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Stories by Matthew Lickona

Pictures at a (Movie) Exposition

Visuals are the story in this week’s new movie releases, including Dunkirk and Lady Macbeth

Director Christopher Nolan wants to remind folks why they go to movie theaters — instead of, you know, watching a movie on a telephone. In this critic’s humble opinion, he succeeds admirably in that effort ...

Lady Macbeth’s director on morality, animals, and his star Florence Pugh

Smart about evil: matrimony, misery, murder

William Oldroyd’s elegantly executed debut feature Lady Macbeth may prove to be the sort of quiet breakout for star Florence Pugh that Martha Marcy May Marlene was for Elizabeth Olsen (as opposed to the more ...

Will the monkeys do good business?

This week’s releases include War for the Planet of the Apes and not much else

Like Scott Marks, the other film critic here at the Reader, I thought the first two films of the rebooted Planet of the Apes series were excellent. Which is why I was so saddened to ...

A bleat from a critical scapegoat

Studios would be deeply foolish to make big-budget movies primarily for the domestic market.

Pity the critic. Once, he bestrode the gulf between artist and audience like a colossus (no, not the big metal guy from Deadpool), raising up and casting down the creators, guiding and shaping a lively ...

I’m going to have to shoot you

La Mesa police Firearms Training Simulator

The La Mesa Police Department’s Citizens Academy is, in the words of training sergeant Kate Lynch, “a great way to share the unfortunate realities of the job without putting citizens in harm’s way. It helps ...

Who's the handball king of Chicano Park?

"I was born where the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego"

King David is holding court today, even after suffering the bites of at least nine King Cobras. The court is the one used for handball in Chicano Park; the King Cobras are malt liquors. His ...

Reader critics go soft for summer?

Starry-eyed for this week’s new releases, including Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Journey

“No Aunt May, no Spider-Man,” says my brother, and I know what he means. Without that frail and innocent soul that quietly cries out for protection and sacrifice on its behalf, Spider-Man loses a chunk ...

B movies

Plenty of second-letter fare in this week’s new movie releases, including The Bad Batch and The Beguiled

I’m of the opinion that “B movie” stopped having much useful meaning some time ago, certainly by the time the Transformers series became the box-office juggernaut that it is today — or was, until its ...

Front to back... awesome

Debra found herself stranded in a mosh pit at the Casbah

The professional and personal collaboration that is Wrensilva audio began at a Supersuckers show at the Casbah. Debra Salyer didn’t know the band, and found herself stranded in a mosh pit during a cover of ...

When she starts dancing, I know it’s right

Wrensilva audio produces “the best console ever built”

Today, in its long sliver of a factory facing a North Park alley, Wrensilva audio produces, in the words of co-founder Scott Salyer, “the best console ever built” for playing music. “Nobody’s ever done anything ...

Essays on fatherhood

I was looking forward to trying to raise a saint

I Have Purchased a Grey Cardigan Sweater My wife and I fell in love over wine, bourbon, and cognac. We attended a college with a dry campus, and many evenings were spent sitting in my ...

Onscreen echoes

This week’s new movie releases, including The Book of Henry and All Eyez On Me, sound oddly familiar

47 Meters Down has girls and sharks, All Eyez on Me has rappers and racist cops, Beatriz at Dinner has a high-tension, high-end dinner party, The Book of Henry has boys and brutality and bullets, ...

Middle East movie time (and place)

This week’s new movie releases take up a troubled region’s troubles, from The Mummy to Radio Dreams

Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan all get turns in the cinematic spotlight this week in a monster movie, the story of a dog and his girl, an expat drama, and a war doc, respectively. Some ...

Got to get to the fashion first

I could imagine a star wearing them

Twenty-five-year-old Maurice DJ Ayodam is wearing a white tank top, a midnight-blue velour Adidas track suit, and a custom Breitling watch — custom because he took it to a jeweler and had the face ringed ...

Wonder women

The ladies have their day in this week’s movie releases, including Wonder Woman and Manifesto

It’s not that Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves, not entirely, anyway. (That would be, like, crazy. The kind of Brave New World you’d see laid out in a blistering manifesto.) Dudes still have a ...

16th annual iVIE Film Festival plays this weekend in Coronado

“With politics right now, we wanted to show the diversity of America.”

This year, the Media Arts Center San Diego has taken over production of the iVIE Awards & Student Film Festival, a program started in 2001 “to encourage and reward teachers who utilize video as a ...

A gnarly night at the movies

Including The Wedding Plan, A Dark Song, and Baywatch

Gnarly: difficult, dangerous, or challenging. The challenge of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales? To make poor old Johnny Depp appealing again. Annnnd...nope. The difficulty of Baywatch: to make a successful R-rated ...

