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When Joe Dante’s “Matinee” (1993) was released on Super Bowl weekend, with an ad campaign that did a poor job of explaining anything about it to viewers other than reminding them Dante had directed the hugely popular “Gremlins” (1984), it was perhaps inevitable that it would sink without a trace at the box office. For Dante, this was hardly an unheard-of occurrence, considering that all of the films he had done in the wake of “Gremlins” (which remains the one true blockbuster of his career) had suffered similar commercial fates that left him increasingly disenchanted with a studio filmmaking apparatus that seemed increasingly confused as to how to market his unique blends of fantasy, comedy and social satire. In the case of “Matinee,” however, the failure to find an audience must have cut deeper because this was a film that was as cheekily entertaining as his previous efforts, but which also told a story that was more deeply felt and overtly personal than anything that he had attempted before or since.

And yet, while “Matinee” disappeared from theaters with undue haste, it did not vanish from view entirely. Although he has yet to regain the commercial standing that “Gremlins” once gave him, his films have earned him a dedicated following of critics and film fanatics around the world, and “Matinee” has proven to be a favorite among them, turning up regularly in special screenings and retrospectives of his work. Tomorrow, Shout Select, the...

2016’s “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” was a television event, one of the most accomplished series of that entire year. With an incredible ensemble, creator Ryan Murphy proved he had yet another act in him after the popularity of his “American Horror Story” started to wane. Of course, people started asking about a follow-up before “People” was even over, and Murphy revealed that he was working on a version of “ACS” that would chronicle the disaster around Hurricane Katrina. On paper, it sounded like one of the most ambitious mini-series in TV history, and it may still be as it will now reportedly be the third season of Murphy’s creation. After having some trouble getting that one into production, Murphy rallied his collaborators and went to Florida, producing this week’s “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” The result is a less sprawling, ambitious piece than we may have gotten in New Orleans (also when compared to season one) but it’s still an impressive drama, one that plays with themes that have fascinated Murphy throughout his career. Featuring less star power than “OJ” but a few stellar performances of its own, “Gianni Versace” will be a tougher sell to casual viewers, but those who go along for this journey into the world of a sociopath will be dramatically rewarded.

On July 15,...

In the midst of all the swag-type awards shows dotting the landscape over these first few months of 2018, there are those that are voted upon by ordinary film critics. Although there is no section for film critics in the official Oscars vote (and I believe there should be), the critics act as a liaison between the industry and the people. The Chicago Film Critics Association usually chooses more eccentric awards for your viewing pleasure (view this year's results here), and tomorrow night in Los Angeles, we will get to experience the awards given out by LAFCA (Los Angeles Film Critics Association). 

The annual awards ceremony will take place this Saturday, January 13th, at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City. Luca Guadagnino's "Call Me by Your Name" will receive three major accolades for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Timothée Chalamet), while Guillermo del Toro's equally unexpected romance, "The Shape of Water," will take home awards for Best Director (tying with Guadagnino), Best Actress (Sally Hawkins) and Best Cinematography (Dan Laustsen). Though "The Florida Project"'s Willem Dafoe and "Lady Bird"'s Laurie Metcalf lost at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, they still prove to be fierce contenders this awards season, and will receive Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress honors, respectively, from LAFCA. 

Nora Twomey's emotionally wrenching "The Breadwinner" will edge out Pixar's "Coco" to win Best Animated Feature, while...

If Ronald Reagan’s presidency yearned for the age of Norman Rockwell, Donald Trump’s reaches to the era of “Dr. Strangelove.” Based on a speculative science-fiction novel, Red Alert by Peter George, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” is about a paranoid US Air Force General who sets into motion a Nuclear attack against the USSR. Collaborating with Peter George and satirist Terry Southern, Stanley Kubrick adapted the film into a “nightmare comedy,” starring Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden. Satirizing cold war tension, Kubrick’s darkly prescient satire about America’s military fixation maintains its horrifying relevance as President Trump and Kim Jong-Un engage in a Nuclear power struggle played out on a social media stage.

