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Matt Reeves ’ “The Batman” isn’t a superhero movie. Not really. All the trappings are there: the Batmobile, the rugged suit, the gadgets courtesy of trusty butler Alfred. And of course, at the center, is the Caped Crusader himself: brooding, tormented, seeking his own brand of nighttime justice in a Gotham City that’s spiraling into squalor and decay.

But in Reeves’ confident hands, everything is breathtakingly alive and new. As director and co-writer, he’s taken what might seem like a familiar tale and made it epic, even operatic. His “ Batman ” is more akin to a gritty, ‘70s crime drama than a soaring and transporting blockbuster. With its kinetic, unpredictable action, it calls to mind films like “ The Warriors ” as well as one of the greatest of them all in the genre, “ The French Connection .” And with a series of high-profile murders driving the plot, it sometimes feels as if the Zodiac killer is terrorizing the citizens of Gotham.

And yet, despite these touchstones, this is unmistakably a Matt Reeves film. He accomplishes here what he did with his gripping entries in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise: created an electrifying, entertaining spectacle, but one that’s grounded in real, emotional stakes. This is a Batman movie that’s aware of its own place within pop culture, but not in winking, meta fashion; rather, it acknowledges the comic book character’s lore, only to examine it and reinvent it in a way that’s both substantial and daring. The script from Reeves and Peter Craig forces this hero to question his history as well as confront his purpose, and in doing so, creates an opening for us as viewers to challenge the narratives we cling to in our own lives.

And with Robert Pattinson taking over the role of Bruce Wayne, we have an actor who’s not just prepared but hungry to explore this figure’s weird, dark instincts. This is not the dashing heir to a fortune prowling about, kicking ass in a cool costume. This is Travis Bickle in the Batsuit, detached and disillusioned. He’s two years into his tenure as Batman, tracking criminals from on high in Wayne Tower—an inspired switch from the usual sprawl of Wayne Manor, suggesting an even greater isolation from society. “They think I’m hiding in the shadows,” he intones in an opening voiceover. “But I am the shadows.” In the harsh light of day, Pattinson gives us hungover indie rock star vibes. But at night, you can see the rush he gets from swooping in and executing his version of vengeance, even beneath the tactical gear and eye black.

As he’s shown in pretty much every role he's taken since “Twilight” made him a global superstar in 2008, working with singular auteurs from David Cronenberg to Claire Denis to the Safdie brothers, Pattinson is at his best when he’s playing characters who make you uncomfortable. Even more than Christian Bale in the role, Pattinson is so skilled at making his beautiful, angular features seem unsettling. So when he first spies on the impossibly sexy Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, slinking into her leather motorcycle gear and shimmying down the fire escape in her own pursuit of nocturnal justice, there’s an unmistakable flicker of a charge in his eyes: Ooh. She’s a freak like me.

Pattinson and Kravitz have insane chemistry with each other. She is his match, physically and emotionally, every step of the way. This is no flirty, purring Catwoman: She’s a fighter and a survivor with a loyal heart and a strong sense of what’s right. Following her lead role in Steven Soderbergh ’s high-tech thriller “Kimi,” Kravitz continues to reveal a fierce charisma and quiet strength.

She’s part of a murderer’s row of supporting performers, all of whom get meaty roles to play. Jeffrey Wright is the rare voice of idealism and decency as the eventual Commissioner Gordon. John Turturro is low-key chilling as crime boss Carmine Falcone. Andy Serkis —Caesar in Reeves’ “Apes” movies—brings a paternal wisdom and warmth as Alfred. Colin Farrell is completely unrecognizable as the sleazy, villainous Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin. And Paul Dano is flat-out terrifying as The Riddler, whose own drive for vengeance provides the story’s spine. He goes to extremes here in a way that’s reminiscent of his startling work in “ There Will Be Blood .” His derangement is so intense, you may find yourself unexpectedly laughing just to break the tension he creates. But there’s nothing amusing about his portrayal; Dano makes you feel as if you’re watching a man who’s truly, deeply disturbed.

This is not to say that “The Batman” is a downer; far from it. Despite the overlong running time of nearly three hours, this is a film that’s consistently viscerally gripping. The coolest Batmobile yet—a muscular vehicle that’s straight out of “ Mad Max: Fury Road ”—figures prominently in one of the movie’s most heart-pounding sequences. It’s an elaborate car chase and chain-reaction crash ending with an upside-down shot of fiery fury that literally had me applauding during my screening. During a fight at a thumping night club, punctuated by pulsating red lights, you can feel every punch and kick. (That’s one of the more compelling elements of seeing this superhero in his early days: He isn’t invincible.) And a shootout in a pitch-black hallway, illuminated only by the blasts of shotgun fire, is both harrowing and dazzling. Greatly magnifying the power of scenes like these is the score from veteran composer Michael Giacchino . Best known for his Pixar movie music, he does something totally different with “The Batman”: percussive and horn-heavy, it is massive and demanding, and you will feel it deep in your core.

Working with artists and craftspeople operating at the top of their game, Reeves has made a movie that manages to be ethereal yet weighty at the same time, substantial yet impressionistic. Cinematographer Greig Fraser pulls off the same sort of stunning magic trick he did with his Oscar-nominated work in Denis Villeneuve ’s “Dune”: Through pouring rain and neon lights, there’s both a gauziness and a heft to his imagery. His use of shadow and silhouette is masterful, and does so much to convey a sense of foreboding and tension. I could write an entire, separate essay on the film’s many uses of the color red to suggest energy, danger, even hope. And the costume design from the great Jacqueline Durran —with Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon designing Pattinson’s rough-and-tumble Batsuit—put just the right finishing touch on the film’s cool, edgy vibe.

This is the most beautiful Batman movie you’ve ever seen—even if it’s not really a Batman movie at all.

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Film credits.

The Batman movie poster

The Batman (2022)

Rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material.

176 minutes

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne / Batman

Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle

Paul Dano as The Riddler

Jeffrey Wright as Lt. James Gordon

John Turturro as Carmine Falcone

Peter Sarsgaard as District Attorney Gil Colson

Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth

Colin Farrell as Oz / The Penguin

  • Matt Reeves

Writer (Batman created by)

  • Bill Finger
  • Peter Craig


  • Greig Fraser

Costume Designer

  • Jacqueline Durran
  • William Hoy
  • Tyler Nelson
  • Michael Giacchino

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Movie Reviews

A complete list of movie reviews and ratings from the Screen Rant film critics and industry experts - helping movie lovers decide which films to watch for over 15 years.

