Kristofer Jenson

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

Ben Wheatley’s stylish Free Fire stars Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sam Riley and Michael Smiley in an overlong gun battle. Photo courtesy of A24

Movie Review: Free Fire can’t get out of its own way

Ben Wheatley’s obvious joy of filmmaking is contagious. It’s clear from everything he’s ever made that movement, color (or lack of it, as in A Field in England) and the extremes of human behavior compel him to create unique, kinetic films with an energy that bridges the gap between raw inspiration and technical perfectionism. Even […]

The Fate of the Furious starring Vin Diesel outshines the hard-driving, logic-defying stunts of the series’ seven previous films. Courtesy Universal Pictures

Movie review: Fast and Furious series gets better and better

After 16 years—old enough, as it turns out, to finally get its driver’s license—the Fast and Furious series finally has nothing left to prove. There’s no need to explain why good guys turn bad, how a particular bit of technology works or where an improvised ramp came from that Vin Diesel somehow knew would be […]

Keanu Reeves recurring role in the John Wick franchise gets more critic cred than his blockbuster Matrix franchise because of the quality sequel. Courtesy Lionsgate

The case for movie sequels (and how to stop making bad ones)

Conventional wisdom says, “The problem with Hollywood is they’re out of ideas. It’s all sequels and remakes. Maybe more people would see their movies if they stopped making sequels, reboots and whatever soft reboots are.” On its face, this is a perfectly reasonable demand. As ticket prices get more expensive, moviegoers want their money’s worth, […]

Sci-fi thriller Life stars Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal in a lackluster alien-turns-angry trope. Courtesy Sony Pictures

Movie review: Life lacks in human connection and atmosphere

Space. A previously unknown life form that is both beautiful and completely unknowable. Man’s double-edged quest to understand and dominate over all existence. Life really, really should have worked, and the extent to which it fails makes it the biggest waste of potential so far of 2017, if not the single worst film overall. Life […]

In Table 19, Anna Kendrick (right) tries to make the most of her place card, but can’t quite save the wedding story. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The communal Table 19 offers a disservice

Table 19 tells the story of an unlikely group of wedding attendants stuck together at the worst table, who were invited either perfunctorily or spitefully. Unfortunately it’s an accurate metaphor for the movie itself, which crams an impossibly talented cast into the lamest film of the year that appears to exist for no other reason […]

Jordan Peele’s Get Out, starring Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya (pictured), is an exposé on racial pandering that takes an unexpected turn.  Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Movie review: Get Out digs deep with powerful message

Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a perfect movie in its own right, a masterful effort in raising then subverting audience expectations while delivering a powerful message on a subject that has gone tragically unaddressed in film. It is also a revelation for Peele himself, half of the beloved comedy team Key & Peele, whose feature […]

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 […]