Movie Reviews

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Starring: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda

Florence Foster Jenkins

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In Brief: While I may not find myself among the target demographic for this biopic about the world's worst opera singer, even I found it to be a largely entertaining diversion. It may not be my favorite of director Stephen Frears’ films, but it’s in the top 10 (if not the top five), and is an undeniably…
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Starring: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Mara Lorenzio, Robert John

El Topo

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In Brief: My love for Alejandro Jodorowsky is difficult to overstate, and it all started with El Topo (1970). I'm not alone in that — John Lennon and George Harrison were early advocates of Jodorowsky's surrealist Kabbalistic Western — and there's good reason that it became the first true midnight movie, playing daily for over a year to perpetually…
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Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks

Thoroughbreds

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The Story: Two wealthy teenage girls in a Connecticut suburb reconnect after years apart, but their strange friendship leads to a murder plot. The Lowdown: A pitch-black satire wrapped in the trappings of teen angst and film noir. Have you heard this one? A narcissist and a sociopath walk into a mansion ...
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Starring: Bailee Madison, Lewis Pullman, Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Damian Maffei

The Strangers: Prey at Night

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The Story: The night before their daughter leaves for boarding school, a family is terrorized by a trio of sadistic killers. The Lowdown: The best type of needless 10-years belated sequel that gets right down to its grisly business without stepping on its own feet (that pesky colon in the title notwithstanding).
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Starring: Masami Nagasawa, Ryuhei Matsuda, Atsuko Maeda, Hiroki Hasegawa, Yuri Tsunematsu, Mahiro Takasugi, Masahiro Higashide

Before We Vanish (Sanpo suru shinryakusha)

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The Story: Aliens staging an invasion of Earth attempt to understand the human experience so they can more efficiently take over the planet. The Lowdown: Sci-fi meets black comedy in a bizarre film that somehow manages to blend its tones effectively as it meanders through a lengthy narrative.
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Starring: Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett, Kaho Minami, Koji Yakusho, Shioli Kutsuna, Megan Mullally, Reiko Aylesworth

Oh, Lucy!

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The Story: A middle-aged Japanese woman falls for a handsome American English instructor, but when he runs off with her much younger niece, she abandons her stable life to track them down. The Lowdown: A fascinating character study with a big heart and questionable story structure.
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Starring: Storm Reid, Chris Pine, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon

A Wrinkle in Time

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The Story: On the fourth anniversary of a quantum physicist’s mysterious disappearance, his daughter is recruited by time- and space-hopping beings to rescue him. The Lowdown: Ava DuVernay’s clunky but big-hearted adaptation is equal parts Madeleine L'Engle, Zack Snyder and David Lynch, with no single influence or perspective able to take hold and keep the…
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Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowski

Happy End

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The Story: An upper-class family must deal with a series of tragic and stressful events. The Lowdown: A humorless, detached film with no fun nor joy, and even less, style that screams "art" without really ever saying anything of note.
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Starring: Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ralph Ineson, Ryan Kwanten

The Hurricane Heist

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The Story: As a massive storm touches down, a federal agent attempts an inside-job robbery of an Alabama currency shredder, while his partner enlists a hotshot meteorologist in her efforts to stop him. The Lowdown: An absurdly over-the-top action spectacle that doesn't overcome an overstuffed script and uneven cast.
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Starring: Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried

Gringo

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The Story: A scheming pharmaceutical exec sends his unwitting friend into a potentially deadly situation when he tries to cover up illicit drug sales in Mexico. The Lowdown: A tepid throwback to Tarantino knockoffs that weren't good enough to exist in 1998, much less 20 years later.
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Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo

Volver

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In Brief: World Cinema revisits Pedro Almodóvar's Volver (2006) — perhaps the filmmaker's most accessible and mellow work. It should be noted, however, that mellow is a relative term. The film contains child abuse and no fewer than three murders (understandable murders), but when put up against such Almodóvar fare as Bad Education (2004) or…
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Starring: Philippe Noiret, Marco Leonardi, Salvatore Cascio, Jacques Perrin, Roberta Lena

Cinema Paradiso

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In Brief: Unabashedly sentimental and nostalgic, Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988) is one of those rare subtitled art-house movies that — at least in its shorter crowd-pleasing version (the one being screened) — managed to enter the broader public consciousness. People who normally say things like, “I don’t go to the movies to read,” have been…
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Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Christi Courtland

The Last Man on Earth

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In Brief: The first of three attempts to adapt Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend — and easily the most successful — The Last Man on Earth stars Vincent Price as the lone survivor of a plague that turns the afflicted into vampiric ghouls. A far more faithful adaptation of Matheson's story than The Omega…
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Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolas Saavedra

A Fantastic Woman

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The Story: When a transgender singer's boyfriend dies suddenly, she must confront the intolerance of both his family and a societal establishment that marginalizes her gender identity and denies her fundamental human rights. The Lowdown: A deeply moving film that represents the trans experience without relegating it to a sense of Otherness, distinguished by a remarkable star turn from actress…
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Starring: Mel Brooks, Jeanine Basinger, Peter Bogdanovich, Diane Kruger, Robert Osborne

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

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The Story: Screen icon Hedy Lamarr's life is examined in detail, including a surprising aptitude for invention that demands a re-evaluation of her legacy. The Lowdown: An uneven documentary treatment that succeeds on the basis of its intriguing subject.
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Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons

Red Sparrow

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The Story: A Russian spy trained in seduction is assigned to target a CIA agent. The Lowdown: A brutal, grim and sometimes shocking spy yarn that's just not fun or trashy enough to really be enjoyable.
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Starring: Bruce Willis, Elisabeth Shue, Vincent D'Onofrio, Dean Norris, Kimberly Elise

Death Wish

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The Story: After a home invasion that kills his wife and lands his daughter in a coma, surgeon Paul Kersey goes on a killing spree across Chicago in his hunt for the men responsible. The Lowdown: All those who still think Three Billboards was a racist, boot-licking film should go see Death Wish and then…
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Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russel Means, Eric Schweig, Wes Studi

The Last of the Mohicans

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In Brief: For a film with such a strong local connection, it's somewhat surprising that Michael Mann's The Last of the Mohicans (1992) doesn't play in town more often. Possibly not the best work of either Mann (notoriously uneven) or star Daniel Day-Lewis (consistently fantastic), Mohicans is an accessible and entertaining historical epic. Bearing more in common with the 1936…
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Starring: Charles Boyer, Sigrid Gurie, Hedy Lamarr, Joseph Calleia, Alan Hale, Gene Lockhart

Algiers

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In Brief: Director John Cromwell could aptly be called a master of melodrama, though I wouldn't necessarily consider such a distinction a compliment. A perfect case in point would be Algiers (1938), an American remake of French director Julien Duvivier's Jean Gabin vehicle Pépé Le Moko (1937). Cromwell's take is inferior in almost every way — Charles Boyer is no…
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Starring: Adel Karam, Rita Hayek, Kamel El Basha, Christine Choueiri, Camille Salameh, Diamand Bou Abboud, Georges Daou

The Insult

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The Story: A Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee butt heads over a residential plumbing code, and their ensuing court battle throws the entire country into chaos. The Lowdown: Either a disturbingly dark comedy or a painfully prescient melodrama that exposes some undeniably universal truths.
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Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac, Benedict Wong

Annihilation

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The Story: A team of female scientists explores a mysterious area of alien influence from which no prior expedition has returned. The Lowdown: Writer/director Alex Garland hits a serious sophomore slump with this Tarkovsky-lite sci-fi adaptation.