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‘CREED II’ a Heartfelt but Inferior Second Round  

The Cold War didn’t officially end until the early-90s with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and in that 40-odd years of looming nuclear holocaust, many a film has used this intercontentional tension to deliver quality motion pictures – see Dr. Strangelove, The Hunt for Red October, and The Lives of Others. And – of course – Rocky IV. In light of Trump’s presidential-defining ties to Russian interference and a newly ignited political rivalry with Putin’s Russia, the idea of a Creed sequel that played off USA/Russian relations seemed not only narratively apt but also incredibly timely; a fine point of entry for any inevitable sequel and one that could have more on its mind than a couple of meatheads whacking at each other for two-ish hours. Instead the movie is just a couple of meatheads whacking at each other for two-ish hours. Read More

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Winning ‘GREEN BOOK’ a Necessary Read

An old-fashioned racial mash-up of Driving Miss Daisy and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Green Book is an exceedingly pleasant two-hander that soars off the pinball chemistry of stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a Bronx-dwelling bullshit artist and Copa fixer hired to drive and serve as bodyguard for flamboyant piano aficionado Don Shirley (Ali) as he tours the American south. The stick in the proverbial spokes? Shirley is a black man and the year is 1962. Jim Crow lurks everywhere. Read More

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Avada Kedavra! ’THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD’ Kills Harry Potter Spin-Off Series Before It’s Even Started

The crimes of Grindelwald are apparently many but the crimes of The Crimes of Grindelwald are doubly so. This dreary snooze-fest puckers up to give the once-beloved franchise the Dementor’s Kiss, bewitching the audience with an irresistible urge to shutter their eyelids and be whisked off to that warm and welcoming valley of sleep – wherein they would miss little that couldn’t be summed up in a few throwaway sentences of recap. In two-plus-hours of screen time, this sequel to the somewhat mildly-received Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them manages little more than to draw battle lines in the sand, introducing a few new bland characters and then shuffling the deck for the inevitable, and presumably more-engaging, skirmishes to come.  Read More

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‘RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET’ a Sporadically Clever, Nostalgia-Bombed Delight

This November, families have a chance to decide between two cartoon villains to treat their kids to. Illumination Entertainment’s The Grinch, a perfectly affable and admittedly adorable – if toothless – remake of the Dr. Seuss classic, and Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet. A sequel to 2012’s critical and commercial success Wreck-It Ralph, the follow-up directed by Phil Johnson and Rich Moore (Zootopia) reacquaints us with Ralph’s 8-bit world, wherein he happily stars as a stocky bad guy in an arcade game called Fit-It Felix, content as a clam in his closed-loop routine.  Read More

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‘WIDOWS’ Subverts Heist Movie Expectations with Searing Performances, Artful Direction

There’s a cold chill that hangs in the air of Widows, the collaboration between brooding auteur Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and celebrated novelist and Hollywood hot ticket item Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”, “Sharp Objects”). Theirs is a chilly heist movie, one that draws equally from modern American racism (whose roots run deep here) and political paranoia; a feature that’s marked by events of extreme brutality and cold calculation. A far cry from the slick heist movies born of Steven Soderbergh, Edgar Wright, or Spike Lee, Widows is still complete with its share of double-crosses, smart aleck maneuverings, and bone-chattering suspense. It’s not a total top-to-bottom revision of the traditional heist flick but their offering is an artful and potent reworking of the established formula.  Read More

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‘THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB’ Trades Moodiness, Soul for Faux-Edgy Thriller

Lisbeth Salander hit a nerve in the middle-aughts. The creation of Stieg Larsson, Salander was as iconic in dress as in ideals. Garbed all in black, a tangle of leather, colorless tattoos, dark makeup, and various body mods, Salander provoked a new-age goth resurgence. She was an outsider but she also was cool in a “no fucks given” kind of way. But it was what lay beneath the facade of Salander’s dark exterior that made her a fascinating character and one worthy of frequent revisitation. Though a self-imposed social outcast, Salander found a place in society doling out vigilante justice – she hurt the men who hurt women. Her first appearance in Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – twice adapted to film form – brimmed with righteous rage, establishing an antihero who was not to be messed with, who would administer lasting punishment, scarring the bodies of her victims with their sins. She was, in a word, hardcore. And she was cool.  Read More

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Marital Fidelity Creaks in Powerfully-Acted ‘WILDLIFE’

Carey Mulligan has been confidently constructing a tasteful resume since her auspicious breakout in 2009’s An Education. She’s worked alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender and under the lenses of the great Coen Brothers and Steve McQueen. But never has her light shined brighter than as an unfaithful wife in Paul Dano’s always low-broiling, sometimes crushing debut Wildlife. Read More

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‘CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?’ Showcases a Maturing Melissa McCarthy, Not Much Else

Lee Israel is a washed up biographer, having once flown to the heights of the New York Best Sellers list only to plummet into obscurity, a flamed out Icarus of an author. Even her agent despises Lee’s pissy, ill-tempered approach to work and world, which makes selling her niche work ever the challenge. When Lee finds herself out of work, with debt piling up, and no sign of a book advance on the horizon, she turns to counterfeiting literary letters to make ends meet, making some new friends along the way.  Read More

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Dramatically Inert ‘BOY ERASED’ Afraid to Get Angry

Conversion therapy is torture. If you disagree, frankly, you can go fuck yourself. The archaic practice attempts to force heterosexuality (under the assumption that homosexuality is either a mental disorder, a disease, or a sin) via group counseling, spiritual intervention, and behavior modification. Past techniques for conversion therapy have included shock therapy, chemical castration, and partial lobotomies. For minors, the practice is outlawed in many progressive states and yet, despite a total lack of evidence that sexual orientation change efforts “work”, large swathes of the American South and Midwest continue this inhumane practice to this day. Read More

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‘SUSPIRIA’ Remake a Horrifyingly Inauspicious Chore

A pretentious bore posing as high art, Suspiria is a stuffy dance horror melodrama that manages to make a murderous coven of ballet witches boring as sin. At two-and-a-half grueling hours, the film from Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) is the most masturbatory of remakes, one that painfully tacks a superfluous hour of runtime onto the original without any added content. By the time Suspiria finally reaches its blood-soaked conclusion, I stood at such an emotional distance, with a countenance of such bored apathy, as to not even enjoy its macabre platter of dark ritual and liberal gore.  Read More