‘The Water Man’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

In theory, there’s something quite lovely about David Oyelowo’s directorial debut, The Water Man. It’s a celebration of the power of storytelling and the ways in which we can use our imaginations to understand the intricacies of our realities. The execution is completely earnest and sometimes charming, particularly with a strong lead performance from newcomer Lonnie Chavis. The storybook quality, while not especially novel, certainly makes it an accessible film for young audiences, even when it deals with heavy subject matter. Despite its warm presentation, likable sincerity, and all its good intentions, there’s also a cold irony to how familiar and rudimentary it can be in its narrative structure.

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‘Falling’ Movie Review – TIFF 2020

Viggo Mortensen makes his screenwriting and directorial debut with Falling, a heavy (and sometimes heavy-handed) family drama in which Mortensen also stars as John, a mild-mannered pilot who takes a week off from work in order to spend time with his critical, outspoken, set-in-his-ways father (Lance Henriksen), a brittle senior who is never afraid to yell, demean, and belittle anyone and everyone around him. John and his family, including his husband (Terry Chen), his adopted daughter (Gabby Velis), and his sister (Laura Linney), all try their best to put up with the old man’s endless torments. After all, it’s not looking good for his future. He’s a relic of the past who haunts his family — even as he’s still among the living (if only for so long). His disgruntled children do everything they can to keep their decades-spanning feelings of anguish, remorse, and frustration toward their father to themselves, but Mortensen’s moody movie is unafraid to turn up the dial until it’s almost unbearable for anyone (them or us) to want to spend even a minute longer in this man’s narrow-minded company.

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‘Enemies Of The State’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

Enemies of the State, from director Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird), doesn’t need to do too much to make audiences feel an unnerving sense of dread over the dangers of government surveillance in our current technological era. We, the people, are growing ever more aware of the uncovered truths in an age of Wikileaks and other online methods of taking off masks and discovering previously undisclosed secrets. But ironically enough, in an age where information can often be at the click of the button, what is actually true and what is being constructed by our government can become foggy in an age of post-truth and “fake news.” Are we sometimes too quick to assume what is true and what is fabricated? Are government figures merely looking out for their own interests, or do they have more specific agendas? At a time where we know more about the activities of the U.S. government than ever, we might have even more questions than ever regarding their activities and what they seek to find in American homes.

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‘The Devil All the Time’ Explores Religious Violence and Generational Sin In Small-Town America

Director Antonio Campos wastes no time setting the tone of The Devil All the Time, his adaptation of the 2011 novel by Donald Ray Pollack. Within the first few minutes, Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård), an American soldier in the South Pacific during World War II, finds the fly-ridden body of a marine crucified on a cross. The scene is the first of many bloody acts in the bleak film, and the theme of violence and sacrifice is explored even further throughout its 139 minutes.

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‘The Way I See It’ Tells a New Story about the Obama White House—From the Perspective of its Photographer

No matter their political persuasion, most people can probably agree that there is a stark difference between the Obama presidency and the current one. Because this is an election year, we’ve been inundated with a seemingly endless stream of new documentaries reminding us of this fact and expanding upon various calls to action leaning one way or the other on who should run the country for the next four years. Perhaps the most unconventional of these recent docs is The Way I See It from director Dawn Porter, which showcases archived stills taken by President Obama’s White House photographer, Pete Souza, who also worked for the Reagan administration.

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‘Holler’ Film Review – TIFF 2020

When I started Holler, the first feature film written and directed by Nicole Riegel and based on her short film of the same name, I had this ringing feeling. Its sense of place, warm authenticity, and bittersweet emotional core were all burning bright just as this homey small-town indie began. Aided by a bristling, genuine lead performance from Jessica Barden (The Lobster, The End of the F****** World), I was already feeling energized and enthusiastic about the wondrous possibility that I might be watching one of the finest debuts of this year’s highly unorthodox Toronto International Film Festival.