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The 12 Best Movie Critics of All Time, Ranked 

Many thumbs up.

Film critics are tasked with honesty, — and they are often seen as responsible for informing moviegoers of whether they should part with their hard-earned money or not. This has been the case from the prime of TV's Siskel & Ebert to the rise of Rotten Tomatoes.

Through the decades, there have been many movie critics who have made a particularly significant impact in the world of film, and each of these are worthy of mention. Each of these critics have left a lasting impression on moviegoers across the world, and an influence on film itself.

12 Joe Morgenstern

Writing as a film critic for almost twenty years at Newsweek, Joe Morgenstern made a name for himself as an authority in film. He went on to write for The Wall Street Journal for almost another thirty years. Morgenstern won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2005 for his work in film and television criticism.

RELATED: 10 Underrated Movies Recommended by Gene Siskel One of his claims to fame during his tenure at Newsweek is that he wrote a negative opinion of the film Bonnie and Clyde , but after careful consideration, published a retraction in a subsequent issue of the magazine. Which served to work as a great marketing opportunity for the film, noting that it caused a renowned film critic to change his opinion on the quality of the film.

11 Mark Kermode

An widely published critic, musician, radio and podcast host, Mark Kermode is a name many film buffs are familiar with. Kermode began his film critic writing career in Manchester's City Life magazine, then moving on to Time Out and NME in London. He has also written for The Independent , Vox , Empire , Flicks among others.

RELATED: 12 of Gene Siskel's Favorite Movies Ever In addition to his truly prolific career in writing, Kermode is also a double bass player and has played in various rockabilly bands. Kermode became chief film critic for The Observer in 2013. In 2014, he named The Babadook the best film of the year. His favorite film is The Exorcist .

10 Andrew Sarris

Andrew Sarris was a lover of film. Writing for the magazine, Film Culture , and then eventually moving to write for The Village Voice . Some regarded his writing as elitist, but was undeniably one of the most impactful and respected in his field. Eventually, he wrote for The New York Observer and then taught as a professor of film at Columbia University until he retired in 2011, a year before his death.

Sarris was married to fellow film critic Molly Haskell . Sarris claimed that for thirty years, if anyone were to ask what his favorite film was, his answer was unvaried: The Earrings of Madame de... , by Max Ophuls . Sarris consistently referred to this film as the most perfect film ever made.

9 James Agee

James Agee was an accomplished novelist, journalist, as well as a poet, screenwriter, and film critic. In the 1940s, he became one of the most widely known film critics as he wrote for Time Magazine . He wrote for Fortune , The Nation , and Life Magazine , as well.

RELATED: Behind the Scenes: 10 Great Films About Filmmaking That Aren't ENTOURAGE In 1958, he was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his autobiographical novel, A Death in the Family . Additionally, he is well-known as the screenwriter for such revered film classics as The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter .

8 André Bazin

In his unseasonably short life, André Bazin was nevertheless a prolific critic and theorist of film. As the co-founder of the film magazine Cahiers du cinema , he regularly would provide criticism and feedback on films of that era.

Bazin's passion for realism often conflicted with other film theorists of his time. The influential voice was silenced to soon, when Bazin died of leukemia at age 40 in 1958.

7 Molly Haskell

Author and feminist film critic, Molly Haskell has been active in the field since the 1960s. Writing for publications such as The New York Times , The Guardian, Esquire, and many others, she has established a legacy as one of the most influential of all critics. Her most famous book is the searing, incisive From Reverance to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies .

On top of reviewing film and stage for decades, she is also an accomplished author with over a half dozen books written on the topic of film and film criticism. In 2019, she was the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow of the Year.

6 François Truffaut

Not only was François Truffaut an esteemed and influential film critic, but he also was, of course, a director, screenwriter, producer and actor. He is regarded as one of the founders of the French New Wave, and remains to this day one of the greatest icons in the French film industry.

RELATED: 'The 400 Blows' and 9 More of the Best French New Wave Movies, According to IMDb His career in film speaks for itself. He served as a director to over twenty films, an actor in over fifteen films, and a producer to at least five. He has over a dozen written books credited to his name ( Hitchcock/Truffaut is an essential read for all fans of film).

5 Vincent Canby

Vincent Canby was an accomplished writer who served as the premier film critic for The New York Times from the late 1960s until the early 1990s, moving only then to be their main theater critic from 1994 until 2000, when he passed away. Before the Times , he wrote briefly for the Chicago Journal of Commerce , then another brief stint at Variety .

Canby was known to be a supporter of filmmakers with a specific style, such as Stanley Kubrick , Spike Lee , and Woody Allen . Additionally, he was known to have a highly negative view of films that were generally well received, such as Blazing Saddles , Rocky , Rain Man , among others. Whether you agree with his opinions or not, Canby was truly a master with words, and will forever remembered in the world of film and theater.

4 Leonard Maltin

Film critic, published author and editor, podcast guest and host, noted television host... and Guinness World Record Holder?! Yes, Leonard Maltin holds the world record for the shortest movie review, which consists of his review of the 1948 film Isn’t It Romantic in which he merely stated: “No”.

RELATED: 9 Movies Roger Ebert Hated, But Audiences Loved

Voicing himself in South Park and The Simpsons (he also played himself in Gremlins 2 ) and writing or editing over 20 books, Maltin is not only accomplished, but he is beloved by all, being honored by the National Board of Review, the Telluride Film Festival, the Los Angeles City Council, and many others.

3 Gene Siskel

Most famous for being half of the duo of Siskel & Ebert , Gene Siskel has a very long history of providing the world with his opinion on film. He began his career writing for the Chicago Tribune in 1969. From there, he hosted a review program with Roger Ebert until his death in 1999.

In 1998, Siskel was diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent immediate surgery to remedy the issue. Despite briefly returning to the show, in February 1999, he decided to take a leave of absence to allow himself to recover, only to pass away from complications 3 days later. His legacy will forever and always get two thumbs way up from friends and fans alike.

2 Pauline Kael

A critic from an earlier era than some of these others, Pauline Kael was one of the most influential film critics of her era. She was known as witty, biting, and being overtly opinionated, but still focused on getting her voice heard. She was known for regularly disagreeing with her contemporaries.

