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Stories by Matthew Lickona

Sometimes critics mean what they say

Musings and new movies: Manchester by the Sea, The Similars, and more

Duncan Shepherd had it easy. When he slammed a movie, people would accuse him of being elitist or of hating anything that wasn’t foreign (Eastwood and the Coens excepted). Sometimes they would accuse him of ...

San Diego Guide to Holiday Fun

Even if yuletide music burns your cochlea on contact ... something for you

I read somewhere that the reason you’re sad around Christmastime is because it’s a reminder of what you’ve lost since childhood: the belief that the world is a magical place that is interested in your ...

Light is a kind of noise

A tale of Marks in the dark, plus new releases including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Curmudgeonly grouch Scott Marks has, like some kind of critical Sam Jackson, had it with these blankety-blank cell phones in the blankety-blank theater! Read all about it here, and then scooch over to his rapturous ...

The Edge of Seventeen — the kids of today

Hughesian youth

Writer-director-producer Kelly Fremon Craig’s The Edge of Seventeen offers a verbally frank take on the horrors of adolescence — difficult parents, difficult siblings, difficult romantic interests, and even difficult best friends — gentled just enough ...

What should we name Trump: the Sequel?

The latest in presidencies and movies

Well, President-elect Trump scored a sleeper hit with his stunning election-day performance at the ballot box. And what do studios do after scoring a hit? They greenlight a sequel! Let's get the obvious options out ...

Doctor Not Too Terribly Strange

Doctor Strange, Gimme Danger, and more hitting movie theaters

On the wall of my office is a framed, tiny sketch of the Marvel comic book superhero Doctor Strange, drawn by Gene Colan the year before he died. My brother bought it for me at ...

Teresa Palmer on Mel Gibson’s new film

Interview with Hacksaw Ridge costar

Mel Gibson’s latest film tells the story of Desmond Doss, a man compelled by duty to join the Army during World War II and compelled by belief to avoid committing acts of violence. Palmer, who ...

A slow week at the movies is not the same as a weak week

Aquarius and The Free World among new theater releases

This week is a strong one for women here at The Big Screen. The big news is Sonia Braga, who not only plays a strong, intelligent woman in Aquarius, but also plays a strong, intelligent ...

Certain Women, uncertain concept?

Movies opening this week: London Town, A Man Called Ove, and more

Scott decided to dodge this week’s Santa Anas by ducking into the cool confines of his local cineplex and staying there. Our man in the dark took in five features this week, and if it ...

Jennifer Connelly discusses Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut

American Pastoral takes on nothing less than the fragile impermanence of the American Dream

Matthew Lickona: When Dawn is in the depths of her sadness and misery, she tells the Swede that she should have married one of the nice Holy Cross boys she knew when she was young. ...

All abuzz for American Honey

New movies opening this week include Long Way North and The Accountant

American Honey is the second movie from a Brit director about economic hardship in America that has won me over this year — the first being Hell or High Water. Where Hell is tight, polished, ...

The Birth of a Nation has a host of problems

Movies opening this week: The Girl on the Train, My Blind Brother, and more

As I was leaving the screening of The Birth of a Nation with my brother, he turned to me and said, “I’d say that was more like a TV movie than anything else, but that ...

The Birth of a Nation is passionate but careless

Nate Parker's Nat Turner

The Birth of a Nation — director, star, and cowriter Nate Parker’s take on Nat Turner’s failed slave uprising — may be a sadly timely movie. That certainly seems to be the point behind Mrs. ...

Deepwater Horizon, tronc, and other disasters

Movies opening this week: Queen of Katwe, Demon, and more

Last week I mentioned the Reader‘s original and longtime film critic, Duncan Shepherd. I arrived at the paper back in the mid-’90s, and often as not when I told people where I worked they’d reply, ...

I'll never know if Storks delivers

New movies opening this week: The Magnificent Seven, Author: The JT LeRoy Story, and more

Aaaand we're back! Eight, count 'em, eight piping hot reviews of new releases — but alas, Storks is not one of them. Our proprietary Reader review algorithm (affectionately dubbed the the Duncanizer), which calculates the ...

Jeff Feuerzeig on creating a character

Author: The JT LeRoy Story writer-director discusses truth and fiction

Matthew Lickona: When the scandal breaks about author Laura Albert having created the author JT LeRoy, you give us several phone messages from Laura’s answering machine, urging her to get a huge book deal right ...