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The New Retro-Indie Thriller ‘Rent-A-Pal’ Might Just Be Worth-A-Rent

When it comes to psychological horror, there is one unwritten but common and maybe even obvious imperative: you have to mess with your audience’s mind. The true horror doesn’t come from a man in a papier-mâché Halloween mask or a creepy-crawly creature from the fifth dimension like you’ll see in other scary movies. It comes from mystery, the feeling that you never have any idea what is actually going on in the film you’re watching, as well as the sense of dread that confusion might entail. So I guess you could say Rent-A-Pal is a pretty good psychological horror — one certainly deserving the genre label.

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‘Mr. Soul’ is a Documentary that Shouldn’t Be Ignored, Just Like the Man it’s Based on

If you search the name “Ellis Haizlip” in your preferred search engine of choice today, you won’t get a lot of results. There is no Wikipedia page, and his IMDB spotlight is slim, to say the least. Most of what you’ll get are stories and reviews about Mr. Soul, the documentary detailing the life and career of Haizlip and his time as the producer and host of “Soul!” from 1968 to 1973. A documentary, I might add, that most people wouldn’t even know to search the name of because much like the person it’s analyzing, it wasn’t massively advertised. Still, Mr. Soul is just as important to American life and TV as the man himself was.

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Disney Re-spins ‘Mulan’ into a Proto-Fantasy Epic, But is it a Film Worth Paying Extra For?

As a business model, Disney’s years-long effort to re-capitalize its most iconic animated films of yesteryear into big-budget, live-action (or live-action-esque in the case of last year’s The Lion King) reimaginings has been nothing short of a financial masterstroke, not too far below the juggernaut success of their Marvel and Star Wars acquisitions just a decade ago. In some ways, Mulan represents both the highs and lows of Disney’s trip down memory lane, from family favorites like The Jungle Book to more critically shrugged replicants like Beauty and the Beast. Either way, Mulan is sure to leave some audiences clamoring for more, while others might end up feeling somewhat cheated by what could’ve been.

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Netflix’s ‘Love, Guaranteed’ Follows the Rom-Com Algorithm, But You Might Still Swipe Right

She’s a litigator who spends her days in court defending the little man pro bono and her nights alone with nothing but Chinese takeout for comfort. He’s handsome, wealthy, and charming but totally incapable of falling in love — or so it seems. It’s the perfect setup. By the time the title card appears, accompanied by Tiffany’s 80s pop anthem “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Netflix’s Love, Guaranteed has laid out all the standard rules for the romantic comedy. The next 90 minutes won’t do much to challenge those rules, but it’s a fun 90 minutes nonetheless.

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‘The Personal History Of David Copperfield’ is a Fun, but Flimsy, Dickens Adaptation

I’ll never claim to be a great source of knowledge when it comes to the works of Charles Dickens. My familiarity with his words derive through other sources, mainly various adaptations of varying faithfulness or stylistic-to-bombastic re-imaginings of his material that may or may not honor the “spirit” of his original scribbles. Therefore, I cannot tell you whether or not The Personal History of David Copperfield is a fitting adaptation, nor if it properly honors Dickens’ long-standing legacy and cultural relevance. But here’s what I can tell you.

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The Paralympians of ‘Rising Phoenix’ Will Challenge Your Perception of Disability

The new Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix, directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, reflects on the history and impact of the Paralympic Games while telling the stories of several of its elite athletes. The first lines of the documentary draw a parallel between Marvel’s Avengers and Paralympians. Like comic book superheroes, each of the featured competitors has an origin story; a tale of facing obstacles, beating the odds, and unlocking great strength. As an introductory voiceover puts it, “The Olympics are where heroes are created. The Paralympics are where heroes come.”

