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Live by Night

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 08:55:30 PST

Recommended

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Director: Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana
Year: 2016

Ben Affleck is no slouch when it comes to directing, but perhaps this time he had a little too much on his plate. Setting aside all the work he's currently putting into the Justice League franchise, he took on almost every role one can play on a film set, which ended up being about three roles too many. Directing, writing, producing, and starring in the film, Affleck put the entire project on his shoulders, and while he's typically more than capable, the weight was a bit too heavy this time. Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo; Affleck has had successes while directing before, and picking ...Read the entire review

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Silence

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 19:32:50 PST

Highly Recommended

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Despite the endless attempts of religious dogma to turn belief in god into a tribal experience, faith continues to be an inherently objective and deeply personal part of human life. One person's interpretation of his god might be vastly different than another's, even if they both share the same sect of the same religion. That's what enables people to do equally wonderful and horrific things in the name of their deity, sometimes even using the same lines of holy text as justification. Regardless of a religion's adherence to symbols, traditions, and rituals, everyone's faith belongs to them, and negotiating the simple requirements of faith with the complex nuances of the human condition is a heavy burden to bear.

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That burden is a subject that Martin S...Read the entire review

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A Monster Calls

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 14:48:46 PST

Rent It

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Director: J.A. Bayona
Starring: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones
Year: 2016

At the risk of making light of death, watching A Monster Calls felt like watching a hundred-minute inside joke that wasn't funny in the least. First, there's the book, an unfinished work written by first Siobhan Dowd and later Patrick Ness, following Dowd's death. I haven't read it, it doesn't mean anything to me, and so I have no basis for emotion, not even enough to empathize with the fact that Dowd herself was dying of cancer as she wrote the story, adding extra meaning to its plot. Secondly, Sigourney Weaver. Watching the film at home, I still felt the urge to look around me, to see if there was a prank being played that I w...Read the entire review

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Assassin's Creed

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 11:31:45 PST

Rent It

(image) (image) Look, as much as it stings to say so, it might be time to stop anticipating the arrival of that truly great video-game adaptation on the big screen. Assassin's Creed, the long-awaited cinematic take on Ubisoft's continuing franchise, has just about everything going for it to finally get the job done: a promising new director in Justin Kurzel, who delivered a flawed but beautiful adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth; a cast led by several Oscar winners and nominees; and a science-fiction setup that's almost ready-made for a Hollywood blockbuster, one that transports the lead character into virtual-reality journeys throughout invigorating historical events. Coupled with the series' clandestine stealth c...Read the entire review

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 10:54:18 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn
Year: 2016

With the creation of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe was brought back into our lives with a vengeance. You can't quite call the enormity of the success of that film unexpected, since the franchise has always been a homerun-hitter, even with relative duds like Episodes 1 and 2. But I'm not sure that the intense love of so many, of audiences across the board, could have been predicted, and the success the film had in marketing and merchandise was incredible as well. Trust Hollywood to seize any opportunity to make money, and so multiple more films in the series are in the works, including offshoots like Rogue One. I th...Read the entire review

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Passengers

Wed, 21 Dec 2016 10:54:18 PST

Recommended

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Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen
Year: 2016

What's the saying, that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is? That's Passengers to a tee, a movie that has everything you've ever wanted from a pure audience entertainment perspective, but can't possibly deliver all that it promises. Sci-fi, thriller, romance, action, drama, comedy, and two of the hottest stars in Hollywood; this movie wanted every element it could grab, wanted to become a genre all its own, but made its first mistake in timing. Why it was released in the midst of Oscar Season I'll never know; Passengers views as a summer blockbuster and might have been a fun way to spend some time on a warm evenin...Read the entire review

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I, Daniel Blake

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 13:28:51 PST

Highly Recommended

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A critical success at a film festival and that in a theatrical setting are quite different. While the Cannes Film Festival has hosted many impressive motion pictures in its award winners, they aren't all what they are initially hyped up to be. The Palme d'Or is the festival's highest honor, although the winner can sometimes be a bit of an odd choice. However, this isn't the case in director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty's I, Daniel Blake. They have managed to craft a tremendously genuine drama that is guaranteed to make you feel emotions that are rarely felt this strongly at the cinema.

