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Well-Meaning ‘THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING’ A Mostly Meh Modern Reimagining of Arthurian Lore 

Joe Cornish huffed and puffed and blew down the gates of Hollywood in summer 2011 with his critically-acclaimed inner-city alien invasion flick Attack the Block, blowing back the hair of sci-fi fans the world over in the process. In the intervening eight years, Cornish hasn’t had much on his platter, his solitary IMDB credit one of a small army of writers on Marvel’s Ant-Man (prior to that, he earned marks co-writing Tintin). After a long holiday away from the director’s chair, Cornish’s latest The Kid Who Would be King slashes into theaters in the midst of January’s dumping ground and despite being a somewhat imaginative PG-take on King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table plopped in 21st century London, this fails to feel like the brainchild of someone who’s been methodically tinkering away at a passion project in the many-year interim and seems more like a desperate last minute plea to not be forgotten to the annals of directorial history. In short, it’s just not that special. Read More

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‘MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS’ an Uneven but Politically Relevant Costume Drama 

Mary Queen of Scots is billed as a showdown between two hardened female monarchs, battling for title, supremacy, and future United Kingdom lineage. In truth, the film from first-time director Josie Rourke and screenwriter Beau Willimon (The Ides of March, House of Cards) is really only the story of the titular character, the rightful ruler of the Scottish throne, heir to the English and alleged uniter of countries and cultures. The focus centers less on the public rivalry and secret compassion shared between Mary and Queen Elizabeth I and much more on the battles Mary must fight within her inner male-dominated circle. Read More

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‘ROMA’ a Dreamy, Gorgeous Slice-of-Life Historical Fiction

Life is what happens when we’re not paying attention. Small, routine moments mark our transition through the world, often going ignored or unnoticed. We live in them, with them. It is here that Alfonso Cuarón sets his story – in the seeming mundanity of the life of a 1970’s  Mexico City housekeeper named Cleo. Her story is quaint, upon first brush. She tends to a middle-class family, lighter in skin tone than she but suffering their own afflictions nonetheless, and we’re invited to drop in, given visitation rights to observe the lulling normalcy of this chaotic collection of lives.  Read More

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‘THE FAVOURITE’ is the Cattiest Movie of the Year in the Best Way Humanly Possible 

Vying for the sole affection of Queen Anne – and all the status that comes with it – two cousins from different stations stoke a bitter rivalry in Yorgos Lanthimos exquisitely-mounted The Favourite. Scrumptiously rancorous,  Lanthimos’ foray into costume drama is a series of verbal death matches, its characters clawing at one another’s reputation, the performances from its perfectly-cast stars provide each and every syllable of Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s wonderfully cutting script a searing eclipse of clever-wit, cunning undercuts and good-humor that never second-guesses going straight for the jugular.  Read More

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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