Releasing This Week in Theatres
'Alien: Covenant' Connects Some - But Not All - Of The Dots Between 'Prometheus' And 'Alien'
Production: Acting: 
Action Sequences: Scary Factor: 
In 2012, director Ridley Scott's Alien prequel Prometheus was one of the most polarizing movies of the year. People either loved it or hated it, and those opinions tended to sway from one side to the other with subsequent viewings. Because of this, any review of the new Prometheus sequel/Alien prequel should first address the reviewer's thoughts on Prometheus. For the record, I loved Prometheus. And, although not quite as effective, Alien: Covenant is more of the same, with a little more bite. Set about...

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'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' Brings The Merry Band Back Together
Production: Action Sequences: 
Comedy Factor: 
When Guardians of the Galaxy was released back in 2014, it was a major risk for Marvel Studios. Sure, they had a nearly flawless record, but most of those hits were with well-known properties. Guardians of the Galaxy, on the other hand, was a relatively unknown comic series, led by familiar but unproven stars, and a director known mostly for quirky genre flicks. But somehow it all worked - the film, set almost exclusively in space and starring a talking raccoon, became a major hit. So much so that Guardians...

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'The Shadow Effect' Spoils A Cool Premise With Its Stock Shoot-'Em-Up Approach
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, the Jason Bourne movies should really be flattered by The Shadow Effect. The Shadow Effect is about a young man named Gabriel Howarth (The Magnificent Seven's Cam Gigandet) who suffers from very violent, very real-seeming dreams. When he notices that his dreams seem to coincide with political assassinations that he sees on the news, he seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. Reese (Stonewall's Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who happens to be an expert...

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'My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea' - Corny As Hell, But You'll Like It
Production: Animation: 
As a writer and illustrator, Dash Shaw has had several successful graphic novels. Now, following in the footsteps of Daniel Clowes and Frank Miller, Shaw has turned to feature filmmaking for his next challenge with the wildly entertaining My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea. The title of My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea really tells you all you need to know; it's about a high-school kid named Dash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman from The Overnight) who, along with his friend Assaf (Creative...

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'Rupture' Starts With A Bang And Ends With A Fizzle
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Fifteen years ago, director Steven Shainberg shocked the pre-Fifty Shades of Grey world with his BDSM tale Secretary. Now, he's back to try and shock again with Rupture. Rupture is about a single mother named Renee Morgan (Noomi Rapace from Prometheus) who gets a flat tire one morning. She is assisted by a pair of good samaritans - who promptly abduct her and take her to a fortified medical facility where experiments are carried out on her by a group of unconventional scientists. As the procedures get...

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Ben Wheatley's 'Free Fire' Is Ten Characters, One Warehouse, And A Whole Bunch Of Bullets
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
There's a common thread to the movies of Ben Wheatley, the director of indie gems like High-Rise, Kill List and Down Terrace. They're aesthetically beautiful, yet narratively lacking, and they tend to overstay their welcome for a bit before they eventually conclude. Free Fire fits right into the Wheatley mold. Set in nineteen-seventies Boston, Free Fire revolves around an arms deal-gone-bad. A mysterious American businesswoman named Justine (Brie Larson from Kong: Skull Island) sets up a meeting for a...

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'The Fate Of The Furious' Shows That The Franchise Has Run Out Of Gas
Production: Action Sequences: 
Although the Fast and the Furious franchise has never been one to abide by common logic or even coherent narrative, it has done well thanks to popcorn entertainment and some star power. At some point, though, the series was going to run out of gas, and if any of the nonsensical previous entries didn't do it for you, The Fate of the Furious likely fits the bill. While most of the past films have been focused on building up the team, The Fate of the Furious tears it down by having Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto...

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Nacho Vigalondo's 'Colossal' Bends Genre With Giant Monsters And Anne Hathaway
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
Scary Factor: 
Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo has been one of the horror world's best kept secrets. Fright flick fans know him well from his features Timecrimes and Open Windows as well as from his short segments in The ABCs of Death and V/H/S Viral, but he's remained relatively unknown to general audiences. That's about to change with Colossal. Colossal stars Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises) as a drunk party girl named Gloria who returns to her hometown in an effort to get her life back together. She catches...