RELATED: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Movie Critic’ Is Set in 1977, But It’s Not About Pauline Kael

Writing for The New Yorker for over twenty years, Kael created a lasting impression with critics of several generations. Despite a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in the 1980s, she continued to write for New Yorker until 1991, when she announced her retirement.

1 Roger Ebert

When it comes to movie critics, the one name that is recognizable above all else is the truly unforgettable and inspirational Roger Ebert . His career lasted nearly a half-century, and his impact has lasted long after his death in 2013. He paved the way for virtually every critic who's followed.

Whether he was writing for the Chicago Sun-Times or hosting his widely beloved television series sharing his thoughts on film, Ebert was a worldwide treasure. He was the first film critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, in 1975. While he may be gone, he will never be forgotten and will always be loved for what he brought to the world of film criticism.

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Hollywood reporter critics pick the best films of 2023.

A romantic collision of past and present, a subversive feminist fairy tale, a metaphysical ghost story, an epic retelling of a horrific footnote in American history and a sublime anti-rom-com are among this year’s highlights.

By David Rooney , Jon Frosch , Lovia Gyarkye , Sheri Linden December 13, 2023

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Any year in which an unlikely summer double bill became a global moviegoing event — with one film soaring toward $1.5 billion in worldwide grosses and the other closing in on $1 billion — can’t be considered bad news for Hollywood. But the Barbenheimer phenomenon aside, bad news plagued the film industry for much of 2023.

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Theatrical grosses remained inconsistent, struggling to regain pre-pandemic momentum for most genres except horror (all hail, new scream queen M3GAN ; a big hand for Talk to Me ), and even the once-reliable cash cow of the superhero blockbuster sputtered more often than not.

The Marvels was a major flop for the MCU, as was The Flash for DC, and although many of us found Blue Beetle an unexpected delight that overcame our weariness with folks in spandex and capes, the movie’s considerable charms failed to translate into healthy ticket sales.

No one knows what’s a safe bet at the box office anymore.

Still, the annual task of whittling down the year’s releases to a Top 10 was more challenging than ever. As is invariably the case, the best of them were festival discoveries. My list is bookended by Sundance premieres, with titles from Cannes, Venice and Telluride occupying every spot in between.

This was a year to celebrate auspicious debuts by women filmmakers whose command of the medium was matched by thematic maturity and an ability to coax transfixing performances from their female leads. In addition to Celine Song’s Past Lives and Savanah Leaf’s Earth Mama , both of which appear on my list, that includes Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt , Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean , A.V. Rockwell’s A Thousand and One and Tina Satter’s Reality .

The documentary field delivered too many highlights to name, but the nonfiction films that stayed with me included Wim Wenders’ visually seductive Anselm ; D. Smith’s intimate portrait of Black trans sex workers, Kokomo City ; Maite Alberdi’s shattering glimpse into one couple’s lives together, The Eternal Memory ; and Jesse Shortbull and Laura Tomaselli’s searing indictment of the theft of sacred land from its Indigenous owners, Lakota Nation vs. United States .

Two music docs were among my most exhilarating viewing experiences this year — Lisa Cortes’ rip-roaring bio of a singular rock pioneer, Little Richard: I Am Everything ; and Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s you-are-there account of a sui generis marathon concert by one of our most original performers, Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music .

Finally, seasoned documaker Roger Ross Williams segued into narrative features with the uplifting Cassandro , giving Gael García Bernal his best role in years, as a trailblazing queer lucha libre wrestler.

Read on for my ranked Top 10, plus 10 honorable mentions, followed by those of my brilliant comrades in the THR critics’ trenches, Jon Frosch, Lovia Gyarkye and Sheri Linden. I know I speak for all of us in saying 2023 was such a stellar year for movies that our lists could easily have been twice as long. — DAVID ROONEY

2. Poor Things Yorgos Lanthimos has been irreverently thumbing his nose at genre constraints since his Greek Weird Wave breakout with Dogtooth . But nothing in his unique filmography can compare with the fantastical flights of this inspired riff on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . Led by a spectacular high-wire act of physical comedy, intellectual curiosity and gleeful licentiousness from a never-better Emma Stone, this adventurous adaptation of Scottish cult author Alasdair Gray’s novel is part absurdist comedy, part picaresque feminist Candide and 100 percent breathtaking original. There’s not a weak link in a supporting cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Kathryn Hunter and Christopher Abbott.

3. All of Us Strangers There was no tighter ensemble this year than Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell and Claire Foy in Andrew Haigh’s dreamy metaphysical ghost story. While it’s a companion piece of sorts to the Brit writer-director’s 2011 breakthrough, the instant queer classic Weekend , the new film mirrors its contemplation of romantic love with an equally thoughtful probe into familial love. Imaginatively adapted from a Japanese novel, this emotional depth charge plumbs the complex relationships between gay men and their parents with uncommon compassion, while also reflecting on the scars of a generation that came of age during the AIDS crisis.

5. Fallen Leaves Six years after Finland’s poet of the proletariat murmured about retirement following his typically idiosyncratic Syrian refugee story, The Other Side of Hope , Aki Kaurismäki returns with an expertly chiseled tale of romantic missteps that lead — with patience, playfulness and humor simultaneously deadpan and steeped in melancholy — to the exultant possibility of love. Laced with winking cinephile references to the director’s auteur heroes, this deceptively modest film is both dour and droll, every frame finding beauty in a dingy milieu that seems frozen in time. As the lonely souls fumbling for connection, Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen are gloriously attuned to Kaurismäki’s wavelength, while his own dog nails a scene-stealing supporting role.

7. Showing Up Comedy has not factored much in the films of Kelly Reichardt, but the director’s latest collaboration with frequent muse Michelle Williams and Pacific Northwest author Jon Raymond has a low-key vein of humor that often recalls the eccentric American microcosms of vintage Robert Altman. Set around the now shuttered Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, it tracks the frantic preparations of Williams’ flinty sculptor for a solo gallery show as she deals with the headaches of her messy family, her fellow artist landlord (a hilarious Hong Chau) and a wounded pigeon. Rich in seemingly casual but telling observations, the film is equal parts funny and affecting; it might be Reichardt’s most personal work in its depiction of the challenges of making art amid chaos.

