Movie Reviews

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Starring: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

Equalizer 2

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The Story: Former CIA badass Robert MacCall comes out of retirement (again) to hunt down the baddies who killed his former boss. The Lowdown: Redundant, repetitive, and regressive sequel that pulls its punches in the story and character departments. Of course it's No. 1 at the box office this week.
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Starring: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Jeremy Irvine, Cher

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

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The Story: A hybrid sequel/prequel that tells the story of what's happened to the characters of the original Mamma Mia! while filling in the gaps of that film's backstory, all with ABBA numbers. The Lowdown: A harmless and genteel musical that really relies on a love of ABBA that supersedes the film's lackluster plot and energy.
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Starring: Chuck D, Ethan Hawke, Alec Baldwin, Mike Myers, Greil Marcus

The King

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The Story: A wide-ranging I Ching hexagram of a documentary tracing the life story of Elvis Presley against the rise and fall of the 20th-century American Dream. The Lowdown: "Elvis was a hero to most..." — Public Enemy
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Starring: Graciela Borges, Mercedes Moran, Leonora Balcarce, Silvia Bayle, Sofia Bertolotto, Juan Cruz Bordeu

La Ciénega

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In Brief: Argentinian writer/director Lucrecia Martel's feature debut is not exactly a feel-good story. It's a tense, transgressive tale of middle-class decay in a sultry South American setting, and the only thing Martel captures as acutely as the steamy backdrop is the moral dissipation of the families at her narrative's core. Anchored by a riveting performance from Graciela…
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Starring: Nia Vardolos, Richard Dreyfus, Alexis Georgoulis, Alistair McGowan, Harland Williams

My Life in Ruins

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In Brief: After Connie and Carla (2004) failed to duplicate the freakish $244 million success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) — by about $236 million — Nia Vardolos more or less withdrew from the scene, only to return with My Life in Ruins (2009). Apparently, she thought it was closer in tone to…
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Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews, Steven Yeun, Danny Glover

Sorry to Bother You

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The Story: A young man finds success as a telemarketer, only to be ensnared in the megalomaniacal machinations of an unhinged corporate fat cat. The Lowdown: A surrealist satire with an anarchic streak that defies description, as insightful as it is brutally funny.
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Starring: Ben Foster, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Jeff Kober, Dale Dickey

Leave No Trace

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The Story: A widower and traumatized war veteran raises his daughter on the fringes of society, surviving in densely forested parklands while trying to avoid the authorities. The Lowdown: A moving melodrama with a resonant emotional core that benefits from immaculate characterization and a beautiful backdrop.
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Starring: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

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The Story: The staff of the Hotel Transylvania takes a much-needed vacation, boarding a cruise ship run by an "entertainment for monsters" company headed by a captain who isn't quite what she seems. The Lowdown: Fun and idiosyncratic in its classic horror movie references, this sweet and raucous kids comedy is a worthy placeholder between…
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Starring: Vera Farmiga, Christopher Plummer, Lewis MacDougall, Christopher Lloyd, Kristen Schaal

Boundaries

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The Story: An emotionally damaged mother reluctantly agrees to a long road trip with her dysfunctional, drug-dealing father. The Lowdown: An overlong, needlessly sentimental and generally unfunny attempt at a quirky family comedy.
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Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han

Skyscraper

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The Story: A father must rescue his family from mercenaries in the flaming wreckage of the world's tallest building. The Lowdown: A derivative foreign market cash-grab that leaves audiences between The Rock and a hard place. If there's any justice in the world, a Chinese poster will mistranslate the title to the far more accurate "Sky's Crapper."
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Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Andreas Teuber, Ian Marter, Elizabeth O'Donovan

Doctor Faustus

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In Brief: When it was first released in 1967, Richard Burton’s film version of Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus was pretty soundly trounced by the critics. And while from today’s perspective it’s not hard to see why, it is hard to understand how they didn’t at least recognize they were in the presence of…
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Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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The Story: Between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, current Ant-Man Scott Lang reteams with new Wasp Hope Van Dyne and original Ant-Man Hank Pym to rescue original Wasp Janet Van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. The Lowdown: A fun — and funny — superhero spectacle that tactfully avoids getting bogged down in mythology and epic…
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Starring: Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Jovian Wade, Steve Harris, Marisa Tomei, Rotimi Paul

The First Purge

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The Story: A young woman must save her teen brother from violent civilians and government goons as the first experiment in temporary lawlessness gets underway. The Lowdown: A tepid prequel that contributes color — but not much else — to the popular politically minded torture porn franchise.
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Starring: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani

Wadjda

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In Brief: Considering the recent recension of Saudi Arabia's ban on female drivers, it seems like a good time to revisit writer/director Haifaa Al-Mansour's Wadjda. The first feature film shot in Saudi Arabia, as well as the first to be directed by a woman, this story of a rebellious young Saudi girl trying to buy a bicycle easily…
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Starring: Victor Sjöström, Hilda Borgström, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm

The Phantom Carriage

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In Brief: Easily the best-known work of Swedish silent-era auteur Victor Sjöström, 1921's The Phantom Carriage still packs a punch. Although most notable for its innovative special effects work, courtesy of cinematographer Julius Jaenzon (credited here under as “J. Julius”), The Phantom Carriage is no slouch in the narrative department. Jaenzon's use of double exposure perfectly captures the otherworldly, supernatural elements of…
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Starring: Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Gary Houston

Whitney

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The Story: The life story of superstar Whitney Houston, as told by her friends, family and music industry insiders. The Lowdown: A loving tribute to the late singer that never truly gets to the heart of who she really was, relying on the almost Rashomon-like memories of those closest to her.
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Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Elisabeth Moss

The Seagull

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The Story: In early 20th-century Russia, an affluent family deals with desire and jealousy. The Lowdown: A beautifully shot and stylish film that suffers from a certain amount of unevenness in its acting.
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Starring: Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, David Zellner, Robert Forster, Nathan Zellner, Joe Billingiere

Damsel

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The Story: A lovelorn man attempts to track down the love of his life after they're separated, but not everything is as it seems. The Lowdown: A chronically confused Coen brothers knockoff that starts out strong but fizzles fast.
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Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

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The Story: A government agent is tasked with starting a war between Mexican drug cartels in the wake of a terrorist attack by kidnapping the daughter of one syndicate's scion and pinning it on the other. The Lowdown: An overwrought and unnecessary sequel lacking the ideological nuance of its predecessor.