Love & Friendship

Jane Austen may have a reputation as a romantic, but I’d argue that her real forte is as a humorist. She’s second to none when it comes to elegantly written, sharply observed comedies about the foibles of England’s upper classes, combining a wry, biting wit with a genuine sense of affection for the characters she’s created.

Naturally, this makes Austen’s work the perfect source of inspiration for Metropolitan and Last Days of Disco director Whit Stillman, who has brought her novella Lady Susan to life in the laugh-out-loud hilarious Love & FriendshipKate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan herself, a cunning widow out to secure her position in society via favorable marriage matches for herself and her daughter.  Read More »

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The Birth of a Nation

In his debut feature as a director, Nate Parker attempts to do no less than reclaim American history in the name of the slaves who had their own lives and their own stories ripped away from them. This re-appropriation starts with the title — The Birth of a Nation is stolen from D.W. Griffith’s racist epic — and continues with an opening epigraph. “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just,” reads the quote from Thomas Jefferson, famously a slave owner, “that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Parker himself stars as Nat Turner, a Virginia slave who in 1831 led the deadliest slave rebellion in American history. By the end, about 60 whites had been killed — and a hundred or more blacks had been slaughtered in retaliation. The Birth of a Nation is the sorrowful, righteously angry chronicle of how Nat, a kind, charismatic, and devout preacher, came to spark a bloody uprising.

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Finding Dory Trailer

A lot’s changed for most of us in the past 13 years, but Dory, it seems, is right where we left her. That’s partly because only a few months have changed in her world — but it’s also because she’s still the blue tang so forgetful that in the latest Finding Dory teaser, has trouble remembering she’s the Dory of the title. Instead, she suggests an alternate interpretation of the title. Watch the new Finding Dory teaser after the jump. Read More »

Manchester by the Sea

This year’s Sundance slate is positively jam-packed with tales of family tragedy, from Other People to The Hollars to The Fundamentals of Caring to Hunt for the Wilderpeople. But grief has rarely been explored as deeply and as beautifully, at Sundance or elsewhere, as in Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester by the Sea. This film wrecked me, to the point that I started crying all over again while working on this very review.

Casey Affleck, giving a career-best performance in a career-best role, is the devastating heart of this exquisitely wrought drama. Surrounding him are a rock-solid cast that also includes Kyle ChandlerLucas HedgesMichelle Williams, and C.J. Wilson. Collectively, they’ve put together a film that I strongly suspect will turn out to be the very best of this year’s Sundance crop, at least in my personal estimation. Read More »

Southside With You

Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise has sparked dozens of imitations, some better than others, but Southside With You is almost certainly the first time it’s inspired a biopic based on a sitting U.S. president. Written and directed by Richard Tanne, the gentle indie romance chronicles the charmed first date of Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers), then a summer associate at a Chicago law firm, and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), then a second-year associate and his mentor at the same firm.  Read More »

Animals trailer

New York City may be home to 8 million people, but it’s also host to several times as many non-human creatures. And it’s those critters — from the mice under the sinks to the cats in the windows to the horses in the parks — that get to take center stage in Animals, the new animated series from HBO and the Duplass brothers. The results look weird and funny and kind of twisted, and might make you look a little differently at the next pigeon that flies by. Watch the Animals trailer after the jump.

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Under The Shadow

Ever since The Babadook premiered at Sundance in 2014, it feels like every new critically beloved, out-of-nowhere horror hit has been touted as “the new Babadook.” Most of the time, the descriptor is just a catchy way of saying “this horror film’s got buzz.” Many of these “new Babadooks,” from It Follows to The Witch, aren’t all that much like The Babadook at all, and — in my estimation — none of them have been quite as good.

In the case of this year’s Sundance horror Under the Shadow, though, the description really does seem apt. The film works for many of the same reasons The Babadook does. Like The Babadook, Under the Shadow relies more on tension and dread than cheap jump scares. And as with The Babadook, the uneasiness lingers long after the credits have rolled because it evokes real-life horrors, rather than simply relying on supernatural ones.  Read More »

Average US Movie Ticket Price

Has your wallet been looking kind of thin lately? Checking account balance a bit low? Credit card bills surprisingly high? Well, we don’t know your life, so we won’t presume to tell you exactly what your problem is. But it could have something to do with the fact that the average movie ticket price in the U.S. hit another all-time high in the final quarter of 2015. And while Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t the only reason for that increase, it’s a pretty big part of it.  Read More »

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi had a minor breakthrough last year with What We Do in the Shadows, and is about to have a much bigger one with Thor: Ragnarok, but in between he’s managed to squeeze in the delightful Hunt for the Wilderpeople. A sort of live-action Up with dashes of Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson, and Thelma & Louise, all filtered through Waititi’s own warm, offbeat sense of humor, Wilderpeople looks destined to become a new childhood classic. Read More »