Kristofer Jenson

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

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star in The Upside, a confusing comedy that doesn’t hold up to the original French version. Photo courtesy STXFILMS

Failed translation: The Upside is slow to show its charm

If you’ve ever listened to somebody tell a joke when they’ve clearly lost track of the punchline, you know the experience of watching The Upside. Full of good intentions and boundless charisma between the performers, every moment of real tension in the film is diffused before getting to the good stuff in this remake based […]

Starring Joaquin Phoenix (above), "You Were Never Really Here" follows the story of a hitman with demons of his own.

Lasting impressions: Three movies you may have missed last year

As the year winds down and awards season approaches, movies that most audiences have never heard of begin to dominate the film news cycle. Limited releases, festival favorites, and critical darlings become the movies to watch according to tastemakers and award-giving organizations, but it can be a bit frustrating to hear so much about films […]

Jason Momoa stars as Aquaman in a DC Extended Universe adventure that never quite breaks the surface. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Treading water: Aquaman is as silly as it needs to be

After four disasters and one triumph, the DC Extended Universe offers the middling, non-event Aquaman, directed by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Fast 7). This one is intended for folks seeking a visual experience who don’t care much about remembering what actually happens or why. It’s the sort of movie we might hate had it […]

Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (above) is an autobiographical epic that has critics swooning. The black-and-white film centers around a middle-class family and the lives of their live-in domestic help in 1970s Mexico City. Image: NETFLIX

Netflix feature films set to impact awards season

After competing with HBO in the original series game, Netflix is now gunning for Hollywood recognition with a slew of prestige film acquisitions helmed by some of the most respected names in show business. Here are a few streaming contenders for Oscar glory. Roma R, 135 minutes (On Netflix December 14) Perhaps the biggest score […]

Widows, starring Viola Davis, turns the traditional heist movie into a smart take on women’s power.
20th Century Fox

Widows wanders but redeems itself in the end

The classic heist movie gets a stylish, topical treatment with Widows, cowritten by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and Steve McQueen (Shame, 12 Years a Slave), who also directed. It could be seen as a gender-swapped caper flick, but with McQueen’s philosophical eye and Flynn’s take on societal expectations, Widows turns into an examination of gendered […]

Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek, captures the rise of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, from his ambitious beginnings as a performer
to the band’s legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985. Photo courtesy 20th Century Fox

Killer Queen: Rami Malek rocks Freddie Mercury biopic

It’s unfortunate that movies about exceptional people usually end up being so conventional. Queen was a band that defied expectations and broke down barriers, redefining what a rock band could be, and Freddie Mercury is not only one of history’s greatest frontmen but an icon for the alienated, particularly for LGBTQ fans. Bohemian Rhapsody, meanwhile, […]

Forty years later, Jamie Lee Curtis still thrills as Laurie Strode in the new Halloween.
Universal Pictures

Fresh blood: An all-new Halloween sheds the plague of sequels

We’ve had Halloween sequels for decades. What’s different this time? The same thing that’s different in found footage, possession movies, even the Amityville franchise: fresh blood, literally and figuratively. For many of the slasher sequels and remakes of the ’80s and ’90s, it was difficult to tell what the filmmaker disliked more, the audience or […]

In First Man, Ryan Gosling turns fear and trial and error into heroism in his portrayal of Neil Armstrong.
UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Mission control: First Man’s storyline falls out of step

As Janet Armstrong, Claire Foy exclaims, “You’re just boys playing with balsa wood models!” to the NASA scientists preventing her from listening to the direct feed of husband Neil’s (Ryan Gosling) test flight. It’s a terrific dressing down of administrators more concerned with public relations than personnel, and a fitting description of space travel as […]

Lady Gaga makes an impressive debut as a leading lady, and Bradley Cooper steps up as director in the (third) remake of A Star is Born. WARNER BROS.

Burning brightly: A Star is Born sizzles with emotion

A Star is Born is a movie about finally getting the chance to shine brightly, an appropriate theme for its two stars, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Already celebrities in their own right, the pair seize the opportunity to explore new dimensions of their art and connect with audiences in fresh ways, Cooper as a first-time […]

The animated Smallfoot’s feel-good story is told by a star-studded cast including Zendaya, James Corden, Common, and LeBron James. Image: Warner Bros.

