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Entries in Reviews (584)

Wednesday
Dec272017

Reviews: "The Post" and "The Greatest Showman"

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here in slightly altered form...

If you take film critics, Rotten Tomatoes, or any review aggregate site seriously you might think that future Oscar contender The Post (86%) is a pricey gift from Santa Spielberg that’s come exquisitely wrapped for Christmas. You might also believe that the new Hugh Jackman musical The Greatest Showman (51%) is an oversized lump of coal fouling up your otherwise pretty stocking. Don’t fall for that anti-fun / theme=worth messaging; See both for a well-rounded holiday week at the movies...

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Saturday
Dec232017

Review: "Bright" on Netflix

by Ben Miller

Will Smith misses the good ole days.  He has been trying to reclaim his blockbuster status since 2008’s Hancock.  In between, Smith has been featured in a string of weird melodramatic dramas (Seven Pounds, Collateral Beauty), traditional action genre vehicles (Men in Black 3, After Earth, Suicide Squad) and films that sink or swim on the charisma of the stars (Focus, Concussion).  None of these have worked.

Reuniting with Suicide Squad director David Ayer, Smith tries to make it work again in action/sci-fi with Netflix’s Bright.  This also doesn’t really work...

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Monday
Dec182017

Review: The Last Jedi

Lynn Lee looks at the new Star Wars film. Warning: Minor SPOILERS ahead...

It’s hard to put my finger on why I remain resistant to the recent Star Wars resurgence despite being a lifelong fan of the original trilogy.  So far the new movies have been solid pieces of entertainment, meticulously crafted to capture the scrappy, underdog-hero ethos that made Episodes IV-VI so appealing and the prequels feel so stilted and airless by comparison.  Maybe a bit too meticulously – and therein lies my ambivalence.  There’s a fine line between homage and recycling, and The Force Awakens, in particular, was a skillful exercise in the latter.  (Rogue One was superior in this regard, perhaps by virtue of being a spin-off that had to be able to stand on its own.)  On the other hand, TFA also introduced new protagonists who were so engaging you could almost overlook the fact that they were moving through the same beats as A New Hope.  I hoped that Episode VIII would give them a bit freer rein to move in new directions.

Does The Last Jedi do that?  Yes and no.  It makes a point of subverting certain narrative expectations, although this has the unfortunate side effect of making some of the subplots feel like unnecessary detours and/or dead ends.  But the overall arc remains a highly familiar one, albeit with some tweaks...

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Saturday
Dec162017

The 2017 Animated Contenders: "Birdboy: The Forgotten Children"

by Tim Brayton

For the finale of our five-part tour of some of the more obscure films competing for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, we turn to a film that premiered over two years ago, but has only just opened in the U.S. this very weekend: the Spanish psychological horror cartoon Birdboy: The Forgotten Chidlren. The film is based on the comic Psiconautas by Alberto Vázquez, who co-writes and co-directs with Pedro Rivero; it's the duo's second film based on these characters, following the 2011 short Birdman, which serves as the new feature's backstory (the short is available online).

The basic hook here couldn't be any more direct or nasty-minded. This is a silly talking animal film warped into a portrait of the world as bleak, hopeless hell. "Psychological horror," I called it, because I'd be hard pressed to name any better category, but that's not really enough to communicate the sheer, visceral nastiness of this film. It's a mere 76 minutes long, and even that's almost too long to spend with the film's altogether putrescent depiction of a world that has died, with the survivors still tottering around in the corpse of that world, forced to confront some truly cruel moments. Also, they're fuzzy critters.

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Sunday
Dec102017

You're Tearing Me Apart, Franco!: "The Disaster Artist"

By Spencer Coile 

Tommy Wiseau's The Room is a train-wreck. This is not a unique statement to make. Ask anyone who has seen it, and you'll surely be met with a healthy mix of laughter and endless quoting from 2003's "so bad it's good" disasterpiece. For years, fans have flocked to midnight showings at local theaters or gathered with friends around their TV to enjoy the messy writing, acting, and directing -- just three of the many hats Wiseau wore throughout filming.

What many fail to address, however, is that The Room was not always comedy; it began as a labor of love -- a melodrama with strong connections to Wiseau's personal (but very private) life. Adapted from the memoir by The Room co-star Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell, James Franco dramatizes Wiseau's journey from obscurity to cult stardom in The Disaster Artist. But is his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau given the same loving treatment as Wiseau intended for The Room...? 

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Monday
Dec042017

The (Truly) Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 

By Spencer Coile 

The year is 1958, and Miriam "Midge" Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) lives on the Upper West Side with her wealthy husband (Michael Zegen) and two children. Her parents (Tony Shaloub and Marin Hinkle) live in the same apartment complex to watch the kids for her. She is dressed to the nines for all occasions, supports her husband's (flailing) career in stand-up comedy, and still has time to whip up a mean brisket. Why would she ever want her life to change? 

Which is to say, of course, that it will and does.

When her husband leaves her for his secretary, Midge angrily (and drunkenly) takes to the stage of the Gaslight, a downtown bar her husband frequently played at, to rant to her audience about this sudden shift. Her improvised venting, though, has the crowd in stitches. And it soon becomes clear that not only is she performing a stand-up routine, she is also quite good at it... 

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