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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Reviews

19 Sep 2019
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Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper who goes smooth criminal during the Great Recession, is getting great reviews. Alas, I find it derivative, boring and hampered by a shallow script. So … why has the film, directed by Lorene Scafaria, been receiving Scorsese comparisons (Hey, it has tracking shots!) and high scores on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer? I’m thinking it must be because of power of Jennifer Lopez’s multi-million-dollar ass. There’s no question: Lopez is a talented actress (including good performances in Selena and Out of Sight; shit, I even liked her in Maid in Manhattan). But her calling card has always been her much-ballyhooed ass. Her ass beckons to you like an evil genie. Her ass has its own economy and solar system. In fact, as Jennifer Lopez did a pole dance in this film (for the obligatory “This is how you pole dance!” scene), I could swear…
12 Sep 2019
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It Chapter Two gives moviegoers a needed, yet mediocre, conclusion to a saga started by the previous, far-superior film. Translation: If you saw and liked the first movie, you need to watch this one to get the full story. You’ll also be witnessing a decline in quality. In a strange way, I’m happy It Chapter Two exists, because it does have some good scares, and Bill Hader rocks as a grown-up Finn Wolfhard. It closes out the Stephen King story in much better fashion than that spider sequence in that TV miniseries. If you look at It as one long movie consisting of two chapters, the overall experience is still cool. But if you look at this sequel as a standalone … it’s a big mess—an editing-room fatality. The first movie focused on the Losers’ Club as children, concluding with them seemingly defeating Pennywise the Clown (an always-frightening Bill Skarsgard).…
11 Sep 2019
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Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile musicians to have ever walked the planet. Country music, pop, rock, opera, Mexican folk music—her resume is crazily full of wide-ranging, bold leaps into all corners of the musical landscape. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, with her full participation, covers her career from her Tucson, Ariz., roots, through her band The Stone Poneys, and on through her amazing solo career. Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Jackson Browne and many others sit down for interviews—and it slowly hits you that, dammit, this is one amazing entertainer, perhaps more amazing than you realized during her heyday. Ronstadt has basically retired, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but that doesn’t stop her from offering up a jewel at the end of this movie—a short but very sweet moment of her singing with friends. This documentary is nothing unusual from a filmmaking standpoint, but…
05 Sep 2019
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I cried like a damn baby while watching After the Wedding. So, there you go. After the Wedding has the distinction of having the lion’s share of its dialogue delivered by Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup; that’s a solid pedigree. This remake of a 2006 Swedish/Danish film has a soap-opera plot for sure—but you won’t care when it gets a little melodramatic. Williams does so much with facial expressions in this movie—it’s otherworldly. As Isabel, a woman visiting New York in an effort to raise funds for her charity, she shows the power of simple expressions. She also reminds us that she’s a master at blowing the roof off the house if the script calls for it. As Theresa—the businesswoman who might find herself cutting a big check for Isabel and her overseas orphanage—Moore doesn’t just match Williams’ power; she blows the shit out of the acting meter,…
29 Aug 2019
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After some strong but smaller roles in Ash vs Evil Dead and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Samara Weaving gets a lead role in Ready or Not—and totally kills it. As Grace, a newlywed who has one of the worst wedding days in cinematic history—right up there with Uma Thurman’s in Kill Bill—Samara is so good that it makes you wonder how she hasn’t had more big starring roles. She commands the screen with a fierce, comedic energy that helps make Ready or Not a memorable, if predictable, horror/thriller show. Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and written by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy, the movie is a scathing indictment of both the rich and the institution of marriage—all in good fun, of course. When we meet Grace (fun fact: Weaving is Hugo’s niece), she’s about to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien) and enter into a very rich…
22 Aug 2019
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It takes big balls to release a movie like Good Boys in today’s PC environment. Kids in the film swear like sailors, unknowingly sniff anal beads and run across busy highways without looking both ways. It might just be the all-time cinematic winner for child-delivered profanity, topping the likes of the original The Bad News Bears. Actually, I should delete the word “might”: It’s the winner for sure. Jacob Tremblay, the cute little dude from Room, goes full stank-mouth mode as Max. He’s a member of the Beanbag Boys (they call themselves that because, well, they have beanbags), along with pals Lucas (a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams) and Thor (the wildly funny Brady Noon). Their junior-high social activities consist of bike rides and card games—but things are taken up a notch when they are invited to a party that will include, gasp, a kissing game. The trouble then begins, involving…
15 Aug 2019