In The Ways of Seeing, the late John Berger argued that the legacy of Western Art is the legacy of those in power. Only the most powerful people could commission an artist and have it reflect on their wealth and influence. A king might be bathed in jewels but it was more likely that an artist would reflect on the King’s strength by portraying him in a military outfit. Forcing viewers to their knees, it was common for these portraits to be painted from a low angle so that you had no choice but to look up to the King.

As PR firms and marketers play an increasingly large role...

Screen Gems, the studio responsible for “Proud Mary” was nice enough to make their product almost impossible for me to see before my deadline. Genre films such as this often don’t have critics’ screenings, which is fine, but practically every film nowadays has  night screenings. Manhattan has hundreds upon hundreds of movie screens, yet not one of them was playing “Proud Mary” on Thursday. I do not believe this had anything to do with quality; “The Snowman,” which is about 50 times worse than this film, not only gave us all the clues but it also gave us early screenings at every single theater that ran it on its opening Friday.

By contrast, Screen Gems was going to make me work for this review, sending me on an Odyssey to rival Homer’s epic poem. The hero of this remake—let’s call him Odieseus—eventually found his Ithaca after a 2 hour commute to a Jamaica, Queens movie theater. And I’ll be honest: Professionalism had nothing to do with it; I just really wanted to see this damn movie. Since the superb trailer, which played like gangbusters every time I saw it at theaters, I have been feening for Taraji P. Henson’s take on John Cassavetes’ “Gloria.” “Proud Mary” is fronted by an Oscar-nominated actress whose last film, “Hidden Figures” made an ungodly amount of money at the box office. Yet Screen Gems was...

Paddington” felt like an unexpected breath of fresh air when it came out in 2015. A delightful mixture of earnestness, slapstick and unabashedly punny word play, it managed to charm viewers of all ages while also offering an incisive statement about the importance of being kind to others who may seem foreign or different.

With his adorably furry frame and plucky spirit, the talking bear from Darkest Peru conveyed a pointed political message while remaining soft and accessible to the littlest audience members. Despite his old-fashioned roots, the story he had to tell felt utterly contemporary. No small feat, indeed.

Three years later, “Paddington 2” proves the smart-but-sweet combination that marked the first live-action film was no fluke. And the allegory about immigration it offers is, sadly, more necessary than ever in the post-Brexit, post-Trump world in which we live. 

Returning director Paul King, working from a script he co-wrote with Simon Farnaby (and based on Michael Bond’s beloved book series), once again depicts a London that’s colorfully picturesque but also fraught with adventure and danger.  Paddington (voiced again in pleasingly soothing tones by Ben Whishaw) has now settled comfortably into his new life in Windsor Gardens with the Brown family: mother and father Mary and Henry (Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville), daughter and son Judy and Jonathan (Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin), and their longtime housekeeper, Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters). He is...

The year is not even two weeks old but it already has one electrifyingly brilliant film to its credit. Ziad Doueiri’s “The Insult,” which is shortlisted for the foreign-language film Oscar, plunges into the thicket of Lebanon’s sectarian divisions with a riveting courtroom drama that shows how even minor interpersonal tensions can boil over into national traumas. While the issues it engages are timely and important, the film’s claim to fame really comes from its terrific accomplishments on every front, from writing and directing to acting and cinematography.

Doueiri, a native of Lebanon who studied in the U.S. and served as Quentin Tarantino’s camera operator on “Pulp Fiction,” has been an important voice in Middle Eastern cinema since his autobiographical debut “West Beirut” (1998). Like his 2012 terrorism-themed drama “The Attack,” which he filmed in Israel and was duly arrested in Lebanon for that act, “The Insult” shows that he’s a gutsy filmmaker who not only will venture where others fear to tread but also has skills that put him on a par with any A-list Hollywood writer/director.

The filmmaker came of age in Lebanon in the 1980s when the country was riven by civil war. While it has been nominally at peace since then, it still houses different ethnic and religious groups that bear longstanding animosities toward each other. Those at the center of “The Insult” are Christians, who comprise 40 percent of the population, and Palestinians, refugees...

