"A Monster with a Thousand Heads is not only brilliant in itself, but a riveting metaphor for our times. From the moment Sonia decides to chase the doctor down to the parking lot, the film lunges forward with relentless speed and intense narrative drive. "
1920 London (2016)
"Ada Ushpiz's brilliant new documentary is an audacious attempt to completely reframe the legacy of Hannah Arendt... Ushpiz certainly convinced me, thereby making my own emotional investment in this difficult subject matter well worth the effort. "
"Delpy has created another perfect role for herself as a dog being wagged by its own tail. She is adorable in her befuddlement as the stakes get ever higher. And Dany Boon as Jean-René and Vincent Lacoste as Lolo make great comic partners. "
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016)
"Ditzy, delightful new sequel to Nia Vardalos' 2002 surprise hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If you loved MBFGW #1--as I surely did--then by all means treat yourself to a second helping of flaming spanakopita: Opa! "
Colliding Dreams (2016)
"A new documentary about the history of the Arab/Israeli Conflict from the Jewish-American point of view, comes to us from two filmmakers with superlative credentials. Together they have taken a leap of faith, crafting an epic drama worthy of its subject. "
"Bracket off the first two 'memories,' and My Golden Days is a slog ... [I was] bored to tears by yet another beautifully mounted but totally phallocentric 'coming of age' story that I've basically seen a million times already. "
About Scout (2016)
"Three accomplished, engaging actresses quickly capture our hearts, and filmmaker Laurie Weltz-collaborating on this screenplay with her with daughter/lead actress India Ennenga-has us in the palm of her hand. But Weltz doesn't quite know what to do next. "
"Valérie Donzelli's new costume drama is set in multiple time frames. Gorgeous and passionate, I wanted to love it. But the meta-exercise has no follow-through, so ultimately it becomes more confusing than engaging. "
Carvalho's Journey (2015)
"This wonderful new documentary interweaves three powerful stories. I am here to tell you that Carvalho's Journey, in addition to all its other virtues, may well be one of the greatest love stories in Jewish American history. "
Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (2015)
"In her superlative new documentary 'Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict,' filmmaker Lisa Immordino Vreeland introduces her subject with quotes from talking heads who are often quite snide and yet 95 minutes later, her heroine has triumphed. "
"By the third story, I was out of patience. Already thwarted twice, I had no energy left to invest in a third set of characters even when I saw the possibility of some overlap. OK, I get it: Boys will be boys ... But me? I was bored to death. "
Other People's Children (2015)
"This is director Liz Hinlein's first feature film, and screenwriter Adrienne Harris's second. So I wish I could say positive things to encourage them. But the film has only one thing going for it: a charismatic performance by Chad Michael Murray as P.K. "
"Fey and Poehler fit together like two halves of a whole. Screenwriter Paula Pell knows her stars perfectly, and director Jason Moore knows how the keep the whole dizzy, ditzy ensemble from going over the edge. Sisters is a big, broad, bawdy delight. "
The Winding Stream (2015)
"Beth Harrington has directed with skill and smarts and Mike Olson contributes terrific photoanimations to make the pre-Selfie Era come alive on screen. Once Johnny starts singing--alone, with June, and/or with anyone else--the soundtrack is pure pleasure. "
"Superb film directed by Sarah Gavron with a screenplay by Abi Morgan. This is my team--the 50% of humanity born female--and seeing our history told so eloquently from our POV is a rare and thrilling experience! "
The Girl in the Book (2015)
"Filmmaker Marya Cohn--directing a terrific cast-- deftly manages the flashback sequences [and] adds unexpected depth and empathy to some situations which are unfortunately already all too familiar. Brava! "
The Big Short (2015)
"The best film of 2015. I say 'the best' with confidence because I have now seen almost all of 2016's Oscar contenders. Steve Carell [delivers] a transformative performance that raises him to the rank of one of the greatest actors of his generation. "
"Carol left me icy cold. Great performances by name actors, [but] director Todd Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy have made a new film that is all parts but no whole ... Predictable plot. Perfunctory character development. THE END "
The Keeping Room (2015)
"A spare, intense drama set at the tail end of the Civil War in which three young women learn to cope with lives very different than the ones they were raised to expect ... In the end, the commanding presence in The Keeping Room belongs to Brit Marling. "
Felix & Meira (2015)
"Two sad-sacks meet one day in the middle of a slushy Montreal winter and begin a life-altering relationship ... but with no backstory and minimal character development, it's hard to care. Sorry to say, I couldn't get a handle on this moody mess. "
"This was a highly compelling reenactment--so much so that I began feeling like one of the prisoners who was desperate to flee--but director Kyle Patrick Alvarez and screenwriter Tim Talbott should have included a few moments of context. "
"Award-winning documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner's triumphant new BioDoc Rosenwald introduces us to a Jewish-American philanthropist who used his fortune to make a permanent impact on African-American life for generations past and generations to come. "
"Excellent performances from Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, and Hugo Weaving are undone by a weak screenplay which totally collapses in the third act. Director Kim Farrant shows great promise, but Strangerland promises more than it can deliver. "