9. Perfect Days A serene film for chaotic times, Wim Wenders’ best narrative feature in years returns to the Japanese capital, almost four decades after he retraced the footsteps of Ozu in the documentary Tokyo-Ga . The great Kōji Yakusho plays a middle-aged man living a life of monastic austerity, greeting each new day with gratitude in his morning routine and approaching his job of cleaning restrooms in the city’s public parks with almost religious devotion. Little by little, hints are dropped of the more complicated earlier existence he left behind, as the rewarding drama becomes a poetic, unexpectedly moving account of one man’s hard-earned peace and contentment.

10. Passages Another German actor, like Hüller, who had a major breakout year is Franz Rogowski, playing the narcissistic film director at the center of Ira Sachs’ bruising Paris-set drama. Rogowski’s Tomas is an emotional wrecking ball, blithely beginning a relationship with Adèle Exarchopoulos’ French schoolteacher without anticipating the wedge it will drive into his marriage to Ben Whishaw’s seemingly more mild-mannered English printmaker. Caustically amusing, sexy, sad and unflinchingly intense, this is an intimate study of the formation and collapse of a romantic triangle, played with an invigorating absence of sentiment by three actors at the top of their game.

Jon Frosch’s Top 10

1. Killers of the Flower Moon 2. Anatomy of a Fall 3. Passages 4. Afire 5. May December 6. Fallen Leaves 7. Showing Up 8. The Zone of Interest 9. Kokomo City 10. All of Us Strangers

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Asteroid City ; The Holdovers ; Maestro ; Menus-Plaisirs — Les Troisgros ; Oppenheimer ; Other People’s Children ; Past Lives ; Poor Things ; Totém ; You Hurt My Feelings

Lovia Gyarkye’s Top 10

1. Showing Up 2. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt 3. Earth Mama   4. Passages     5. Our Body 6. Menus-Plaisirs — Les Troisgros   7. Anatomy of a Fall   8. Fallen Leaves 9. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret 10. Totém

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): The Boy and the Heron ; Fair Play ; Killers of the Flower Moon ; May December ; Monster ; Oppenheimer ; Orlando, My Political Biography ; Our Father, the Devil ; A Still Small Voice ; A Thousand and One

Sheri Linden’s Top 10

1. Showing Up 2. May December 3. Anatomy of a Fall 4. Killers of the Flower Moon 5. Past Lives 6. Oppenheimer   7. Pacifiction 8. Asteroid City 9. Passages 10. The Disappearance of Shere Hite

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): The Boy and the Heron ; A Compassionate Spy ; The Delinquents ; Maestro ; Occupied City ; The Peasants ; Rodeo ; The Taste of Things ; The Teachers Lounge ; The Unknown Country

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The First Omen Movie Reviews: Critics Share Strong First Reactions

The First Omen

20th Century Studios is returning to The Omen franchise with The First Omen , and the first reviews from critics are proving strong.

The horror flick, directed by Arkasha Stevenson, is a prequel to Richard Donner's 1976 classic The Omen , which has since spawned multiple sequels and attempted revivals. 

The First Omen Receives Encouraging Reviews

Nell Tiger Free as Margaret Daino in The First Omen

Select critics screened The First Omen early ahead of its theatrical release on Friday, April 5, and their reviews on social media have been strong.

The First Omen is a "thoughtful and shattering look at sexual assault in the Catholic Church" according to Dread Central editor-in-chief Mary Beth McAndrews , adding how it matches the "tension" of the original movie:

"THE FIRST OMEN stunned me. An incredibly thoughtful and shattering look at sexual assault in the Catholic Church while also providing the tension of the original film. This is the religious horror I’ve been waiting for. Exquisitely repulsive. Also 10/10 Possession homage."

Austin Chronicle's Richard Whittaker called the horror flick "unrepentantly ghoulish" and noted its "protracted homage to Possession :"

"Holy Hell. I'd expect a horror this unrepentantly ghoulish from a small studio, not 20th Century. Graphic, grisly, and with a protracted homage to Possession."

Gizmodo reporter Germain Lussier teased a "nice little mystery" in The First Omen and promised it "weaves its way into the original" flick:

"The First Omen is pretty solid. Gory, intense, a nice little mystery in there too. It also weaves its way into the original in ways both expected and not. It’s a little uneven and predictable but when it hits, it hits hard. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach."

The First Omen "raises the bar" on 1976's The Omen , according to ScreenRant's Joseph Deckelmeier , hinting at one moment "that is bound to have people talking:"

"The 1976 version of The Omen had some chilling & controversial scenes, and #TheFirstOmen raises the bar. The film is a worthy prequel to the original. The First Omen is creepy, eerie, and unsettling. There’s one scene in particular that is bound to have people talking."

The cast of The First Omen is "wholly committed," according to freelancer Sarah Musnicky , but she had particular praise for Nell Tiger Free:

"The entire cast is wholly committed here, but Nell Tiger Free commands the screen. The physicality she taps into in THE FIRST OMEN is visceral. What is most damning - for better or worse - is how timely and timeless the overarching motivation is here for the horror."

Mama's Geeky's Tessa Smith wished the movie "leaned more into its R-rating" before adding how there are moments when it really "brings the gore:"

"The First Omen welcomes horror fans back to this chilling world right from the start! Wish it leaned more into its R-rating but when it brings the gore, it BRINGS THE GORE! Nell Tiger Free takes viewers on a journey with her that'll have you questioning everything."

Jeff Ewing praised The First Omen for having "some of the best horror cinematography" he has seen recently, calling parts of it "truly inspired:"

"WELL. THE FIRST OMEN is the real deal. Terrifying, a tremendous performance by Nell Tiger Free, and some of the best horror cinematography I’ve seen in a long time. Many scenes and choices were truly inspired. Absolutely dug it."

Nightmarish Conjurings founder Shannon McGrew promised The First Omen will "open your eyes" to the struggles "women feel at the hands of religion:"

"THE FIRST OMEN isn’t here to play nice. It isn’t here to put you at ease. It here’s to open your eyes to the pain, anguish, and despair women feel at the hands of religion and its grotesque hold over our bodies. It’s one hell of a doozy! Get ready!"

The First Omen is a "well-worthy prequel" to the 1976 classic per Variety's Jazz Tangcay , specifically stating its "great sound design and cinematography:"

"Did not expect much from The First Omen, but it’s a well-worthy prequel to Richard Donner’s 1976 classic. Great sound design and cinematography. And it’s got some bloody good scary moments."

