coco trailer

When Pixar Animation Studios released its first film in 1995, it felt groundbreaking. Toy Story proved that computer animation could serve as the foundation for a feature film, but it also proved that animated films did not all need to follow the storytelling template of classical Disney animated films such as Beauty and the Beast and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

More than 20 years later, Pixar has become less of a disruptor and more of a standard-bearer. Some of their later original films, from WALL-E to Inside Out, are able to marry unique concepts and worlds, while others — like 2015’s The Good Dinosaur — struggle to move beyond technologically innovative designs. This week, Pixar is releasing Coco, its second film of 2017, and its first original film in a couple years. While Coco is not the studio’s most creatively daring film, the fact that it’s a charming and gorgeously realized story is, in its own way, enormously relieving.

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The Punisher Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: the second season Netflix’s latest Marvel series, The Punisher.)

Why is The Punisher so hard to get right? First appearing in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man in 1974, Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, was birthed from the same two-fisted pulp sensibilities that created angry, well-armed lone nuts like Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey in Death Wish and Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry. He was less a human being and more of a walking armory; an emotionally stunted anti-hero brandishing killer phallic symbols, living and dying by his own morally compromised code. There’s plenty of entertainment there, but there’s not a lot of substance.

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Justice League Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: the superhero team-up extravaganza Justice League.)

You can’t save the world alone, and saving the DCEU might be even more of a challenge. After Warner Bros. and DC finally found their footing with Wonder Woman, the superhero series trips over its own cape with the cacophonous Justice League. What should be a moment of triumph for the series – the long-awaited team-up of their signature heroes – instead feels like an uncomfortable obligation. It’s like a weekend visit to grandma – you don’t want to do it, there’s other things you’d really like to be doing, but you figure you make the effort because she’ll be gone soon.

As of this writing, Justice League is underperforming even more than anyone expected. The film failed to break the coveted $100 million domestic weekend opening gross, which will no doubt lead to a string of think-pieces pondering, “What went wrong with the DCEU?” With all this in mind, it almost feels cruel to hammer Justice League more. But this is the task at hand. I come not to praise Justice League, nor do I come to bury it. Instead, I want to try to get to the heart of what makes it tick. This is a garish, visually hideous work of pop art, yet I firmly believe it has its heart in the right place: it wants to tell a fun, entertaining story about a group of people coming together to solve a huge problem, and growing as they do so. But what it wants to do, and what it actually does are two very different things. This Justice League spoiler review will highlight what works best in the film, and what doesn’t work at all.

Spoilers follow, obviously.

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Justice League rotten tomatoes score delayed

Update: This post has been updated with additional information from Rotten Tomatoes.

Eager DC Film fans will have to wait a little longer to decide if there’s a critical conspiracy against the DC Extended Universe — the reveal of the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score has been delayed.

The Justice League Rotten Tomatoes score has been pushed back to the day before the film’s release on November 17, and a day after the review embargo is set to be lifted.

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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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Thor Ragnarok Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.)

No one would ever accuse the Marvel Cinematic Universe of being dark and serious, but with Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel goes into full-comedy mode, crafting their funniest film to date. Perhaps finally realizing how inconsequential and dry the Thor films have been, Marvel hired What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi and let him go wild. The results are laugh-out-loud funny, albeit with a caveat: Thor: Ragnarok cares more about landing a great punchline or sight-gag than it does about plot. 

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Thor: Ragnarok review

Nearly a decade ago, Marvel’s first entry in their burgeoning Cinematic Universe, Iron Man, proved so successful as to influence and inspire plenty of other studios and filmmakers to build out extended-universe franchises. Now, it’s hard to imagine a more influential Marvel movie than Guardians of the Galaxy, the gleefully anarchic, candy-colored 2014 film that stood apart from the machinations of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and the rest of the Avengers. Its rousing success has bled through to the Avengers themselves, starting with the previously pompous Thor in his third dedicated film, Thor: Ragnarok, which is maybe the goofiest, silliest Marvel movie to date.

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stranger things 2

On the October 31, 2017 episode of /Film Daily, Peter Sciretta is joined by Ben Pearson and Chris Evangelista for a spoiler-filled discussion and review of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things 2.

You can subscribe to /Film Daily on iTunes, Google Play, Overcast and all the popular podcast apps (here is the RSS URL if you need it).

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Stranger Things 2 spoiler review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: the second season Netflix’s highly anticipated Stranger Things.)

What was it that made Stranger Things season 1 such a hit? Was it the nostalgia factor, with the abundance of 1980s charm drawing viewers in? Was it the rather ingenious combination of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg-like material that tapped into an overall vibe that audiences were inherently familiar with? Both of those things likely played a part, but what truly worked best about the first season of Stranger Things was how it handled its characters. Specifically, how it created a cast of highly likable, relatable characters, cast them perfectly, and then had them work together. The chemistry was unbeatable.

Which is why Stranger Things season 2, or Stranger Things 2, as it’s officially called, seems like just an anomaly. When it came time to plan the second season for their wildly popular show, the Duffer Brothers seemingly decided to take everything that made the first season so memorable and do the complete opposite. There’s a certain amount of appreciation here: it’s gutsy to go so against the grain; to reject fan service in lieu of something different. It would’ve been very easy for Stranger Things 2 to simply remake the first season, and the fact that the Duffers avoided that is commendable. But there’s a difference between trying something different and completely jettisoning things that were working so well. You don’t throw the Demogorgon out with the bathwater.

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Suburbicon Review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Suburbicon is in theaters today.)

It’s not often that one film attempts so many different things and manages to make none of them work, but gosh darn it, Suburbicon somehow makes such blundering seem easy. Director George Clooney packs a whole lot of ideas into his tale of the underbelly of 1950s suburbia, but they’re really bad, lazy ideas, which is a shame because Suburbicon has quite the pedigree.

The biggest problem with Suburbicon is that it’s really two different movies cobbled together. One movie is a dark, farcical Coen Brothers-style crime movie. Which makes sense, since the Coens have a writing credit on the film. But then there’s the other movie, one that deals with racism and white supremacy. This is an element of the film that absolutely none of the advertising even hints at, which is kind of strange.

You really shouldn’t hold a movie’s advertising against it, but the trailers for Suburbicon make it look like a wacky dark comedy about a family man in the 50s fighting back against his tormentors. That’s not even close to what this movie is about, and the fact that the trailers tried to sell it as that hints at a movie that folks don’t know how to sell.
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