"Nothing makes my day like walking into a film with relatively low expectations, but then coming out saying: WOW! Mora Stephens and her co-writer Joel Viertel do an excellent job of revealing the truth behind the illusion. ... A tense, riveting film. "
Learning To Drive (2015)
"This is director Isabel Coixet's second film with Kingsley. Once again, Coixet's casting is impeccable. Grace Gummer is lovely as 'Tasha,' as is Sarita Choudhury as 'Jasleen.' For me, Coixet definitely did 'hit it out of the park.' "
Ten Thousand Saints (2015)
"An excellent cast stranded in a plot-heavy drama that is dull and predictable. [The filmmakers] have done a marvelous job of capturing a certain look that oozes with nostalgia. I just wish the tableau had included people who feel as real as their milieu. "
The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (2015)
"Delightful documentary about Sophie Tucker, another whip-smart Jewish girl who made good in Die Goldene Medina--the golden country--of 20th Century America. The Outrageous Sophie Tucker is pure delight! "
"All style and no substance. Phoenix doesn't just trivialize the trauma of Holocaust survivors, it insults Jews who tried to do good by making Aliyah after World War II. To say I hated Phoenix-a film as subtle as its title-would be an understatement. "
"Filmmaker Sophie Deraspe has made a stunning docudrama about a French woman caught up in an online scam during the early days of The Arab Spring. I literally left the theatre shaking. Insofar as Deraspe set out to 'hook me' she certainly succeeded. "
"Trainwreck has its laugh-out-loud moments, Shumer is feisty and adorable in her first starring role, [and] the first half is very promising. But the runtime--125 minutes--is a give away: there is a whole lot of dead air in Trainwreck. "
Stray Dog (2015)
"So dull I could barely stay awake ... I am baffled by the big buzz and notable nominations for Stray Dog. While Ron Hall seems to have lived a paradigmatic Middle American life, Granik's 'fly on the wall' approach fails to illuminate any of it. "
A Borrowed Identity (2015)
Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)
"First-time filmmaker Maya Forbes has written and directed a beautiful tribute to her extraordinary parents. If I ruled the world, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, and Maya Forbes would all receive Oscar nominations [for their work]. "
"A beautifully-crafted multidimensional drama that touches on many important contemporary topics. Terrific performances by Vincent Lacoste and Reda Kateb. Excellent, low-key direction by Thomas Lilti [and] screenwriting team. "
"The good news is that the film is bright, colorful, and engaging. The bad news is that the narrative is ludicrously simplistic, and the characters never come to life. Regardless of good intentions, 119 minutes of this was painfully difficult to watch. "
Testament Of Youth (2015)
"I wanted Testament of Youth to be superlative, but I'm forced to say it's merely extremely good ... [But] that still makes Testament of Youth--starring Alicia Vikander as the perfect embodiment of Vera Britain--a MUST SEE. "
Madame Bovary (2015)
"Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary drowns in molasses, bringing the whole cast down with her. The only way to excuse this mess is to assume that Barthes made her most fundamental decisions for the sake of budget ... Blunt truth? I had trouble staying awake. "
Gemma Bovery (2015)
"A 'Personal Best' for director Anne Fontaine ... Fabrice Luchini and Gemma Arterton are perfectly cast. Everything is light and lovely until it isn't, and what looks to be a period comedy slowly reveals itself as an erudite and insightful modern tragedy. "
The Farewell Party (2015)
"Jewish Humor walks the razor's edge between comedy and tragedy in this mordant 'laugh through your tears' dramedy. Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon have such a light touch that laughter bubbles forth even in the blackest moments. "
"The cinematography, score, and sound design are superb. And Connelly is so compelling as a struggling single mother in Claudia Llosa's new film that narrative details like whys and wherefores pale next to the need to find her again after she disappears. "
Forbidden Films (2015)
Every Secret Thing (2015)
"Here is a film with prominent actresses carrying a woman-centered film, plus award-winning female filmmakers behind-the-camera. So am I satisfied? No I am not satisfied. Sad to say, Every Secret Thing is a grim and tedious a mess. "
"Lovely 'road trip' movie from India follows all the genre conventions, but still manages to take us to places both old and new. So get in the car and travel to Kolkata with Piku. You'll be glad you did! "
One Cut, One Life (2015)
" Unfortunately Lucia Small has bitten off more than she can chew ... It is not my job to tell her what film she should have made. But it is my job to tell my readers that the film Lucia Small has made is diffuse, disorganized, and just too 'fuzzy' for me. "
24 Days (2015)
"Zabou Breitman is riveting as Ruth Halimi, [in this] harrowing but critically important French film. Rather than dwell on the gruesome physical details of Ilan's captivity, the filmmakers focus on the mental torture of those who are desperate to save him. "
"Oscar winner Helen Hunt wrote, directed, and stars in this lovely dramedy. What will surprise you is how warm, genuine, and generous this story is... Well, maybe it won't surprise you, but it certainly surprised me. I laughed; I cried; I had a great time! "
Welcome to Me (2015)
"This film is being marketed as a comedy ... [and while] I wish I could laugh about all this because that's clearly the filmmakers' intention, the plot is just too contrived and the outcome is too over-determined. "
Alex of Venice (2015)