Movie Reviews

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Starring: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Julia Roberts, Mandy Patinkin, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, Jake Johnson, Meghan Trainor

Smurfs: The Lost Village

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The Story: The all-male Smurfs discover a village populated entirely by female Smurfs. The Lowdown: An entirely unnecessary and largely forgettable film that seeks to address the gender imbalance in the Smurfs universe but doesn't get much further than acknowledging that the franchise had a parity problem in the first place.
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Starring: Abel Ferrara (as Jimmy Laine), Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz, D.A. Metrov

The Driller Killer

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In Brief: Director Abel Ferrara (King of New York, Bad Lieutenant) made his feature directorial debut — at least if we're not counting his "adult" work — with this gory 1979 slasher flick. Ferrara also stars as the titular killer, a painter driven to madness by loud neighbors and mounting debts, but as is typically the case with…
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Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki

Rashomon

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In Brief: Though he’d made better movies before this one — and would make better ones after it — Rashomon (1950) is the film that put Akira Kurosawa on the map as a major force in international film. The secret probably lies in the picture’s unusual structure, which not only functions as a hook, but…
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Starring: William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan, Robert McWade, Robert Barrat

The Kennel Murder Case

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The 1920s and 30s were the high point of a certain kind of detective fiction — the puzzle plot mystery (often featuring an “impossible” locked room murder) built around a gentleman detective. These gentleman detectives were invariably wealthy, spent their spare time studying crime and indulging in the arts. They were well-dressed, well-spoken and invariably…
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Starring: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi

Your Name. (Kimi no na wa)

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The Story: Two high school students find themselves transposed into each other's bodies, leading to an unexpected romance — and an even more surprising plot twist. The Lowdown: A work of staggering beauty, both aesthetically and emotionally. Even those with qualms about animation or subtitles should see this film.
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Yoko Maki, Satomi Kobayashi, Taiyo Yoshizawa

After the Storm

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The Story: A private detective and failed novelist tries to reassemble his tattered family. The Lowdown: A quiet, deliberately paced drama that takes patience but holds rewards in its human insights and gentleness.
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Starring: Roland Møller, Louis Hofmann, Joel Basman, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Zoe Zandvliet, Mads Riisom, Peter Oskar Bökelmann

Land of Mine (Under Sandert)

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The Story: A tough sergeant leads a group of young Nazi POWs in an attempt to remove landmines from a stretch of beach on post-World War II Denmark. The Lowdown: A proficient attempt to humanize "The Other" that's more distinguished by its subject matter than its execution.
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Starring: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou Graïa, Nora Von Waldstätten, Benjamin Biolay, Audrey Bonnet, Pascal Rambert

Personal Shopper

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The Story: A spiritual medium who seeks to contact her recently deceased brother becomes haunted by a malevolent presence that may not be what she was looking for. The Lowdown: This rare misfire for esteemed director Olivier Assayas plays to Kristen Stewart's weaknesses, failing to deliver the chills its premise promises.
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Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Chin Han, Danusia Samal, Peter Ferdinando, Kaori Momoi, Anamaria Marinca, Daniel Henshall, Lasarus Ratuere, Yutaka Izumihara.

Ghost in the Shell

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The Story: A cybernetic counterterrorism operative in a dystopian future searches for the truth when she finds herself embroiled in a corporate conspiracy that has stripped her of her memories. The Lowdown: A pale simulacrum of the classic manga and anime franchise that lacks the convictions of its inspiration.
Starring: (Voices) Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Miles Christopher Bakshi

The Boss Baby

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The Story: A suit-wearing baby and boss of Baby Co. infiltrates a family in order to stop puppies from monopolizing all the world's love. The Lowdown: A pretty brain-dead animated flick that's colorful and cartoonish but little else.
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Starring: John Barrymore, Marian Marsh, Donald Crisp, Bramwell Flectcher, Luis Alberni, Carmel Myers

Svengali

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In Brief: One of the most stylish and effective of all early horror talkies, Svengali is a perfect blend of atmosphere, writing and a towering performance by star John Barrymore in one of his two or three best performances. The story, taken from George du Maurier's 1894 novel Trilby, had already been filmed a half-dozen…
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Starring: Nade Dieu, Sarah Adler

