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Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Review: Life Wants to Be Alien SO. BAD. But It's Just Another Creature Feature.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:45 PM

Life ★★ ½ Now playing As a B-minus movie with an A-plus cast, the sci-fi horror specimen Life is the latest in a looong line of films that recycle the same imperishable plot: a group of explorers in a hermetically sealed environment encounters a hostile creature, which sneaks through the facility and picks off the crew one-by-one. This monster-in-space template has been around since at least 1958 (It! The Terror From Beyond Space) and it was, of course, perfected by Ridley Scott in 1979 with Alien. So, with a movie like Life, it's not a matter of whether it's derivative; it's an...

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie Review: Table 19 Goes for Grown-Up John Hughes But Spreads Out a Banquet of Winces and Cringes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Table 19 ★ ½ Now playing Science has yet to identify the precise biomechanical workings of the cringe. A function of the sympathetic nervous system, it's an involuntary muscular reaction that occurs when we see or hear something embarrassing or unpleasant. Watching Table 19, the new ensemble comedy starring Anna Kendrick, I'm pretty sure I strained several important cringe muscles. It's a surprisingly bad movie, the kind that usually get detoured into foreign markets or a DVD/digital release well before any U.S. theatrical distribution is negotiated. It's a genuine curiosity to see a specimen like this on the big screen....

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Movie Review: Jordan Peele Crosses Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with a Racially Charged The Stepford Wives to Brilliant Effect in Get Out

Posted By on Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 1:17 PM

Get Out ★★★★ ½ Now playing The go-to synopsis for Get Out, the brilliant new horror film from writer-director Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), is that it's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner crossed with a racially charged update of The Stepford Wives. That's about right, but Peele's game-changing film is more than that, and it's the best thing to happen to the horror genre in twenty years. Brooklyn photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is about to meet the parents of his new girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), on a weekend getaway upstate. That's stressful enough as it is, but Chris...

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2, a Solid Return for Keanu Reeves's Laconic Hit Man, Runs on Muscle Cars and Muscle Memory

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:24 AM

John Wick: Chapter 2 ★★★ ½ Now playing “You’re not very good at retiring,” observes a crime lord played by Laurence Fishburne in John Wick: Chapter 2. “I’m workin’ on it,” responds Wick, the laconic hit man reprised by Keanu Reeves. This reunion of Neo and Morpheus is apropos, as Reeves was very much workin’ on his de facto retirement following the end of the Matrix trilogy in 2003. Forgettable parts in forgettable films were suddenly and rather inexplicably interrupted in 2014, when the original John Wick, an unheralded neo-noir, become an instant cult classic and resuscitated Reeves’s career. Director...

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Movie Review: Everyone Says Lego Flicks Are Uniquely Fun for Kids and Adults. We Sent One of Each to The Lego Batman Movie to Find Out.

Posted By and on Thu, Feb 9, 2017 at 12:16 PM

The Lego Batman Movie Now playing One statement you are guaranteed to hear regarding any Lego-based movie, TV special, or video game is that it offers fun for young and old alike. Testing that, the INDY sent two reviewers—one thirteen, one demonstrably older—to The Lego Batman Movie. THE KID: Not the jokes you need, but the jokes you deserve ★★★★★ I enjoyed The Lego Batman Movie immensely, mainly for the comedy. There are some absolutely hilarious jokes, like when the plane carrying a lot of bombs is called McGuffin Airlines. There are also enough butt jokes to please any kid,...

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Epilogue for Unexposed Microcinema's Bold, Meaningful Year of Holding Down a Stable Venue for Experimental Film

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 11:51 AM

Not all art spaces are meant to last forever. You swallow hard and get them up and running on a shoestring. You host great programming and build an audience and sustain it as long as you can. There are triumphs, when you pack the house and get good coverage, and then there are the nights when the performers outnumber the audience. And eventually, one month when you’re writing the rent check that you know will bounce or you’re snaking the stopped-up sink for the umpteenth time, you get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s over. It’s...

