MLK/FBI‘s Revelations Aren’t New, but They’re Pointed

Sam Pollard’s documentary on the FBI’s campaign against Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t tell a new story—but it tells it well.

Those with even a cursory knowledge of American history already know most of the story: J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1924 to 1972, viewed Martin Luther King Jr. as a threat to law and order, or maybe just his own stranglehold on the American justice system. The bureau kept […]

George Clooney Deflates All the Tension in The Midnight Sky

George Clooney's new movie is a film of parts that work well enough on their own but never feel emotionally cohesive.

The biggest problem with being rich and successful, so I’m told, is that you stop hearing the word “no.” Take George Clooney. He is one of his generation’s most charismatic movie stars. He is a muse of talented directors like Steven Soderbergh and Joel and Ethan Coen. He is liked by just about everyone. Somewhere […]

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Is a Fitting Cap on Chadwick Boseman’s Career

As Levee, Boseman brings urgency and depth to the film—a worthy end to a career that was tragically cut short.

It is fitting that Chadwick Boseman’s final film performance would be Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, an adaptation of an August Wilson play. Wilson’s 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, which includes Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, famously documents many facets of the twentieth century African American experience. Likewise, Boseman’s career had an eye on history: Over the years he […]

Wander Darkly Is Blundering and Boring

The film is mostly tedious, at least until its final moments, and then it gets downright offensive.

Roger Ebert famously said, “No good movie is too long. No bad movie is short enough.” By that standard, Wander Darkly is an excruciating 90 minutes. Its characters are unlikable, its story is clichéd, and its emotional beats are pathetic. There is a supernatural element to the film, and since it depicts the highs and […]

Mank Is More Impressive Than Good

The film is a technical achievement, and perhaps an artistic one, but all viewers see of the title character is that he doesn't want to be seen.

“You cannot capture a man’s life in two hours,” says screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), the subject of the behind-the-scenes Hollywood drama Mank. “You can only hope to leave an impression of it.” For better and for worse, that’s what director David Fincher accomplishes in this frustrating but undeniably impressive film. Best known to movie […]

Hillbilly Elegy Falls Flat as a Family Drama

Beyond its culture war messaging, it also fails to succeed as a portrait of a distinct American family.

The hero of Hillbilly Elegy, the new family drama from director Ron Howard, begins the film with a note of nostalgia. He says he feels most at home in Kentucky’s hill country, and the summers he spent there were the best part of his childhood. Barely a minute after this narration, sadistic bullies attack the […]

The Twentieth Century Is a Bizarre, Remarkable Rewrite of History

The psychedelic biopic mashes up Canada’s own political past with the director’s personal peccadillos.

Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century is a Frankenstein’s monster of a film. The only way to describe it is to identify where each limb came from. It has the legs of silent-era melodramas, the neurotic, lovelorn brain of Charlie Kaufman, the stiff upper lip of Powell and Pressburger’s wartime love stories, and a digestive tract […]

The Climb Is an Unconventional Comedy That Defies Easy Summary

The Climb uses techniques that are unusual in comedy to tell the instantly recognizable and laugh-out-loud funny story of a toxic friendship.

The Climb is a film borne out of frustration. It is written by its two stars, Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin, with Covino directing. Both men are in their thirties or forties, and after years as outsiders in the industry, they’ve finally made a breakout feature for themselves. This is the rare comedy that […]

The Noir City Film Festival Goes International This Year

The Noir City film festival's slate of films is international this year, and 19 are available to stream through the AFI Silver Theatre.

What does film noir mean to you? World-weary gumshoes? Colorful gangland argot? Tough, no-nonsense dames? Killer cakes? This year, curator Eddie Muller and the Film Noir Foundation take viewers around the world to see how this distinctly American subgenre left its mark on global cinema with Noir City: International, available online from Nov. 13 to […]

Let Him Go Is a Timely, Chilling Look at the Darkness of the American Soul

The film is surprisingly appropriate for the Trump era.

The last time we saw Kevin Costner and Diane Lane together, they were on a freeway in Kansas making a huge sacrifice for their son, Clark Kent. That was in 2013’s Man of Steel. They must have moved north since then, but their story remains the same. In the affecting Great Plains drama Let Him […]

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