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Climax (review)

Climax (review)

Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter the Void) is known for creating trippy cinema…in this case, literally. A group of dancers gathers to…uh…dance and a wild, cool, edgy dance it is! That’s followed by a long, rather dull sequence of them talking in small groups. After they drink punch laced with LSD, everything goes crazy. People react in different ways from making love to violence to pure anarchy. Noé continues his unique visual style using extreme lighting, unusual angles and over-the-top performances. This film is not in any way traditional (even the credits are interspersed throughout the film), but those looking for something edgy and experimental may find this appealing.

 

(3 / 5)

 

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Giant Little Ones (review)

Giant Little Ones (review)

Teenage angst and homophobia take a serious, but less dramatic turn than many movies of this genre. Franky Winter (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas Kohl (Darren Mann) are best friends until a late-night incident changes their relationship and more. This is not a coming out story, but an examination of how lies and doubts can ruin lives. The characters have interesting angles, the performances are involving and director Keith Behrman has crafted a compelling story. The subject matter isn’t new, but the way it’s explored offers an interesting and mature take on the subject.

 

(3.5 / 5)

 

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Birds of Passage (review)

Birds of Passage (review)

This unusual narrative chronicles the genesis of the Colombian drug trade, but not in the style or period of the mighty drug lords from the 80s. This goes back to the late 60s and explores how the marijuana trade started among the Wayúu people. These indigenous tribes are steeped in sacred traditions and mythical culture, so their embrace of this new commercial endeavor is gradual and destructive. Instead of being loaded with drug movie tropes (although there is some of that), this film is an intimate examination of how a tribe, especially one family, is affected. It moves at an unhurried pace, basking in the customs of this world. Although there are dramatic events, their reactions are more resigned to tragedy instead of grand emotion. This film presents a fascinating look at a little-known world and does it with a measured style that’s gently compelling and quietly artistic. In Spanish and Wayúu with subtitles. (Criterion Cinemas only)

 

(3.5 / 5)

 

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The Wedding Guest (review)

The Wedding Guest (review)

This is a weird mix between a non-action action film and a shaggy dog story. Dev Patel stays serious as a man who’s been hired to kidnap a woman (Radhika Apte). She’s about to be married in Pakistan, but their subsequent trip thru several surrounding countries takes them in new directions (literally and figuratively). The narrative unfolds with lots of mystery, but by the time it ends, there are still questions. Interestingly, this was written/directed by Michael Winterbottom, who wrote all 3 of “The Trip” series where Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon drive thru several beautiful countries and eat. This trip features unspectacular countryside and jammed cities, but none of it is especially attractive. Even though Patel’s sullen demeanor lacks depth and the whole thing never pays off, the film is somewhat compelling.

 

(2.5 / 5)

 

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Captain Marvel (review)

Captain Marvel (review)

Brie Larson dons superhero duds for this latest entry into the Marvel Universe, where she’s pitted against alien races in a battle for the galaxy (nothing new here). It’s more-or-less her origin story, but takes too long to develop what is essentially a set-up for the next one. Some of the visual efx are cool, but many of the action sequences are plagued by that modern preference for blurry shooting and chaotic editing. On the other hand, there are entirely too many slow, dramatic scenes, which really drag things down. Also in the story is the look at the early career of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) before he developed into the man with the eye patch.

 

(2 / 5)

 

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Apollo 11 (review)

Apollo 11 (review)

Some of us remember watching the historic moon landing on TV in 1969. For those who didn’t see it AND for those who did, this doc is a captivating revelation. It’s composed primarily of previously-unseen footage showing all aspects of the operation: prep, launch, orbit, landing and return…all with incredible footage and actual audio recordings that combine to create a remarkable experience. It’s loaded with 8-days of fascinating detail and magnificent imagery that’s beautifully edited down to less than 90 minutes.

 

(4.5 / 5)

 

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Fighting with My Family (review)

Fighting with My Family (review)

This is based on the true story of a British family that loved to wrestle. They put on exhibition matches around the country, but the dream of the brother and sister was to become WWE champions in America. This starts as a rowdy comedy with enjoyable characters, but once the narrative goes stateside, it becomes an underdog fight drama. The narrative quickly falls into a predictable path and even though it’s based on reality, the facts have been compressed, which makes it feel more like a hokey cinematic trope. Still, it’s a heartfelt little film about a loving family and the unlikely success of one of them. Yes, the Rock does have a small part (and is a producer).

 

(3 / 5)

 

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Greta (review)

Greta (review)

A relatively innocent woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) finds a handbag on the subway and (instead of the standard NYC reaction…alerting the bomb squad), she tracks down its owner (Isabelle Huppert). At first, they form a bond, but the mother figure slowly becomes clingy and then downright possessive (literally). Huppert brings her laid-back French style to the character’s creepy persona. Director Neil Jordan is a master of the slow, tense camera and he manages to imbue the film with a low-level dread. There are a few minor frights to add to the tension. While there’s one major hole in the logic, this film still provides an interesting and mildly-tense physiological thriller.

 

(3.5 / 5)

 

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Isn’t It Romantic (review)

Isn’t It Romantic (review)

Last year, comic Amy Schumer played an insecure woman with a negative body image in I FEEL PRETTY (my review) . This first-cousin film features Rebel Wilson in a strikingly similar story. She’s not happy in her life, which gets even more frustrating when she wakes up in a romantic comedy: everything is beautiful (including her clothes and apartment), she lands a devoted hunk (Liam Hemsworth) and even has an over-the-top gay best friend (Brandon Scott Jones). Things move along pleasantly enough, but the script takes little advantage of Wilson’s natural comic abilities or maybe…she’s better in a supporting role where her intense style can be leavened by others. Either way, there’s not much funny, clever or original about this send-up on the genre.

 

(2 / 5)

 

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World(review)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World(review)

This is the 3rd installment in this series about a young man and his friendly dragon. It starts with his community rescuing a bunch of captured dragons, but their plight from a diabolical villain is played out thru the rest of the plot. There are plenty of bizarrely funky dragons, lots of frenzied action and some mildly charming supporting characters. This final chapter will appeal to fans who are invested in the series, but there’s nothing particularly original or special here. The ending is sweet.

 

(2.5 / 5)

 

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Happy Death Day 2U (review)

Happy Death Day 2U (review)

This sequel features the same woman (Jessica Rothe) who keeps waking up on her birthday to be murdered every nite. Her circle of friends are drawn into the recurring events and they go about (with lots of boring dialogue) trying to deconstruct and repair the time warps they created. Pretty much everything about this one was in my original review (click here to read it).

 

(1 / 5)

 

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Alita: Battle Angel (review)

Alita: Battle Angel (review)

One of my pet peeves about futuristic movies is that some elements are so advanced, while others are ridiculously anachronistic. This film is set 300 years in a bleak future, but most people still dress like they’re living in the 80s and still ride in cars with drivers! As for the plot: an abandoned cyborg with Manga eyes (Rosa Salazar) it brought back on line by a kindly Christoph Waltz. Turns out she’s got super strength and fights with amazing skill. The clashes are directed with dizzying pace and inventive action by Robert Rodriguez. On the other hand, the dramatic interactions just lie there…dull and lifeless and it doesn’t help that the narrative is so trite. There are elements to enjoy in this sci-fi adventure, but it’s not destined to live in the annals of great ones (even though it ends poised for sequel).

 

(3 / 5)

 

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