It’s nice to see a Batman movie spend its time with Batman doing Batman things. Almost every other Batman movie wants to spend its time with the villains or show Bruce Wayne at a charity gala. I was worried we’d get the same given how many characters are in this film. But instead we spend most of our time with Batman moving through one coherent (though expansive) crime story.

They succeeded at telling a coherent, balanced story with an ensemble cast. Despite having four well-known Batman villains—Penguin, Catwoman, Falcone, and Riddler— everyone was in the same movie telling the same story. This is rare in Batman (and the superhero/comic book genre generally).

Pattinson was possibly the least well cast actor, but that’s only because the rest of the cast was that great. He’s totally fine, but being a movie that spends its time with Batman and not Bruce, I’m not sure it’s a big deal who is behind the mask so long as they have the physicality to perform the action scenes.

As shot, it’s hard to point to things I would cut in the movie even though it’s too long. If I were reviewing the script, I’d probably remove either Falcone or Penguin (their roles for this story can be collapsed). This will be blasphemous to those who rightfully love Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, but I also suspect you could cut this movie significantly by removing her. It’s not that she wasn’t great or didn’t pull together a lot of plot— she was far better integrated than I feared— it’s just that I think they could have saved Catwoman and write an equally effective story without it.

This whole movie gave me a very Seven/Fincher vibe.

I think it might be the best Batman movie.

The car was dumb.

Prospect has that look, the industrial, aged, space junk of our 1980s future. There’s only three days left before this system is going to be abandoned by civilization, but there’s riches to be found on the surface first. We begin with Damon and his teenage daughter, Cee. Damon is a drug user, a hustler, and broke. Their pod is broke. He’s pushing to do this one last job in the small amount of time they have left.

They land on a lush forest world, the Green, whose air is full of a particulate dust that makes for a beautiful reflective haze over all things. We learn that Damon can remove a gem from dangerous, living deposits found in the Green, and although they quickly find one worth plenty to change Cee and Damon’s fortunes, it’s not enough. They’re in the Green because Damon has been hired by mercenaries to dig up a cache that will make everyone rich.

In comes Ezra (Pedro Pascale) and Number 2, also diggers in the Green who stumble upon Damon and make clear that life in the Green is not just dangerous because of the elements. Without getting too deep into spoilers, the remainder of the movie is 2 parts Western, 1 part survivalist, including meeting settlers and the mercenaries.

This movie does all the things I love about smaller sci-fi. It lets its characters live and act in the world authentically, not explaining every step of the way but instead just showing us what crude space living is. The tension is there— can they get back on time, will they get back with their bounty, and what will it take out of them— but so is plenty of time to appreciate the beauty of this world. The contrast of our Earthly, almost fairy-like forrest with the gas giant that dominates an open vista above, we get the best of first contact/colonist/new world space exploration alongside the Ridley Scott-like set design for all things industrial, including extensive use of simple machines with clean lines, dirty nylons, small single-purpose screens, ruggedized parts, and a foreign glyph for writing.

What can I say? I love Westerns and I love this kind of low budget sci-fi about a dirty, industrial, hard space. Prospect was a movie that was made for me.

It feels strange to watch Call Me By Your Name post the revelations about Armie Hammer. I know why this movie was so acclaimed. The cinematography is magnificent. The setting, idyllic. I spent much of my time while watching this movie fantasizing about a world where you summer in a gorgeous Italian countryside home within a fruit orchard, swimming, riding your bike into town, reading, and playing music, without, of course, the internet.

I was drawn to a few scenes in particular. In our opening, as Oliver (Hammer) pulls up to the villa, he’s exhausted from jet lag and travel and collapses into bed in the late afternoon only to emerge the following morning. I found myself wistful for international travel, knowing that loopy feeling of a long flight with little sleep, walking out into a time that feels all wrong, in a brand new place that feels as foreign as it is. There’s something special about that tired first 24 hours in a new country. It’s a feeling I’ve missed in this long pandemic year.

When Elio (Timothée Chalamet) reveals his feelings to Oliver around a World War I memorial, the camera work is perfect. Looking up and down just like an unsure teenager’s head would bob around as they fearfully reveal a deep truth. Elio and Oliver are set across from each other, far apart as confessions are made, with the camera following their circling of the monument, allowing the monument to obscure them both just as they are out of sight with each other.

Overall, this movie is just too long. It’s well-paced, but it’s beauty cannot overcome the fact that I don’t feel the fear, or the heartbreak, or even the elation of the young love. I saw it, but I didn’t feel it, and so Call Me By Your Name was beautiful, but flat.

I wish there were more movies like this one, but I didn’t like this one very much.

Cherry was almost certainly a better book than a movie. It’s told in parts, including an epilogue, and it feels rushed in film. Do all the essential notes of a complex story of young love, war, poverty and PTSD, self-destruction, and reemergence get hit? Yes. But it ends up feeling like many movies I’ve seen before put together in one place, each executed well, but with the whole just coming up feeling a bit dull.

