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Six Short Reviews

"While there was imagination to Swiss Army Man, I am on the hate side of it." -Chris

 "I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane on a long flight Tuesday. It felt like a cross between Misery, Room and an end-of-the-world sci-fi horror B movie. I liked it." -Paul

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Entries in Reviews (393)

Friday
Jul222016

TV MVP: Riz Ahmed in "The Night Of"

Chris Feil on HBO's latest buzzy drama...

HBO has gotten back into the crime genre with the launch of new limited series The Night Of. Adapted from the BBC's Criminal Justice, the series has more than a few shades of Serial thrown in as it examines the gruesome murder at its center. While the new series has already established a patient fascination with glacial detail, what has kept it from becoming a flat procedural is the fascinating performance by Riz Ahmed as murder suspect Naz.

Just as he served up a humane human foil to Jake Gyllenhaal's psychopath in Nightcrawler, Ahmed brings a necessary soulfulness to this otherwise cold world in The Night Of. In the lead up to and fallout from the crime, Naz makes an endless string of bad decisions that the actor effortlessly makes believable. He is a wounded deer in the headlights, alternating masked sexual nerves, outsiderness, and blind panic. If the script makes Naz out to be a naive dope, then it's to Ahmed's credit that he finds the honesty about why he would willfully put himself in an obviously toxic situation.

With an insurmountable amount of evidence against him and a convenient blackout during the murder, it's the raw believability of the actor that drives our doubt about Naz's guilt...

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Thursday
Jul212016

Teensy Reviews: 6 Films We Didn't Review Properly

These reviews could fit in a tweet. Presented to assuage Nathaniel's guilt from not having properly reviewed them when they arrived, though he sometimes dropped hints of his feelings in other contexts.

IN THEATERS

Swiss Army Man (Daniels)
Story: A suicidal man (Paul Dano) finds companionship and a new zest for life when he meets a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe)
Review: Wobbly start, Self sabotaging end. But, Oh!, those imaginative mental heights in the middle. 
Grade: Middle Hour: A- / The Rest: C+

Genius (Michael Grandage)
Story: An account of the long working relationship between famed editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) and one of his literary finds Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). Let us not mention the women (Nicole Kidman, The Lovely Laura Linney) lest we rage again at the terrible gender politics
Review: The work of an editor is shape & rhythm, so why is a film about a great one lumpy and lead-footed? Over and under-acted at once. 
Grade: D- 
Extra: Amir's festival review

The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra)
Story: A grieving med school dropout is attacked by a shark and stranded in the ocean alone. Can she survive? Review: Mechanical, but that's meant as a compliment. It plays. Slight with just enough bite (sorry). Bonus points for Steven Seagull.
GradeB 

ON DVD & BLURAY

The Bronze (Bryan Buckley)
Story: Two former Olympic champions (Melissa Rauch & Sebastian Stan) fight over a promising new female gymnast
Review: Rude and daring. But its suffocatingly narrow comic tone mars the promising conceit, good jokes, and a lunatic sex scene. 
Grade: C+ 

How to Be Single (Christian Ditter)
Story: Four single girls (Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie) try to find themselves... and maybe a boyfriend... in Manhattan.
Review: Unexpectedly involving performances. Fun. And yet, as uneven and generic as first dates. One entire storyline needs to go.
GradeB- 

10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg)
Story: A woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up chained up by a man (John Goodman) in an underground shelter. Should she fear the man or the apocalypse he swears is raging outside the bunker? 
Review: Discomforting. What it lacks in scope, it makes up for in propulsive plotting: from frying pan to fire to inferno.
GradeB 

Saturday
Jul162016

Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

Remember when Sony rebooted Sam Raimi’s take on Spider-Man (2002) with The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)? Their whole conceit at the time appeared to be “What if you didn’t know the story?” so they just told it again. Only everyone actually did know the story. The result was an instantly forgettable retread, useless but for the printing of money. While that may have been the whole point, it left a lousy corporate aftertaste. It took the world gargling with some Marvel Studios mouthwash (aka Captain America: Civil War) to make people excited about Spidey again.

