A quick note for my guests...

Updated by Joel Copling on October 8, 2015


Welcome to my website. Here, you'll find my reviews of the latest cinematic releases. If you're looking for a review of a particular film, check under the 'Films by Title' section. It just may be there. Not seeing a film you'd like to see reviewed? Send me a Tweet with your recommendation!

Coming soon to Joel on Film: Joel on Oscars! I'm making changes, some cosmetic and others a bit more necessary, to the front page of this website and various others throughout (Pardon my dust as I clean up around here), and that includes tackling the awards season. Yes, this will be a permanent fixture at the site now, updated every two weeks from October to broadcast. Just keep an eye on the top of the page for that soon!

Nine Lives (2016)

Posted by Joel Copling on August 5, 2016


The problem with "Nine Lives" is surely not the lack of a potentially worthwhile message. The egotistical businessman must humble himself or be humbled by the machinations of a supernatural occurrence in order to reconnect to humanity around him. It's a Dickensian tale, and the specific premise -- that the man is humbled by having his consciousness inserted into that of a feline counterpart -- is even kind of clever. There was room here for a pleasantly moralistic tale. Thanks to an unlikely army of five screenwriters, however, this is a tone-deaf, lazy comedy featuring a dead-on-arrival execution of that clever premise, some truly unfortunate visual effects work that never seems authentic, and an odd focus on a narrative that doesn't have an audience.

Suicide Squad

Posted by Joel Copling on August 5, 2016


The premise has promise. The government must, for a change in pace, rely on a group of super-villains to save the day. "Suicide Squad" did not only need that premise to work, but it did only need to expand upon it, offering some sort of context to these characters or the situation in which they find themselves that might lead them to fight for the good side. As such, writer/director David Ayer can only offer what amounts to a 123-minute trailer that introduces a couple of the key players, then reintroduces them, then gives each of them a theatrical entrance, then pits all of them against a generic threat set underneath yet another gigantic beam of light in the middle of a metropolis. This film is a disaster of forward momentum and even of simple plotting. A lot of commotion may happen, but nothing of substance does for its entire duration.

Bad Moms

Posted by Joel Copling on July 29, 2016


It all could have gone horribly awry. The filmmakers could have exerted little effort in making an appealingly bright-looking comedy and resorted to sub-par-television-sitcom for their movie's aesthetic. Those same filmmakers could have cranked out a screenplay that had outward contempt for their audience, both the intended demographic and everyone else theoretically outside of it. The actresses all could have looked desperately bored, disinterested, or, worse, disdainful toward material they thought below them. To this critic's great surprise, "Bad Moms" has a surprising amount of compassion -- toward its central trio of actresses, toward another trio playing the "villains" of the piece, and toward moms themselves. It's an equal-opportunity crowd-pleaser and a very raucous comedy, to boot.

Cafe Society

Posted by Joel Copling on July 29, 2016


Woody Allen's "Cafe Society" is a romantic tale of young love spliced together with a cynical yarn about the good, old days of Hollywood. Within those relatively simple terms, it works quite well. It is, as per usual with Allen, populated by respected and respectable actors delivering literate, sometimes on-the-nose dialogue that confronts philosophical matters and busy plot elements that are more conventional by nature. These are likable characters even while doing things that are questionable or even beyond the pale, and that in part has to do with Allen's screenplay and narration that works in spite of its serving exactly the wrong purpose (to dictate character action and motivation). Suddenly, we're swept up in these characters and this milieu.


Last Week's Best

Ice Age: Collision Course

Posted by Joel Copling on July 22, 2016


Well, here is a pleasant surprise. After four films pushed him to the background, "Ice Age: Collision Course" embraces the character who has always been the best part of this surprisingly long-running series. That, of course, would be Scrat, the manic squirrel voiced by Chris Wedge and obsessed with catching his beloved acorn. The film is the byproduct of a short film from November 2015 that essentially opens this fourth sequel and sets up the main thrust of its plot with very funny results. The extended joke, delivered by a certain astrophysicist, is that Scrat is the one responsible for the creation of the solar system. The planets were the billiard balls, the rings around four of them were the pockets, and the Great Red Spot in Jupiter was a result of another planet bouncing off of it.



Also from Last Week

Lights Out

Posted by Joel Copling on July 22, 2016


The short film that provided the basis for "Lights Out" was an effective thing, indeed. At less than three minutes, it created a truly tense atmosphere, featured a very simple and well-executed idea, and ended with an expertly devised stinger that earned the potential gasp/shriek/expletive of shock from the viewer. That idea, by the way, was a corker at only two minutes, and it's still a corker at just more than an hour with this feature adaptation: When a light is off, some silhouetted shadow is visible as blacker than the darkness around it (and when within shade cast against light behind it), and when that light is on, it has disappeared. Given all the reasons to be afraid of the dark (a fear fed quite well by the best horror films), here is a new one: a being that only resides in all forms of darkness.

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