Hollywood bets there’s gold in them thar woods! (Also, the womb.)

New movies opening this week: Blair Witch, White Girl, Snowden, and more

Apple founder Steve Jobs once said, “People don’t know what they want until you give it to them.” Maybe he’s right. I never dreamed people would want threequels to The Blair Witch Project and Bridget ...

Elizabeth Wood on sexuality in films

White Girl writer/director tells her first story

First-time writer/director Elizabeth Wood’s White Girl sets out to be a Great Gatsby for the 21st Century — and perhaps in the process, to depict the orgastic future that Fitzgerald mentioned at the story’s end. ...

Adam Nimoy on being the son of a famous Vulcan

For the Love of Spock director takes questions

Adam Nimoy is the son of Leonard Nimoy, a man who became so thoroughly associated with the character he played on Star Trek that he wrote a book titled I Am Not Spock, and then ...

The Disappointments Room appears

New movies opening this week: Sully, Little Men, and more

So here’s a spooky horror movie mystery: whatever happened to Before I Wake, a film Wikipedia says is opening today and which features an adorable moppet whose dreams manifest in reality? It seems to have ...

Does Sully sink or swim?

Reader movie critics talk it out

The title of Clint Eastwood’s latest, Sully, works as a two-edged nod to both titular hero and what the National Transportation Safety Board wanted to do to his reputation. There isn’t an American alive who ...

A fact of life: We’re going to die

New movies opening this week: The Light Between Oceans, Morgan, and more

That title reads better — or gets read better, anyway — with Orson Welles’s voice. So here’s a little snippet on mortality from F for Fake that I pretty much adore in this video. Go ...

Lo and behold a movie this weekend!

Movies opening this week: Lo and Behold, Hands of Stone, and more

It’s a quiet week on the new-release front, at least in terms of what we were able to see. I wanted Werner Herzog’s take on the Internet in Lo and Behold to be a little ...

Here comes Hell or High Water

Interview with director David Mackenzie and costar Gil Birmingham

The stars align in the Western sky. Hell or High Water is the sort of film that tempts the critic — well, tempts me, anyway — to start writing the sort of copy that might ...

Knitting the middlebrow

Movies opening this week: Indignation, Suicide Squad, The Innocents, and more

How do I know that I am, at heart, a middlebrow critic? Well, partly because I have yet to join my fellow critic Scott in his celebration of the Jackass franchise. But also because I ...

Getting indignant

Indignation director James Schamus on his new film

In 2013, James Schamus was given, as he puts it, “the privilege and the luxury of being fired from my studio job in late middle age.” (The job was CEO of Focus Features.) “So I ...

Bourne Too Late?

Movies opening this week: Jason Bourne, Bad Moms, Nerve, and more

Reader ur-critic Duncan Shepherd (who has been showing up on the site of late, praise be) was not a huge fan of the original Bourne trilogy. The first was something of a disappointment, I guess, ...

Café Society at Café Angelika

Opening this week: Café Society, Star Trek Beyond, Our Little Sister, and more

To mark the opening of Woody Allen’s autumnal, handsome ode to himself and Old Hollywood, Café Society, the Angelika Film Center in Carmel Mountain is looking to start up a little café society of its ...

Bill Murray, haunted by the ghost[busters] of his past?

Opening this week: Ghostbusters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Neon Bull, and more

Poor Bill Murray. At 1 a.m. on Thursday, just before the Paul Feig-directed, gynocentric reboot of his monster ’80s hit Ghostbusters opened in theaters, Murray stopped by to hang out with a bunch of stoner ...

Two to view: Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Captain Fantastic

Idyll in the bush

This week sees two films that feature adventures on the fringe of civilization, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Captain Fantastic. Wilderpeople — which zigs and zags from silly to somber (retaining perfect emotional frankness throughout) ...

Louis CK as Max the Dog fails to unseat Patton Oswalt as Remy the Rat

Opening this week: The Secret Life of Pets, Zero Days, and more

I think it’s fair to say that the comedian Louis CK is squandered in The Secret Life of Pets, but the frustrating thing is, he’s not squandered right away. The opening holds such promise: a ...

BFG = Boffo Fart Gag?