Like “The Wolf of Wall Street” of polka music, Maya Forbes' “The Polka King” tells the true story of a man in the 1990s who actualized an all-American hunger for success through consciously illegal ways. But from the very beginning, Jack Black’s first-generation Polish immigrant Jan Lewan is presented as a well-meaning, ambitious father and husband, working minimum wage jobs while owning a Pennsylvania strip mall trinket shop and leading his namesake polka band (featuring a sandpaper-dry Jason Schwartzman on clarinet), always with a huge smile on his face. With the support of his wife Marla (Jenny Slate), he wants to build an empire, believing in America’s opportunity. But he needs money, a lot of it. Soon enough, he elects to taking investments from various fans in his community, offering them 12% interest and believing with all of his big heart that he will pay them back. 

The “system” gets in the way of Jan’s sincere delusions of grandeur when he receives a visit from a federal agent (J.B. Smoove). Since Jan didn’t file a business prospectus before taking the investments, he has to give the money back in three days. While it’s believable that Jan wouldn’t know about this type of paperwork, it’s believable by the logic of greed what he does as soon as he lies to the government and they forget about him: he takes in more and larger investments, in order to pay people back he...

If you've ever wondered what a Woody Allen romantic comedy might feel like if it were squeezed dry of humor while compensating with characters who all exhibit a state of permanent sexy bedhead, French director Philippe Garrel’s “Lover for a Day” comes mighty close. The plot alone of this elegantly shot black-and-white import shares the Woodman’s affection for variations on lusty middle-age man who beds—and tutors—an adoring decades-younger nubile conquest. 

In Garrel’s version, we meet Gilles (Eric Caravaca), a 50-ish philosophy professor, who has taken up with lithesome Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), a fetchingly freckled 23-year-old student who has moved into his cramped Parisian quarters. Matters grow complicated and even more crowded when Gilles’ distraught 23-year-old daughter, Jeanne, crashes on his couch after her live-in boyfriend kicks her out of his place.

This setup—which, to be honest, initially annoyed, given the recent exposure of rampant sexual exploitation of women in the film industry—couldn’t be more Freudian if everyone sat around and smoked extra-large cigars. Except it does get more Freudian, since the 69-year-old filmmaker’s own actress daughter, Esther (Timothee Chalamet’s girl fling in "Call Me by Your Name"), is cast as Jeanne. The rather pensive Gilles, not exactly a Jean-Paul Belmondo pick-up artist type, mostly takes a back seat to the every-shifting nature of the relationship between the two young women vying for his attention. At first, Jeanne is heartbroken, needy and a bit snotty...

The Brazilian filmmaker Daniela Thomas is a longtime collaborator of Walter Salles, whose “Central Station” and “The Motorcycle Diaries” made international splashes in the early 2000s. Salles is a socially conscious filmmaker who, at his best, can be a cinematic spellbinder, casting beguiling moods from the screen. Thomas seems, with “Vazante,” to be more invested in atmosphere and mood than statement, at least early into “Vazante,” a film set in the early decades of the 19th century.

In Brazil, as in the United States, slaves were kept by landowners during this time. Shot in silvery black and white, the movie opens with shots of water flowing down a stream, and then cuts to a scene of childbirth. A slave woman encourages her white mistress to push. But the flow of life is not continued; the woman dies in childbirth, as does the infant.

The cattle man Antonio returns home from a trip, with lots of baby clothes, and is greeted with heartbreak. A series of complications finds him working with slaves who are more used to diamond mining than farming. There are language barriers, and an African-born slave manager who’s not above torturing his own people to keep them in line. Antonio seems in a bit of a haze, which is understandable. But his life isn’t all confusion and stumbling. He marries a barely teenage girl, Beatriz (Luana Nastas) and sets about trying to conceive another heir. ...

