The Death of Stalin Review

“I wanted to get away from American politics,” joked Veep creator Armando Iannucci at the world premiere of his new film The Death of Stalin during the Toronto International Film Festival. “So what better way than to make a film about a narcissist who terrifies his own country?”

It’s hard not to see parallels to the current American political climate and that of the chaotic days following the demise of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin as depicted in The Death of Stalin. Of course, The Death of Stalin manages to make its events much funnier. Much, much funnier. With this film, an adaptation of a graphic novel, Iannucci, who helmed the acerbic In The Loop, has made his masterpiece, a pitch-black comedy of terrors that might be one of the most hilarious films of the 21st century.
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The Florida Project Review

The Magic Kingdom colors almost every scene of The Florida Project. Sean Baker’s achingly beautiful and heartbreaking new film is set in Florida (obviously), very close to Disney, and nearly everything in the background advertises the The Most Magical Place On Earth. Tourist trap stores with huge painted signs advertising Disney merch constantly lurk in the periphery.

But the characters in The Florida Project occupy their own kingdom, one comprised of rundown motels and abandoned buildings. These might seem like squalid conditions, but Baker finds a way to make them seem warm and welcoming without ever trying to glamorize them. The sunsets are fierce and gorgeous, lush pinks and reds and golds, vast and seeming to stretch on for infinity. They feel like home.
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happy end tiff

Michael Haneke is not known for light-heartedness. The Austrian filmmaker behind Funny Games, Caché, The White Ribbon, and Amour specializes in challenging, often incredibly bleak dramas where all is not right in the world.

So when Haneke’s new film was announced with the title Happy End, most people familiar with the director likely assumed this was a deliberate misnomer. Well, it is and isn’t. Happy End, which played at the Toronto International Film Festival, is perhaps one of the least-depressing films Haneke has made, while also still being plenty of bleak. There’s a bemusement at work here, as if Heneke is winking at the audience with every scene.

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Stephen King's It

There’s a level of artifice inherent in acting. A great performance lets us forget that. Generally speaking, it’s a more difficult task when it comes to child actors, which is what makes Andy Muschietti’s It so remarkable. The Losers’ Club he’s assembled is stellar across the board; there’s nothing about these kids that seems fake or affected, to the point that even when the film starts to fly off into more extreme flights of fancy, they manage to keep it firmly grounded.

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Stephen King's It Trailer

This weekend brings the latest adaptation of Stephen King‘s classic horror novel It to theaters. Or at least it brings the first half of what will be a two-part theatrical adaptation, when all is said and done.

Director Andy Muschietti is tackling Pennywise the Dancing Clown and his terrorizing of the misfits known as The Losers’ Club this time, and based on the early buzz on social media recently, it sounded like the movie was going to be a beloved horror hit. Now that the full reviews are starting to arrive, things are looking a little more mixed, but there’s still plenty of acclaim here and word that fans don’t necessarily need to worry about being disappointed as long as they don’t expect perfection.

Read some of the It reviews from around the web below. Read More »

mother! early reviews

The mother! early reviews are out and critics are both perplexed by and in praise of Darren Aronofsky‘s insane sensory assault of a movie.

The psychological horror film about a couple played by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem who suddenly find themselves hosting suspicious strangers at their remote home (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), debuted at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, and left critics reeling from the experience. But despite the bafflement of many critics — many of whom could only really say “WTF” in reaction — it seems like the overall response was actually quite positive.

Check out what some of the early mother! reviews have to say below.

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Shape of Water Reviews

Guillermo del Toro‘s dark fairy tale, The Shape of Water, made a splashy premiere at the Venice Film Festival this week, with early reviews lauding its lush visuals, incisive social commentary, and enchanting love story. It seemed like critics had only praise for the film, with each review gushing that del Toro’s 1960s-set fantasy could easily be his best film since his magnum opus Pan’s Labyrinth.

Starring Sally Hawkins, frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones (finally getting a starring role after playing monsters and extras in most of his films), Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer and Richard JenkinsThe Shape of Water is a love story between a mute lab cleaning woman (Hawkins) and a gilled fish creature (Jones) set against the backdrop of the Cold War.

Check out what some of the early The Shape of Water reviews have to say below.

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the villainess review

This review originally ran during our coverage of the Fantasia Film Festival. The Villainess is in select North American theaters today.

The opening of The Villainess is dangerous. An exhilarating, first-person POV hallway fight scene that leaves a lot of unnamed henchmen in bloodied heaps is thankfully smart enough to (cleverly) shift away from the first-person angle just when you start wondering if the next two hours of your life are going to be a video game you aren’t in control of. The move expands our view of the stunningly choreographed action and announces a hint of the innovation yet to come. Yes, it’s dangerous, and like a lot of dangerous things – a mile-high tightrope walk, hanging to the outside of a C130 in flight, killing Keanu Reeves’ dog – it’s also thrilling when done right.

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Death Note Clip

This weekend brings another Netflix original movie to the streaming service, and it might be their most controversial yet. Death Note is an American adaptation of the famous manga of the same name, and while there has been some backlash about the whitewashing of the cast, it sounds like the most offensive thing about the movie is the fact that it doesn’t do anything fresh with the material to justify it. There’s nothing explicitly American about this new take on Death Note from director Adam Wingard other than focusing on a mostly white cast in a condensed adaptation that lacks any of the substance of the original.

Check out what some of the early Death Note reviews have to say below. Read More »

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Defenders Group

(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 first season of Marvel’s The Defenders.)

When the entire world needs saving, the Avengers are the team you probably want on the job (if this particular world exists in the MCU, that is). But when the local neighborhood needs protection, maybe it’s time for some smaller fish to spring into action. Enter The Defenders, the latest Marvel show to drop onto Netflix for fans to binge over a weekend and then swiftly forget about.

There was a time when a series like The Defenders would feel like a major event, yet there’s a curious lack of excitement revolving around the project. Perhaps it’s become harder to be enthusiastic about an event like this when every form of superhero entertainment is treated like an event now. In other words, it’s become exhausting.

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