Posted in: Review

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

The Eurovision Song Contest is inherently goofy, which proves to be a problem for the attempt to parody it in Netflix original movie Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The annual event features countries across Europe (and beyond) competing with original songs performed in over-the-top production numbers, and it’s a celebration of unabashedly […]

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In Bright Axiom

It’s entirely possible (and even likely) that quite a lot of the material in Spencer McCall’s documentary In Bright Axiom is complete hokum. The movie itself is a chronicle of hokum, documenting the performance art project and alternate reality game known as Latitude, created by Bay Area artist and entrepreneur Jeff Hull. Hull’s work was […]

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The King of Staten Island

In films like 2009’s Funny People and 2012’s This Is 40, director Judd Apatow drew heavily from his own personal life, spearheading a movement in movie comedy toward more earnest emotional expression (along with a heavy reliance on improvisation). The more successful Apatow has become, the more he’s shifted away from writing and directing movies […]

Posted in: Commentary

Interview: Soundwave Director Dylan Narang

Writer-director Dylan Narang came to the film business by way of a stint in military counter-intelligence and an MBA from Georgetown, before attending film school at Chapman University and making his feature debut with the 2016 horror movie All I Need. His latest film is the sci-fi thriller Soundwave, starring Hunter Doohan as Ben Boyles, […]

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How to Build a Girl

British writer Caitlin Moran has mined her family background for multiple projects, and she returns to that well again for How to Build a Girl, the film adaptation of her 2014 semi-autobiographical novel. Inspired both by Moran’s chaotic upbringing and by her brief stint in the ’90s as a teenage music journalist for Melody Maker, […]

Posted in: Review

Soundwave

Movie characters should know by now not to invent world-changing devices in their home workshops, because it’s only going to lead to them being chased by nefarious government or corporate agents. That’s exactly what happens to Ben Boyles (Hunter Doohan) in the scrappy low-budget sci-fi movie Soundwave, which makes the most of its simple premise […]

Posted in: Review

Bad Education

Cory Finley’s 2017 debut feature Thoroughbreds was a strikingly original vision from the playwright-turned-filmmaker, but for his follow-up, Finley steps back a bit, working from someone else’s screenplay adapting a magazine article about real-life events. Bad Education is clever and funny and very well-acted, but it’s not the kind of bold artistic statement that puts […]

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Trolls World Tour

Although 2016’s DreamWorks animated hit Trolls was based on the perennial line of long-haired troll dolls, its main appeal to audiences was its hyperactive pop-music soundtrack, led by the Justin Timberlake hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” So the new sequel Trolls World Tour overloads on the slickly produced music, to go along with its more-is-more […]

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The Dalai Lama: Scientist

“Scientist” is not a word typically used to describe religious leaders, but Dawn Gifford Engle’s documentary The Dalai Lama: Scientist makes a convincing case that it’s an apt label for the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism. The film chronicles the many years of work that the current Dalai Lama has put into collaborating with renowned […]

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Dolphin Reef

Since 2009, Disney’s nature-documentary label Disneynature has generally celebrated Earth Day by releasing a new movie in theaters, and while nearly all movie theaters are shut down this year, that hasn’t stopped the tradition from continuing. Dolphin Reef is one of two new Disneynature movies premiering on Disney+ to commemorate Earth Day (Elephant is the […]

Posted in: Review

The Hunt (2020)

When The Hunt was pulled from Universal’s release schedule in September of last year, none of the various outraged parties had seen a single minute of the film they were so harshly judging. If they had, they might not have been so upset about the movie’s release, not because it’s an intelligent or sensitive political […]

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Onward

If Onward were produced by any other major CG-animation studio (DreamWorks, Illumination, Blue Sky, etc.), it would be a major achievement. It’s sweet and funny and gorgeously animated, full of clever details in a richly imagined world. But from the geniuses at Pixar, Onward feels like a bit of a step down, especially coming less […]

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The Invisible Man (2020)

After Universal’s Dark Universe initiative failed spectacularly with 2017’s big-budget action dud The Mummy, the studio stepped back from trying to launch a cinematic universe around its classic monster characters and instead shifted to making smaller-scale, standalone films reimagining those characters in a modern context. That strategy is off to a good start with The […]

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Sonic the Hedgehog

Yes, they fixed Sonic’s teeth. The biggest outrage when the original trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog was released last April was that the furry blue video-game character had disturbingly human-looking teeth, and the movie’s release date was ultimately pushed back three months so that the filmmakers could make various adjustments to the CGI character. So at […]

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Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

DC’s uneven approach to its film slate continues with the extravagantly titled Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), which carries vestiges of the largely abandoned shared-universe approach (it is, at least nominally, a spin-off of 2016’s Suicide Squad) but also works hard to forge its own identity. It’s a chaotic […]

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Love Is Not Love

Writer/director/star Stephen Keep Mills seems to have a lot on his mind in Love Is Not Love, but the largely abstract movie remains pretty much impenetrable, whatever it’s trying to say about love getting lost in scenes that come off like mannered, self-conscious acting-class exercises, the kind of thing that Bill Hader’s character would struggle […]

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Family Obligations

Someone returns to their hometown to deal with urgent family business after years away, and in the process reassesses their life, reconnects with estranged relatives and becomes a more well-adjusted person. That could describe the plot of literally dozens of indie movies that make the rounds at film festivals every year, and the generic title […]

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Dolittle

Somewhere on some studio hard drive may exist a version of Stephen Gaghan’s Dolittle that preserves the director’s original vision, but it’s hard to imagine it could be worse than the disjointed, hastily pasted-together version that’s being released in theaters. Gaghan, who previously directed serious dramas like Syriana and Gold, seems like an odd choice […]

Posted in: Review

Spies in Disguise

When the trailer for Blue Sky Studios’ animated movie Spies in Disguise was first released, people online shared it in disbelief, mocking the twist that the suave, James Bond-esque spy voiced by Will Smith found himself transformed into … a pigeon. The premise of Spies in Disguise (based extremely loosely on Lucas Martell’s 2009 animated […]