We bring Hollywood to San Marcos

ComicCon's Adult Swim Funhouse can make money

When horror maestro William Castle parked ambulances outside theaters showing Macabre in 1958, it was a publicity stunt. Today, it would be called experiential marketing, and the operation might well be handled by Hadley Media ...

He crashed Ford F-150 through the Bancroft's wall as band was starting

And there's more —Tower Bar, The Jewel Box, Zombie Lounge, Tobacco Rhoda’s, Wong's

It happens. Rob Logic, owner of the Bancroft in Spring Valley, can rattle off a list, starting with the time in 1964 when James Nelson Spencer smashed his Pontiac Bonneville through the front door of ...

Death, illness, poop, and divorce

Unpleasantness abounds in this week’s new movies, including Alien: Covenant and Obit

I’m probably more fascinated by H.R. Giger and his xenomorph than is entirely healthy, so it took me a little while to get over the fact that the aliens aren’t really the star, or even ...

La Mesa's Green Mile

University between 70th and Baltimore

University Avenue is improving. Between 70th and Baltimore, La Mesa is “maximizing walkability and creating a unifying streetscape theme” by installing trees along the sidewalks, amending crosswalks, updating street lights, and most significantly, planting the ...

How the world got to be the way it is

Director Vanessa Gould discusses Obit

Obit, Vanessa Gould’s documentary look at the obituary department of the New York Times in action, is as deceptive in tone as it is perceptive in vision. A strange air of calm rumination pervades the ...

Random people with great weed

The Vault on La Mesa Blvd. — "This is my afterlife"

Jay’s daughter has osteosarcoma — “cancer of the bone. She had to have her leg amputated. It also tries to travel to your heart and lungs, and it’s ongoing. They actually prescribed cannabis for her ...

The struggle is real. Or maybe just in your head.

Conflict, external and internal, in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and Buster’s Mal Heart

In case my review of the (don’t call it quirky, don’t call it quirky) quirky psycho-thriller Buster’s Mal Heart didn’t fully convey it, I want to further express my delight at the film’s portrayal of ...

Doug Liman on The Wall

The sniper is so far away that you’ll be dead before you hear the gunshot

Doug Liman’s The Wall pits two American soldiers (John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, the latter looking like Jake Gyllenhaal and talking like Casey Affleck and acquitting himself admirably) against an Iraqi sniper in the pipelined, ...

Family matters on film

This week’s new releases include Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, A Quiet Passion, and more

“You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you ...

A Quiet Passion actress Catherine Bailey on Emily Dickinson

Very funny, very serious

Terence Davies’s slow and sumptuous A Quiet Passion turns the famously reclusive poet Emily Dickinson (played mostly and hauntedly by Cynthia Nixon) into an unenthusiastic but unshakable martyr for her sex. It’s not that she ...

Being young, I knew I’d never die

Time is just the fast before the feast

On Receiving a Death’s Head Rosary Some twenty years ago, I was eighteen And being young, I knew I’d never die And came to Rome, the oldest place I’d seen And in St. Mary’s church, ...

The trials of youth, up there on the screen

Youngsters dominate this week’s new movie releases, including Graduation and The Circle

Uh-oh. You’ve got America’s Most Beloved Actor (TM) Tom Hanks plus Emma Watson, the star of 2017’s biggest hit (Beauty and the Beast), in a techno-thriller designed to push everyone’s buttons about the companies whose ...

The Desert Oracle's Ken Layne

Protege of Country Dick Montana and Buddy Blue Seigal

In 1983, teenaged San Diegan Ken Layne had a revelation in Death Valley. “The teenage boys in my crowd would take whoever’s car that was working that weekend” — often, it was restaurateur Sam Chammas’s ...

Scampering caterpillars devour Anza Borrego's superbloom

Some sand verbena and desert sunflowers are hanging on.

By early April, the Anza-Borrego superbloom was all but over. Yellow puffs of blooming brittlebush still dotted the mountains on approach, and orange-petaled spindles still tipped the ocotillos’ tall tendrils, but the carpet of flowers ...

The unforgettable Unforgettable?

New movie releases this week include Katherine Heigl’s return to the big screen, plus The Promise, Truman, and more

Have you forgotten that the Katherine Heigl crazy-ex thriller Unforgettable opens today? Probably not, because you probably never knew it in the first place. Hey-o! But here’s what’s really unforgettable: Scott Marks liked it. Full ...

Colossal is colossal, and that includes Miss Hathaway

Fate of the Furious loses to Colossal in this week’s new movie race

“Why is Anne Hathaway the most hated star in Hollywood?” is just one of the first-page results when you google “Anne Hathaway Hollywood.” The others are similar. It’s almost enough to make you love her ...