There’s nothing dull about Tom Holland or Ciara Bravo, who are electrifying together and apart. At the start of the movie, I felt like their love and the point of view of Cherry (Tom Holland) was too obsessed with the male gaze and a fucked up version of masculinity that I’m just over with. But I came to really enjoy their relationship, for all its toxicity, and was wrapped up in their life and their struggle. It was a bit hard for me to believe everything about them, adorable as it was, prior to Cherry going off to war, but once he returns, their relationship becomes the most real thing in the film.

I’m glad to see Tom Holland in a different light, but I already liked him. Ciara Bravo is new to me, and I hope I will see her for a long time. She seamlessly transitioned from an adept, if tired, manic pixie dream girl to trying to be supportive wife to full on heroin addict. Each transition is only one scene, and if it weren’t executed with her considerable skill, it would have broken the film.

An undeniable cast. The best use of fan service and callbacks of just about any “late sequel” I’ve seen. Does Coming 2 America capture the magic of the original? This is no classic. But did I enjoy it all throughout? Yes.

Each time the movie felt like it dragged a bit, it provided a moment that rewarded those of us who have seen the original a hundred times.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in Coming 2 America is it focus on Lavelle Junson (Jermain Fowler) over the more interesting daughters of Akeem (Eddie Murphy). Princess Meeka (KiKi Layne) was a far richer and more interesting character than her half-brother; so was Mirembe (Nomzamo Mbatha). And in spite of the inspired casting of Leslie Jones as Mary Junson, the talented women who stole every one of their scenes are under utilized.

Nearly all notable members of the original cast returns, which I found more delightful than tired. A quiet scene in McDowell’s of Zumunda with Cleo (John Amos) is one of the film’s best, and a surprise cameo by Fresh Peaches and Sugar Cube (the beat boxing twins from the club in the original’s dating montage) is a highlight.

Will I watch this again? Probably not. But was I glad to spend a Friday night with these characters? Absolutely.

Chef is a movie for anyone who loves food and loves cooking. No surprises there. But if you like watching competent people in the kitchen make food that looks incredible, I’m not sure any other movie competes.

The cast is fantastic. Favreau and Leguizamo are great, but every role, big or small received the same careful attention. Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, and Bobby Cannavale are stand outs.

Despite the call outs to Vine, the idea that Twitter is novel and hard to understand, or the skepticism of food trucks that firmly place Chef in its time, the movie hardly feels dated. It’s a classic story— middle-aged man who has lost his way and neglected his family rediscovering himself and rebuilding his relationship with his son along the way.

But here’s the thing— if you make a movie that has beautiful cooking and shows off Cubanos, beignets, and brisket from Franklin’s? I’m going to show up. And in this year, when I haven’t been able to travel to these places that I went every year to eat the food that makes those places special… damn that hits.

Two great leads, too smart, too quick, waxing philosophic in the nadir of their relationship as they are stuck cohabitating until the end of London’s first lockdown. Is Locked Down about the haphazard heist in its third act? No, of course not. It’s almost a silly bit of Harrod’s advertisement tacked on to a timely one-location film about discovery and romance during pandemic times.

Zoom and Skype have quickly become a part of television and film produced in the last year, and Locked Down uses these devices well, with strong appearances by Dulé Hill, Sir Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, and Mindy Kaling. I do wonder if all these stories produced now, about now will have staying power.

But Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathway are both magnificent as a couple whose relationship has died with much left to say to each other and learn about themselves.

For some people, Locked Down will read as overly dramatic, with dialog that is overly sophisticated and clunky even as it’s rendered with ease by two phenomenal actors. For others, it will read as literary or theatrical and quotable. For me, it’s too well acted, well made, and well paced to fall entirely flat, although I find myself wishing it had the conviction to have a far smaller third act. Having a daring, wild project where our leads work together ensure their rekindling and reconciliation feels great. Having that be an almost ridiculous set of circumstances leading to a diamond heist was maybe not the right wild project for my tastes.

The Midnight Sky is about the end of the world. It’s about a man who is dying. It is about saving the last of humanity, at least for one more generation.

There are two stories taking places in this film, both in the harshest environments. We follow Augustine (George Clooney) in the North Pole and Sully (Felicity Jones) and the crew of the Aether on return from a fictional moon of Jupiter that can support human life on its surface. I was surprised at how much time The Midnight Sky spent in space— I thought I was watching a movie about George Clooney versus the elements, his terminal illness, and his loneliness. But this movie was also about the crew of the Aether, their battle against the elements and their loneliness (and uncertainty, with all contact from Earth suddenly ceasing). They serve as coequal story arcs, with an unsurprising connection.

