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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: ‘BLOCKERS

Cockblocking. That thing one does, inadvertent or not, to impede the sexual congress of another. Just about anyone can be a cockblocker. The douchebag who stole your date. The overweight wingman paying way too much attention to her obviously interested friend. Your overbearing, sensitive dad. Anyone who desires, for a myriad of reasons, two people’s nether regions not to mate. Cockblocking can be fueled by jealousy. A sense of machismo competitiveness. Or your mom being driven into a state of controlling mania by the thought of you losing your flower on Prom night.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘FLOWER’

Juno meets Hard Candy in Max Winkler’s acerbic dark teen comedy Flower. Fueled by a filthy mouth and a warped sense of justice, this edgy femme fatale misadventure sees a brassy pixie named Erica attempt to make right of the turmoil life has forced upon her, employing devious measures to get what she wants with a little help from her friends. Primed to push your buttons, Flower is sure to send those with any sexual or language sensitives running for the theaters doors (and is just about the last thing you’d want to watch with your teenage daughter or future mother-in-law) but as far as spitfire coming-of-age stories overloaded with prima donna bite, Winkler delivers the goods without respite.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘I KILL GIANTS’ 

I Kill Giants, Anders Walter’s adaptation of Joe Kelly and Ken Niimura’s popular graphic novel, is a movie left searching for purpose in a post-A Monster Calls world. Sure, the 2016 J.A. Bayona fantasy drama was a bomb domestically (with a paltry cume of less than four million) but remained a hit overseas and was celebrated by critics and audiences alike who noted the film’s deft ability to tackle large thematic material through the prism of fantastical monsters. I Kill Giants not only involves a young outsider struggling to adapt to real-world issues through metaphorical monsters but does so for precisely the same reason, aiming for a similarly moving but also unwaveringly sullen coming-of-age drama.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘THOROUGHBREDS’ 

Chilly, sardonic and cruel, Cory Finley’s killer debut Thoroughbreds is a narcissistic response to teen thrillers of the 90s. With ice water coursing through its veins, this shocking first feature from Finley serves as a hellish calling card for ripe new talent in Hollywood. A tongue-in-cheek social commentary about class relations masquerading as an unrelenting character study, this austere New England teenage noir manages the angry ennui of a Bret Easton Ellis novel and the cold-blooded disturbia of Michael Lehmann’s Heathers but moves with the sneaky cadence and unsuspecting footsteps of an entirely different beast.  Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘A WRINKLE IN TIME’

Ava DuVernay’s well-intentioned adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s book of the same name is a tenaciously tedious, psychedelically sloppy slog. Championing a well-meaning message of the bonds of family and acceptance of oneself, the actual movie is a mind-numbing flurry of exposition vomit, hurried character development and drag-show pizzaz. DuVernay’s tale of a brother and sister hunting their lost father (Chris Pine) throughout the galaxy is constantly on the go, relying on bright pops of color and shimmery CGI to cover up the gaping plot holes developed courtesy of its neck-break pace. Characters explain the plot ad nauseum, using in-house lingo sure to leave many skeptical eyes a’rollin’, as the story whirls from one underdeveloped thread to another at light-speed pace. At once too dark for the younger crowd and too childish for true blue teenagers, A Wrinkle in Time really only appeals to the tween ADHD crowd who likes their stories delivered fast and loose and colorful beyond belief. 
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Out in Theaters: ‘ANNIHILATION’

Alex Garland, the visionary writer-director behind Ex Machina, obsesses over ideas of what it means to be human. With Ex Machina, he explored the inception of A.I. and how true artificial intelligence blurs the line between human and “other” to dizzying, disorienting and apocalyptic result. In his writing effort Never Let Me Go, Garland posed similar – if less refined – questions, posing an analogous emotional experiment with clones as the test subject, begging his audience to work out what separates “us” from “them”. “If they feel, are they not too human?” was the central thrust and this idea has continue to haunt Garland’s films. Never Let Me Go was a lesser effort but came from a place of ripe ideology and artistic thoughtfulness, traits which Garland has never lacked and has gone on to define to great effect. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘BLACK PANTHER’

Heavy hangs the crown in Black Panther, a Marvel movie whose real-life cultural and societal implications overshadow its storytelling prowess. The import and impact of Black Panther as a chapter in film history cannot be overstated. Although this isn’t Hollywood’s first attempt to turn a historically black superhero into the main event, headlining their own tentpole film – consider Wesley Snipes run as the vampire-hunter Blade, Halle Berry’s turn as Catwoman, Will Smith’s alcoholic anti-hero Hancock or even Shaquille O’Neal’s turn as Steel – this feels like a first in part because of how much effort has been poured into its making and, more importantly, how readily it embraces its fundamental blackness, from its colorful African settings to its tribally-influenced makeup, hairstyle, and costumes to its predominately black cast and crew, a verifiable assemblage of talent that’ll turn even the most skeptical of heads. Read More

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Sundance ’18 Review: ‘TIME SHARE’

Hell is a timeshare. A designated parcel of property allocated to your family for one immobile week each year. A curated escape, one characterized by pool floaties, crawfish-colored sunburns and frozen cocktails melting in plastic hurricane cups, that lives in a state of semi-stasis. There’s a kind of “Twilight Zone” quality to the whole notion of the billion dollar industry – this turnstile of the self-safe experience, pocked with undulating regret for much of its clientele. Anyone who’s ever attended one know that the only thing worse than being padlocked to an eternal timeshare is facing a sales rep at a timeshare pitch and Sebastián Hofmann’s film, the aptly named Time Share (Tiempo Compartido), captures the sheer horror of that corporate jockeying for one’s undying commitment. Read More