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‘BEN IS BACK’ A Troubling Two-Hander You Should Never Trust 

Ben is Back, the father-son collaboration between writer-director Peter Hedges and actor son Lucas Hedges, plays out like a paperback page-turner with an inevitable conclusion. That the elder Hedges mostly succeeds in obscuring the histories of these characters and therefore where their paths will ultimately lead is a proverbial feather in his cap, the strongly-acted drama slinking suspiciously in narrative shadows in its earlier parts, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that we intrinsically know lead nowhere good. As Hedge’s script unspools the mystery behind Ben and his being back, the thriller-tinged drama loses a touch of its suspect pull, relying strictly on emboldened performances to see the journey through. The experience is far from pleasant.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI’ 

There are many words you can’t say on a billboard but in Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic and borderline brilliant Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri calling out the local sheriff for failing to bring to justice a rapist, arsonist and murderer is fair game. At least from a legal standpoint. This is the set-up for a crime saga unlike any other, McDonagh’s film a foul-mouthed mystery brimming with colorful characters, its jet-black tone and surprising emotionality capable of causing fits of laughter and bouts of urgent somberness in what is one of the best films of 2017. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘LADY BIRD’ 

Indie darling Greta Gerwig breathes life into directorial “debut” (she co-directed Nights and Weekends in 2008) Lady Bird with passion and pathos. Gerwig’s strong freshman feature strikes a balance between the mumblecore sensibilities of frequent collaborators Joe Swanberg and Noah Baumbach while bringing a refreshingly anarchical female voice into the choir. Lady Bird as a character and film manages both tenderness and lawlessness; caught in the confuddling mix of teenage hormones and perceived oppressive parenting; rebelling against the grain, oft to her own detriment; Gerwig’s capable filmmaking expertly capturing that claustrophobic  feeling of teenage angst and insurgency; Saorsie Ronan performing the hell out of the role.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘MANCHESTER BY THE SEA’

After debuting on Saturday night, Manchester by the Sea quickly became the buzziest film at Sundance. When Amazon made an unprecedented $10 million dollar deal to sweep up distributing rights, the echo chamber only got louder. On the one hand, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan must welcome the fat paycheck with open arms. And yet, such a lofty price tag sets a certain sky-high expectation for the film before its even had a chance to digest in anyone’s tummies or see the light of day for most viewers. All finances aside, Manchester by the Sea is a emotionally resonant tearjerker/masterful character study with Casey Affleck stepping up to the plate to claim some majorly overdue attention. Read More

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Sundance ’16 Review: ‘MANCHESTER BY THE SEA’

After debuting on Saturday night, Manchester by the Sea quickly became the buzziest film at Sundance. When Amazon made an unprecedented $10 million dollar deal to sweep up distributing rights, the echo chamber only got louder. On the one hand, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan must welcome the fat paycheck with open arms. And yet, such a lofty price tag sets a certain sky-high expectation for the film before its even had a chance to digest in anyone’s tummies or see the light of day for most viewers. All finances aside, Manchester by the Sea is a emotionally resonant tearjerker/masterful character study with Casey Affleck stepping up to the plate to claim some majorly overdue attention. Read More