I think The Midnight Sky is weakest when it resorts to trite story elements, like an early sequence where Sully is terrified by events that turn out to be a dream. There are flashbacks to Augustine’s early career (mercifully casting a different actor for the role rather than using de-aging effects) that feel unnecessary.

But although this movie moves through well-trodden ground, it does so adeptly and beautifully. Pacing, acting, and visual effects are superb. What it lacks is that extra bit of emotional resonance that would have made it feel marvelous, even if it used some old tricks.

In The Vast of Night, 16-year old evening telephone operator Fay Crocker and radio DJ Everett Sloan stumble across a strange sound in the telephone lines and radio airways. What is this whirring sound, almost like a windmill, but less natural, with a distinct atonal voice coming through.

There’s a featurette showing an impressive long tracking shot that last about 4 minutes in The Vast of Night. It is impressive and well-conceived. But the best trick in The Vast of Night comes in the scene directly following this shot. Everett patches the sound Fay heard through to the radio and asks, “Has anyone ever heard such a thing?“ That’s when caller Billy is introduced. As Billy tells his story of strange events during his service in the air force, the screen goes black for long stretches of time. Billy is a voice on the radio, and we get to experience him entirely as a voice on the radio. There’s no cut to Billy. Nothing visual establishes him. His story is told to us as the characters in the film experiences it, with an occasional flash of our protagonists reacting in to something important that he says. We listen, and the movie deftly gives us cues on how to react by showing us Everett and Fay just every so often.

From there, the chase is on, first to another town denizen with stories of people in the sky and finally to look at what it is that’s in the sky, as reported by those few people who are not at the high school basketball game.

At times, The Vast of Night is a bit too cute. We open to a Twilight Zone-like TV show on an old tube set that’s meant to tell us we are watching a similar television program. There are several shots throughout that swap the dark, grainy almost Instagram-like tones of the majority of the movie to a faded, cyan-heavy, tube-TV look to remind us, “This is all a show.” It’s not just visually unappealing, but it served to take me out of the film and lower the stakes. We’re in early 50s, small town rural America at night where the streets are dark with a masterful soundtrack and rich diegetic sound that raise the stakes and intensity. It’s dark, there’s naturalistic dialog with mumbling and extreme crosstalk. And then we’re forced to become all too aware of the hand of the director, ripping us to a television screen, as if to say, “Don’t be scared. Don’t feel anxious. This is just a story.”

The Vast of Night joins a rich tradition of smaller, less expensive films that uses its budget well to tell a science fiction story that feels real and personal. But the filmmakers need to communicate that this modern film was just a piece of 50s pulp television ultimately undermines its successful world building instead of enhancing it. If they only had the conviction to let the audience live in Cayuga, New Mexico…

This review contains spoilers.

Movies like Greenland have certain beats they have to hit.

Start with a normal life that is revealed to already be imperfect or broken in some way, usually between two lovers. Underestimate a coming threat. Rapid realization that things are about to get dangerous fast, showing lots of fear and uncertainty. Take action to survive. Show the world falling a part and have otherwise “normal” seeming people act in ways that under normal circumstances are completely immoral. Let the audience question what happens to morality under these new conditions. Race to survival through trial and tribulation. Sometimes you live, sometimes you die, but you always resolve that initial conflict shown from the Before Times.

Did I just describe Greenland? Yes, and plenty of other films/stories like it. But just because there is a formula, it doesn’t mean the formula is bad. Greenland executes this race to survival very well. I felt the rush of adrenaline and anxiety throughout this movie. I felt genuine fear. I felt genuinely uncertain if they would make it.

There’s real horror when a message flashes on the television at a birthday party that makes it clear that only one family in this suburban neighborhood was being chosen to evacuate. I was already anxious as Gerard Butler didn’t immediately and quietly throw his family in the car when he got home from the grocery store where he received his first warning. And I felt the crushing claustrophobia of the crowds at the military air base trying to squeeze in to be allowed on the planes leaving for Greenland. I was nearly crushed by the child abduction and felt genuine relief when our main family is united at grandpa’s farm house.

If there’s anything that detracts from this movie, I think it’s the happy ending. I’m not sure there was any need for the shots of destruction around the Earth. I don’t think there was a need for showing the bunker doors opening and the return of wildlife. In fact, I think the movie plays fast and loose with the audience only once, and that’s when it shows the “flashes”, telegraphed repeatedly as what you see before dying, prior to the films unnecessary coda. This should have been a signal they did not survive. There’s no reason not to end the movie there. I don’t think Greenland is ruined by its happy ending, but I think just a few choices in how it’s presented were just a bit inelegant compared to the rest of the film. I also didn’t like how a character literally has to say, “You were chosen because you’re a structural engineer who builds buildings.” This should have been clear to the audience and characters without being spelled out.

Overall, this is a story that’s been told, but it’s told competently with great acting performances and some stunning visuals that are well deployed. The ending is a little bit creaky compared to an otherwise extremely competent execution.