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Preview: KCRW's Film Reviews

Film Reviews

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic of The Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern reviews films weekly in the paper and on KCRW; he airs his current musings on the film industry in a biweekly column for the paper as well. He has worked for The New York Times

Copyright: KCRW 2017

Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:44:00 -0700

Director Lydia Tenaglia traces Jeremiah Tower's progression from Chez Panisse to the 1984 opening of his own restaurant, Stars, the spectacularly successful San Francisco brasserie where he reigned as a new model of celebrity chef until 1999, when the place closed. .

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The Fate of the Furious

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 18:44:00 -0700

Sense, or logic, is not what turns out vast audiences for The Fate of the Furious. It's the cars, of course...

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Their Finest

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 18:44:00 -0700

Joe Morgenstern says Their Finest is one of the smartest, funniest and most surprising movies he's seen in years, proof of the power of two stories artfully told.

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The Zookeeper's Wife

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:44:00 -0700

Not all wonderful books are meant to be mainstream fiction films.

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Fri, 24 Mar 2017 18:44:00 -0700

Taken on its own terms, as a kinetic thriller, Life is lively enough for a while. 

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Beauty and the Beast

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 18:44:00 -0700

More is less in Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast — so much less that this crazily cluttered venture in industrial entertainment betrays the essence of what made the 1991 animated feature a beloved classic. 

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Kong: Skull Island

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 18:44:00 -0800

In the new action adventure Kong: Skull Island, a bunch of scientists and explorers go looking for the latest incarnation of King Kong.

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Fri, 03 Mar 2017 18:44:00 -0800

The slashing starts early in Logan – no surprise, since it's an R-rated action thriller about Wolverine, also known as Logan, the "X-Men" character with the tortured psyche and retractable claws.

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Get Out

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:44:00 -0800

There's a terrific horror flick opening this week. Jordan Peele's debut feature scrupulously honors the genre's  conventions. Get Out never strays from the path of entertainment, yet the horrors of racism lurk in every gleefully lurid frame.

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The Great Wall

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 18:44:00 -0800

There is no lack of spectacular sequences in The Great Wall. It's the most expensive movie ever produced in China, with fancy weaponry that's meant to show how technologically advanced the Inner Kingdom was.

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The LEGO Batman Movie

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 18:44:00 -0800

The LEGO Batman Movie targets the familiar universe of superheroes and extravagant villains, with a subplot reminiscent of The Incredibles -- society has come to see Batman and his ilk as vigilantes who need to learn the value of teamwork.

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The Space between Us; I Am Not Your Negro

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:44:00 -0800

Sometimes movies are just plain bad, but sometimes they're distinctively bad. The Space between Us takes a delicious cake for stupidity – it's a sci-fi romance for young adults.

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The Salesman

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 18:44:00 -0800

Arthur Miller would have admired writer-director Asghar Farhadi's drama The Salesman for its intensity and moral depth.

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The Founder

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 18:44:00 -0800

Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the entrepreneur who gave the world McDonald's -- and Keaton does it with panache.

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The Crash

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 18:44:00 -0800

The opening frames of The Crash promise a thriller about cyber warfare...

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A Monster Calls

Fri, 23 Dec 2016 18:44:00 -0800

When a monster shows up at a young boy's bedroom window one night...

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Fri, 16 Dec 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Denzel Washington and Viola David recreate their roles in a 2010 Broadway revival of the August Wilson play, and we're the beneficiaries.

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La La Land

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:44:00 -0800

WEB BONUS: La La Land is a crowd-pleaser if ever there was one and Joe Morgenstern couldn't be more pleased to be part of the crowd.

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Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:44:00 -0800

In Jackie, Natalie Portman's portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy during and immediately after JFK's assassination rises above impersonation to an eerie kind of incarnation.

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Fri, 25 Nov 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Joe Morgenstern says Lion in narrative form is about the randomness of adoption, but in substance it’s about the mystery of identity.

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Manchester by the Sea

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Joe Morgenstern calls Manchester by the Sea is the best movie he's seen so far this year, "a quiet masterpiece that eggs and flows at the rhythm of life."

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Fri, 11 Nov 2016 18:44:00 -0800

We yearn to believe what Arrival has to tell us -- that life on earth isn't all there is, that we're connected to the cosmos, that time flows more mysteriously than we can fathom.

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Fri, 04 Nov 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Loving, a new movie by Jess Nichols about a landmark civil rights case, is new in style too -- calm, human, deeply moving -- one of the best movies of the year.

