Posted in: Review

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 […]

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1917

Incredible ambition and impeccable craft are, at once, the engines that propel 1917 and the brakes that keep it from reaching takeoff speed. It’s a fascinating frustration, this film so meticulously constructed that the construction dominates the viewing experience, consuming whatever narrative power might otherwise exist in a more traditional film form – the storytelling […]

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Little Women (2019)

Little Women casts a spell. If you ever read Louisa May Alcott’s novel, you have a favorite March sister, one whose characteristics you relate to the most, or wish you could be. Watching writer-director Greta Gerwig’s new adaptation of Little Women, that feeling still percolates, but with generous balance. Meg, Jo, Amy, Beth, and their […]

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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 […]

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

When the Star Wars sequel trilogy launched with The Force Awakens in 2015, it was full of possibilities. Sure, the film directed by J.J. Abrams recreated a lot of the story beats of George Lucas’ 1977 sci-fi classic, but it also introduced intriguing new characters while paying tribute to the franchise’s history. Things have been […]

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Jumanji: The Next Level

Considering that Jumanji started out in 1981 as a 32-page children’s picture book, it’s remarkable that any of its film adaptations have been successful at all. So following up on 2017’s surprisingly enjoyable Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, itself a reimagining of the 1995 Jumanji movie, was probably a task doomed to failure. In the […]

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Queen & Slim

Although Queen & Slim opens like an indie romantic comedy, there’s an undercurrent of uneasiness from the first moments of director Melina Matsoukas’ feature debut. The title characters (who are unnamed until the film’s epilogue) are on an awkward first date, clearly with different aims for the evening. The woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) is aloof and […]

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Frozen II

The massive success of Frozen pretty much guaranteed a sequel (Disney is not the kind of company to let it go when it comes to exploiting intellectual property), but it’s taken six years for the movie’s original creators to put together a follow-up that has the potential to stand alongside the original. It’s clear that […]

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Knives Out

Rian Johnson works in the precise art of cinematic surprise. One of the great, under-appreciated joys of sitting in that dark room looking up at that bright screen is its ability to surprise us, and Johnson relishes the opportunity to leverage that power like a magician. It makes sense, then, that the notion of magic […]

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Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

Writer-director Kevin Smith describes Jay and Silent Bob Reboot as “the greatest high school reunion we never went to.” That’s as good a way as any to prepare casual viewers of Smith’s filmography for this blend of fan service (in the best way) and participatory theater. The theater part comes from its distribution, the Jay […]

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Ford v. Ferrari

The most impressive feat that the filmmakers accomplish in Ford v. Ferrari is to turn one of the largest corporations in American history into an underdog. Director James Mangold and screenwriters Jason Keller and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth set up iconic car manufacturer Ford as the scrappy upstart in contrast to high-end Italian outfit Ferrari. […]

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Charlie’s Angels (2019)

It’s 2019, which means every week we must have a new IP reboot to release on 4,000 screens. This week’s submission is Charlie’s Angels, the latest attempt to kick-start a franchise based on the iconic late-’70s glam-a-rama detective series. Apparently “reboot” is not a word the film’s marketing team is willing to use, insisting that […]

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The Report

The Report serves as proof that a film can achieve total moral clarity and still come off as such a sanctimonious screed that you want to check its sources when you leave the screening room. All the facts check out, obviously, since the source in question is the eponymous report – the U.S. Senate Committee […]

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The Good Liar

As famous and beloved as Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren may be, decent roles for actors their age are still tough to come by, so it’s hard to blame them for signing up for the clumsy, absurd thriller The Good Liar, which lets them play the kind of devious, sexy, powerful characters usually reserved for […]

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Midway (2019)

Back in 2001, Michael Bay turned the 1941 attack by the Japanese on the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor into an explosion-filled soap opera in a movie starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale, and now 18 years later, fellow explosionologist Roland Emmerich has delivered his own cheesy action-movie take on both Pearl […]

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Last Christmas

Last year, director Paul Feig took what looked like a Lifetime-style housewife-in-peril thriller in A Simple Favor and put a clever, self-aware twist on a familiar kind of story. With Last Christmas, Feig takes on another much-maligned, TV-friendly genre, the holiday romantic comedy, but he plays this one disappointingly straight, delivering a generic but sometimes charming […]

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Pain and Glory

Pedro Almodovar’s films thrive on the imbalance between brash idiosyncrasy and eloquent introspection. The Spanish auteur is a master of carefully-controlled chaos, of purposefully overwrought melodrama presented against a brightly colored backdrop with a winking nod to the inherent zaniness, somehow kept earthbound by its melancholic thematic underpinnings. Almodovar’s canvas elevates from the screen, but […]

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Terminator: Dark Fate

James Cameron’s 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the Godfather Part II of action blockbusters, a sequel that both surpasses and enhances its predecessor, opening up a narrative and emotional world in ways only hinted at in the original. So it’s no surprise that further installments in the Terminator series have struggled to live up […]

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Motherless Brooklyn

Edward Norton has said that he called in every possible favor from his entire Hollywood career in order to get Motherless Brooklyn made, and his sprawling adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel feels very much like a passion project, both for better and for worse. Norton, who wrote, directed and plays the lead role, makes […]