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Mary Poppins (64/18)

"I would say that Emily Blunt, Ben Whishaw and the animation sequences pretty much salvaged the sequel for me. 'I couldn't possibly, E flat major' is one of the best line readings ever. Bravo to Emily Blunt." - LadyEdith

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Entries in Reviews (662)

Thursday
Jan102019

Double Feature: On the Basis of Sex & RBG

by Abe Fried-Tanzer

It’s not uncommon for documentaries and narrative features about the same subject to be released around the same time. In some cases, the impetus for a narrative film comes from the success of a documentary, as with recent Robert Zemeckis' movies the The Walk and Welcome to Marwen, which told the same stories as the hit docs Man on Wire  and Marwencol, respectively. 2010 saw concurrent releases of documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money and the feature Casino Jack.

This season's double feature is undeniably inspired by the need to champion strong women in the face of divisive times. Who better than civil rights icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice appointed to the Supreme Court, to serve as the figurehead for two very different movies in 2018?

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Sunday
Jan062019

The 2018 Animation Contenders: On Happiness Road

Each weekend, Tim has been taking a look at one of the films submitted for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Taiwan's animation industry does not have a particularly strong reputation, to put it gently. For many years, the country's animation studios have largely served as inexpensive places to farm out work from other, more well-heeled companies, or to produce short films and clips that are largely ephemeral and quickly forgotten. So perhaps the first impressive thing about On Happiness Road is that it exists at all: a Taiwanese-produced feature-length animated film, about Taiwanese history and the cultural position of Taiwan in the wide world. That it is largely good is even more impressive.

The film is the brainchild of writer-director Sung Hsin-Yin, making her first feature after a handful of short films. It tells the life story of Chi (voiced by Kwei Lun-Mi) a thirtysomething expatriate who returns from America to Taipei, where we immediately intuit she'd rather not be... 

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Friday
Jan042019

Review: Capernaum

Please welcome new contributor Abe Fried-Tanzer

Two years ago, despite over a dozen submissions since 1978, Lebanon hadn’t had a film nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Now, the small Middle Eastern country is looking at a likely second consecutive nomination. The Insult was a powerful portrait of two adult men divided by hate and behaving like children. Capernaum, equally compelling, spotlights the opposite: a child acting like an adult, seemingly far more capable of understanding the world for what it is than the actual grown-ups in his life.

The sensational description of this film’s plot focuses on its approximately twelve-year-old protagonist Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) suing his parents for giving birth to him. That summary may conjure up courtroom drama, but that’s far from the truth of the film which takes place on merciless streets. Instead, Capernaum provides a layered look at what it means to be responsible for another person...

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Saturday
Dec292018

Clint is "The Mule"

Please welcome guest contributor Abe Fried-Tanzer from Movies with Abe. Since we hadn't discussed Clint Eastwood's new movie, he's doing the honor...

This is not the first time that Clint Eastwood has released a film at the tail end of awards season. That strategy worked wonders in 2014 for American Sniper, which landed major Oscar nominations despite missing out on a number of precursors. A full decade earlier, Million Dollar Baby launched late and managed to overtake the Oscar frontrunner, The Aviator, to win Best Picture. Eastwood may have arrived too late to earn accolades for this effort, which marks his 37th film as director, but he’s sure to earn some fans for his performance.

The most comparable frame of reference for The Mule is the most recent film that saw Eastwood as an acting Oscar hopeful, 2008’s Gran Torino... 

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Friday
Dec282018

Review: "Bird Box" on Netflix

by Eric Blume

The new limited-theatrical-release / now-on-Netflix movie Bird Box is a puzzlement. It’s a post-apocalypse thriller directed by Oscar and Emmy-winner Susanne Bier, and stars Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Jackie Weaver, and Trevante Rhodes as survivors of a world-ending crisis.  A lot of talented people are involved in this film, so it’s a true curiosity that the whole thing ends up a gigantic shrug.

The details of this apocalypse are a little murky, but it goes something like this. Scary creatures (which we never see) are appearing around the globe, and they tap into your deepest fears somehow(?), and cause you to immediately commit suicide...

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Thursday
Dec202018

Review: Aquaman

by Chris Feil

There’s an element to Aquaman’s chutzpah that feels lost to contemporary cynicism, as if its as much an artifact as the trident our titular hero chases. Here is a superhero epic that skews closer to something like Stephen Sommers Mummy trilogy, enveloped in sincerity and willingness to dazzle without winks or too-cool posturing.

But cut that with an over-caffeinated, sugar rush aesthetic packed to (forgive me) the gills with technicolor extremity, and you get a superhero film that’s delightfully batshit. It’s both beyond absurd and the guiltiest of pleasures, like Lisa Frank for dudes or gay underwater Indiana Jones. For some it might be an acquired taste, but it succeeds by pairing simplistic narrative ambitions with an authentically wild visual experience.

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