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Alvin Schwartz’s collection of short horror stories for kids gets a big-screen adaptation with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, directed by André Ovredal and produced by Guillermo del Toro. The original three books gathered together stories from folklore and urban legend; Schwartz put his own spin on them, and even instructed readers on how to scare friends while reading them aloud. They were quite short, sometimes grisly and had no connecting thread. They managed to make their way into campfire stories in the 1980s; I distinctly remember somebody getting me with “The Big Toe” one summer’s eve. Rather than do an anthology movie, like a Creepshow for kids, Ovredal and del Toro opt for a framing device that is a direct nod—one could also call it a rip-off—of Stranger Things/Stephen King’s It-style nostalgia involving plucky kids dealing with various horrors. The resulting film feels derivative, disconnected and boring,…
08 Aug 2019
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While the poster for Hobbs and Shaw declares it is presented by Fast and Furious, it has very little in common with that franchise other than the participation of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, reprising their characters from the Furious films. In other words … REJOICE! Leaden, dreary Vin Diesel is nowhere to be seen in this movie! Hobbs and Shaw is a bizarre hybrid of spy thriller, action pic and science fiction. While Fast and Furious movies are certainly outlandish, they remain somewhat grounded in reality (with the notable exception of a car jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper). Hobbs and Shaw, however, completely abandons realism. It’s too damn long (137 minutes!), but when it works, it works well. It also functions as a comedy in that Johnson and Statham have great timing and work well together. Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) are protecting Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby of…
01 Aug 2019
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The ninth movie from Quentin Tarantino is a dreamy doozy—his most unapologetically Tarantinian film yet. History and conventionality be damned: QT is behind the camera, and he favors mayhem and artistic license over conventionality and facts. Set in 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood captures the 1960s film scene and culture as it is dying—and dying hard. Through the Tarantino storytelling lens, they die in mysterious and hallucinogenic ways. We get Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as insecure, has-been actor Rick Dalton, and his trusty stuntman, Cliff Booth. Dalton’s career has devolved into playing bad guys on weekly installments of TV’s F.B.I.—past his prime and blackballed. Booth is delegated to driving him around and being his confidante. The setup allows Tarantino to go hog wild with ’60s visuals and songs. Hollywood is a monumental achievement on art- and sound-direction fronts. Some of Tarantino’s soon-to-be most-famous shots are in this…
24 Jul 2019
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Machismo and sanctioned violence get a sinister, satiric kick to the face in The Art of Self-Defense, the new dark comedy from writer-director Riley Stearns. Meek accountant Casey (a totally on-point Jesse Eisenberg) is a nerdy wimp on all fronts. His co-workers can’t stand him, and French tourists mock him while he sits in a café—completely obliterating him in a foreign language. The exclamation point: He has just learned French via books on tape, so he understands all of the jabs being thrown his way … and he says nothing. Nerdy wimp personified. Casey runs out of dog food for his adorable dachshund and must take a long, lonely walk to the local grocer in the dark of night. A motorcyclist with a second rider stops, asks if he has a gun, then rides away. On his way back from the store, that same motorcycle duo kicks the unholy shit…
23 Jul 2019
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Alex Holmes delivers a solid documentary with Maiden, about a woman named Tracy Edwards, who started her sailing career as a cook and eventually found herself leading the first all-female crew to ever sail the Whitbread Round the World Race. Holmes uses archive footage, including some amazing sequences during the more perilous points of the journey, along with new interviews to tell the story. Simply put: Edwards is a charming and engaging storyteller, whether she’s in footage old or new, and as the story unfolds, and the team’s accomplishments become more and more amazing, you will find yourself rooting hard during an event that happened 30 years ago. Of course, the team took a lot of crap from their male counterparts, and the fact that they even competed is astonishing, considering most of the crew was fairly green. It’s a gripping underdog story that will surprise—because you probably didn’t even…
18 Jul 2019
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Alligators get their due as nasty cinematic monsters with Crawl—the biggest surprise so far this summer regarding simply having a damn good time at the movies. It puts Godzilla: King of the Monsters to shame. Southern Florida is getting walloped by a hurricane, and collegiate swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) hasn’t heard from her dad (Barry Pepper) as the storm grows into a Category 5. Despite foreboding radio warnings, Haley drives to her old family home in an attempt to locate her wayward father and put other family members’ minds at ease. With the family dog tagging along (of course), Haley ventures into the basement/crawlspace, where dad is unconscious with a suspicious wound. We’re not too far into the movie when the alligator baddies are introduced—and these toothy demons are using the rising waters as an excuse to swim around and…

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