Kristofer Jenson

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

Nick Cannon stars in Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, a hard-hitting toggle between Greek comedy and modern strife. Photo: Roadside Entertainment

Film review: Chi-Raq is Spike Lee’s latest wake-up call

Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is not a film with a message. It’s not an allegorical tale of tragedy with unstated yet entrenched sociopolitical implications made so Hollywood could pat itself on the back for its good conscience. Chi-Raq is a wake-up call in a world that seems increasingly determined to repeat the mistakes of history while […]

In the leading role of Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston plays an eccentric screenwriter who was blacklisted as part of the Hollywood Ten in the ’40s. Photo: Bleeker Street

Film review: Trumbo views blacklisting from a different angle

Let Trumbo be the textbook example for future generations to distinguish between a good story with fine performances and snappy dialogue, and a good film. An entirely familiar period piece whose best attributes are reduced to window dressing, Trumbo is certainly not an unpleasant experience, but one drastically in need of a reduction in either […]

(Spotlight cues up for an Oscar, thanks to an all-star cast that includes Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James, paired Tom McCarthy’s shrewd direction. Photo: Open Roads Films

Film review: Nuance and casting keep Spotlight on target

Arguably the first all-around good film to be released in time for Oscar season, Spotlight is predictably solid in most measurable ways, with one exceptional quality buried so far beneath the surface, perhaps imperceptible to anyone who does not live and work in the world of Boston media, that it’s difficult to tell if director […]

Action film regular Vin Diesel stars as The Last Witch Hunter in his self-produced, self-approved gaming fantasy flick. Photo: Summit Entertainment

Film review: The Last Witch Hunter games the system

Just when it was beginning to look like 2015 would not have a better choice for worst movie than The Boy Next Door, along comes the over-plotted, under-conceived and thoroughly charming Vin Diesel vehicle The Last Witch Hunter. Although the negative reviews are sure to be somewhat accurate—Diesel’s performance is too smirky and wooden to […]

Guillermo del Toro pushes Crimson Peak (starring Mia Wasikowska) beyond typical horror film expectations with cinematic style and nostalgia. Photo: Universal Pictures

Film review: Crimson Peak is more than just a ghost story

As tempting as it is to call the ghostly gothic romance Crimson Peak a return to form for writer-director Guillermo del Toro, let’s take a moment to truly appreciate his role in shaping the movie-going experience as we know it today. It’s been nine years since Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro’s dark fantasy that got surprising, […]

Matt Damon fits comfortably into his starring role in The Martian, one of the year’s most anticipated films. Photo: 20th Century Fox

Film review: The Martian goes beyond the typical sci-fi surface

Matt Damon may be the star of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, but science itself is the hero in this breezy yet breathless tale of survival against all odds, bucking Hollywood’s preference for redundant fiction over interesting science in its sci-fi. The characters are charming, the tension is palpable, nearly every joke lands, yet by putting […]

Stonewall stars Jeremy Irvine (right) in a sanitized depiction of the 1969 raid on the LGBTQ community in New York City. Photo: Roadside Attractions

Film review: Stonewall descends into mockery and misses the point

When word began to spread that director Roland Emmerich—the destruction junkie behind Independence Day, Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow and 2012—had made an offensively revisionist mockery of the Stonewall riots in a movie that is supposedly dedicated to their legacy, the punning headlines practically wrote themselves. Although it’s tempting to call Stonewall yet another […]

Black Mass boasts an all-star cast with Johnny Depp playing the lead of notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Photo: Warner Bros.

Film review: Black Mass is more rehash than revelation

Director Ridley Scott disappointed more than just his own fans when Prometheus was released in 2012. As it happened, Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) had been crafting an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s groundbreaking horror novella, At the Mountains of Madness, that apparently bore more than a passing similarity to Prometheus’ tale of humanity’s ancient […]

The Visit will cause you to rethink a weekend at grandma’s, thanks to the pairing of M. Night Shyamalan and Blumhouse production company. Photo: Universal Pictures

Film review: Shyamalan and Blumhouse collaborate for The Visit

In some ways, the uniting of M. Night Shyamalan and microbudget horror production company Blumhouse for The Visit couldn’t be more perfect, and not just because audiences groan at the sight of their names during previews. Both camps are fully capable of greatness—Shyamalan’s first two and a half films and Blumhouse’s Insidious, Creep and even […]

We Are Your Friends stars Zac Efron as an electronic dance DJ trying to break out of the San Fernando Valley house party scene. Photo: Warner Bros.

