Kristofer Jenson

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

Focus stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie, who heat up the screen as con artists who meet their match in each other. Photo: Warner Bros.

Film review: Will Smith continues his magical ride in Focus

No movie star is as big as Will Smith, and nobody knows that better than Smith himself. With a swagger that rarely plays as charming, and the most enviable blockbuster-to-bomb ratio in Hollywood, Smith has carried duds to box office success through sheer star power and willed megabudget vanity projects into existence for the sole […]

Robbie Amell and Mae Whitman star in The DUFF, an unfunny new twist on social torture for high school classmates. Photo: CBS Films

Film review: The DUFF lacks too many laughs to be funny

Why is popularity always the reward for quirky high schoolers in movies where the whole plot is about learning to be happy without it? You don’t celebrate your twelfth step with a shot, you don’t get a mansion after reaching nirvana, but somehow our teenage morality scripts are still peddling the idea that trying to […]

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) succumbs to the wishes of Jamie Dornan, who wears the pants as the sexually dominant billionaire
Christian Grey. Photo: Universal Pictures

Over easy: Fifty Shades of Grey is beautiful to look at

I don’t know who or what director Sam Taylor-Johnson sacrificed to the god of false bondage, but it worked: Fifty Shades of Grey is the best film it could have possibly been given the circumstances. This is quite a different thing from saying it’s good. It’s not. At its core, this adaptation of E.L. James’ notoriously […]

Passion cannot overcome confusion in the new Wachowski-directed sci-fi thriller Jupiter Ascending starring Channing Tatum. Photo: Warner Bros.

Action overload: Lack of cohesion deflates Jupiter Ascending

Every Wachowski movie, for better or worse, is a passion project. There is no theme, visual detail, character or line of dialogue to which the sibling duo does not have a deep personal attachment, from the hopeful nihilism of The Matrix to Cloud Atlas’ meditation on reincarnation and the risk and reward of realizing your […]

The “true” story in Black or White rings false despite pairing the adorable Jillian Estell with a decent performance by Kevin Costner. Photo: Relativity Media

Film review: Black or White lacks clarity on the big screen

“It’s not about black and white. It’s about right and wrong,” pleads wealthy lawyer Elliott Anderson (Kevin Costner) before a courtroom in defense of maintaining sole custody of his biracial granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell). Up until this moment, Black or White almost works. The entire film has been building to this moment, the linchpin of […]

Ryan Guzman is a student with a fatal attraction to his teacher, played by Jennifer Lopez in The Boy Next Door. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Film review: The gratuitous joyride of The Boy Next Door

What a rare pleasure it is to experience something that is truly, unmistakably awful. No, really; in an age where the knowing, ironic wink of an eye or a single act of ham-handed self deprecation is applauded even if the story is unwatchable, we have forgotten the cathartic joy that comes from watching an unambiguously […]

Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth as a brains and brawn code jockey pitted against a villainous hacker. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Film review: Blackhat plot remains in the cloud

“Style over substance” is not generally a criticism that sticks to Michael Mann, a singular voice among directors for his unique take on suspense and action. Though there is no shortage of machine gun fire and high speed chases in his films, Mann gives equal weight to small moments of tension or introspection, gorgeous scenery […]

David Oyelowo, who stars as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, is predicted to sweep the Hollywood awards season for his leading role. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Film review: Selma is a well-crafted portrait of a moment

Among the many artistic and political accomplishments of Ava DuVernay’s Selma is the full embodiment of grassroots activism. After generations of society’s dismantling of the breadth of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s political and ethical contributions down to a single sound bite (that is routinely misappropriated), DuVernay has done King and the world a favor by […]

Joaquin Phoenix leads a motley ensemble through Inherent Vice, set in 1970 Los Angeles and populated by outrageous, larger than life characters. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Film review: Paul Thomas Anderson breaks down Inherent Vice

When a movie is as challenging and divisive as Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, the two reviews to be wary of are the dismissal on grounds of incoherence, and overwhelming praise, full of heady analysis that is itself incoherent. Both approaches make use of the passive voice—“impossible to understand” instead of […]

Chris Rock wrote, directed and stars in Top Five, a story about a comedian dealing with the challenges and triumphs of fame. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Film review: Chris Rock comes close in Top Five

Top Five is not Chris Rock’s first time in the director’s chair, but it is the first time he’s seemed truly comfortable sitting there. For far too long, Rock’s film output has been a pale reflection of his fiery, fearless stand-up persona, consisting mostly of awkwardly paced PG-13 fare or misguided romantic farce. Not that […]

Charlie Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis start their own business while battling a goofy plot in Horrible Bosses 2. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Film review: Horrible Bosses 2 falls back on the original

During one of the many minutes-long stretches of Horrible Bosses 2 that pass by without a single chuckle, your mind may start to wander as you realize how strangely and unintentionally meta it is that a movie about self-employment would become a victim of its own success. It’s as though the makers of the first […]

Jennifer Lawrence is back in Katniss’ boots and kicking off a revolution in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Publicity photo.