The 2017 documentary "Kiki" showed the world of the underground ballroom scene in New York City, where the different neighborhood clubs are safe havens for LGBTQ youth, often kicked out of their homes and living on the streets. The "scene" had already been profiled years before in the 1990 film "Paris Is Burning," the same year Madonna brought "Voguing"—the exaggerated catwalk-inspired dance style fostered in the clubs—to the mainstream. Now comes Damon Cardasis' feature film debut "Saturday Church," a fictionalized depiction of the "ballroom" scene in New York, and how it operates as a safety net in a cruel and indifferent world. In the film, a lonely teenager finds unconditional love among the denizens of one of these clubhouses, hosted every Saturday in a Greenwich Village church. Punctuated by songs (co-written by Cardasis and Nathan Larson) and dance interludes, "Saturday Church" is a sweet film with a purity of purpose and intent, elevating it above other films portraying similar struggles.

Young Ulysses (newcomer Luka Kain) lives with his hard-working mother Amara (Margot Bingham) and younger brother Abe (Jaylin Fletcher) in the Bronx. Ulysses' father was killed in combat, and the opening scenes of the film show a family dazed with grief. Because Amara takes on more work to compensate, she asks Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) to help out with the kids. Ulysses is bullied at school for...

The 2007 French film “Inside” is considered by many to be the peak of the French Horror Wave of the last decade (which also includes must-sees in Alexandre Aja’s “High Tension,” David Moreau and Xavier Palud’s “Ils,” Pascal Laugier’s “Martyrs,” and more). As every horror fan knows, with great foreign success comes the inevitable American remake, and so here we are a decade later with Miguel Ángel Vivas’ long-delayed retelling of the story of a terrifying home invasion perpetrated on a pregnant woman. The 2018 version is admittedly more competently made than a lot of quickie VOD remakes but never justifies its existence, inexplicably softening the impact of the first film. 

Sarah Clark (Rachel Nichols) is very, very pregnant. While driving at night with her husband, she feels a kick, and gets into a horrific car accident. Now, she’s a very, very pregnant widow. Alone one rainy night not long after, she hears a loud knock on the door. It’s a woman who claims she just wants to use her phone, but Sarah is instantly suspicious. When the unnamed woman (Laura Harring) reveals she knows Sarah’s not telling the truth about her husband being asleep, it’s clear she has malevolent intentions. And things get much worse from there. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game in which the cat is desperately trying to get the mouse’s baby, and the mouse is going into labor.


What movie was star Jemaine Clement acting in while existentially working on the otherwise awful domestic comedy "Humor Me," and why weren't any of his fellow performers in it? Everyone else that's on-screen in writer/director Sam Hoffman's trite dramedy about personal redemption delivers mediocre performances, even head-lining co-star Elliott Gould. Only Clement, as self-absorbed playwright Nick (Clement), transcends the lousy bill of goods he's made to sell. And boy, is that saying something given how hopelessly out of touch Hoffman's comedy is on almost every other level. 

If you look at Clement's subtle, brittle mannerisms, you can see glimmers of what might have interested him in Nick, a creatively blocked, mojo-less narcissist who tries to get his life together with the help of his estranged, stereotypically neurotic old dad Bob (Gould). You'll also see untapped reserves of wounded pride, and unqualified egotism that Hoffman never explores. And in a couple of scenes, you may even wonder what might have been had "Humor Me" been about the character Clement is playing rather than the one that Hoffman wrote. The jarring difference between these two versions of an otherwise forgettable protagonist is vast, and rather distracting.

Let's start with the character as conceived by Hoffman. Nick's the kind of guy that decades of mediocre movies have taught us deserves a second chance. Sure, there are things in his life that he can work on, like his self-sabotaging tendency of tweaking his work, or his general lack of discipline. But when we enter Nick's world, it's at a point where many doors are slamming in his face, and everybody seems to be...

