Tipping Point: Our picks and pans
I realize the World Cup is over, and I have to wait four years to enjoy it again. I’m a big World Cup guy, unabashedly so. I don’t care about Arsenal or Chelsea or AC Milan. I don’t care who Tottenham is playing next Saturday. I care about Ecuador vs. Ghana. I care about Belgium vs. Canada. Anyway, Brian Phillips has created something of a northern light for all World Cup-ophiles here, telling the story of the history of the beautiful game and its players. It’s a 22-episode podcast ostensibly about some of the most iconic and memorable goals in World Cup history, but its breadth is kind of remarkable. Each episode has a corresponding essay, and Phillips’ conversational writing style makes it easy to digest, so I learned a lot listening and reading. For instance, did you know about the Falklands War? I sure didn’t. Did you know the actual World Cup trophy was stolen and nobody could find it for a week in 1966? Me neither. This is sports writing at its best, and by the time you’re done taking in the podcasts and essays, it will be time for the 2026 World Cup.
— Owen Poole
You’ll never look at s’mores the same way again. This film, which satirizes the self-impressed culinary snobs of the world, effectively walks a fine line between dark comedy and horror. The story brings a group of arrogant foodies (a restaurant critic, a faded movie star, a group of finance-worlds bros) to a remote island to dine on an extravagant meal made by a famous chef. The hosts keep a fascistically tight rein on the guests, which gives viewers a creeping sense of dread. The directing by Mark Mylod is crisp, and the acting is the movie’s, ah, secret ingredient. Especially good are Anya Taylor-Joy as a no-bull young woman and Nicholas Hoult as her date, who is overly impressed by all the food fuss. This isn’t the kind of production that draws award nominations, but if it were, Ralph Fiennes would be a shoo-in; he gives a pitch-perfect performance as the magnetic but (spoiler alert) unhinged chef.
— Kristina Dorsey
There’s no reason this film should have been made — other than to make me laugh. By now, “Violent Night” has been excoriated by critics for clumsily gluing together the plots of “Home Alone” and “Die Hard” with sugar sprinkles of “Bad Santa.” To which I say: Brilliant! David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) stars as a Santa dispirited by children whose holiday focus is essentially on receiving video games. But Santa rediscovers his spirit when he comes upon a Christmas Eve hostage-situation/heist in a wealthy family’s enclave. The Claus Man goes to war with the violent gang and, using any seasonal decoration at his disposal for mayhem, dispenses gore and justice in finest slasher film fashion. The one-liners are hilariously sophomoric and, in that fashion, completely great.
— Rick Koster