• Emily the Criminal

    Emily the Criminal

    ★★★

    Taking part in ten Sundance premieres over the last ten years, Aubrey Plaza’s niche in the world of independent cinema has been well carved. Reaching into darker territory as of late, from Ingrid Goes West to Black Bear, her latest film, Emily the Criminal, takes things to a logical next step, placing the actress in strictly thriller territory as her character’s job prospects dwindle and she’s faced with getting into a dangerous, underground world of illegal activity. John Patton Ford’s debut as writer-director is simplistically crafted in both plotting and form, but Plaza’s committed performance carries us through the increasingly dire journey.

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  • Resurrection

    Resurrection

    ★★★

    Not all is well from the opening scenes of Andrew Semans’ Resurrection, based on his own Black List-charting script, which begins as a chilly, slick workplace and mother-daughter drama before exploding into a stomach-churning psychological thriller. Though its preposterous narrative ends up getting into rather silly territory that obfuscates its initial, more pertinent thematic ideas, the film is another stellar showcase for the immense talent of Rebecca Hall. One also can’t entirely fault the director for following through and taking his rather illogically extreme set-up to its most logically absurd conclusion.

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  • The Cathedral

    The Cathedral

    ★★★½

    What makes the fabric of our upbringing? The memories we’ll reflect on after those years have passed are often not what we may hold onto in a moment filtered and refracted through a thousand more experiences. Following his hour-long debut feature Notes on an Appearance, Ricky D’Ambrose’s Bressonian style continues with The Cathedral, a less intellectually rigorous outing that still impresses with its sense of personal significance, recreating slivers of a life experience over some two decades to form a…

  • Descendant

    Descendant

    ★★★★

    Over half a century after international slave trade was abolished in the United States, Timothy Meaher made a bet that he could transport a ship of captives from Africa to the Alabama coast. As owner of the ship The Clotilda, following the 1860 voyage which brought 110 people from West Africa to Mobile, Meaher covered up his crimes (which could have brought him to death) by burning and sinking the vessel. More than 150 years later, Mobile’s Africatown community––made up…

  • When You Finish Saving the World

    When You Finish Saving the World

    ★★½

    A refigured and condensed version of his own audio drama of the same name, When You Finish Saving the World is a slight directorial debut from Jesse Eisenberg featuring sturdy performances working a script that gets a bit lost. Examining a family whose dysfunction can be best described as a detached aloofness when finding common ground for their individual interests and desires, this drama mostly unfolds by contrasting the isolated lives of mother Evelyn (Julianne Moore) and son Ziggy (Finn…

  • La Guerra Civil

    La Guerra Civil

    ★★★

    In the majority of sporting events there’s more on the line than a final score. From the career trajectories of those in the match to the cultural, political, and social factors being represented, the legions of fans on both sides have a number of horses in the race (proverbial or otherwise). This was certainly the case for “Ultimate Glory,” a June 1996 boxing match between Mexico native Julio César Chávez and the East Los Angeles-born Oscar De La Hoya, whose…

  • Fire of Love

    Fire of Love

    ★★★½

    In a bond forged over mutual fascination (or obsession) with the mysteries of volcanoes, Katia and Maurice Krafft dedicated their lives to discovering everything they could about these natural phenomena. Forces of both awe-inspiring wonder and tragic disaster, Sara Dosa’s archival documentary Fire of Love gracefully captures this extreme dichotomy while also getting to the heart of what drove this couple to abandon a routine, domesticated lifestyle and literally sacrifice their lives in the mission to save others. In telling…

  • West Side Story

    West Side Story

    ★★★★

    Only Steven Spielberg could make a shot of someone standing in a puddle one of the most beautiful images of the year.

  • Licorice Pizza

    Licorice Pizza

    ★★★★½

    It’s not the first time he’s done it, but continually in awe at how PTA can make every moment of his films feel completely unexpected yet still carry a lucid emotional current through it all. An astonishing, charming work of magic, not without a dark underside.

  • Speer Goes to Hollywood

    Speer Goes to Hollywood

    ★★★

    Biographical pictures and historical dramas can often go the way of cinematic hagiography, particularly when the subjects are involved in the project’s development. In one of the most extreme examples of such a scenario, Albert Speer, aka “Hitler’s architect,” had dreams of making his life story, consisting of delusional self-mythologizing as a “good Nazi,” into a Hollywood feature backed by Paramount Pictures. As Nazi Germany’s Minister of Armaments and War Production and close friend to the Führer, Speer oversaw 12…

  • F9

    F9

    ★½

    One-upmanship is the name of the game in the Fast & Furious franchise, from its humble carjacking beginnings to its globe-trotting (now globe-circling) feats of saving the world from the MacGuffin du jour. While its plotting implausibilities and character invincibility have always been part of the joke—never more so with its latest entry—each iteration has methodically upped the ante to some ridiculous next stage. Franchise veteran Justin Lin’s F9 follows suit, yet the prior film’s creakiness becomes expounded here. This is…

  • A Quiet Place Part II

    A Quiet Place Part II

    ★★

    Since the opening scene of Jaws, many blockbuster filmmakers have strived to riff on Steven Spielberg’s particular four-quadrant brand of graceful thrills and grounded emotion. Utilizing the fundamental calling cards of that director in 2018, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place was a passable imitation with bludgeoning sound design to keep one’s mind off certain dubious narrative decisions. Successful enough to quickly earn a sequel, A Quiet Place Part II has now arrived after a year-long pandemic delay, adding a few…