Daniel (Dave Johns) is a middle-aged carpenter, who has lived alone since the death of his wife. After suffering from heart problems, he's told that he can no longer work unde...Read the entire review

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Fences

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 15:11:26 PST

Rent It

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Phenomenal source material for the silver screen has been coming from the art of plays for many years. However, they are very different mediums that require varying styles of dialogue, plot progression, and acting. August Wilson's widely celebrated Fences has been receiving critical praise for quite some time, which meant that a film adaptation was inevitable. Written for the screen by Wilson, the iconic Denzel Washington is getting behind and in front of the camera to bring this story to audiences everywhere. While there's a lot to be said in this story, it doesn't take a very appealing approach for the silver screen.

Troy (Denzel Washington) is an African-American father, who works as a garbage collector in the 1950s. He lives with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis),...Read the entire review

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Passengers

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 12:40:27 PST

Recommended

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The science fiction genre has taken us to many places that humanity never thought we could possibly go. Yet, many of the crazy inventions have become reality, or are well on their way to becoming so. While the genre often gets a bad name due to the cheesy execution of the lesser contributions, some of the greatest films ever made are science-fiction. However, in more recent times, they have served as big Hollywood blockbusters to be released in the summer to make loads of cash, and then be soon forgotten about. Despite expectations and what will surely be a rough critical reception, Passengers at least does more than the typical modern studio sci-fi flick.

A spacecraft is traveling to a distant colony planet with 5,000 people on board to aid in developing it. Whe...Read the entire review

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Neruda

Wed, 14 Dec 2016 04:44:55 PST

Rent It

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Director Pablo Larrain had a few titles to his name, although 2016 would ultimately prove to be a hugely successful year internationally for the filmmaker. After releasing the brilliant Jackie via the Fox Searchlight Pictures brand, he has already earned a Golden Globes nomination for Best Foreign Language Film with Neruda. Only time will tell, although it's likely that both films will ultimately receive some nomination attention at the Oscars. While both historical, they are different features with varying messages. However, his look into the mind of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy is much more captivating than this biographical drama.

Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco), thrilled audiences everywhere with his relatable words and ch...Read the entire review

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 13:05:49 PST

Recommended

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At this time last year, fans of the Star Wars franchise were drooling at the notion of The Force Awakens finally hitting theaters. It predictably did great at the box office, although critical and fan reception varied. Some found it to be a masterful journey of nostalgia, while others criticized the fact that the film felt more like a remake than a sequel. With the promise of a separate set of features that take us back to an earlier time in this universe, audiences will be getting their annual dose of the series. While Rogue One works more as a standalone entry, it still spends a bit too much energy trying to deliver upon fan service.

After the news has spread of the Death Star's creation, the Rebellion must act quickly. They find an unlikely hero ...Read the entire review

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 07:44:13 PST

Highly Recommended

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At an age when franchise blockbuster cinema has turned into mega-budget versions of old 50s serials, where it's damn near impossible to enjoy a stand-alone story without the annoyance of having to wait years to see the next installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story should come as a welcome respite for fans and general audiences alike. Old school fans are familiar with the Expended Universe, a series of novels that spin off of the familiar saga of the Skywalker family in order to explore the rest of the vast Star Wars universe.

Watching Rogue One is like experiencing an excellently executed Expanded Universe novel on the big screen. Yes, it's a prequel to A New Hope, and there's enough fan service to directly tie it to the rest of the franchise, but it also stands alone as a single story to be enjoyed in one sitting, with well-developed characters, an engaging plot, and a rousing ...Read the entire review

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La La Land

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 08:41:34 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Year: 2016

After Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk fell off the top of many Oscar watch lists, a replacement was needed to receive the excessive buzz that always flies around the #1 slot. La La Land was the film to step up into the breach, bravely deflecting attention from other awards hopefuls. But this movie isn't just a pretty face, it has the potential to actually win, and win big. A modern Hollywood musical starring two of the hottest names in the industry, a dazzling hook of a song, a writer/director coming off back-to-back hits (Whiplash, Read the entire review

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La La Land

Thu, 08 Dec 2016 05:23:33 PST

DVD Talk Collector Series

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Writer/director Damien Chazelle left audiences around the world in awe with the tremendously intense Whiplash. His portrayal and use of jazz music proved to be an exceptional addition to a film about perfection and sacrificing everything to chase one's dreams. Chazelle's newest feature to take the festival circuit by storm titled La La Land contains traces of similar themes, but brings us an entirely different world of jazz. Whether or not you're an enthusiast of the genre, this is a piece of cinema that reminds us of golden age Hollywood in a way that is pure magic. You owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist with the dreams of opening up his own club that performs the traditional sound that he admires so much. Not...Read the entire review

