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Film Reviews


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

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


Santa Monica, CA




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






1900 Pico Blvd. Santa Monica, CA 90405 310-450-5183


The End of the Line For a Decade-Long Trip

Every few years since they joined forces to do "The Trip" in 2010, the English funnymen Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have done another installment--"The Trip To Italy" followed by "The Trip To Spain." The latest and final one, "The Trip To Greece," follows their formula of visiting photogenic spots, eating fancy meals and talking funny talk that includes spot-on celebrity impressions. After this there'll be no one to do Michael Caine except Michael Caine.


Spike Lee's love doc to New York

In less than four minutes, on Super 8 film, Spike Lee has captured the pain and surreal stillness of New York's pandemic moment.


When a Nanny Needs A Friend

"Saint Frances" is a feature debut for its director, Alex Thompson, and its writer, Kelly O'Sullivan, who also co-stars with a remarkable child actor named Ramona Edith Williams. They play, respectively, Bridget, a nanny, and Frances, the kid who changes the nanny's life. "Mary Poppins" it is not.


A Man and His Jacket

"Deerskin" is a tale of murderous obsession and a deerskin jacket, though not in that order. The star is Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar in 2012 for his buoyantly funny portrayal of George Valentin, a silent-film actor on the way down. Once again he's playing a Georges, with an 's' but without the buoyancy.


Circus of Books

"Circus of Books," a new Netflix documentary, centers on an old West Hollywood landmark, the porn shop on the corner of La Jolla and Santa Monica Boulevard. But the center of the center is about prejudice, and how it can arise in the unlikeliest places.


Selah and the Spades

In "Selah and the Spades," Tayarisha Poe's impressive debut feature, a tyrannical teen rules the prep-school roost.


Deliver us from tedium

At a time when the luckier among us are having food, booze and even weed delivered to their doorsteps, movies about delivery services may be a fitting accompaniment. ("Deliverance" isn't one of them.)


A new genre: empty-space operas

Look outside your window these days and what you see is a sci-movie with silent streets devoid of life. Here are a few movies that have turned empty cities into art.


Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

"Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution," evokes the history of a camp for disabled kids that flourished in the Catskills in the 1960s and 1970s. More than a camp, though, it was a seedbed for radical political action. The film streams on Netflix.



What's a movie lover to do? No new openings because theaters are shutting down for the duration. But new releases are coming. It will just take a week or so before they find their way to video on demand. Meanwhile, a few ideas for streaming in the madness of our moment.


Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Eliza Hittman's "Never Rarely Sometimes Always" is provocative--some might consider it explosive, since it follows a pregnant 17-year-old from rural Pennsylvania to New York City in search of a safe abortion she can't get at home. But it's also one of the most beautiful films I've seen in a long time, the odyssey of a lost child in poorly charted territory.


First Cow

Kelly Reichardt has endeared herself to fans of independent film with a string of heartfelt features shot on a modest scale. None of them has been as endearing, or as funny and wise, as her new one, "First Cow"


The Invisible Man

Almost 90 years ago "The Invisible Man" thrilled audiences with special effects they'd never seen. In the latest version of the story, the focus is on a visible and all-too-vulnerable woman who's either being chased by a vengeful ex she can't see or is suffering from florid delusions.


The Call of the Wild

A new screen version of "The Call of the Wild" is calling to us; it's the Jack London story of a California dog named buck who goes native in the Yukon of the Gold Rush days. This time the dog is digital, which lends the film at least one distinction.



"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

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

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

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” 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

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."