“There were so many images when I was growing up in magazines and on television of the perfect post-WWII home. When I first looked at storybooks as a child, I felt this desire, this compulsion to go right into the page and join those characters.”—Laurie Simmons in a 2016 Tate interview

Anytime our dreams fail to be realized, cinema beckons to us with the promise of sanctuary. For a couple hours, our daily struggles are placed on hold as we escape into the lives of others. What may be unattainable in reality can suddenly seem within our grasp. The desires we shy away from articulating out loud are expressed with wit and poetry by the characters flickering before us. Illusions of perfection may only exist on a movie screen, but we can learn a lot about ourselves by lingering in them. Few films have tackled these concepts as brilliantly as Woody Allen’s 1985 masterpiece, “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” in which a Depression-era waitress (Mia Farrow) is pursued by the fictional man of her dreams as well as the man who portrayed him onscreen (both played by Jeff Daniels). The picture is ultimately a tragic one, as sustainable happiness proves elusive for Farrow’s mortal heroine. One of the most refreshing things about Laurie Simmons’ similarly provocative feature directorial debut, “My Art,” is in how it challenges the very notion of what constitutes a happy ending. 


The bad news is that “Acts of Violence” is a gross, creepy and generally tacky piece of claptrap that plays like an unholy blend of ‘The Boondock Saints,” a sweeps week report from a less-than-reputable news station more interested in prurience than edification and one of those lousy bits of Cannon fodder that Charles Bronson churned out during the waning days of his career. The good news, on the other hand, is that with the advent of VOD, audiences can go about completely ignoring it from the comfort of their own homes rather than having to venture out to the local multiplex in order to snub it. The film may be completely worthless from an artistic standpoint but it certainly can’t be beat from a convenience standpoint.

Set on the mean streets of Cleveland, the story begins as Roman McGregor (Ashton Holmes) is about to marry childhood sweetheart Mia (Melissa Bolona). Alas, disaster strikes when, at her bachelorette party, Mia gets into a fight with a couple of sleazes (Sean Brosnan and Rotimi), who are the chief goons for local crime lord Max Livingston (Mike Epps) and they retaliate by kidnapping her to serve as a part of their boss’s foray into human trafficking. On the bright side, Roman’s two older brothers, Deklan (Cole Hauser) and Brandon (Shawn Ashmore), are both military veterans who apparently returned from the front with a lot of leftover hardware...

Die Hard,” “The Goonies,” “Field of Dreams,” “Titanic” and “Superman” are getting the most attention in the coverage of this year’s National Film Registry honorees. And why not? Cineastes might cheer “Memento,” “He Who Gets Slapped,” and “Only Angels Have Wings” a little more jubilantly, but, hell, we love them all—and the list announced every year since 1989 by the Library of Congress has always been cheerfully and unapologetically a champion of the high- and low-brow; the big-budget and the shoestring; the formal and the experimental; the vintage and the modern; the widely celebrated and the unfairly obscure.

This year, despite holding fast to those same far-ranging tastes, there’s a striking theme binding the class of 2017: 13 of the honored 25 movies are explicitly dedicated to values that can only be succinctly described as anti-Trump. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner,” “4 Little Girls,” “Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser,” “Time and Dreams,” and “To Sleep with Anger” are about the African-American experience and/or the civil rights movement, with “Gentlemen’s Agreement” being more broadly about racism. Mexican-American life is represented by “La Bamba,” “Boulevard Nights,” and the “Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection.” “Spartacus” and “With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain” depict grass-roots uprisings against slavery and fascism. (“Spartacus” also ended the blacklist by publicly acknowledging Dalton Trumbo as its screenwriter, a fact touted in the Library’s official press release.) ...

They don’t make many true westerns anymore, but that hasn’t stopped Liam Neeson from trying. His late career pivot into the realm of modest-budget, audience-friendly action films has produced a string of works which which feature some virtues rarely seen in modern, mainstream movies. This is almost entirely due to how Neeson brings life to these roles, and imbues generic action with a suffocating sadness. These tales of vigilante justice are heavy on combat, but always have a deep sense of psychological hurt beneath them, even when the films themselves are of low quality. With January’s “The Commuter” reportedly Neeson’s self-imposed retirement from this genre (“I’m sixty-fucking five” was his quote at the most recent Toronto International Film Festival), we can take the opportunity to look back at how an accidental mega-hit blossomed into a cultural identity for Neeson, along with a collaboration with one of the finest Hollywood genre filmmakers of the decade.