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Nocturnal Animals

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:31:18 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon
Year: 2016

Nocturnal Animals is somehow genius while also not being the best film of the year, excellently made while not being perfect, likeable but in no way lovable. Now, in the words of Inigo Montoya, "Let me esplain." What Tom Ford does in adapting the novel and directing it for the screen is put a story within a story, a metaphorical plot within an actual one. This allows him to be as cheesy, over-dramatic, unbelievable, sensationalizing, and crowd-pleasing as he likes without diminishing the actual quality of his artistic movie. In essence, he can get away with murder while keeping his hands clean, an apt analogy given the context of this thr...Read the entire review

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Nocturnal Animals

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 12:43:15 PST

Highly Recommended

(image) (image) The thought that might creep into one's mind when they hear that a fashion designer has directed a motion picture might be one of artifice, that they've concentrated on style above substance in how they've brought their talents to a storytelling medium. Tom Ford's soulful adaptation of A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood's novel about the lingering effects of losing a loved one, proved that the designer has far more tricks up his sleeve than the glamours and expression of aesthetics, instead paving the way for sheer enthusiasm toward his next project. Ford's second feature, Nocturnal Animals, channels the polish of his freshman film into a layered, challenging psychological drama that explores grief, redemption, and how humans perceive masculinity and strengt...Read the entire review

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Manchester by the Sea

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:03:56 PST

DVD Talk Collector Series

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Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler
Year: 2016

It might be growing redundant to hear film critics repeat the line "one of the best of 2016" with every review they publish this time of year, but that's the nature of the beast, blame the studios for waiting until November and December to release their Oscar hopefuls. As is often the case, since the directors, writers, and actors involved are all top talents, these films are actually as good as they are advertised to be, leading to us as critics heaping praise of everything we publish as the weather gets colder. I attempt to throw in a few caveats; perhaps top ten, as of now, solid for the season, waiting for others before final judgement....Read the entire review

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Jackie

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 07:57:28 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Pablo Larrain
Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup
Year: 2016

Natalie Portman will most assuredly be nominated for her third Oscar this year for her performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in the biopic event of the season, Jackie. Portman was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2005 for her role in Closer, and she won the award for Best Actress in 2011 for her role in Black Swan, one of the best films of the last twenty years, in this film critic's humble opinion. Is she on her way to another Oscar? Perhaps, and if so, she'll do it almost completely on her own, lacking the supporting cast, the famous director, the score of the century, and the dramatic thrills of a film in Bl...Read the entire review

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Loving

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 12:35:03 PST

Recommended

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Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga
Year: 2016

My love for Jeff Nichols is beginning to know bounds, I'm sad to say, as his newest film Loving follows the same path as his last film Midnight Special, down the road to disappointment. Both films are full of stars, full of promise, full of drama, but also full of holes, as they fail to live up to the expectations set by two other, much stronger of his films, Take Shelter and Mud. Those early successes paved the way for Nichols' growing genius, but his latest attempts just haven't delivered in the way I had hop...Read the entire review

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Moonlight

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:28:33 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes
Year: 2016

The out-of-nowhere Oscar frontrunner of the year is Moonlight, a shockingly blunt film that focuses on poverty, minority, homosexuality, and the inability to find yourself in a world that holds opportunities back like punishments. With high praise from audiences and critics alike, this film will find itself in the Best Picture category with ease, although its unorthodox style and subject matter may keep it as a laudable anomaly rather than an award-winning feature. But putting possible prizes aside, and acknowledging that top ratings weren't the point or the goal of this story, Moonlight is a fine film standing all on its o...Read the entire review

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Allied

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 10:57:48 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Year: 2016

Talk about star power. The combination of these two marquee actors caused a divorce, according to rumor, and shows just how caustic an alliance like this can be. When two people with this much talent and passion come together it isn't just another day at the office, and acting isn't just a job. Sometimes you give yourself too deeply, and sometimes that's to our benefit. Such is the case here, so audiences should be thankful that Brad and Marion brought real chemistry to the screen; we don't often watch a love story with as much feeling behind it. And we can't leave out Zemeckis when we talk about the stars that aligned to make Allied; he's been a...Read the entire review

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Moana

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 14:09:34 PST

Highly Recommended

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The world of Disney princesses has been expanding in recent years to be a more diverse world that is more representative of the one that we live in. Not only was this idea sure to make a ton of money, but it's much more interesting storytelling that has the potential to explore different perspectives. Moana brings the first Polynesian Disney princess to the silver screen, as well as one of the best animated films of the year. if you're looking for a movie to bring the whole family to, this is one that everybody can equally enjoy.

