Joe Friar

Joe Friar
Tomatometer-approved critic
Biography:
Apart from the mainstream releases, I seek out indie and foreign films to write about. I am a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association-Los Angeles (BFCA) and the Houston Film Critics Society (HFCS). I review films in print for The Victoria Advocate newspaper for my column Flix which covers Houston and Austin releases. I also review films for radio stations KVIC and KBAR.
Publications: The Victoria Advocate

Movie Reviews Only

T-Meter Title | Year
2/4 52% The Lion King (2019) The live-action remake features an A-list of talent and impressive special effects but the film is missing a soul. The magic of the animated classic is gone. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 19, 2019
3/4 88% Luz (2019) The demonic tale resembles an obscure 80s horror film that could have been discovered in a vault or better yet a crypt. Heavy on atmosphere and ambiguity but a fitting tribute to Cronenberg and Argento. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 18, 2019
4/4 100% The Farewell (2019) Lulu Wang's semi-autobiographical film will make you laugh and cry. Awkwafina's natural intensity is a dynamic match for Shuzhen Zhao's energetic performance. The best film of 2019. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 17, 2019
3.5/4 83% Crawl (2019) Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario as a father-daughter duo battling alligators in Florida during a Category 5 hurricane is scary good fun. The sleeper hit of the summer. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 14, 2019
3.5/4 84% The Art of Self-Defense (2019) This dark and twisted comedy from Riley Stearns should be required viewing for Social Studies students, the topic How Toxic-Masculinity is detrimental to society. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 13, 2019
3/4 80% Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (2019) It sounds like a Nicholas Sparks novel, but this true story of legendary folk singer Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen features amazing footage, audio snippets, and interviews to tell this enduring love story. Captivating. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 7, 2019
3.5/4 100% The Chambermaid (La camarista) (2019) Lila Avilés' debut feature takes us behind the scenes in a tribute to the service industry with an exquisite performance by Gabriela Cartol. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 6, 2019
3.5/4 82% Midsommar (2019) The hills are alive with the sound of mayhem as Florence Pugh delivers a stirring performance in this unconventional odyssey that borrows elements from The Wicker Man, and Ti West's The Sacrament. Make no mistake, this is visionary horror. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 5, 2019
4/4 No Score Yet Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub (2019) Jeff Sandmann's SXSW 2019 Audience Award-winning documentary is just as much a tribute to Austin's musicians as it is to the legendary live music venue established almost 30 years ago in the state capital of Texas. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jul 2, 2019
3/4 64% Annabelle Comes Home (2019) Screenwriter-turned-director Gary Dauberman takes the less-is-more approach as building tension replaces cheap scares leading to a finale where Pandora's box of paranormal frights is blown wide open. Refreshing! - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 26, 2019
3.5/4 98% Toy Story 4 (2019) Stunning animation and a storyline filled with adventure, comedy, and a few frights (as with any good Disney film) make this a welcomed return to the Pixar franchise. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 23, 2019
3/4 60% The Fall of the American Empire (La chute de l'empire américain) (2019) Denys Arcand once again explores society's downfall in a tale about greed, corruption, and extravagance. The crime caper is reminiscent of an Ocean's film as the thieves make it look easy. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 23, 2019
3.5/4 94% Wild Rose (2019) Jessie Buckley is a revelation as an aspiring country singer living in Glasgow who dreams of making it to Nashville. Director Tom Harper captures the struggles of raising kids as a single parent while balancing a career. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 23, 2019
4/4 93% The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) I felt like I was watching a mesmerizing play as the characters, dialogue, and plot complemented each other forming a visual poem. Joe Talbot's debut feature had the same effect on me as Boots Riley's "Sorry to Bother You." - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 16, 2019
3/4 54% The Dead Don't Die (2019) Think of the comedy as the bonus track of a greatest hits package featuring several Jarmusch regulars. It may lack frights but not laughs and with a cast like this, you can bet it's headed for midnight movie cult status. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 15, 2019
