Movie Reviews

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Starring: Maren Pedersen Clara Pontoppidan Tora Teje Benjamin Christensen Oscar Stribolt

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages

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In Brief: Danish director Benjamin Christensen's silent masterpiece Häxan (1922) is a strange beast — Satanic pun largely intended. A bizarre blend of documentary, narrative fiction and animation, the film showcases Christensen in more ways than one; in addition to demonstrating his remarkable acumen as an early visual stylist, the film also features the director himself in the role…
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Starring: Tatsuo Saito Mitsuko Yoshikawa Hideo Sugawara Tokkan Kozo Tomio Aoki Takeshi Sakamoto Teruyo Hayami Seiichi Kato Chishu Ryu

I Was Born, But…

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In Brief: One of Yasujiro Ozu's earliest successes, and still one of his most popular films, I Was Born, But... (1932) is a true gem of early Japanese cinema from one of its greatest masters. Very little was added to Ozu's 1959 loose re-working of the premise, Good Morning, that isn't accomplished as effectively here — and for my money, Born is…
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Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Alan Webb

The Taming of the Shrew

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In Brief: Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967) wasn’t the first time this Shakespeare play was served up with a famous married couple in the lead roles. No, that honor goes to Sam Taylor’s 1929 version starring Hollywood royalty of that era, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. (And whether or not the main title really…
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Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Jess Barker

Scarlet Street

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In Brief: A remake of Jean Renoir's La Chienne (1931) —  itself based on a play of the same name by Georges de la Fouchardiere, which was based on the book by André Mouezy-Eon — is easily the darkest and most psychologically bleak of Fritz Lang's American output, which places it high on the list of the…
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Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney

Fences

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The Story: A bitter man tortured by thwarted ambitions and crushing responsibilities slowly alienates everyone he loves against a backdrop of the African-American experience in 1950s Pittsburgh. The Lowdown: A distinctly theatrical adaptation of the classic August Wilson play showcases Denzel Washington and Viola Davis' remarkable talents as thespians while adhering just a little too closely to its…
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie Dewitt, John Legend, J.K. Simmons

La La Land

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The Story: Two dreamers with goals of making it in LA become entangled, struggling to make their dreams come true on their own terms. The Lowdown: With engaging leads, the film mostly works, faltering when its main selling point (the musical numbers) are a bit of a letdown.
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Starring: James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman, Casey Wilson, Cedric the Entertainer.

Why Him?

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The Story: A man with a failing printing company is appalled to learn his daughter has begun dating an oafish internet mogul while at college in California. The Lowdown: Better than it has any right to be due to the strong comedic performances from a talented cast that elevates the material it was given.
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Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams

Assassin’s Creed

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The Story: A death row convict becomes ensnared in an ancient conflict between two warring factions when he is revealed to be the genetic heir to a long line of assassins whose actions over the centuries have preserved humanity's capacity for free will. The Lowdown: Not a great film by any stretch, but far better than most video…
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Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Tori Kelly, Taron Edgerton, Nick Kroll, John. C. Reilly

Sing

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The Story: Anthropomorphic animals voiced by various Hollywood talent compete for fortune and fame during an attempt to save a failing theater from foreclosure. The Lowdown: Bits of 45 popular songs from the 1940s to the present may make audiences smile, but there is little new or notable here.
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Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne

Passengers

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The Story: A space vessel bound for a colony planet malfunctions, waking one of its passengers from suspended animation too early. He then proceeds to make decisions that are both heroic and reprehensible. The Lowdown: Even the appeal of two generally charismatic lead actors can't redeem the tedious snoozefest and highly questionable moral compass.
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Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack, Anton Diffring, Jeremy Spenser, Bee Duffell

Fahrenheit 451

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In Brief: François Truffaut stepped significantly outside his comfort zone when he undertook this adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic dystopian novel in 1966. It was Truffaut's first film shot in color and in a studio, first English language film and first shot outside of his native France. It was also the first of the Nouvelle Vague…
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Starring: Pili Groyne, Benoît Poelvoorde, Catherine Deneuve, Yolande Moreau, David Murgia

