Movie Reviews

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Starring: Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt, Roy Boyd

The Wicker Man

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In Brief: One of only three films directed by Robin Hardy, much of what makes The Wicker Man (1973) so special can likely be attributed to recently deceased writer Anthony Shaffer, who also wrote Hitchcock's Frenzy and both the stage and screen versions of Sleuth. This film is unquestionably a definitive cult classic, due largely to…
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Starring: Pascal Greggory, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Charles Berling, Jean-Louis Trintignant

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

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In Brief: My entire familiarity with Patrice Chéreau prior to seeing Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998) rested on seeing the video presentation of his famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) 1976 staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle at Bayreuth. In terms of his talents as a filmmaker this told…
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Starring: Joan Blondell, Roland Young, Carole Landis, Billie Burke, Dennis O'Keefe, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson

Topper Returns

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In Brief: The third and final of producer Hal Roach's films based on Thorne Smith's novel Topper, this hidden gem has long been overlooked due to the absence of original stars Cary Grant and Constance Bennett — and that's unfortunate because this iteration easily equals the first Topper film and blatantly bests the second. Topper Returns (1941) ditches the screwball model…
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Starring: Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Travis Fimmel, Steve Zahn

Lean on Pete

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The Story: A young boy reeling from the death of his father steals a racehorse and tries to track down his aunt. The Lowdown: A coming-of-age story that eschews the feel-good sensibilities of the genre in favor of a challenging look at the bleak realities of those living on the margins of American society.
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Starring: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, John Cho, Nelson Franklin, Greta Lee

Gemini

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The Story: After the death of her boss, a personal assistant goes on the run in an attempt to solve the murder. The Lowdown: A dreadfully dull, wholly uninspiring attempt at a thriller.
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Starring: (Voices) Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites

Persepolis

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In Brief: The very unusual and surprisingly powerful Oscar-nominated animated biographical film about the extraordinary — and yet perfectly relatable — life of an Iranian girl. Though playful in tone, it's a narrative that goes much deeper than one might expect. It's a film that should be seen — and one that benefits from a second…
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Starring: Ron Moody, Frank Langella, Dom DeLuise, Andreas Voutsinas, Diana Coupland

The Twelve Chairs

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In Brief: The Twelve Chairs — based on a 1928 Russian novel — had seen service quite a few times when Mel Brooks made his version of it in 1970, the most famous being the 1945 Fred Allen film It’s in the Bag. Oddly, the Brooks version is a lot tamer than the Fred Allen version…
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Starring: Madeleine Carroll, Peter Lorre, John Gielgud, Robert Young.

Secret Agent

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In Brief: One of the most thematically unsettling and technically accomplished films of Alfred Hitchcock's British era, Secret Agent (1936) is often unduly marginalized because it followed the director's masterful The 39 Steps (1935) and preceded his equally exceptional Sabotage (also 1936). And that's unfortunate, because its twisty plot — adapted from W. Somerset Maugham's "Ashenden" stories — and compelling psychological…
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Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts

You Were Never Really Here

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The Story: An unhinged veteran working as a hitman must rescue the young daughter of a politician from a ring of upper-crust sex traffickers. The Lowdown: Writer/director Lynne Ramsay transcends the pulp predictability of her source material by eschewing gratuitous gore in favor of character development and emotional nuance.
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Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer, Tony Shalhoub, James Faulkner, Clemence Poesy

Final Portrait

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The Story: A writer sits down to have his portrait painted, with promises that it will only take a few hours quickly broken. The Lowdown: A pleasant, small film that focuses on the creative process, but with little dramatic thrust to make it anything special.
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Starring: Jay Chandrasekhar, Paul Soter, Steve Lemme, Erik Stolhanske, Kevin Heffernan, Brian Cox, Lynda Carter, Rob Lowe, Jim Gaffigan, Fred Savage, Sean William Scott, Damon Wayans Jr.

Super Troopers 2

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The Story: A disgraced band of Vermont cops return to the job in a small Canadian village recently repatriated to the US. The Lowdown: Neither as bad nor as good as it might have been, this trip down memory lane narrowly avoids hitting a complete dead end.
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Starring: Chris O'Dowd, Andie MacDowell, James Adomian, Juliet Rylance, Dree Hemingway

Love After Love

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The Story: A widowed mother and her two adult sons struggle to cope with the passing of their patriarch. The Lowdown: A purposeless meditation on grief that is elevated by solid performances but dragged down by its own sense of privilege and self-importance.
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Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Tom Hopper

I Feel Pretty

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The Story: An insecure woman starts living life to the fullest after a hit on the head makes her think she's the most beautiful woman in the world. The Lowdown: I feel pretty sure I've seen this movie before.
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Starring: Yoshitaka Zushi, Kin Sugai, Toshiyuki Tonomura, Shinsuke Minami, Yûko Kusunoki

Dodes’ka-den

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In Brief: Let's get this out of the way: I love Akira Kurosawa unequivocally. Having said that, I should point out that late-period Kurosawa is distinctly inferior — at least, in many instances — to his earlier masterpieces. A perfect case in point is Dodes’ka-den (1970), Kurosawa's first color film and one of the few times the…
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Starring: Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart

La Strada

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In Brief: Fellini was the first filmmaker to truly spark my interest in the cinema as an art form, and La Strada (1954) is the first film to truly codify his auteurial voice, the most "Felliniesque" of the director's early work. Is this story of an abused waif (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife) turning from her brutish circus strongman husband…
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Starring: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, Carl Goetz, Alice Roberts, Kraft Raschig

Pandora’s Box

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In Brief: G.W. Pabst may not be particularly well-known outside of film nerd circles, but there's no doubt that nearly every filmmaker of any significance that followed in his wake either consciously or unconsciously bears the indelible mark of his influence. And of all Pabst's films, Pandora's Box (1929) may well be the most notable. Both timely and…
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Starring: William Friedkin, Gabriele Amorth

The Devil and Father Amorth

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The Story: Director William Friedkin presents the only documentary footage ever shot of a genuine exorcism. The Lowdown: Friedkin's unprecedented access to Vatican exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth provides unsettling food for thought in this riveting doc.
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Starring: Maryana Spivak, Alexey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasilyeva, Andris Keishs, Aleksey Fateev

Loveless

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The Story: A couple in the midst of a divorce neglect their adolescent son, who has run away days before they notice he's missing. The Lowdown: A coldhearted political allegory masterfully executed by Russian writer/director Andrey Zvyagintsev.
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Starring: Jon Hamm, Rosamund Pike, Dean Norris, Shea Whigham, Mark Pellegrino

Beirut

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The Story: In 1982, a former U.S. diplomat returns to Beirut to help the CIA track down a missing agent. The Lowdown: The rare historical political thriller not based on a true story, made all the better for it.
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Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Joe Manganiello

Rampage

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The Story: Giant animals with superpowers converge on Chicago, and only The Rock can stop them from destroying the city. The Lowdown: A movie so profoundly dumb that it feels less like it was written by a sizable team of writers than by particularly slow gorilla having his sign language transcribed.