3.5/4 83% American Woman (2019) Sienna Miller delivers her greatest performance and one of 2019's best as a grandmother searching for her missing daughter in Jake Scott's drama that develops within the framework of a thriller - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 14, 2019
3/4 89% Free Trip to Egypt (2019) Tarek Mounib's documentary attempts to bridge the kindness gap between Americans and Muslims with free trips to Egypt. Can we get along with Muslims? Yes. Other Americans? Maybe. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 12, 2019
3.5/4 75% Halston (2019) The rise and fall of the iconic fashion designer are explored in Frédéric Tcheng's documentary featuring great behind the scenes footage, celebrity interviews, and candid moments. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 12, 2019
3/4 100% The Proposal (2019) Like a good sleuth thriller, Jill Magid's documentary explores the legacy of Mexican architect Luis Barragán whose archived has been inaccessible to scholars and family for over two decades. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 8, 2019
3/4 69% Ghost Fleet (2019) It sounds like the latest release from Blumhouse Productions, but the documentary from filmmakers Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron is more frightening than any fabricated specter as the underbelly of Thailand's seafood trade is exposed. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 8, 2019
3.5/4 45% The Tomorrow Man (2019) John Lithgow and Blythe Danner are a pleasure to watch in Noble Jones' charming film about two seniors who find love as Lithgow's character would say, "on the wrong side of 60." - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 6, 2019
3.5/4 89% Non-Fiction (2019) Smart, funny, and immensely entertaining. Binoche leads an exceptional cast in the dialogue-heavy film that perfectly balances drama with comedy. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 2, 2019
2.5/4 55% Ma (2019) I had fun watching Octavia Spencer get nutty as a fruitcake on some of the dumbest teenagers to ever appear in a film. There are more laughs than screams but it's worth seeing thanks to Spencer's off-the-rails performance. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 1, 2019
3.5/4 78% Photograph (2019) Writer-director Ritesh Batra heads back to Mumbai, the setting of his 2014 debut The Lunchbox, for another story about two lonely people who become bewitched with one another after a chance encounter. It left me wanting more. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Jun 1, 2019
4/4 97% Booksmart (2019) Olivia Wilde's directorial debut is a refreshing coming-of-age comedy that goes against stereotypes thanks to the multi-layered characters. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein get my vote for the best onscreen duo of 2019! - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 29, 2019
4/4 71% All Is True (2019) After devoting forty years of his life interpreting Shakespeare's work, Kenneth Branagh plays The Bard in the gracious biopic that features wonderful performances by Branagh, Dench, McKellen, and especially Kathryn Wilder. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 22, 2019
4/4 90% John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019) Reeves and Stahelski reunite for the most violent film in the franchise filled with breathtaking fight sequences that will leave you craving more. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 18, 2019
3/4 61% Trial by Fire (2019) Zwick's film may not be as compelling as the actual story but O'Connell and Dern excel in this tragic biopic about a wrongly executed Texas inmate. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 16, 2019
4/4 82% Dogman (2019) Matteo Garrone returns to the criminal underworld decade after mobster film Gomorrah. There's plenty of bite in this canine tale filled with drugs, thugs and a remarkable performance by Marcello Fonte. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 16, 2019
3/4 88% We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2019) Shirley Jackson's 1962 novel finally makes it to the big screen with a superb Taissa Farmiga leading a solid cast in this ominous tale of two sisters who refuse to suffer under the hands of men. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 16, 2019
3.5/4 93% Rafiki (2019) Writer-director Wanuri Kahiu's coming-of-age drama represents a milestone for African filmmakers as the vibrant love story celebrates LGBTQ themes with a sense of celebration and fun despite the conservative views of her native country. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 13, 2019
4/4 92% Long Day's Journey Into Night (Di qiu zui hou de ye wan) (2019) Bi Gan's mesmerizing film-noir plays like a fascinating dream that you hope won't end. The writer-director uses color and the shroud of nightfall to guide the audience down a path filled with mystery and romance. Dazzling. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 13, 2019