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Fire at Sea

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Fire at Sea is Gianfranco Rosi's profoundly moving documentary on the migrant tides transforming our wold, and the connections in it are as revelatory as they are mysterious.

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American Honey

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Just when you think you know what's going to happen, American Honey serves up one more surprise.

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Queen of Katwe

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 18:44:00 -0700

A poor Ugandan girl's chess skills take her around the world.

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Hell or High Water

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Hell or High Water is one of the most enjoyable films I've seen in a very long time, following two brothers on a bank-robbing spree in a desolate part of west Texas where the banks themselves are seen as robbers.

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Florence Foster Jenkins

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 18:44:00 -0700

It's not exactly breaking news, but Meryl Streep is remarkable, and her latest showcase is Florence Foster Jenkins.

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Suicide Squad

Fri, 05 Aug 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Suicide Squad amounts to an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment.

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Jason Bourne

Fri, 29 Jul 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Jason Bourne used to be an amnesiac. Now he remember who he is, but this latest episode of the franchise forgot to make him human.

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Star Trek Beyond

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 18:44:00 -0700

It looks big, with plenty of cosmic battles, but it feels smallish, a congenial adventure with familiar friends.

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Captain Fantastic

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Captain Fantastic is a terrifically accomplished and enjoyable film about a singular household.

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Fri, 01 Jul 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Spielberg uses digital wizardry to throw spectacular dreams of friendship and adventure on the big screen.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Fri, 24 Jun 2016 18:44:00 -0700

In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a goofball preacher tells a tiny group of mourners that sometimes in life we may feel "like a sheep trapped in a maze designed by wolves."

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Finding Dory

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Finding Dory can be touching, sweet and tender, but it's preposterously and terrifically funny.

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The Music of Strangers

Fri, 10 Jun 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Morgan Neville's documentary is a joyous revelation, a group portrait of superb musicians from all over the world offering music as an emblem of what people can do in these troubled times when they live in concert with one another.

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The Fits

Fri, 03 Jun 2016 18:44:00 -0700

A wonderful little movie, The Fits opens on an 11-year old doing sit-ups -- 25 in all, hands clasped behind her head, radiant face to the camera.

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X-Men: Apocalypse

Fri, 27 May 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Enormous going on keep going on, and on, in X-Men: Apocalypse. It's a collection of explosions, eruptions and conflagrations that looks like the implosion of a franchise. This is disappointing, but also surprising.

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Fri, 20 May 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Disgraced New York politician Anthony Weiner has been memorialized in an extraordinary documentary called...yes, Weiner.

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Money Monster

Fri, 13 May 2016 18:44:00 -0700

In Money Monster, George Clooney plays a TV personality -- a medium-manic version of Jim Cramer, the host of NBC's Mad Money.

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Fri, 29 Apr 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Viva is another retelling, though a particularly affecting one, of a classic tale -- the struggle to discover and assert one's authentic identity.

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A Hologram for the King

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 18:44:00 -0700

A Hologram for the King was based on the novel by Dave Eggers.

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Sing Street

Fri, 15 Apr 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Nine years ago American audiences discovered the Irish film Once, and took it to their hearts. The magic is back in Sing Street, a coming-of-age comedy that's also concerned with making music, and downright lovable in its evocation of young love.

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Louder than Bombs

Fri, 08 Apr 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Louder than Bombs is very much a movie about memory. It lives and breathes with a lovely intimacy and density of detail that we associate with fine independent features from Europe.

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Everybody Wants Some

Fri, 01 Apr 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Richard Linklater calls the semi-autobiographical Everybody Wants Some! a "spiritual sequel" to his 1993 Dazed and Confused.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Fri, 25 Mar 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Batman v Superman is an underdeveloped, overlong and stupendously dispiriting duel of unlikely antagonists.

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Midnight Special

Fri, 18 Mar 2016 18:44:00 -0700

Midnight Special is a beautifully strange and stirring sci-fi adventure about a boy with special powers.

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Fri, 11 Mar 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Like lots of movies these days, Marguerite tells us that "it was inspired by a true story." That usually means the story's truth was buried beneath layers of rubbish. But the key word here is "inspired" -- the film is a wonderfully imaginative work of fiction.

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Fri, 04 Mar 2016 18:44:00 -0800

If you're looking for joyous fun, Disney's Zootopia is Yootopia.