Opening this week: The BFG, The Legend of Tarzan, Our Kind of Traitor, and more

I never had to tell my daughter to read the book before seeing the movie. All she needed was to see the first film adaptation of her beloved Percy Jackson novels. Now she makes a ...

Competitive tickling

David Farrier on his new movie Tickled

David Farrier is a New Zealand journalist who set out to do a human interest story on the world of competitive endurance tickling videos. But the nasty and virulent resistance he encountered made him think ...

Four stories, one tail

Todd Solondz discusses Wiener Dog

Writer-director Todd Solondz’s Wiener Dog follows the titular animal through four stories with four different owners: a sweetly curious boy (Keaton Nigel Cooke), a compassionate young woman (Greta Gerwig), a frustrated middle-aged man (Danny De ...

Movie monster mania!

Opening this week: Independence Day: Resurgence, The Shallows, Therapy for a Vampire, and more

What a week. Aliens from outer space (again). Ravenous Vampires. Man-eating sharks. Bloodthirsty beauties. Good times. But maybe you're looking for something a little more...human? Something a little bit haunting? A little bit profound? A ...

Independence Day — a resurgence?

More of the same, but more

Twenty years ago, my new wife and I stood in line for what seemed like hours at Horton Plaza to see Independence Day. Why? Because of those fantastic teasers that showed the shadow of a ...

Just keep sequeling, just keep sequeling, just keep sequeling...

Finding Dory, Art Bastard, Central Intelligence, and more opening this week

I was one of the very few critics who had anything nice to say about obvious cash-grab sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass, mostly because I was able to enjoy it as a children’s story ...

Dark Horse, Puerto Ricans in Paris, Warcraft, The Conjuring 2, and more

New movies opening this week

Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson did not like the based-on-a-video-game fantasy pic Warcraft. I know this because of the headline: “Game Turned Movie Warcraft Fails on Every Single Level.” But his review is actually ...

Turtles, DJs, princesses, idols, popstars, and a Weiner

Movies opening this week

A couple of grudging two-stars from me this week, first to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows for its tonal achievements — it's a lot like the old Saturday morning cartoon, with just ...

Debating Love & Friendship

Dueling reviews discussed

I think I was maybe 12 when I first saw Citizen Kane. Here’s what I knew going in: Orson Welles had been the voice of the Shadow in my brother’s beloved collection of old radio ...

Francofonia, Hockney, The Lobster, X-Men: Apocalypse

All opening this week

Francofonia Credits normally withheld for a closing crawl open Aleksandr Sokurov’s (Russian Ark) latest self important hymn to the importance of art museums. Listen as the disembodied voice of the documentarian expresses disappointment over his ...

Love & Friendship brings out anything but

Whit Stillman’s stillborn wit?

One film, two critics and a world of disagreement. Lickona hung on every turn of the page in Whit Stillman’s variation on Jane Austen, Love & Friendship, while Marks wanted to tear out a row ...

Nice try, Mr. Black

This week’s openings: The Nice Guys, Dragon Inn, and more

Well, drat. A tough week at the movies: I managed to miss the screening for Love & Friendship, so my membership in the Whit Stillman enthusiast society has been temporarily suspended. But I hope to ...

What happens when bodies clash

An interview with A Bigger Splash director Luca Guadagnino

A Bigger Splash tells the story of Paul and Marianne — he’s a filmmaker recovering from a suicide attempt, she’s a rock star recovering from damaged vocal chords — and their quasi-reluctant hosting of old ...

It’s a long way down, and no, there is not always room at the top

High-Rise leads a slow week at the movies

At its worst, an aggregator like RottenTomatoes.com can be horribly reductive, mashing delicately constructed critical confections into a sort of uniform sludge for easy consumption. Sort of like Patton Oswalt’s account of KFC’s bowls. (Language ...

Ballard’s building breakdown

Crucible for change

High-Rise, adapted from the novel by J.G. Ballard, begins as its story ends — with the handsome, introspective lead character (Tom Hiddleston) picking through the rubble of a broken building, finding a dog, bringing it ...

What does it profit a man if he should gain a million clicks but lose his soul?

This week’s openings: Captain America, Tale of Tales, and more!

The good readers at RottenTomatoes.com are once again accusing me of whoring for clicks by giving only one star to a highly anticipated blockbuster. It’s happened a number of times before, most notably with Star ...

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 ...

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