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‘Tesla’ is a Shockingly Tame Biopic with Sparks of Hope

Tesla stars Ethan Hawke as the titular inventor who navigates life in the 1800s, one of America’s most “brainstormy” times. Around him are a handful of equally inventive and enigmatic characters, such as Anne Morgan, portrayed by Eve Hewson, and George Westinghouse, portrayed by Jim Gaffigan. And of course, you can’t have a Tesla movie without his famous frenemy and rival in the electricity circuit, Thomas Edison; a role that is perfectly performed by Kyle MacLachlan in small doses. Edison isn’t in the film a whole lot, but he manages to steal the show in a manner accurate to how his real-life inspiration repeatedly stole Tesla’s thunder.

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‘Words on Bathroom Walls’ Gives Schizophrenia the YA Teen Drama Treatment

It wasn’t too long ago that young adult coming-of-age movies started to multiply in number upon the box office success of The Fault in Our Stars, which injected the usual teen drama formula with a high-stakes catch. What if you fell in love with someone who has terminal cancer?

This film trend has slowed down somewhat, with the exception of sappy imitators like last year’s Five Feet Apart, and now Words on Bathroom Walls, which rests its central premise on a new question for the genre: what if you fell in love with someone who has schizophrenia?

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In ‘Sputnik,’ the Alien Horror Movie Reviews You

Personally, I believe the horror genre doesn’t get nearly enough credit these days. I’ve struggled to figure out just why that is. Perhaps it’s because of the over-saturation of the genre, the fact that there are quite literally hundreds of films to choose from, many of them admittedly not exactly something to write home about. Maybe it’s because even when horror was at its peak, when the big monsters like Dracula or Jason Voorhees spooked audiences during the Halloween season, horror was advertised as something of a niche genre; meant only for those who could truly appreciate the shock, schlock, and gore of a scary movie. Or maybe it’s because no on-screen jump scare could ever compare to the horrors of reality that many of us have to live through on a daily basis. Either way, the horror genre is pretty underappreciated and often times overlooked when awards season comes around.

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Jon Stewart’s ‘Irresistible’ is Inherently Flawed, but it Shouldn’t be Rejected

When it was announced that Jon Stewart would return with his sophomore feature film, since titled Irresistible, it made sense that folks assumed it would be the scathing satire that would criticize and bring damnation to the hotheaded personalities who take rotating chairs in the Big House. But Stewart’s new movie, his first directorial effort since 2014’s overlooked Rosewater, may not be what some folks expect. Indeed, this is not a takedown of the narcissistic, hypocritical right. Stewart isn’t here to put some right-leaning personalities into their place.

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‘The Doors Between Us’ is an Insightful Indie Comedy for these Self-Isolated Times

Eight complete strangers sectioned off into four curiously matched pairs awaken in various rooms of an unfamiliar suburban house. None of them can recall how they may have gotten there, nor is there any apparent method of exit. For the foreseeable future, they’re trapped, and none of them are alone. So describes the events of The Doors Between Us, a micro-indie film produced in Lakewood, Colorado, which held its one-night-only premiere on a single, exciting evening back in December.

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‘Trolls: World Tour’ Should Be Taken Extra Seriously, Please

Harmony is a utopia. But at what cost? The denizens of Trolls: World Tour, a sequel to the well-received DreamWorks Animation film from 2016, begin this self-examination in segregated exile. What is the world of Trolls if not a watermark of our own “United” States? Because these are trolls are a lot of things, but united is certainly not one of them.

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‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is a Balancing Act of Star Wars at its Best. And Worst.

With The Rise of Skywalker, we now have a definitive conclusion to the latest official trilogy from the official kingmakers at Disney, who set out to construct a brand new direction for a boundless franchise. As a capper to this corner of stories, The Rise of Skywalker is an incredible finale, no question. But like its central opposing forces, it’s filled with all the bad and only most of the good there is to be found in blockbuster cinema’s most beloved — and scrutinized — canon.

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‘Waves’ Has A Lot To Say About Being A Parent. Especially If You Aren’t One.

Director Trey Edward Shults has a clear interest in the tools needed for families to survive whatever dangers may come their way. His sophomore film from 2017, It Comes at Night—also an A24 film—explored a heightened metaphor for the terrors parents inflict upon their children just as easily as they themselves fear it, and in Waves, Shults presents a far more grounded, but equally as harrowing tale about the fragility of success in modern America.

