Movie Reviews

Starring: Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Robert Helpman, Pamela Brown, Leonide Massine

The Tales of Hoffman

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In Brief: This is the odd-film-out in the major works of Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger — rarely spoken of in the same breath with their standard classics, The Life and Death of Col. Blimp, Stairway to Heaven, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes, yet clearly part of the same creative impetus behind those films. It’s a…
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur

The Lives of Others

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This is one of those movies I’m supposed to like a lot more than I do. But the fact is that I’m pretty indifferent to this as filmmaking, despite the quality of its screenplay and acting. That isn’t to say it’s a bad movie — just one that, for me, misses greatness. Many people feel…
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Antonio Banderas

Life Itself

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The Story: A sprawling, time-hopping metanarrative on the subjects of love and loss. The Lowdown: Yet another insipid and cringe-worthy melodrama taking the "it's all connected" route while landing the biggest dissociative emotional belly flop of the year.
Starring: Michael Moore

Fahrenheit 11/9

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The Story: An odd assessment of Donald Trump's presidency from one of the cinema's most provocative voices. The Lowdown: A disappointingly disorganized political analysis from "documentarian" Michael Moore that misses its chance to say anything new or to say anything well.
Starring: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

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The Story: A young orphan comes to live with his uncle, a warlock in the midst of a supernatural struggle to save the world. The Lowdown: Horror director Eli Roth makes a marginally convincing transition into PG territory with this fantasy adventure flick that almost works.
Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Kristen Stewart, Jeff Perry, Fiona Shaw, Jamey Sheridan, Kim Dickens, Denis O'Hare

Lizzie

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The Story: In the weeks leading up to her parents' gruesome murders, Lizzie Borden and her young housemaid struggle under the yoke of male oppression. The Lowdown: A potentially riveting reimagining of the Borden slayings that falls short in execution despite a solid central cast and compelling perspective.
Starring: Evan Rosado, Sheila Vand, Raúl Castillo, Josiah Gabriel, Isaiah Kristian

We the Animals

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The Story: A young boy navigates his rocky home life and burgeoning sexuality. The Lowdown: A beautiful and heartfelt film about family and growing up and all the confusion that brings.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke

Mandy

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The Story: After a cult leader murders his wife, a logger takes brutal and bloody revenge. The Lowdown: Oh Mandy — well you came and you gave psycho Cagey — and I need you today, oh Mandy.
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend

A Simple Favor

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The Story: An overachieving single mom befriends the sophisticated mother of one of her son's classmates, but when her new bff goes missing a sinister plot emerges. The Lowdown: A pulpy neo-noir with a heavy dose of satire and a ridiculously serpentine plot that deftly balances its trash thriller themes and comedic sensibilities, thanks in no small part…
Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Alfie Allen, Thomas Jane

The Predator

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The Story: A group of dysfunctional veterans must battle extra terrestrial big game hunters to retain possession of alien weaponry taken from a downed spacecraft that holds a secret of its own. The Lowdown: Director Shane Black and co-writer Fred Dekker reunite for a predictably flawed but satisfyingly splatter-adled sequel.
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater

The Wife

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The Story: The secret history between a novelist and his wife is revealed after he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. The Lowdown: A good story, interesting characters, and a great cast can't quite make up for the leaden and obvious filmmaking.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, RJ Cyler, Eddie Marsan, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie

White Boy Rick

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The Story: The misguided teen son of an affable gun dealer in 1980s Detroit finds himself entangled in an FBI scheme to take down large-scale players in the crack cocaine trade. The Lowdown: What should have been an entertainingly grimy adaptation of a true story becomes an overwrought melodrama dragged down by its award bait ambitions.
Starring: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan

Loving Vincent

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In Brief: Classic World Cinema is revisiting one of the most visually engaging films of 2017, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman's incomparably ambitious Loving Vincent. In my review from last October, I expounded further: "The very fact that a film like Loving Vincent exists is a noteworthy achievement in and of itself. Composed entirely of oil paintings in the…
Starring: Plácido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Justino Díaz, Petra Malakova, Urbano Barberini

Otello

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In Brief: In 1986, in one of their rare attacks of culture, the amazing team of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus opted to produce and release (through their Canon Films company) Franco Zeffirelli’s film version of Gisuseppe Verdi’s opera Otello, which, of course, is based on Shakespeare’s play. Well, you don’t get much more cultured than…
Starring: Danny Robertshaw, Ron Danta

Life in the Doghouse

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The Story: A documentary profile of Danny and Ron's Rescue, a nonprofit dog shelter housed in a couple's South Carolina home. The Lowdown: A touching — and at times, disturbing — look at the world of animal rescue as seen through the eyes of two men who have dedicated their lives (and retirement funds) to helping dogs in…
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Jonas Bloquet, Bonnie Aarons, Charlotte Hope

The Nun

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The Story: A priest and a young nun are sent by the Vatican to determine if a Romanian convent is still consecrated ground following the suicide of one of the sisters, only to uncover a much greater evil than a lack of mental health resources. The Lowdown: An odd mashup of Hammer-style high camp and modern jump scare…
Starring: Jennifer Garner, John Gallagher Jr., Juan Pablo Raba, John Ortiz

Peppermint

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The Story: Jennifer Garner goes full Death Wish after seeing her husband and child gunned down by gangsters. The Lowdown: A cool, violent, entertaining-as-hell 75-minute movie with an extra 30 minutes tacked onto the end of it.
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Will Poulter, Liv Hill, Charlotte Rampling

The Little Stranger

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The Story: A country doctor in the postwar English countryside encounters mysterious events at the crumbling manor home of a dwindling family of aristocrats. The Lowdown: A reasonably creepy and atmospheric piece of supernatural (or is it psychological?) suspense cinema that suffers in comparison to its director's previous films.
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Honor Kneafsey, James Lance

The Bookshop

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The Story: A woman in a small town decides to open a bookshop despite pushback from more powerful people in her community. The Lowdown: An incredibly drawn-out and confoundingly pointless drama that really only has a nice Bill Nighy performance going for it.