CANDYMAN

These mild ups and downs leave us with a lackluster entry in a franchise saddled with ambitious but thorny ideas. It’s far from a disaster, but the taste it leaves in your mouth isn’t sickening so much as it is bitter. Horror with these sorts of themes shouldn’t leave you feeling good, but the discomfort should come from it rattling uncomfortable truths, not mishandling them.

BETTY Season Two

Betty is a disrupter. A disrupter of expectations, of stereotypes, of procedure. It says forget six seasons and a movie, we’re going to make a movie and then some television. It says forget your straight, white, male world, we’re going to follow a bunch of young women, some queer and not all white. It says forget plot, just vibe. 

CRUELLA

While not hitting the high marks of the best live-action Disney movies, Cruella succeeds because it abandons the sketch we had of the deliciously reviled character and strikes out on its own.

ZACK SNYDER’S JUSTICE LEAGUE

A movie that is fascinating in its first half, which is basically a feature-length setup full of promising starts and weird asides, but peters out as the plot kicks in and real structure must be applied. It thrives on Snyder’s idiosyncrasies , and while I can’t in good conscience call it a success, it’s just about the best such an ill-conceived mess could’ve ever become.

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON

These scraps of something bolder make Raya feel much more safe than it really is. A couple of no holds barred princesses and a whole new world for Disney provided so many opportunities for expansion that it’s disappointing they only took partial advantage. Hopefully they continue pushing forward, because Raya’s only downside is Disney’s self-imposed limitations.

I CARE A LOT

I Care A Lot plays a tough game. It’s not an unfamiliar one, not by a long shot, but that doesn’t make it easy to stomach. A tale of greed and capitalism that can’t even be called allegory since it speaks of its themes directly, it’s a story of terrible people doing terrible things, and you’re not supposed to feel good about any of it.

THE WORLD TO COME

The World to Come, is, you guessed it, a period romance between two white women. That unfortunately places it on a continuum that’s become stale, meaning something extra is required of it to stand out. And that’s where the movie falls a bit short, not with any big flaw but in not achieving anything truly great, and hence it seems doomed to fade into the ether.

HAPPIEST SEASON

Happiest Season knows the moment it’s in and how much it can push the boundaries, and it doesn’t dare come anywhere close to the edge. The win is simply getting an adequate one out there that everyone, not just queer people, will feel the need to see, and then not be put off seeing more. And in that sense, it plants its flag firmly so others can follow.

TIGERTAIL

Tigertail is a swift 96 minutes long, but it’s one of the few movies where I’d recommend it going longer, using the time to fill in the blanks and make the whole movie feel as arresting as its early scenes. As is, it’s not a complete wash, but it’s hard to drum up a lot of enthusiasm for something that feels half-baked.

STARGIRL

That’s the thing: Stargirl isn’t outright bad. The way Hart sets up shots and makes the whole thing churn along does give it a nostalgic feel that’ll remind you of the movies that were produced for you in childhood. It goes down easy, particularly if you put it on in the background while you take care of your adult chores. But if you want something that will capture your full attention without making you slightly uncomfortable, look elsewhere.

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

To watch Portrait is to face what we have lost through apathy, contentment, and laziness. Film convention has captured many wonderful parts of life, but it’s also left a lot untouched. As much as some of us may rant about what’s missing, few of us have figured out how to upend over a century of defining and reinforcing what cinema is. Sciamma did it