Author's posts

The Call of the Wild

In 1977, Harrison Ford made me believe he was talking to Greedo and Jabba the Hutt in “Star Wars,” and those characters were as low-tech as Gumby and Pokey compared to the technology used to create Ford’s canine co-star in “The Call of the Wild.” And yet, I never bought it. Instead of getting caught up in …

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Ordinary Love

In a poem called Home Burial, Robert Frost wrote, “from the time when one is sick to death/One is alone.” Those who are critically ill pass through the stages unforgettably defined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And they do it alone. Those around them, no matter how loving and how devoted, pass through their …

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Waiting for Anya

“Waiting for Anya” begins with a helpful explanation of what was going on in 1942, the first indicator that the target audience may be those who have not yet learned some basic history about WWII. It is not the last. The film is based on a popular YA book by Michael Morpurgo, author of The War …

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Incitement

We know the facts of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because it is a true story. So “Incitement” is what newspaper editors call a “tick-tock,” showing us how it happened and, as the title indicates, why it happened. The winner of Israel’s top film award, it is now the official Israeli submission …

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Intrigo: Death of an Author

An unfaithful wife is murdered — or maybe not. A successful writer commits suicide — or maybe not. Nothing is certain here, not even the central character’s name. The narrator who opens the film just says, “Let’s call him Henry.” A mysterious manuscript may hold clues in the markings in pen on some of its …

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Citizen K

It turns out, you can’t just wave a wand and tell a bunch of communists that it is time for capitalism. But that is pretty much what they tried when the Soviet Union fell in 1991. First of all, capitalism is really confusing. As someone says in Alex Gibney’s new documentary “Citizen K,” “A free …

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Inherit the Viper

Evocatively moody atmosphere, a timely subject, and a fine performance by Josh Hartnett cannot help “Inherit the Viper” overcome its clunky dialogue and formulaic storyline.  Hartnett plays Kip Riley, who lives in Appalachia, where he and his sister Josie (Margarita Levieva) are drug dealers, selling opioids to the residents of their small community. They also …

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Simplicity Means There’s Nowhere to Hide: Directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quade on Spies in Disguise

In an interview with RogerEbert.com, “Spies in Disguise” directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane talked about designing their new animated film to look like some of the classic spy stories of the early James Bond era, standing in for stars Tom Holland and Will Smith in the recording room, and why the chase scenes and explosions …

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Jumanji: The Next Level

Like its predecessor, this latest “Jumanji” movie combines fantasy action and adventure with some comedy, a touch of romance, and real-life lessons about courage, friendship, and empathy—all with the help of some low-key race and gender fluidity.  At the end of the last film, the four high school students who got sucked into an old-school …

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What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael

Steven Spielberg sent a telegram to New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael to tell her that she was the only critic who understood “Jaws.” George Roy Hill, furious about her review of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” began his letter to her, “Listen, you miserable bitch.” Ridley Scott was so shaken by a Kael comment he …

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Playmobil: The Movie

A movie “inspired” by a line of toys has one essential challenge—to be more than a feature-length commercial. Tops in that category are “The Lego Movie” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” with “Trolls” following behind. “Playmobil: The Movie” comes much further down the list, just before “UglyDolls,” which couldn’t even get its message straight about …

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Frozen II

“Frozen II” has an autumnal palette, with russet and gold setting the stage for an unexpectedly elegiac tone in the follow-up to one of Disney’s most beloved animated features. Even the irrepressibly cheerful snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), now permafrosted so even the warmest hugs don’t melt him, is worried about change as the leaves turn …

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Mr. Rogers’ Compulsive Intimacy: The Writers Behind A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is not just a love letter to Mr. Rogers. It is a love letter from Mr. Rogers to all of us, the same reassuring message of friendship and kindness Mr. Rogers delivered to a generation of children through his PBS series. In one scene, passengers on a New York …

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Cold Brook

“Cold Brook’s” obvious good intentions lend it a sweetness that cannot make up for insurmountable problems. The script, co-written by director and star William Fichtner, is under-imagined, with the characters overlooking the most obvious options and an overall framework we might charitably describe as outdated.  Fichtner and his “Prison Break” co-star Kim Coates play Ted and …

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A Certain Provocation: Edward Norton on the Neo-Noir Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton wanted to make a movie based on Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn when it was first published in 1999. 20 years later, the story finally comes to the screen, with Norton as writer, producer, and star. He moved the setting from the 90’s to post WWII and changed some of the storyline. But the central …

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An Arc Towards a Better Future: The Alternate Reality of the Space Race In For All Mankind

June 1969. Around the world, people are watching to see the first man walk on the moon. We see boots emerging from the lunar module … and he speaks. In Russian. “For All Mankind” is an alternate history of the space race, the high-concept, high-budget premiere kicking off the new streaming service from Apple, called …

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Accepting Accidents: Ira Sachs on His All in One Day Portugal-Set Movie "Frankie"

In “Frankie,” Isabelle Huppert plays an actress who has gathered her large extended family together in the exquisitely beautiful oceanside town of Sintra, Portugal. Director and co-writer Ira Sachs spoke to rogerebert.com about making his first film outside of New York, why family stories are always at least in part about money, what he never …

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The Truth Will Out Eventually: The Laundromat Writers on Turning Global Financial Fraud into A Sharply Comic Wild Tale

The numbers are unimaginable. The vocabulary is mind-numbing—and intended to be so. One of the biggest financial scandals of all time is known as the Panama Papers, a global money laundering/tax evasion/corruption-concealing scheme involving some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people, including politicians and crooks. They hid their money in what are called “shell” …

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The Addams Family

There are about half a dozen bright spots in the new animated feature “The Addams Family,” but in between them is the un-bright and un-original storyline about how the real monsters are the ordinary people, not the weird people. Charles Addams began creating his deliciously macabre characters for one-panel New Yorker cartoons in 1938, but …

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The Parts You Lose

You won’t see a better example of pure cinematic storytelling this year than “The Parts You Lose,” an engrossing thriller about a young boy named Wesley (Danny Murphy) who befriends an injured criminal in hiding. Most of the movie is conveyed through point of view, which is especially fitting because the central character is hearing-impaired. Wesley …

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