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‘Harriet’ Wields A Powerful And Much-Needed Story. But It’s Missing Tubman’s True Humanity.

A biopic about American historical figure Harriet Tubman has been long overdue. You can’t go through American history without reading or hearing her name and yet filmmakers have steered away from her story until now. Finally, Kasi Lemmons brings the legendary abolitionist’s life to the big screen in her biopic Harriet, and while her story is one every American should know, the way the film tells it is not without fault.

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‘Joker’ Isn’t Just Missing A Good Punchline, It’s Missing A Soul

Since his first appearance in 1940, the Joker as a comic book villain (and later TV/Film/Video Game villain) has been an ever-evolving enigma, much like his darkly heroic counterpart. So it makes perfect sense for the films to continuously reinvent a character like the Joker, who serves a litany of important functions as an antagonistic presence.

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Is ‘Judy’ A Loving Tribute To Judy Garland, Or Is It Merely Oscar Bait?

It’s no secret Hollywood loves Hollywood (see: La La Land’s 14 Oscar nominations). A biopic about a beloved star of the Hollywood Golden Age? Singing? My first thought upon viewing the Judy trailer was Oscar. Fodder. But Renée Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland ultimately transcended my cynicism.

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‘The Nightingale’ Review – Jennifer Kent Chases Demons in this Harrowing Tale

Cruelty is currency, and salvation is nothing more than a branch thrown into a ravaging, rapid river. This is the world Jennifer Kent throws her audience, unwillingly, into for her sophomore feature, The Nightingale. A divisive and often outright dread-inducing picture, Kent’s film rides through the Tasmanian wilderness with a steadfast purpose, to confront and kill the colonizing demons that haunt her main characters by body and land. To an extent, the vindictiveness of Kent’s picture thrives in the lush greenery of Tasmania. But the bonds that hold her characters together break under pressure.

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‘A Hard Day’s Night’ Was The First Beatles Movie, And It Might Still Be The Best

This past weekend saw the release of Danny Boyle’s Yesterday, a high-concept dram-com with a hint of romance in which an unprecedented global anomaly erases The Beatles (among other cultural bullet points) from history. The Fab Four are allowed to live on, however, in the baffled memory of struggling musician Jack (Himesh Patel), the only one with any understanding of what’s happened.

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‘Annabelle Comes Home’ Review – Horror Can Be Campy Or Serious, But It Can Rarely Succeed At Both

The seventh film in the Conjuring series and the third to focus on the now-famous Annabelle doll comes to us from first-time director Gary Dauberman, who previously wrote the first two Annabelle films and co-wrote The Nun, as well as the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s It. 

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‘Toy Story 4’ Review – Pixar’s Premiere Franchise Gets A Second Goodbye

The Toy Story movies have always been filled with lots of toys, and rightfully so. But every film so far has mostly played around with the character of Woody the cowboy doll. His story has progressed both positively and negatively to some extent over the years, from his fear of being replaced in the first […]

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‘Dark Phoenix’ Review – The X-Men Franchise Ends As It Did The First Time, By Flaming Out Spectacularly.

19 years of X-Men films have led to one very awkward moment. A patchwork of sagas ranging from transcendent to bottom-dweller couldn’t have a picked a flatter vehicle for punctuating a complex legacy now in the hands of Disney upon the Disney-Fox merger. And to make matters more confused, we still have another one of these ancillary films, New Mutants, delayed to next spring for an unrelated and likely inconsequential misadventure. For now, Dark Phoenix effectively closes the book on a story that already has two, maybe three endings as it is.

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‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am’ Review – The Living Literary Icon Gets A Meditative Documentary Of Her Own

Where there once stood the pillar of the white, male gaze in literature, Toni Morrison exchanged her chisel for a sledgehammer and there, knocked it down. The author, editor, and icon has amassed a following worthy of her extraordinary verve. A towering figure in the world of fiction, Morrison’s titles include The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved, among many others. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner in literature and, will have you know, she makes the best carrot cake you will ever have.