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Movie Review: Men Are From Mars and Women Are Typecast in The Space Between Us, a Garishly Inauthentic Interplanetary Romance

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2017 at 2:17 PM

The Space Between Us ★ Now playing As if the surfeit of YA weepies hadn’t proliferated enough, now it’s invading other planets. Men are from Mars and women are typecast in The Space Between Us, which may as well describe the void left by an absence of adequate filmmaking. Set in the not-too-distant-future, it imagines a world with private space travel, self-driving cars, and the ability to Skype between planets, yet teen slang and the products and prices at Sam’s Club haven’t changed a bit. A blustering, floundering Gary Oldman plays Nathaniel Shepherd, the Richard Branson-esque head of a billion-dollar...

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Movie Review: In The Comedian, De Niro Gives Us Too Much Insult and Not Enough Comic

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 9:42 AM

The Comedian ★★ Opening Friday, Feb. 3 Comedy is equal parts material and delivery. The funniest quip will flop if told with bad timing, and a sharp style can’t carry leaden content. Unfortunately, both afflictions affect The Comedian, a character study that never digs below its protagonist's loathsome surface and a comedy in which the jokes fall flat. Robert De Niro plays Jackie Burke, a former sitcom star and comedy icon spending the twilight of his life slogging through the grimy stand-up circuit. He abhors his fading TV stardom, but his bitter temperament self-sabotages any effort to jump-start his...

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 at 2:17 PM

A Dog's Purpose ★★ Now playing Commercials for the new family film A Dog's Purpose give away the entire premise and plot, right up to the final scene. The movie follows the various embodiments of a reincarnating dog as he lives and loves his people over the course of multiple lifetimes. If you're a dog lover, it's a tearjerker of a pitch. If you're a dog lover with kids, you'll get immediate petitions and pleadings. Even if you just have fond memories of a childhood pet, you're going to get the urge to see this movie. You'll want to resist...

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Movie Review: How M. Night Shyamalan Got His Groove Back in Split

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 11:33 AM

Split★★★ Now playing The time when M. Night Shyamalan was poised to become cinema’s next great master of suspense has long since come and gone, bulldozed by the hubris of effects-driven hokum and recycled self-parody. After a decade of five consecutive whiffs, last year’s The Visit was a cautious, low-budget return to form. Shyamalan’s comeback continues with Split, a psychological thriller (natch) blessed with competent acting and adroit direction. And just when it feels like the script is jumping the rails, well, here comes the Twist™. During a well-staged cold open, three teenage girls—Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch), Claire...

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Movie Review: Family Is a Slippery Thing in Mike Mills's Loopy, Lovely 20th Century Women

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 11:52 AM

20th Century Women ★★★★ Opening Friday, Jan. 20 The slippery concept of family is at the heart of director Mike Mills's loopy, lovely, and largely autobiographical new film, 20th Century Women, a story that aches with bittersweet memory. It's 1979 in the Southern California enclave of Santa Barbara, and fifteen-year-old Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is coming of age the traditional way, learning about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll from his family, friends, and pop culture. Jamie shares a strong bond with his single mom, Dorothea (Annette Bening), but his teenage years are taking the usual toll on their relationship. Jamie...

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Movie Review: In Silence, Scorsese Taps a Deeply Spiritual Vein in a Visceral Story of Faith

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 1:19 PM

Silence ★★★★ ½ Opening Friday, Jan. 13 We may never see the likes of Martin Scorsese again in American cinema. He’s the embodiment of what Orson Welles should have become: the master auteur and leader of a New Hollywood movement who nimbly balances fan-friendly and money-making gangster flicks, psychological thrillers, and edgy character dissections with highly personal and profound films. While his American New Wave contemporaries like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola have migrated to effects-driven sequels and semi-retirement, Scorsese continues to produces masterworks like Silence, one of the most deeply spiritual and religiously layered films...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Movie Review: Passengers Proves a Bad Ending Can Ruin an Otherwise Good Movie