Notre Musique

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In Brief: I was a young film studies major in 2004 when Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique premiered in New York, and I had a membership to the Film Forum that guaranteed me discounted tickets — which was convenient, because I wouldn't have been able to afford them otherwise. Andrew Sarris, one of my professors at the time, intensely…
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Starring: Dorothy McGuire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Kent Smith, Rhonda Fleming, Elsa Lanchester

The Spiral Staircase

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In Brief: A classic Noir from one of the masters of the form, Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase (1946) is heavily indebted to the director's early work in Germany and France. The film's use of chiaroscuro lighting and dutch angles evoke the German Expressionists, touches also evident in Siodmak's adaptation of Hemmingway's The Killers (also 1946). Dorothy McGuire delivers a…
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Starring: Paul Muni, Claude Raines, Anne Baxter

Angel on my Shoulder

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In Brief: The second of two back-to-back Archie Mayo films screened by the AFS (following our THPS presentation of Svengali), Angel on my Shoulder (1946) was probably the most effective of Mayo's forays into comedy. Written by Harry Segall, who also wrote Here Comes Mister Jordan, Angel shares a number of thematic similarities with Jordan — including Claude Rains as a smart-alecky supernatural…
Starring: Emma Suarez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Dario Grandinetti, Inma Cuesta

Julieta

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The Story: After hearing news of her estranged daughter, a woman reflects on the actions that got her to this point in life. The Lowdown: Wonderfully acted and shot and masterfully constructed, the film lacks a certain entertainment value that keeps it from being near the best of Almodovar.
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Starring: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer, Margo Martindale, Cheryl Hines, Isabella Amara.

Wilson

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The Story: An anti-social middle-age outcast struggles to connect with his estranged family and others around him in spite of his prickly demeanor. The Lowdown: A film with all the makings of an exceptional black comedy that doesn't fully deliver the goods.
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Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, Olga Dihovichnaya, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare.

Life

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The Lowdown: A crew of astronauts on the International Space Station gets more than they bargained for when a Martian soil sample they've retrieved proves to contain an extraterrestrial biological entity. The Lowdown: A largely derivative sci-fi thriller that falls short of its prodigious potential.
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Starring: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Jessiva McNamee, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Justin Chatwin, Kristen Bell, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rose Salazar, Maya Rudolph

CHIPS

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The Story: A former competitive motorcycle racer and an undercover FBI agent team up to investigate corruption within the California Highway Patrol. The Lowdown: A redundant reboot of a TV show that should have already been forgotten, Dax Shepard fails in his attempts at both action and comedy.
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Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lynn, Becky G, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader

Power Rangers

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The Story: A group of teens finds alien amulets that give them superpowers and place them in the midst of an intergalactic conflict over a cosmic MacGuffin. The Lowdown: An uninspired rehashing of a TV show primarily remembered for being painfully bad in the first place, this low-brow cash-grab bears all of the deficiencies of a Michael Bay…
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Starring: Boris Karloff, Cedric Hardwicke, Ernest Thesiger, Dorothy Hyson, Anthony Bushell, Ralph Richardson

The Ghoul

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In Brief: Long considered to be a lost film, The Ghoul is back in circulation and not merely the curio you might expect a 1933 British picture to be. It's a full-fledged classic of the horror genre from its richest era. Set in the creepiest old, dark house imaginable, filled with a first-rate cast and directed…
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Starring: Orson Welles, Norman Lloyd, Julie Taymor, Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin, Elvis Mitchell, Sir Peter Brook, Costa-Gavras, Richard Linklater, Sydney Pollack, Paul Mazursky, Frank Marshall Oja Kodar, Buck Henry

Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles

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In Brief: Director and veteran editor Chuck Workman may not break any new ground in this documentary examining the life and career of Orson Welles — but that's because there's very little material on the subject that hasn't been covered extensively. What distinguishes Workman's film is the adroitness with which he composes his collection of…