Infinity War Runtime

The best thing about Avengers: Infinity War is, in many ways, the best thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole: an incredibly charming and almost overqualified ensemble cast. Though a few of the actors in the nearly 20 films of the MCU haven’t worked out so well, many of the performers are key to making the heroes of this fantastical series fresh and exciting. Whenever the sometimes-unwieldy, epic-length Infinity War works, it’s largely thanks to the actors, not the action sequences or the effects or anything else. The cast makes this movie, not the other way around.

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Ready Player One Shining Scene

For good and ill, Ready Player One feels like the apotheosis of all things nostalgic in popular culture in the 21st century. The new Steven Spielberg film, based on the book of the same name by co-screenwriter Ernest Cline, depicts a future in which people of all ages escape into a virtual-reality landscape that’s populated with cultural characters both famous and obscure. As much as it may be enjoyable to be reminded of the things you liked or loved (or still like or love), Ready Player One struggles with the balance between depicting nostalgic totems and commenting on the damage that obsessing over such cultural detritus does to a person.

One scene midway through the film represents this struggle, and is almost able to encapsulate the film’s various issues in a microcosm. To describe that scene would be a pretty big spoiler, so consider yourself warned.

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Beetlejuice 30th Anniversary

It’s been too long, painfully so, since Michael Keaton got to be even remotely as funny and wild on screen as he is as the title character of Beetlejuice. Keaton has mercifully had a bit of a career revival in the last handful of years, having starred in two of the last four Best Picture winners (remember Birdman and Spotlight?) as well as getting to play the villainous Vulture in last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. Though that movie represented a nice reversal of the days when Keaton played the Caped Crusader, Homecoming leaned more into the longtime actor’s darker side.

So watching Beetlejuice 30 years (it hit theaters on March 30, 1988) later feels all the more shocking because it’s a bracing reminder that, even when he was playing a darker-than-life character, Michael Keaton could be as funny as he was scary.

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(Welcome to The Disney Discourse, a recurring feature where Josh Spiegel discusses the latest in Disney news. He goes deep on everything from the animated classics to the theme parks to live-action franchises. In this edition: why the recently retired John Musker matters to Disney’s past and its future.)

There are only a few people whose presence at Walt Disney Animation Studios has been as massive as that of Walt Disney himself. During Disney’s life, although he never directed a single animated feature, it was hard to see anyone else at the studio he created with his brother being quite as influential or impactful as he was. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, there have been a handful of artists who could say that they caused major change at the studio, from the late composer Howard Ashman to the now-mired-in-controversy animator and producer John Lasseter.

Last weekend, one of those great artists stepped down from Disney Animation: longtime animator and director John Musker, whose loss at the studio will be keenly felt for a long time.

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Five years ago, Steven Soderbergh directed what he’d said would be his cinematic swan song. Side Effects, ostensibly about a woman who reacts quite poorly to some medication she was prescribed by a sweaty British doctor, was a nasty piece of work that featured one of Jude Law’s more underrated performances. If Side Effects was really Soderbergh’s last feature, it would’ve been a fine note on which to exit. Instead, last summer, the auteur returned with the goofy and charming Logan Lucky. His own luck has, temporarily, evaporated with Unsane, which is a highly idiotic inversion of Side Effects.

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A Wrinkle in Time Review

Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time represents a long-overdue milestone being passed. The fact that the film’s director, Ava DuVernay of Selma and 13th, is the first woman of color to helm a Hollywood film with a budget over $100 million is remarkable; that it took the industry until 2018 to allow this barrier to be broken is unforgivable. But A Wrinkle in Time, leaving aside a marketing campaign that portends a new mega-bucks franchise, is a surprising, distinctive, sometimes mawkish, sometimes emotionally wrenching, and all-over-the-place journey. While the film is not always satisfying, its ambitions are winning enough.

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Red Sparrow Reviews

The new faux-Hitchcockian thriller Red Sparrow has the dubious honor of both being too overheated and too sterile to have any impact. Granted, Red Sparrow does have the pedigree of A-lister Jennifer Lawrence playing the conflicted lead, as well as the undeniable sense that this is the kind of prestige-striving film for adults that is rarely made or released outside of awards season. But the end result is flaccid, more convinced of its intelligence than it should be, and painfully overlong.

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game night trailer

More than two decades later, David Fincher’s dark thriller The Game now seems almost prescient in its depiction of a company that stages “games” for unwitting participants. There are plenty of outlets for people who just like to play board games or trivia in 2018, but escape rooms and more elaborate interactive murder-mysteries are vastly more common and popular now than they were in the late 1990s.

So the premise of the new dark comedy/thriller Game Night no longer feels quite as fantastical as it might have, even if the movie’s attempt to balance genres doesn’t always quite work in its favor.

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Aardman Movies Ranked

One of the great underrated purveyors of modern family entertainment, Aardman Animations has been comfortably chugging out feature films and shorts over the last 30 years to acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Over the last few years, Aardman’s stop-motion style has been matched in the United States by the Laika studio, with its ambitious storytelling in Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings, among others. But this past weekend, Aardman’s newest movie, Early Man, got to take center stage as a form of counter-programming against Black Panther.

With Early Man in theaters, it’s time to look at the whole of Aardman’s feature-length output with this ranking. So, do like Wallace and grab the nearest cheesy snack, and dig in.

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the 15:17 to paris review

When a new movie based on a true story opens, there is an inevitable debate online over whether what’s documented on screen really happened, or if it really happened in the way it’s presented. Films like Selma, Zero Dark Thirty, Dunkirk, and more get scrutinized for fear that creative license has inexorably shifted true events that may seem dramatic enough on their own.

Now, we have a case of the exact opposite, in which the events depicted on screen are almost certainly staged with accuracy because of how many of the real people are involved. Clint Eastwood, with his new film The 15:17 to Paris, has gone out of his way to recreate the foiling of a would-be terrorist attack carefully. Unfortunately, he’s done so in aggressively dull fashion.

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