Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Live By Night (2017)
"The painstaking period art direction, bloody gunplay and colorful supporting hoodlums should amuse mob-movie fans, but the turgid, complacent storytelling is the antithesis of the snap and irony that made the gangster film an essential American genre."
"The deliberate pace and the repeated actions give the film a ritual, even liturgical texture, as if the repetition is intended to benefit the moviegoer, like the recitation of the rosary or the invoking of a holy mantra. "
"Although the film lacks a swoony love story, its Freudian implications aren't particularly feminist, as Moana works to elevate the demigod's ego, diminished by the unreliablility of his damaged magical fishhook..."
Finding Dory (2016)
"A reversal of 'Finding Nemo' that -- like its predecessor -- revels in the imaginative opportunities afforded by its floaty, almost surreal underwater environment, the movie has charm and warmth but lacks distinction."
The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
Free in Deed (2015)
"Without condescension or editorializing, this entirely original feature immerses viewers into a distinctive Memphis milieu of seedy motels, antiseptic social service agencies and 'Holy Ghost' worship services."
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
"The back-and-forth arthouse vs. grindhouse content has the tension of an interrogation, but it wouldn't mean much if the film weren't loaded with personality, in front of the camera (Michael Shannon is a no-nonsense Texas detective) and behind."
Bad Santa 2 (2016)
The Eagle Huntress (2016)
" If the girl-empowerment message is unsubtle, the chronology dubious and the occasionally staged action sometimes manipulative, the film also is quite moving, especially as the high-spirited girl develops her remarkable bond with her 15-pound bird."
" How to communicate? The challenge faced by every artist is dramatized as a semantic conundrum and amplified as an existential dilemma ('What is your purpose on Earth?') in this moody science fiction film."
"'We may lose the small battles but win the big war,' Mildred says. These are inspiring words at a moment in American history when racists are emboldened, and they suggest that 'Loving' may be just the movie the country needs. "
"The multiple names place Chiron within the historical context of American racism: It's a reminder that he is a resident of a country that stripped his ancestors of their cultural and literal identities."
Certain Women (2016)
Little Men (2016)
The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
"Even as the sometimes silly horror cliches accumulate, the characters retain our sympathy, thanks to the fraught family dynamic that Flanagan establishes as credibly as the layout of the rambling old Los Angeles home where the horror erupts."
The Magnificent Seven (2016)
"The action is fine, but the movie lacks the grandeur that makes this genre special: The landscapes are unattractively photographed, evidence that this 'Western' -- a few New Mexico scenes aside -- mostly was shot in Louisiana, for tax-credit purposes."
"The auteur sees himself in the aviator, whose competence makes believers out of skeptics and who - in a critique of effects-driven blockbuster filmmaking - argues that 'computer simulations' mean nothing when divorced from the 'human' element. "
Blair Witch (2016)
Hell or High Water (2016)
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
"Visually striking at every turn and occasionally even eerie (the floating witch sisters deserve their own stop-motion horror movie), the film conjures a fantasy logic that is more beholden to myth and folklore than to comic books and Hollywood."
Don't Breathe (2016)
Lights Out (2016)
"A metaphor for abusive codependency and its sidekick repercussions, shame and secrecy, director David F. Sandberg's fairly effective feature debut imagines an angry ghost with a baleful longtime influence on a fractured family."
Pete's Dragon (2016)
Southside With You (2016)
"They attend 'Do the Right Thing,' and Spike Lee's provocative movie mirrors, in expressionistic fashion, the hours-long debate over racial identity, social responsibility and "Afrocentric" art that runs through Barack and Michelle's day together."
"Respectful, unpretentious and elegant (a Carpenter characteristic), if somewhat ungainly in its substitution of California real estate for Memphis and Mississippi locations, the modestly budgeted 'Elvis' remains the definitive screen portrayal of Presley."
Sausage Party (2016)
" Existential howl of despair meets stoner belly laugh in the latest project from Rogen and collaborators, who follow 'This Is the End' with another high-concept comedy that, like a horror movie, reduces its characters to meat."
Suicide Squad (2016)
Café Society (2016)
"The verbose if intermittent voice-over (delivered by Allen himself) is intrusive and redundant, but the script's Borscht Belt existentialism -- 'Life is a comedy, written by a sadistic comedy writer' -- is on point."
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
The BFG (2016)
"Spielberg reunites with 'E.T.' screenwriter Mathison to revisit the themes of their 1982 success, but with a revealing reversal: This time, the filmmakers seem to identify more with the fantastical outsider than with the child who becomes his friend."
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
"With a tag line ('Keep America Great') inspired by the season's scariest serial (the Trump campaign), the third 'Purge' film is more a grindhouse 'Hunger Games' chapter than the sharp-focused terror exercise of the 2013 original..."
The Shallows (2016)
The Legend of Tarzan (2016)
"Unlike most current 'superhero' sagas, which traffic in moral ambiguity, the movie is staunchly uncynical, with an entirely admirable Tarzan and Jane whose unconditional love for each other spills over to the animal kingdom."
Swiss Army Man (2016)
"Certainly unusual, but its inventive absurdism eventually gives way to a sentimental message that is no less trite for being delivered by a hero who may be insane: 'Life is short, and no one should ride the bus alone.'"
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Now You See Me 2 (2016)
"The cinematic sleight of hand remains the same: The antic pace, the byplay among the magicians and the blithe disinterest in plausibility almost distract us from the pointlessness of depicting stage magic via a medium built on trickery."
Love & Friendship (2016)
The Lobster (2016)
"The social pressure to be part of a couple is taken to Kafkaesque extremes in this poker-faced absurdist critique of the idea -- typically expressed most enthusiastically in commercial motion pictures -- that a successful, happy life requires a mate."
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
"Unlike many of his competitors, Singer finds grace notes amid the chaos, as when Xavier's exploding mansion is freeze-framed in time so we can watch the impossibly fast Quicksilver almost nonchalantly pluck innocents from the path of destruction."
Maggie's Plan (2016)
The Nice Guys (2016)
A Bigger Splash (2016)
"Swinton and Guadagnino deliver another bracing arthouse melodrama that luxuriates in cinema's power to tantalize the senses with beautiful, delectable and almost tactile images of fabric, landscape, architecture, water, fruit, fish, human flesh..."
Money Monster (2016)
"The film delivers a dubious mixed message: It condemns the big-money investor and cable news cultures, treats the working class as expendable and ultimately offers forgiveness and redemption to the privileged celebrity rank to which Foster belongs."
Captain America: Civil War (2016)