Uproxx writer Mike Ryan compared The First Omen to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in how it "ends right at the beginning" of the 1976 original:

"So, I’m a big fan of Arkasha Stevenson’s THE FIRST OMEN. I truly *love* the first three Omen movies and I *love* how this one ends right at the beginning of Richard Donner’s 1976 THE OMEN. It’s the ROGUE ONE of Omen movies."

ComicBook's Jamie Jirak was won over in the third act by The First Omen , also stating how the movie can be watched independently from The Omen despite having "some deep connections:"

"I enjoyed #TheFirstOmen, which won me over in the third act. There's one gory moment that's gonna STICK WITH ME. You don’t have to see the OG to get it, but I do wish I had revisited it first because there are some deep connections. Nell Tiger Free is a killer lead!"

Why The First Omen's Reviews Are So Exciting

After 2006's The Omen reboot landed as a critical failure, The First Omen looks to be a return to form for the franchise. Critics have praised the performances, cinematography, storyline, and horror, promising a flick with strong connections to past movies while also opening the doors to new fans.

If these reviews translate to positivity across the general audiences, 20th Century Studios may well have the next horror sensation on its hands. Should this success translate to the box office , it wouldn't be shocking to see more entries in The Omen franchise in the coming years.

The First Omen hits theaters on Friday, April 5.

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Ewan McGregor proves exceedingly appealing as 'A Gentleman in Moscow'


John Powers

McGregor plays a Russian count put under house arrest after the revolution in a new Paramount+ series based on Amor Towles' 2016 novel. Critic John Powers calls it a light series about dark things.


This is FRESH AIR. In the new TV series "A Gentleman In Moscow," Ewan McGregor plays a Russian count who's put under house arrest after the Russian Revolution. Based on the 2016 novel by Amor Towles, the show begins streaming on Paramount+ today and then is televised Sundays on Showtime. Our critic-at-large, John Powers, says that it's a light series about dark things.

JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: Nearly 250 years after we kicked out the British monarchy, Americans can't get enough of the aristocracy. We devour "The Crown" and "Downton Abbey," obsess over Kate Middleton's health and Prince Harry's marriage and find vampires extra sexy because they're nobly born. This fascination helped make a bestseller of "A Gentleman In Moscow," Amor Towles' sleekly tooled novel about an exceedingly appealing Russian aristocrat after the 1917 Russian Revolution. A romanticized fable about a grimly realistic era, it's been adapted into a TV series starring the exceedingly appealing Scottish actor Ewan McGregor.

The show was created by Ben Vanstone, who was behind the reboot of "All Creatures Great And Small." He uses this brutal period as a backdrop for an easy to swallow tale about a decent but frivolous man who's deepened by being cut off from his life of privilege. MacGregor plays Count Alexander Rostov, a literate, beautifully mannered bachelor with a connoisseur's knowledge of wine, a dandy's immaculately cut suits and a moustache about which he's quite vain.

His story begins in 1922, when the Bolsheviks sentence him - implausibly, it must be said - to lifelong house arrest in Moscow's luxurious Hotel Metropol. Although he lives under the baleful gaze of a secret policeman named Osip, played by Johnny Harris, this isn't exactly the gulag. Despite his small quarters, he eats nightly in the hotel's elegant restaurant, whose cellar stocks his adored Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Over the next three decades, the count befriends a young girl, Nina, who grows into an avid communist and reunites with his radical college friend Mishka played with Dostoevskian fervor by Fehinti Balogun. He also gets involved with a wise up actress Anna Urbanova. That's a nifty Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who boots him out of her bed with the same imperious haste with which she invited him in.

As the passing years unleash famine, propagandistic lies and Stalinist terror, most of it invisible inside the hotel, he finds himself doing things he could never have imagined. He becomes a waiter in the hotel restaurant and starts looking after a little girl, Sofia, whose parents have been shipped off to a camp. Here, talking to the Stalin-admiring Nina, he offers a parable about the moths in Manchester, England.


EWAN MCGREGOR: (As Alexander Rostov) For thousands of years, the peppered moth had white wings with black speckles and was perfectly camouflaged against the bark of the silver birch trees. Naturally, there were aberrations - moths with pitch-black wings. They were quickly snapped off the trees by birds before they had a chance to mate. In the late 19th century, when Manchester became crowded with factories, soot covered all the buildings and trees, and the white-winged moth found itself exposed and picked off, while the black-winged moths thrived. In less than a century, the black-winged moth, which had made up 10% of the moth population, now made up over 90%, and the white-winged moth, well, found itself in the minority.

BEAU GADSDON: (As Sofia) So?

MCGREGOR: (As Alexander Rostov) Used to take generations for a way of life to fade. Under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that the process can occur in the blink of an eye.

BEAU: (As Sofia) Like Darwin says, adapt or die.

POWERS: Over the course of the show's eight episodes - in truth, six would have been tighter and stronger - the count does adapt. He becomes fast friends with the hotel's caretaker, bartender and kitchen staff, people he would once have treated politely as lessers, and he learns what it means to be responsible for a child. Even as he opens himself up to new things, he also tries to civilize his overseer, Osip, by giving him "Les Miserables" and showing him Hollywood movies.

While anyone who believes in the revolution is shown to be fatally wrong, The Count remains aristocratic in the finest sense of the term. The show doesn't really get into the ways that The Count's genial urbanity was made possible, because men of his class lived off the labor of impoverished serfs. Such protective fondness for the count might register as obtuse, were it not for McGregor's charming performance. He imbues this entitled man with wit, warmth and joie de vivre, qualities that drive the Bolsheviks crazy but make us like him. To my surprise, as one who grew up in a small, Midwestern town, I wound up identifying with a Russian aristocrat who discovers how to live more fully by watching his comfortable world get blown apart.

BIANCULLI: John Powers reviewed the new TV series "A Gentlemen In Moscow." It begins streaming today on Paramount+ and premieres on Showtime this Sunday. Coming up, another of today's TV streaming premieres. I review the new two-part Apple TV+ documentary about Steve Martin. This is FRESH AIR.


Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.


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‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ Review: Running Out of Steam

The latest in the Warner Bros. Monsterverse franchise shows signs of an anemic imagination.

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A large lizard creature and a large ape creature pounce through a rocky terrain, green crystals shining in the background.

