In its first three seasons, Veronica Mars was widely regarded as a sparkling feminist television series. Well, its fourth season, airing on Hulu, would seem to unmask the show as creator Rob Thomas’ 21st century version of the kind of backlash entertainment that appears right on cue whenever women make new strides toward independence, personhood, and realization of their talents and goals. Like running for president and “me too”? Suddenly, Veronica has emerged as a sinister warning to any girl who would be her own person while female. And in a very big way.Read more
Inspired by their friendship with Zack Gottsagen, a young man (twenty-two) with Down syndrome, writers/directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz knew they had to make a movie honoring Zack. As some previous efforts featuring differently abled individuals have shown, it isn’t easy to avoid patronizing or sentimentalizing the subject, plus Nilson and Schwartz had never made a film.Read more
Both the thin story and the bawdy jokes wear out before the credits roll, but the filmmakers pack a lot of genuine laughs into the short and surprisingly sweet 90-minute caper.Read more
Emma is low in the hierarchy at work and low on confidence everywhere. Already a nervous flier, after a few cocktails and a lot of turbulence, she blurts secrets large and small to the guy sitting next to her, figuring it’s no big deal to tell a stranger every embarrassing thing that’s happened to her moments before she dies. But wait! They survive! And it turns out that Jack, her seatmate, is her company’s new CEO! Oh nooooo!Read more
Reliable statistics are informative. Hearing the personal, painful stories of those reflected in numbers adds the emotional element to cold facts. That is what directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang bring to their documentary One Child Nation, a profound examination of China’s policy, introduced in 1979, mandating no more than one child per family to limit population growth.Read more
Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Maria Semple’s 2012 best-seller doesn’t make a smooth transition to the screen.
Semple’s anarchic, non-linear story revolves around an affluent, if eccentric, middle-aged woman who submerges her identity with that of her family, losing her sense of self. On paper, her daughter’s inner thoughts propel the narrative. On-film, this doesn’t work.
In his impressive but elusive feature film debut, Suburban Birds, writer/director Sheng Qiu offers two stories implicitly commenting on each other. They thereby suggest a handful of heady ideas for contemplation without ever explicitly mounting an argument for them. Further separating events into two parallel tracks, Sheng chooses different cinematic styles for each of the narrative threads.Read more
David Crosby appeared as but one of the interviewees in the recent rock doc, Echo in Laurel Canyon. In this documentary, David Crosby: Remember My Name, he is front and center. Despite his current solo career, David Crosby will always be sharing the spotlight with Nash and Stills and Young and with The Byrds.Read more
As a critic, I judge a movie by how well it accomplishes what it sets out to do. If it’s a comedy, it should be funny. So despite my misgivings about preteens’ spewing raunchy vulgarities, Gene Stupinsky’s coming-of-age story seems to amuse audiences, particularly in this era of sensitivity towards topics like sexual identity, bullying and objectification of women.Read more
One of the best movies of the year, it heralds another new phase in the rapidly morphing career of Awkwafina, the rapper who broke out as a comedic actor in last year’s blockbuster “Crazy Rich Asians” and warrants awards consideration for her finely nuanced lead turn in “The Farewell.”Read more