The ‘January Neeson’ is famously the product of box office lightning in a bottle. “Taken” set the formula; having done the rounds across Europe in 2008, the film was served an ignoble release date the following January, the kind reserved for movies with little cultural hope. To the surprise of everyone, “Taken” was a smash, and Neeson’s phone call monologue about his “very particular set of skills” became a genuine pop culture object. Plenty of filmmakers and industry people saw a chance to turn January lead...

As soon as I heard that Jordan Peele's debut feature had the plot of an edgy indie romantic comedy but was in fact "a horror movie," I knew it was going to be terrific. There was just no way it couldn't be. I rarely feel this confident about a film sight-unseen, but as a longtime fan of Peele, it seemed clear that he knew exactly what his movie was about a deep level. "A black man meets his white girlfriend's parents for the first time; it's a horror movie" is the kind of pitch that might earn a delighted "I'm down, brother!" chuckle from the father of said white girlfriend, a brain surgeon played by Bradley Whitford who tells the hero Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that he would vote for Obama a third time if he could. But for all its laughs, both subtle and broad—and for all its evident familiarity with crowd-pleasing yet grimly clever '80s horror comedies like "They Live!", "Fright Night," "Reanimator," "The People Under the Stairs," "The Hidden," "Child's Play" and other movies that people in their 30s and 40s saw multiple times at dollar theaters and drive-ins and on cable—"Get Out" is no joke. It made all as much money as it did because everyone who saw it, including the ones who only went because everyone else they knew had already seen it, instinctively sensed that it was observing this moment in American history and...

Today is the fourth anniversary of "The Unloved," so I wanted to do something huge, something different, something unwieldy, because those are my favourite kinds of film. The ones that seem bigger than the medium will allow them to be, that creep into your unconscious and stay there to pop out and remind you of their power when you least expect them.

I saw "Margaret" like many people in it’s slightly butchered theatrical cut in 2011 and even with its soul cut out I could tell this movie was different. It was loud and relentless and hard to watch at times. Cruel, even. But the more I watched the more I realized it was trying to show all of life in a city that’s come to represent one half of American life, the fast thinking liberals with more conscience than they know with what to do. 

"Margaret" hasn’t left me for longer than a few days since then. I found myself furious at its negative press. I got so wound up at Keith Phipps’ C grade that I may have gotten an AV Club account to yell at him about it. Keith is a national treasure and a friend and it seems ridiculous that I was so offended by anyone’s review of anything but that’s how passionately I felt about this movie. I felt like people were criticizing the act of self actualization, of growing up. That whomever I was about to become was somehow...

Frustratingly not-quite-there from start to finish, paranoia-soaked railroad thriller "The Commuter" is the latest installment in the unofficial "Liam Neeson Late Winter Butt Kickers" series. The LNLWBKs started in January 2009, with the surprise smash "Taken," and continued with more "Taken" movies, plus three Neeson adventures by Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of this new one ("Unknown," "Non-Stop" and "Run All Night" were the others). They're a staple of our moviegoing diet by this point, nearly as ingrained in the seasonal calendar as the holidays themselves. Like nearly every entry, this new one is worth seeing for the unfussy determination of Neeson, a couple of impressively choreographed action sequences (in particular a one-take, hand-to-hand fight that attempts to one-up the famous hammer sequence in "Oldboy"), and an intriguing premise that the filmmakers never manage to fully exploit. By "worth seeing," I don't necessarily mean "rush to the nearest theater, forsaking all else," but rather, "if this comes on TV, you'll probably watch the whole thing, as long as you're not in a hurry to be somewhere." Who knows, it might even be ideal train viewing. The plot has all the hallmarks of a daydream that got obsessively worked-over for years during somebody's daily rides to and from work.

Neeson's character, Michael MacCauley, is a 60-year-old ex-cop turned insurance salesman who works in midtown Manhattan. His boss tells him that he's being fired right when he's about to begin his...