She’s the best thing about this grim survival flick

By Todd Hill

Angelina Jolie and Finn Little are on the run from mysterious assassins and a raging forest fire in “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

(2.5 stars out of 5)

There’s a big, looming question at the center of the new Angelina Jolie movie “Those Who Wish Me Dead.”

It’s all to do with the title of the film. A boy is on the run from a pair of assassins after they less-than-neatly dispatch his father, a forensic accountant. …

Dementia film features Anthony Hopkins in top form

By Todd Hill

Olivia Colman and Anthony Hopkins star in “The Father,” which earned Hopkins his second Oscar (for Best Actor), on six nominations. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

(4 stars out of 5)

For some two decades now, we’ve been treated — if that’s the word — to several superlative films about dementia.

This year’s “The Father,” nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and starring Anthony Hopkins, joins a sterling list of dementia-themed movies that includes “Iris” (2001), “Away From Her” (2007) and “Still Alice” (2014), among others. A strong argument can be made that “The Father” is the best of bunch.

Personally, I’m just looking forward to the day when films like this can be considered period pieces, to that day when…

Tender film about Korean immigrants a deceptively pretty picture

By Todd Hill

Steven Yeun, Noel Cate Cho, Alan Kim and Han Ye-ri, from left, star in Lee Isaac Chung’s film “Minari,” about Korean immigrants making a go of it in Arkansas. Photo courtesy of A24

(4 stars out of 5)

Know any good stories? Of course you do! If you’ve lived a life, then you have ready access to the best stories available to tell in the entire world, which are your own. And they’re just as unique as you are.

Writers have been telling lightly fictionalized stories about their lives since the moment they learned how to put ink to paper — or stone to cave wall. This predilection for varied autobiography has been less common in film since movies are so challenging to get made. …

But film features career-best performance by Carey Mulligan

By Todd Hill

Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie, a med school dropout with vengeance in her soul, in Emerald Fennell’s debut feature film “Promising Young Woman.” Photo courtesy of Focus Features

(3 stars out of 5)

“Promising Young Woman” is the feel-bad movie of the 2021 film awards season, and a lot of people appear to have a problem with that.

I don’t quite understand why. This is a film about rape, and tangentially the #MeToo movement, which hardly suggests a laugh riot. What are these people waiting for next, a Black Lives Matter musical? Movies about profound social ills are generally not uplifting. What they are, most of the time, are documentaries.

“Promising Young Woman” is decidedly not that. It looks like a candy-colored romp. If you…

Acceptance, community take center stage in Best Picture nominee

By Todd Hill

Riz Ahmed stars as a drummer in a metal band who loses his hearing in “Sound of Metal,” directed by Darius Marder. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

(4 stars out of 5)

I had no real knowledge of “Sound of Metal” until I learned that the film had been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. And that was all I really knew about it when I saw the movie, apart from the barest summation of its plot. I was only aware that it was about a guy who loses his hearing.

Is that the best way to encounter an motion picture, just out of the blue? I’ve always thought so, even though I’ve also known it’s often not possible. But maybe because…

David Fincher’s father would be pleased, but the movie is a slog

By Todd Hill

Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), rear top, meet cute in David Fincher’s “Mank.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

(2.5 stars out of 5)

It’s never fair to criticize a motion picture because of what it isn’t or what it could’ve been instead of what it actually is. But nothing about life — and certainly film criticism — is fair.

“Mank,” the latest movie by David Fincher and a recipient of a whopping 10 Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture, is a love letter of sorts from the director to his late father, who wrote the screenplay back in the 1990s. And it could’ve been great as a book.

Or maybe not, who’s to say…

Aaron Sorkin’s film comes out against injustice

By Todd Hill

Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch and Sacha Baron Cohen, from left, star as Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger and Abbie Hoffman, respectively, in the Aaron Sorkin film “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

(3 stars out of 5)

Watching a movie or series that was written by Aaron Sorkin is a lot like eating at Applebee’s.

By making that remark, I am in no way intending to insult Applebee’s (or Aaron Sorkin, for that matter). I’ve had some thoroughly decent meals at that restaurant chain over the years, sometimes after a basketball game or following a day of shopping or, I don’t know, going to a funeral. …

More nominations meant more recognition for diverse voices, with uneven results

Audience members at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre exhibit a range of emotions watching “Moonlight” win the Oscar for Best Picture minutes after the honor was mistakenly awarded to “La La Land,” on Feb. 26, 2017. Photo courtesy of Associated Press

By Todd Hill

Trends in cinema may never fit neatly into decade-long windows, but from the perspective of today it’s clear that a trend that had been building for several years reached critical mass during the 2010s.

Event-scale superhero movies and franchise film properties first became identifiable cinematic phenomena going back as far as the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that they came to truly dominate the box office, each and every year. …

But Chloe Zhao’s film doesn’t tell us how to feel

By Todd Hill

Frances McDormand and David Strathairn share a quiet moment in the Badlands of South Dakota in “Nomadland,” directed by Chloe Zhao. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

(4 stars out of 5)

Some people say everything happens for a reason, and of course that’s literally true, although that’s not really what they’re getting at.

These people are instead putting their trust in fate, an unseen force that’s dictating the direction of their lives, at least to some unknowable extent. Personally, I subscribe to the school of thought that free will — that is, the choices we’ve made — largely account for how our lives are turning out. I’ll also accept that economic realities may play a role as well.

To its substantial credit, the…

The Netflix movie about a grifty form of elder abuse has no heroes

By Todd Hill

Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), right, and her associate Fran (Eiza Gonzalez), left, introduce a skeptical Dianne Wiest to her new home. Photo courtesy of Netflix

(3 stars out of 5)

A morality tale can’t have it both ways, but “I Care a Lot” certainly does try.

Movies like these always have options, of course, although nine times out of 10 they ultimately wind up reminding us that crime doesn’t pay (even if it does). Fear not, no spoilers are forthcoming concerning this particular film, which dropped on Netflix on Feb. 19, 2021, but after many twists and turns it appears to end the only way it really can. …


Todd Hill is a former journalist with 30 years of experience, much of it in film criticism, who misses neither journalism nor the film beat.

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