The Brand New Testament

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The Story: God lives in a small Brussels apartment, splitting his time between tormenting humanity with petty suffering and antagonizing his wife and daughter — until that daughter decides to follow in her brother's footsteps by taking matters into her own hands. The Lowdown: A subversive comedy, with a heart of gold, that may alienate some. But those open to…
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Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jimmy Smits, James Earl Jones, Wen Jiang, Forest Whitaker

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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The Story: The daughter of one of the Death Star's chief architects must steal its plans, allowing the Rebels a chance to destroy it, while redeeming her father in the process. The Lowdown: The bleakest Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, Rogue One is a great film that doesn't quite ascend to perfection.
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Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Jacob Latimore, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren.

Collateral Beauty

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The Story: A New York ad exec struggles to find meaning in the sudden death of his young daughter by addressing his anger in a series of letters to Love, Time and Death, while his friends try to exploit his downward spiral into psychosis for their own financial benefit. The Lowdown: Treacly, exploitative melodrama with an accomplished cast, this…
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Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, Andrea Martin

Black Christmas

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In Brief: Merry Christmas from the Thursday Horror Picture Show with Bob Clark’s Black Christmas (yes, the same Bob Clark who made A Christmas Story). What better way to celebrate the season than with the original “slasher” picture? Yes, Black Christmas pretty much started it all — predating Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980) and…
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Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, C.J. Wilson, Heather Burns, Tate Donovan, Josh Hamilton, Anna Baryshnikov, Matthew Broderick, Gretchen Mol.

Manchester by the Sea

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The Story: An emotionally repressed loner in the Boston suburbs must confront a painful past when his brother's death drags him home to care for his teenage nephew. The Lowdown: An almost incomprehensibly moving portrayal of anguish and resilience that gracefully avoids maudlin contrivance, Manchester by the Sea is unquestionably among the best films of the year.
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Starring: Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, Lonny Price, Jim Walton, James Weissenbach, Jason Alexander, Ann Morrison, Tonya Pinkins, Abby Pogrebin, Daisy Prince, Many Patinkin, James Bonkovsky, Frank Rich

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

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The Story: The cast of a rare flop by Broadway royalty Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince, leaning on the benefit of 35 years of hindsight, reflect on the ups and downs of their lives leading up to and following their disastrous work with their idols. The Lowdown: A moving and well-constructed documentary that will play to fans of musical…
M3 Jessica Chastain stars in EuropaCorp's "Miss. Sloane".

Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes
© 2016 EuropaCorp Ð France 2 Cinema
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow.

Miss Sloane

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The Story: A ruthless D.C. power broker picks a fight with the gun lobby over a set of ill-defined moral principles when she's asked to convince females to vote against gun control. The Lowdown: A passable political thriller that avoids the assurance of complete obscurity thanks solely to a bravura performance from Jessica Chastain.
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Starring: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Jillian Bell, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park

Office Christmas Party

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The Story: A frivolous man-child and his hypercompetent underling concoct a harebrained scheme to save their struggling corporate branch with a massive Christmas party after the boss' sister, the company's newly minted CEO, threatens them with closure. The Lowdown: A trite and predictable entry into the holiday raunch-com subgenre that fails to deliver laughs and doesn't seem to…
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Starring: Brandon Maggart, Jeffrey DeMunn, Dianne Hull, Joe Jamrog, Marian Vitale

Christmas Evil

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In Brief: The second installment in Thursday Horror Picture Show's three-week celebration of Santa slashers, 1980's Christmas Evil, has been described by illustrious schlockmeister John Waters as "the best Christmas film ever made." While I wouldn't go quite that far, it is a shamefully underseen cult classic. Originally titled You Better Watch Out, director Lewis Jackson's only feature was critically…
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Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Jean-Pierre Melville

Breathless (A Bout de Souffle)

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In Brief: Breathless marks the start of French New Wave cinema, and regardless of how one feels about Jean-Luc Godard’s later, less accessible works, it would be hard to find a more audacious debut feature. The problem today's audiences have with it is that so much of what was fresh and revolutionary in 1960 has been assimilated…