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Stories by Matthew Lickona

I really wanted to use a live cat

Director Charlie Bean gives background of Lego Ninjago Movie

At the Lego Ninjago Movie press conference held last week at Legoland Carlsbad, a child asked the film’s assembled cast and crew, “What happened to the cat?” The tot was referring to the monstrous beast ...

Sex & violence & sex & violence

Flesh and blood in this week's new movie releases, including The Villainess and The Wound

I mean, it's the movies, so what else is new? But still. The Wound has violence done to a bunch of guys' sexy bits. Also, sex and violence. mother! has much more violence than sex, ...

Certified in San Diego

There was something about the freedom of Ocean Beach

“We live in cities you’ll never see onscreen,” sang Lorde on “Team,” trying to make obscurity sound cool but fooling nobody. If it were really cool you wouldn’t have to make a cool song about ...

Short-lived TV shows made here

If Netflix's Ted Sarandos reads this...

Simon & Simon was a buddy detective series set in San Diego that ran for eight seasons on CBS during the ’80s. Veronica Mars put a teenage girl in a noirish milieu and managed three ...

Here It comes

Horror flick heads up this week’s new movie releases

It is out, but is It good? Well...there are good bits. But it doesn’t touch Get Out as the year’s best horror flick. Because the real horror is the evil that men do. The monster ...

Take comfort, Dane DeHaan: 2017 is three-quarters over

The star has three lackluster vehicles currently in theaters, including this week’s Tulip Fever

Poor Dane DeHaan. He started 2017 by starring in the criminally underrated A Cure for Wellness, then starred in the monumental flop Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and now here he is ...

Local boy Dylan Moran makes good, and also makes a movie, Get Big

The kids of today

If last year’s The Edge of Seventeen felt like the kids of today as portrayed by a (smart, sensitive) grown-up, this year’s Get Big is very much the kids of today as portrayed by the ...

Another good turn at La Mesa Walmart

The price of cream

The wife and I like cream in our coffee. So do our kids. Trader Joe’s in La Mesa charges $3.29 for a half-pint. Walmart charges $4.14 for a full pint. I resolved to make the ...

Horton Plaza has gone to seed

Even the Ben & Jerry’s is gone

On my first morning in San Diego — July 1995 — I set off walking toward downtown. I was young and I didn’t know anybody, so I went to be where people were. Once there, ...

Escape to a good time at the movies

Escapes and Good Time are among this week’s new movie releases

It’s stupid jokes week here at The Big Screen... Patti Cake$ fails to rise. Good Time mostly isn't, though it is pretty good. Leap! should take a flying...leap. Lemon is a lemon. The Trip to ...

Good Time, a soundtrack in search of a movie

An honest portrait, if an unattractive one

My first thought upon leaving co-directors Benny and Josh Safdie’s Good Time (Josh co-wrote, while Benny co-stars alongside an intense, controlled Robert Pattinson) was: A soundtrack in search of a movie. That’s not altogether fair, ...

Exploring the underbelly and outliers

Including 68 Kill, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Logan Lucky, and Menashe

You know what I’d like to do? I’ll tell you what I’d like to do. I’d like to host a redneck film festival. Maybe not this year, what with all the awfulness surrounding disenfranchised white ...

Endless Poetry, very much a picture show

Jodorowsky’s juvenalia journal

With Endless Poetry, Chilean surrealist (super-realist?) Alejandro Jodorowsky continues the fantastical memoir he began in 2013’s Dance of Reality. But where that first film made a tragic-absurdist hero out of young Alejandro’s father — he ...

Kids today — and yesterday

Offspring abounds in this week’s new movie releases, including The Glass Castle and Wind River

A strong week at the movies, if not necessarily a happy one for the kiddies. Not so much the ones in the seats — though we’re not holding out much hope for The Nut Job ...

An inconvenient weekend at the movies

There’s not a lot of good stuff in this week’s new releases

This was...not a great week for movies. The big drama? Well acted, badly built. The big adaptation? A fizzle by all accounts. (Your humble correspondents saw it coming and steered clear.) The “starring Academy-Award winning ...

Comic-Con sideshows: the $6 million yacht, the preacher, the cigarette bummer

Why follow a fantasy?

Mark came to Comic-Con from Laguna aboard his friend’s 85-foot, $6 million yacht Motown, a sleek gray vessel tied up alongside the Embarcadero just south of the convention center. “I’ve been here every year for ...

Mideast woman and child get baby back ribs and ribeye steaks at Walmart

Immigrant exploitation

Walmart Neighborhood Market carries El Jimador reposado tequila for $15.97 a bottle, which is $4 cheaper than my local liquor store, which is why I went there on the night of July 7th. As I ...

[Sad face emoji]

This week’s new movie releases include The Emoji Movie, which almost (almost) no critics like

As of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes features only one positive review of The Emoji Movie: that of Betsy Bozdech of Common Sense Media. Brave, brave Betsy. Of course, it’s not as bold as being one ...

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 ...

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