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Stories by Matthew Lickona

Home Movies: The Big Heat

Though I review movies for a living, I try not to recommend movies to other people too often, even movies I like. Maybe especially movies I like. Because when someone urges something on me — ...

Interview with The Drop director Michaël Roskam

Trashcan puppies

I spoke with Mr. Roskam shortly after his latest film had screened at the Toronto Film Festival. He reported that the screening had gone very well: people applauded not only at the end of the ...

Crime and circumstance

Life is hard.

The Fourth of July fireworks display that caps off the poor-kids-in-the-heartland documentary Rich Hill can be viewed in a couple of ways. You can see the young’uns staring open-mouthed at the pretty explosions while chants ...

Robin Williams, RIP

Most everyone has had their say already about the death of Robin Williams. I don’t have anything to add about the man, except to say that he helped to shape, as much as Jack Benny ...

Interview with Calvary writer-director John Michael McDonagh

Matthew Lickona: The man calls Father James a good priest. What makes him a good priest, to you? John Michael McDonagh: I think he’s completely sincere. He makes suggestions, let’s say, that are based on ...

Broken adults

Music mines memory

“I’ve forgotten so much,” says the 90-year-old woman who opens the documentary Alive Inside. “I’m very sorry. I’ve forgotten what I did after I became a young lady. If I could tell you, I would.” ...

Interview with I Origins director Mike Cahill and star Michael Pitt

I Origins, which opens this week, is another piece of smart sci-fi from Another Earth director Mike Cahill. It stars Michael Pitt — an actor possessed of considerable if quiet magnetism — as a scientist ...

Layers upon layers

In 1977, film director Roman Polanski pled guilty to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor — a 13-year-old girl. He then fled the country to avoid sentencing. Need every review of a Polanski ...

Variations on a theme

I love craft cocktails for the same reason I love variations on a theme in a sonata: the pleasure of the familiar combined with unexpected invention. Alchemy Alchemy is where I learned to get behind ...

Interview with Life Itself director Steve James and Roger Ebert widow Chaz Ebert

Roger Ebert was a pioneer. Famously the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, he also pioneered film criticism as televised entertainment with Sneak Previews and At the Movies, both of which he hosted ...

Catch that pitch: Final Girl

When my hair gets long and the light is dim, I look just a little bit like an overweight, poor-man’s Malcolm Gladwell. And I am that poor man, at least compared to Mr. Gladwell himself. ...

Sinless City

Woodstock goes electric.

As an ad for the Electric Daisy Carnival — an annual electronic dance music festival — Under the Electric Sky is pretty good. The gigantic animatronic owl whose nest serves as the event’s main stage ...

The Fault in Our Stars

[This piece contains spoilers about the film. Not the ending or anything, but still. Read at your own risk.] So I joined the review aggregator that is Rotten Tomatoes. (Thanks, Rotten Tomatoes!) I don’t love ...

This again?

Dying is such a brutal grind

Edge of Tomorrow sports a fine premise for these entertaining times: what if you woke up inside a video game? Specifically, what if you had to go through the brutal grind of dying over and ...

Q&A with Fed Up director Stephanie Soechtig at Landmark La Jolla Village

Hey, did you see Fed Up? Alas, neither did we — not yet, anyway. But Saturday brings a chance to change all that, plus chat with the film’s director! Stephanie Soechtig will be on hand ...

How Your Capsule-Review Sausage Gets Made: Godzilla

I usually leave the sparring to my partner Scott Marks — he’s got more spleen, and better references, besides. But it’s a slow news week, and I’m feeling spunky. Godzilla came out last Friday, and ...

End this trend: Ye Olde Wall Collage

Remember 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows? Probably not; it wasn’t that good, and it mostly served as a reminder that Robert Downey Jr.’s wisecracking, arrogant, masterful Sherlock Holmes was not all that different ...

Third annual Julian Wild & Scenic Film Festival to be held this weekend

“It is in the wild places — in the damp, clean air of an ancient forest; on a heavy ocean in unpredictable winds; on a snowy summit at the top of the world — that ...

Moral popcorn

“Based on a true story” is an overused and much-abused claim, now used to gussy up everything from supernatural thrillers to backstage comedies. Belle at least has the added distinction of being based on a ...

Interview with Water & Power writer-director Richard Montoya

Richard Montoya was born in San Diego, the son of Korean War veteran Jose Montoya, a poet, and one of the founders of the Royal Chicano Art Front (later named the Royal Chicano Air Force). ...

Interview with Fading Gigolo writer-director-star John Turturro

Fading Gigolo tells the story of Fioravante (John Turturro), a self-assured florist who gets recruited by his older friend Murray (Woody Allen) to work as, of all things, a gigolo. Fioravante isn’t overly thrilled with ...

Interview with Dom Hemingway writer-director Richard Shepherd

Okay, my bad. Dom Hemingway came out last Friday, and I’m just getting to this now. Inexcusable. Still, I believe Dom would understand — he knows about time slipping away. And anyway, it’s still in ...

Don’t be a Dragula

Hipster vampires.

Only Lovers Left Alive is less a movie than an extended, deadpan, highly stylized rant from director Jim Jarmusch. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a vampire. Adam listens to vinyl, collects vintage electric guitars, and makes ...

Jude Law luxuriates in role of Dom Hemingway

The lyrical gangster.

Dom Hemingway opens with an extended (snicker) shot of a bare-chested and beefy Jude Law delivering an equally extended (snicker) panegyric on his penis. An encomium for his erection. A tribute to his tallywacker. On ...

