A Simple Favor Review

Over the last decade, Paul Feig has established himself as a director who loves to work with talented women. From Bridesmaids to Ghostbusters to The Heat, he’s often excelled at capturing the uniquely spiky relationships modern women have with each other and themselves. At first glance, his choice to direct the suspense thriller A Simple Favor may seem inexplicable, since Feig’s other films are all straight-up comedies. But A Simple Favor, surprisingly to its detriment, is a movie as interested in being funny and self-aware as it is in being twisty and tense.

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The world of ballet has served as a flashpoint for a handful of filmmakers over the 21st century, decades after the art form was more dominant in popular culture. In the last couple decades, ballet has served as the foundation for some of the great independent filmmakers, from Robert Altman with his 2003 drama The Company to Darren Aronofsky with his horror-tinged Black Swan in 2010 and Luca Guadagnino with the upcoming remake of Dario Argento’s iconic ’70s tale of terror, Suspiria.

But the best of the ballet films transcends its specific craft, and has become massively influential not only to these newer auteurs, but throughout all cinema in its depiction of the single-minded, almost murderous passion to create art in spite of everything else. It’s a film that turns 70 today and remains timeless: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.

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Happytime Murders lawsuit

If you’re in the mood for a great cinematic blend of edgy comedy and detective thriller, combining the seamy underbelly of the big city with seemingly childish characters who have surprisingly adult predilections, good news: Who Framed Roger Rabbit is streaming on Hulu. It’s a classic!

If, on the other hand, you’re in the mood for a movie that apes the style of the 1988 masterpiece, as well as a handful of other not-terribly-recent films, then the dull and laugh-free The Happytime Murders is your only option. But there’s not much of a good reason to sit through the film outside of sheer, baffled curiosity.

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Christopher Robin Trailer

(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.)

What defines the difference between a theatrically released feature film and a feature that’s placed only on a streaming service? The fine line between the two is getting constantly redefined. Netflix constantly releases new films that, a decade ago, would have gotten a theatrical release instead. (Or, failing that, a direct-to-DVD release.) Hell, two of their 2018 releases are acquisitions they made from studios that originally intended to release the films in theaters.

Within the confines of this column, though, it’s worth looking to the future. Disney is just about a year away from unveiling its new streaming service. (You know, the one that they should call the Disney Vault. Ahem. I have no doubt that you’re reading this, Bob Iger.) It’s easy to get an idea of what kinds of movies they’ll keep on their streaming service and what will be released in theaters. All you have to do is consider the case of Christopher Robin.

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Mile 22 sequel

The good news about the new Peter Berg/Mark Wahlberg action movie Mile 22 is that it’s moderately short, clocking in at barely over an hour and a half. The bad news is that Mile 22 still isn’t short enough. Mile 22 goes in the same category as the recent Sicario: Day of the Soldado; it’s an often repugnant and obnoxious exercise in faux-cinema verite style that serves to beat down its audience into submission as opposed to being entertaining. The compact nature of the story is fairly novel, but the way in which its ticking-clock premise is executed is both exhausting and inexplicable.

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the meg tv spot

A couple of times this year at the movies, I’ve found myself thinking about one of the great lines from one of the great movies about the movies. “Wallace Beery! Wrestling picture! Whaddya need, a road map?” So goes the snappy one-liner from Michael Lerner’s cynical studio executive in the Joel and Ethan Coen masterpiece Barton Fink, and so it echoed in my head as I sat, disappointed, through two different-but-not-exactly genre films.

In April, the film was Rampage. Last week, the movie was The Meg. I left the film feeling a bit like Lerner’s character, chastising the pretentious Barton Fink. These movies should not have needed the road maps.

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The Fugitive 25th Anniversary

Conventional wisdom suggests that Harrison Ford does not enjoy interviews. There’s plenty of evidence of him getting less and less interested in the dog-and-pony-show style of public-relations journalism. Even though he’s been more present in the public eye thanks to playing Han Solo once again in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, Ford’s no less terse in his responses, to the point where his most beloved films often inspire in him a dismissiveness bordering on nearly hilarious cruelty when confronted by fans, as in this clip from Conan O’Brien’s NBC show.

But it’s not just in interviews. Though two of his most iconic characters know their way around a raffish turn of phrase, Harrison Ford’s last great performance came courtesy of a character who communicates with his eyes far more than he does with his mouth. As improbable as it was for a film based on a TV show in the mid-1990s to garner both critical praise and Oscar nominations, it’s equally improbable that we haven’t seen Ford get any better than when he played the wrongly accused Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, 25 years ago today.

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Mission Impossible Fallout Trailer

What if Tom Cruise was James Bond? The Mission: Impossible series, now six films strong, is the answer. Through the decades-spanning franchise, Cruise has played a secret agent surrounded by gadgets, spycraft, and gorgeous women. The major difference between Ethan Hunt of the IMF and James Bond of MI6 is that Hunt has a habit for indulging in death-defying stunts.

Which is the craziest? Which film is the best? Where does new film Mission: Impossible – Fallout fall in the series? Read on.

(Major spoilers for the first five films in the series and minor spoilers for Fallout lie ahead.)

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the Equalizer 2 review

It’s fairly cold comfort that The Equalizer 2 is an improvement on its 2014 predecessor. That film’s director and star, Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington, have returned for this follow-up, which is largely more of the same. The first film was exceedingly dour, grim and gratuitously violent, with Washington’s Robert McCall laying waste to all sorts of faceless baddies. This time around, while the reasons why McCall has to fend off bad guys hit closer to home, much of the story is predictable and Fuqua’s unable to rein in the film to a more manageable length. All told, this manages to be a bit better simply by not being that excessive.

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(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)

A decade ago, Christopher Nolan stepped into an echelon that only a few filmmakers occupy, wherein moviegoers around the world know his name as well as they know any movie star. Only a handful of directors — Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese — can claim entrée into this exclusive club. For Nolan, it’s thanks to his second superhero film, The Dark Knight, celebrating its tenth anniversary this week. There are many reasons why The Dark Knight remains an incredible, exciting, if still very disquieting blockbuster; perhaps the biggest reason of all is the conception, in writing, directing and performing, of Batman’s most feared villain, the Joker.

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