Today's Liberal News

David Sims

A Still-Shocking Masterpiece Worth Catching in Theaters

This article contains spoilers for the ending of Oldboy.Many movies with notorious twist endings—such as The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects—face a steep challenge on rewatch. The impact of the finale evaporates, or is at least blunted, by the viewer’s knowledge of what’s coming. A second viewing is largely an exercise in detecting the breadcrumbs leading to the big surprise.

Hollywood’s Huge Barbenheimer Fumble

Hollywood has always had a short memory. Industry analysts will predict doom for the future of cinema for months, then exult when a new release defies expectations. This summer has been no exception: A few blockbusters such as The Flash and Indiana Jones underperformed, and hand-wringing quickly ensued. But last weekend brought a colossal turnaround, thanks to Barbenheimer—the head-to-head releases of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.

What’s the Matter With Barbie?

Life in Barbie Land, the utopian pink paradise that’s home to life-size versions of every Barbie doll that has ever existed, is one long party. Barbie (played by Margot Robbie) wakes up in her dream house every morning, hangs at the beach all day with the other Barbies and many admiring Kens, then hosts a girls’ night that’s one long choreographed dance sequence.

Pixar’s Talking Blobs Are Becoming More and More Unsatisfying

On paper, Pixar’s new film, Elemental, seems like the kind of wildly inventive, visually dynamic project that has made the company such a consistent success in the animation world. The studio’s formula is clear enough: Take an inanimate, perhaps abstract thing (a toy, a car, a feeling, a human soul) and personify it, even as a talking blob of sorts, building out a representational world that nonetheless feels familiar.

Asteroid City Is Wes Anderson at His Best

I am here, hat in hand, to admit that I underestimated Wes Anderson. I’ve enjoyed the filmmaker’s work for many years—his methodical aesthetic, the subject of a thousand weak parodies, might be the most recognizable in moviemaking right now. But in the past decade or so, I struggled to excavate much deeper meaning beneath Anderson’s fine-tuned flair, and began to worry that he was disappearing inside his own eccentricities.

A Spidey Sense We Haven’t Seen Before

Multiverses are, at this point, familiar ground for Hollywood. Films about extra-dimensional travel and parallel versions of ourselves aren’t restricted to the realm of comic-book nerdery; the reigning Best Picture winner at the hoary Oscars is all about “verse-jumping,” after all.

The Naturalistic Horror of The Little Mermaid

Fairy tales do not typically stand up to a lot of scrutiny. One does not hear the story of Sleeping Beauty and think, Well, that all seems logical. These gauzy fables function because they only vaguely resemble reality, a condition that makes them perfect as subjects of Disney cartoons.

The Film That Understands What a Creative Life Really Looks Like

Kelly Reichardt’s newest film, Showing Up, is in some ways a remembrance of art schools past. It’s set in Oregon, like most of her projects, specifically in and around a college where the taciturn yet flinty Lizzy (played by Michelle Williams) works a day job while pursuing a career as a sculptor. Reichardt filmed on the old campus of the Oregon College of Art and Craft, which closed in 2019.

Air Has More Substance Than You’d Expect

Air faces a steep challenge, in terms of winning its audience over. Ben Affleck’s film, set in the mid-1980s, wants viewers to root for Nike—yes, that Nike, the shoe company, the one that’s done pretty well for itself over the past few decades.

The Throwback Hero That Video Games Needed

The “next-gen remake” is the latest and safest cash cow in video gaming. Take a hit title that came out a decade or more ago on a prior console, spiff it up with updated graphics, controls, and maybe even some new content, and sell it at full price to a nostalgic audience. Since its 2005 debut on the Nintendo GameCube, Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 has been lightly reconfigured for a dozen different devices.

Dungeons & Dragons and the Return of the Sincere Blockbuster

The best sessions of Dungeons & Dragons walk the line between stirring tales of teamwork and achingly nerdy jokes. A barbarian, a bard, a sorcerer, and a druid walk into an inn—what happens next? Why, deeds of derring-do, of course, or at least a bit of hearty axe-swinging. The collaborative tabletop game invites every player to get creative; the most inspired renditions plop players into a fantasy world and ask them to improvise their way through.

The Inevitable Victory of Everything Everywhere All at Once

There was a moment in the middle of tonight’s Oscar ceremony when I started getting concerned text messages from friends. Their line of inquiry was the same: Was All Quiet on the Western Front about to pull a big upset for Best Picture? The German World War I film, distributed by Netflix, had racked up a slew of technical wins, and a ceremony that had begun with a burst of joyous energy seemed headed in a more fusty, old-fashioned direction.

What’s Missing From the Grand Finale of The Last of Us

This story contains spoilers for the entire first season of The Last of Us.Video-game adaptations used to be defined by how much they could ignore their source material. A Super Mario Bros. movie couldn’t actually be about cartoon Italians jumping on mushrooms with eyes, so it became a battle against leather-clad lizards in an industrial dystopia. The Street Fighter game is about, well, fighting in the street, but the movie is a G.I. Joe rip-off with far-flung action sequences.

Is Scream Losing Its Voice?

In January 2022, when the fifth Scream film came out, more than a decade had passed since someone had last donned the Ghostface mask and terrorized teens with threatening phone calls and a deftly wielded hunting knife.