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‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review – Keep Your Expectations Less Than God-Sized

Over the past 65 years, there have been 35 films featuring Godzilla (or 38 if you’re being technical), a super-powered reptilian giant and titan of the ancient world, born against his will from the complicit ashes of mankind’s mistakes. He’s a rightful god among monsters and humans alike, and such is the case in this latest outing of the world’s favorite monster, in which there might be some serious competition for the title of “King.”

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‘Always Be My Maybe’ Review – More Like Always Be My Must See

Sifting through Netflix’s endless rolodex of content can be daunting. What should you watch? What are the streaming overlords recommending? Is there a category curated specifically for one’s own tastes? Mind-boggling algorithms aside, there are sometimes those movies that just pop up out of nowhere (fine, not out of nowhere exactly, I just went through the algorithm process). But these are the movies that always seem to simply say, “maybe.” Maybe this is the one. And this time, that “maybe” is literal in Always Be My Maybe, which is now streaming on Netflix and stars Ali Wong and Randall Park.

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‘Ophelia’ Review – A Sumptuous And Thoughtful Examination Of Shakespeare’s Tragic Character

What we know of Ophelia has only been communicated by men. Shakespeare wrote her, Hamlet showed her disdain, and our high school English teachers misjudged her actions for hysteria. She is a tragic character worth revisiting, and worth further examination. Her story, though thought to be mostly miserable, has earned a more hopeful iteration. It’s […]

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‘Booksmart’ Review – Olivia Wilde Breaks All The Right Rules In Her Directorial Debut

Every teen generation tends to get defined by the media they consume and how they consume it. Sure, not everyone can relate with the exact feeling a single song from the 70s can invoke when played in a film like Dazed and Confused, or perhaps what an early 2000s pop culture reference might inform in Superbad. But in Booksmart, the tradition of expanding relatability beyond the constraints and memories of a given era continues in this lovingly ambitious feature debut from actor-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde.

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‘John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum’ Review – Consider Me a Renewed Fan of the Series

In my view, 2014’s John Wick is the ultimate Redbox movie. On the surface, it looks like your typical, generic B-movie action thriller. It features a recognizable actor who was out of the limelight at the time, and to some, past his prime. In this case, that actor was Keanu Reeves, and this revenge tale looked like any other generic action romp, the likes of which you typically find crowded in those recognizable movie machines outside of Wal-Mart.

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‘Detective Pikachu’ Review – Your Pokémon Movie Says a Lot About You

In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the rules of Pokémon and perhaps video game movies in general are turned on their head to seemingly serve a single purpose: give the people what they want. But what do audiences really want in a new Pokémon movie? A stylish film noir? A diversely casted Zootopia narrative? Dozens of CG monsters to adore and collect? The Ryan Reynolds brand of comedy under a PG rating? Or perhaps simply a reminder that when many of you were young, Pokémon (in some fashion) was a big deal to you, and now it can be a big deal to your kids.

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‘Long Shot’ Review – Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron Take on the Heart and Soul of Politics

Filmmakers generally build their stories around proven formulas. Either intentionally or not, most movies you see at your local theater follow a predictable series of set ups and payoffs. Sometimes this can be grating, and other times, it’s part of the charm. In one’s mundane day-to-day living, a familiar, run-of-the-mill story can be dull, meandering, or frustrating. You’ve almost certainly heard someone ask, “Why won’t Hollywood make something new?” But in other cases, a film that’s light, good-natured, and winningly by-the-books can invoke a welcome sigh of relief.

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‘UglyDolls’ Review – The First Animated Family Film From STX Isn’t Pretty

For reasons that may be obvious, critically analyzing a film intended for children can be a difficult task. There’s a prevailing notion that kids, due to their general lack of experience, have very low standards and will eat up whatever colorful media they’re given. There may certainly be some truth to that sentiment, given that children and adults consume art very differently, but one of our responsibilities as critics is to thoroughly clarify how disparate age groups might react to a film, especially one made for kids to enjoy.

