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Out in Theaters: ‘HALLOWEEN’

The slasher subculture saw its heyday in the 1980s, with franchises like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street accruing scores of harebrained sequels, spawning a pattern of rinse-repeat horror franchises that rarely held a candle to the greats in terms of turnover quality. Jason eventually went to outer space. Freddy Kruger broke the fourth wall. Michael Myers was revisioned as a force for utilitarian good, destined to kill all of Laurie’s family in order to save all of civilization. To say that these sequels haven’t always been so hot is quite the understatement. In 2018, director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) – of all people – has taken the governing principles of the slasher and given it new life through a winning combination of tasteful updates, tactful homage, and gleeful bloodletting and in doing so, he may have just perfected the slasher movie.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BEAUTIFUL BOY’

In the timeless words of Mr. Mackey, “Drugs are bad, mkay?” Beautiful Boy, an addiction drama starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet, reiterates this point ad-nauseam without adding a lot more complexity to the topic than could a cartoon elementary school counselor. Adapted from Nicolas and David Sheff’s tell-all memoirs about a son’s personal struggles with addiction and his father’s battle to deal, Beautiful Boy struggles to add texture to the already established conversation about the horrors of addiction and the tolls it takes on its victims and their families. The product feels overtly telegraphed; a predictable series of ups and downs that lack distinction and uniqueness. As such, the overall impact of the film remains a bit muted. Like an ex-user’s nerve endings, it just can’t deliver the feels that one craves.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN’

There’s a timeless charm to The Old Man and the Gun, easily obsessed in the breezy chemistry of its two elegant stars. The sparkle dancing in Robert Redford’s eye reflects off the Golden Era glimmer of Sissy Spacek’s gentle curl of a smile. Their attraction is palpable, enchanting. Like sweet senior citizens slow dancing to a Sinatra classic. Imported from the height of 1970s quirk, this true story is cool in much the same way a stand-up bass is cool; it’s an old-timey classy caper, outdated though it may be, that serves as a fitting send-off for the always reliable Redford.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE HATE U GIVE’

The Hate U Give burns with a righteous anger. Director George Tillman Jr. and screenwriter Audrey Wells wrangle the searing social conscience and incisive melodrama of Angie Thomas’ best-selling novel into what is very likely the most meaningful film of 2018. Thought-provoking and morally challenging, beautifully acted and poignantly directed, THUG is a moving, necessary, and often hilarious, rarity; a mainstream, race-relations pop-art primal scream whose vital message is only intensified by its raw watchability.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘FIRST MAN’ 

First Man takes a triumphant first step telling the story of American astronaut Neil Armstrong and hits it with a spell of arthouse sensibilities and emotional undercurrent. Ryan Gosling is a fitting Armstrong, an exceedingly competent pilot, razor-sharp engineer, and unassuming Ohioan boy. He’s a figure of reserved strength and quiet calculation, a perfect match for Gosling’s strong, silent affectation. To his peers, Armstrong is a resilient commander, a man of rock-solid gumption and iron determination. To his family, Armstrong is an emotional astronaut. He’s a world away even on earth. And much like Neil Armstrong the American Hero, I respect the hell out of First Man but it’s a tough cookie to love.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE’

Long-winded and neither as smart, surprising, or sassy as it thinks, Bad Times at the El Royale is a stylish snow-globe of sixties subcultures clown-car piled into an overdrawn neo-noir. Bursting at the seams with metaphorical material and cultural commentary but featherlight on plot and deep-dive character development, this strangers-at-a-hotel mystery has a lot of guff and bluster but little actual punch. It’s not exactly bad times but the times decidedly aren’t so grand either.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘VENOM’

An aimless, awful embarrassment for everyone involved, Venom imagines a world where a dopey Peter Parker-type was instead bitten by a radioactive turd. Creatively bankrupt filmmaking from top to bottom, Venom bows under the weight of an insufferable script, flat-out strange performances, and a mishmash tone that tries to levy the darkness of a character that waxes about snacking on eyeballs and fingers and  livers in with scatalogical jokes that truly only the prepubescent in the audience would giggle along with. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE SISTERS BROTHERS’

Manifest destiny makes no promises of prosperity. Those seeking riches in the wild, wild west were treated to the same pittance of dumb luck and social hierarchy that they were long familiar in the eastern shores. What distinguished the far reaches of the American West in the mid-1800s was the fierce cascade of violence that hung over the land like a raging conflagration and the profit one could seek by exacting that violence. Bounty hunters and criminals pocked the far-flung towns, trading human lives for riches. This is where we meet The Sisters BrothersRead More

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Out in Theaters: ‘A STAR IS BORN’

“What is love if not a helpless acceptance of our lover’s shortcomings?” the powerful music drama A Star is Born asks. The tragic romance shared between career musician Jackson Maine and up-and-comer Ally at the center of A Star is Born is a refreshingly raw cinematic punch to the stomach. Seasoned with somber specificity, the film’s dramatic twists of the knife are fastened sharply to the beating hearts of its potent characters. We experience joy alongside them. We grieve with them. Their hardship pains us just as we celebrate their victories, small and large. From writing a song drunkenly on the sidewalk to belting it out live to a packed crowd, A Star is Born tends to the moments the define their characters’ lives, all the while holding its audience emotionally hostage to their often ill-conceived impulses.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘FREE SOLO’

The amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for triggering fear, is a critical component of human evolution. It’s the thing that tells most people not to backflip off a rooftop into a pool. Or warns them not to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle. Or climb the three-thousand-plus face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without a rope. Few people see these death-defying stunts as challenges, testing the utmost limits of man. Many meet their demise in these tournaments with mortality.  Read More