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Stories by Matthew Lickona

Interview with A.C.O.D. star Adam Scott

The man is everywhere these days.

Matthew Lickona: What did the script do right that attracted you to this project? Adam Scott: I thought it was really funny. I thought it was kind of a new, untapped genre — the divorce ...

Captain Phillips: Unacceptable exceptionalism

We've all got bosses.

If you can get past the bombastic score and the wavering, seasick camera and what is perhaps the hackiest, laziest opening-scene conversation of the year, you might find something remarkable in Captain Phillips: a quietly ...

The brutal spectacle of You Will Be My Son

A family thing

You can’t choose your family,” goes the old saying. You Will Be My Son tells the story of what may happen when you try. It’s not a surprising story, but it is a satisfying one. ...

Mutual wounds

Destin Cretton’s award-winning Sundance short film, Short Term 12, gets a feature-length expansion.

Soul death

Interview with Afternoon Delight writer-director Jill Soloway

Matthew Lickona: How did you pitch this film? Jill Soloway: A mom rescues a stripper and realizes that she’s the one who needs rescuing. ML: So Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is the mom in that sentence, ...

Modern English Society

Ah, raised stakes. Is there any movie you can’t weaken, even as you seek to ratchet up the significance and tension of the crisis at hand? My top-of-the-head answer for favorite film of Summer 2013 ...

Pacific Rim's sense of fun

Godzilla vs. Mechas

Hey, did you hear the one about how the foreign market now accounts for 75 percent of the take on big studio releases? How ’bout the one where China, Japan, and the U.K. are the ...

The Long Ranger

Silver — hey-o!

The list of things that are terrible about The Lone Ranger is long. Reading a complete version might take longer than the film itself (a murderous 2 hours and 20 minutes). It might also be ...

Before Midnight: For starters, you’re crazy

Modern Greek drama

As Before Midnight draws near to its titular hour, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) gets a mid-argument chance to make a list of his beloved Celine’s (July Delpy) flaws. “Well, for starters, you’re fucking crazy,” he begins ...

Dammit, Jim

Boldly going nostalgic

Star Trek into Darkness is a showcase for director J.J. Abrams at his most J.J. Abrams-y. Do you identify Abrams by his fondness for lens flares? You will not be disappointed. Lens Flare spends enough ...

The "great" character

Gatsby née Gatz

Anyone who’s seen the screamy, thudding trailers for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby knows that it is not a paint-by-numbers cinematic re-presentation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s elegant, economic novel. The numbers are there, of course: ...

Lumbering Man

More metal mancrush

Iron Man 3 is, like its hero Tony Stark at the outset and Stark’s girlfriend Pepper Potts at another point in the story, a hot mess. It does what third installments tend to do: revisit ...

Malick’s (un)romantic musings

The world is poisoned and so are we.

"Why do we come back down?” asks Marina (Olga Kurylenko) in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder. Why, after mounting to transcendence, do we sink back willy-nilly into everything we sought to transcend? To take an ...

Shut up, racist

Black in blue

Television veteran Chadwick Boseman gives a fine, canny performance in 42 as Jackie Robinson, the man who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Well, except for when he talks ...

Impossible Germany

Lore: History by the losers

Lore is a loser’s history of World War II, a less fantastical, more moving post-apocalyptic wasteland film out of Australia than the one that starred Mel Gibson back in 1979. Less fantastical because it’s set ...

Oz the Great and Powerful's cheap carnival magic

Yet another prequel

The production notes for Oz the Great and Powerful came with a heads-up: “Please note that this movie stands alone and shouldn’t be compared to any other versions of the Oz films.” I’m fine with ...

Shadow World: John Dies at the End

Title as spoiler alert?

In the interest of objectivity, I suppose I should start out by saying that it’s difficult for me to be objective about John Dies at the End. It hits too many buttons for me to ...

Side Effects' nasty mechanics

Back in 1989, indie film director Steven Soderbergh broke onto the scene with his first film, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, a seamy, sticky drama about sex, lies, and videotape. Here in 2013, he is giving ...

Cat mitzvah

A shaggy dog story about a nearly hairless cat in 1920s Algiers. He serves his master the rabbi, but he loves his mistress, the rabbi’s fleshy daughter. When he eats the family parrot and so ...

Gangster Squad = Gangster Goulash

Bad cop, bad cop

Judging by the dewy exhalation that sighed forth from at least half the audience in attendance at the prerelease screening, it may be that the opportunity to put sensitive, handsome Ryan Gosling in a suit ...

Tricksy Orcs

It would be easy, and it is certainly tempting, to use a review of The Hobbit as the occasion for an all-out assault on High Frame Rate (HFR) digital cinema. HFR is, after all, the ...

Chernobyl Diaries: No Discovery, No Development, No Surprise

What a wasted opportunity. Somebody — presumably writers Oren Peli and Carey and Shane Van Dyke — had the fine idea of capitalizing on the current anxieties surrounding nuclear power in a post-Fukushima world (hello, ...

The Wise Foolishness of I Wish

I wish there were more films like I Wish: films that capture the wise foolishness and foolish wisdom of children without making them into miniature adults. Films that take seriously the efforts of children to ...

A Cat in Paris: Standard-Issue Action, Except Slower and More Colorful

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that I always ask, “Why animate?” when I run into an animated feature. But good or bad, I do it. Jean-Loup Felicioli and ...

Where Do We Go Now? A Battle of the Sexes, Both Whimsical and Deadly Serious

In his book Democracy in America, French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville claimed that in our fair country, religion had a greater influence on women than it did on men. This was well and good, he ...

Movie Reviews: Mirror Mirror, Wrath of the Titans, Free Men, Delicacy

It’s easy to imagine some Hollywood exec seeing certain scenes from Tarsem Singh’s The Fall and thinking, “Holy Tentpole, boys, here’s a director who has rediscovered the art of the breathtaking vista! And look what ...

