The Card Counter Has Its Finger on the Pulse of America

In Paul Schrader's high-stakes poker film, he returns to similar themes and questions but the repetition never grows tiresome.

“In my lonesome aberration,” croons a voice on the soundtrack of Paul Schrader’s The Card Counter. The phrase returns throughout the film like a self-defeating mantra, but for Schrader, there is nothing aberrant about loneliness. For 45 years, the writer-director has presented a rotating gallery of alienated young men seeking righteousness, from Taxi Driver’s Travis […]

Hardboiled Noir? Genre Caper? The Gateway Has a Hard Time Choosing

Main character Parker, a social worker, is closer to a hardboiled noir hero or a cop. It's an interesting gambit, even when it stretches belief.

When you close your eyes and imagine a social worker, who do you see? Maybe someone in neat attire and a burned-out, wearily optimistic smile. Maybe you see Social Services, the stuffy bureaucrat played by Tilda Swinton in Moonrise Kingdom. Maybe you see one of your friends who chose a tough vocation with few rewards […]

Candyman’s Remake Has a Hard Time Balancing Blood and Brains

If Candyman is just an idea, he can’t be that scary, and if he’s real, then the film wastes far too much time trying to decipher his meaning.

The original Candyman never seemed like a film that would inspire a legacy sequel three decades later. Released in 1992, the slasher flick with thoughtful ideas about race, storytelling, and collective trauma was a minor hit and inspired two direct-to-video sequels, but its legacy got lost when White-teenagers-in-peril horror films like Scream gentrified the genre. […]

Creepy, Jarring, and Empathetic, The Night House Ends With a Bang

The ending image will cause arguments among friends and loved ones who watch this film together.

In recent years, haunted houses have become an easy way to depict grief on screen. As an example, Netflix has dipped into this well multiple times: The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor, and His House have all used ghosts and creepy homes as metaphors for psychological turmoil. It is a smart […]

In CODA, a Small Family Drama, Emotion Takes Center Stage

The film is built on well-worn tropes and cliches, but manages to create something genuinely new and moving out of them.

The only reason tear-jerkers are considered low art is because we are all broken inside. Here’s how it works: You sob through a whole movie, and when the credits roll and you are jolted back into the real world, you rebuild the walls around your heart. Then you scoff about feeling “emotionally manipulated.” But isn’t […]

Annette Declares Performance Is Fake. It Also Asks: Who Cares?

The film argues all performance is fake, and only through acknowledging that can we find the deeper understanding art promises.

In Annette, a rapturous crowd asks Henry McHenry, a comedian played by Adam Driver, why he chose that particular occupation. After several dishonest answers, he finally confesses he wants to disarm people because only through laughter can he tell the truth. This push and pull of honesty and dishonesty, or artificiality and authenticity, are what […]

Twist Won’t Have Anyone Asking for More

The Oliver Twist adaptation is bankrupt and boring, drained of all interest or spark.

If you’re going to make a successful action-heist flick, you need a solid movie star to anchor it, someone audiences will instinctively root for even when they’re committing crimes. If you don’t have that, you need a clever plot filled with twists, reversals, and betrayals. Without that, you at least need a snappy script full […]

Blood Red Sky Is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Your (Air) Mileage May Vary.

This is a film that delivers on its premise, so your enjoyment hinges on whether “hijackers take over a plane, and vampire mom is on board” sounds like great trash or irredeemable nonsense.

The premise for Blood Red Sky sounds like it was generated by Netflix’s recommendation algorithm—or a producer throwing darts at random plot elements from horror and thriller films. Director and co-screenwriter Peter Thorwarth must know the premise is ridiculous, but to his credit, he attempts to take it seriously and play it out in ways […]

Pig Is a Bonkers Nicolas Cage Movie. Just Not in the Way You Expect.

It’s an exciting debut for director Michael Sarnoski, whose blend of vision and proficiency creates a willingness in the viewer to follow him into bold, new territories.

Pig is a bonkers Nicolas Cage movie, but it’s not bonkers in the way you expect a Nicolas Cage movie to be. For nearly four decades, the actor has made an art form out of conscious overacting, peppering his performances with bug-eyed stares, gyrating hips, and lots and lots of unnecessary shouting. He has done […]

The D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival Returns With 55 Films from Nine Countries

The festival's 21st edition is “Loud. Proud. Unbowed.”

The 21st annual D.C. Asian Pacific American Film Festival explores a rich array of distinct cultures. Featuring 55 films from nine countries, it streams online from July 15 to 25 and closes with an in-person screening of The Girl Who Left Home at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. These independent productions revel in […]


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