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'The Dark Tapes' Is Everything That's Wrong With Found Footage Movies
Production: Scary Factor: 
The found footage trend has been both a blessing and a curse for horror fans. On the one hand, moviemaking has become so cheap that anyone can do it. And on the other hand, moviemaking has become so cheap that anyone can do it. When done right, found footage can be very effective. When done wrong, it's hard to watch. The Dark Tapes falls into the latter category. The Dark Tapes is a horror anthology that purports to be made up of actual footage of supernatural and paranormal occurrences. One is about...

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Werner Herzog's 'Salt and Fire' Is As Dry As, Well, Salt And Fire
Production: Acting: 
Cinematography: 
Werner Herzog is best known for his compelling documentaries like Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and Encounters at the End of the World, but he's also a renowned narrative filmmaker, having made legendary pictures such as Nosferatu the Vampyre and Aguirre, the Wrath of God. His newest narrative feature, Salt and Fire, shows that maybe, just maybe, he should stick to documentaries for a while. Salt and Fire is about a scientist named Dr. Laura Sommerfeld (Veronica Ferres from Pay the Ghost and The...

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It's Been A Long Wait, But 'The Blackcoat's Daughter' Lives Up To The Hype
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Scary Factor: 
It's been a couple of years since February, the creepy thriller from writer/director Oz Perkins (son of the legendary Anthony Perkins), began getting rave reviews from critics and festival goers alike. The film was snatched up by indie superheroes A24...then promptly put into a seemingly endless distribution process. Perkins all but moved on, writing and directing the straight-to-Netflix spookfest I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House and writing the proto-slasher The Girl in the Photographs, but...

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'T2 Trainspotting' Is The Sequel That Trainspotting Fans Have Wanted, And The One That They Deserve
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
Directing: 
There are two things that a sequel to Trainspotting needed to get right in order to be effective. First, the soundtrack had to be kicking. And second, it had to not ignore the events that took place at the end of the first movie. T2 Trainspotting checks off both boxes. When we last saw the Trainspotting boys, Mark Renton (Miles Ahead's Ewan McGregor) had just ripped off sixteen thousand pounds from his three junkie best friends. Twenty years later, Renton, who has been living in London and working as...

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'Life' Beats 'Alien: Covenant' To The Punch
Production: Cinematography: 
Scary Factor: 
There's been a fun little fan theory going around that Life, the new sci-fi horror movie from Sony, is a prequel to another recently announced Sony movie, the Spider-Man spinoff Venom. True or not, it's good publicity for a movie that, frankly, should be seen. Life is about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station that retrieves a probe full of samples from Mars. While experimenting with the samples, a British scientist named Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare from Jupiter Ascending) learns that...

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'Raw' Dares The Viewer To Watch Its Purposeful Tastelessness
Production: Scary Factor: 
Ever since it had its premiere at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the French cannibalism film Raw has been one of the most anticipated horror movies on the schedule. After a long festival run that was highlighted by screenings at Sundance, TIFF, and Fantastic Fest, Raw is finally hitting wide release. Raw is about a young girl named Justine (Garance Marillier from It's Not a Cowboy Movie) who is starting her first year at veterinary school. The first year students, or "rookies," are subjected to hazing...

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'Personal Shopper' Sends Kristen Stewart Back To The Realm Of The Supernatural
Production: Scary Factor: 
Trying to shake the stigma of being Bella Swan from the Twilight movies, Kristen Stewart has made some great role choices in recent years, from Still Alice and Certain Women to Café Society and Clouds of Sils Maria. Now, she's venturing back into the realm of the supernatural, under the guidance of her Clouds of Sils Maria writer/director Olivier Assayas, with Personal Shopper. Personal Shopper stars Stewart as an American in Paris named Maureen who makes a living buying clothes for her supermodel employer....

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Ape-pocalypse Now! 'Kong: Skull Island' Delivers The Monster-Fighting Goods
Production: Special Effects: 
Set at the tail end of the Vietnam War, Kong: Skull Island stars John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane) as Bill Randa, a nutty researcher who has used satellite photos to discover an uncharted island. Using competition from the Russians as leverage ("they've got a satellite passing over in three days, do you want them to get there first?"), Randa convinces the US government to fund an expedition to explore the island. Randa taps an Army helicopter unit led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson from The Hateful...

