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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Reviews

05 May 2016
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After ending their TV show after five seasons, Key and Peele have come to the big screen with Keanu, a lively kidnapped-cat comedy with a high body count. Part John Wick and part Adventures in Babysitting, the film gives us Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as Clarence and Rell, a couple of wimpy guys trying to get a beloved kitten back from some hard-core gangsters. In order to do so, they masquerade as Shark Tank and Tectonic, two badasses from Allentown who will end your life if you don’t give them their cat back. The whole mess starts when the cat escapes from a drug den after two killers (also played by Key and Peele) murder his owner. The cat winds up at the doorstep of newly dumped Rell, who gloms on to him as his feline savior. The cat is then kidnapped and winds up back in the hands…
28 Apr 2016
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Four years ago, when Snow White and the Huntsman came out, Kristen Stewart was all the rage. The film made lotsa money, and it looked like the former Bella had a new franchise on her hands. Not so fast. Kristen, in a moment of shameful and delicious wickedness, made out in public (well, in front of somebody’s unauthorized camera, anyway) with that film’s married director, much to the chagrin of then-boyfriend Robert Pattinson—and, consequently, her fan base. Plans for a sequel starring her were scrapped, and a whole new plan centering on co-star and budding movie giant Chris Hemsworth (Thor!) was hatched. What producers didn’t realize at the time was that Hemsworth basically sucks when he’s doing anything other than playing Thor. Blackhat, In the Heart of the Sea, Vacation and now this mighty slice of hell are proof of this. While Snow White was no creative party, it was…
28 Apr 2016
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Writer-director Richard Linklater makes a companion piece, of sorts, to his breakthrough film Dazed and Confused—with mixed results. With Everybody Wants Some!!, he gives us a crew of young college baseball players showing up a few days before classes begin and partying in various settings (disco, honkytonk bar, punk bar), because it’s 1980, and things are all mixed up. The movie is full of bad wigs, bad mustaches, typical song choices (“My Sharona,” “Rapper’s Delight,” “Bad Girls”) and ugly 1970s cars. What it isn’t full of are the type of memorable characters that made Dazed such a delight. Blake Jenner (Glee) plays the film’s main protagonist, Jake, a pitcher who has his eye on an art major (Zoey Deutch). Their little courtship is cute, but beyond that, the movie isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. The cast members, mostly unknowns, deliver lines that are neither funny nor intelligent.…
21 Apr 2016
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The Jungle Book, Disney’s latest live-action take on one of its animated classics, is clever: It actually contains sly nods to Apocalypse Now and Saturday Night Live. Jon Favreau’s delightful and funny take on Rudyard Kipling’s tale of a boy raised by wolves is an all-around winner. Kids and adults will love the talking (and sporadically singing) animals, while adults and some of the cooler kids will enjoy the movie references and clever Easter eggs. The story is pretty simple: A young boy, Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), raised in the jungle, is pursued by a pissed-off tiger (the voice of Idris Elba) who had his face burned by a human when he was young (shades of Darth Vader). When plans to leave for a human village are rudely interrupted, Mowgli winds up staying in the jungle longer than he planned. He encounters Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), an evil temptress snake, and…
14 Apr 2016
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Ethan Hawke plays legendary jazz-musician Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue, a gritty work about the man’s trumpet-playing comeback after he took a severe beating to the face. Hawke just keeps adding to his list of great performances; this one might be his most ambitious. He learned how to play trumpet for the movie, impressively miming to the music on the soundtrack. He also captures the essence of a man addicted to a dangerous drug—a good man who is slowly killing himself. Carmen Ejogo plays Jane, a combo-character depicting various women in Baker’s life. She does a nice job of showing the kind of patience required to deal with an addict. The movie also contains some of the best and most-contentious scenes between a father and son I have seen in recent years: Stephen McHattie has just a couple of scenes as Baker’s dad but, man, are they memorably…
21 Apr 2016
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Don Cheadle makes an impressive directorial debut with Miles Ahead, a crazy biopic that is mostly fiction—but all fun. Cheadle plays jazz-trumpeter Miles Davis, hibernating from public life in the late ’70s, when a Rolling Stone reporter (Ewan McGregor) shows up at his door looking for a comeback story. The film then turns into a comedy thriller of sorts as Davis tries to track down a missing tape from his latest sessions—something that never really happened. It’s all just an excuse to use Miles Davis in a goofy story, and somehow, it all works. Cheadle is pure awesome as Davis, even doing some impressive trumpet-miming. (Cheadle, like Ethan Hawke in the recent Chet Baker biopic Born to Be Blue, learned how to play trumpet for the part.) The film switches between Miles in the ’70s and Miles in the ’60s dealing with relationship struggles. No, the movie doesn’t really focus…
