Film Reviews

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


  • Beanpole

    Feb 15 2020

    "Beanpole" is a new Russian drama directed by the prodigiously gifted Kantemir Balogov. The setting is Leningrad during the first autumn after World War II, and it's a profound--and profoundly beautiful--tale of two women who've been traumatized by the war.

  • Birds of Prey

    Feb 08 2020

    The Harley Quinn of "Suicide Squad" is back in "Birds of Prey," though with a difference, even though she's still played, with skill and zest, by Margot Robbie. In the earlier film, a torture chamber for actors and audiences alike, Harley was a flamboyantly brutal criminal, rather than an entertaining one. She's flamboyant in "Birds of Prey," but joyously so.

  • The Assistant

    Feb 01 2020

    Kitty Green's "The Assistant" is audacious in a deadpan way, a #MeToo drama that comes on like an HR video illustrating the responsibilities of an entry-level job. The heroine, Jane (Julia Garner), is a junior assistant to the chairman of the company. His name is not Harvey Weinstein. In fact he's never named, or seen. This is a story of sexual abuse in which the predatory behavior, like the abuser, remains behind closed doors, but increasingly obvious to the decreasingly innocent assistant.

  • The Gentlemen

    Jan 25 2020

    Guy Ritchie is back, mostly for the better, in crime-caper mode with "The Gentlemen," a tale of criminal toughs and toffs in London trying to take down Matthew McConaughey's Mickey Pearson, an ex-pat American who's made a king's ransom growing marijuana in subterranean, tech-intensive farms under some of England's statelier homes.

  • Dolittle

    Jan 18 2020

    “Dolittle” is the latest in a long, undistinguished line of movies about the veterinarian who can talk to animals. It doesn’t speak well for the film that one of its only affecting moments involves a stick insect that doesn't seem to listen and has nothing to say.

  • The Rise of Skywalker

    Dec 21 2019

    Log line. The Star Wars party is over, or at least a significant part of it. Forty-two years after George Lucas put the saga in motion, the Skywalker trilogy has come to an end with "The Rise of Skywalker." 

  • Uncut Gems

    Dec 14 2019

    Energy flows from anxiety in "Uncut Gems." You may be exhausted but you'll never be bored by Adam Sandler's astonishing performance.

  • The Aeronauts

    Dec 07 2019

    "The Aeronauts" is in the Jules Verne vein of "Around the World In 80 Days," but on a slightly more modest scale. It's around and above London during a few hours with an intrepid pilot played by Felicity Jones and her scientist companion, who's played by Eddie Redmayne. Without giving away too much, I can tell you that the higher they go the colder they get.

  • Knives Out

    Nov 30 2019

    It's tempting to say that "Knives Out" is the sort of movie they don't make any more, but they didn't make all that many way back when, because it's really hard to pull off a production of such startling quality. If there's a false note in it I must have been laughing or gasping when it sounded.

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

    Nov 23 2019

    Tom Hanks is Fred Rogers, the children's TV host in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood." The movie was made for grownups, of course, so sticky sweetness threatens at every turn. But the movie bets on goodness, and wins.

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Nov 16 2019

    Movies about car racing sound like operas scored entirely for bassos. "Ford v Ferrari" fills that bill, but it also has significant things to say on a variety of worthy subjects. It's a great spectacle with a resonant soul to go with its smarts.

  • Marriage Story

    Nov 09 2019

    Every divorce story is a marriage story, but every movie about divorce is not on the level of Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story." Marvelous performances, steel-trap writing that also manages to be heartfelt--it's a deeply affecting classic.

  • The Irishman

    Nov 02 2019

    Here's an all-points bulletin about Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman." It's a huge movie, made to be seen on big screens, but it's a Netflix production that will be playing in theaters, and not all that many of them, only for three weeks. See it if you can before this genuine epic shrinks down to the size of a streaming attraction.

  • Synonyms

    Oct 26 2019

    “Synonyms” is an Israeli film, set in Paris, with a hero obsessed with words. One word for it is astonishing, but other words apply. They include fascinating, infuriating, frightening, lyrical and befuddling. Plus deadpan funny and frequently stunning as a bittersweet ode to contemporary France, one that’s suffused with New Wave verve.

  • The Lighthouse

    Oct 19 2019

    Three years ago Robert Eggers made his dark mark with a remarkable debut feature called "The Witch." Now he's back with "The Lighthouse," a horror fantasy in a dramatic and aesthetic class by itself.

  • Parasite

    Oct 12 2019

    Think about "Parasite" as a home-invasion story unlike any other. This funny, smart and genuinely profound social satire from Korea was directed by Bong Joon Ho, and it's one of the most original films in memory.

  • Joker

    Oct 05 2019

    If you’re feeling insufficiently anxious in your life, “Joker” could be just the ticket. If not, look elsewhere to be entertained.

  • Judy

    Sep 28 2019

    Renée Zellwegger plays Judy Garland with heart-stopping brilliance in "Judy." It's a performance that no one could have predicted, not even on the basis of her bedazzling portrayal of Roxie Hart in "Chicago."  She sets the film on fire every time she sings a Garland classic in her own voice.

  • Tigers Are Not Afraid

    Aug 24 2019

    In the past few years there's been a very real invasion from Mexico--by remarkably gifted filmmakers. Now a woman named Issa López joins their ranks with an interesting horror film called "Tigers Are Not Afraid."

  • Aquarela

    Aug 17 2019

    A remarkable documentary called "Aquarela" is about water--really and truly about water and its effect on the planet. The film makes the stuff almost palpable, as no motion picture I've ever seen before.

  • The Peanut Butter Falcon

    Aug 10 2019

    The Peanut Butter Falcon is a certified feelgood film that has no use for naked tenderness, disability sentimentality or full-frontal sweetness. Go in expecting the best and you'll come out smiling.

  • Luce

    Aug 03 2019

    An interesting independent film called "Luce" is framed as a psychological mystery. It labors under more layers of significance than it can handle without falling into contrivance. Yet the dramatic core is strong: an exceptional young man—played by an exceptional actor named Kelvin Harrison Jr.--struggling to become whoever he really is.

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Jul 27 2019

    Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood" seduces you, in the spirit of its once-upon-a-time title. Come along, it seems to say, you may have guessed where we're going but we'll have fun and some surprises along the way.

  • The Lion King

    Jul 20 2019

    Disney's remake of "The Lion King" looks like the real thing--animation that simulates real life in astonishing detail. Whether we want animation to simulate real life is another question, but it's the crucial one.

  • The Farewell

    Jul 13 2019

    The lovely paradox of Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” in subtitled Mandarin and English, is that everyone in it tries to hide their feelings as long as they can, yet their story goes straight to your heart.