Born as the daughter to the chief, Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) has always had dreams of navigating the sea. However, the people on her island have strict rules to never cross the reef due to a fear of various dangers. After being chosen by t...Read the entire review

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Arrival

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 14:22:59 PST

Highly Recommended

(image) (image) Denis Villeneuve has explored dark themes and big concepts in his previous works, from the grayness of renegade justice against accused child abusers in Prisoners to the necessary evils of combating Mexico's drug trade in Sicario, composing beautiful films with heavy, bleak substance. Arrival marks Villeneuve's first true foray into science-fiction, leaving one to ponder what might've drawn the director's complex outlook on the human condition to its story about figuring out how to talk with visitors from outer space, as well as the potential somberness that it might hold. While containing tough, incendiary reflections on the ways in...Read the entire review

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:47:27 PST

Recommended

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J.K. Rowling has become something much more powerful than a name. She has crafted a world that has transported readers and viewers of all ages into another universe via the book franchise and the motion pictures. However, Rowling has managed to maintain her incredibly inspirational image in a way that has allowed many of us to believe in magic again; maybe not of the spell casting sort, but in perseverance and confidence. With the Harry Potter stories coming to a close, Rowling has brought audiences back many years before our introduction to this world of wizards in order to extend the universe that we all know and love.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a wizard from London, who has travelled to New York with nothing but a suitcase. Little do those around him r...Read the entire review

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20th Century Women (AFI FEST 2016)

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:47:27 PST

Recommended

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Feminism is often misinterpreted by most in today's society, especially with how the Internet often attacks this perspective. Many confuse it with the idea that women are better than men, which simply isn't true; feminism promotes the notion that men and women are equal, and should be treated as such. Writer/director Mike Mills explores this subject in 20th Century Women in the framework of a coming-of-age story, told from the perspective of a teenaged boy. It sounds fascinating from a glance, but the one major question I asked myself walking into the screening was whether it would exploit feminism or explore it naturally.

The year is 1979 in Santa Barbara, CA. Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) lives with his single mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening). She begins to feel t...Read the entire review

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Arrival

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 07:42:06 PST

Highly Recommended

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Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Year: 2016

Arrival is the perfect marriage of writer, director, and lead actor, putting so many other films who have attempted the same to shame. For a bit of background, Ted Chiang wrote the short story that this movie is based on, Story of Your Life, as part of a collection called Story of Your Life and Others, published in 2002. His book is part sci-fi, part philosophy, presenting a world in which a scientific premise is fact rather than fiction, and then launching the plot from that point. He has a lot to say, a ton of depth to his stories, although at tim...Read the entire review

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Manchester By the Sea

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:46:55 PST

Highly Recommended

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As the saying goes, it's the quiet ones that you have to look out for. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By the Sea left audiences breathless at the Sundance Film Festival, which only continued to impress each step it took along the festival circuit. However, this isn't your typical over-the-top drama that seeks to infuse as many tear jerking moments as possible. Rather, it feels more like a portrait of life in its rawest form, and when it rains, it pours. This film is quiet in its delivery, but certainly impactful in its execution of deep themes, such as family, loss, and coping with life.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) lives a seemingly lonely life as a janitor. When he receives an important call that his brother (Kyle Chandler) has passed away, he re...Read the entire review

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The Edge of Seventeen

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:24:52 PST

Highly Recommended

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Growing up isn't nearly as easy as the movies make it look. Many of us suffered through various personal obstacles throughout high school, as we're trying to discover more about ourselves and how we fit into the world around us. However, most Hollywood films deliver the clich s of cliques and typical relationships that end in ways that are far too obvious. Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig clearly seeks to reject such imaginary notions in The Edge of Seventeen that works as one of the most realistic perspectives into adolescence that has hit the silver screen in recent times.

Nadine (Hailee Seinfeld) has always felt less loved by all those around her than her older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner). Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) is her only friend, who has helped he...Read the entire review

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The Eyes of My Mother (AFI FEST 2016)

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:24:52 PST

Rent It

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The horror genre typically goes through a series of highs and lows that continues to adjust expectations. Many casual moviegoers simply assume that they're all either slasher flicks or entirely consumed with jump scares, while underestimating the power of those seeking to have a more psychological impact. This year has been quite impressive for a wide variety of horror films with budgets large and small. Writer/director Nicolas Pesce's The Eyes of My Mother made some noise at the Sundance Film Festival as being included on such a list of titles. While it's certainly never dull, it didn't quite impact me as it did those earlier in the festival circuit.