Stepping stone: Smallfoot offers kids a pathway to big ideas

If you’re going to shamelessly mine classic films for plots, there are worse choices than Planet of the Apes. And if the goal is to keep a child occupied for two hours, you can do worse than Smallfoot. It’s the ultimate synthesis of what makes kids’ movies good without resorting to the lowest common denominator: […]

Jack Black starts in The House With A Clock In Its Wall. Image: Universal Pictures.

Making magic: Jack Black and Cate Blanchett cast a spell

Halloween season is off to a solid start with the pleasant surprise of the kid-friendly horror/fantasy/comedy The House with a Clock in Its Walls. Everything about this movie should be working against it. The marketing makes it seem like another expository, self-contained “adventure” that uses the fact that it’s for children to cover up inconsistencies […]

Wrestling with demons becomes boring as The Nun, starring Taissa Farmiga, devolves into a series of predictable jump scares. Photo courtesy New Line Cinema

Holy hell: The Nun sinks quickly into nonsense

Before we get to just how bad The Nun is, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the fact that it’s taken the so-called Conjuring Universe this long to deliver a full-on dud. The tone was effectively set by director James Wan in The Conjuring back in 2013, and even when its successors haven’t matched […]

In Mile 22, Mark Wahlberg leads a special ops mission to save a defector but fails to save the movie’s plot. Photo courtesy STX FILMS

Action fizzle: Mile 22 builds it up but cannot deliver

If Peter Berg was more interested in emulating Michael Mann than Michael Bay, Mile 22 might be something. An international thriller based around getting a high-value asset from point A to point B through extremely hostile territory within a very narrow window should be exciting from beginning to end, a claustrophobic story in the open […]

The cinematic vision
for The Life of Pi is a great template for
telling the story of the modern marathon. Image: 20th Century Fox

Two historical episodes that need movies now

There’s no one way to make a fact-based film, as 2018 has shown. From the satiric heights of The Death of Stalin to the self-parodic depths of Gotti, and with many major contenders to come (Bohemian Rhapsody, Beautiful Boy, Welcome To Marwen), all have different goals, from education, to poetic re-imaginings of familiar tales, to […]

Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis are besties who find themselves at the center of international intrigue in The Spy Who Dumped Me. LIONSGATE

The Spy Who Dumped Me gets smart in the end

Don’t judge The Spy Who Dumped Me by its first 20 minutes, because if you bail on what seems like another forgettable high-concept frenemy gross-out fest, you’ll miss the best hard-R comedy of the year since Game Night. Fueled by the terrific chemistry between stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon and deftly directed by Susanna […]

Tom Cruise continues to rule the action hero genre as Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Fallout. UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Taking the lead: Fallout is an MI franchise standout

For a series where every installment feels more like a product of inevitability than inspiration, credit is due to the Mission: Impossible series for its commitment to one-upping itself. If the cost of entry is an insane Tom Cruise stunt show every few years that’s punctuated with some spy silliness and a couple of laughs, […]

In The Equalizer 2, Denzel Washington is a vigilante Lyft driver who rescues a lot of people, but can't keep the plot from crashing. Courtesy of Sony Pictures.

The Equalizer 2 can’t match its predecessor

Denzel, by his presence alone, has the ability to make a bad movie good and a good movie great, and director Antoine Fuqua is best known for swinging for the stylistic fences on even the most boring dud of a story. That shared enthusiasm for craftsmanship is part of what made their previous collaborations on […]

In Sorry to Bother You, starring Lakeith Stanfield, writer-director Boots Riley combines comedy and fantasy to illuminate dark corners of society. Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

Sorry to Bother You is seriously entertaining

Revolutions are always messy affairs, and so is revolutionary art. But without the trailblazing, reckless spirit of innovation and true inspiration, you don’t get works of originality and beauty like Sorry to Bother You, the debut film from writer-director, musician and overall Renaissance man Boots Riley of The Coup. Riley’s vision is a wide-ranging one, […]