Vice bides its time, at least at first. It opens with a brief, Paul Greengrass-style glimpse of the Situation Room on 9/11. Accompanying this cinéma vérité are snippets of all the war and torture that would follow; Adam McKay, now on a roll after The Big Short, is as much a documentarian or video essayist as he is a fiction filmmaker, setting the stage for events that we, the public, are all too familiar with.

However, the film’s opening credits don’t arrive until 12 minutes later. In the interim, Dick Cheney’s (Christian Bale) drive is established through biopic pastiche. His rustic beginnings, his run-ins with the law, his wife Lynne (Amy Adams) threatening to leave him if he doesn’t get his life together. Later, as the film grows more tongue-in cheek, Cheney is brought up to the White House by Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). Here, Cheney’s ethos is crystalized in the form of a conversation between Henry Kissinger and President Richard Nixon, as they plot to bomb Cambodia.

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There are, on average, nearly 2,000 new Indian films each year — about three times the American output. The mainstream Hindi film industry (or “Bollywood”) is a small contributor to that figure, though it usually receives the most attention in both Western and Indian media. Given the vast array of languages, cultures and perspectives across the nation — rather than a single massive entity, India has dozens of parallel film industries differentiated by language — there exists a fascinating cinematic tapestry within its borders. It’s perhaps embodied best by the career of actress Sridevi, who passed away this year at the age of 54 after starring in over 300 films in languages like Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam.

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With Disney’s live-action Aladdin remake arriving in May, here’s a bit of news that ought to surprise both no one and everyone. Indie studio The Asylum, responsible for such straight-to-DVD knock-off “classics” as Transmorphers and Snakes on a Train are now working on their own Aladdin movie, and it starts shooting in Los Angeles this week.

Known initially for their “mockbusters,” or low-budget films similar enough to major releases without encroaching on them legally, The Asylum achieved more mainstream success with the intentionally-awful Sharknado series. Yeah, that Asylum. Those are the folks who, in addition to Disney’s version, are going to be tackling French translator Antoine Galland’s orientalist mish-mash entry into The Arabian Nights. Colour me intrigued, at the very least.

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The 10 Best-Directed Films of 2018

If Beale Street Could Talk 2

Cinema is a language beyond words, one we speak regardless of where we’re from. It allows us to both put forth and absorb ideas through picture and sound, telling stories that transcend borders while still being specific to our experiences. Though, despite our constant fixation with discussing cinema, I often wonder how much we’re truly understanding one another.

Critic Matt Zoller Seitz once wrote that refusing to engage with film form is like “[refusing] to engage with the heart of a work. The heart of a film, the heart of a TV episode, might be contained in an image or a cut.” He’s not wrong, and the quote often pushes me to check myself whenever I talk about story as something separate from technique. The heart of a film, the heart of a TV episode, might be contained in how it’s told.

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spider-man into the spider-verse reviews

Miles Morales is an artist.

We’re introduced to the movie version of Miles (Shameik Moore) as he sits at a drawing table sketching a sword-wielding robot. On his way to school, he slaps custom sticker tags on street signs where he hopes his father, a police officer, won’t find them. When he wants to express the vastness of the shoes he has to fill — the “great expectations” of his elite schooling academy — he ventures underground with his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) and creates ornate graffiti murals. His bedrooms, both at home and at school, are littered with an assortment of creative works, from a Chance the Rapper Coloring Book poster to piles of Spider-Man comics.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the world through Miles’ eyes, and it does tremendous justice to the story of creativity at its core. The expectations Miles fall short of soon shift from academia to super-heroics; the film follows suit. In nearly every scene, it layers comic-inspired motion and paneling to tell its story, not only paying stylistic homage to the source material, but framing Miles’ thoughts, feelings and even movements as he navigates coming-of-age.

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aquaman review

Aquaman rides a bizarre line between serious and silly. On one hand, it’s a tale of environmentalism centered on a mixed-race character trying to find his place. On the other, it features Jason Momoa falling off a cliff, scored like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Only one of these really works.