The Fury of Chris Rock

If the Academy Awards were pretaped, the public would never have seen Will Smith slap Chris Rock last year. Sure, the incident would be known about and reported on, but the bizarre, disquieting electricity of that moment came from it happening live, on a worldwide broadcast, during a meticulously choreographed event. Ever since then, the question has been how Rock would officially respond.

Twenty Biopics That Are Actually Worth Watching

Every Oscars season brings new surprises: first-time nominees, snubbed Hollywood veterans, a list of honorees spanning blockbusters to indies. But one kind of movie is always a contender: the biopic. A true-story film is one of the most reliable forms of awards catnip; seven of the past 10 winners for Best Actor in a Leading Role were nominated for their portrayal of a real figure, sometimes a well-known celebrity, such as Freddie Mercury or Winston Churchill.

Cocaine Bear Is Exactly What It Sounds Like

Pretty early into Cocaine Bear’s running time, I started searching desperately for the metaphor. Elizabeth Banks’s action-comedy-horror is, as you might have heard, about a black bear in 1980s Georgia who eats a lot of cocaine that fell out of an airplane. The cocaine makes her angry and hungry for more cocaine, and given that she’s already a big bear with sharp claws, the combination is quite distressing for the people in the forest around her.

The New Ant-Man and the Creaky, Cringey Marvel Machine

Marvel movies have never been excessively attached to the real world, given their affinity for Norse gods, alien warriors, flying wizards, and the like. Still, some of these films had at least a vague sense of tactility, and perhaps the most grounded hero was plucky little Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd, the perfect smirking everyman of the 21st century. Ant-Man’s power is that he can get very small (though sometimes he’ll switch it up and get very large).

The Films Steven Soderbergh Watches on a Loop

Steven Soderbergh is the rare filmmaker who views a sequel as a chance to do something different. In a moviemaking era suffused with safe and predictable follow-ups, Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Twelve remains a sterling example of a strange, surprising left turn from its predecessor’s formula.

Infinity Pool Isn’t Just Another Satire of the Ultra-Wealthy

One of pop culture’s favorite locales of late is a secluded resort for the rich and irresponsible, a landscape defined by both gorgeous vistas and cutting satire. Think The White Lotus, Glass Onion, the culinary getaway of The Menu, or the doomed luxury yacht of Triangle of Sadness. It’s the perfect setting for a story to deride opulent foolishness, give some wealthy villains their comeuppance, and critique the churning, ever-widening gyre between the haves and have-nots.

The Oscar Nominations Are In, and a Few Big Trends Are Out

For once, the Academy Award nominations seemingly arrived without too much existential panic about the entire enterprise. The latest slate of honorees, announced this morning by Riz Ahmed and Allison Williams, includes two of the most commercially successful films of the year, a bunch of crowd-pleasing word-of-mouth hits, and some genuine indie and foreign surprises.

Hollywood Cannot Survive Without Movie Theaters

Every Thanksgiving weekend, once the holiday itself has passed and people are looking for things to do for the rest of the break, I get texts from friends seeking movie recommendations: What’s worth seeing in theaters right now? In 2022, that query became more of a plea.

Skinamarink Is a Delightful Nightmare

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, maybe having been roused by a mysterious noise, and tried to look around the room while your eyes adjusted to the dark? That unsettled feeling is exactly what Kyle Edward Ball’s new horror film, Skinamarink, aims for: an atmosphere where you’re not quite sure if you’re still dreaming, and where every shadow on the wall is imbued with menace.

The Last of Us Makes the Apocalypse Feel New Again

In the landscape of video-game adaptations, a specific quandary comes up again and again as the medium grows in ambition: How do you translate a game that was itself clearly inspired by film and television? When The Last of Us was released on PlayStation in 2013, I marveled at its cinematic verisimilitude.

M3GAN’s Killer-Robot Doll Is Just What 2023 Needs

Come January, Hollywood always undergoes a strange shift in its major releases, from awards-centric fare and festive hits to the doldrums of the post-holiday season. Studios usually regard this period as a dumping ground for low-quality genre films that seem designed to be quickly forgotten. But 2023 is different, because this year, viewers have a special new friend to help them acclimatize: a pint-size robot girl named M3GAN.

The Mind-Boggling Grandeur of White Noise

Only now, in this moment in Hollywood, would an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s award-winning novel White Noise by the indie darling Noah Baumbach be funded like a blockbuster. After all, the film isn’t going to make any real money—even though it’s been playing in a few theaters for more than a month, it had its wide release yesterday on Netflix. But for years, the streamer has financed many a master filmmaker’s risky passion project.

The Mind-Boggling Grandeur of White Noise

Only now, in this moment in Hollywood, would an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s award-winning novel White Noise by the indie darling Noah Baumbach be funded like a blockbuster. After all, the film isn’t going to make any real money—even though it’s been playing in a few theaters for more than a month, it had its wide release yesterday on Netflix. But for years, the streamer has financed many a master filmmaker’s risky passion project.

Rian Johnson’s Primal Scream

This article contains mild spoilers for the film Knives Out.When I last spoke with the filmmaker Rian Johnson, in 2019, he was two years removed from working on one of the world’s biggest franchises—Star Wars—and had quickly turned around a smaller, nimbler mystery-comedy set in wintery Massachusetts called Knives Out. That was enough of a hit that it started a new franchise around Daniel Craig’s lilting detective, Benoit Blanc.