Film Reviews

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic of The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern reviews films weekly in the paper and on KCRW.


  • Alita: Battle Angel

    Feb 16 2019

    The film was directed by Robert Rodriguez, who did “From Dusk Till Dawn" and "Sin City," and it comes by its visual elegance honestly, since the technology derives from James Cameron's "Avatar." Cameron produced this one, and the digital wizardry, as in "Avatar;" came out of the Weta Digital facility in New Zealand.

  • Cold Pursuit

    Feb 09 2019

    "Cold Pursuit” finds Liam Neeson once again in avenger mode—it’s a given that he’s recapitulating the spirit of “Taken.”

  • Arctic

    Feb 02 2019


  • The Kid Who Would Be King

    Jan 26 2019

    There’s a lot to enjoy about the film, starting with the title’s sly reference to Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” and John Huston’s classic screen adaptation.

  • Glass

    Jan 19 2019

    It’s a sort of a climax to a kind of a trilogy that began at the turn of the century with “Unbreakable” and includes “Split,” which was released in 2016.

  • On the Basis of Sex

    Dec 29 2018

    “On the Basis of Sex” is a fictionalized account of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s formative years as a lawyer and law professor. The film is informative, in a dutiful way, but it’s a skin-deep celebration of someone who’s never settled for superficiality in her life’s work. Hints of her future self appear, but only in flashes. Mostly the production takes its cues not from real life but from film clichés. The fateful flaw isn’t hard to locate. It’s the script, which was written by Daniel Stiepleman. F...more

  • Mary Poppins Returns

    Dec 22 2018

    At the beginning of “Mary Poppins Returns” we’re told that the story takes place, quote, “in the days of the great Slump.” Meaning the Depression, of course, except that the elation merchants at Disney avoided the word out of concern that it might be depressing. Rather than run the same risk, I’ll simply note that I found this sequel deeply slumping. The misuse of talent is what slumped me the most.

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Dec 15 2018

    Within the first 30 seconds you know you’re watching something new. A sensational title sequence threatens to be the design equivalent of flash bang grenades, yet the art isn’t assaultive, only inventive, with colors that stretch the spectrum as far as the eye can see.

  • Vox Lux

    Dec 08 2018

    It’s a bizarre treat to watch Portman singing—very well—and strutting her stuff in a black sequined gown like a cross between Madonna and a Roomba Robot vacuum gone rogue.

  • Anna and the Apocalypse

    Dec 01 2018

    A zombie musical with a high-school setting.

  • Roma

    Nov 24 2018

    There’s no other way to say it than to say it: “Roma” is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, and one of the most moving.

  • Widows

    Nov 17 2018

    One of the many things you may learn from “Widows” is that cemeteries don’t have gravediggers anymore; backhoes do the job.

  • The Girl In the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story

    Nov 10 2018

    “The Girl In the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story” is a reference to the terrific series that started years ago with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” The central character in the new installment has the same name, but she’s changed and a lot around her has changed, none of it for the better.

  • The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

    Nov 03 2018

    Be forewarned that Disney’s latest holiday offering has reprocessed nothing but bits, pieces, slivers and chunks of Nutcrackery into a colorful, sumptuously produced confection with no detectable nutritional value.

  • Border

    Oct 27 2018

    A small-scale Swedish feature that sneaks up on you but isn’t scary so much as amusing, then intriguing, then, by degrees, unsettling, troubling, frightening, honest-to-badness horrifying and enthralling.

  • Wildlife

    Oct 20 2018

    “Wildlife” is just plain wonderful, and I’ll explain the plain part in a minute. This coming-of-age drama is the directorial debut of the actor Paul Dano; he and Zoe Kazan adapted the screenplay from the novel by Richard Ford. The time is 1960, the place is Montana and the hero, a lonely 14-year-old named Joe Brinson, is trying to understand the ways of the world through his suddenly fractured family.

  • First Man

    Oct 13 2018

    Here’s the radical notion behind Damien Chazelle’s “First Man”: Tell the story of mankind’s boldest adventure thus far, the Apollo 11 mission that reached the moon nearly a half-century ago, but tell it through a taciturn, emotionally closed-off hero, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the lunar surface.

  • A Star Is Born

    Oct 06 2018

    "A Star Is Born" is thrillingly right in just about every respect. It’s as if no one knew they were shooting a remake. The film feels fresh from thunderous start to exquisite finish.

  • Free Solo

    Sep 29 2018

    Feel free to find your own meaning in “Free Solo.” Maybe you’ll see it as a movie about defying death (while courting it), or transcending fear (without banishing it), or solving problems (through excruciating attention to detail), or simply as an expression of the unquenchable human spirit. It’s all of those things and more. 

  • BlacKkKlansman

    Aug 11 2018

    Spike Lee doesn’t mince words in “BlacKkKlansman.” He ignites them, and illustrates them with inflammatory images. This is a freewheeling account of an African-American cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1970s. It’s uneven as narrative drama, but stunning as a furious, in-your-white-face outcry against racial hatred in America’s past and turbulent present, with pointed references to President Trump.

  • Mission: Impossible

    Jul 28 2018

    Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back to saving the world from nuclear devastation—he did it almost seven years ago in “Ghost Protocol,” so you can bet on him succeeding again.

  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

    Jul 21 2018

    Yes, the glee is industrial-strength, and the ABBA-fueled production numbers are so far over the top that the film is both topless and chaste. Yet there’s a wellspring of genuine feeling in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” a time-hopping sequel that amounts to an origin story.

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp

    Jul 07 2018

    Paul Rudd is back, winningly, as Scott Lang/aka the superhero of the title, along with Michael Douglas as the inventor Dr. Hank Pym, and Evangeline Lilly, who’s lovely and strong as Hank’s daughter, Hope van Dyne.

  • Leave No Trace

    Jun 30 2018

    “Leave No Trace” was made by an artist who combines plainspoken poetry with documentary detail. It’s a gorgeous film, a triumph on top of an earlier one and, not incidentally, a small miracle of concision at a time when audiences are more and more interested in stories spun out at great length in episodes and seasons.

  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

    Jun 23 2018

    An imminent threat of extinction drives the narrative. It’s three years after the previous film, “Jurassic World,” and the collapse of the theme park on Isla Nublar. The dinosaurs have the island to themselves, but a volcanic eruption threatens to wipe them out.