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'Logan' Is A Fitting Send-Off, And One Of The Best Comic Book Movies To Date
Production: Action Sequences: 
Although the Disney-distributed Marvel movies have certainly given us plenty of memorable characters, few could top Wolverine when it comes to comic book movie notoriety. For nearly two decades Hugh Jackman has played Logan, the adamantium-clawed wild card on the X-Men roster, but eventually things were going to come to an end. It's a good thing then that Logan, the final film for Jackman as the titular character, is as fitting of a send-off as one could hope for the character. More importantly, it's a comic...

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'My Life As A Zucchini' Tugs At The Heart Strings While It Tickles The Funny Bone
Production: Animation: 
The Academy Awards have come and gone, and guess what? Disney's Zootopia won Best Animated Feature. And for good reason, as Zootopia is a well-made movie with something important to say. But a lot of people were pulling for the underdog. The underdog this year was a Swiss-French stop-motion movie that hadn't even had its American debut at the time of its nomination called My Life as a Zucchini. My Life as a Zucchini is about a young boy, nicknamed Zucchini, who is sent to an orphanage after his mother...

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Jordan Peele's 'Get Out' Is Not The Movie You Think It Is
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Scary Factor: 
Jordan Peele is best known as a comedian from his stint on "MADtv" and as the "Peele" half of "Key & Peele." But anyone who has read any interviews with him or listened to him on a podcast knows that he is a big horror buff. Horror movie Midas Blumhouse Productions has given Peele a shot behind the camera, letting him write and direct Get Out. Get Out is about a young African-American man named Chris Washington (Sicario's Daniel Kaluuya) who heads off for a weekend at the suburban country home of the parents...

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Recently Released in Theatres
'ClownTown' Is A Generic Stalk-And-Siege Movie That Still Manages To Pack A Few Good Scares
Production: Scary Factor: 
The news has been full of sightings of creepy clowns lately, some trying to lure kids into the deep dark woods while others are content just to lurk and look. Well, as if ripped from today's headlines, ClownTown wonders what would happen if these jokers took it a little further. After a pre-credits scene that is as obvious of a tribute to John Carpenter's Halloween as one is bound to find in movies today (there's even a character named "Mr. Strode"), ClownTown ends up being about a group of young folks...

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'The Magnificent Seven' Is A Good Popcorn Action Movie - Nothing More, Nothing Less
Production: Score & Soundtrack: 
Action Sequences: 
While it may be hard to prove that Hollywood is truly out of original ideas, there hasn't been any recent shortage of remakes and reboots. This summer alone has provided moviegoers with re-imaginings of Ghostbusters and Pete's Dragon, as well as a Blair Witch movie that, let's face it, may as well be considered a remake rather than a sequel. Well, summer's got one more familiar property for audiences: a remake of the seminal 1960 western The Magnificent Seven. The Magnificent Seven takes place in a typical...

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'Operation Avalanche' Is Lo-Fi For Film Geeks And Conspiracy Theorists
Production: Cinematography: 
Taking place in 1967 right as the Space Race between the US and the USSR was heating up, Operation Avalanche is about a pair of CIA agents named Owen Williams and Matt Johnson who are sent into NASA to uncover a mole planted by the KGB to sabotage the Apollo moon landing program. Filmmakers themselves, Owen and Matt pose as documentary directors who are making a movie about the program, but their primary objective is to uncover and flush out the Russian spy. During their investigation, they learn that the...

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'Blair Witch' Has The Same Fun Spirit As The Original, With More Storyline...And More Scares
Production: Cinematography: 
Scary Factor: 
There can be little doubt that The Blair Witch Project has been one of the most legendary and influential movies of the modern era. The 1999 no-budget classic practically jump-started the "found footage" trend of filmmaking (whether it gets credit or blame is up to you, dear reader). A year later a sequel was made - Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 - which confounded and alienated most audiences. Now, more than fifteen years later, the direct sequel for which fans have been clamoring is here, simply entitled...

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'Snowden' Shows Off Oliver Stone At His Most Polarizing
Production: Cinematography: 
In recent history, few figures have been as polarizing as National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Some feel he is a patriot, while others consider him a traitor. In Snowden, writer/director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July) makes it clear which side of the fence he is on. Snowden begins in 2013 with Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Looper and The Dark Knight Rises) meeting film director Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo from Prisoners and The Big Short), reporter Glenn...

