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A Different Toon

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania, Belle and alternate ways of looking at feature animation

Moral Arguments

Asghar Farhadi again digs brilliantly into complex choices in A Hero.

Individual Greatness

A personal, idiosyncratic, non-aggregated list of 2021's best movies
In the interest of fending off familiar gripes and objections, here's a brief prologue to my own choices for the best movies of 2021.

Minor Concerns

Sorting through the problematics—and the great stuff, too—in Licorice Pizza
What kind of content in a movie becomes a line in the sand beyond which you cannot cross?

Tale from the Crypt

Nightmare Alley finds Guillermo del Toro merging two distinctive storytelling traditions from the same era.
f you gave me a list of 100 of the most critically and commercially successful directors working today, and asked me which of them was best-suited to making a contemporary film noir, I'm not sure Guillermo Del Toro would be among my first dozen choices.

A Story of More Woe

West Side Story infuses the musical's own greatness with greater awareness of modern divisions.
The first image in director Steven Spielberg's new adaptation of West Side Story is rubble—construction debris as part of the "slum clearance" on the West Side of Manhattan in the late 1950s to make way for what would become Lincoln Center.

Un-Convent-ional

Benedetta continues Paul Verhoeven's career of wrapping social commentary in problematic packaging
In an uncertain world, it's comforting to realize that, 60 years into his career as a director, Paul Verhoeven still loves wrapping social commentary in problematic packaging.

Family Therapy

Encanto's emotional message gets blunted by its familiarity
"My kingdom for a villain in a new animated movie," my friend, colleague and erstwhile podcast co-host Josh Spiegel tweeted recently, obliquely but clearly inspired by a recent viewing of Disney's new animated feature Encanto.

Unforced Error

King Richard and the biopic trap of "showing the real people at the end."
It's a bit of a running joke between me and my critic pals—as well as my social-media network—about how there's a certain convention in biographical dramas that I hate.

Over-Coming-of-Age

Kenneth Branagh's Belfast explores his own childhood with a mix of sincerity and overkill.
As a filmmaker, Kenneth Branagh's gifts are many—but subtlety is not generally among them.

Divine Plan

Eternals tries to get philosophical about God, but gets caught in the Marvel machine.
The central characters of Eternals have existed on earth for 7,000 years—which feels like approximately how long the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dominated popular culture.

The Quirking Press

Wes Anderson's meticulous constructions get stifling in The French Dispatch.
For 25 years, Wes Anderson has created one of the most distinctive aesthetic sensibilities of any American filmmaker, in ways that often drive his detractors crazy.

Half Measures

Denis Villeneuve's Dune Part One tells only part of its epic story.
To Denis Villeneuve's credit, he lays it right out there in the opening title card for his new movie: Dune Part One.

Truthless People

The Last Due captures social structures built on power rather than facts.
In Eric Jager's fascinating 2004 book The Last Duel, the truth of the real-life case he focused on was, for the most part, irrelevant.

Agent of Change

No Time to Die turns the emphasis to James Bond as a character with a history.
For the past couple of features in the now-five-film Daniel Craig tenure as James Bond, the franchise has been overtly concerned with justifying its own existence.

Extended Family

The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark feels redundant rather than revelatory
Memorable, unusual and, most, of all ironic, because this is a movie about mob guys who are the furthest things from saints.

Metaphormulaic

The Starling gets too tangled up in its symbolism to focus on its human story.
The line is meant to be a moment for a self-aware chuckle, as we nod along at how the starling serves as a stand-in for all of the struggles Lilly is facing in her life.

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