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Stories by Matthew Lickona

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 ...

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 ...

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