Film review: Mockingjay Part 1 leaves the audience in limbo

While functionally little more than a cliffhanger setup for the trilogy-and-a-half’s presumably action-packed finale, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 boasts the least likely plot in a PG-13 blockbuster in recent memory. And though, as with most young adult fiction, the central conflict boils down to which of two competing romantic interests the lead character […]

Twenty years after the original, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels fail to rekindle its idiotic charm in Dumb and Dumber To. Publicity photo.

Film review: The Farrellys are no better with age

Think of all the reasons you loved (or grew to love) the first Dumb and Dumber. It was goofy, gross, immature, idiotic and proud of it. Now take each of those qualities and tack on “in a bad way” and you’ve just described its sequel. Arriving 20 years later, yet still feeling undercooked, and with […]

Disney puts the Marvel comic character Big Hero 6 on-screen to the delight, and possibly the chagrin, of animated film fans. Publicity photo.

Film review: Disney’s Big Hero 6 brings the cute

In what has already been a surprisingly stellar and abundant year for family entertainment and superhero flicks, casual moviegoers could be forgiven for viewing Disney’s decision to throw its hat in the ring with Big Hero 6, a film that attempts both genres at once, as being driven more by cold number-crunching than good storytelling. […]

Cannes Film Festival darling Love at First Fight screens at the Downtown Regal theater on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Virginia Film Festival.

Critic pleasers: Six films you don’t want to miss

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Though immensely quotable and every bit as gut-bustingly funny as the day it landed in theaters 50 years ago, one surprising fact about Dr. Strangelove is that it did not begin its life as a comedy. The film is based in part […]

Keanu Reeves loosens up in John Wick by playing his age and performing many of his own stunts. Publicity photo.

Film review: Keanu reloads as a tough guy in John Wick

It’s about time to revisit the way we talk about Keanu Reeves. For over two decades, his name has been synonymous with stiff acting and dim surfer dudes. But between his stint as a stunningly capable interviewer of film greats in 2012’s Side by Side and his thoroughly enjoyable directorial debut with last year’s Man […]

Fury starring Brad Pitt (front), digs in to violence, heroism, and sacrifice on the front lines of World War II. Publicity photo.

Film review: Fury defines itself as a cut above formula

As U.S. involvement in foreign wars becomes murkier, aimless, and self-justifying, it’s perhaps natural that some would nostalgically harken back to a time when the goals of military action were seen as absolute and our methods unimpeachable. Leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, comparisons between Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler too were frequent, […]

Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall star in The Judge, a comedy/family drama in which father and son battle each other and the legal system. Publicity photo.

Film review: Despite talented cast The Judge falters

You know you’re in for something when every actor in a movie’s press release gets an individual citation for the role that got them either an Academy Award or a nomination—Robert Downey, Jr. (Chaplin, Tropic Thunder), Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)—while the director must suffer the indignity of admitting to […]

Notable horror film producer James Wan is behind Annabelle, the latest in babydoll-possessed-by-a-demon flicks. Publicity photo.

Film review: Imagination runs wild in Annabelle

When it comes to paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, the further a movie moves away from the “true” story as documented by these proven frauds, the better it gets. Despite its success with audiences at the time of its release, going back to watch the aggressively mediocre The Amityville Horror after the many inconsistencies […]

Kevin Kline portrays an unscrupulous, scandalized Errol Flynn in The Last of Robin Hood. Photo credit: Killer Films

Film review: The Last of Robin Hood steals no glory

Not since Raul Julia’s puzzling appearance in the New Jersey Public Television video chroma key disaster “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank” has A-level talent looked as out of place as it does in the attempted scandal flick The Last of Robin Hood. But where “Overdrawn” can blame its production value on the fact that it […]

Tension builds in If I Stay, as Mia, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, determines her own fate through flashbacks on family and romance. Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Film review: Love story gets muddled in If I Stay

Saying that If I Stay, adapted from Gayle Forman’s blockbuster young adult novel, is bad because it’s overwrought and pretentious is to dismiss a crucial stage of growing up when you yourself are overwrought and pretentious by no real fault of your own. The entire young adult experience is completely unfair. You’re long on feelings […]