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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

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John Lewis: Good Trouble documentary review: how to bend the arc of history

Mon Jul 20 2020, 09:27pm | 0 comments

Essential portrait of the US Congressman and civil-rights activist, for its lessons in the power of passive resistance to injustice, and its underscoring of how America has regressed in recent years.

Greyhound movie review: Tom Hanks goes a-LARPing (#AppleTVPlus)

Fri Jul 17 2020, 07:17pm | 0 comments

How very kind of Tom Hanks to lend his gravitas and inescapable likability to a bunch of WWII naval reenactors on their weekend-getaway “crossing the north Atlantic in 1942 dodging U-boats” campaign.

The Sunlit Night movie review: room to breathe and think in wide-open spaces

Wed Jul 15 2020, 06:30pm | 0 comments

A ramble with appealingly messy people rethinking their priorities that is perhaps more charming and touching than it might have been if this pandemic summer didn’t have so many of us doing the same.

have you found a new movie normal?

Mon Jul 13 2020, 09:00pm | 0 comments

I’d love to hear how, as a movie fan, you’re coping with this new entertainment environment.

The Old Guard movie review: saving the world, one century at a time (#Netflix)

Thu Jul 09 2020, 06:22pm | 0 comments

There’s plenty of bruising action, but this fantastic slice of comic-book pulp emphasizes the humanity of its immortal heroes. Gina Prince-Bythewood elevates the familiar with emotional authenticity.

Little Girl (Petite Fille) documentary review: what little girls are made of (#EIFF2020)

Thu Jul 09 2020, 02:01pm | 0 comments

Lovely verité documentary about eight-year-old Sasha, who was born into a boy’s body but is definitely a girl. An inspiring portrait of someone asking for so little: to be accepted for who she is.

my 2020 film ranking at the year’s midway point

Mon Jul 06 2020, 09:03pm | 0 comments

A sneak peek at my FULL ongoing ranking of 2020’s new movies. (This post is free for all. Join my Patreon to keep up with the list as it grows over the rest of the year.)

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch documentary review: the destruction of our planet, in pictures (#EIFF2020)

Mon Jul 06 2020, 04:51pm | 0 comments

Astonishing: sometimes oddly beautiful but mostly like sci-fi horror. An anti-meditation nightmare, a call to arms if only we were ready to finally address our thoughtless impact on planet Earth.

Disclosure documentary review: what the sorry state of trans representation onscreen means for everyone (#Netflix)

Sat Jul 04 2020, 08:51pm | 0 comments

Terrific doc unpacks trans representation in Hollywood, unspoken attitudes about gender, sexuality, and race that most people, trans and cis, may never have clocked before… ideas that affect us all.

Family Romance, LLC. movie review: coming to your emotional rescue

Fri Jul 03 2020, 04:05pm | 0 comments

A marvelously strange and perplexing meta meditation on human connection and ritual, on fact and fiction, on emotional truth. An existential cinematic rabbit hole as only Werner Herzog can deliver.

To Kid or Not to Kid and Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth documentaries review: childfree or child-bound?

Wed Jul 01 2020, 06:36pm | 0 comments

Two intimate documentaries about atypical paths to parenthood — or not — invite us to re-evaluate our assumptions, expand our thinking, and be more accommodating of the full spectrum of humanity.

the Flick Filosopher daily email digest is now the weekly email digest

Mon Jun 29 2020, 04:56pm | 0 comments

I have an email list. Did you know that? You probably didn’t: I haven’t had any signup forms around here prominently for a while.

Fanny Lye Deliver’d (aka The Delivered) movie review: birth of the modern woman (#EIFF2020)

Sun Jun 28 2020, 07:43pm | 0 comments

Maxine Peake is stupendous in this deliciously audacious period horror, ambitious in emotional scope and with monsters who feel unexpectedly modern: men who wield religion as a tool of oppression.

My Spy movie review: and you can keep him, little girl (#AmazonPrime)

Thu Jun 25 2020, 01:51pm | 0 comments

A “family” comedy about nuclear terrorism, the incompetent CIA agent on the case, and his 9-year-old sidekick. Desperately unfunny, thoroughly misjudged. We are in the worst and the dumbest timeline.

as I’ve been saying: YES, the cultural context and content of a film MATTERS

Thu Jun 25 2020, 11:53am | 0 comments

But now a man is saying it, so maybe someone will listen?

The Last Tree movie review: boy interrupted

Wed Jun 24 2020, 01:14pm | 0 comments

An astonishingly beautiful coming-of-age story of startling specificity and intense intimacy, yet universal in its compassionate depiction of a child’s perspective dawning on mature self-awareness.

I pledge not to review any new movie available only in cinemas as long as COVID-19 remains a danger

Thu Jun 18 2020, 07:40pm | 0 comments

This doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing film criticism! There are still plenty of movies, new and classic, that I can write about. But for the time being, I see no ethical way to cover films that will be available only in cinemas.

