KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Chris Klimek

First Cow, writer-director Kelly Reichardt's seventh feature and her fifth collaboration with novelist/screenwriter John Raymond, is as rich and melancholy an expression of the themes that have defined her career as one could ask. It's another unhurried, keenly drawn excerpt of subsistence living in the Pacific Northwest, with the savage mandate of survival butting up against the "civilized" — the quotation marks are Reichardt's — forces of capitalism.

World War I was a low-tech / high-tech conflict, "advancing" over four grinding years from horse-drawn carts and bayonets to slaughter via airplane, tank, machine gun, and poison gas. Sam Mendes's 1917 is a low-tech / high-tech movie, a harrowing quest by two British soldiers across nine miles of contested France to deliver a lifesaving message. The urgency of its plot is brilliantly matched to a formal gimmick: 1917 is comprised of a small number of long takes seamlessly woven together to look like one.

This year, Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" turns 25. Her single-item wish list seems to have been the punctuation mark on half a century in which a new, original and secular holiday song became ubiquitous every few years.

There's no post-credits scene at the end of director Clint Eastwood's Richard Jewell, a good-acting, bad-faith dramatization of the plight of a wrongfully accused security guard at the 1996 Olympic Games.

A Middling 'Midway'

Nov 7, 2019

The 1942 victory the U.S. Navy won against a numerically superior Japanese force at Midway Atoll was fresher in memory to the audiences that made the Technicolor-Sensurround sensation Midway a hit in the bicentennial summer of 1976 than that hokey movie is to us now. The three-day battle by air and by sea was such a tide-turning triumph for the United States that it's surprising there have only been three movies named for it in 75 years.

James Cameron wrote and directed The Terminator for love. He made Terminator 2: Judgment Day for money. On his prior film, the Close-Encounters-of-the-Wet-Kind adventure The Abyss, the polymath who'd broken into the biz working for no-budget auteur Roger Corman had gone way over budget in his quest to push the envelope, as would become his habit. The Abyss was (and remains) the sole title on his directing resume that failed to turn a fat profit. After it sank, the presumptive King of the World needed a hit.

Newly-minted septuagenarian Bruce Springsteen has been firmly in legacy mode ever since he took that long knee-slide across the stage at the Super Bowl XLIII halftime show a decade ago.

Had you told me even a month ago that Academy Award-nominee Jesse Eisenberg, Academy Award-nominee Abigail Breslin, three-time Academy Award-nominee Woody Harrelson, and three-time Academy Award-nominee / one-time Academy Award-winner Emma Stone were reuniting for the long-unawaited, highly unanticipated sequel to Zombieland — the 42nd highest grossing picture of 2009 and to be fair, a perfectly agreeable expenditure of 88 minutes — I would've assumed someone in the Culver City offices of Sony Pictures was embezzling.

Note: This film is now in limited theatrical release before debuting on Netflix on Friday, October 25th.

Eddie Murphy, who had name-above-title billing in a hit movie at 21, was one of the biggest stars in the world at 25, and whose imminent "comeback" has been a three-decade topic that a steady role in the animated Shrek franchise and an Oscar nomination (for Dreamgirls) couldn't silence, is an odd choice to play Rudy Ray Moore.

'Ad Astra' Soars

Sep 19, 2019

With its austere surfaces and jaundiced view of humanity's interplanetary destiny, James Gray's stirring sci-fi epic Ad Astra can't help but evoke Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the paterfamilias of all "serious" space movies. But in fact it's a closer cousin to another long-delayed, wildly over-budget spectacle that initially fared better with ticket-buyers than critics, only to be revealed in time as a masterpiece: Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

"Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?"

While we were all arguing whether Idris Elba should be the new 007, he opted to become the next T-800 instead.

Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino's florid, sun-bleached, la-la land fantasia, would be a groovy trip of a movie in any era. But only now, with virtually the entire industry consumed by Disney's circle-of-life pop-cultural recycling algorithm — a vast, unsympathetic intelligence more larcenous and self-referential than 1,000 Tarantinos working in round-the-clock shifts — does it look like an essential one.

In Michael Mann's surprisingly funny 2004 thriller Collateral, assassin Tom Cruise takes meek taxi driver Jamie Foxx hostage, forcing him to spend a terrifying night ferrying the hitman around Los Angeles as they're pursued by lawmen who think the cabbie is the killer.

In Michael Dowse's surprisingly bloody new comedy Stuber, burned-out narc Dave Bautista takes meek Uber driver Kumail Nanjiani hostage, forcing him to spend a terrifying night ferrying the cop around Los Angeles as they're pursued by drug dealers who think the driver is the detective.

For as good as it is, there's just no way to receive Spider-Man: Far From Home as anything more than a vestigial tale, as it were, on the Marvel saga. It's an earnest, well-performed, lovably shaggy radioactive specimen that can't help feeling doubly premature for arriving only half a year after the rapturous Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and a whopping two months behind Avengers: Endgame, the MCU's monumental punctuation mark.

To clear up any potential confusion, let's specify right here that the new action comedy Shaft is a sequel to, not a remake of, John Singleton's 2000 film Shaft. Which was a sequel to, not a remake of, Gordon Parks' 1971 "blaxploitation" landmark Shaft, adapted from Ernest Tidyman's novel but made immortal by Isaac Hayes' Oscar-winning title song.

Godzilla, that tall, irradiated, irritable frenemy of humankind, has starred in more films over the last 60 years than James Bond. The latest, subtitled King of the Monsters, is a sequel to 2014's punctuation-free reboot Godzilla, a city-block-buster that conjured tension and a gathering sense of dread—enough, at least, to give its dynamic correction of San Francisco real estate prices some emotional heft. It was thoughtful and somber about its high, mostly offscreen body count in ways films of this sort frequently are not.

The John Wick movies are what you might call coffee-table action films, the kind where a lot of dudes (and ladies, and gender-nonconforming individuals) get thrown through expensive-looking coffee tables.

John Wick was a genuine surprise four-and-a-half years ago, a revenge flick with just enough intrigue around the margins of stuntmen-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch's proprietary "gun fu" melees to make you lean in. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad understood that exposition is a killer as lethal as any character he'd dreamt up.

'Hellboy': Hell, No

Apr 11, 2019

Hellboy, despite its colon-free title, is actually the fifth movie starring the good-guy demon hero (if you count the two animated films that featured the same cast as the live-action films made by monsteur auteur Guillermo del Toro in 2004 and 2008) and it's even more exhausting than this sentence.