Category Archives: movies

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Enola Holmes

Henry Cavill, Millie Bobbie Brown, and Sam Claflin as Sherlock, Enola, and Mycroft, respectively. (Netflix)

Wherein the alphabetical dream team of Klimek, Daisy Rosario, Glen Weldon, and Margaret H. Willison, LLP, breaks down Enola Holmes, the Millie Bobby Brown-shepherded Netflix movie adapted from Nancy Springer’s YA novels about Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister.

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/914139731/enola-holmes-sherlock-s-little-sister-gets-on-his-case

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Vin Diagram: “Bloodshot,” reviewed.

Memento and Iron Man 3 star Guy Pearce with Vin Diesel in a comic book adaptation that shamelessly rips off Memento and Iron Man 3, among other films. (Sony)

If the last movie I ever get to see in the theater is a goddamn Vin Diesel vehicle, I’m gonna die very angry. My review of Bloodshot is here.

Bovine Intervention: “First Cow,” reviewed.

Orion Lee and John Magaro play friends and business partners in 1820s Oregon. (A24)

Full disclosure: I saw First Cow, the new 19th century-set frontier drama from cowriter/director Kelly Reichardt last night at a screening that was followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker herself. At the end of the evening, she saw me crutching along—I had arthroscopic surgery to repair my meniscus two weeks ago today—and she held the door for me.

That decent gesture did not in any way influence my NPR review of First Cow, which is here.

The 58-Year Mission: “Nobody Does It Better,” reviewed for The Washington Post

DR NO briefing

I was a big fan of Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross’s two-volume Star Trek oral history The Fifty-Year Mission, so I fairly leapt at the chance to review Nobody Does It Better, their new oral history of the James Bond movies, for the Paper of Record. It’s not as illuminating or contradictory as their Trek books, though I was delighted to find some comments from my pal Matt Gourley within its (seven! hundred!) pages.

Toff Guys: “The Gentlemen,” reviewed.

Colin Farrell and Charlie Hunnam are no gentlemen. (Christopher Raphael)

An hour after my review of Guy Ritchie’s last crime comedy posted, someone from Rotten Tomatoes wrote me to ask if I deemed the movie, in my professional opinion as a botanist, Fresh or Rotten. They couldn’t tell! And it was good of them to follow-up. They don’t have an option for Fresh With Reservations, which is where I’m at on this one, as I am compelled to explain in the last paragraphs of my NPR review.

Trenchant Warfare: “1917,” reviewed.

Here’s my review of Sam Mendes’ 1917. I guess it doesn’t mean much to say it’s the best war movie since Dunkirk (whose Oscar-winning editor, Lee Smith, cut 1917 too) but it is, and it’s first film Mendes has made that I’ve found fully satisfying.

The Ballad of “Richard Jewell”

Sam Rockwell and Paul Walter Hauser are good actors in a bad-faith movie. (Warner Bros.)

Billy Ray, the screenwriter of Richard Jewell—director Clint Eastwood’s disingenuous dramatization of the 1996 case of a security guard falsely accused of a horrific crime—spoke to my screenwriting class at UCLA in 2002 or 2003. I hope that if he’s still doing this some student will ask him how can justify defaming deceased Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Kathy Scruggs in his new movie while giving the (also deceased) FBI agent he has depicted as tipping her off in exchange for sex the dignity of a pseudonym. That malicious act undermines everything in the movie that’s any good. My NPR review is here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and What’s Making Us Happy

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. (Lacey Terrell)

I sure hope my friends Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, Jess Reedy, and Emmanuel Johnson aren’t suffering today from the head cold that audibly ailed me on Monday during the recording of today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Our subject is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the Tom Hanks-IS-Fred Rogers movie directed by Marielle (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Heller, loosely fashioned after Tom Junod’s 1998 profile of Rogers for Esquire magazine. As I say in the show, this movie’s depiction of the life of a magazine journalist reflects the circa 1998 expectations on which I based career choices that I have, over the last 20 years, had more than one occasion to lament.





Thanks to all of them for allowing me once again to plug my yulemix. You can hear the show right here or via whatever podfeeder brings you your NPR.

Jaws 3-D: Roland Emmerich’s Midway, reviewed.

Ed Skrein and Luke Kleintank as real-life WWII veterans Dick Best and Clarence Dickinson.

Just in time for Veterans Day, disaster artist Roland Emmerich has made a bid to improve upon 1976’s Technicolor / Sensurround-sound sensation Midway with a more historically-focused (but also more heavily-animated) dramatization of the three-day battle that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. My NPR review of the movie is here.

In Terminator: Dark Fate, SkyNet Is History But U.S. Customs and Border Protection Remains

Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9 Terminator, which can divide itself in two. (Kerry Brown/Paramount)

No amount of Terminator scholarship is too much if you’re me. So just as the new Terminator: Dark Fate (which bombed over the weekend, but you people keep buying tickets for those The Fast & The Furious movies, so there’s no accounting for taste) is a follow-up to 2015’s Terminator: Genisys (sic) that’s really a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day,

…the piece that I published on Slate tonight is a sequel to my Terminator: Dark Fate review from last week that’s really a sequel to a longish T2 essay I wrote five summers ago for The Dissolve, may it rest in power. When I observed in my review of Dark Fate that the series finally got some of its old zeitgeist-surfing mojo back, this is what I meant.

The Future Is Female: Terminator: Dark Fate, reviewed.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, the cyborg-hunter whom it turns out did not die of cancer in the late 90s.

As in every Terminator movie, the new Dark Fate offers no explanation for why the A.I.—SkyWho? It’s called LEGION now—dispatched only a single cyborg assassin to this time period, or why the human resistance sent only one bodyguard. The answer, of course, is that the one-on-one conceit is just more compelling and dramatic than a platoon representing each faction would be.