Miss Juneteenth movie review: ordinary lives drawn with extraordinary grace

Wed Jun 17 2020, 02:52pm | 0 comments

A beautiful cinematic experience, delicately subtle and bursting with a gorgeous sense of place and character. There is wonderful intimate suspense in every moment of Nicole Beharie’s performance.

7500 movie review: never your in-flight movie (#AmazonPrime)

Tue Jun 16 2020, 08:34pm | 0 comments

Mundanity builds to almost unbearable tension, but this isn’t an action movie. It’s a drama grounded in emotional realism thanks to the Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s intense empathy and vulnerable humanity.

Artemis Fowl movie review: falls foul of itself (#DisneyPlus)

Sun Jun 14 2020, 10:20pm | 5 comments

A disaster of a kids’ fantasy caper; feels like it’s making up the plot as it goes. A mishmash of manufactured wonder: characters barely sketched, action seemingly setting up future DisneyWorld rides.

Sometimes Always Never movie review: only very intermittently

Fri Jun 12 2020, 01:57pm | 0 comments

Gentle kook and visual frolicking bury emotion in this tale of a man mired in grief. Little of its head-scratching whimsy makes a melancholy landing; most just floats away on wisps of insignificance.

I’m on BBC World Service’s “The Arts Hour” again this Saturday, June 13th

Thu Jun 11 2020, 01:46pm | 0 comments

Topics include new movies The High Note and Radioactive, and a lot more.

Shirley movie review: lost girls gone mad

Wed Jun 10 2020, 06:46pm | 0 comments

A beautiful-ugly film, a work of domestic gothic grotesquerie, of women’s suffocation and sacrifice, pain and isolation. Elisabeth Moss’s performance is next-level glorious in its wackadoo intensity.

2040 documentary review: can we remake the world in 20 years? (spoiler: yes)

Mon Jun 08 2020, 08:41pm | 0 comments

A dash of eco-optimism to counter global-warming doom and gloom. Gameau is an enormously engaging fact-based dreamer offering a much-needed mindset refresh and proactive actions we can engage in now.

13th documentary review: American slavery never ended; here are the receipts (#Netflix)

Sun Jun 07 2020, 06:34pm | 0 comments

Brutal, necessary watch for all who want to understand why America operates with impunity re its horrendous treatment of Black people. Incisive and shocking, moreso now than when it debuted in 2016.

The Vast of Night movie review: and vast of perspective (#AmazonPrime)

Wed Jun 03 2020, 06:43pm | 0 comments

Striking sci-fi mood piece, all eeriness and ookiness, wonder and dread. Explicitly Twilight Zone–esque, summoning a midcentury-America innocence in order to shatter its narrowness (and our own).

The Lovebirds movie review: breaking up on the run (#Netflix)

Thu May 28 2020, 09:19pm | 0 comments

The hugely appealing Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani share terrific comic and romantic chemistry and work their everywoman and -man charm to the max. Go-to goofy escapism for, say, a pandemic lockdown.

$1 and $3 Patreon tiers to be retired on June 1st (but join now and you can stay at that level)

Wed May 27 2020, 09:33pm | 0 comments

Wouldn’t you like to join my Patreon? I know you would…

flash fiction update: ebook coming soon, free to all Patreon patrons — join now!

Wed May 27 2020, 12:47pm | 0 comments

And there’s an extra incentive to get you to pledge to my Patreon before June 1st.

Inheritance movie review: ill fortune

Tue May 26 2020, 10:00pm | 0 comments

Nothing works in this ludicrous thriller, which fails to compel us with its roster of monstrous characters. Lily Collins is woefully miscast; Patrick Warburton and Simon Pegg are criminally wasted.

Lucky Grandma movie review: brittle old lady

Fri May 22 2020, 03:55pm | 0 comments

Wild sass, gentle comedy, shivs of poignancy, and instantly vivid characters add up to a wonderful riff on mob movies as a Chinatown granny faces off against gangsters. Tsai Chin is an absolute hoot.

Scoob! movie review: Scooby dooby don’t

Tue May 19 2020, 07:42pm | 0 comments

A spectacularly scattershot, pandering mess of pulp junk, cheap-looking animation, and poisonous gender dynamics. A charmless cash-grab that can’t be bothered with the slightest stab at originality.

curated: how we look at art… and how we think about looking at art

Sun May 17 2020, 11:33pm | 0 comments

I suspect these essays hit me hard because how we see and think about the world is changing rapidly and dramatically as everything pauses during the coronavirus pandemic…

my 2020 film ranking is filling out… even with cinemas closed

Fri May 15 2020, 10:41pm | 0 comments

A peek at my ongoing ranking of 2020’s new movies — there are plenty! (The full list is now available to all Patreon patrons at all pledge levels. This post is free for all.)

