Charlotte Observer

Tomatometer-approved publication
Rating Title/Year Author
3/4 Hidden Figures (2016) Lawrence Toppman Spencer gets most of the laughs, and Monáe has the showiest speeches, so they've been nominated for most of the awards. But Henson has the hardest role: a prodigy ill-used by a society that barely knows she's alive. EDIT
Posted Jan 5, 2017
3.5/4 A Monster Calls (2016) Lawrence Toppman Bayona understands the forces that bind families together and the ones that tear individuals apart. His real domain is childhood itself, and few storytellers summon its fears and fury so faithfully. EDIT
Posted Jan 4, 2017
3.5/4 Fences (2016) Lawrence Toppman The entire cast is worthy of praise and, in Davis' case, beyond it: Her downcast eyes speak volumes. EDIT
Posted Dec 22, 2016
3/4 Sing (2016) Lawrence Toppman Like many musicals from time immemorial, "Sing" slouches along when characters speak and shoots heavenward when they burst into a tune. EDIT
Posted Dec 22, 2016
2/4 Passengers (2016) Lawrence Toppman The final failure comes in a climax that defies science, good taste and common sense. EDIT
Posted Dec 20, 2016
3.5/4 La La Land (2016) Lawrence Toppman Chazelle creates a realm that suspends disbelief, forestalls cynicism and lets us open our hearts to emotion that's as real in this setting as in any naturalistic drama. EDIT
Posted Dec 15, 2016
3/4 Collateral Beauty (2016) Lawrence Toppman Most movies today remind us dates in high school are hard to come by, superheroes can beat up aliens, or serial killers are scary dudes. A movie that wisely contemplates how to deal with profound sadness deserves our respect for that alone. EDIT
Posted Dec 14, 2016
1.5/4 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Lawrence Toppman Star Wars movies have been dazzling, infuriating, heartbreaking, silly, witty, convoluted, gripping and overblown. But until Rogue One: A Star Wars story, I don't think "dull" was the most appropriate adjective. EDIT
Posted Dec 13, 2016
2.5/4 Miss Sloane (2016) Lawrence Toppman The portrait of Elizabeth Sloane grabs your interest, partly due to the presence of Jessica Chastain in the title role. EDIT
Posted Dec 7, 2016
3/4 The Eagle Huntress (2016) Lawrence Toppman Aisholpan, who has a merry face to go with her sturdy frame, holds the camera without playing to it, and the barrenly beautiful landscape holds your eye. EDIT
Posted Dec 1, 2016
3.5/4 Moana (2016) Lawrence Toppman Cravalho shows spunk and a generically lovely voice, though she's saddled with assembly-line anthems Disney has done better elsewhere. Johnson has exuberance, deft timing and a passable singing voice. EDIT
Posted Nov 22, 2016
3/4 The Edge of Seventeen (2016) Lawrence Toppman Like kids being told a new but familiar fairy tale, we can sit back and enjoy the telling. EDIT
Posted Nov 16, 2016
3/4 A Street Cat Named Bob (2016) Lawrence Toppman Bob gets my vote as the most appealing newcomer of the year. EDIT
Posted Nov 16, 2016
3.5/4 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Lawrence Toppman The directing-editing team of David Yates and Mark Day did the last four Potter movies, and they understand how to evoke the atmosphere of that world without replicating it in a different setting. EDIT
Posted Nov 16, 2016
4/4 Arrival (2016) Lawrence Toppman I have seen no movie to which I felt more deeply connected this year. But I won't tell you exactly why. To discuss most particulars of this movie is to defeat its purpose. EDIT
Posted Nov 8, 2016
3.5/4 Moonlight (2016) Lawrence Toppman It may cast a spell on anyone who has known loneliness, exclusion, feelings of inferiority or a desire to be encased in a hard shell to protect a soft interior. EDIT
Posted Nov 2, 2016
3.5/4 Doctor Strange (2016) Lawrence Toppman You know you're in a top-drawer Marvel Comics adaptation when even the Stan Lee cameo is clever. EDIT
Posted Nov 2, 2016
2.5/4 Certain Women (2016) Lawrence Toppman What "Certain Women" is really about is a filmmaker who had one marvelous story to tell and linked it to 45 minutes of filler to make a feature film. EDIT
Posted Oct 27, 2016
2/4 Inferno (2016) Lawrence Toppman When do the Dan Brown adaptations stop? EDIT
Posted Oct 27, 2016
1.5/4 Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016) Lawrence Toppman Even the casting consists entirely of clichés: the chief conspirator with the sneeringly smug grin, a belly-thrusting small-town sheriff who smells of corruption, the lean and wolflike gunman known as The Hunter. EDIT
Posted Oct 20, 2016
3/4 The Accountant (2016) Lawrence Toppman A few pieces can't be made to fit, and two of those are big ones. But the rest of the story has been well-constructed, and the picture it gradually reveals keeps you guessing up to the final scene. EDIT
Posted Oct 12, 2016
2.5/4 The Girl on the Train (2016) Lawrence Toppman Somehow, the elements don't add up as they did on the page, and Tate Taylor's leisurely direction doesn't help. EDIT
Posted Oct 6, 2016
3/4 Shin Godzilla (2016) Lawrence Toppman His most entertaining outings have always come from Japan, and the new "Shin Gojira" is no exception. EDIT
Posted Oct 6, 2016
2.5/4 The Birth of a Nation (2016) Lawrence Toppman Parker put his heart and soul into it, but sometimes the road paved with good intentions doesn't lead to Hell: It stops at mediocrity. EDIT
Posted Oct 4, 2016
3/4 Deepwater Horizon (2016) Lawrence Toppman The film's well-paced and well-acted, and I couldn't take my eyes off it most of the way. I faltered as projectile followed projectile and explosion topped explosion, yet even then the excitement held up. EDIT
