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Out in Theaters: ‘THOROUGHBREDS’ 

Chilly, sardonic and cruel, Cory Finley’s killer debut Thoroughbreds is a narcissistic response to teen thrillers of the 90s. With ice water coursing through its veins, this shocking first feature from Finley serves as a hellish calling card for ripe new talent in Hollywood. A tongue-in-cheek social commentary about class relations masquerading as an unrelenting character study, this austere New England teenage noir manages the angry ennui of a Bret Easton Ellis novel and the cold-blooded disturbia of Michael Lehmann’s Heathers but moves with the sneaky cadence and unsuspecting footsteps of an entirely different beast.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘A WRINKLE IN TIME’

Ava DuVernay’s well-intentioned adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s book of the same name is a tenaciously tedious, psychedelically sloppy slog. Championing a well-meaning message of the bonds of family and acceptance of oneself, the actual movie is a mind-numbing flurry of exposition vomit, hurried character development and drag-show pizzaz. DuVernay’s tale of a brother and sister hunting their lost father (Chris Pine) throughout the galaxy is constantly on the go, relying on bright pops of color and shimmery CGI to cover up the gaping plot holes developed courtesy of its neck-break pace. Characters explain the plot ad nauseum, using in-house lingo sure to leave many skeptical eyes a’rollin’, as the story whirls from one underdeveloped thread to another at light-speed pace. At once too dark for the younger crowd and too childish for true blue teenagers, A Wrinkle in Time really only appeals to the tween ADHD crowd who likes their stories delivered fast and loose and colorful beyond belief. 
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Out in Theaters: ‘DEATH WISH’ 

In all of the nightmare scenarios that Eli Roth has cooked up in the past, he probably couldn’t have written a more unwelcoming and hostile zeitgeist to deliver his latest film, Death Wish, into. Just two weeks after an assailant took the lives of 17 victims at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the Bruce Willis-starring, gun-toting revenge fantasy – a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson film of the same name – champions vigilante justice and romanticizes gun violence in gleefully tone-deaf manner, one that only works in a deluded Trumpian analysis of America and opportunist justice. Worse still, with no style or swagger of its own to speak of, Death Wish has little flair to hang upon its misguided and decidedly uncritical core, making it one big, stinking waste of time and not much fun to boot.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘ANNIHILATION’

Alex Garland, the visionary writer-director behind Ex Machina, obsesses over ideas of what it means to be human. With Ex Machina, he explored the inception of A.I. and how true artificial intelligence blurs the line between human and “other” to dizzying, disorienting and apocalyptic result. In his writing effort Never Let Me Go, Garland posed similar – if less refined – questions, posing an analogous emotional experiment with clones as the test subject, begging his audience to work out what separates “us” from “them”. “If they feel, are they not too human?” was the central thrust and this idea has continue to haunt Garland’s films. Never Let Me Go was a lesser effort but came from a place of ripe ideology and artistic thoughtfulness, traits which Garland has never lacked and has gone on to define to great effect. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BLACK PANTHER’

Heavy hangs the crown in Black Panther, a Marvel movie whose real-life cultural and societal implications overshadow its storytelling prowess. The import and impact of Black Panther as a chapter in film history cannot be overstated. Although this isn’t Hollywood’s first attempt to turn a historically black superhero into the main event, headlining their own tentpole film – consider Wesley Snipes run as the vampire-hunter Blade, Halle Berry’s turn as Catwoman, Will Smith’s alcoholic anti-hero Hancock or even Shaquille O’Neal’s turn as Steel – this feels like a first in part because of how much effort has been poured into its making and, more importantly, how readily it embraces its fundamental blackness, from its colorful African settings to its tribally-influenced makeup, hairstyle, and costumes to its predominately black cast and crew, a verifiable assemblage of talent that’ll turn even the most skeptical of heads. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ’12 STRONG’

12 Strong calls in the cavalry on Al-Qaeda in Nicolai Fuglsig’s “declassified true story of the horse soldiers”. Spurred by the 9/11 terror attacks, Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) leaves behind a safe, cushy military desk job to lead a team of special forces to the sandy front lines of the War on Terror. There, he must earn the trust of an Afghan warlord to take down a critical Taliban position. We’re told repeatedly that the fate of the War rests on this mission’s success and, well, we all know how that one turned out. Generic on most accounts, 12 Strong is an inoffensive American war movie relying on offensive war-mongering tactics. The semi-sturdy if mostly unremarkable acting and blasé set pieces lack the praise-worthy or memorable accents to set 12 Strong aside from the harras.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘PHANTOM THREAD’ 

Merriam Webster defines sumptuous as something that is “rich, luxurious, or magnificent” and I cannot think of a better application of the word than to describe Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest feature, Phantom Thread. A marvel of filmmaking, Phantom Thread as a piece of modern art is absolutely decadent – from the luscious cinematography to the snide and sneakily funny script, the nerve-racking sound design to the rich, textured performances.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE COMMUTER’

Danny Glover’s Murtaugh famously opined in Richard Donner’s classic American buddy cop flick Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for this shit.” He was 41 at the time. Liam Neeson, age 65 (full benefit retirement age for US citizens), is way too old for this shit. And in a humdrum action-thriller like The Commuter, it shows. Had this Taken on a Train redux a good shake more intelligence and a portion less generic action hero fisticuffs, casting Neeson as down-on-his-luck ex-cop turned insurance-hawking family man Michael MacCauley would make perfect sense. As it stands, The Commuter is just another forgettable notch in Neeson’s geriatric action movie phase defined by jarring editing and risible action that can’t strike a passable balance between taking itself seriously and being utterly ridiculous. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘HOSTILES’

I absolutely loathed Hostiles, the new Western film from Scott Cooper that proves once and for all why Westerns are so out of vogue. Starring Christian Bale as a dangerous and notorious Army captain who is forced to escort a dying Cheyenne chief, a former foe on the battlefield, equally notorious, through hostile territory back to his homeland as if on a mission from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The film is terrible; boring as sin, casually regressive, and perfectly pointless; a manifestation of why audiences have turned on the Western genre at large and a fine example of its backwards thinking mannerisms.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD’ 

I’ll never quite understand the arbitrary changes tacked onto movies that are “Based on a True Story”, a trend that is particularly odd in All the Money in the World. This true-to-life horror story about J. Paul Getty and the dastardly kidnapping of his grandson focuses on Getty’s uncooperativeness in hostage negotiations but jumbles the real life numbers in order to gain what I must assume to be added dramatic mileage. It’s an odd lie (hence my paragraph-long nitpick), one that’s not fundamentally different from a teenage boy inflating how many women he’s slept with,  that’s effectively there to emphasize just how much a misery bastard the infamous “Richest Man in the History of the World” truly was. Read More