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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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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Movie Review: Renée Zellweger's Rich Comic Character Deserves Better Than Bridget Jones's Baby

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 1:46 PM

Bridget Jones's Baby ★★ ½ Opening Friday, Sept. 16 It's easy to be cynical about a movie like Bridget Jones's Baby, a sequel that was clearly assembled from the ground up as an entertainment industry product—a guaranteed payday for its stars and studio. This is a movie that's already been made twice, and the third installment is essentially an exercise in brand awareness, dutifully adherent to a commercially viable blueprint. It's also true, however, that Bridget Jones's Baby is a pretty good time at the movies. It's got plenty of laughs, a hopelessly lovable central character, and a script that...

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Movie Review: If Atmosphere Alone Could Carry a Film, Complete Unknown Would Be Top-Notch

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 2:35 PM

Complete Unknown★★★ Now playing In director Joshua Marston’s Complete Unknown, we meet Alice, a chameleonic presence (Rachel Weisz) who embodies a paradox: Who you are is profoundly influenced by context, and yet wherever you go, there you are. This proposition, initially fascinating, is made all the more compelling by Christos Voudouris’s beautiful cinematography, which perfectly captures the desolation of a nomadic life. His camera obliquely bobs just out of reach of the actors' faces, driving home the characters’ core opacity. The trouble is that atmosphere alone can’t carry a feature film. We first encounter Alice as she schemes to reconnect with...

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Movie Review: Gus Van Sant's The Sea of Trees Reduces Japanese Culture to a Backdrop for American Angst

Posted By on Mon, Sep 5, 2016 at 2:42 PM

The Sea of Trees★★ ½Now playing Director Gus Van Sant’s latest film, The Sea of Trees, tells the story of Arthur Brennan (Matthew McConaughey), a man intent on killing himself in Aokigahara, Japan’s famed “suicide forest.” When he finds a suitable boulder on which to swallow a bottle of pills, he sees Takumi (Ken Watanabe) wandering the forest, seemingly lost. When Arthur finds himself moved to save this mysterious man, his survival instinct kicks in to gear. As the pair wends its way through the forest, trying to find help for Takumi’s slashed wrists, the story of Arthur’s strained...

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Movie Review: In The Light Between Oceans, It Turns Out They Do Make 'Em Like They Used To

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 2:07 PM

The Light Between Oceans ★★★★ Opening Friday, Sept. 2, 2016   It's a common lament among those who love old-fashioned Hollywood movies: They just don't make 'em like they used to.  Except sometimes they do. The period drama The Light Between Oceans is a throwback in all the best ways, with its epic themes, grand cinematography, and tragic story of life, love, and loss. Director Derek Cianfrance made his name with gritty realist dramas—Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines —but here he delivers an old-timey moviegoing experience with deep, mythical rhythms.  The year is 1919, and soldier Tom...

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Movie Review: Don't Think Twice Gets Inside the Worlds of Improv Comedy and Saturday Night ... Er, Weekend Live

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 3:05 PM

Don't Think Twice ★★★ Now playing One of today's most distinctive comic voices, Mike Birbiglia has a meandering storytelling style that occupies a very specific coordinate in the Venn diagram of funny business, somewhere among the intersections of stand-up comedy, DIY theater, and confessional monologue. When Birbiglia brought his one-man show, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, to Durham a few years ago, I remember thinking it was the leanest, meanest, funniest thing I'd seen on stage in years. His other famous long-form comedy bit, Sleepwalk With Me, went through several incarnations—radio feature, touring show, book—before evolving into Birbiglia's 2012 feature-film debut...

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Movie Review: Who Thought the Director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Needed a Crack at Ben-Hur?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 at 11:35 AM

Ben-Hur★★ Now playing It speaks volumes that the latest film version of Ben-Hur more resembles the movie-within-a-movie in the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! than the famed 1959 Oscar-winning adaptation directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston. After all, Wyler won three Academy Awards over his illustrious career. Timur Bekmambetov, the director of this big-screen iteration, most recently made Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Jewish nobleman Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston) and Messala (Toby Kebbell) are adoptive brothers—the first of several departures from Gore Vidal’s controversial 1959 script—who split over Messala’s desire for Roman glory. When Messala returns to Jerusalem as...

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Movie Review: Neo-Western Hell or High Water Douses Black and White Hats in Texas Dust Until Everything Turns Gray

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 at 3:16 PM

Hell or High Water ★★★★ Opening Friday, August 19, 2016 At its core, Hell or High Water is a traditional Western movie featuring cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. The “outlaws” are introduced as wild-eyed, bank-robbing brothers in the vein of Frank and Jesse James. The aw-shucks lawman has a Native American sidekick. There are hayseed banks, land barons, and even an armed posse. The film’s resonance flows from how director David Mackenzie (Starred Up) and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) repurpose these tropes for a modern setting. The few cowpokes left are a self-loathing, dying breed. Citizens are...

