Movie Reviews

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Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O'Brien, Woody Strode

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

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In Brief: Few films are as deeply flawed yet so wonderful or so essential to a great director’s filmography as John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). I suppose Josef von Sternberg’s The Devil Is a Woman (1935) runs a close second, and for a lot of the same reasons. Both films contain all the…
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Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide, Keir Dullea, Beth Dixon

Infinitely Polar Bear

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The Story: Autobiographical account of growing up with a bi-polar father. The Lowdown: Sweet, but not cloying — and carefully dodging the bullet of romanticizing mental illness — this is a remarkably assured debut film from Maya Forbes, with terrific performances helping out.
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Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, Sig Arno

The Palm Beach Story

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In Brief: The Palm Beach Story (1942) is almost certainly not Preston Sturges’ best film, but it very well might be his funniest. It’s almost certainly his fastest-paced and has a plot device that would have made Shakespeare proud. What we have here is the tale of Gerry (Claudette Colbert) and Tom Jeffers (Joel McCrea), a…
DF-11873 Margo (Cara Delevingne) and Quentin (Nat Wolff) enjoy an unforgettable evening together. Photo credit: Michael Tackett
Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Halston Sage, Jaz Sinclair

Paper Towns

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The Story: When the girl he's fixated on disappears, a young man follows the clues she's left behind in order to find her. The Lowdown: Ultimately, the movie doesn't quite work, but most of the cast make up for a lot of the shortcomings.
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Starring: Billy Crudup, Michael Angarano, Thomas Mann, Ezra Miller, Logan Miller, Tye Sheridan, Nelsan Ellis, Olivia Thirlby

The Stanford Prison Experiment

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The Story: A filmic recreation of the controversial 1971 psychological experiment of the same name. The Lowdown: Powerful, but decidedly unpleasant, look at the effects of power and the loss of power as evidenced by college students acting out the roles of inmates and prison guards. Strong stuff, but rather flatly made. It succeeds mostly…
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Starring: Jason Bateman (voice), Jamie Berard, Alicia Finch Lee, Adam Reed Tucker, Nathan Sawaya, David Pagano

A LEGO Brickumentary

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The Story: Documentary about — well, Legos. The Lowdown: How you feel about this documentary is almost certainly going to be determined by your fondness for Legos and the various creative uses to which they can be put. Well made, but definitely specialized.
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Starring: Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Björnstrand, Margaretha Krook, Jörgen Lindström

Persona

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In Brief: Calling Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) the filmmaker’s most disturbing film is a pretty bold assertion, but I think it may well be true. It is certainly one of his most difficult films — possibly the most impenetrable film in his entire oeuvre and the most seemingly bizarre. From the moment the film begins — with…
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Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Oona Laurence, 50 Cent, Rachel McAdams

Southpaw

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The Story: A champion boxer finds his life unraveling after the sudden death of his wife. The Lowdown: A cheesy, cliché-riddled boxing drama built around a gimmicky performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.
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Starring: Hugo Silva, Mario Casas, Pepón Nieto, Carolina Bang, Carmen Maura

Las Brujas de Zugaramurdi (Witching & Bitching)

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In Brief: Alex de la Iglesia's Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi was saddled with the moronic English language title Witching & Bitching — the translation of its Spanish title is The Witches of Zugarramurdi — but don't let that put you off this magnificent mash-up of the kind only Alex de la Iglesia could provide. On the surface, it may…
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Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox, Sean Bean, Jane Krakowski, Dan Aykroyd

Pixels

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The Story: Aliens intercept footage of a 1980s video game tournament, implausibly interpret said footage as a declaration of war, and inexplicably employ 8-bit game sprites on steroids as the arbiters of Earth’s annihilation. The Lowdown: A contrived confluence of '80s and '90s nostalgia that never rises to the promise of its concept.
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Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Peña

Ant-Man

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The Story: Origin story for the Ant-Man character. The Lowdown: Cheeky, good-natured, clever and even a little on the subversive side, Ant-Man is that rarest of comic-book movies — one that manages to be personal and doesn't take itself too seriously. Its only real drawback is the insistence of tying it in with the Avengers…
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Starring: Janet Gaynor, George O'Brien, Margaret Livingston, Bodil Rosing, J. Farrell MacDonald

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

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In Brief: F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) has occasionally been called the greatest movie of all time — and while I’m not foolish enough to make such an absolute claim for any film, I will say I can’t think of a better one. I also do believe it to be the greatest silent film ever…
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Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton

Trainwreck

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The Story: A serial dater finds herself reluctantly falling for a charming surgeon. The Lowdown: An overlong, drawn-out movie that’s not as raunchy or frank as it thinks it is, and never diverges from its romcom formula.
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Starring: Ian McKellen, Brendan Fraser, Lynn Redgrave, Lolita Davidovich, David Dukes

Gods and Monsters

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In Brief: Since July 22 is James Whale's birthday, and since James Whale is a key figure in the history of the horror film, the Thursday Horror Picture Show always tries to mark the day. But Whale only made four horror movies. Granted those four — Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man —…
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Starring: Alicia Vikander, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Hayley Atwell

Testament of Youth

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The Story: Biographical film on British pacifist Vera Brittain. The Lowdown: Frequently powerful — sometimes overwhelming — anti-war film that resonates with a certain timeliness even though the war it depicts dates back 100 years. The only problem is it's a little too genteel for its own good.
Beauty and the Beast (1946 France) aka La belle et la bÍte
Directed by Jean Cocteau
Shown: Jean Marais (as La BÍte)
Starring: Jean Marais, Josette Day, Mila Parely, Nane Germon, Michel Auclair

Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête)

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In Brief: Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) (1946) is quite simply one of the great films. It is also hands down the most completely successful transference of a fairy tale to the motion picture screen. It is a film that has touched and influenced innumerable filmmakers. There are traces of it…
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Starring: Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Mia Skäringer, Jens Hultén, Alan Ford

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

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The Story: The title pretty much says it all, but hardly covers the incidents contained.  The Lowdown: A very funny, very inventive, cheerfully amoral (but warm-hearted) comedy with an unlikely main character — and a collection of only slightly more probable supporting characters. Fast-paced, darkly humorous, endlessly playful and a must-see.
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Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman, Bruce Altman, Bruce McGill

Matchstick Men

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In Brief: There's no denying that Ridley Scott is a stylish director. The question has always been just what that style was. There's no overriding visual or thematic quality to his work in a filmography that has encompassed just about every genre there is — with varying degrees of success. Of no help whatever in…
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Starring: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander, Scott Kolk, Slim Summerville

All Quiet on the Western Front

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In Brief: Lewis Milestone's Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) was by no means the first anti-war film, but it may well still be the most powerful. It is certainly the first such film — at least from Hollywood — to show WWI (still just The Great War at the time) from the…
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Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh, John Van Eyssen

Dracula (Horror of Dracula)

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In Brief: Dracula -- or Horror of Dracula as we know it in the U.S. -- is the second of the Hammer horrors—it follows Fisher’s Curse of Frankenstein (1957)—and it may be said to be the movie that cemented Hammer’s status as the “house of horror.” It certainly sealed Christopher Lee’s fate as the iconic Count Dracula…
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Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Price T. Morgan

The Gallows

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The Story: A group of teens get trapped in their high school and hunted by a mysterious supernatural force. The Lowdown: A wasteful, pointless and incredibly dull found-footage horror movie.