The Wolverine

Directed by: James Mangold Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Famke Janssen Rating: 3.5 stars (of five) The latest installment of the X-Men movie franchise may be the best action flick of the summer.  This is bound to seem like an indefensible position, but I’m prepared to make the argument. James Mangold (Knight & Day) directs a film with an actual script, which makes it immeasurably superior to the bigger-budget, bigger-effect “roller coaster” blockbusters that chase international box office at the expense of dialogue, coherence or restraint. Interestingly, the three credited writers are credited...

The Conjuring

Director: James Wan Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lily Allen, Ron Livingston Review: 3 stars (of five) The Conjuring is not a dumb film, but it’s not a very intelligent concoction, either.  Director James Wan and a few screenwriters seem to work in as many cliches as possible...

Fruitvale Station

Director: Ryan Coogler Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia L. Spencer Review: 4 stars (of five) Fruitvale Station analyzes the killing of Oscar Grant—a 23-year-old black man shot in the back at point blank range, while subdued on the ground, by a white cop who later spent only 11 months in jail for the killing. The incident at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland set off protests and riots, and now a film that follows the last day of Grant’s life. Writer/director Ryan Coogler, himself a young black man from Oakland—and also a recent graduate of the USC cinema school—acquits himself quite well in his first...

The Lone Ranger

Director: Gore Verblinksi Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer Review: 1 star (of five) We live in a cynical age that distrusts heroism, does not believe in the possibility of altruism, and assumes that nobility crumbles if you look closely enough.  Gore Verblinski, who turned the vague...