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Despite All The White Powder, 'White Girl' Is As Bland As White Bread
Production: Writing: 
White Girl is about a young college student named Leah (McFarland, USA's Morgan Saylor) who, along with her best friend/roommate Katie (India Menuez from Something in the Air), moves into a new apartment in a seedy part of New York. Looking to score some marijuana in her new neighborhood, Leah boldly approaches a Hispanic man on the street named Blue (Nerve's Brian Marc) and asks if he's selling - and promptly starts dating him. Leah ends up latching onto Blue's world of drugs and thugs, and also ends up...

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'The Neon Dead' Has More Neon Demons Than 'The Neon Demon'
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Score & Soundtrack: Scary Factor: 
Earlier this year, Nicolas Winding Refn's strangely hypnotic The Neon Demon was released to receptive-yet-confused audiences. To add to the confusion, there is now a movie called The Neon Dead that has found its way to American horror fans. Luckily, the two movies could not be more different. The Neon Dead is about a recent college graduate named Allison Hillstead (Marie Barker from "Horror Hotel: The Webseries") who, while getting ready for a job interview, discovers a zombie woman living in her home....

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'Sully' Shows Another Side Of The 'Miracle On The Hudson'
Production: Acting: 
Most Americans know the story. On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 departed from LaGuardia Airport, bound for Charlotte, North Carolina. Just after takeoff, the plane ran into a flock of birds and both engines were disabled. The pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, was forced to put the plane down in the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 people on board. Well, finally, this incredible story has been made into a movie. But, Sully is not the movie that one might expect it to be. The...

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'Little Men' Is A Lighthearted Movie With A Powerful Undercurrent
Production: Directing: 
Coming-of-age movies usually deal with kids growing up. But sometimes, as Little Men shows, the adults go through some growing pains, too. Little Men is about a thirteen-year-old boy named Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz in his first feature-length role) whose grandfather dies and leaves a Brooklyn building to Jake's father, Brian (Little Miss Sunshine's Greg Kinnear), and mother, Kathy (Jennifer Ehle from Fifty Shades of Grey). Since Brian is an under-employed actor, he decides to move the family from their...

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'Other People' Laughs And Cries With Raw, Genuine Emotion
Production: Comedy Factor: 
One of the most surprisingly funny movies to hit theaters last year was the festival darling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, in which "Saturday Night Live" alum Molly Shannon played the mother of the titular girl who spends the entirety of the film dying of cancer. Now, it's Shannon's turn to face the deadly disease in Other People. Other People is about a struggling television comedy writer named David (Jesse Plemons from Black Mass) who moves back in with his family in order to help care for his cancer-stricken...

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The Light Between Oceans Is High Drama With Top-Tier Acting
Production: Acting: 
The Light Between Oceans is a tearjerker. It's the type of movie where, if you aren't hearing sobs at least a few times throughout the film, then you are likely in an empty theater, or you're seated in a room full of soulless monsters. Director Derek Cianfrance has never been one to shy away from tough subject matters, but here he finds a delicate balance between the wistfully happy and the unbearably depressing. At times it may feel like the film is trying to force the audience with contrived plot points,...

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'Morgan' Disappoints With Its Sci-Fi Predictability
Production: Scary Factor: 
From the trailers and advertisements, Morgan looks like it could be a sequel to last year's Ex Machina. While Morgan does share some of the same themes and ideas as Alex Garland's robotic masterpiece, and even goes so far as to flaunt some similar imagery, Morgan is no Ex Machina. The title character in Morgan, played by hip horror It-girl Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), is a Hybrid Biological Organism, which means that she (or it, depending on who's talking) was manufactured with synthetic engineered DNA...

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Fede Alvarez's 'Don't Breathe' Is An Edge Of Your Seat, Fright-Filled Thrill Ride
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A few years back, writer/director Fede Alvarez took on the unenviable task of remaking Sam Raimi's legendary cult classic The Evil Dead. He knocked it out of the park; Alvarez's Evil Dead, a dark and brutal interpretation of the tongue-in-cheek original, was one of 2013's best movies. Now, with Raimi behind him once again as a producer, Alvarez is back with his follow-up - the equally dark and brutal Don't Breathe. Set in the rundown slums of Detroit, Don't Breathe is about a trio of burglars - a young...