Posted Sep 29, 2016
3/4 Queen of Katwe (2016) Lawrence Toppman The honesty of the performances more than makes up for slight amounts of hokiness in the telling. EDIT
Posted Sep 29, 2016
2.5/4 Masterminds (2016) Lawrence Toppman Writers Chris Bowman, Hubbel Palmer and Emily Spivey start from facts and let their imaginations run wild. EDIT
Posted Sep 29, 2016
3/4 The Magnificent Seven (2016) Lawrence Toppman Call it the mighty entertaining "Seven," and you'll be right. EDIT
Posted Sep 22, 2016
3/4 Max Rose (2013) Lawrence Toppman It inhabits a world frivolous American moviegoers seldom visit: The last way station before death, where the will and body and memory all begin to fail together. EDIT
Posted Sep 22, 2016
2.5/4 Snowden (2016) Lawrence Toppman Even if you think Snowden is on the side of the angels, "Snowden" isn't the best way to learn about him. EDIT
Posted Sep 15, 2016
2.5/4 Blair Witch (2016) Lawrence Toppman While it doesn't recapture the black magic of the original, it delivers the requisite terror in the last half-hour after a slow and ambiguous start. EDIT
Posted Sep 15, 2016
3.5/4 The People vs. Fritz Bauer (2015) Lawrence Toppman The movie belongs to Burghart Klaussner, who plays the resolutely unheroic Bauer with gruff dignity, a short fuse, sad cynicism and a refusal to quiet his conscience. EDIT
Posted Sep 8, 2016
3.5/4 Sully (2016) Lawrence Toppman An unusually good director can make us feel anxious while watching a story we expected to have no drama at all, and Clint Eastwood does that in the low-key, beautifully assembled "Sully." EDIT
Posted Sep 8, 2016
2.5/4 The Light Between Oceans (2016) Lawrence Toppman The result is a movie that crackles quietly without flaring up into an emotional blaze. EDIT
Posted Aug 30, 2016
3/4 Don't Breathe (2016) Lawrence Toppman Lang, snorting and enormous and bestial, seems like the Minotaur stalking intruders in his deadly labyrinth. For the first hour, the psychological cruelty far outweighs the physical. EDIT
Posted Aug 25, 2016
3.5/4 Hands of Stone (2016) Lawrence Toppman In less than two hours, you feel you know Durán in all his pride, cunning, self-indulgence and ring savagery. EDIT
Posted Aug 25, 2016
3/4 Our Little Sister (2015) Lawrence Toppman By the end, a Zen-like calm that might be mistaken for stasis settles over the story. But these lives move forward slowly, inexorably, and they move us, too. EDIT
Posted Aug 18, 2016
3/4 Operation Chromite (2016) Lawrence Toppman A refreshing change of pace. EDIT
Posted Aug 11, 2016
3/4 The Fight Within (2016) Lawrence Toppman Director Michael William Gordon and writer Jim Davis give us a hopeful feeling about Logan without insisting on solving all his problems - or insisting that God will solve them for him. EDIT
Posted Aug 11, 2016
3/4 Pete's Dragon (2016) Lawrence Toppman "Pete's Dragon" takes us back not to the 1977 film that loosely inspired it but to the generation before that, when movies for kids were really for kids ... EDIT
Posted Aug 11, 2016
3/4 Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) Lawrence Toppman If you don't confuse this with history - or with the French film "Marguerite," a fictional piece loosely based on FFJ - you'll come away touched. That's mostly because of Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. EDIT
Posted Aug 11, 2016
3/4 Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words (2016) Lawrence Toppman When son Dweezil was born, Zappa filled in the spot for "religion" on the birth certificate with "musician." "Eat That Question" shows how true that was. EDIT
Posted Aug 4, 2016
2.5/4 Suicide Squad (2016) Lawrence Toppman Ayer has often been a careless writer, and so he is here. EDIT
Posted Aug 3, 2016
3.5/4 Captain Fantastic (2016) Lawrence Toppman Mortensen has been ideally cast. He's at his best playing fanatics, obsessives, people beyond the norm who can't find their place in a quiet world. EDIT
Posted Jul 28, 2016
1.5/4 Jason Bourne (2016) Lawrence Toppman This stale, redundant story goes round in the same tight circles, revealing one piddling new secret and containing one unconvincing change of character. EDIT
Posted Jul 28, 2016
3/4 Ghostbusters (2016) Lawrence Toppman Yes, the final 20 minutes descend into big-budget overkill. (That happened in the original, as I recall.) But until then, this good-humored bonding story emphasizes the actresses' gifts, rather than their gender. EDIT
Posted Jul 13, 2016
3/4 The Infiltrator (2016) Lawrence Toppman [Cranston's] craggy face and mellow baritone voice don't show signs of tiring audiences yet, and he has one quality few actors achieve at any age: He's eloquent in stillness and silence. EDIT
Posted Jul 12, 2016
3/4 Free State of Jones (2016) Lawrence Toppman As the divide between economic classes widens today, "Free State of Jones" remains as relevant as ever. EDIT
Posted Jun 22, 2016
3.5/4 Dark Horse (2015) Lawrence Toppman "Dark Horse" has all the elements of a great sports movie biography: A rise from obscurity, achievement against all expectations, a comeback from a potentially fatal injury, an irresistible "little guy vs. big guys" vibe. EDIT
Posted Jun 16, 2016
3/5 Finding Dory (2016) Lawrence Toppman The movie has plenty of heart and a message which, if not always subtle, remains worth hearing: All of us have strengths and weaknesses, while qualities that disable us in one way might enable us in another. EDIT
Posted Jun 16, 2016