By Alissa Wilkinson

Nothing about “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” makes sense, which is not, on the face of it, a problem. We have not settled into cushy cinema seats with our comfortingly stale popcorn to engage in discourse about metaphors and science; we are here for the stars in the title. About that title: “Godzilla x Kong” (meant to echo various other titles in other, non-Hollywood Godzilla movies) could mean Godzilla times Kong, or Godzilla crossed with Kong, or Godzilla against Kong — some permutation of titans. Whatever it is, there will be punching. We are here for the punching.

What we’re not here for is the humans, which is lucky, because they’ve been dropping like flies. Most of the characters from the last few films — including the 2021 “Godzilla vs. Kong” (also directed by Adam Wingard) — have disappeared, largely without explanation. Our main character now is Dr. Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), adoptive mother to a tween, Jia (Kaylee Hottle), a member of the Iwi tribe, who communicates with Kong directly via sign language. I particularly missed Alexander Skarsgard’s Dr. Nathan Lind, whose absence is sort of explained but not mourned, and who has been replaced, for narrative reasons, by a kooky veterinarian to the titans played by Dan Stevens. (For some reason, I assume to signal the kookiness, Stevens sports an exaggerated Australian accent.)

They’re joined once again by Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), the conspiracy podcaster-blogger-documentarian-weirdo from the last film. For some reason, he’s convinced that nobody believes his stories about the titans, even though actual Godzilla is roaming the Earth and shown on the nightly news. (I’m more stuck on the strangely fantastical idea that he’s a popular blogger. Wouldn’t he have a Substack by now?)

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These humans are pretty boring, more anemic than they were in the last movie. They’re there purely for narrative propulsion through this story, which begins with Kong living in the Hollow Earth (exactly what it sounds like) and Godzilla up on the surface. As long as the twain never meet, we’re good — and by we, I mean humankind.

Which means, of course, they’ll meet. The scientists spot Godzilla napping in the Colosseum, then stomping his way through Europe and northern Africa, seemingly absorbing as much nuclear power as he can because he senses some confrontation coming. At the same time, something is very wrong in Kong’s world down below. And Jia is having strange dreams, too — dreams that lead to an expedition into the Hollow Earth.

What follows is an attempt to establish a whole lot of mythology for the Monsterverse franchise. (Their term, not mine.) This is a big mistake. You can tell it’s a mistake, because all of that mythology has to be revealed in tedious expositional dialogue. More important, once you know what happened in the past, you know precisely what will happen in the present, which rips any remaining suspense out of the film, leaving only the punching. (So much punching.)

Besides: Does this series need a mythology? Both Godzilla and Kong have a rich screen history to draw on — this is the 38th movie for Godzilla and the 13th for Kong, and though they haven’t shared the screen until recently, they bring all of their baggage and back story with them. It feels like a desperate attempt for the crossover franchise to justify both its existence and its continuation.

Which is not surprising. This series’ track record induces whiplash. The 2014 film “Godzilla,” a kind of reboot of the original Toho series featuring the character, was a legitimately excellent film, balancing spectacle and human pathos. But then came “Kong: Skull Island” and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” both meant to build toward a shared universe, both of which were not just bad but real bummers. Next was “Godzilla vs. Kong” which wasn’t, technically speaking, good — but it promised confrontation and delivered it, with a late-breaking coda of unwilling and visually spectacular cooperation between massive ape and nuclear lizard. It was a blast to watch, not least because the climax happened: The two monsters finally had their long-teased meeting.

But with that zenith in the rearview mirror, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire” has very little road left to cruise, and it shows. The best stretches involve Kong lumbering through the landscape, Godzilla stomping around crushing things, and of course the inevitable final confrontation, which has a few surprises up its proverbial sleeves. Kong in particular seems to have no problem communicating without human language, and those extended scenes are so fun to watch that it’s disappointing to swing back to the humans.

Certainly, humans can be a fruitful part of these monster movies. The recent Japanese film “Godzilla Minus One,” produced for a fraction of the “Godzilla x Kong” budget and recipient of the Oscar for best visual effects this year, manages to combine the creature with true pathos and a focus on the human cost of war, guilt and trauma. It’s more in line with the origin of Godzilla, too, as a metaphor for Japanese generational trauma related to the atomic bomb. In 2004, writing for The New York Times , Terrence Rafferty succinctly described the monster as embodying “a society’s desire to claim its deepest tragedies for itself, to assimilate them as elements of its historical identity.”

None of that is here. In fact, “Godzilla x Kong” is evidence the original thread has been lost entirely — a shame, in an era haunted by monsters the movies can only hint at, from climate catastrophe, destructive weaponry and geopolitical strife to power-hungry, brutal authoritarianism. There’s no reflection here at all, not even space to contemplate what might lie beyond the literal. Beyond the main cast, the humans in this movie exist only to get squashed like ants by falling debris and mangled buildings. They are expendable, but it doesn’t matter. The meaning of these films isn’t in metaphor at all. It’s in punching.

Be warned: There’s a lot of guts in “Godzilla x Kong,” guts from mammals and reptiles ripped in half, guts from sea monsters, Technicolor guts, way more than I expected. They feel appropriate, for a monster movie, and aren’t quite gross enough to merit an R rating. But as I pondered the guts, I found myself wondering one thing: When will someone have the bravery — the guts, you might say — to make a movie with Kong, and Godzilla, and various other titans and monsters, and no humans at all?

Or maybe there’s a greater question at stake: When will Hollywood have the guts to make a fun blockbuster like this that dares to acknowledge the real menacing monsters?

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire Rated PG-13 for destruction, some mild profanities and so, so many guts. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. In theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson is a Times movie critic. She’s been writing about movies since 2005. More about Alissa Wilkinson

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The Best Movies of 2024, So Far

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By Richard Lawson

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Though some high-profile duds may have given the impression that the year in film is off to a rocky start, our list of the best movies of 2024 so far reveals a wealth of worthy, (mostly) smaller fare released since January. Some are available to stream, while others are playing in theaters (or soon will be). We’ll keep updating this list all year, so be sure to check back in the coming months for more recommendations of what to watch in between Traitors seasons . 

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The End We Start From

Killing Eve breakout Jodie Comer (who recently won a Tony for her staggering solo performance in Prima Facie ) further proves her talent in this somber but never lugubrious survival drama from Mahalia Belo. As floodwaters overtake London, a new mother must head north in search of safety and sustainability while a nation credibly collapses around her. Finely observed and avoidant of melodrama, The End We Start From is a thoughtful, occasionally profound manifestation of a collective anxiety, the shared feeling that the fabric of the world is rapidly fraying to a breaking point. Belo steers through all that fear and calamity and finds something like hope on the other side. 