Interview with Cuban Fury star Nick Frost

Nick Frost — perhaps best known as the Oliver Hardy to Simon Pegg’s Stan Laurel in the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) — salsas into the spotlight in the ...

Interview with Divergent stars Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Christian Madsen

In Divergent (opening this week), Shailene Woodley plays Tris, a young woman living in a post-war dystopian city that has been divided into five factions: Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, Amity, and Candor. At 16, all children ...

Whiskey notebook: 2 Gingers rolls into San Diego

Just in time for St. Pat's

It's an odd thing to hear an it-is-ya-know Irish accent filtered through Minnesota real-good-then. Almost as odd, perhaps, as encountering an Irish whiskey named after a couple of redheaded women, dreamed up in a Minneapolis ...

Try this one weird trick to enjoy The Grand Budapest Hotel

I liked The Grand Budapest Hotel better than my co-critic Mr. Marks. Even so, it takes only the merest whit of imagination and effort to set the film’s alpine chase sequence to the melodic strains ...

Life imitates art, cheesecake edition

On the left, a promo photo from 2012’s Spring Breakers. On the right, the cover of the 2014 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Good artists borrow; great artists get the girls to go topless.

Presentation is all

It’s possible to accuse Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel of verging into self-parody. But I think Anderson is too self-conscious for that. And if you squint just so, you may be able to see ...

Try this one weird trick to enjoy 300: Rise of an Empire

Concentrate only on the fantastic, menacing set design. Or, you know, Eva Green's bosom.

Interview with As the Palaces Burn director Don Argott

Documentary delves into the trial of Lamb of God lead singer Randy Blythe.

Don Argott's documentary As the Palaces Burn tells two interconnected stories, but it started out to tell just one. The idea was to travel with the metal band Lamb of God on the world tour ...

Walking the Camino, an intermission

Near the end of Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago — Lydia Smith’s finely observed documentary about travelers along Spain’s 500-mile pilgrim trail, the Camino de Santiago — one of the pilgrims makes a ...

"It depends on the copyright of the movie."

So The Spectacular Now is on YouTube. You can rent it for $4.99! Or you can watch it for free right here, in full Blu-ray resolution, because the Internet. Below, you can have a look ...

Guardian angel

Just in time for your post-Valentine’s low, In Secret serves up a murky bowl of curdled desire, soured by a generous dollop of good old-fashioned guilt. No, wait — come back! It’s good, honest! It’s ...

Cinematic arithmetic: Transcendence

Dying human put into machine, with attendant complications? Robocop. Intelligent consciousness in a machine, with attendant complications? Her. Dying human's intelligent consciousness put into a machine, with attendant complications? Transcendence. Here's a trailer.

Is RoboCop's Omnicorp really Apple?

Short answer: no, of course not. Apple doesn't manufacture weapons systems. But we have to think about SEO, you know? Because of Google. Which Omnicorp isn't, either. Longer answer: Hilariously, sort of, maybe! Or at ...

Aching loins, lonely heart

Brian got married “around age 28. We had Anthony about two years afterwards and had Adriana in ’94.” Though he didn’t relish the thought of being “50 years old and worrying about [my daughter’s] virginity,” ...

All About Shailene

Watch your back, J-Law.

Y'all have seen All About Eve, right? [Um, if you haven't, spoilers ahead.] It's a classic backstage story of a fame-hungry woman who decides that her best bet is to learn how to act. But ...

Philip Seymour Hoffman: one more loss

Of course, the real tragedy is the addiction and death. But there is also this: Hoffman could have been truly amazing in that great will-o-the-wisp of films, the adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy ...

Dear Doritos: You're welcome!

Is it possible no one's done this yet?

So over at Vanity Fair, there's a story about how Jennifer Lawrence's fondness for Doritos on the set of American Hustle resulted in some...wardrobe difficulties. Particularly when it came to this big lady-kiss scene in ...

Behold Oscar's shorts

Little ones

Another Oscar season, another opportunity to wonder aloud why it is that, in this age of supposedly dwindling attention spans, there has not been an explosion of interest in the short-film form. Tired of formulaic ...

Interview with Gimme Shelter writer-director Ron Krauss and Several Sources Shelter founder Kathy DiFiore

In 2009, filmmaker Ron Krauss (Puppies for Sale, Alien Hunter) paid a visit to his brother in New Jersey. While there, he learned about a shelter for young mothers, just a mile away. He decided ...

Dept. of Digital Correction

Everybody is oohing and aahing over this bit from Fight Club where Tyler Durden has been digitally edited out. Well and good. But when are they going to edit the rabbit into Harvey?

Robert Downey Jr.: A consideration

Deeper and deeper we go into the cinematic void that is January. The stygian emptiness is so encompassing by now that we must ask ourselves pointless, unanswerable questions just to keep going. So: will 2014 ...

Interview with The Legend of Hercules star Kellan Lutz

Because every demigod needs an origin story.

The Legend of Hercules is the first of this year's two Hercules films. The second, due in July, will star Dwayne Johnson, a suitably gigantic actor for the part of the original strongman. But Kellan ...

The digital divide of Her

Better than reality

At first glance, you might be tempted to think that Spike Jonze’s latest film is titled Her because it’s about her: Samantha, the sentient operating system (fetchingly voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who is purchased, befriended, ...

Film idea: Press junket with three fallen titans

So, over at Mr. Marks' Wolf of Wall Street review, the conversation has turned, as it does, to "Whatever happened to Robert De Niro?" For the longest time, my answer to that question has been, ...

Strong female characters

There has been some hubbub about director Peter Jackson's decision to inject "feminine energy" into his Hobbit adaptation through the inclusion of Tauriel, a lady elf. I thought it a lame decision in a movie ...

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