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Triple 9

Fri, 26 Feb 2016 18:44:00 -0800

The title of Triple 9 comes from a police code, 999, that means an officer is down and urgently in need of help.

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The Witch; Race

Fri, 19 Feb 2016 18:44:00 -0800

The Witch's psychodynamics may be familiar, but Robert Eggers makes them seem newly discovered with the intensity of his writing and direction.  Race is a saga of unquenchable spirit and fast-twitch muscles shot in slow-twitch style.

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Zoolander 2

Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Zoolander 2 is a dud glitter bomb...

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Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Like the high desert that provides its main setting, Mojave is dry, often windy and full of hot air...

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Remembering Alan Rickman

Fri, 15 Jan 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Joe Morgenstern remembers British actor Alan Rickman, who died this week at 69. His voice made him instantly recognizable; his iconic roles and acting prowess made him memorable.

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Fri, 08 Jan 2016 18:44:00 -0800

Anomalisa takes its title from combining "anomaly" -- something that deviates from the standard -- and Lisa, the name of the woebegone anti-heroine.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Fri, 18 Dec 2015 16:44:00 -0800

The Star Wars franchise has roared back with full force.

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The Big Short

Fri, 11 Dec 2015 16:44:00 -0800

What gives The Big Short its surprising resonance is the breadth of its comic vision, which makes room for collateral tragedy.

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The Lady in the Van; Youth

Fri, 04 Dec 2015 16:44:00 -0800

The Lady in the Van is wonderfully funny, terribly touching and a vehicle -- with comically dilapidated vehicles -- for the boundless gifts of Maggie Smith.  Like Paolo Sorrentino's previous film, The Great Beauty, Youth is full of Fellini-esque flourishes, plus glib existentialism juxtaposed with synthetic optimism.

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The Good Dinosaur

Fri, 27 Nov 2015 16:44:00 -0800

In Pixar's newest feature, the Old West is a home where the dinosaurs still roam.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

Fri, 20 Nov 2015 16:44:00 -0800

The Hunger Games series has come to a sporadically stirring climax with Mockingjay, Part 2.

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By the Sea

Fri, 13 Nov 2015 16:44:00 -0800

WEB EXCLUSIVE: By the Sea takes place sometime during the mid-1970's in a coastal village in the south of France.

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Fri, 06 Nov 2015 16:44:00 -0800

Spotlight is the year's best movie so far, and a rarity among all those dramatizations that claim to be based on actual events. Remarkably, the movie and its flawless ensemble cast have captured their subject in all its richness and complexity.

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Our Brand Is Crisis

Fri, 30 Oct 2015 16:44:00 -0700

Our Brand Is Crisis is meant to be a fictional version of Rachel Boynton's 2005 documentary of the same name...

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Nasty Baby; Rock the Kasbah

Fri, 23 Oct 2015 16:44:00 -0700

Nasty Baby is alive with random energy that sets up a surprise ending without blowing the surprise. Rock the Kasbah is a two-bit Ishtar that might play better on a phone.

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Fri, 16 Oct 2015 16:44:00 -0700

Although its derivations are anything but poetic -- notorious cases of real-life imprisonment and abuse, Room is as beautifully wrought as any film that's come our way in a very long while.

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The Martian

Fri, 02 Oct 2015 16:44:00 -0700

Knowing the premise of The Martian won't prepare you for the remarkable variety and complexity of Ridley Scott's sci-fi extravaganza. 

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99 Homes

Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:44:00 -0700

99 Homes is a relatively small, tough-minded drama about pitiless people doing unprincipled things. And it turns out to be one of the most interesting, elegantly crafted and improbably entertaining films to come along in quite a while.

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Black Mass

Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:44:00 -0700

Johnny Depp creates a seethingly evil portrait of James "Whitey" Bulger, one of the pre-eminent -- and pre-eminently violent -- criminals of recent times.

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A Taste of Telluride

Fri, 11 Sep 2015 16:44:00 -0700

Just back from the Telluride Film Festival, Joe Morgenstern introduces us to a couple of stand-outs.

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Z for Zachariah

Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:44:00 -0700

In Z for Zachariah the post-apocalyptic thriller gets a renovation, if not re-invention -- as a love triangle in a valley that has somehow been spared from whatever it was that brought an end to civilization.

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Top Spin

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Top Spin starts ultra-slowly, then picks up speed. The subject of this documentary is table tennis  -- or ping pong, for those of us who play it just for fun.