A young Francisca (Kika Magalhaes) lives a fairly ordinary life with her parents in the country. When her mother ...Read the entire review

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The Red Turtle (AFI FEST 2016)

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:23:41 PST

Highly Recommended

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Studio Ghibli has been known for being extremely selective when it comes to their projects. Their films will always hold a special place in my heart as some of the strongest animated titles one can find. However, there was noticeably something different about The Red Turtle from the moment the studio logo appeared. While the drawing is generally presented on a blue background, it has now been painted in red. This is meant to represent that this is a co-production, and not exclusively Studio Ghibli. Michael Dudok de Wit makes his feature debut after making an impressive array of animated shorts - one of which (Father and Daughter) winning him an Oscar. Will this earn him a second golden statue?

This eighty-minute film follows the life of a castaway on a des...Read the entire review

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Nocturnal Animals

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:23:41 PST

Recommended

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Fashion designer Tom Ford shocked movie audiences with his directorial debut A Single Man for its tender use of dramatic romance. Seven years later, he would send a very different set of shockwaves through the film festival circuit with an adaptation of Austin Wright's Tony and Susan, which would come to be titled Nocturnal Animals for the silver screen. It's a dramatic thriller with a stellar cast that has no problem taking audiences to the darkest of places one can imagine. However, it didn't quite put me under the same spell that many others fell for on the film festival trails.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is an art gallery owner, who has an abundance of riches and an attractive husband (Armie Hammer), yet remains incredibly unhappy in life. When sh...Read the entire review

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Jackie (AFI FEST 2016)

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 12:54:53 PST

Highly Recommended

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The biographical films are coming, which could mean only one thing: Oscar season is upon us. Some call many of these features awards bait. With A-listers in the leading roles, it makes sense as to why the distributors are trying to push so many of these titles for Oscar consideration. After the negative publicity around Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation exploded, Fox Searchlight Pictures focused its sights on Pablo Larra n's Jackie as its new Oscar pony. While every element screams "give us awards!," it has certainly earned nominations, at the very least.

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) must deal with the grief of her horrendous loss. When losing her husband and the title that gave her...Read the entire review

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Things to Come [AFI FEST 2016]

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 11:18:05 PST

Recommended

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Unless you have been avoiding news from the film festival circuit, this is a big year for Isabelle Huppert. She stars in the lead role in two features that have been making noise at the festivals, although the two projects share little outside of Huppert's involvement. Elle is a light-hearted rape story, while Things to Come is a philosophical look into the life of a woman whose entire life is crumbling around her. Writer/director Mia Hansen-L ve has crafted a film that doesn't necessarily always seek to entertain, but more to inspire thought and introspection.

Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) is a philosophy teacher who seems to have it all: a long-lasting marriage, children, and a job that she loves. When she's fired, her husband soon reveals that he has fall...Read the entire review

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Paterson [AFI FEST 2016]

Sun, 13 Nov 2016 11:18:05 PST

Skip It

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Routine is both a friend and enemy in life. It makes us feel comfortable and safe, but it can ultimately begin to feel stale. When life starts to get tedious, that's when depression can take hold. Writer/director Jim Jarmusch tackles the subject matter in a way that wants the audience to relate in a way that is emotionally raw and realistically humorous. However, this is arthouse filmmaking that is a real turn off, as it comes across as being purely pretentious about life. Instead of speaking to the soul, everything about it feels constructed and cold in a way that is more frustrating than anything else.

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. He's an introverted man, who keeps a secret journal with a collection of poems that chronicles his feeli...Read the entire review

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The Comedian [AFI FEST 2016]

Sat, 12 Nov 2016 14:52:28 PST

Rent It

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The world of comedy is an absolutely fascinating place to set a narrative. While it isn't necessarily a new idea to the silver screen, there are still a wide variety of ways that filmmakers can explore the mind of a comedian. However, most of these pictures generally end up getting confused regarding whether it wants to make us laugh or cry, which results in a movie that doesn't know what it wants to be. Director Taylor Hackford is working with a list of impressive talent in The Comedian, yet it still doesn't manage to find the balance between trying to make us laugh and genuinely connect to its characters.

Jackie (Robert De Niro) got his claim to fame by playing Eddie on an old television show. Years later, he has continued to pursue comedy as a stand-up insult ...Read the entire review

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