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The Promised Land

Nikolaj Arcel ’s robust, lushly mounted film is an old-fashioned epic, a settler Western unfolding on the barren heaths of Denmark rather than the American frontier. Mads Mikkelsen is sternly magnetic as Ludvig Kahlen, a longtime soldier seeking the favor of the Danish crown by cultivating a harsh landscape long thought to be an impossible wilderness. Through that struggle, Kahlen cobbles together a ragtag crew of waifs and cast-offs, and goes to bitter battle with a preening local lord played with perfect movie-villain sliminess by Simon Bennebjerg. Neither subtle nor overstated, The Promised Land reverently restores old forms to past luster, while paying stirring tribute to the resolve and fortitude of the simple potato.

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How to Have Sex

A spring-break-esque holiday in Crete, booze-soaked and sun-baked, takes a grave turn in Molly Manning Walker ’s striking debut feature . As a young woman who experiences a dire violation of consent, Mia McKenna-Bruce is a revelation, intricately mapping her character’s struggle to process, and name, what’s happened to her. Manning Walker stages a party gone to ruin with bracing realism, resisting sensationalism by leading with compassion instead of alarmism. True to its title, How to Have Sex is instructive in at least one crucial way: It yanks certain predatory behavior into the light, refusing to let it hide in supposed gray areas.

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Dune: Part Two

Denis Villeneuve ’s massive sequel mightily improves on its predecessor by infusing the franchise’s stunning aesthetics with actual plot and meaning. The empty beauty of the first film now keens with megalomaniac prophecy and religious fervor; the ministrations of a universe-spanning empire are brought terribly to bear on our revolutionary heroes and their worrisome messiah. Dune: Part Two functions equally well as either a bridge to further films or as the closer of a two-part franchise. It’s an all-too-rare IP blockbuster that is sturdy on its own feet while leaving open a door to further grandiose adventure.  

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A true-story tearjerker of the highest order, James Hawes ’s rousing film is a memory piece about an elderly Nicholas Winton—a stockbroker who organized the rescue of nearly 700 Jewish children as the Nazis approached Czechoslovakia in 1938—recalling his boggling feat 50 years later. It’s a process movie too, as we watch a younger Winton use various bureaucratic and legal maneuvers to ensure safe-ish passage for each group of refugees. Anthony Hopkins continues his recent run of terrific work as the older Winton, crafting a portrait of heroism as a humble act of decency, of recognizing a mounting tragedy and simply doing what can be done to stop it. A worthy message for this or any era.

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The Shadowless Tower

This quiet but sweeping drama, from director Zhang Lü, is a delicate romance, a sweet story of unexpected friendship, and a softly heartbreaking family reunion. It is also, in Zhang’s elegant framing, a winsome tribute to the old quarters of Beijing, their narrow streets and hole-in-the-wall eateries. Xin Baiqing, playing a rumpled, middle-aged food critic, is the soulful center of the film, while Huang Yao gamely plays the young photographer who coaxes him out of his stasis. Zhang’s modest narrative gradually builds toward a poignant conclusion, capturing the sound and sensation of time swiftly passing.

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Another of Alice Rohrwacher ’s folksy curios that are actually saying something rather deep about modern-day Italy, La Chimera concerns unlicensed excavators of antiquity, a band of rogues who dig around in the ancient soil to see what evidence of history they might find. Among them is a British man, Arthur ( Josh O’Connor, speaking almost entirely in Italian), who is mourning a lost love. As La Chimera whispers and clatters along, the film contemplates what it means to go about the business of living when we are forever surrounded by reminders of the dead—people who came before us and made their own music, had their own romances, and left their own trail of debris before becoming it themselves. (In US theaters March 29.)

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Housekeeping for Beginners

Macedonian Australian filmmaker Goran Stolevski ’s third feature is a rambling, sometimes bruising found-family drama about a home shared by an interconnected crew of misfits in Skopje, North Macedonia’s capitol city. The great Anamaria Marinca plays a health care worker who finds herself taking on the role of den mother following a tragedy, working to formalize some of the bonds holding her motley clan together. Among other things, Housekeeping for Beginners is a sober look at the realities of Roma life in the Balkans, especially for those contending with the additional stigma of being queer in a bigoted society. Stolevski—one of the most exciting emerging directors on the world scene—manages a controlled chaos, keeping his film loose and lively while driving toward a stirring finish. (In US theaters April 5.)

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Browse Reviews

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The incoherent drama Browse tries to look like a suspenseful horror movie, but there's nothing scary or thrilling about this rambling dud of a film.

Full Review | Jul 30, 2020

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A great deal of the movie consists of unfinished ideas, plot points, story threads, and character arcs.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4 | Jul 22, 2020

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It's a thoughtful, curious piece of work which may not quite be successful in finding its destination but which manages to intrigue along the way.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5 | Jul 21, 2020

Skip the film if you need an ending that answers the questions raised throughout. But check it out if you enjoy seeing a psychological thriller that makes you come to your own conclusions.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Jul 20, 2020

With such a tangled mess of a film it is hard to put your finger on what went wrong in the bringing it to the screen.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jul 13, 2020

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In a perfect world, this thriller, with its onslaught of stomach-churning "oh no!" moments, would've had a point, something that connected it all together (or at least a conclusion), but it doesn't.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jul 12, 2020

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An identity theft "nightmare" that fails every attempted thrill and chill. Quite possibly one of the most unimaginative and unmemorable films I've ever seen.

Full Review | Original Score: .5/5 | Jul 10, 2020

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An everyman's identify theft -- or is he just a deluded creeper? -- is fitfully explored in this underwhelming psychological thriller.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jul 7, 2020

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Browse feels like glimpsing through a problematic story with little context as to why you should care let alone watch it.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/10 | Jul 7, 2020

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This thriller doesn't thrill. It occasionally amuses, and it rarely makes any real sense.

Full Review | Original Score: 4 | Jul 6, 2020

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Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire review – breezy, forgettable monster sequel

There’s a likable, light-hearted zip to the monster mash follow-up but energy dissipates when we’re stuck with the humans

I t was a strange old time when the creature feature mash-up Godzilla vs Kong was released, the first major blockbuster in cinemas since Covid shuttered them all a year prior. Expectations were low, thanks to how rotten the last two Godzilla films had been, but thirst for something, anything , truly escapist was high and the big screen equivalent of a kid smashing his toys together became an unlikely saviour, both commercially and critically.