The film’s two disparate halves never quite coalesce; recent superhero movies like Black Panther and Into the Spider-Verse strike a much neater balance between tone and subject, but despite being sluggish whenever it stops to address its own relevance, Aquaman bursts to life when embracing its inherent cartoonishness. Like the film’s lead character, I feel torn about the goings-on in Atlantis. However, things like meaningless trident battles and comic-derived bongo Octopi help me forget why, at least for a moment.

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A Private War Criticisms

“I want people to know your story.”

A Private War recognizes, in words, Marie Colvin’s ethos right from the get-go. Her mission, first and foremost, was to speak truth to power, unearthing the horrors bequeathed to civilians by leaders and governments. Rosamund Pike, who plays her in the film, repeats this mantra frequently, stressing the importance of telling individual stories from the world’s war-torn regions. Men buried in secret for decades (“Uncovered: the secret grave of 600 murdered Kuwaitis”); women sheltering their children from bombs (“Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city”); the drivers and translators who die while helping journalists write the rough draft of history (“Our mission is to report these horrors of war with accuracy and without prejudice”) and so on.

And while the film understands what Colvin stood for, its focus is so narrow that it ends up a disservice to her regardless.

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Hirokazu Kore-eda’s 2018 legal drama The Third Murder is shot mostly through panes of prison glass. In tackling the weighty subject of Japan’s death penalty, the director imbues his meditative mystery with a distinctly icy chill, which makes for a fascinating contrast with his follow-up (and Cannes Palme d’Or winner) Shoplifters, a personal NYFF favourite. The latter is a warm, tender film about family, taking place mostly inside a lively and crowded home. It could not look or feel more different from its predecessor, and yet, it plays like the perfect B-side.

In crafting two wildly divergent social criticisms, one tackling the Japanese legal system while the other explores the very concept of family, Kore-eda completes what feels like a masterful dual-experiment, approaching tales of abuse and found family from wildly opposing vantage points. The Third Murder is now streaming on Amazon while Shoplifters is on the shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. And they’re two of the best films you’ll see this year.

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At the end of this week’s Elseworlds, the three-part event unfolding across The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, The CW’s crossover continuity teased a major event straight out of DC comics. It’s been hinted at ever since The Flash debuted in 2014 and now it’s official: the 1985-86 landmark Crisis on Infinite Earths will finally make its way to screens in the Fall of 2019. What’s more, everything these shows have been doing for the last few years, including and especially this recent event, justifies it in spades.

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Creed shoulders the legacy of six prior Rocky films but it blazes its own path, establishing a concise mission statement in its opening scene. Set in an LA juvenile correctional facility, in which young Black boys are lined up like adult prisoners, the Ryan Coogler-helmed sixth sequel introduces us to a young Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) as he beats down a fellow detainee. Adonis comes from a background of fame and celebrity — his father, Apollo Creed, died before he was born — but he’s been raised in a world of violence and invisibility, a world from which Apollo’s wife Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) hopes to rescue him. When the widow first meets the orphaned child, his fist remains clenched, always on guard. But when she offers him a home, and the kind of love that had evaded him all his life, he relaxes his hand.

This is the world of Creed. It inherits both the violence of the ring — a more glamourous violence, albeit one whose effects are still deadly — and the violence of SoCal streets, to which Oakland native Coogler had at least some proximity (it’s worth noting that his father was a counselor at a juvenile hall). It’s a world where Adonis’ two lives must remain separate, the incompatible paradigms of a privileged son who has a fancy desk job and resides in a mansion, and a boy in search of some form of identity as he takes on cheap fights in Tijuana over the weekend. He wants to fight, certainly, but on some level he needs to, in order to reconcile being the nexus of two violent paths. The call to masculine showmanship is what got Apollo killed in Rocky IV, a toxic machismo Adonis would’ve inherited regardless (or rather, would’ve been raised with). Apollo’s absence, however, results in violence born of survival. Which one is Adonis truly a product of, he wonders?

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