Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Probably the simplest way to start explaining what the living hell we have in front of us with The Twentieth Century, the first feature-length film by avant-garde director Matthew Rankin (who had some fairly substantial attention, by the standards of such things, with the shorts Mynarski Death Plummet in 2014 and The Tesla World Light […]

Movies about the life of Joan of Arc, the visionary teenager who rallied the French army to victories against the English during the Hundred Years’ War and was executed after a politically-motivated show trial for heresy in 1431, are hardly rare. And they are hardly obscure, including this writer’s pick for the best movie ever […]

The one and only Ivan who gives Disney’s pandemic-stricken direct-to-streaming refugee The One and Only Ivan its title is a very subdued gorilla played by a CGI effect and voiced by Sam Rockwell, and he spends mot of the the movie doing almost nothing other than just kind of hanging out, being quiet, and looking […]

Anyone comfortable stating in public “I am a fan of the directorial works of Lee Daniels, and I root for his films to succeed” honestly deserves exactly what they get. But the thing is, I am a fan, and I do root for him; whatever one wants to say about his first three movies, 2005’s […]

The great Polish director Agnieszka Holland is in the pantheon of European master filmmakers whose work we are more or less required to grapple with, if we take seriously the idea that cinema is an art form. And in this light, it’s not surprising that Mr. Jones, a political history lesson that premiered at the […]

Judas and the Black Messiah is a perfectly fine film about Fred Hampton, a man who deserves much better than a perfectly fine film. If you haven’t heard of Hampton, ah! such a marvelous figure you have in front of you, and truth be told, as a starting point – only as starting point, mind […]

There are directorial debuts that reveal the newborn cineaste to be someone who thinks and feels in images, a visionary who has just been searching for an outlet. One Night in Miami…, the first film directed by the endlessly reliable character actor Regina King, is not one of these. But it is a very promising […]

The consensus of opinion, as far as I can tell, is that Alex Wheatle, the fourth episode of Small Axe, is also the weakest, granting an exceptionally high lower bound for “weakness”. I don’t agree, but it’s not hard to understand why somebody might come to that conclusion: the 67-minute story (written and directed, as […]

It would hardly be righ to expect a filmmaker to crank out what amounts to five consecutive feature films all right in a row and have absolutely no detectable drop in quality, so the fact that Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s five-part TV anthology, couldn’t keep knocking out one Lovers Rock after another isn’t surprising, and […]

It is tempting, easy, and maybe even accurate to describe Shirley, director Josephine Becker and screenwriter Sarah Gubbins’s adaptation of Susan Scarf Merrell’s 2014 novel, as a biopic of Shirley Jackson. But it is not by any stretch of the imagination an accurate one. To be scrupulously fair, it does not pretend to be; it’s […]

I can barely process the words I’m about to type myself, but here goes nothing: imagine if – and it is a tough thing to imagine if you haven’t seen the evidence – imagine if there was a film about a 1970s British glam rock superstar so fucking bad that it made Bohemian Rhapsody look […]

Capone is an outright disaster, but it’s my favorite kind of outright disaster: ones that come from a mortifying surfeit of ambition and creativity. This is the third feature in the short but tumultuous career of writer-director Josh Trank, of the pleasantly clever and low-key Chronicle in 2012, and very much more visibly the farrago […]