Film review: Zac Efron plays up the cute in new EDM rom-dram

There are two types of people who will find something of value in the EDM apologia We Are Your Friends: GoPro oversharers who post hours of vapid, slow-motion footage to Vimeo, and sad bros who lament that “Entourage” never had a Coachella episode. Certainly, there is a worthy story somewhere within the world of electronic […]

Straight Outta Compton looks at the rise of hip-hop group N.W.A. and its significant role in the pop culture revolution of the late ’80s. Photo: Universal Pictures

Film review: Straight Outta Compton biopic is for real

Inspired, electric and full of the same rawly honed talent that drove its subjects to their creative heights, if Straight Outta Compton were the last musical biopic ever made, it would have been worth suffering through all of the perfunctory crap the genre has produced in the past. Where most biopics lean on the lead […]

Meryl Streep steps up to the microphone in the aging rocker flick Ricki and the Flash. Photo: Sony Pictures

Film review: Meryl Streep shines as a rock ‘n’ roll frontwoman

In a film industry where every studio release is engineered to appeal either to all audiences or hyper-specific target demographics, the fact that a film like Ricki and the Flash found release is refreshing. Baby boomers/Gen Y, liberals/conservatives, wealthy/working class, no one subset of American filmgoers will find their entertainment whims catered to in this […]

Tom Cruise may be the blandest badass in the action movie genre, but he keeps coming back for more and so does his Mission Impossible audience. Photo: Sony Pictures

Film review: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Personal life and religious beliefs aside, it’s OK to love Tom Cruise for his increasingly cartoonish career, performing stunts that have gotten so extreme you have to wonder how he came about this motivation to defy death for a movie. Does his alarm clock tell him “You will die today” just so he has a […]

Jake Gyllenhaal’s physical transformation marks his commitment to the role of boxing champ Billy Hope in Southpaw. Photo: The Weinstein Co

Film review: Southpaw

Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua unfortunately shares a fatal flaw with the film’s lead character, light heavyweight champion Billy Hope: despite an indomitable work ethic and mountains of sincerity, all his best efforts fall apart when he doesn’t have a plan. Fuqua is capable of being a master craftsman, capable of making potentially forgettable crime yarns […]

Steven Spielberg’s iconic thriller Jaws has been scaring the wetsuits off summertime moviegoers for four decades. Photo: Universal Pictures

Sand pail list: Five movies to watch every summer

You have two options this summer: You can take Hollywood’s nostalgia bait and buy a ticket to one of its myriad sequels, prequels, reboots and spiritual successors to your favorite movies. Or you can call their bluff and just enjoy classic films on your own time, free from all the retconning and desperate self-parody. Here […]

Ian McKellen’s fine performance as the star of Mr. Holmes isn’t enough to add suspense to a slow plot that lacks resolution. Photo: Roadside Attractions

Film review: A new twist on Sherlock Holmes doesn’t add up

Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes is a perfectly serviceable adaptation of a latter-day Sherlock novel not written by Arthur Conan Doyle, starring a character whose episodic escapades are better suited for television. It’s a beautifully shot story that remains confined to about three locations. It’s an engaging mystery told through flashbacks that only remains unsolved because […]

In Magic Mike XXL, male stripper Channing Tatum (second from right) has left the biz, but misses the stage and rejoins his male entertainer buddies for one last dance tour. Photo: Warner Bros

Film review: Magic Mike delivers in an encore performance

Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012, with a muscle-centric marketing campaign that no doubt sold tickets but failed to notify audiences that this film was actually the work of a master director at the top of his game. Stylistically impressive, tonally sophisticated beyond its straightforward narrative with a […]

Film review: MacFarlane drives Ted 2 off the laugh track

Film review: MacFarlane drives Ted 2 off the laugh track

If Ted 2 proves anything, it’s that Seth MacFarlane cannot be trusted with his own success. MacFarlane—a demonstrably talented, funny and often thoughtful individual—has a nasty habit of doing something fun and original that connects with critics and audiences, only to capitalize on his success with vanity projects that rely more on smugness and self-satisfaction […]

Touted as an instant classic, Pixar’s Inside Out features an all-star cast voicing the conflicted emotions of a tweenage girl. Photo: Walt Disney Studios

Film review: Pixar makes an emotional breakthrough with Inside Out

After several years of leaning heavily on sequels and good-but-not-great properties, the Pixar we all know and love is back with Inside Out to reclaim its title as a beacon of emotional honesty in the spastic, cynical world of family entertainment. Its long history of tugging at audience’s heartstrings by making us empathize with unlikely […]

Newly engineered dinosaurs rush in to to help Chris Pratt save the predictable plot in Jurassic World. Photo: Universal Pictures

Film review: Jurassic World leans on the franchise’s past

  Peppered throughout Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World are self-aware, and self-defeating, references to the original 1993 film and what one can only imagine as the sequels to come; from a techie in a vintage Jurassic Park t-shirt to a military grunt who imagines a world in which trained velociraptors are weaponized and sent into combat […]

With the help of an all-star supporting case, Melissa McCarthy makes the most of her versatile talent in the intrigue comedy Spy. Photo: 20th Century Fox

Film review: Spy may be the summer’s sleeper hit

It may have taken four years of failed vehicles and forced cameos, but Melissa McCarthy finally hits her stride in Spy. Packaged and marketed as more of the same from McCarthy—an alternately crass and sincere broad comedy that misunderstands the difference between empathy and mockery—the slyly progressive and engaging Spy may end up being the […]