The good news is that the mega corporation appears to have learned from their mistakes. Ghostbusters NOW does not moronically assume you don’t know Ghostbusters THEN. Sure, it’s the same story again — the Ghostbusters set up shop, refine technobabble gadgets, fight against a supernatural invasion of New York and the bureaucrats that get in their way — but writer/director Paul Feig and his cowriter Katie Dippold (who wrote The Heat together) have correctly guessed that the fun of the movie will be in the makeover. 

the ladies fighting the (undead) patriarchy

The story gets a new look, freshened up details, and most famously, four female Ghostbusters and a male receptionist in place of the original’s four men and a female receptionist; that gender inversion proved more revolutionary that any rational human might have expected because a lot of manbabies have been freaking out on the internet ever since...

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Thursday
Jul142016

Review: The Infiltrator

Manuel here with a review of The Infiltrator which opened yesterday nationwide.

Fact: Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic is one of the most influential films of the 21st century. That’s not a qualitative assessment but an increasingly common thought that’s rankled in my brain. Can you believe Soderbergh actually struggled to get his film financed because Hollywood execs didn’t think audiences would want to watch an entire film about the drug trade?

Fast-forward to summer 2016 when USA is premiering Queen of the South, Netflix will bring us season 2 of Narcos, two competing El Chapo TV series are in development, and Bryan Cranston’s The Infiltrator joins an ever-growing list of films about the war on drugs that range from the sublime (Sicario) to the pedestrian (Blow) with everything in between (Savages, anyone?).

In Brad Furman’s The Infiltrator, the Breaking Bad actor plays U.S. Customs Service special agent Robert Mazur who, as is par for the course in certain genres, decides to take on one last job to go undercover as “Bob Musella.”...

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Tuesday
Jul122016

Doc Corner: 'Zero Days' is One of the Year's Best

Glenn here with our weekly look at documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand.

Alex Gibney works with such ferocious regularity that it’s sometimes hard to keep track. Last year alone he had three films released following two the year before that. His latest, Zero Days, falls into the camp of Gibney films in which he most excels - those like Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room that allow him to exercise his skills at investigative journalism and dig deep into exposing organizations and those who surround them. While it lacks the pop fancies that made Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief such a success, Zero Days is Gibney’s best documentary in years.

Told with all the propulsive, thrilling excitement of a Hollywood spy blockbuster, Zero Days lifts the lid on a series of cybercrimes (reportedly - the film certainly makes a valiant case for it) committed by the US government in alignment with Israel against Iran and their potentially dangerous nuclear program. The crimes backfired drastically and exposed America and the world to a future of uncertain technological warfare...

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Monday
Jul112016

Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

This review was originally published in Nathaniel's Towleroad column...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates starts out giddy with a bouncy firecracker of a credits sequence. Please take that literally as the credits involve a trampoline, fireworks, and two gleeful stars Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) in mid air. Their joyful abandon is short-lived. A scene or two later we're at an intervention with their parents (Stephen Root & Stephanie Faracy) in which we see these same high-flying images again from a less zhushed-up perspective in home wedding videos their parents play them. The inseparable brothers, always each other's bachelor dates at these gatherings, egg each other on until disaster strikes. Property destruction and ambulance calls follow them... 

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Wednesday
Jul062016

Review: Captain Fantastic

Here's Murtada with thoughts on an essential hero for these particular times, Viggo Mortensen as Captain Fantasic  (opening this weekend).

Captain Fantastic opens by immediately throwing the viewer into its physical world. Forests, mountains, people hunting and gathering. If I didn’t know the synopsis beforehand I’d have thought I was watching a update of Lord of the Flies. Instead the film is about a fiercely independent patriarch (Viggo Mortensen) raising his six children in forests of the Pacific Northwest, teaching them how to thrive while turning his back on a conventional contemporary life and what it means and may offer.

This particular fantasy felt extremely appealing in a post-Brexit, Trump world...

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