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Dora and the Lost City of Gold

Nickelodeon stalwart Dora the Explorer is great at teaching preschoolers about words and numbers, but she’s not exactly an exciting big-screen heroine. But Dora’s animated series has been on the air for nearly 20 years and has spawned numerous spin-offs, so like any modern corporate brand, she’s now required to headline her own movie. The […]

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The Art of Racing in the Rain

There’s no easier way to tug on a movie audience’s heartstrings than to present them with a dying dog. That’s a lesson that author W. Bruce Cameron has learned very well, with the box-office success of adaptations of his novels A Dog’s Purpose, A Dog’s Way Home and A Dog’s Journey, and the rest of Hollywood […]

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

It’s kind of amazing to think that the Fast & Furious franchise started out with a mid-budget crime drama about street racing. By the time it’s gotten to spin-off film Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, absolutely nothing recognizable remains from the series’ origin. At least the main F&F films still focus on car-based […]

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Sword of Trust

After taking on more tightly scripted projects with her recent films and TV work, director Lynn Shelton swings all the way in the other direction with her latest feature, Sword of Trust. Heavily improvised in the vein of her breakthrough films Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister, Sword is also Shelton’s most overtly comedic film yet, […]

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Yesterday

How would the world change if the most famous and influential music group of all time had never existed? According to director Danny Boyle’s slight and intermittently charming Yesterday, not very much at all. When English musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wakes up from a bus accident following a mysterious worldwide blackout, everything seems exactly […]

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Shaft (2019)

From the beginning, John Shaft was always about fighting for the underdog. In 1971’s blaxploitation classic Shaft, the New York City private detective, played by Richard Roundtree, was an advocate for the disenfranchised, whether those were his Harlem neighbors or the gay bartender at his favorite dive bar. Roundtree’s Shaft got into increasingly ridiculous adventures […]

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The Secret Life of Pets 2

It’s probably only a matter of time before Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets franchise is adapted into a TV series, and when that day comes, it would be easy to divide The Secret Life of Pets 2 into a handful of forgettable episodes to go along with other low-stakes adventures for neurotic dog Max […]

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

The biggest fan complaint about 2014’s Godzilla reboot was that it didn’t feature enough Godzilla, and the new sequel, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, seems determined to remedy that by showing the giant lizard within the first minute of the movie. But Godzilla then goes into hiding for nearly 45 minutes while the one-dimensional human characters […]

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Domino

In a year when filmmakers Nicolas Pesce (Piercing) and Richard Shepard (The Perfection) have offered their own entertaining takes on the lurid Brian De Palma-style thriller, it’s especially disappointing for De Palma himself to come up with something as dreary and stilted as Domino, a poorly written, stiffly acted, cheap-looking crime drama that’s getting exactly […]

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Booksmart

The main characters of Olivia Wilde’s highly entertaining feature directorial debut Booksmart are high school outcasts, awkward nerds who’ve spent their entire time in school focused solely on studying, and who are scorned by their cooler, more outgoing peers. They’re the kind of characters who’ve led dozens of teen comedies, but Wilde and the movie’s […]

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A Dog’s Journey

For most dog movies, one tragic canine death is more than enough to tug on the audience’s heartstrings, but 2017’s A Dog’s Purpose crammed in four of them, thanks to its concept of a dog’s soul continually reincarnated into new bodies, always dedicated to being the perfect human companion. The emotional manipulation continues in sequel […]

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Festival Report: TCM Classic Film Festival 2019

At two different screenings I attended at this year’s 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival, the person introducing the film stopped to note that their explanation probably wasn’t necessary for the kind of hardcore film nerds that attend TCMFF. That may be true, but one of the best things about the festival is that its […]

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Little

Fourteen-year-old Black-ish star Marsai Martin is the mastermind behind high-concept comedy Little, having first pitched the idea to Black-ish creator Kenya Barris when she was just 10 years old. That’s great news for Martin, who becomes the youngest person to ever produce a Hollywood movie thanks to her executive producer credit, but it’s not so […]

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Her Smell

Rock star Becky Something (Elisabeth Moss) is self-destructing even before Her Smell begins. Alex Ross Perry’s rock and roll epic opens with Becky’s band Something She playing an encore, and the rest of the movie is a long, languid comedown, as Becky’s life and career implode in slow motion, and then she just as slowly […]

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Missing Link

The movies from animation studio Laika have never been big hits, but they’ve always been thoughtful and quirky and entirely distinctive from the sometimes overly similar computer-animated films produced by major Hollywood conglomerates. So it’s a bit disappointing that Laika’s latest film, Missing Link, while thoroughly charming, is the studio’s most conventional to date, with […]

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Dumbo (2019)

Of all the animated classics that Disney has adapted into live-action (or at least photo-realistic) features, 1941’s Dumbo offers probably the loosest framework for a modern large-scale blockbuster. Running just 64 minutes, it was produced on a limited budget to make up for the box-office failures of Fantasia and Pinocchio, and its story is more […]

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Captain Marvel

As the tapestry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands further and further, it has become increasingly difficult for individual films to carve out distinctive identities and avoid blending into the overarching narrative and house style of the never-ending mega-franchise. And yet, filmmakers like Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) and James Gunn (the Guardians of the Galaxy […]

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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Nobody expected The Lego Movie to be anything more than a feature-length toy commercial, so when Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 2014 animated film turned out to be clever, self-aware, sophisticated and fun, it was a triumph of creative effort over low expectations. Five years later, the Lego franchise has become synonymous with that kind […]

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Lords of Chaos

The story of the early black metal scene in Norway is as much about violence and criminal activity as it is about music, and director and co-writer Jonas Åkerlund attempts to capture that dichotomy, to mixed effect, in his biopic Lords of Chaos, which focuses on pioneering black metal band Mayhem. The story of Mayhem […]