Becoming documentary review: hope floats (#Netflix)

Tue May 12 2020, 09:39pm | 0 comments

Verges on an ad for Michelle Obama’s memoir, but a sincerely warm one. We glimpse a woman authentically funny, self-aware, down-to-earth. Like spending time with a friend you didn’t realize you had.

Spaceship Earth documentary review: under the dome, and under a scrutinous eye

Mon May 11 2020, 10:09pm | 0 comments

Was Biosphere 2 scientific adventure or eco-entertainment? This is a gripping portrait of the billionaire’s folly/performance-art project, a hippie SF soap opera with unsettling resonance for today.

How to Build a Girl movie review: instruction manual not included

Wed May 06 2020, 06:19pm | 0 comments

The hypocrisy of the world’s expectations of girls gets a gently sardonic knock via an audaciously confident young woman battling to be herself. This is a lovely, goofy movie, easygoing and chaotic.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century documentary review: eat the rich (cuz they’re eating us)

Mon May 04 2020, 07:00pm | 0 comments

Attention, social justice warriors. French economist Thomas Piketty’s howl-of-rage academic treatise is now a hugely engaging documentary, eye-opening and brutally entertaining. Man the barricades!

Bad Education movie review: school for scandal (#HBO)

Wed Apr 29 2020, 09:53pm | 2 comments

A laugh-until-you-cry dramedy burlesque, brilliantly structured and horrifically compelling, about the endless grift that passes for an economy in America. Hugh Jackman is at the peak of his powers.

The Assistant movie review: the realities of being a girl

Tue Apr 28 2020, 09:49pm | 0 comments

A quietly brutal film that shows the dark underbelly of an industry — of a world — dominated by often predatory straight white men. Could be an eye-opener on a larger scale… if only we listen.

Extraction movie review: meet the sociopathic white savior (#Netflix)

Mon Apr 27 2020, 10:01pm | 0 comments

Who are we rooting for in this accidental parody of the empty absurdity of modern action films? Everyone is awful, or a human macguffin. This is soulless technical wankery bereft of humor or humanity.

Planet of the Humans documentary review: we’ve done it, and we’ve been doing it for centuries

Thu Apr 23 2020, 06:26pm | 0 comments

From the warnings of the 1950s to the 21st-century corporate takeover of green energy, a grim look at humanity’s fate as the planet heats up. Is there any hope? This feels like only half the story.

To the Stars movie review: run into the ground

Tue Apr 21 2020, 10:56pm | 2 comments

Coming-of-age melodrama about misfit girls is at first passingly diverting, but it whips up mystery and suspense where it shouldn’t be, diminishing and minimizing an already neglected kind of story.

True History of the Kelly Gang movie review: toxic came the masculinity

Tue Apr 21 2020, 09:39pm | 0 comments

Revisionist tale of the Australian folk hero rages against the dark forces that shaped him: emotional and economic neglect and abuse forged in patriarchy and colonialism. Electrifyingly punk and vulgar.

Extra Ordinary movie review: oh, the mundanity!

Sat Apr 18 2020, 10:13pm | 0 comments

Sly, sharp, and snarkily underplayed, this instant little masterpiece of fantasy comedy is as occasionally shockingly horrific as it is nonstop shockingly funny, peopled with instant fast friends.

Endings, Beginnings movie review: when it ends is the best part

Thu Apr 16 2020, 10:10pm | 0 comments

Love this cast, but, my god, I hate these characters. I hate this miserable take on romance, which mistakes wallowing in self-pity for introspection, and people being awful for philosophical depth.

Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint documentary review: still way ahead of her time

Wed Apr 15 2020, 04:55pm | 0 comments

Wonder and mystery dwells in the work of forgotten abstract pioneer Hilma af Klint. Sarcasm and side-eye for the male- and money-dominated fine-art establishment dwells in this superb doc about her.

Who You Think I Am movie review: on the Internet, no one knows you’re a sexy French lady

Fri Apr 10 2020, 07:45pm | 0 comments

Not even the treasure that is Juliette Binoche can make this cynical romantic thriller palatable. Does not say the things about social media and the lives of older women that it thinks it does.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always movie review: the secret lives of girls and women

Tue Apr 07 2020, 08:03pm | 0 comments

Softly savage, exposing the unspoken subtext of the lives of girls and women: the mundane but covert garbage that gets piled upon us, the knotted existence too many of us are just barely surviving.

Trolls: World Tour movie review: a cinematic Rubicon by dint of pandemic coincidence

Tue Apr 07 2020, 04:25pm | 0 comments

As pastel and glittery as its predecessor, with a silliness more glorious and less forced. Sweet, smart, sincere… but it doesn’t deserve to be carrying the future of movies on its little shoulders.

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