3.5/4 66% The White Crow (2019) Oleg Ivenko is superb as Rudolf Nureyev in the well-crafted film by director Ralph Fiennes who also plays legendary ballet teacher Alexander Pushkin. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 8, 2019
3/4 30% Red Joan (2019) Think less espionage and more romance and you'll be in the right frame of mind for the drama inspired by true events. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 4, 2019
3/4 56% Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) The film is based on the memoir by Bundy's former girlfriend Liz Kloepfer played by a superb Lily Collins with Zac Efron delivering a chilling portrayal that gives audiences a glimpse of the spell Bundy put on his victims. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted May 1, 2019
3/4 97% Hail Satan? (2019) Penny Lane's humorous documentary feels like a cousin to Rob Rob Reiner's Spinal Tap while delivering insight to a misunderstood organization that may have more in common with you than you think. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 30, 2019
3.5/4 96% Little Woods (2019) Tessa Thompson is the shining light in Nia DaCosta's bleak but genuine drama of two sisters caught up in the flawed American healthcare system trapped by an unforgiving socioeconomic climate. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 30, 2019
4/4 99% Amazing Grace (2019) A pure gem. Shot by Oscar-winning director Sydney Pollack, the Queen of Soul is captured delivering an unforgettable and inspirational performance that became the best-selling Gospel album of all time. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 25, 2019
4/4 94% Avengers: Endgame (2019) Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, the Russo brothers switch from defense to offense for a satisfying conclusion to the series worthy of respect from Marvel fans. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 24, 2019
3/4 31% The Curse of La Llorona (2019) The Mexican folktale comes to the screen in the latest offering from the James Wan universe. First-time director Michael Chaves does a fine job of creating real scares in this better-than-average horror offering. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 19, 2019
3.5/4 84% Her Smell (2019) Elisabeth Moss is a tour-de-force in Alex Ross Perry's self-destructive ode to 90s female rock bands. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 17, 2019
3.5/4 90% Wild Nights with Emily (2019) Molly Shannon is terrific as Emily Dickinson in Madeleine Olnek's eye-opening comedy. As it turns out, we really don't know anything about the beloved poet! - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 15, 2019
4/4 45% Mary Magdalene (2019) The film approaches Mary Magdalene with sensitivity at Terrence Malick speed giving the audience plenty of time to absorb Garth Davis' eye-opening film about the often misunderstood disciple of Christ. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 13, 2019
1/4 18% Hellboy (2019) Over the top gore, excessive swearing, bland rock music, and an R-rating don't make this reboot edgy, just noisy and dull. Marshall's film lacks passion and without it you're left with a repetitive barrage of what seems like a 12-year old's fantasy film. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 12, 2019
4/4 99% Ash Is Purest White (2019) Jia Zhang-Ke's mobster love story is one of the best films you'll see this year. Zhao Tao delivers one of her best performances whileEric Gautier's cinematography is absolutely stunning. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 7, 2019
3.5/4 80% The Wind (2019) All the elements are in place for this scary female-driven, western-horror that exists somewhere between "Meek's Cutoff" and "The Evil Dead." Tense! - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 7, 2019
2.5/4 57% Pet Sematary (2019) Creepy visuals but no scares in the latest adaptation of King's novel. What should have been a chilling finale is reduced to an almost comical visual that feels trendy as if the directors are aiming for a new series on AMC. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 6, 2019
3/4 84% The Brink (2019) Love him or loathe him, Steve Bannon exposes himself in Alison Klayman's riveting documentary. Is he a right-wing cyborg from the future or just someone who gives zero f***s? Either way, this is riveting stuff. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 5, 2019
4/4 97% Working Woman (2019) The tense Israeli psychological thriller covers sexual harassment in a realistic manner. Liron Ben Shlush and Menashe Noy deliver two of the finest performances of the year. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Apr 4, 2019
3/4 100% Slut in a Good Way (Charlotte a du fun) (2019) Sophie Lorain's feature delivers a message of female empowerment without taking itself too seriously. Expect more drama than comedy from the refreshing film. - The Victoria Advocate EDIT
Read More | Posted Mar 29, 2019