Nathan Weinbender

Movies 101 Co-Host

Nathan is an entertainment writer and film reviewer. He also produces stories and reviews for Spokane7.

2018 in Review

Jan 16, 2019

At the start of every new year, film critics love to reflect on the previous 12 months, and cobble together their requisite lists of favorites. Nathan Weinbender says 2018 offered an embarrassment of riches, and he runs down the best that cinema had to offer last year.

"Blindspotting," a commentary on gentrification, police brutality, and economic disparity starring and co-written by Daveed Diggs from "Hamilton," received acclaim at this year's Sundance Film Festival— but it completely bypassed Spokane theaters. Now that it's on DVD, Nathan Weinbender says it's an interesting debut film that's worth checking out.

"The Rider" is one of the best-reviewed films of the year with one of the most unusual backstories, and yet it barely played in Spokane— showing up on a single screen for only a week back in June. But now it's on DVD & Blu-ray, and it's a genuine marvel— blurring the line between reality and fiction in the true story of an injured rodeo rider trying to find his feet in the real world.

We all know that Melissa McCarthy is a comedic force to be reckoned with, but in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?" she delivers a rare dramatic performance as an unassuming literary forger. Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the new film, which is based on a true story, that's already getting Oscar buzz for its star.

It was only a matter of time until Queen, with its flamboyant frontman and roster of hits, got its own film. Now we have "Bohemian Rapsody," which follows the career of the band and the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury, using all those great old songs and a lot of biopic clichés. It may have been a box office champion, but Nathan Weinbender says he wasn't exactly rocked by the new film. 

This year we’ve see directorial debuts from actors Bradley Cooper and Bo Burnham, and now Jonah Hill has been added to the list. His first feature, "Mid90s," is a snapshot of skater kids in LA, and Nathan Weinbender proposes that it's more interesting as a mood piece than a coming-of-age narrative.

"Bad Times at the El Royale" has all the trappings of a future cult film— it's over-ambitious, singularly strange, and it died at the box office. Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the neo-noir curiosity, which isn't totally successful, but is most certainly interesting.

Amongst its series and stand-up specials, Netflix has been acquiring new films by great directors— and their newest release is Paul Greengrass' "22 July." Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the movie, which dramatizes terrorist attacks that occurred in Norway in 2011, and examines the craft behind its troublesome existence.

Everyone has been raving about "A Star Is Born," the fourth feature film iteration of the classic rags-to-riches story and the first movie this year to generate serious awards talk. Nathan Weinbender takes a look at Bradley Cooper's directorial debut starring Lady Gaga, which isn't a masterpiece, but has plenty of memorable moments.

Everyone has been raving about "A Star is Born," the fourth feature version of the classic rags-to-riches story and the first movie this year to generate serious awards talk. Nathan Weinbender takes a look at Bradley Cooper's directorial debut starring Lady Gaga, which isn't a masterpiece but has plenty of memorable moments. 

"Searching" is the story of a father trying to solve his teenage daughter's disappearance using social media, but there's a twist: it's told entirely from the point of view of the computer. Nathan Weinbender says it's actually a smarter examination of 21st-century technology than it is a mystery. 

Bo Burnham began his career as a teenager comedian on YouTube and has now bevome a filmmaker and his first feature as writer/director is "Eighth Grade," the story of an awkward teenage girl in her last year of middle school. Nathan Weinbender says it's rightfully earning a place amongst the best reviewed films of the year so far. 

"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the fifth film in the prehistoric franchise, has already made $1 billion at the international box office and will no doubt inspire more sequels. But is it any good? Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the dino-film blockbuster and finds something of a guilty pleasure.

It received rave reviews at film festivals, it inspired a hyperbolic ad campain, and now it's dividing audiences. Hereditary is a horror film about a family that's already troubled before it's menaced by supernatural visitors, and Nathan Weinbender takes a look to see if it's deserving of all the hype.

There are more prestigious films in theaters right now, but few that are as fun. Upgrade is a hyper-violent sci-fi revenge film about a paralyzed man who becomes a killing machine, and Nathan Weinbender says it's solid entertainment for those who like their drive-in fare extra ridiculous.

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody broke out with Oscar-winning film "Juno," about a pregnant teenager with an acid tongue. Now they're on their third collaboration, "Tully," another story about pregnancy. But this one is much different and much bolder, and, Nathan Weinbender says, even better than that 2007 comedy. 

Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the new blockbuster, which he proclaims to be overstuffed and quite long, and actually, pretty fun!

The big winner at the box office last week was a mostly silent affair. A Quiet Place, directed by and starring John Krasinski, is about monsters that kill you if you make noise, and the film follows suit. It's also, Nathan Weinbender says, an effective exercise in mounting tension.

More than two decades ago, we were introduced to Lara Croft, the pistol-packing adventurer in the video game "Tomb Raider." She's inspired movies before but now she's back in a gritty reboot, and played by Oscar winner Alicia Vikander. Nathan Weinbender takes a lookat the new game-turned-film, which he says, is about as much fun as watching someone else play Nintendo. 

Madeleine L'Engle's novel A Wrinkle in Time has been a kid lit favorite since the '60s, but it's only now made its way to the big screen. Director Ava DuVernay has taken on the planet-hopping sci-fi odyssey, and Nathan Weinbender says it's a refreshingly earnest children's film that works better in theory than practice.

Just when you thought Hollywood had run out of movies to remake, here comes "Death Wish," starring Bruce Willis in a role originated by Charles Bronson. Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the rehashed vigilante thriller, which is no less reactionary than its predecessor and even more confused.  

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has now produced eighteen movies, all of them big hits, but none has seemed as seismic as Black Panther. Nathan Weinbender looks at the new cultural phenomenon, about a young African prince and his reign over the prosperous nation of Wakanda.

At 87, Clint Eastwood is still one of Hollywood's most active and unpredictable film makers, and his latest is the strange experiment in realism called The 15:17 to Paris. Nathan Weinbender takes a look at the film, which casts the real people involved in a 2015 terrorist attack and asks them to reenact it, but it's (unfortunately) not nearly as fascinating as it sounds.

If you're familiar with "National Lampoon" magazine, "Animal House" and "Caddyshack," you can blame Doug Kenney. The new Netflix biopic A Futile & Stupid Gesture, casts Will Forte as the legendary - and legendarily troubled - comedy writer, and while it's a noble attempt to upend the structure, Nathan Weinbender says the movie's title is sadly appropriate.

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