I don’t think American Assassin is a good movie, exactly—it’s a bit too long; it’s shot with a workmanlike competence that succinctly relays information without interesting or exciting the viewer; its twists and turns are all a bit too predictable, never a good sign for a would-be thriller—but it does have a pair of my favorite performances of the year.
Stephen King began writing It in the latter half of 1981, finishing up the nearly 1100-page book four years later in 1985. The writing commenced just a few months after the publication of Danse Macabre, perhaps best described as a treatise on what makes scares work: a nonfiction examination of the literature and cinema of horror through the eyes of one of its great practitioners.
I don’t know why, but it feels somewhat strange that Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars were released just months apart in 1977. Perhaps that’s because while the two nominally occupied the same genre, one has become a business unto itself—a multibillion-dollar property spawning cinematic sequels and entire universes of books and cartoon series and theme parks—even as the other remains the indisputably superior cinematic achievement.
The Trip to Spain, the latest of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s travelogue films, is a rather perfect mélange of casual wealth porn, a glimpse into competitive friendships, and the clash between the masculine imperatives to settle down and start a family and to achieve professional greatness while racking up personal conquests.
We all knew that Steven Soderbergh’s retirement from feature filmmaking in 2013 following the release of Side Effects was unlikely to last. Indeed, one could argue that it never really began, given his work on Cinemax’s The Knick and other projects. But it’s nice to have him officially back in business with Logan Lucky, a star-studded heist flick that calls to mind some of the eclectic director’s most popular work even if it falters a bit at the end.
There’s something to be said for Wind River’s admirable efficiency: Simple yet never simplistic, it’s a self-contained procedural clocking in at under two hours filled with impressive performances and genuine pathos that gives viewers a peek at a world they would otherwise never consider. In a summer filled with blockbusters, bloat, and bad box office receipts, Wind River is a refreshingly understated drama for the underserved adult filmgoer.
Here’s what I don’t quite understand about The Dark Tower: If you’re going to adapt Stephen King’s eight-book opus into a feature film—with the hopes of turning it into a whole series of films with accompanying TV shows—why would you turn its lead character, Roland Deschain, aka the Gunslinger (Idris Elba), into a supporting character?