings Amblin magic to the kid-lit horror of The House With A Clock In Its Walls

B

Striking the right tone for a family-friendly horror movie is tricky. You want it to be scary enough to freak out the big kids, but not so scary that the little ones cry and have nightmares for months. Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment banner arguably perfected the formula back in the ’80s with films like …

Keira Knightley’s charms fail to save the timely, tepid biopic Colette

C+

The life of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, better known as simply Colette, feels tailor-made for a biopic in 2018. Her first four novels—the Claudine series, about a French girl’s coming-of-age—were released at the turn of the century to acclaim and mild scandal, especially among the Parisian elite. Yet…

Michael Moore looks at and beyond Trump in the enraged but scattered Fahrenheit 11/9

B-

No right-wing troll could ever trigger liberals as effectively as Michael Moore does in the first few minutes of Fahrenheit 11/9. He opens his new agitprop state-of-the-union documentary with footage from election night 2016, dragging us again through the slow-motion car crash of the evening’s events: the festivities…

Intolerance gets Purged in Assassination Nation, a midnight movie more righteous than exciting

C+

In the tradition of William Castle, who enticed audiences with ostensible danger—taking out an actual life insurance policy on those who saw a particular screening of Macabre (1958); including a countdown to the scariest scene in Homicidal (1961), so that viewers had time to flee the theater—Assassination Nation kicks…

Nicole Holofcener on Ben Mendelsohn, Catherine Keener, and saying “ugh” to superhero films

Nicole Holofcener first gained attention in 1996 for her powerful comic drama Walking And Talking, a film that also provided one of the first starring roles for her longtime collaborator Catherine Keener. Since then, she’s continued to follow her muse of small, intimate stories about troubled middle- to upper-class…

From the creator of This Is Us comes a melodrama even more dire than life itself

D

That our lives have an effect on total strangers is hardly news to ethicists, economists, or practitioners of the Golden Rule. But if goopy, everything-is-connected movies like Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself are to be believed, this simple fact of living in a world full of other people attests to nothing less than the…

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen on what “down time” looks like 2,000 feet above the ground

The Dawn Wall, a new film from documentary filmmaker Josh Lowell, follows rock climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson as they attempt to become the first people to free climb “The Dawn Wall,” an extremely difficult section of El Capitan, the 3,000-foot rock in Yosemite National Park. At the premiere of the film,…

For a tale full of blood and sexual tension, Lizzie is awfully dull

C+

Is Lizzie a tragic love story ? A proto-feminist statement? A slow-burn historical drama? A lurid tale of sex and murder? It’s all of those things, and none of them at the same time. It’s a film that’s very deliberate in its choices, but doesn’t seem to have thought them all through. And it’s a shame, really, because…

Steve McQueen swerves for the mainstream with the kickass heist thriller Widows

There are lots of reasons why Best Popular Film is a dumb idea. The biggest may be that such an Oscar category would reinforce the fallacy that there’s a hard line separating art from entertainment. Popcorn movies can be thoughtful, finely crafted, even profound. And supposed “art movies” can be a blast. The…

Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and the team behind The Children Act on what makes this story special

Named for the landmark 1989 Parliamentary Act (but not based on a true events), The Children Act follows British High Court judge Fiona, played by Emma Thompson, who must rule on a case concerning the survival of a teenage boy. The boy (Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead), who is a Jehovah’s Witness, and just months short of…

Ben Mendelsohn battles suburban ennui in Nicole Holofcener’s The Land Of Steady Habits

B-

Money, sex, marriage, death, and children. Those are the thorny topics writer-director Nicole Holofcener once claimed she could make at least 10 movies about. She’s one step closer to doing so with The Land Of Steady Habits—a Netflix original film enjoying a streaming debut just days after its…

Lady Gaga is as great as you’ve heard, even if the rest of A Star Is Born isn’t

There’s one truly great, chills-inducing scene in Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, the latest Hollywood remake of A Star Is Born (Grade: B). It’s the moment when all the pent-up crowdpleasing catharsis the movie has been withholding under its ramshackle, dive-bar minimalism comes erupting out of it like a geyser of…

Light, literate, and wickedly funny, A Simple Favor is Gillian Flynn for the mommy-blog set

B

A Simple Favor is a film that revels in light, feminine things: mommy blogs, designer clothes, ’60s French yé-yé pop, post-playdate gin martinis with a twist—and, of course, murder. It’s no secret that the audience for true-crime stories, and murder mysteries in general, is largely female, and the new film from Paul…

Hale County, This Morning, This Evening finds beauty in the small moments of black Southern life

B-

Hale County, Alabama, which has a population of just under 16,000, is best known as the subject of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee and Walker Evans’ classic and influential book about the white rural poor. One can presume that this fact played a role in the conception of RaMell Ross’ Hale County, This…

Gravity director Alfonso CuarĂłn returns to Earth for an intimate period-piece shot like an epic

In the months to come, you’re going to be hearing a lot about Roma (Grade: A-). Alfonso Cuarón’s visually sumptuous, intimately epic (or is it epically intimate?) return to the Mexico City of his youth won the top prize at Venice a few days ago, just as the last movie from the director’s buddy and countryman,…