Kristofer Jenson

Contributing writer to C-Ville Weekly. Associate Film Editor of DigBoston. Host of Spoilerpiece Theatre.

The Great Wall (starring Matt Damon) may not be great, but it is at least a fascinating milestone in the shift of economic power in the movie world. Courtesy Universal Pictures

Chinese filmmakers eye the long game with The Great Wall

Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall doesn’t really need to be “reviewed” in the traditional sense. It’s a dumb movie about monsters invading medieval China and the brazenly anachronistic army tasked with staving it off, like someone fell asleep during The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and attempted to recreate the Battle of Helm’s […]

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson stars Adam Driver and weaves a fascinating, poetic story around the daily routines of a bus driver. Bleecker Street Media

Movie review: Paterson captivates through poetry and performance

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is the culmination of every adjective used to describe the director’s work—poetic, intelligent, philosophical, gorgeous—but with a sense of grounding that makes its style and themes that much more effective. A Jarmusch film is most often an exploration of the artist’s own influences; while he never artificially inserts himself or reduces his […]

The nearly true story of Gold finds Matthew McConaughey chasing a promise of riches in Indonesia. Photo courtesy The Weinstein Company

Movie review: Gold is full of missed opportunities

Watching Gold, you can’t help but feel that every member of this production arrived with a different sense of what the final product would be. Stephen Gaghan is directing a fact-based procedural, Robert Elswit is shooting a psychological comedy-drama and Matthew McConaughey came overprepared for a madcap crime farce. The result plays out like American […]

James McAvoy stars in Split, M. Night Shyamalan’s psychological thriller that turns into a monster movie. Universal Pictures

Movie review: Split loses its identity through a twisted plot

Credit where it’s due: that M. Night Shyamalan would even attempt something as utterly unhinged as Split is admirable on some level. The plot you may have gleaned from the one-dimensional marketing—involving a misrepresentation of dissociative identity disorder and possible ’90s-style transphobia—does not even begin to scratch the surface of what Shyamalan is going for […]

In Patriots Day, Mark Wahlberg plays a composite character in pursuit of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombers. CBS Films

Movie review: Patriots Day overlooks the heart of the matter

Patriots Day is a reductive, insulting, dishonest bit of emotional manipulation that bullies its audience into withholding criticisms out of fear that they will be taken as insults against the heroic people of Boston who came together in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. No, director Peter Berg and co-producer/star Mark Wahlberg do […]

Hidden Figures tells the true story of three African-American women employed by NASA who were invaluable to the 1960s space race. 20th Century Fox

Movie review: Hidden Figures reveals great accomplishments

Hidden Figures is a story that must be told for its own sake-—the overlooked contributions of brilliant scientists and mathematicians who have been left out of history for their gender and race—but as a film, it rises to the challenge with a devastatingly clear grasp of how deep racism goes in our society. Hidden Figures […]

Beautifully written, impressively acted and skillfully paced, Moonlight is one of the greatest achievements in filmmaking of 2016.

The best movies of 2016 flew under the radar

They said 2016 was the worst year for movies in recent memory. But for every Batman v Superman: Yawn of Justice, there were at least two amazing works of genius clamoring for recognition. Some are simple movies of modest scale, others layered in ways we’ll still be studying years from now, but all prove that […]

Natalie Portman carries the role of widow and former first lady in Jackie. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Movie review: Jackie explores a new point of view

The myth of the Kennedys and Camelot is so interwoven in the fabric of American history and identity that we often forget how intentionally it was constructed to be just that. The style, the dinners, the decorations, everything was carefully planned to project a particular image that would inspire Americans and survive long after the […]

Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges star in Kenneth Lonergan’s powerful, Oscar-ready drama, Manchester by the Sea. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Manchester by the Sea sails on love and loss

Tragedy and comedy are, in fact, bedfellows when both are taken very seriously, and rarely is this relationship captured as well as it is in Manchester by the Sea. Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s meditation on love, loss and moving on strikes this balance with ease, and it’s a masterpiece in its own right for its emotional […]

Rolf Lassgård stars in the Swedish film A Man Called Ove, which is a thoughtful look at loss and rediscovery through a humorous lens. Music Box Films

The rare quality of A Man Called Ove

Leave it to the Swedes to make a comedy-drama about an elderly widower’s unsuccessful attempts at suicide into the feel-good movie of 2016. A Man Called Ove strikes a rare balance between sardonicism and optimism, between hope and hilarious misanthropy, and succeeds thanks to excellent performances and a thoughtful story that would have drowned in […]

Warren Beatty puts the charm and challenge of the old Hollywood studio system on screen in Rules Don’t Apply. Courtesy of 20th century Fox

Warren Beatty takes on the legend of Howard Hughes

The great Warren Beatty returns after a 15-year hiatus with Rules Don’t Apply, a Howard Hughes-centered passion project that has existed in the Hollywood icon’s mind since the early 1970s. Beatty rarely commits to a project halfway, and his fascination with the subject, setting and era of the film is evident in both his performance […]

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (starring Eddie Redmayne) takes wizardry to a new time and place. Courtesy Warner Bros.