Prose before bros

Cezanne et Moi, a story of two of the greatest figures of the 19th Century and their 40-year friendship

Artists are a famously difficult bunch: if they’re not wreaking havoc as they wrestle their demons into something fit for public consumption, then they’re plundering everyone and everything around them in service of their precious ...

On the road again: Robus and Myra, Roger and Sissy

"You oughta see what happens when I do the Shrine Auditorium with 5000 black people in there."

Look at my eyes now Pastor Robus of God’s Real Church — abused child, former Hells Angel, prison rape victim, two-time mental patient, twice divorced, and successful businessman who left it behind when God appeared ...

Queen of the Desert does not rule the movie releases

Take a look at Frantz, Mine, The Void, The Ticket, and Your Name

If you are a certain sort of enterprising soul — that is, the sort who doesn’t want to pay for stuff — you can find the video of Werner Herzog’s masterclass in filmmaking out there ...

Ido Fluk’s a director, not a puppeteer

The Ticket proceeds with the deliberate, inexorable force of a fable

Director and co-writer Ido Fluk’s The Ticket stars a lean and hungry Dan Stevens as James, a blind man who recovers his sight and immediately sets his sights on the horizon. The way he sees ...

Babies best babes

The Boss Baby tops this week’s new movie releases

I like to tell myself that I go into every film with a completely open mind, ready to praise or blame based entirely on what I am about to witness onscreen. But that’s not always ...

San Diego booksellers succumb

Book ends

Amazon’s got everything, but some illusions must be kept alive.

The Boss Baby gets its kids just right

Diapered disruption

The first sign that The Boss Baby will be a pleasant surprise — and not simply an exercise in sticking Alec Baldwin’s Scotch-mellowed tycoon’s rasp in the mouth of a CGI infant and chuckling at ...

It’s just Life

The other Reader critic gets the rest: Personal Shopper, Wilson, and Raw

Sometimes, life is kind. Not the movie Life, mind you. That wasn’t kind at all, even if it was kinda good. But real life. Your humble correspondent hit a serious low this week, so it’s ...

A visual feast at the Fest

San Diego Latino Film Festival trumps major movie release Beauty and the Beast

The great grinding gears of the pop culture PR machine would have you believe that Beauty and the Beast is the big movie news this week. But it’s not, and neither are the bleats of ...

Searching for The Sense of an Ending

Director Ritesh Batra discusses balancing past and present in look-back story

Director Ritesh Batra’s The Sense of an Ending adapts Julian Barnes’s Booker Prize-winning novel about an aging Englishman named Tony (Jim Broadbent) who is gently forced to reckon with his past — in particular, the ...

Power strangers

Let’s meet the new kids on the block

The Disney live-action Beauty and the Beast opens this week. It stars Emma Watson from the Harry Potter movies. You are almost certainly familiar with both the movie and its star, and you probably know ...

War, before and after

Military matters in this week's new movie releases: Kong, Land of Mine, Ottoman Lieutenant

Starting with the end, then: both Kong: Skull Island and Land of Mine take place in the aftermath of war. Kong is set just as America is pulling out of Vietnam, leaving Sergeant Sam Jackson ...

Land of Mine is terse, tense, and terrific

Moving mine movie

Writer-director Martin Zandlivet’s terse, tense, and terrific post-WWII film Land of Mine establishes two of its three strengths immediately. First, star Roland Møller as Danish sergeant Carl Rasmussen, his eyes radiating barely controlled emotion from ...

March comes in like a wolverine

Logan heads up a strong bunch of new movie releases

I liked the superhero movie Logan a lot, mostly because it was less about superheroes and more about keeping the flame of faith alive as the darkness closes in and about keeping civilization going by ...

Wolfman Western

There’s a reason for Logan’s surprising power and poignancy

With 2013’s The Wolverine, director James Mangold took a near-immortal, adamantium-clawed (thanks to a combination of mutation and rogue science) superhero named Logan and stuck him in a Big Sleep–style mystery movie. The results were...unimpressive. ...

Two takes on interracial romance

This week’s new movie releases include Get Out and A United Kingdom

In A United Kingdom, a black man falls in love with a white woman, and their romance is tested by all sorts of opposing forces. In Get Out, a black man falls in love with ...

Take cover from the storm and see these movies this weekend

A critic's job is to say "Hey, look at this!"

There is no delight in being contrary for its own sake. It's as dishonest a critical move as quote-whore cheerleading. It cries out, "Hey, look at me!" when, of course, a critic's job is to ...

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