My NPR review of Terminator: Dark Fate, a these-were-canon-those-were-not half-reboot in the tradition of Superman Returns and Halloween (2018) is here.

Deleted Scenes: Edward Norton on Motherless Brooklyn and the Ghosts of New York

Cinematographer Dick Pope and director/star Edward Norton on the set of Motherless Brooklyn in 2018. (Glen Wilson/Warner Bros.)

Here are some outtakes from the interview Edward Norton I had on Smithsonian this week, where we talked about his long-gestating adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel, Motherless Brooklyn , out this week. The book is set in the present of when it was published, but Norton has, with Lethem’s blessing, set his version of it in 1957 in an attempt to make something like New York City’s answer to Chinatown. Anyway, I was sorry to see these exchanges go, so I clipped ‘em out and saved ‘em.

I was trying to remember if there are any signposts in the book that mark it as taking place in the present, or in the present of when it was published 20 years ago. I don’t think there are any until we get to the passage where Lionel is talking about how much he loves Prince, and he hears in extended remixes of Prince songs a sort of reflection of how his condition makes him play with language in a way he can’t control. 

You do a version of that in the movie in a jazz club scene where Michael K. Williams’ character is performing, and Lionel can’t stop himself from trying to contribute verbally to the music.

Yes, that’s a very intentional transposition of a part of Jonathan’s book that I loved. The idea of music being a beautiful expression of compulsion. And I thought we could have a lot of fun with jazz and especially Bop, in that era, because if you were ever to say, “What is the Tourretic impulse writ into music?”, it’s Bop. It sounds Tourretic to me, in that it’s impulsive, it’s improvisational, and it loops on itself. It takes things and, just as Lionel says about his brain, it twists them around and reforms them. 

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Act Naturally: Western Stars, reviewed.

The Boss in Western Stars, filmed back when he was still a vital young man of sixty-nine.

From the Dept. of Straight Talk for My Heroes: Western Stars, the new motion picture from 1st-timer auteur Bruce Springsteen, is only the 4th or 5th most exciting filmed record of The Boss in performance, & it doesn’t really work as an essay film, either.

My NPR review is here.

Zeke, a Mouse: Zombieland: Double Tap, reviewed.

Rosario Dawson (second from left) joins Breslin, Eisenberg, Stone, and Harrelson for the decade-later sequel. (Sony)

PREPARE YOURSELVES for the long-unawaited, hotly unanticipated sequel to the zombie road movie you’re pretty sure you saw on a plane a decade ago! I didn’t mind watching it one bit. My NPR review is here.

Eat Out More Often: Dolemite Is My Name, reviewed.

Eddie Murphy and Da’Vine Joy Randolph lead a topnotch cast in this Rudy Ray Moore biopic.

Dolemite Is My Name, a very entertaining but not very curious Origins of a Turkey movie with Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore and an A+ supporting cast, premieres on Netflix October 25 after a tiny theatrical run. I’ve reviewed it for your convenience.

The Stars My Destination: AD ASTRA, reviewed.

Brad Pitt is the boy in the bubble. (Fox)

James Gray’s Ad Astra is a stirring, plausible space odyssey in the tradition of 2001, Sunshine, and Interstellar—but its real antecedent is Apocalypse Now. My NPR review is here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: The Goldfinch and What’s Making Us Happy

Finn Wolfhard and Oakes Fegley do Vegas like the Rat Pack. (Warner Bros.)

Today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour is a special one for me because Jess Reedy summoned me to huddle with Barry Hardymon, Katie Pressley, and host Stephen Thompson on The Goldfinch John Crowley’s new film adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt that remains far afield of my usual bailiwicks of fisticuffs and rocketships. Plus I get to shout out Meow Wolf, perhaps the highlight of my visit to New Mexico last week.

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The Boss-tic Gospels: Blinded by the Light, reviewed.

Viveik Kalra plays a fictionalized version of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s adolescent self.

My abiding love and respect for the work of Bruce Springsteen is a matter of public record and of a couple dozen records. But I must report to you that Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha’s new movie Blinded by the Light, about how The Boss inspired Pakistani-British journalist Sarfraz Manzoor to pursue his dream of becoming a writer despite the poverty and racism that surrounded him in Margaret Thatcher’s England, is the jazz-handsy Springsteen jukebox musical that Springsteen on Broadway was supposed to protect us from. It boasts some wonderful performances, though, as well as a previously unreleased Springsteen song that at one point was going to appear on the soundtrack of… Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Huh.

Anyway, my NPR review of Blinded by the Light is here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Kirby, Statham, & Johnson are Shaw, Shaw & Hobbs.

Yesterday’s exciting episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour featured Linda Holmes’ triumphant return to the host chair after the triumphant publication of her debut novel. Hooray! In a deleted scene, I asked the panel—my forever Fast & Furious viewing-mate Linda, my sister-from-another-mother Daisy Rosario, and new friend Christina Tucker of the Unfriendly Black Hotties podcast—if I was the only one of use suffering from what I am loath to call “Johnson Fatigue.”

Yes, came the three ladies’ reply. It’s just you. So be it! This was an especially fun episode. My review of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is right here.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Brad and Leo, movie stars. (Sony)

Our Pop Culture Happy Hour dissection of Quentin Tarantino’s ninth picture gave me the opportunity to be on a panel with Monica Castillo, a fellow Eugene O’Neill National Critics Institute fellow and someone with whom I’d not previously had the pleasure of speaking, though we have friends and colleagues in common. A fun episode. After some deliberation, we elected to avoid any in-depth discussion of the ending of the film.