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Stories by Matthew Lickona

George Michael in the movies

The Green Room, Keanu, and more this week

Allow me a moment to speak in defense of a man who needs no defending — or rather, whose music needs no defending. Keanu marks the second movie this year that has employed George Michael’s ...

A special Invitation to this week’s film openings

Because, well, The Invitation. Also some others.

Next time I see Mr. Marks, I’m gonna check his medication. How else to explain his recent run of rapturous ratings? Remember and Cemetery of Splendor pulled back-to-back five stars, and now, after a brief ...

Birth of the cruel

Both Miles Ahead and Born to Be Blue find their subjects in the midst of career lows

The Miles Davis moment continues. The jazz (sorry, social music) trumpet legend and subject of director, star, and co-writer Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead already showed up for a sort of preview appearance in last week’s ...

So many movie openings

Cemetery of Splendour, Everybody Wants Some!!, and more

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned much in the yawping about the huge week two dropoff (69%!) for Batman v Superman: Yawn of Justice: there was practically nothing else to see last week — at ...

Movies opening this week

Remember, Marguerite, I Saw the Light, and more

You know what was almost as exhausting as watching (and then having to think about) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? Reading all the Fans v Critics: Dust of Cheetos thinkpieces and rage-comments in the ...

Allegiant's Nadia Hilker and Bill Skarsgård take questions

You don't really get to know their characters in this one

Nadia Hilker and Bill Skarsgård join the YA dystopia franchise for its third installment, playing two residents of the cheerfully named Bureau of Genetic Welfare who find themselves watching over fugitive lovers Four (Theo James) ...

Tobias Lindholm talks about A War

A window for civilians to see inside

Matthew Lickona: You told Awards Daily, “I spoke to so many Taliban warriors, soldiers, prosecutors, and lawyers, as well as wives and children to try to get the logic of the story.” Were there particular ...

Craig Gillespie and James Whitaker sit down

A chat with the director and producer of The Finest Hours

The Finest Hours’ director Craig Gillespie and one of its producers, James Whitaker, were in town recently for the Coronado Island Film Festival and were kind enough to sit down for a chat about their ...

Kaufman’s Cincinnati Crisis

Grace is never cheap

Writer and co-director Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion animated film Anomalisa is a very fine portrait of the despair at the heart of a comfortable middle-aged white man in America circa right about now. British-born Michael Stone ...

Rachel Weisz is humbled and thrilled to be in Youth

What is really worth telling: horror or desire?

In Youth, Rachel Weisz plays Lena, the long-suffering daughter of famous composer Fred Ballinger. She had a rough time of it as a kid, what with Dad always paying attention to the Muse and all, ...

A vibrant visit from one of Pixar’s pencil-pushing pros

The Good Dinosaur is now roaming at a theater near you

To build interest in their latest feature, The Good Dinosaur (opening today), Pixar sent some of the artists involved in its production out into the world to talk about their work. Last month, story artist ...

Katniss’s concentric circles of concern

Interview with Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson

Matthew Lickona: If you had to say, “If The Mockingjay Part 1 was x, then Part 2 is y,” how would you describe that difference? Nina Jacobson: I would say that Part 1 is a ...

The bars of El Cajon Boulevard: 70th to Baltimore

Out here at the edge of East

“No matter where you are on the Boulevard, no matter what part of town, you’re always on the Boulevard,” says Chino. The Boulevard, of course, is El Cajon, and Chino, whose long dark beard sways ...

Shining Spotlight

An old-fashioned notion that some things simply need reporting

Spotlight, which takes its name from a team of investigative journalists at The Boston Globe, is a touching ode to the old-fashioned notion that some things simply need reporting; never mind the effort, the expense, ...

Spielberg, Hanks, America!

In full gee-whiz mode

Yahoos and schemers are just the price we pay for living in the Land of the Free.

Director Ariel Kleiman on Partisan

How he managed to make the whole “child assassin” scenario feel ordinary

Partisan tells the story of an urban commune, led by the charismatic Gregori (Vincent Cassel), and supported by its children, who are trained to carry out assassinations in the outside world. (Kleiman, who co-wrote the ...

The Lot brings luxury cinema to La Jolla Village

“It’s 100 percent about social interaction.”

“Today, you can watch a movie in a ton of different places,” acknowledges Adolfo Fastlicht, owner of the LOT, a new premium entertainment and dining venue on La Jolla’s Fay Avenue. “Many people don’t mind ...

Beyond the maze

Run! Run again!

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials — part two of Wes Ball’s adaptation of the hit YA trilogy — runs and runs and ultimately stumbles on its way to part three. But first, there’s lots ...

Gaga for Gerwig

Meet Mistress America’s grande dame

Greta Gerwig is the winning costar (with Lola Kirke) and cowriter (with director Noah Baumbach) of Mistress America, the story of two women at opposite ends of the NYC gauntlet. Young Tracy (Kirke) has just ...

Alpinist Conrad Anker talks Meru

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s solid sports documentary Meru takes its name from India’s Mount Meru, which features a fin-shaped granite peak that has thwarted many of the world’s best climbers. It also thwarted ...

Talking Krampus with David Koechner

Actor and stand-up funnyman David Koechner was in town last weekend and took a moment to chat with me about his upcoming film work and some other stuff. Always a pleasure. Matthew Lickona: Last time ...

Talking to Jason Segel about The End of the Tour

Longer intro: In which a curly-haired journalist (me) interviews a famous person (writer/director/actor Jason Segel) about, among other things, the experience of being famous during the famous person’s publicity tour for his movie (The End ...

Interview with Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman

The excellent documentary Cartel Land gives an embedded view of two vigilante group leaders, one on each side of the US-Mexico border: Tim “Nailer” Foley of Arizona Border Recon, and Dr. Jose “El Doctor” Mireles ...

Director Alan Rickman talks up the virtues of A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos tells the story of Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet), who convinces Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to let her design one element of King Louis XIV’s garden at Versailles, despite her devotion ...

Interview with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl tells the story of high school film geek Greg and his friend Earl, who spend their free time crafting homemade spoof/homages of classic films. But the two run ...

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 ...

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