ralph breaks the internet clip

Over the last few years, the Walt Disney Company has become marked by its willingness to, essentially, cannibalize itself. The animated films that serve as the building blocks for the massive conglomerate we know today are now fodder for live-action or computer-animated remakes. Couple that with the company’s predilection in the late 1990s and early 2000s to churn out direct-to-video sequels, and it’s almost surprising to consider that, in 81 years, Walt Disney Animation Studios has only created three in-canon sequels. In 1990, there was The Rescuers Down Under. In 2000, they went IMAX-level big with Fantasia 2000. And now, we have Ralph Breaks the Internet, a perfectly decent animated film that, to its credit, critiques its title character, despite being unable to transcend a profound sense that we’ve seen this all before.

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the image book review

If one were to introduce Jean-Luc Godard’s first film, Breathless (1960), to a class of unassuming film students without first providing context, it may seem, to them, an exercise in the rote and familiar. The film’s referential nature began to permeate American cinema not long after its arrival (crystalizing, arguably, in the works of Quentin Tarantino in the 1990s) with the long-take becoming a staple of Western arthouse, the jump-cut featuring prominently the YouTube vlog, and other stylistic flourishes seeding the very tapestry that is our modern visual language. These, of course, were uncommon before the French New Wave. The context in question is partially the post-World War II dominance of American cinema, out of which Godard sought to explore — and subsequently, discombobulate from within — cinematic imagery, as if tapping in to a fractured cultural psyche. After all, the film’s protagonist Michel yearns for some fundamental Americanism, whether through romantic pursuit of an American woman or through a self-fashioned, Humphrey Bogart-inspired “gangster” persona. Point being, Godard and his peers lived in the shadow of a neatly functional, largely American filmic image, the vernacular of “a secret cult only for the initiated” (per his Criterion interview) and a paradigm he sought to upset in the process of exploring.

Fast forward fifty-eight years.

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crimes of grindelwald review roundup

The early reviews for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald are coming in, and they’re not good. It appears J.K. Rowling‘s expanded Wizarding World has run out of magic, as critics are calling this latest adventure ineffective, weak, messy, and even pointless. This is not the kind of reaction fans were hoping for, and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series. Read our Crimes of Grindelwald review roundup below.

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shadow review

It’s hard to talk about Shadow without mentioning Zhang Yimou’s previous effort, Matt Damon-starrer The Great Wall, from which it could not feel more different. While the latter was accused of whitewashing based on the trailers, its true nature was much more troubling: backed by China Film Group, The Great Wall was a very literal propaganda movie about the West accepting the superior might of the Chinese military. It was also effective as a piece of pop filmmaking, with soldiers in candy-coloured armour fighting off jade green alien invaders (no, really), as if filtering the palette of his House of Flying Daggers through a million computers, which makes this new bare-bones approach to period drama a notable directorial 180.

For one thing, Shadow features almost no colour. That is to say, it’s a film shot in colour, but featuring mostly by black and white and grey, but more so than its stripped-down production design, it features a far more stripped-down ethos, to the point that little in the film actually matters. Take away Chinese government money, and you’re left with a Zhang who doesn’t need to deliver a specific message; so he doesn’t, by design, for better and for worse.

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the grinch review

Everything is round, and shiny, and innocuous in an Illumination movie. The animation studio behind Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets delivers films with no sharp corners, no rough edges, only a soft plumpness that recalls a plush toy or a baby-proofed house. And The Grinch, the adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas story, fits right into that mold.

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flesh and blood review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas is a holiday that demands noteworthy horror treatment, but to this day, Thanksgiving boasts abysmal genre cred. Eli Roth’s “GIVE ME NOW” Grindhouse faux-trailer? Killer puppet schlocker ThanksKilling? Home Sweet Home (1981)? For this critic, Into The Dark’s most intriguing entry was always going to be Patrick Lussier’s Flesh & Blood based purely on Turkey Day implications. Does it deliver? The most significant “F” word here is “Family,” yet much like October’s The Body, browned-and-buttered holiday aesthetics simmer in a rather bland broth.

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The Girl in the Spider's Web Review

The great surprise of The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story (aside from that mouthful of a title) is that director Fede Alvarez wasn’t hired to direct the new James Bond movie. Though Spider’s Web couldn’t be confused with the high-quality entertainment largely evinced by the Daniel Craig era of 007 films, it’s mounted in extremely stylish fashion and lead character Lisbeth Salander is presented as a hybrid of 21st-century Bond and the villains he combats. Spider’s Web is essentially high-toned trash, a slick piece of cinema that’s the filmic equivalent of the novel you read on a cross-country flight and forget about the day after.

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Suspiria Reviews

The halls of the Markos Dance Academy are barren; blanched of color and body, wide deco door frames and high ceilings gape like hungry mouths. The sizes seems preposterous for how few people dwell there: a handful of young women in the company and their teachers. But though the women are small in number, there exists in their building an unflinching, insurmountable terror. A thicket of wicked in its bowels. Numbers don’t matter when evil is thirsting in the shadows.

Luca Guadagnino’s palatial Suspiriaa remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 original — is in a league of its own, arguably the most interesting horror remake of all time, and definitely the best. Assembled into six chapters and an epilogue, it’s a nearly 3-hour behemoth, which will annoy some and liberate others, while forging a cinematic identity unto itself. You’ve never seen anything quite like this. You might be grateful for that.

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prospect review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. Prospect opens in New York and Los Angeles tomorrow, November 2, 2018.)

Prospect exists in a huge universe, one whose scope boggles the mind and imagination. And we are treated to only the smallest, most tantalizing glimpse. A taste. What a taste it is.

Here is an indie science fiction film so aware of its unavoidable budgetary limitations that it builds them into its own mystique. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but casually evocative descriptions of a dozen unique planets and unseen societies is worth $100 million. The scale of Prospect lies unseen in the margins, placing this tiny tale of survival smack dab in the middle of a galaxy that the film dares us to imagine. There’s something special about that. Something powerful. And it certainly helps that Prospect is led by characters who immediately invest us in what’s going on. We want to follow them, to learn more about them, because perhaps they’ll guide us to the worlds they keep talking about.

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Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review

Whatever algorithm it is through which modern Disney movies are made (young women whose smarts are demonstrated by a penchant for tinkering, a missing parent, dubious authority figures, a cast peppered with recognizable stars), it’s hit a high point with The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Though the film occasionally descends into the same CGI soup that made the recent Beauty and the Beast so baffling, it manages to keep a firmer grip on reality — which means that its flights into fancy are that much more of a delight.

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