CHI-RAQ Review – ***

When I was in Chicago for Thanksgiving, the subject of Chi-Raq came up at dinner, and my uncle’s girlfriend dropped her voice to a whisper, noting that the city fathers of Chicago had condemned the film, starting with its title, a damning nickname for a city long infamous for violence and crime, which Spike Lee…

SICARIO Review – ***½

After impressing me greatly with the haunting Prisoners and the marvelously maddening Enemy, I was eager to see what Denis Villeneuve would do next. Then, this opened at Cannes, to solid but not outstanding reviews, and the trailers failed to truly excite me. So my level of anticipation dropped accordingly. Then subsequent reviews proved more favorable, so much…

THE TRIBE Review – ****

The logline alone commands the attention: a Ukrainian drama, told entirely in sign language, without music or even subtitles. That it deals with the lawlessness lurking beneath the surface of a school for the deaf makes it essentially another troubled-youth film with the by-now expected sex and violence on top of the corrupted-innocence storyline. So…

DOPE Review – ***½

¹Dope is the kind of film that defies easy categorization and criticism. Its tone, its story, and its special mixture of strengths and weaknesses cannot be easily summarized. It’s the kind of film which many will consider better than it is–and for valid reasons. It’s the kind of film you want to like, and there are times when…

MAD MAX FURY ROAD Final Review – *****

When I first came out of Fury Road, I wasn’t sure what to think, nor did I know how the critics would respond to it. The critics spoke–and were nearly unanimous in their praise. But I knew I had to see it again for myself, to see if I would be swept up in the chorus…

CHAPPIE Review – **

What hath District 9 wrought? For those who’ve been charting Neill Blomkamp’s painful career trajectory, it’s tempting to say that Chappie makes Elysium look like District 9, but the seeds of Chappie‘s badness are evident in District 9. What were secondary issues there–thin characters, logical gaps–here all but overrun the film’s strengths. It’s hard to explain just how incredibly, consistently stupid Chappie is, but I’ll do my…

SELMA Review – ****

The historical drama film carries a certain kind of baggage. There’s always the risk that history will be distorted, often for the sake of a more “dramatic” narrative, or that the historical figures will be depicted as more saintly–or demonic–than they truly were. Selma is the kind of film which manages to be both compelling…

THE EQUALIZER Review – ***½

How do you discuss a film like The Equalizer? Before you get too excited by my rating, let me say: it’s not a great film. But as badass action films go, as September films go, as films from semi-forgotten TV shows go–it’s very good. Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua may not have topped Training Day, but they’ve made a…

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR Review – **

I didn’t get to see the original Sin City in theaters, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it beginning to end–but I know of its painstaking stylization, its grotesque violence, its gruesomely tragic characters. I liked it. But when the sequel was announced, and delayed and delayed, finally being pushed back from last October to last…

BORGMAN Review – **½

I’m not going to say much about Borgman. By my rules, it’s a 2013 film, so I wouldn’t have to worry about factoring it into this year’s rankings or awards–and since I didn’t care for it, I wouldn’t have given it much, anyway. But it’s the kind of film I didn’t care for that I’m not going…