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 4:08 PM

Passengers ★★ ½ Now playing Exhibit 2001 for the proposition that a bad ending can ruin an otherwise good movie: Passengers, a glossy interstellar vehicle for some provocative moral entanglements that ultimately implodes from the pressure of its star-driven, crowd-pleasing mission. The film’s December release date suggests it once harbored awards-season aspirations. Instead, it just ends up lost in space. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is one of more than five thousand people in cryogenic sleep aboard the Starship Avalon, on a 120-year voyage to colonize the distant outpost Homestead II. The ship’s sylvan destination stands in contrast to Earth,...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One, the New Star Wars, Is a Dazzling Space Drama

Posted By on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 at 2:13 PM

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ★★★★ Opening Thursday, Dec. 15 As the first in a series of spinoff movies set in the Star Wars universe, Rogue One is an experiment of sorts. If it succeeds, you can expect to see a new Star Wars movie in theaters pretty much every year until the end of time. Fine by me. If Disney and Lucasfilm can deliver a movie as good as Rogue One on a yearly basis, we could declare it a kind of global movie holiday. May 4 would seem to be the proper date. Rogue One is essentially...

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Movie Review: Office Christmas Party Is Raucous, Rude, Lampoon-Worthy Fun

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 1:54 PM

Office Christmas Party ★★★ Now playing I've been to exactly one office Christmas party in my life. It was in San Francisco during the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, when the Internet held infinite promise and banks were hosing down new media companies with cash. Everyone was young and restless, designer drugs were cheap and plentiful, and money wasn't really money at all. We partied like it was 1999, because it was 1999. I remember thinking, "This party would be an excellent premise for a movie." (That's about all I remember.) Twenty years later, that movie has finally rolled...

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Is a Promising Start for a New Rowling Franchise

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ★★★ ½ Now playing I suspect that, for a while at least, it's going to be difficult to avoid processing every halfway applicable film through the nightmare lens of the recent elections. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest installment in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter universe, opens with a montage of headlines. “Anti-Wizard Sentiment Sweeps America,” reads one swirling paper as we're introduced to the setup. In the movie's alternate history, it's 1926 in New York City, and hateful fringe groups are agitating for the deportation of all witches and wizards, the...

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Movie Review: Barry Jenkins's Exquisite Moonlight Is a Meditative Character Study at the Nexus of Black Masculinity and Homosexuality

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 8:46 AM

Moonlight ★★★★ Now playing Color looms large in Moonlight. The film is adapted from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, and two characters are called Black and Blue. According to IndieWire, director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton adjusted the lighting contrast to emphasize the skin tones of the African-American cast. Each of the film’s three chapters, covering different stages in the life of its protagonist, emulates different film stock to convey distinct hues and textures. Like Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, Moonlight tracks the life of its male lead across varying ages, though in this case the...

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Communication Gap in Arrival Feels Painfully Relevant in America Right Now

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Arrival ★★★★ Now playing This week, Americans sought to speak using the common language of the ballot. Now half the country is celebrating the arrival of an iconoclastic new leader, while the other half is gripped with despondency and even fear. It's hard not to think about this when watching Arrival, an aliens-to-Earth film that’s less about first contact than first communication. Twelve black, split-shaped ovoids simultaneously appear around the planet, each measuring 1,500 feet high and hovering mere meters above the surface. The arrival of these ships triggers immediate hysteria—air travel is grounded, gun sales are barred, food rationing...

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Movie Review: Doctor Strange's Feisty Magic Cape Is the Most Developed Character in His Movie

Posted By on Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Doctor Strange ★★★ Now playing Held together by countless terabytes of computer effects, fortune cookie wisdom, and the backing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange is an origin story that’s high on origin yet low on story. It features a hero you don’t particularly like, a villain who’s not well defined, and ephemeral stakes that are hard to embrace. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant, skilled neurosurgeon who performs medical miracles by day, then dons designer suits and Jaeger-LeCoultre wristwatches after hours. His life of ease changes dramatically after he drives his Lamborghini off a cliff, incurring...