Three years later with normality resuming, there’s arguably less audience demand for another instalment, although the industry could definitely do with another monster hit, the strikes leaving the first few months of 2024 a little weakened. There’s enough easily marketable simplicity to Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire that it should become a swift global hit (the film is tracking to make $135m worldwide in its opening weekend) but, especially in the shadow of the Oscar-winning Godzilla Minus One , there will be predictably diminishing returns for those who venture out. It’s a still fun yet far sloppier outing, a second round that’s less of a win for us and more of a draw.

We start out with a truce of sorts. Godzilla remains king, and protector, of the regular world, fighting off creatures of the week when they surface while Kong stays down in the Hollow Earth, the magical other space discovered in the previous film. But their time out is coming to an end, spurred by some dental issues for poor Kong whose infected tooth, and maybe sad sack loneliness too, thrusts him back to humanity. Something greater is also at play, plaguing the dreams of Jia (Kaylee Hottle) who shares a bond with Kong and now lives with her adopted mother (a returning Rebecca Hall), that requires the arch enemies to go from v to x.

What made the last film such a success was the director Adam Wingard’s neat modulation of tone, removing the dank portent of Gareth Edwards’s maddeningly self-serious 2014 offering and bringing the fun that Michael Dougherty’s piss-poor sequel failed to deliver. He’s been wisely brought back for more and it’s refreshing to see him keep things light, his film a brash pop of colour at a time when too many tentpoles of this scale get lost in murk (it’s surely the pinkest Godzilla movie to date). But the script, from a team of three, also trying to keep things breezy, is far less effective. Human time is of course never going to be a priority in these films (Wingard even admitted that they would be of even less importance this time around) but dialogue frequently dips from merely perfunctory to actively dreadful. In trying to align itself with Wingard’s zippiness, the script punishes us with quippy banter so astonishingly, embarrassingly unfunny, we find ourselves pleading with Godzilla to silence them all with one of his feet.

Hall is ever luminous to watch and deserves every bit of her paycheque for playing Mrs Exposition in the last act but one does miss watching her play a real person, a joy that we haven’t had in a while. Dan Stevens and a returning Brian Tyree Henry are both lumped with the comedy and both struggle to make any of it work, which for a portion of the middle stretch, devoid of crashing and smashing, starts to become a problem. But when we return to the action, it’s hard not to feel an itch being scratched, the basic child-like satisfaction of watching giant monsters square off proving to be just as entertaining as we want it to be. Wingard is again able to choreograph and structure large-scale fights with coherence and logic, especially in the eye-popping final act, taking on a four-way battle and never causing us to zone out (many a Marvel director could do with watching and learning).

It’s, obviously, these moments of shock and awe that we come to a Godzilla and Kong movie for but with a two-hour runtime to fill, we start to feel the limitations here more than we should. We’re still supposed to egg the adversaries on for the sake of humanity not secretly hope they might destroy them in the process. If the next chapter ended up being Godzilla Minus People, that wouldn’t be a loss.

Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is out in cinemas on 29 March

  • Action and adventure films
  • Rebecca Hall
  • Dan Stevens

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Ewan McGregor Charms in ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’, but Can’t Turn the Hit Novel Into a Compelling Show: TV Review

By Alison Herman

Alison Herman

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Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov In a Gentleman in Moscow episode 3, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Amor Towles, “A Gentleman in Moscow” follows Rostov through the doors of the Metropol and stays there through decades of Russian history, from the formation of the Soviet Union to Stalinist repression to World War II and beyond. Writer and showrunner Ben Vanstone (“All Creatures Great and Small”) renders Rostov’s journey in eight hourlong episodes, a length at once condensed from Towles’s 500-page tome and distended from where the story feels most comfortable onscreen. “A Gentleman in Moscow” may present Rostov and his kind as an endangered species, but the series is part of an all-too-common trend: a limited series built around a star performance that’s engaging, but not enough to stretch a movie-sized idea into a TV-sized narrative.

But none of these characters ever compete with Rostov for the center of the series’ attention. They are, at best, accessories to his maturation from unserious dilettante to an impassioned protector of his adopted family, or an audience to his anecdotes about a bygone era. McGregor gamely sports a mustache and animates Rostov with a boyish naiveté. (After “Fargo,” “Halston” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the actor seems to have taken to TV as a showcase for his talents.) His Rostov is compelling, yet also familiar — Towles’ novel was published in 2016, just a couple years after Ralph Fiennes portrayed a similar figure in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which brought its namesake property to life with much more stylistic brio than directors Sam Miller and Sarah O’Gorman bring to the Metropol. There’s a ceiling to how much McGregor can do with a protagonist who clings to such established contours of vintage propriety caught up in the tides of history.

There’s also the matter of context. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” took place in a fictional country, but it referenced the rising tide of European fascism in the 1930s, a theme with obvious resonance for contemporary viewers. “A Gentleman in Moscow” deals with Communist repression, which is both a throwback to Cold War anxieties and an inherently political subject for a stubbornly apolitical show. Rostov’s college friend Mishka (Fehinti Balogun) hails from a more proletarian background and ends up on the opposite side of the revolution, but their differences stem more from personal strife than ideology. In their school days, Rostov thwarted Mishka’s romance with his sister, an intervention with tragic results.

“A Gentleman in Moscow” otherwise avoids having Rostov question whether his former lifestyle ever came at others’ expense or cultivating his views on current events beyond melancholy regret. This absence might be less conspicuous were the show more overtly abstract and allegorical á la “The Regime,” another series set largely within the walls of a requisitioned hotel. But the Metropol, while clearly constructed on a soundstage, is realistic enough to invite questions about the outside world. Towles could relay those developments in writing; on TV, we can’t see how Russia is changing because we’re trapped inside with Rostov, a deliberate choice that nonetheless leads to visual monotony and cuts off a potential source of plot.

The first episode of “A Gentleman in Moscow” is now available to stream on Paramount+ and will air on Showtime on March 31 at 9 p.m. ET, with remaining episodes streaming weekly on Fridays and airing on Sundays.

Updated: An earlier version of this review misidentified the showrunner.

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