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‘Knock Down The House’ Review – The Personal and Political Merge in an Illuminating Documentary

Pristinely lined upon walls in America’s capital are the imposing, glorifying portraits of the fathers of our nation. Men who may have written moving words, but did so using the backs of women, people of color, and disenfranchised groups as the desk to write upon. It’s a tiring cycle; to be told the people have power only as far as the ballot box, and only if they can even get there. But in Netflix’s new documentary Knock Down the House, director Rachel Lears follows four women and their personal, political battles against a broken system.

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‘Avengers: Endgame’ Review – An Era of Marvel Comes to Possibly its Only Good Conclusion

The set up and payoff structure of the Marvel films beginning with Iron Man in 2008 may never be fully realized. These stories will continue on for as long as audiences continue to be fans of the material, so any definitive ending for a saga of episodic films requires a conclusion to at least one prominent idea, not necessarily an entire world of characters and their respective potential as branched franchises. This is why Avengers: Endgame is a film deftly committed to playing out the first and last revelation of such a film series. Tony Stark is Iron Man. And the Avengers are the Earth’s mightiest heroes. Everything else in Endgame is secondary, including its villain.

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‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Review – The Latest ‘Conjuring’ Feature is Only Superficially Supernatural

The Curse of La Llorona is the sixth film in the ongoing Conjuring series. Released through Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, the film is helmed by first-time director Michael Chaves (the director of next year’s The Conjuring 3), written by Mikki Daughtry & Tobias Iaconis, and stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, and Patricia Velásquez. The story is based on the Mexican folklore of La Llorona, also known as The Weeping Woman, and follows Anna (Cardellini), a widowed mother of two in 1970s Los Angeles, who must protect her children from the supernatural entity in question (Marisol Ramirez).

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‘Someone Great’ Review – A Vibrant Cast Lights Up Jennifer K. Robinson’s Directorial Debut

Merriam-Webster Dictionary should be on the lookout. Paying attention to the latest changes in the English language, the millennial vernacular has birthed some questionable terms in its wake: “Extra,” “Slay,” and the ever-practical “Lit” have found their way into the jargon of many young folks. But above all other terms, there is one that shames them all. Adulting. Defined: “to behave like an adult, to do the things that adults regularly have to do,” as per Merriam-Webster. This is the very word encompassing the Netflix nexus of Jennifer Kaytin Robinson’s neon-lit directorial debut, Someone Great.

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‘Slut in a Good Way’ Review – Sophie Lorain’s Raunchy Dramedy is Honest…In a Good Way

Slut in a Good Way is directed by French-Canadian actress Sophie Lorain and stars Marguerite Bouchard, Romane Denis, and Rose Adam as Charlotte, Mégane, and Aube respectively, a trio of teenage girls who are hired to work part-time at a toy store during the winter holidays. Over the course of the season, they each engage in various romantic and sexual exploits with their coworkers and are suddenly forced to reckon with the frustrations and uncertainties that arise when it comes to adult relationships.

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‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Review – Terry Gilliam’s Delayed, Surreal Fantasy Finally Becomes A Reality

For many film fans, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has taken on a bit of a mythic quality since its inception. Either fittingly or ironically, this long-in-the-works passion project centered (in part) around the literary icon is one that has often alluded the Brazil director. For the past 30 years, Gilliam has tried — with only fleeting success — to bring this mischievous fable to the big screen. Despite every intention and aspiration to make it a reality, Don Quixote yet remained a fantasy.

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‘Pet Sematary’ Review – When it Comes to this Remake, Dead is Better

The escapist horror of Stephen King is known and perhaps beloved for its eery “other” worlds and frightscapes mirroring our own reality, yet are not quite the same. Something is always off in the very best of King’s written stories and media adaptations, and in the same way, Pet Sematary (a remake of the schlocky 1989 horror hit) contains just about everything recognizable in a memorable, unshakeable King horror, but something here inevitably strikes as a bit twisted and wrong.