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'Killer Party' Is A Zombie Movie With A Refreshing Lack Of Zombies
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Scary Factor: 
For the better part of three years, first-time filmmaker Alex Drummond's The Shower has been toiling away in its various forms on the festival circuit. Finally, it will be available to audiences - only the name has been changed to Killer Party. Killer Party is about a group of Hollywood twenty-somethings who are attending a baby shower. In the middle of the party, there is an outbreak that turns ordinary people into murderous maniacs, resulting in widespread rioting across the city. The guests lock themselves...

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'Hell Or High Water' Feels Like A Lost Coen Brothers Faux-Western
Production: Writing: 
Between his prison drama Starred Up and his sci-fi romance Perfect Sense, director David Mackenzie has been simmering away in the independent filmmaking underground. With Hell or High Water, he is poised to break through. Hell or High Water follows the exploits of Toby and Tanner Howard (Star Trek's Chris Pine and Warcraft's Ben Foster, respectively), a pair of brothers who systematically rob banks all over West Texas. It also follows a cop named Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges from Crazy Heart) who, days...

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Fear Not - 'Pete's Dragon' Will Not Ruin Your Childhood
Production: Special Effects: 
Score & Soundtrack: 
In 1977, as a seven-year-old kid, I loved the original Pete's Dragon. The clever blend of animation and live action stuck me on the hook, and the catchy songs reeled me in. Not even the two-hour-plus running time discouraged my "Sesame Street" attention span. So, while everyone else was worrying about whether or not this year's Ghostbusters remake would ruin their childhood, I was quietly anticipating Pete's Dragon with a mixture of hope and apprehension. Hope won out. Pete's Dragon is about an orphan,...

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'Sausage Party' Is An R-Rated Toy Story, And It's Hilarious
Production: Comedy Factor: 
Imagine Toy Story, but instead of a talking cowboy doll and spaceman, the main characters were a talking hot dog and bun. And instead of the world of toys come to life, the world of food takes on a mind of its own. That's basically Sausage Party in a nutshell. Oh, and the food is raunchy, foul-mouthed, and borderline offensive at every turn. At its core, Sausage Party is about a grocery store filled with sentient food, all of which believe that being "chosen" by a human means they are moving on to some sort...

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'Suicide Squad' is a Messy Anti-Superhero Movie
Production: Action Sequences: 
What if Superman came down to Earth and, instead of helping the population, decided to enslave it? That's the question posed by Suicide Squad, director David Ayer's anti-Avengers, a movie where the bad guys unite under the flag of good, while at the same time consistently reminding us they are bad. It's a movie that, in principle, sounds intriguing, if for no other reason than we don't often see movies starring the bad guys. But unfortunately, outside of a few strong performances, Suicide Squad's concept is...

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Modern Action Movies Have Passed 'Jason Bourne' By
Production: Action Sequences: 
For all intents and purposes, the Bourne franchise has been batting 1.000 with Matt Damon in the lead role. The Bourne Identity came out with a surprise blend of espionage and gritty action, and its follow-ups, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, continued that legacy. Speaking of legacy, it's best to forget the Jeremy Renner-led spin-off The Bourne Legacy, which proved that it is Damon (and in part director Paul Greengrass) that makes the franchise tick. So then, with Damon and Greengrass back...

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'Macbeth' Is A High Production Value Adaptation That Lacks Purpose
Production: Acting: 
Like most of Shakespeare's plays, Macbeth is a story that has graced the silver screen its fair share of times. Some productions choose to play it in a modern context, others adapt Shakespeare's dialogue to a common tongue, and some simply play it straight. Justin Kurzel's Macbeth adapts Shakespeare as only a film could, putting the story into its correct setting and context, and preserving all of the sharp dialogue. It is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what Shakespeare fans will expect from a cinematic...

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The Whole Of 'The Danish Girl' Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Production: Acting: 
Sometimes, a movie will bring together a bunch of great elements, yet the movie itself will still be mediocre. The Danish Girl is one of those times.The Danish Girl is about a couple of married artists named Einar and Gerda Wegener (Eddie Redmayne from The Theory of Everything and Alicia Vikander from Ex Machina, respectively) living in Copenhagen in the 1920s. Einar is a successful and respected landscape painter, while Gerda is a talented-yet-struggling portrait artist. One afternoon, Gerda's model cancels...