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Movie Review: In Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson Clearly Identifies with the Religious Persecution of Conscientious Objector Desmond Doss

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 2:09 PM

Hacksaw Ridge★★★ ½ Opening Friday, Nov. 4 The history of cinema is littered with films that serve as allegories for the real-life persecution of their writers/directors. On the Waterfront is widely viewed as Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan’s retort to those who objected to them naming names before the House Un-American Activities Commission. By contrast, writer Carl Foreman’s screenplay for High Noon is regarded as his response to the mistreatment he suffered after not cooperating with HUAC. Roman Polanski’s 1978 conviction for child rape and subsequent flight informs a large portion of his subsequent filmography. It’s unnecessary to refute Mel Gibson’s self-subscribed...

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Accountant's Autistic Assassin Doesn't Quite Add Up

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 3:52 PM

The Accountant ★★★ Now playing It's hard not to see similarities between The Accountant and some prior films featuring its star's best bud, Matt Damon. Fourteen years after Damon first launched Jason Bourne, Ben Affleck trots out his own taciturn anti-hero with a neurological condition and a murky past, carrying out violent missions with robotic precision. And nineteen years after Damon starred in Good Will Hunting, Affleck also gets to play a mathematics whiz. At best, The Accountant feels like the muddled, if generally entertaining, lead-in for a more layered and overarching film series; at worst, it’s a morass of MacGuffins....

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Discover Ovation Cinema Grill 9 in Holly Springs, the Latest Addition to the Boutique Multiplex Scene

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 at 3:41 PM

The light green accents scattered throughout Carmike Cinemas’s Ovation Cinema Grill 9 in Holly Springs suggest, ever so subtly, the vintage Art Deco motif of the early twentieth century’s golden age of movie houses. It’s the last bit of nostalgia you’re likely to detect in western Wake County’s newest cinema, the latest addition to the burgeoning boutique movie theater scene. The long-gestating Holly Springs multiplex concludes a weeklong soft opening tomorrow and begins showing first-run films on Thursday, October 13. The nine-screen theater includes eight traditional screens, three of them 3-D capable. It also sports Carmike’s branded BigD auditorium, only the...

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train Is the Feel-Bad Movie of the Fall

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM

The Girl on the Train ★★ ½ Opening Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 Rachel Watson is a mess. Two years after her husband left her (for the real estate agent!), she's unemployed, deeply depressed, and drinking vodka out of thirty-two-ounce water bottles. Every day, she rides the commuter train into Manhattan, pretending to have a job. She looks wistfully out the window at the passing houses of Westchester and the life she used to have. To be clear, Rachel, as played by Emily Blunt in the new thriller The Girl on the Train, is literally looking at the life she used...

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Movie Review: Blair Witch Takes Us Back to Ground Zero of the Found-Footage Horror Explosion

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:04 PM

Blair Witch ★★★★ Now playing The hype was high: a Blair Witch sequel that, according to early reports from critics, reinvents the found- footage genre. Similar hype surrounded Wes Craven’s 1994 genre-busting Scream, which proved influential for horror filmmakers to come because, at that point, the slasher flick was relying on the same tired tropes. But in fact, Blair Witch doesn’t reinvent the already worn-out horror subgenre; rather, it pays imaginative homage to the trend-setting original, which kicked off the found-footage craze in 1999. Unlike others of that ilk, which devote an excruciating amount of time to backstory, director Adam Wingard...

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Movie Review: Werner Herzog's Human Touch Lifts Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World Above Tech-Bro Celebration

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 7:44 AM

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World★★★★ Opening Friday, Sept. 16 As its title suggests, Werner Herzog’s latest documentary is a broad, poetic consideration of technology’s—which is to say, humanity’s—history and future. Through interviews with the likes of Elon Musk and Kevin Mitnick, the director episodically lays bare a series of utopian visions about technology’s potential to help us learn, take us to other planets, and free us from daily tasks like driving. But Herzog’s gentle, skeptical interjections keep Lo and Behold from turning into a tech-bro hagiography. He punctuates discussions with interjections like “ can’t fall in...

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