Movie Reviews: The Woman in Black, The Flowers of War, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

My first reaction to The Woman in Black was “all nerves, no heart.” But I have a weakness for the sort of nerve-stretching that the film employs. The sort that comes from a long shot ...

You Have To Know Yourself

“This is my Harley,” says Junior with pride. He hovers over the motorized kiddie motorcycle, which sits in the living room of Chris and Laura’s Santee home. Junior is five; his sister Lizzie is three. ...

Joy to the Screen

Scott: The first inkling that Christmas was not a holiday for Hebrews came from a neighbor kid, the fine Aryan specimen Timothy Murphy: “My Uncle Roy says Jews celebrate Christmas by staying home and counting ...

Movie Review: Shame, London Boulevard, New Year's Eve

In the early moments of Shame, we learn that sex addict Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender) has a huge member, as if nature was instructing him in the way he ought to go and he was ...

Movie Review: 50/50, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, My Afternoons with Margueritte, and Shut Up Little Man!

A slice-of-life indie about a young man facing cancer, overstuffed with Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Up in the Air’s Anna Kendrick as the world’s worst beginning therapist, and Anjelica Huston. Rogen looms especially large as ...

Captain America Gets Ready to Avenge

In 1991, director Joe Johnston brought us The Rocketeer, in which a decent All-American guy chances upon the means to become a superhero. This enables him to take on the Nazi menace and its plan ...

Hangover II: Bigger, Louder, Dumber

The Hangover Part II At one point in The Hangover Part II , Zach Galifianakis puts a bottle beneath the robes of an elderly Buddhist monk as they ride together on a bus through the ...

Botrytis? Here?

"But this really is Cailles en Sarcophage!” — General Lorens Lowenhielm, Babette’s Feast The general is shocked when he says this. He is shocked because he has just finished describing a dish he once enjoyed ...

The Conspirator: It’s 1865

The Conspirator “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said philosopher George Santayana. This saying has spawned many variants, including, now, director Robert Redford’s: “Those who cannot learn from history are ...

The Adjustment Bureau’s Metaphysical Muddle

The Adjustment Bureau For everyone who couldn’t get enough of the Matt Damon metaphysical muddle in Hereafter, here’s a second helping, the chief lesson of which seems to be: it’s hard out there for an ...

Cat Snip

The committee that outsmarts the average feral cat.

“Is the baby outside?” asks my wife, alarm bubbling up through her groggy vowels. It’s summer, the middle of the night. We’re sleeping with the windows open, which is why we can hear the plaintive ...

Nothing but Berries

My last visit to Fallbrook Winery was in 2006; longtime restaurateur Ed Moore had invited me up to listen in on a blending session for the winery’s 2004 Merlot. But one blend led to another, ...

The Redneck Hipster of Country Strong

Riding into town a day late and a dollar short, ready to review the big releases from last week. Howdy, folks. I’m staff writer Matthew Lickona. You may remember me from such Reader columns as ...

Aguilera Floods Burlesque

Burlesque Christina (howl like it hurts) Aguilera plays Ali, short for Alice, a cute-as-pie Iowa waitress with aspirations of Sunset Strip stardom. By means of contrived necessity (that is to say, she walks by the ...

Block Party

In 8 years, home prices went from $320,000 to $750,000 and back

This is not a story about sexual predators. If anything, it’s a story about life in a modern suburban neighborhood in the wake of the foreclosure implosion. But it does start with sexual predators, or ...

A Visit to Carruth Cellars Winery in Solana Beach

In 1998, Carlsbad native Adam Carruth was “kind of a life student — just [kept] going back to school.” He’d studied botany at UC Riverside, so for a change of pace, he headed north to ...

A Chat About Lemon Grove Kid Dennis Hopper

Local Boy Makes Good, Goes Bad, Makes Good Again

Of course, he didn’t stay here. Most likely, you wouldn’t either, not if you were young and ambitious and living a two-hour drive up the freeway to get to Hollywood. Not if you’d grown up ...

San Diego's Backpack Burdens

What’s in the sack? That’s all they care about.Is it a rock or a rolled-up giraffe?Is it pickles or nickels or busted bicycles?And if we guess it, will you give us half?Do they ask where ...

Who Is This Winery in Ramona?

Dennis Grimes spends the first half-hour of every day “tending to Twitter, being a cheerleader” for Ramona Valley wine. From September 6 of this year: “94F today, 47F low & 83F tomorrow Ramona Valley AVA ...

I don't know what they told you, but this is called Hip-Hop

“This is HIP-HOP. I don’t know what they told you, but this is called HIP-HOP!” DJ Artistic has me in a gentle headlock as he shouts this into my ear. He’s not being aggressive; he ...

People Who Can't Draw Are Stunned by Those Who Can!

“People who can’t draw are stunned by those who can.” — Scott Peterson, editor at the La Jolla–based comic imprint WildStorm. When Peterson said that, it struck me as being a pretty good explanation for ...

Beer Background

Ryan Baker was happy. Living by the beach in PB at the dawn of the millennium, working at Stone Brewing, and attending San Diego State. “I was, like, ‘Why would I go anywhere?’” he recalls. ...

We Only Have Eight Fingers to Work With

81 pounds of wood and steel Valentine’s Day, 2010: Strolling through the outer edges of downtown before heading home for the evening. Passing Salvatore’s Cucina Italiana at the corner of Front and G and glancing ...

JesusSanDiego.com

Back in November of 2009, I took note of a billboard ­I’d seen on the 8 West, put up by the San Diego Coalition of Reason. ­“Don’t believe in God?” it read. “You’re not alone.” ...