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‘The Best of Enemies’ Review – Not the Best (Or Worst) of Civil Rights Dramas

Robin Bissell has produced, though not frequently, films of varying quality over the years, primarily under director Gary Ross. If you’ve watched Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, or Free State of Jones, for instance, then you’ve had a chance to spot his name in the credits. And now, after two decades of bringing films to the big screen, Bissell has jumped into the director’s chair with his own screenplay for The Best of Enemies, a lukewarm debut for the veteran producer under the STX Films brand.

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‘Unicorn Store’ Review – Brie Larson Shines In A Film That Needs A Bit More Sparkle

There’s a moment in Unicorn Store when frustrated Kit (Brie Larson) is coaxed to sit down at the kitchen table for a chat with her mom, Gladys (Joan Cusack). During their mother-daughter heart to heart, Gladys tells Kit, “The most grown-up thing you can do is fail at something you love.” This is the gamble Brie Larson takes on as director and star of the latest Netflix original film. Unicorn Store is not a failure by any means, but it’s also quite far from brilliance.

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‘Dumbo’ Review – You’ll Believe an Elephant Can Fly, But Tim Burton Doesn’t Reach New Heights

If there’s one adjective I typically abhor when it comes to describing films, it’s “cute.” Cute, to my disgruntled ears, comes off as cheap, lazy, and non-descriptive. It’s a broad word that doesn’t really get to the meat of one’s feelings beyond the surface level. It’s a deflection term, often used to describe the exterior of a film while avoiding anything specific, intellectual, or meaningful. It’s an inoffensive word, certainly; there’s really no sense in getting mad about its overuse beyond my (admittedly) overbearingly high literary standards. But I still find it ceaselessly grating. What exactly does it mean to be “cute” anyway? It looks nice? A squeaky-clean disposition? Positive vibes? Good morals? It’s a placeholder word when others fail you.

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‘Shazam!’ Review – Introducing a Hero as Funny as He is Super

Shazam! is probably the last film a lot of superhero movie fans expected from the expanded cinematic universe of DC stories, which have recently taken a turn for the colorful and fantastical with Aquaman, as well as the dynamic and righteous Wonder Woman. Unlike those entries into the ever-growing mythology of live-action gods and heroes, this new film from oft-horror director David F. Sandberg is a heartfelt family comedy with an authentically “teen” edge, boasting far more angst to chew on than its closest rival, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

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‘The Wind’ Review – A Stunning Western Horror, But Certainly Not a Breeze

In the light of day, the American prairie is an open and endless field of grass. Landscapes of the Old West stretch on for miles, and the golden plains evoke a warm, welcoming feeling. But at night, the howling wind creeps in through the windows. Candles flicker and the once open country becomes a claustrophobic nightmare, where nature speaks and shrieks. This is the visage first-time director Emma Tammi captures in The Wind, a psychological western-horror hybrid with haunting elements that work separately, but never coalesce into something truly frightening.

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‘Us’ Review – Jordan Peele’s Latest Horror Reflects Our Dark Side in a New Light

There are many times in life — perhaps especially, as a critic — when you have to admit that you were wrong. “To err is human,” Alexander Pope once said, and I believe that to be true. For me, when I first saw Get Out in theaters in 2017, I recognized it as a strong and […]

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‘The Dirt’ Review – This Mötley Crüe Biopic Could Use a Kickstart to the Heart

In 2001, the four members of the 1980s rock band Mötley Crüe chronicled their drug and sex laden escapades in a tell-all book entitled The Dirt. It was far more about sex and drugs than it was rock ‘n’ roll; detailing stories of trashed hotel rooms, struggles with addiction, and personal pitfalls over the sake of living the rockstar life doled out in absolute chaos. The film incarnation is, unfortunately, much of the same. Netflix’s adaptation of the tumultuous, vile story of Mötley Crüe never finds the right tone and ultimately hits all the wrong notes.

