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‘Divergent’ Review

Divergent review
Summit Entertainment

Springing forth from the same lineage of Katniss Everdeen, far removed from the toxically weak Bella Swan bloodline, ‘Divergent’ heroine Beatrice “Tris” Prior is well worth rooting for, even if her debut film isn’t as compelling as its leading lady. Based on Veronica Roth’s best-selling YA trilogy, Neil Burger’s film is cripplingly faithful to its source material, and although he and screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor have plenty of rich material to pull from, the film’s inability to distill it down to its most essential bits makes for a strangely bloated and often flatlining final product.

Yet, for its dragging run time – nearly two and a half hours – and its repetitive nature, ‘Divergent’ should both thrill fans and (hopefully) excite newcomers who will leave the theater wanting to know where its open ending travels next.

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‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Review

What We Do in the Shadows
Unison Films/Funny or Die

Those familiar with Jemaine Clement from his work on HBO's 'Flight of the Conchords' should be plenty excited for 'What We Do in the Shadows,' the new film he co-directed and co-wrote with Taika Waititi, who also worked with Clement on the indie film 'Eagle vs. Shark.' The pair reunite for this new venture, a faux documentary in the vein of the hilarious work of Christopher Guest -- but the eccentric group at the heart of this film is something a bit different: immortal vampires who happen to be flatmates, just trying to sort out normal life stuff while also dealing with being supernatural.

'What We Do in the Shadows' doesn't yet have distribution stateside, but that should be rectified pretty quickly. The film, the product of Clement and Waititi's brilliantly clever collaborative minds, is an insanely funny mock-doc that never skips a beat.

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‘Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter’ Review

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
Lila 9th Productions/Zellner Bros.

Kumiko is a lonely 29-year-old woman living in Tokyo who has fantasies of being a Spanish Conquistador. Increasingly pressured by her mother and her boss to find a husband and be a more successful woman, Kumiko finds escape in the Coen brothers' classic crime film 'Fargo,' and becomes obsessed with traveling to Minnesota to find the "treasure" Steve Buscemi's character left buried in the snow. 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,' from Austin, Texas natives David and Nathan Zellner, is a charming, sad and existential contemplation on life film as escapism. 

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‘Ernest and Celestine’ Review

Ernest and Celestine Review
Gkids

There are two chief takeaways from 'Ernest & Celestine.' The first is that in France and Belgium they don't have a Tooth Fairy, they have La Petite Souris, which is, basically, “The Tooth Mouse.” I also learned that when the story is funny, the characters are well-rounded and the world is imaginative, a modestly budgeted hand-drawn animated film can still have just as much effect as a big, blown-out computer generated affair.

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‘Obvious Child’ Review

Obvious Child
A24

From 'Knocked Up' to 'Juno,' we've seen how women cope with unplanned parenthood, though they always seem to end with the birth of a child. 'Obvious Child,' however, from writer-director Gillian Robespierre, gives us another and totally relatable option: what if our fumbling heroine decided to get an abortion? And what if that was just totally OK?

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‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ Review

Only Lovers Left Alive
Sony Pictures Classics

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as contemplative vampires in Jim Jarmusch's 'Only Lovers Left Alive,' a story that is more tone poem than film. It is a languid, existential narrative that follows Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton), two vampires who have seemingly existed since the beginning of time and have been in love for just as long, observing the world as it evolves and devolves around them. Jarmusch brings his arthouse sensibilities to the vampire genre, removing the focus from needless stereotypes and finding the humanity in the inhuman. 

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‘Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club’ Review

Single Moms Club Review
Lionsgate

As if in response to Cate Blanchett’s Oscar acceptance speech contention that audiences want to see films with women at the center of them, Tyler Perry’s latest, ‘The Single Moms Club,’ focuses on four women struggling, often with humor, to deal with single parenthood.

Unfortunately, Perry’s gift at creating opportunities for actresses to lead their own movies does not extend to creating good movies, much less characters. A stacked deck of one-dimensional demonstrations of female oppression, explored – and overcome – with Perry’s typically well-intentioned but misguided notions of empowerment, ‘The Single Moms Club’ ranks among the filmmaker’s worst work yet.

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‘The Guest’ Review

The Guest
Picturehouse

Director Adam Wingard and his writing partner Simon Barrett, who last gave us horror favorite 'You're Next,' return with 'The Guest,' a genre throwback to the dark suspense thrillers of the late '80s and early '90s -- but this isn't mimicry or simply homage. Wingard and Barrett put their wryly sinister spin on this consistently engaging and unnerving story, throwing in a dash of classic John Carpenter for good measure. And who knew 'Downton Abbey' star Dan Stevens could be such a badass? 

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‘Bad Words’ Review

Bad Words Review
Focus Features

“I’m not that good at a lot of stuff, especially thinking things through.”

Nope, Guy Trilby (Jason Bateman) really isn’t so good at thinking things through, but the bad choices that pepper Bateman’s directorial debut, ‘Bad Words,’ go so far beyond misplaced common sense that Guy’s early and wholly understated confession about his decision-making style is perhaps the last actually relatable bit of the entire film. A black comedy with a black heart, Bateman’s ‘Bad Words’ knowingly attempts to push the envelope of unlikability, littering the big screen with pintsized victims and one heck of a mangled word-centric competition. Often funny by virtue of its shock value and Guy’s clever wordsmithery, ‘Bad Words’ still doesn’t feel quite so great going down, but it at least announces Bateman’s directorial sensibilities loud and clear, and there’s plenty here to mine for future projects.

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‘Enemy’ Review

Enemy Review
A24 Films

Jake Gyllenhaal and director Denis Villeneuve have recently set about turning their blossoming cinematic partnership into the kind of professional pairing that cranks out clever, creepy feature films that stick with their audiences long after they end. In short, these two like to make skin-crawling films that freak people out, and it turns out they’re pretty good at it.

Villeneuve and Gyllenhaal premiered both of their collaborations last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, though their bigger-budget (and bigger-named) ‘Prisoners’ hit theaters while the intriguing ‘Enemy’ bided its time before a more low-key release. While ‘Prisoners’ presented a terrifying premise that was still relatable – a pair of suburban couples are heartbroken when their young daughters go missing, and the fallout is very unexpected – ‘Enemy’ goes full throttle on a plot line that’s both bizarre and purposely hard to swallow.

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