Comedy

[7.0] Writer/director Alice Wu tells us in the beginning of The Half of It that none of the characters will get what they want, and she’s not lying. But that won’t stop you from rooting for all three characters in this love triangle. Leah Lewis plays Ellie, a Chinese-American who writes love letters for a jock named Paul (Daniel Diemer) to help him woo Aster …

[5.5] Maggie Smith headlines this true story adapted from a stage play by Alan Bennett, about a homeless woman who parks her van in a single, gay man’s driveway and stays for fifteen years. Smith reliably carries the film, but The Lady in the Van misses a lot of opportunities to deepen its characters. A mystery is set up around Smith’s character, but instead of …

[7.0] Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) directs this family drama/comedy about a widower, played by Matt Damon, who buys a rural home that comes with a rundown zoo. Damon and his two young children help the ragtag team of zoo keepers, led by Scarlett Johansson, to bring the zoo up to code so that it can re-open to the public — and along the …

[6.5] Visionary director Julie Taymor (Titus, Across the Universe) brings Shakespeare’s The Tempest to the big screen, with the lead role of Prospero played not by a man, as per tradition, but by Helen Mirren. Mirren’s Prospera is raising her daughter (Felicity Jones) on a barren, mystical island where she can practice the magic that got her banished from society. The film opens with Prospera …

[5.0] If I were a kid in the 1950s, I probably would have loved Fearless Fagan, the story of a circus performer (lanky Carleton Carpenter) drafted into the army with nowhere to leave his pet lion, Fagan. He sneaks Fagan onto army training grounds and manages to keep him a secret until Janet Leigh shows up as a song and dance girl who accidentally stumbles …

[6.0] Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, and John Howard star in this second, decidedly more comic installment of what would become Universal’s Invisible Man franchise. Howard plays a rich playboy looking to settle down with the right woman, while Barrymore plays the inventor who lives next door, benefiting from Howard’s financial generosity. When he’s ready for a test subject in his invisibility experiment, Barrymore puts an …

[6.0] There’s a certain kind of movie that is really hard to review. This is one of those movies. It’s a studio movie, formulaic in structure and unremarkable in substance, but entertaining in laughs and thrills and a great vehicle for a charismatic cast. Marvel has hooked onto this. I think Sony/Columbia has as well with their new rebooted Jumanji franchise. So there’s a video …

[7.0] Katharine Hepburn stars as a poor young woman trying to enter snobbish social circles to find a husband in this first major film directed by George Stevens (Woman of the Year, Gunga Din). Hepburn’s character eventually lands a doting beau (Fred MacMurray). Her problem then becomes how to disguise the fact that she comes from modest means. I like Alice Adams because it features …

[6.5] A big-budget studio action-comedy is one of the least likely candidates to catch my attention these days, but a few people insisted Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a cut above the rest. And while the bar is low, they were right. The movie centers around four teenagers sentenced to clean out a school basement during detention. While there, they find a video game …

[6.5] Cillian Murphy stars a young trans-woman who leaves Ireland in the 1970s to find her birth mother in London. Along the way, she has flings with a singer (Gavin Friday) and a comic magician (Stephen Rea), rough encounters with the IRA and London police, and an unexpected reconciliation with her birth father. Breakfast on Pluto reunites director Neil Jordan with material involving sexuality and …

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