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'The Wonders' Is A Confused Movie With No Real Story - But Lots Of Bees
Production: Directing: 
Every director dreams of making personal movies. The problem is that when a movie gets too personal it fails to connect with the majority of its audience. That's the main problem with the new movie from writer/director Alice Rohrwacher (Corpo celeste), Le meraviglie. Or, as it's known in English, The Wonders.The Wonders is about a family of beekeepers who lives in a crowded house in the Tuscan countryside in Italy. Although the mother, Angelica (the director's sister, Alba Rohrwacher from I Am Love), and...

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'Legend' Lacks Cinematic Punch, Despite A Solid Performance From Tom Hardy
Production: Acting: 
Legend seeks to tell the tale of Reggie and Ronnie Kray (Tom Hardy in dual roles), two East End London gangsters with a set of chips on their respective shoulders. Twin brothers with seemingly noble intentions despite criminal aspirations, the Krays are each a unique brand of gangster. Ronnie is a schizophrenic homosexual and prone to random bouts of violence or aggressive behavior; while Reggie is the more even keel brother, who wants nothing more than to control London through intimidation and a dapper look....

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'Victor Frankenstein' Is Not Your Grandfather's Frankenstein Movie
Production: Special Effects: 
Scary Factor: 
The first spoken line in Victor Frankenstein is "You know the story." And of course, everyone does. But it has never before been told like this.Shown from the point of view of the humble assistant Igor (played by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, who has also been making a name for himself in the horror world with movies like The Woman in Black and Horns), Victor Frankenstein begins at a circus where Igor performs as a hunchbacked clown. The deformed fool also has a very bright medical mind, and it...

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Wide Open and Brutally Honest, 'James White' Packs An Emotional Punch
Production: Acting: 
Borderline Films is the production company formed by film school pals Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, and Josh Mond. The three filmmakers alternate projects, with two producing while the third writes and directs. So far, the partnership has been fruitful, with Durkin helming Martha Marcy May Marlene and Campos coming up with both Afterschool and Simon Killer. Now, it's Mond's turn to take the wheel with James White.Played by Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year), the title character in James White is a...

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'Theeb' Is Part Coming-Of-Age Story And Part Incredible Journey Film, All Held Together By Beautiful Scenery
Production: Acting: 
Cinematography: 
In the Arabic language, the word Theeb means "Wolf." It is also the name of the title character of an Arabic movie.The eponymous Theeb is a young boy, played by Jacir Eid, who is growing up amongst his Bedouin people in Arabia during World War I. With the help of his older brother, Hussein (Hussein Salameh), Theeb is learning the ways of his nomadic tribe, mastering tasks like shooting rifles and killing goats, in order to become a man in the eyes of his people. One day, a British soldier named Edward (Jack...

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'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2' Provides A Fitting End To An Inconsistent Franchise
Production: Action Sequences: 
Like those of Twilight and Harry Potter before, the saga of The Hunger Games is coming to a close. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 signifies the fourth and final installment of the popular teen movie franchise. But does it go out with a bang or a whimper? Well, it kind of does both. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 picks up right where Mockingjay - Part 1 left off, with Katniss Everdeen (American Hustle's Jennifer Lawrence) as the Mockingjay - the public figurehead of...

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Bryan Cranston Takes The Hollywood Ten From The Blacklist To The Black Market In 'Trumbo'
Production: Acting: 
Cinematography: Score & Soundtrack: 
One of the most embarrassing times in American film history occurred just after World WarII when the country's politics and patriotism got the best of it. The House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC, was formed to uncover citizens with ties to the Nazi and Communist parties. In 1947, the committee turned its witchhunt towards the Hollywood motion picture industry, and screenwriter Dalton Trumbo got caught up in the middle of it. Trumbo is his story.Trumbo stars Bryan Cranston (Godzilla, "Breaking...