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Movie Review: When Good Actors Meet Weirdly Developed Characters, You Get Florence Foster Jenkins

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2016 at 11:18 AM

Florence Foster Jenkins ★★ ½ Now playing It gives director Stephen Frears undue credit to describe Florence Foster Jenkins as an exquisite reproof of audience voyeurism. Led along by a procession of reaction shots and comedic framing, the biopic invites us to chortle at a real-life heiress’s legendarily cacophonous crooning. But it hits a sour note when Frears suddenly turns the mirror on his audience in rebuke, in effect absolving the actual enablers the film otherwise indicts. We meet Jenkins (Meryl Streep) in 1944, as a seventy-six-year-old New York City socialite and musical benefactor. The acclaimed conductor Arturo Toscanini...

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Movie Review: Though Flawed, Suicide Squad Brings Much-Needed Depth and Levity to the DC Extended Universe

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 3:05 PM

Suicide Squad ★★★ Now playing The high ideals of the Bush-era War on Terror included plunging our hands into the filth of rendition and “enhanced interrogation techniques,” usually carried out by foreign contractors at black sites outside the United States’ jurisdiction. Today, the U.S. is part of an uneasy confederation of foes with the shared aim of defeating ISIL, a terrorist group armed with American weaponry seized after the U.S. pullout from the Iraq War, an occupation initiated to topple a dictator once propped up by American treasure. Relying on bad people to do our dirty business is the fulcrum...

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Movie Review: Like Bond, Matt Damon's Jason Bourne Is Less a Character Than a Genre

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 1:30 PM

Jason Bourne★★★ Now playing Poor Jason Bourne—that guy just can’t catch a break. As an amnesiac super-spy, he's forever being shot at by people he doesn't know, for reasons he can't remember. Relentlessly hunted by every intelligence agency in the world, he must remain radically off-grid in places like Uzbekistan, Nepal, and Cleveland. When old friends get back in touch, they're invariably followed by entire platoons of elite assassins. It's hard not to isolate yourself in such circumstances. It's a drag getting old. Bourne is back in theaters this week, and once again his misery is our delight. Simply...

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Movie Review: An Indie Short With a Clever Premise Becomes a Surprisingly Effective Horror Film in Lights Out

Posted By on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 3:20 PM

Lights Out ★★★ ½ Opening Friday, July 22, 2016 The story behind Lights Out, the surprisingly effective first feature film by David F. Sandberg, is the stuff of indie auteur fantasy. After Sandberg put a no-budget short starring his wife, Lotta Losten, on YouTube, it went viral, attracting the attention of horror maven James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring). Wan was impressed enough to help Sandberg develop his dialogue-free short into a major studio film, and New Line Cinema’s faith was justified. While it’s no The Babadook, Lights Out is an efficient haunted-house thriller, as witty and charming as it is...

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Movie Review: New Zealand Hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople Brings Genuine Emotion to Ridiculous Circumstances

Posted By on Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 9:18 AM

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★★ Now playing The focus of this film from New Zealand, which is set in the bush of that country, is Ricky, a pudgy orphaned teenager who names his dog Tupac and uses haiku as a form of self-expression. Described as a kid who never wanted to be good, Ricky is at ease with his new foster family. He runs away every night, only to make his way back every morning for a pancake breakfast. When he is told by child protective services that he must leave his foster uncle after his foster aunt’s untimely death...

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Movie Review: Todd Solondz Lightly Links Tales of Abjection and Absurdity in Wiener-Dog

Posted By on Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 9:18 AM

Wiener-Dog★★★ ½ Opening Friday, July 15, 2016 Wiener-Dog is a funny, if modest, installment in director Todd Solondz’s series of meditations on the austere cruelty of the American middle-class family. The film consists of several episodes linked by the eponymous creature, a forlorn dachshund shuffled from one tenuous situation to the next. First, the dog lives with a shy little boy and his self-involved parents, then with an awkward and lonely veterinary assistant, followed by a bitter screenwriting teacher and an elderly woman dying of cancer. The dog’s goofy, kind-of-blank but also kind-of-sad expression is the perfect visual counterpoint...

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Movie Review: Shut Up, Misogynists, the Ghostbusters Reboot Has a Great Cast. The Rest of the Film, Unfortunately ...

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 3:57 PM

Ghostbusters ★★  Opening Friday, July 15, 2016 Contrary to all the sexist noise online, remaking Ghostbusters with a female cast was not a bad idea. Of course not—with director Paul Feig behind the camera and Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in front of it, it was an empirically good idea. Unfortunately, the result of that good idea is a pretty bad movie. In fact, the new Ghostbusters is lazy, uninspired, and really close to insulting. Feig and the film's four leads—Wiig, McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon—are all comedy professionals with strong track records. But this is a highly...

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Pets Riffs on Our Animal Obsession

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 4:21 PM

The Secret Life of Pets★★★ ½ stars Opening Friday, July 8, 2016 From the creative team that brought you Despicable Me and those rascally Minions, The Secret Life of Pets is an exquisitely calibrated family movie with plenty of laughs for both grown-ups and kids. The concept is simple: What do our pets actually do while we're away? Animators have been riffing on this idea since the heyday of Looney Tunes, of course, and with good reason. It's a virtually inexhaustible comedy premise. As approximately ten billion YouTube clips demonstrate daily, pets are funny. We like to watch them,...

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You stopped the arts coverage to cover the election..... You were probably better off just covering the arts, rather than …

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