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‘Captive State’ Review – An Appropriate Title for an Oppressively Boring Film

Captive State has a lot going for it: a talented cast and crew, a solid visual and narrative aesthetic, and an interesting premise rife with potential to explore the faith we bestow upon our leaders. It deeply saddens me, then, to report that the film misses nearly every opportunity to create something meaningful, original, or memorable. It fails to deliver on any of the promises it makes from the outset and winds up feeling like a wholly unrewarding chore to watch.

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‘Five Feet Apart’ Review – Haley Lu Richardson Should Move Far, Far Away From This Weepy, Teen Romance

Though it is not based on a young adult novel, despite what my brain might tell me (Side note: it’s all the more confusing because they made a novelization and released it at the end of 2018), Five Feet Apart is centered around Stella Grant (Richardson), a bright, motivated teenager who cannot live her fullest life due to the limitations of her cystic fibrosis (CF) diagnosis.

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‘The Kid’ Review – The Old West Has Some New Storytelling Problems

At one point in The Kid, a new western directed by Vincent D’Onofrio, someone utters the tremendously bold statement, “It only matters the story they tell when you’re gone.” With all due respect to real-life outlaw “Billy the Kid,” you probably deserve the story this film decides to tell about you.

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‘Captain Marvel’ Review – A Powerful Introduction Pushed Out of the Past

Keeping your emotions in check means maintaining a semblance of control. Don’t be hysterical, don’t lose your cool, don’t show your feelings or risk being called weak. This is what the titular Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson) is struggling with when we first meet her training on the planet Hala, far from the Earth we know in more ways than one.

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‘Arctic’ Review – This Subzero Survival Thriller Is Ironically Heartwarming

Directed by Joe Penna and released by Bleecker Street, Arctic tells the story of a man (Mads Mikkelsen) stranded in the North Pole following a plane crash, where living off of a meager diet of snow and small fish, frivolously broadcasting a poor radio signal, and endlessly awaiting rescue are the only ways to pass the […]

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‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Review – Floats by on Charm, But Never Soars

When it comes to trilogies, it’s common for the third (and typically final) installment to be the weakest of the bunch. There are exceptions, of course, like Toy Story 3, for instance. Many Lord of the Rings fans would consider The Return of the King to be the franchise’s finest hours. It certainly has the Oscars […]

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‘Fighting With My Family’ Review – A Wrestling Comedy That Doesn’t Pull Punches

Paige and her brother Zak (Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden) want nothing more than to be professional wrestlers, to be whisked away from their small town in England and into the throes of Wrestlemania in America. They were born into a wrestling family, sure enough, and their dysfunctional, WWE-enthused parents (Nick Frost and Lena Heady) […]

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‘Isn’t It Romantic’ Review – Not Another #$@&%*! Romantic Comedy

Isn’t It Romantic makes a clear, uncompromising proposition to an audience that should be game. It’s a romantic comedy about romantic comedies, centered around a non-traditionally “Hollywood attractive” leading actress who hates romantic comedies but nevertheless finds herself “trapped” in one. Put more simply, it’s a Rebel Wilson laugh machine that relies on your love […]

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‘Happy Death Day 2U’ Review – A Time Loop Sequel That’s Just As Fun And Rewarding the Second Time Around

If there’s any sequel that warranted the right to repeat itself, it’s Happy Death Day 2U. Writer/director Christopher Landon’s promising continuation of his surprisingly spry time loop PG-13 horror-comedy smash Happy Death Day is given a liberating golden pass to ultimately remix its original and essentially remake his hit film — if he wished. Hell, I wouldn’t even […]

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‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Review – A Tin Soldier With a Whole Lot of Heart-Stopping Action

You can have the most cynical, braindead, waste of space movie hitting the big screen, and yet it may still win your heart. Why? Because “effort” is always the undervalued advantage hiding behind loud, dumb movies. And the opposite is also true. A film that should work on paper—great cast, writing, visual styles, etc.—can crash […]

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