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Straight Outta Compton

Fri, 14 Aug 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Straight Outta Compton is notable for its omissions as well as its strengths, but that shouldn't be surprising.

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The Gift

Fri, 07 Aug 2015 06:44:00 -0700

One of the many gifts conferred by the new movie The Gift is the pleasure of feeling like putty in the hands of a first-rate storyteller.

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Best of Enemies

Fri, 31 Jul 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Best of Enemies is a must-view film for our media-besotted age, a serious film about a serious failure to communicate ideas.

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Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer in desperate need of redemption.

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Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:44:00 -0700

American comedy doesn't get much better than Trainwreck at its best. Amy Schumer is a fearless artist without borders.

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Fri, 10 Jul 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Minions are mischievous sidekicks who keep getting into trouble of their own making.

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Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Amy Winehouse was unlucky and unwise in life, but her story fell into the right hands after she died.

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Ted 2

Fri, 26 Jun 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Seth MacFarlane's raunch-rich comedy is a sequel to his 2012 hit about an amiable guy from Boston and the foul-mouthed womanizer of a teddy bear who's been his best friend since childhood.

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Inside Out

Fri, 19 Jun 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Actors use their faces, voices and bodies to convey what their characters are feeling, but the new Pixar film Inside Out takes a more direct approach.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Fri, 12 Jun 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a fresh take on contemporary adolescence as a journey from ironic detachment to open-hearted feeling.

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Fri, 05 Jun 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Charm has curdled into smarm in the big-screen version of Entourage.

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Fri, 22 May 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Can we fix our troubled world, or not?

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Fri, 15 May 2015 18:44:00 -0700

George Miller, whose Mad Max gave the movie medium a new genre almost four decades ago, is back with Mad Max: Fury Road.

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Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Unfriended is a micro-budget horror film played out entirely one high school girl's laptop.

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Ex Machina

Fri, 10 Apr 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Alex Garland's Ex Machina is an elegant sci-fi fantasy about artificial intelligence.

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White God

Fri, 03 Apr 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Cute dogs doing cute tricks have become stars of the social networks, but White God offers a different take on man's best friend.

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Fri, 13 Mar 2015 18:44:00 -0700

Call it bias if you choose, but any Cinderella with Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother couldn't be bad.

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Merchants of Doubt; An Honest Liar

Fri, 06 Mar 2015 18:44:00 -0800

In its advocacy of skeptical thinking, An Honest Liar dovetails neatly, if accidentally, with Merchants of Doubt.

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Queen and Country

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 18:44:00 -0800

Queen and Country, the sequel to Hope and Glory that took John Boorman almost three decades to make, is worth the wait.

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What We Do in the Shadows

Fri, 20 Feb 2015 18:44:00 -0800

Marketing campaigns can bring movie goers into theaters to see what the fuss is all about, but they can't generate the excitement of those rare occasions when audiences discover a movie on their own. A charming curiosity from New Zealand. One more riff on mythical bloodsuckers.

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50 Shades of Grey

Fri, 13 Feb 2015 18:44:00 -0800

Reasonable minds may differ on what the playroom is all about in 50 Shades of Grey.

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Jupiter Ascending

Fri, 06 Feb 2015 18:44:00 -0800

In a momentous conjunction of events, Jupiter Ascending -- the mega-budget sci-fi extravaganza -- is opening around the nation and the world on the very day that Jupiter, the mega-planet, is at its annual opposition to Earth.

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Fri, 30 Jan 2015 18:44:00 -0800

Timbuktu takes a deadly aim at Islamic fundamentalism by playing its own game of deft ridicule.

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Red Army

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:44:00 -0800

The opening of Red Army is good news if you're a hockey fan, a history buff or just an admirer of first-rate documentaries.

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Fri, 16 Jan 2015 18:44:00 -0800

Paddington is the comic chronicle of a Peruvian bear's adventures in London, and it turns out to be a total charmer...

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The Interview

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:44:00 -0800

How did such a turkey ever escape the studio lot?

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Top Five

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 18:44:00 -0800

A pyrotechnic pinwheel of a personal comedy.

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Fri, 05 Dec 2014 18:44:00 -0800

Reese Witherspoon is the angry, wounded soul of Wild. She commands the screen throughout her heroine's 1,100-mile journey of self-discovery and self-repair, on foot and mostly alone, from the Mojave desert to northern Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail.

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The Imitation Game

Fri, 28 Nov 2014 18:44:00 -0800

The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch in full cry, summons up a life that changed modern history.

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