Movie review: Fantastic Beasts weaves many stories into one

The best and worst attributes of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are one and the same: its ambition. The concept is a fun one—exploring J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry and witchcraft at a different time and a location outside of Hogwarts with brand new characters—that opens up the door to endless possibilities. Magic […]

Moonlight, with Alex Hibbert and Mahershala Ali, is a three-part story that follows the life of a Miami child through adolescence and into adulthood. Courtesy A24

Moonlight traces a powerful journey

Socially important and stylistically flawless, Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight is a beautiful film inside and out. Far more than a worthwhile message about LGBT visibility wrapped in a pretty package, Moonlight is a fully realized three-dimensional look at the evolution of a person from child to adult —changes that seem gradual are often direct threads visible […]

Based on a true story of faith, Hacksaw Ridge centers around conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield) and his World War II heroics. Courtesy Summit Entertainment

Mel Gibson uses Hacksaw Ridge to revive faith

Love him or hate him, personally or as a filmmaker, Mel Gibson has never made a movie halfway. Whether it’s reviving dead languages, plunging the camera into the heart of a bloody battle or crafting messianic imagery both metaphorical and literal, you can always trust that the image you’re seeing on the screen is precisely […]

Liv Ullman appears at the Culbreth Theatre on Thursday for a discussion hosted by Michael Barker of Sony Pictures Classics. She will introduce a screening of Liv & Ingmar on Friday at Vinegar Hill Theatre.
Image courtesy of VFF

Liv Ullman discusses artistic relationship with Ingmar Bergman

Fifty years after their first collaboration and twelve since their last, the personal and professional relationship between Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman stands as perhaps the most towering and productive in all of film history. Ullmann is often described as Bergman’s “muse,” a term that somewhat applies given her appearance in twelve of his films, […]

"The Love Witch" Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Six films that break through at the Virginia Film Festival

Always Shine Writer-director Sophia Takal’s psychological thriller Always Shine is a thoughtful exploration of the performative nature of all social interactions, whether between actor and director, business and customer, individual and society and even between supposed best friends. Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald) and Anna (Mackenzie Davis) are both actresses living in Los Angeles who have had […]

Tom Cruise returns in Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, a lackluster sequel that fails to jumpstart the action flick franchise. Photo couresty of Paramount

Jack Reacher sequel hits the wall

No one expected a sequel to 2012’s Jack Reacher, a somewhat successful yet not terribly memorable franchise starter for Tom Cruise. Even more surprised by the announcement of a sequel, evidently, were the filmmakers and cast, leaving Jack Reacher: Never Go Back as one of the most rushed, slapdash, confusing and arguably unfinished movies with […]

Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a seemingly meek CPA with a mysterious past. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The Accountant banks on simpler times

Who knew a straightforward, predictable, high-concept action mystery starring Batman on his off-season would be just the palate cleanser we needed this year? Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant harkens back to a simpler time in the film industry, before every member of every superhero team needed his own spin-off series, when the central idea behind an […]

Deepwater Horizon stars Mark Wahlberg as engineer Mike Williams in a depiction of the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Deepwater Horizon is a gripping take on true disaster

The ensuing oil spill following the explosion and sinking of semi-submersible Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit Deepwater Horizon in 2011 devastated states along the Gulf Coast for years to come. It was the worst natural disaster—and largest corporate settlement—in United States history. But before the constant media coverage, before the horrendously painful hearings in which BP […]

Madina Nalwanga plays chess champion Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe, an uplifting true story that breaks with Disney convention. Imagae courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Queen of Katwe changes the game

On the surface, Disney’s Queen of Katwe is a feel-good, fact-based movie whose familiarity is part of its charm. Based on the life of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, the film, directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Mississippi Masala), confidently navigates the Disney underdog formula, yet finds personal and occasionally political depth in its subject’s […]

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Blair Witch loses its cool in modern remake

Found footage movies, though often disparaged as too heavily reliant on gimmicks, jump scares and bad writing, have arguably grown up in the last few years. Creep, currently viewable on Netflix, was a production involving only two people on the screen, yet was far more terrifying than most big-budget horror films of the last decade. […]

Sully stars Tom Hanks as hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger who famously flew his addled plane into the Hudson River and saved all passengers aboard. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Sully awakens an understanding of human potential

On January 15, 2009, experienced pilot and aviation safety expert Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger saved the lives of all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549, including his own, with only 208 seconds to turn what could have been a major disaster into the miracle the world saw. A collision with geese had disabled both engines, […]

The Innocents considers what matters most to a group of nuns left traumatized by rape in the wake of World War II. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films

The Innocents challenges the structure of faith

Director Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents takes place in Warsaw in December 1945, when much of the world was ecstatic at the conclusion of World War II, yet those most affected were too deeply traumatized to feel anything close to relief. And for many in the occupied territory of Poland, the horrors continued long after hostilities […]

Don’t Breathe unravels after a group of friends, including Dylan Minnette, botch a robbery of a blind man and wind up being terrorized. Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Don’t Breathe is overcome with bad choices

No film is completely perfect, but it takes a special kind of wrongheadedness to make a decision that completely divorces an audience from enjoyment by being both morally repugnant and betraying its own narrative. This is the experience of watching Don’t Breathe, technical wunderkind Fede Alvarez’s follow-up to his promising remake of Evil Dead, which […]