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'Brooklyn' Is Saoirse Ronan At Her Tired, Poor, Huddled Best
Production: Acting: 
Set in the 1950s, Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish woman who is excited to cross the Atlantic and start a new life in America. She says goodbye to her family and makes the journey, moving into a boarding house in Brooklyn, New York. At first, Eilis finds the city intimidating and gets extremely homesick. Eventually, however, Eilis discovers her place in New York, taking a job in a department store, going to night school to learn bookkeeping, and even...

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'The Night Before' Is A Modern Stoner Christmas Classic
Production: Comedy Factor: 
After tackling TV show heroes, the apocalypse, and even Kin Jong Un, it seemed only a matter of time before comedic writing duo Seth Rogen (Neighbors) and Evan Goldberg (This Is The End) took on the Christmas movie. However, after The Interview, it became clear that maybe giving Goldberg and Rogen unfettered control wasn't the best idea. So for The Night Before - Rogen & Co.'s send up of a Christmas movie (Home Alone, Die Hard, etc.) - the duo has enlisted some help. Rather than direct the movie themselves,...

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'Spotlight' Makes Heroes Out Of Reporters In A Surprisingly Suspenseful Pseudo-Mystery
Production: Acting: 
Set in Boston in the early 2000s, Spotlight is named after the four-person team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the massive sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. The movie is the true account of their investigation. Led by Walter 'Robby' Robinson (Birdman's Michael Keaton), the team of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo from Infinitely Polar Bear), Sacha Pfeiffer (Aloha's Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James from Time Out of Mind) digs into allegations of child molestation in the...

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'By the Sea' Is The Cinematic Equivalent Of Vaguebooking
Production: Cinematography: 
Angelina Jolie (or Angelina Jolie Pitt, as she's now known) really wants to be a director. Her behind-the-camera debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, was a wreck. Her follow-up, Unbroken, still fell flat, despite the best efforts of a Coen Brothers script and a first-rate cast. Well, for her third foray into directing, the self-indulgent By the Sea, she brings along her husband, the one and only Brad Pitt (Fury, World War Z). Unfortunately, his presence doesn't help much. By...

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'Entertainment' Spends Some Quality Time With The Saddest Funnyman Around
Production: Acting: 
Comedy Factor: 
Entertainment is all about a bad stand-up comedian (Gregg Turkington, better known by his fictional comic alter-ego name Neil Hamburger) who is making his way to Los Angeles across the American southwest, doing gigs in crappy nightclubs and dive bars as he goes. Along the way, he calls his estranged daughter every chance he gets with the hope of reconnecting with her. He also meets colorful characters who help to enrich his touring experience. That's really all of a synopsis for...

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'Time Out of Mind' Lets The Audience Spy On The Life Of A Homeless Hero
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Time Out of Mind is a line from a Warren Zevon song and the title of an album by Bob Dylan. And now, it's a movie by writer/director Oren Moverman (Love & Mercy, The Quiet Ones). The film stars Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman) as a homeless man named George who wanders the streets looking for a phantom person named "Sheila." What George really wants is to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Maggie (Jena Malone from Sucker Punch), and he spends much of each of his days standing...

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'Time Out of Mind' Lets The Audience Spy On The Life Of A Homeless Hero
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Time Out of Mind is a line from a Warren Zevon song and the title of an album by Bob Dylan. And now, it's a movie by writer/director Oren Moverman (Love & Mercy, The Quiet Ones). The film stars Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman) as a homeless man named George who wanders the streets looking for a phantom person named "Sheila." What George really wants is to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Maggie (Jena Malone from Sucker Punch), and he spends much of each of his days standing...

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'The Hallow' Takes All The Usual Suspects And Turns Them Into A Creative Creature Feature
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Director Corin Hardy has been so mired in the entertainment news reports of the on-again/off-again status of his next project, the controversial remake of The Crow, that many people have forgotten how he's got a new movie to promote. Well, he does: the nifty little creature feature The Hallow. The Hallow is about a scientist named Adam Hitchens (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's Joseph Mawle) who moves his wife, Clare (Bojana Novakovic from Devil and Drag Me to Hell), and their infant son...

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'Suffragette' Is An Woefully Passionless Passion Project
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This year, there has been a surprising number of movies about civil disobedience. From the feel-good Jimmy's Hall to the god-awful Stonewall, theaters have been full of social activism and quests for political reform. There's one more to add to the pile: the British feminist movement movie Suffragette. Set in England in the year 1912, Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis) as Maud Watts, a young working-class mother who, through a co-worker named Violet Miller (Before I Go to Sleep's...

