Movie Reviews

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Starring: Michael Greer, Marianna Hill, Joy Bang, Anitra Ford, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr.

Messiah of Evil

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In Brief: Have you ever wondered what would happen if the husband-and-wife screenwriting team that penned the scripts for American Graffiti, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Howard the Duck decided to co-write, produce and direct a movie about cannibalistic ghoul vampires inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and George Romero? Well they did, and the THPS…
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Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Kyoko Kagawa, Tatsuya Mihashi, Isao Kimura

High and Low

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In Brief: For his 1963 suspense film High and Low, Akira Kurosawa seems to have been actually trying to draw the wrath of those who find his work too “Western” by choosing the Ed McBain novel King’s Ransom for his source material. What could possibly be more Western — indeed, more downright American — than a…
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY, Robert Mitchum, 1975. ©Avco Embassy/courtesy Everett Collection
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Charlotte Rampling, John Ireland, Sylvia Miles, Jack O'Halloran, Anthony Zerbe

Farewell, My Lovely

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In Brief: One of my favorite Robert Mitchum performances and one of the best ever portrayals of Raymond Chandler's character Philip Marlowe, Dick Richards' 1973 Farewell, My Lovely holds its own against the best nostalgia noir of the '70s, Chinatown included. Marlowe is the role Mitchum was born to play, and even in his late fifties he fits…
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Starring: René Clair, Francis Picabia, Erik Satie, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Borlin, Georges Auric

Entr’acte/Man With a Movie Camera

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In Brief: Those who enjoyed the AFS' Surrealist triple-feature are in for a real treat this week when we show two of the greatest experimental films ever made. First up, we have René Clair's 1924 classic celebration of Dada and dance, Entr'acte — featuring the dancers of the Ballets Suédois, music composed by Erik Satie and cameos from Satie, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.…
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Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver,Toby Kebbell, Ben Moor, James Melville, Oliver Steer, Dominic Boyle, Jennifer Lim, Geraldine Chaplin

A Monster Calls

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The Story: A young boy learns to confront the fear and anger inspired by his mother's illness with the help of a magical tree monster. The Lowdown: A deeply meaningful film that will struggle to find an audience due to its weighty subject matter, its bold aesthetic and narrative conceits warrant consideration in spite of its difficult themes.
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Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Mahershala Ali, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Kimberly Quinn.

Hidden Figures

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The Story: Three African-American women working at NASA in the sixties make an indelible contribution to the space race in spite of overwhelming institutional opposition. The Lowdown: Uncomplicated and uplifting while avoiding divisive social commentary, Hidden Figures plays things safe to generally favorable results.
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Andre Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Edith Scob

Things to Come

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The Story: A philosophy teacher suddenly finds herself amidst a slew of life changes. The Lowdown: Though propped up by a strong Isabelle Huppert performance, the film doesn't offer more than character study.
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Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head, Oliver Stark

Underworld: Blood Wars

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The Story: A long-running war between vampires and werewolves continues, as a high-ranking vampiric hit-woman finds her estranged daughter at the heart of the conflict. The Lowdown: The Underworld saga continues — despite being a bit long in the tooth — with this tepid and uninspired fifth installment.
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Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner, Sid Haig

Spider Baby, or the Maddest Story Ever Told

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In Brief: Despite its full title, Spider Baby (1968) probably isn't the maddest story ever told, but it's in the running — at least as schlock exploitation film is concerned. Enjoyably trashy and occasionally downright amateurish, it's the fairly silly story of a house full of folks suffering from some inexplicable form of mental degeneration that turns…
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Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Serge Davri

Shoot the Piano Player

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In Brief: François Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960) is one of those celebrated films that I had somehow just never seen till this weekend. Oh, I’d seen clips and knew a little about it — and I’d suspected that the phony gangster-movie opening of Ken Russell’s 1966 TV film on composer Georges Delerue, Don’t…
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Starring: Stéphane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel, Jarl Kulle, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Achille Papin,Bibi Andersson

Babette’s Feast

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In Brief: While it's not exactly to my taste (pun intended), I can certainly appreciate why Danish writer-director Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast took home the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1988. Axel's adaptation of, Isak Dinesen's story (Dinesen being a pseudonym for Karen Blixen) of a French refugee confronted with the Puritanical strictures of her involuntarily adopted Danish community is replete with…
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Starring: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Walter Connolly, Charles Winninger, Sig Ruman

Nothing Sacred

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In Brief: William A. Wellman’s very aptly titled Nothing Sacred (1937) begins with a series of titles informing us, “This is New York, skyscraper champion of world, where the slickers and know-it-alls peddle gold bricks to each other, and where truth, crushed to earth, rises again more phony than a glass eye.” That effectively captures the…
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Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Abhishek Bharate, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, Deepti Naval, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sunny Pawar.

Lion

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The Story: A young Indian man raised in Australia uses the internet to track down the family he lost early in his youth. The Lowdown: A proficient — if occasionally underwhelming — story of one man's triumph over adversity, with an uplifting ending that narrowly avoids cloying sentimentality.
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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.