Movie Reviews

GARDEN PARTY STILL 5
Starring: Various

The 2018 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films

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The Story: This year's nominees in consideration for the Best Animated Short Academy Award. The Lowdown: A much stronger group of shorts in terms of technical accomplishment and narrative content than last year's batch, including one film that's very nearly perfect alongside the perfunctory Pixar picture and a five-minute Nike ad starring Kobe Bryant.
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Starring: Various

The 2018 Oscar Nominated Live-Action Short Films

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The Story: This year's collection of Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short. The Lowdown: Despite the relatively maudlin tone favored by Academy voters this year, none of it is remotely as depressing as Fifty Shades Freed or any of the other dreck in theaters this week. Obviously, my advice would be to watch the shorts instead.
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Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, James Corden, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki

Peter Rabbit

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The Story:  Rabbits Peter, Mopsy, Flopsy, and Cotton Tail face off against their obnoxious human neighbor Mr. McGregor in a battle over who gets to rule the garden. The Lowdown: A breathless, dizzyingly joyous adventure that brings some seriously intelligent skill to these classic hare-brained characters.
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Starring: Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer

The 15:17 to Paris

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The Story: The based-on-a-true-story tale of the American servicemen who stopped a terrorist attack on a French train. The Lowdown: Besides the curio of casting the actual men involved in stopping the attack, the film they're in is clumsy and often cringeworthy.
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Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden

Fifty Shades Freed

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The Story: Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele get married, and we're supposed to care because ... reasons? Anyway, it doesn't go as planned. And then it does. The end! The Lowdown: Bottom-of-the-barrel quality.
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Starring: Lea Massari, Benoit Ferreux, Daniel Gelin, Fabien Ferreux, Marc Winocourt, Jacqueline Chauvaud

Murmur of the Heart

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In Brief: As much as I love Elevator to the Gallows, I've never been quite as enamored of Louis Malle as some others in my sphere. I remember having long arguments in the Manhattan video store where I worked after college, surreal rhetorical exercises in which I espoused a position that incest is gross even if it's French.…
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Starring: Alan Bates, Geneviève Bujold, Adolfo Celi, Jean-Claude Brialy

King of Hearts

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In Brief: This early cult classic (maybe the first film deserving that accolade) seems a little less of a groundbreaker today, and its soft tone has caused it to be severely downgraded in many quarters, but that doesn’t keep the film from having its charms — nor does it keep modern viewers from being able…
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Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Jean Dixon, Mischa Auer, Alan Dinehart

My Man Godfrey

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In Brief: Gregory La Cava’s My Man Godfrey (1936) is one of the essential “screwball” comedies. It may even be the essential one. From its glossy credits (probably the most striking title design of the decade) onward, it’s a slick, rich-looking production (despite its Depression-era setting) taking place in that movie-world version of New York…
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Starring: Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Eamon Farren, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Laura Brent

Winchester

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The Story: A laudanum-addicted psychologist is tasked with proving that Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester Repeating Rifle Co., is insane so that the board members can wrest control of the corporation from her — but he gets more than he bargained for when he discovers that her labyrinthine mansion may be as haunted as she claims. The…
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Starring: Tokihiko Okada, Emiko Yagumo , Hideo Sugawara, Hideko Takamine, Tatsuo Saito

Tokyo Chorus

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In Brief: Yasujiro Ozu may be best remembered as one of the Japanese cinema's pre-eminent social realists, but his early career wasn't always so serious. Tokyo Chorus (1931) shows a lighter side of Ozu, already establishing his visual tone and narrative tendencies despite having made his directorial debut only four years prior. Clearly influenced by Ozu's self-professed…
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Starring: Burt Lancaster, Peter Riegert, Peter Capaldi, Fulton McKay, Denis Lawson

Local Hero

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In Brief: This understated little comedy from writer/director Bill Forsyth (Gregory's Girl, Being Human) offers slice-of-life veracity and social conscience in a slightly saccharine satire, a perfect example of what Andrew Sarris might have termed a "lightly likable" film. Late-period Burt Lancaster sets the story of an oil company trying to buy a picturesque Scottish island in motion,…
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Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Theodor Loos, Ellen Widmann

M

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In Brief: Yes, Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M (1931), has a few awkward moments, in which Lang hasn’t quite mastered the new medium, but this old warhorse of art cinema works more than it doesn’t and still registers as a compelling work by one of the undisputed masters of film. And calling it an…
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Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Paul Walter Hauser, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale

I, Tonya

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The Story: Figure skater Tonya Harding ascends to the heights of her sport as an Olympic competitor before being publicly disgraced for her participation in the 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan. The Lowdown: A film that teeters on the brink of tonal dissonance and smug self-satisfaction before being redeemed by exceptional performances from its central cast.
Christian
Starring: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Timothee Chalamet, Ben Foster

Hostiles

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The Story: An Army Captain must brave the vicissitudes of  merciless fate as he escorts a dying Cheyenne chief back from a military prison to his ancestral homeland. The Lowdown: Bleak, brutal bloody, this revisionist Western transposes the easy answers and unimpeachable heroes characteristic of the genre with characters defined by their flaws and shaped by their suffering in a…
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Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Rosa Salazar, Aidan Gillen, Patricia Clarkson

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

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The Story: A scrappy group of teens immune to a global pandemic must infiltrate a walled city to rescue their friend and overthrow the shady organization seeking to exploit their blood for a cure. The Lowdown: A cacophonous conclusion to a YA franchise that drastically overstays its welcome.
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Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Marie-France Pisier, Claude Jade, Dani, Dorothee, Daniel Mesguich

Love on the Run

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In Brief: François Truffaut's sixth and final film of his Antoine Doinel series that began with Truffaut's first film, The 400 Blows, in 1959 is mostly a pure delight and a fine conclusion to the series. The only problem with Love on the Run (1979), which catches up with the 30-something Antoine for the first time…
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Starring: Gosta Ekman, Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn, Wilhelm Dieterle

Faust

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In Brief: F.W. Murnau's 1926 interpretation of the classic tale of a pious alchemist who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge, youth and the love of a beautiful young woman is possibly the most accurate recounting of the story ever filmed. Murnau draws heavily from Goethe's play but also from older…
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Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Brian Gleeson

Phantom Thread

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The Story: A world-renowned dressmaker enters into a contentious May-December romance with a young waitress. The Lowdown: A far more compelling film than its superficially frivolous premise might imply, Daniel Day-Lewis' swan song ranks among P. T. Anderson's best work to date.
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Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel

Call Me by Your Name

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The Story: A young boy has a summer fling with an older man in the Italian countryside. The Lowdown: A premise worthy of more than a cursory eyebrow raise, executed with an emphatically eroticized male gaze that serves little purpose beyond its own sensual gratification.
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in New York
Starring: Barack Obama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes

The Final Year

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The Story: Documentarian Greg Barker is given unfettered access to President Obama's inner circle during the waning days of his administration. The Lowdown: A protracted exercise in preaching to the converted.