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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?’ 

A potpourri of warmth and goodheartedness, ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor’ explores Mr. Rogers’ overwhelming generosity of spirit and his well-concealed demons through the lens of his radically unfussy television program that ran from 1963 until 2001. Putting the unlikely star back in the spotlight, this heartwarming and tear-duct-attacking documentary from Morgan Neville dazzlingly teaches that we probably never deserved this low-spoken, child-whispering icon and yet his benevolent lessons on acceptance and kindness are more necessary today than ever. A good-natured salve for the soul and inspiring portrait of blinding decency. (B+) Read More

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SIFF ’18 Capsule Review: ‘AMERICAN ANIMALS’

Bart Layton’s audacious feature debut uniquely tacks together documentary and narrative styles to tell the stranger than fiction tale of a notorious art heist gone horribly wrong. Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters are strong as apathetic, bored college students who fall victim to glamorized fables of the perfect crime in Layton’s white-knuckle exploration of young white male entitlement and the dubious nature of truth and memory. This slick caper boasts a unique storytelling approach and gripping moments of high tension but struggles with pacing and periphery character development. (B) Read More

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Out in Theaters: ’TULLY’

Parenting is perpetual sacrifice. Or so says Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, the directing-writing duo behind poppy cult classic Juno, with their comeback collaboration Tully. A dramatic comedy or comedic drama, depending on how you want to look at it, Tully is a soaring success no matter what box you want to put it in; a well-meaning, deeply felt, irreverently mature exploration of growing pains and adulating. Charlize Theron is a knock-one in this deliriously enjoyable feature that has no short supply of wit, bite and verve with a shot of mindfuck mixed in to boot.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR’ 

Over the course of 18 films and 10 years, Kevin Feige and his army of Marvel men and women have laid a pretty nifty foundation upon which the Marvel Cinematic Universe rests. What started with humble beginnings with 2008’s Iron Man has  since blown up into a cultural and financial supernova with no less than 30 recognizable characters and all that comes to a head with the Russo Brother’s astonishingly ambitious though perfunctorily flawed Avengers: Infinity War.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THE ENDLESS’

Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead are a tactile duo, crafting thought-provoking, effects-driven, genre-defying features filled with big ideas on a micro-budget. Their last film, Spring, which can only be described as a “romantic body horror” and was a favorite for many who sought it out after its 2014 Toronto Film Festival debut, failed to find much of an audience among the general public but solidified the partnership, who had previously collaborated on 2012’s low-budge horror flick Resolution, as a pair for cinephile’s to keep a close eye on. Rather than pulling in the reins, the creative partners have gone even bigger with The Endless, a heady science-fiction-slash-horror—slash-cult-thriller-slash-sibling-drama that’s ambitious to a fault.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE’

Violence is cynical in Lynn Ramsey’s down and dirty arthouse thriller You Were Never Really Here. A rough and tumble look at a life surrounded and dictated by violence, Ramsey’s long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin stars Joaquin Phoenix as a mumbling fixer. Armed with a hammer and crippling PDST, Phoenix’s squirrelly and traumatized antihero is a hired gun; a vigilante who specializes in liberating young women from sex trafficking.  Read More

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Talking with Andrew Haigh of ‘LEAN ON PETE’

Yorkshire native Andrew Haigh has worn many hats in the entertainment industry. He cut his teeth in the early 2000s working as an assistant editor on a number of big budget blockbusters including Gladiator, The Count of Monte Cristo, Black Hawk Down, Reign of Fire and Kingdom of Heaven. In 2009, shortly after his last editorial gig, he released his first directorial debut, Greek Pete which he followed up two years later with Weekend. Neither made a huge splash at the box office but with his next feature, 45 Years, Haigh erupted on the art house scene, directing Charlotte Rampling to an Oscar nomination. He’s since lent his talents to the small screen, directing a number of episodes of the HBO sleeper gay drama Looking as well as a feature version of that same show. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘LEAN ON PETE’ 

Scruffy name aside, Andrew Haigh’s deeply felt and heartstring-plucking Lean on Pete is a sorrowful spirit trip through America’s discarded backcountry where a boy wants desperately for belonging. Haigh’s emotionally draining adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s 2010 novel of the same name is of the traumatic animal movie ilk. Not for the weak-spirited, the film from A24 constantly tests the resolve of its protagonist, putting him in increasingly difficult circumstances. Even the life of the titular Lean on Pete, a racehorse on his last leg, lies under constant threat as his unsympathetic owner makes passing threats of sending him off to the glue factory with all the remorse of stepping on a bug. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘SWEET COUNTRY’

Racial constraints are life in Warwick Thornton’s low-boiling and powerful drama Sweet Country. It’s 1920, Western Australia. When elderly aboriginal Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris) kills a belligerent white man in self-defense, he must flee the crooked arm of the law. With posses rounded up and eager lawmen hot on his trail, Thornton explores the racial tilt of criminality drawing disturbing parallels to modern-day criminal justice. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘A QUIET PLACE’

Put your phones on silent bitches. A Quiet Place, a masterfully disquieting creature feature from The Office alum John Krasinski, simply will not stand for interruption. Taking pages from the books of Hitchcock, Argento, and Spielberg, Krasinski skillfully weaves together a sharply intelligent, emotionally involving and blisteringly suspenseful chamber-piece that layers a uniquely “silent” horror film in with a very personal treatise on the challenges of parenthood.  Read More