On paper, there’s nothing about Early Man that’s particularly special. But paper isn’t the movie’s medium: It’s clay.

Aardman’s latest offering is an absolute delight, and, much like Paddington 2, is a prime example of the heights that children’s entertainment — and entertainment in general — can reach in the right hands. In this case, those hands are quite literal, as Aardman is one of the last bastions of stop-motion clay animation.

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure review

There’s a lot to like in the final installment of the Maze Runner series. Maze Runner: The Death Cure is not a perfect movie — no movie that tries to have its cake and eat it too truly can be — but as far as franchise blockbusters go, it’s not too bad.

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Den of Thieves Review

It’s hard to make a bad Gerard Butler movie.

This isn’t to say that none of his movies are bad. Rather, Gerard Butler is the kind of actor so willing to ham it up that nothing he’s in is ever a complete waste of time. He’s committed to the point that I’ve long considered him a better actor than he’s generally given credit for (or given the roles to prove), though he seems to be doing perfectly well in the gregarious tough guy niche he’s carved out for himself.

Unfortunately, Den of Thieves is the kind of slog that almost completely runs out that goodwill.

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the commuter trailer

At this point, Liam Neeson movies are practically a genre unto themselves, and Liam Neeson-Jaume Collet-Serra movies are quite possibly their apex. The Commuter is one of the best of the bunch. Even though it’s not really anything you haven’t seen before, Neeson’s commitment to the role and Collet-Serra’s at times inspired direction make for a movie that’s hell on wheels. Sure, you can see some of the twists coming from a mile away, but it’s a forgivable sin when they’re executed with so much panache.

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all the money in the world review

Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World begins with a monologue from John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) in which he explains to the audience that the sheer amount of money that the Gettys possessed might as well have meant that they came from a different planet. “We look like you,” he says, “But we’re not like you.” And indeed they aren’t. When Paul is kidnapped and his mother Gail (Michelle Williams) tries to contact his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) for the $17 million ransom, J. Paul Getty refuses. As he tells his advisor (Mark Wahlberg), it’s not that he doesn’t have the money. It’s just that he doesn’t have the money to spare.

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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Review

I may be speaking too much in haste, but I feel reasonably confident in saying that Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the most pure fun I’ve had at a movie in 2017. I laughed to the point that I felt compelled to apologize to my seatmates once the credits rolled, I involuntarily gasped out loud at a plot twist I probably should have seen coming, and I wasn’t bored for even a minute of the movie’s two-hour runtime. In short: Jumanji is a blast. No, it isn’t in contention with, say, The Shape of Water or The Post, but does it have to be?

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The Greatest Showman Review

Oh, boy. Where to begin with The Greatest Showman?

Generally speaking, if you feel the need to cover something up, then it’s a pretty good indication that you know you’ve done something wrong. To that end, it’s a leading indicator of what you’re in for that The Greatest Showman’s cast includes Paul Sparks (always great, always underserved) as critic James Gordon Bennett, and saddles him first with the task of pooh-poohing the protagonists’ efforts, and then begrudgingly admitting, “another critic might have called [the circus] a celebration of humanity.”

For better or worse, I am not that critic.

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justice league

Each movie in the DCEU can be parsed by its sound. Man of Steel remains — to me, at least — the best of the DC films so far; the theme at its core is simplistic, but it aches and it soars, and speaking on a broader level, it also comes closest to synthesizing the superhero with the present climate in the way that Christopher Nolan’s Batman films did. The score for Batman v. Superman is operatic, almost gothic (“The Red Capes Are Coming” is remarkable in this regard, baroque in style and an inverse to the Man of Steel theme), impressive in its ambition even if doesn’t necessarily manage to pull it all together. Wonder Woman is bright, more “classic” in terms of the film scores it evokes, in line with its less dreary tone and how it hews closer to the usual superhero movie template.

All this is a way of saying that Justice League falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. Danny Elfman gives us notes of insanity reminiscent of his work on the Burton Batman movies, but what glimpses we get of a unique film are lost in trying to incorporate bits and pieces of the previous films, not to mention the incessant noise that comprises the fight sequences. This isn’t to say that it isn’t good. On the contrary, Zack Snyder’s latest film is fine; it’s just perhaps a little lesser than its predecessors due to how much it tries to scale back its ambitions and play by the rules.
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murder on the orient express review

If you’re going to see Murder on the Orient Express, try to catch it in 70mm. Much of the pleasure that can be derived from the movie comes from simply looking at it: director Kenneth Branagh has made a film that’s undeniably gorgeous (aside from a few miscalculated additions of CGI). It’s as sumptuous as a movie about a train line that came to be synonymous with luxury travel ought to be. The rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to that bar, but by God, it tries.

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The Deuce Season Finale Review

(We’re going to kickstart our weekly discussion of HBO’s The Deuce by answering one simple question: who or what is the “best bet” in this week’s episode?)

As with any show in which there are so many moving pieces, it’s impossible to say that The Deuce did right by every single one of them, but it did its damnedest. This is generally true of the show — not just when it comes to the characters but when it comes to how much attention is given to each story. Some float — Eileen’s (Maggie Gyllenhaal) arc, for example — and others wobble — the “journalist sleeps with source” trope — but The Deuce is still an inimitably lovely piece of work.

The instances of casual cruelty are offset by how much George Pelecanos and David Simon (not to mention their writers) care about the characters we’re seeing. The most horrifying scene of The Deuce happens in the season finale, and the almost thoughtless way in which it happens is particularly jarring. But, for all that initially seems cold and cruel of the show and not just the characters involved, the repercussions get teased out bit by bit. The Deuce may be a hotbed of sin, but The Deuce has too big a heart to be quashed so easily. When we come back for season two, we’ll have jumped ahead in time; hopefully we’ll see most of the cast return. We’ve lost some of the best characters already, it’d be a pity not to have the whole gang back.

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