14 Apr 2016
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Writer-director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) has named his latest film—about a boy with special powers running from a Texas cult—Midnight Special. The name alone is a stroke of genius. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of “Midnight Special” was featured in Twilight Zone: The Movie back in 1983. Whenever I hear that song, or even see the title, I am reminded of that song and movie, which both hold a special place in my film-going heart. Because of all of this, I walked into Midnight Special in an ’80s sort of mood. Whether or not Nichols named his film with Twilight Zone in mind doesn’t really matter. The end result had me thinking of Dan Aykroyd attacking Albert Brooks in a parked car at night on a country road. Midnight Special, the movie, feels like a product of the late ’70s and early ’80s, a time when the likes of Spielberg…
07 Apr 2016
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A drone pilot (Aaron Paul) has a missile lined up and is about to pull the trigger on a houseful of terrorists when a little girl appears within the blast zone to sell some bread. This is just one of the dilemmas brilliantly depicted in Eye in the Sky, director Gavin Hood’s tense thriller about drone warfare and the political ramifications of collateral damage. Helen Mirren is superb as Col. Katherine Powell, determined to take out multiple targets on Great Britain’s terrorist list, yet needing to check the legalities of all her strategies before she can make a single move. In his final live-action screen appearance, Alan Rickman is terrific as Lt. Gen. Frank Benson, drolly responding to the bureaucracy that’s keeping him from doing his job. Paul delivers his best big-screen performance yet as Steve Watts, a drone commander torn between killing an innocent child and preventing a potential…
07 Apr 2016
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I Saw the Light is one of the year’s bigger cinematic disappointments. The film is a downer because it contains a powerful central performance from Tom Hiddleston as country-music legend Hank Williams. Hiddleston looks, and more importantly, sounds the part, performing live with a strong singing voice and a great stage persona. When I Saw the Light focuses on live music and studio performances of Williams’ standards, it shines. But when the film examines his life between the songs, it is a dull, unrewarding experience. Most people know Williams died tragically young (at the age of 29) of alcohol- and drug-related complications, and that he had a messed-up love life. However, it’s hard to accept that his life was as dull and humorless as writer-director Marc Abraham’s film suggests. The movie picks up before Williams gets his big break. He’s performing his original songs on a radio show and marrying…
31 Mar 2016
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The end credits of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice give a thank-you shout-out to Frank Miller, author of The Dark Knight Returns. That’s the groundbreaking graphic novel that inspired the late-20th-century rebirth of Batman, influencing everything related since Tim Burton’s Batman. Considering what transpires in the 2 1/2 hours before Miller’s name appears onscreen, Warner Bros. should be offering him an impassioned apology. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is definitive proof that director Zack Snyder should be banned from the DC universe. The man who gave us Sucker Punch has effectively knocked the wind out of two great comic-book heroes. This film is a crime against every geek who has ever picked up a graphic novel. Hell, it’s also a crime against hard-core Ben Affleck fans. Affleck could be a fine Batman. Actually, he could be a great Batman. But, like George Clooney before him, he winds up…
31 Mar 2016
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Sally Field plays the title character in Hello, My Name Is Doris; she’s a 60-something office worker who gets a crush on John (Max Greenfield), a much younger co-worker. The two become friendly, and then Doris gets a little carried away into a fantasy world regarding John. Yes, she’s a bit of a stalker, but it’s Sally Field doing the stalking, so it winds up being kind of cute. Directed by Michael Showalter (The Baxter, Wet Hot American Summer), the film mixes goofy comedy with some laughs of a darker variety. Field, who hasn’t had a chance to shine in a comedy in a long while, gives us a multi-dimensional character to go with the laughs. Greenfield is excellent as the object of Doris’ desire, and he actually has a palpable chemistry with Field. You never really know if something might happen between Doris and John; even though Field is…
24 Mar 2016
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While making my choice for 2015’s best film, it came down to Leonardo DiCaprio getting his face ripped off by a bear in The Revenant, or Charlie Kaufman’s daring stop-motion animation effort, Anomalisa. I ultimately went with Leo and the bear, but on any given day, I could find myself thinking that Anomalisa is last year’s best film. It’s certainly the year’s most original movie, and it’s definitely the year’s best animated film. It’s also the weirdest; Kaufman—who wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, does weird so well. Anomalisa takes a rather mundane day in the life of rich businessman Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) and somehow turns it into a wondrously imaginative journey. Utilizing stop-motion figures, Kaufman and his team come up with a way to make animated facial expressions that is nothing short of mind-blowing. These figures are creepily human, and never…