Southpaw

Southpaw upends familiar underdog sports-movie expectations

Ant-Man

Ant-Man rediscovers some of the playfulness of superhero adventure

Minions

Can't we just let Minions be minions?

Self/Less

A director's distinctive style is lost in the rote thrills of Self/Less
Despite a film journalist's most earnest efforts, we aren't clued into everything about movies all the time.

Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL can't recapture the substance that made the original more than hunky shirtless guys
There's an important, perhaps counter-intuitive point that must be clear before we start talking about Magic Mike XXL: The original 2012 Magic Mike was not about male strippers.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

How to read the emotional emergence from narcissism in Me and Earl
The arc of critical response to a festival film is ... well, let's understate things a whole lot, and say that it's complicated.

Inside Out

Inside Out sells whimsy to kids while delivering a powerful story for parents
If there's anything we should realize by now about the way Disney markets its animated films—whether from Disney Animation Studios or Pixar—it's that there's simply no way to know from the advertising what these films are actually about.

FilmQuest Film Festival

FilmQuest tries to carve out its identity as a stand-alone film festival
It's not easy kicking a new film festival into public awareness. It's more difficult when even the people who know it exists are not entirely clear that it is, on its own merits, actually a film festival.

When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There may be a farewell to Studio Ghibli's human approach to animation
In the opening minutes of When Marnie Was There, 12-year-old Anna (Sara Takatsuki; Hailee Steinfeld in the English-dubbed version) sits on a park bench, sketching.

Spy

Spy delivers sly, hilarious commentary about competent women in a man's world
Director Paul Feig has made some bad movies with Melissa McCarthy. The Heat and Bridesmaids were popular, it's true, but they were also cruel and unforgivably unfair to the women they were about.

Slow West

Slow West offers a dark rebuttal to the romanticized American frontier
The "revisionist Western" is hardly a brand-new concept. You could probably go back 50 years to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance's "print the legend"—or even farther, if you consider something like The Searchers—to find a time when movies were already wrestling with the mythology of the American frontier.

In Praise of Average

Why it matters to recognize stuff that's just OK
For this particular piece of writing, I have a modest, perhaps counter-intuitive, yet not-easily-accomplished goal in mind: If at the end of it, you're able to think, "yeah, that was fine," I may have done my job.

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road reboot is straight-up, wall-to-wall bonkers
Noted Australian madman George Miller may have distracted himself (and amused us) with films like Babe: Pig in the City and the two Happy Feet toons, but now it's time to quit goofing around and get back to the dusty, post-apocalyptic wasteland that launched his career.

Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From the Madding Crowd tells an old story with contemporary resonance
The novel it's based on may be a century-and-a-half old, and it opens with a mad-sheepdog accident, of all the crazy, rural old-fashioned things, but this new cinematic adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd is more modern, more progressive, and just plain more grown-up than half the movies thrown at us in our stodgy, convention-bound multiplex movie landscape.

Little Boy

Little Boy shows how "faith-based" movies are nothing of the kind
Gauntlet thrown down: Whatever "faith-based films" are meant to be about, for the most part, it sure as heaven isn't about faith.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron's spectacle serves a tale of humanity at its best
Early in Avengers: Age of Ultron, there's a scene that plays to some of the movie's biggest laughs, built around one of the pillars of the Marvel Universe: the fact that the hammer of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) can only be wielded by one who is worthy.

Ex Machina

One killer performance overrides the high-concept sci-fi of Ex Machina
Oscar Isaac doesn't exactly make an "entrance" in Ex Machina, at least not in the conventional sense that we think of as a character's first appearance.

Monkey Kingdom

Disney again makes you care about creature characters in Monkey Kingdom
If you watch enough movies for a long enough time, it's hard to imagine something about "The Disney Way" isn't bound to drive you nuts eventually.

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