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Stories by Matthew Lickona

BASE pleasures

Interview with Sunshine Superman writer-director Marah Strauch

If everybody else jumped off a cliff, you might not follow suit. But Carl Boenish, the subject of the documentary Sunshine Superman, would still have wanted to share the feeling of it with you, most ...

Interview with Good Kill star Bruce Greenwood

Besides his recent role as a wealthy developer on TV’s Mad Men, Bruce Greenwood may be most familiar as the fatherly Captain Pike in J.J. Abrams’ s Star Trek reboots. In Good Kill, he plays ...

Niccol on drones

Extra missiles, please

The battlefield in Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill is within the soul of Major Thomas Egan (a drawn and dead-eyed Ethan Hawke), a former fighter pilot who now spends his days in a metal box on ...

East County pork excursion

Carnitas Uruapan “One ($2.50) crispy carnitas taco, please.” “Crispy taco, or crispy carnitas?” Because when you’re this good with pig meat, it could go either way. I chose the taco, because nowhere else have I ...

A reason to make Far from the Madding Crowd

Interview with director Thomas Vinterberg

Matthew Lickona: There are those who say that when a film is set in the past, it’s in order to comment on the present. Was there a particular reason to make this film now? Thomas ...

Ex Machina belongs in the success column of AI movies

Interview with writer-director Alex Garland

Artificial intelligence — the notion of a sentient machine — has had a bit of a run at the movies of late, with some entries (Her) more successful than others (Chappie). I’m putting Ex Machina ...

Franco's falsehoods

Interview with True Story director Rupert Goold

True Story is a film based on a true story about stories that aren’t entirely true. Namely, the one told by disgraced journalist Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill) — fired by the New York Times after ...

Speakeasies, night clubs, and a solid but slightly self-conscious neighborhood joint

The Rabbit Hole What happens when the hipsters go underground. Ha-ha. It’s really more of a solid but slightly self-conscious neighborhood joint. Normal Heights, everybody! Worth a visit for the trippy lapine art alone: murals, ...

It's just death

Screenwriter Ol Parker discusses The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The 2012 film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel pulled in $137 million worldwide on a $10 million budget, numbers that seem especially impressive when you consider that the film was about, in the words of ...

Interview with She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry subject Alice Wolfson

The historical documentary She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry stitches together — to borrow an image from one of its subjects — a magic quilt of the various groups, motivated by various concerns, that more or ...

Oscars 2015: Who’s gonna win?

Losing the ability to live-blog his angst during last year’s Academy Awards ceremony made it hell on this reporter. Forced to sit and watch the damn thing in real time — the horror. Matthew Lickona ...

A couple’s bond

If this is Valentine’s Day weekend, The Duke of Burgundy must be a deeply felt lesbian BDSM romance. Don’t arrive looking for titillation; there’s little in the way of sex and/or nudity. But writer-director Peter ...

I think Garrison Keillor is a genius

You could learn a lot from a small-town guy.

Well, a secret genius, anyway. That might seem a funny sort of title for someone who’s written for The New Yorker, penned the screenplay for a Robert Altman film, published a slew of novels and ...

Interview with National Gallery director (and master documentarian) Frederick Wiseman

Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries have titles such as High School, Hospital, Juvenile Court, Meat, Model, Racetrack, Deaf, Missile, Zoo, Domestic Violence, and Boxing Gym. That last, from 2010, was my first exposure, and I was immediately ...

Interview with American Sniper actor (and San Diegan!) Ben Reed

Matthew Lickona: In the film, you play Wayne Kyle, father to the deadliest sniper in American history. Ben Reed: It was a great opportunity for me because it kind of sets the tone for who ...

Interview with The Babadook writer-director Jennifer Kent

Matthew Lickona: How did you pitch this? Jennifer Kent: It’s funny, because all the things that people are liking about it are the things that the financiers said wouldn’t work. But I think it’s about ...

Talking soundtracks with Wild director Jean-Marc Vallée

Matthew Lickona: Tell me about putting the soundtrack together. I thought it was a very interesting approach, having snatches of songs come in here and there, sometimes having them sung by the characters. Jean-Marc Vallée: ...

Walk it off

More from than toward.

Wild tells the story of a woman named Cheryl Strayed (an unadorned Reese Witherspoon) and her attempt to, in her words, “walk myself back to the way I was.” How was she? “I was strong,” ...

War is hell

Paris is exploding?

Diplomacy employs a brave dramatic premise: as the Allies approach Nazi-occupied Paris, the German military governor of the city prepares to follow his orders and blow up the City of Lights. Notre Dame, the Louvre, ...

From Las Posadas in Old Town to ziplining in Wrightwood

Pauseworthy gift paper Fashion Valley, Westfield UTC, Del Mar Highlands Town Center The wrapping paper is your gift’s equivalent of a first impression, its chance to dress up for the party. It doesn’t need to ...

Horrible Bosses 2: Cheerfully dirty

Adventures in autonomy

Often, the minds behind superhero movie franchises decide to start things off with an origin story. And often, that origin story, however mythologically compelling, is not as dramatic or interesting as what follows. Think: Batman ...

Foxcatcher does fruitful work in the land of sport

For much of its running time, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher was among my favorite films this year. Like Miller’s last movie, Moneyball, it does fruitful work in the field of sport, where lofty notions of excellence ...

Interview with Awake: The Life of Yogananda co-directors Paola DiFlorio and Lisa Leeman

Awake: The Life of Yogananda tells the story of the Indian Swami who introduced mainstream America to yoga and meditation in the 1920s. Paramahansa Yogananda is probably best known as the author of The Autobiography ...

SDAFF 2014: A few pics

The Pacific Arts Movements’ 15th Annual San Diego Film Festival kicks into full gear this week with ten days (November 6–15) of seemingly nonstop movies. Artistic director Brian Hu and his team have once again ...

Interview with Citizenfour director Laura Poitras

Citizenfour is a real-life international espionage thriller centered around the eight days that filmmaker Laura Poitras, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spent in a Hong Kong hotel room while ...

The thing with feathers

The artist and the self

Michael Keaton used to be a box-office superstar, in part because he played Batman in two films. Now he’s starring in much artier fare: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s darkly comic backstage drama Birdman or (The Unexpected ...

Interview with The Good Lie stars Arnold Oceng and Kuoth Wiel and screenwriter Margaret Nagle

Good gracious, did I like The Good Lie better than I thought I would after seeing the trailer. My suspicion was that Reese Witherspoon would get her life changed in heartwarming, gently comical fashion by ...

Rough brotherhood

God and guns.

Fury’s title refers to an American tank that started out WWII fighting Germans in Africa and is now pushing toward Berlin as the enemy makes its last stand. Its crew — evangelical Shia LaBoeuf, brutish ...

Grecian Daddy Drama

The Two Faces of January could have been urid and awful and fun.

It’s not a subtle move to open your story with a tour guide (Oscar Isaac) leading a group around some sun-drenched ruins and telling site-specific stories from the Greek myths. (In this case, the story ...

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 ...

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