'Brittany Runs a Marathon' is the first film written and directed by playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo and it stars Jillian Bell as a hard-partying woman who signs up for the New York City Marathon. Justin Chang reviews it.
The title character in the coolly engrossing new movie Luce is a high school student who seems exemplary from every angle. Played in a remarkable performance by Kelvin Harrison Jr., Luce Edgar is handsome and popular, an academic and athletic star who gives inspiring speeches at school assemblies. You wouldn't guess that Luce spent his early years as a child soldier in the war-torn country of Eritrea, a trauma that he's clearly worked hard to overcome with the help of his adoptive parents, played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, whom he lives with in Arlington, Va.
The best scene in Disney's incredibly photo-realistic remake of The Lion King features a computer-generated beetle rolling a ball of computer-generated dung across a computer-generated African landscape. It might sound mundane, but this particular ball of dung is carrying a tuft of fur from the runaway lion Simba, and its eventual discovery will renew hope that the rightful king of the savanna is alive and well. It's a funny, touching reminder that in the circle of life, every little creature and every lump of waste has an important role to play.
Film critic Justin Chang reviews 'The Farewell' the second feature by the Chinese-American writer director Lulu Wang. It tells a story from her own family's experience about a young woman who travels to China to pay a final visit to her grandmother, who has no idea that she has only a few months to live.
In the viscerally unnerving films of Ari Aster, there's nothing more horrific than the reality of human grief. His haunted-house thriller, Hereditary, followed a family rocked by traumas so devastating that the eventual scenes of devil-worshipping naked boogeymen almost came as a relief. Aster's new movie, Midsommar, doesn't pack quite as terrifying a knockout punch, but it casts its own weirdly hypnotic spell. This is a slow-burning and deeply absorbing piece of filmmaking, full of strikingly beautiful images and driven less by shocks than ideas.
The Toy Story movies are about the secret lives of dolls and action figures that find their deepest fulfillment in a child's embrace. But they're really about what it means to be human: the joys of love and friendship and the pains of rejection and loss. But even more than the earlier films, Toy Story 4 feels haunted by the idea of impermanence. What happens when we outgrow something we once cherished? To put it another way: After three Toy Story movies, do we really need a fourth?