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'The Keeping Room' Serves Up A Heaping Helping Of Genre-Bending, Gender-Defying, Western-Revising Suspense
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Movies about the American Civil War usually focus on the soldiers, the men fighting on the front lines. There was another side to the war, one that is explored in The Keeping Room.Set in the South in 1965 right as the Civil War is winding down, The Keeping Room is about a trio of young women - Augusta (Brit Marling from Sound of My Voice), her younger sister Louise (The Homesman's Hailee Steinfeld), and a slave girl named Mad (Muna Otaru from "Whitechapel") - who have been left alone while the men of the...

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'Truth' Has A Message, But It Gets Lost In The Reporting
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Set just as George W. Bush was gearing up his bid for re-election in 2004, Truth stars Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) as Mary Mapes, a news producer who, fresh off her Peabody Award-winning breaking of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, is looking for her next big scoop. She thinks she has found it when she receives a tip that suggests that Bush used his family connections to sneak into the Texas National Guard, thereby avoiding Vietnam. Mary assembles an investigative team which consists...

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'Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension' Answers The Questions That Should Be Left Unanswered
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When Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension was first announced, series producer Jason Blum promised that it would answer all of the questions that have been brought up by the first five movies. Well, considering the ambiguity of some of the franchise entries, that's a bold statement.Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension starts out promisingly enough, with a young man named Ryan Fleege (Chris J. Murray from Bad Roomies) moving into a new house with his wife, Emily (Brit Shaw from "Nashville"), and young...

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'Experimenter' Serves Up A Different Kind Of Mad Scientist Movie
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The subject of Experimenter, the new film from writer/director Michael Almereyda (Cymbeline), is psychologist Stanley Milgram (played in the film by Peter Sarsgaard from Black Mass), a researcher at Yale University in the early sixties who devises an experiment where one test subject quizes another on a series of word associations, and the tester is told to administer a painful shock to the other participant each time they get an answer wrong. The tester is told that the experiment is about memory retention...

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'Death Valley' Is A Brilliant Character Study With Idiotic Characters
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There has quite possibly never been a more appropriately titled movie than Death Valley; not only is it set in the desert area after which it is named, but there's plenty of death to be had in that breathtakingly cinematic valley.Death Valley is about a movie producer named Billy Rich (Freddy vs. Jason's Lochlyn Munro) and his actress fiancé Annie Gunn (Katrina Law from "Arrow") who, along with newlywed tourist couple Jamie and Roy Dillen (June's Victoria Pratt and Nick E. Tarabay from "Spartacus: War of...

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'Steve Jobs': A Portrait Of The Myth As A Broken Man
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Most know Steve Jobs as the mythic, silver-haired, bespectacled figure in the black turtleneck, who is best known for introducing the world to the Mac, iPod, and iPhone. However, few know the man behind the turtleneck; the brutal businessman, the impersonal inventor, and the selfish father who is synonymous with Apple. Danny Boyle's biopic Steve Jobs hopes to shed more light on that second figure, and does so with the help of a sharp script by Aaron Sorkin and a bold performance by Michael Fassbender. The...

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'Goosebumps' Serves Up All Of R.L. Stine's Monsters In One Bite-Sized Movie
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R.L. Stine has sold millions of copies of his Goosebumps series of children's books, and a successful Saturday morning television show has been spawned off of the property. So, when the time came to make a movie of the series, how did the filmmakers think of a story that hadn't already been done when all of the good books had been previously made into T.V. episodes? Goosebumps figured it all out. Goosebumps is about a teenage boy named Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette from Prisoners) who moves to Madison,...

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'Crimson Peak' Tries To Tell A Gothic Ghost Story Without Any Ghosts
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Between the action movie Pacific Rim and the superhero flick Hellboy, it's easy to forget that Guillermo del Toro has made horror movies like Cronos and The Devil's Backbone. The filmmaker would like to remind audiences of that fact with his latest movie, the gothic ghost story Crimson Peak. Crimson Peak is the story of a young aspiring author named Edith Cushing (Stoker's Mia Wasikowska) who meets a charming Englishman named Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston from The Avengers) who is seeking funding...

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