emma. review

It’s often overlooked how adept a satirist Jane Austen was, with most adaptations of the English literary icon’s works favoring the swooning romances and feminist themes of her novels. But more than any other past adaptation, barring the wildly underrated and wildly funny Love & Friendship, Emma. captures that tongue-in-cheek and whip-smart tone of Austen’s work.

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fantasy island review

Fantasy Island, the late ’70s/early ’80s TV series that made the catchphrase “The plane! The plane!” wildly popular, heads to the big screen thanks to the fright masters at Blumhouse. As is their want, Blumhouse has warped the show into a horror movie – a move that’s not entirely unprecedented. The original show had plenty of supernatural elements – there was even an episode featuring the Devil. And the old adage of “be careful what you wish for” has been exploited time and time again for scary purposes, from W. W. Jacobs’s classic short story “The Monkey’s Paw” to the Wishmaster and Leprachaun film franchises.

But a bargain-basement Wishmaster sequel is high-art when compared to what director Jeff Wadlow and company have cooked-up here.

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Sonic the Hedgehog Review

Who is Sonic the Hedgehog for? What is the target audience for a film that wants to take its cues from Deadpool but also family films about the Easter Bunny? Ostensibly, children should want very badly to see this movie adaptation of the long-running Sega video game about an extremely fast blue animal. But Sonic the Hedgehog can’t figure out if its audience is the parents of those children — those of us who grew up with the first iteration of Sonic — or kids themselves. The result is what may be one of the last acts of a desperate movie studio, so intent on mining intellectual property for all it’s worth and unable to realize they’ve hit the bottom of the barrel.

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In an era where feature animation often feels as if it’s driven solely by computers, it remains heartening for any fans of the medium that Netflix is supporting artists who are willing to tell animated stories with other methods. Last year, two of the streaming service’s standout films—Klaus and I Lost My Body—utilized hand-drawn styles as much as computer animation, using the art form to craft unique stories. Now, just a few weeks into the new year, we have Netflix’s latest domestic feature acquisition, the stop-motion animated A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Mouthy title aside, this follow-up to the 2016 Shaun the Sheep Movie is a charming, if somewhat slighter return to the rural countryside where the eponymous sheep gets into mischief.

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Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) has style to spare. The new film features a quirky and colorful Gotham, a memorable cast of characters, and some pretty impressive hand-to-hand combat. All of it is tied together by Margot Robbie, who commits to this version of Harley Quinn with a zaniness and intensity that is irresistible. Even in moments when the movie doesn’t quite work, you can still feel the love and care that was put into bringing these characters to life.

I had the chance to chat with Melissa Tamminga from Seattle Screen Scene about the movie. We filmed ourselves talking about how Birds of Prey is a metaphor for getting out of a toxic relationship, sharing our favorite action scenes, and what we think of this new vision of Gotham. Check out our detailed video review after the jump. If you’re looking for more content on Birds of Prey, be sure to check out our interview with Margot Robbie and read Hoai-Tran Bui’s review as well.

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Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made Review

The best part about an indie movie becoming a critical or commercial hit is watching what the filmmaker does next. Do they take that success and use it to helm a big-budget blockbuster? Do they follow up with another personal film? If you’re Academy Award-winning writer/director Tom McCarthy, you take the success of the hard-hitting Spotlight and make a detective noir movie for kids co-starring a 1500-pound “pet” polar bear. The result, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is a delightful new addition to Disney+ that somehow still makes sense as McCarthy’s next project, and it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

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birds of prey review

Birds of Prey just wants to have fun, and damn to hell anyone who won’t let it. A pulpy, kaleidoscopic funhouse ride that feels simultaneously high-stakes and low-stakes all at once, Birds of Prey is as cheeky, irreverent, and erratic as its central character, Harley Quinn — to both its benefit and its detriment. But mostly, it’s having too much of a blast to notice.

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Boys State Review

One attends a festival in hopes of finding a film that leaves you giddy with how good it is, seeking always for that thrill gained from a sense of discovery, uncovering that gem before it gets to be seen by a larger group of people. It’s almost like a drug, where you take hit after hit of cinema just waiting for one to fully give you that rush. 

This is one of those movies you spend days and days just hoping to uncover.

Boys State follows a bunch of high-strung Texan teens as they head to the Capitol in Austin to engage in political machinations. For decades the American Legion has sponsored “Boys State” events ostensibly in order to improve education in civics. A kind of summer camp for political junkies, this week-long event begins with the 1200 or so kids divvied up into separate parties – the Nationalists and the Federalists – and then tasked with picking party leadership, defining a platform, passing bills and, above all, electing a governor that represents the entire group.

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The Last Shift review

A good performance from Richard Jenkins can’t save The Last Shift, a languid fast food drama that has aspirations of exploring class and race in middle America, but lacks the tools to effectively do so. Documentary filmmaker Andrew Cohn makes the jump to narrative features here, telling the story of a fast food veteran tasked with training a new hire who possesses a wildly different outlook on life. It has the setup of a heartwarming story in which two mismatched men forge a begrudging respect for each other from their shared experiences in the kitchen, but The Last Shift has no interest in being that kind of movie. Instead, it tries to address some of this country’s biggest and most important issues and bites off far more than it can chew. Read More »

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Sylvie’s Love review

Hollywood’s Golden Age is full of grand, sweeping love stories, but that era of cinema history didn’t exactly provide an equal playing field for filmmakers and actors of color. So Sylvie’s Love, writer/director Eugene Ashe’s new grand, sweeping love story, feels less like a pure homage than him making a movie that should have existed back then but was never given the chance. The result is an exquisite piece of old-school filmmaking, one in which star-crossed lovers and rain-soaked streets and a heart-achingly beautiful score combine to transport us into a sort of cinematic Twilight Zone where such a movie would have been placed right alongside contemporaries like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, From Here to Eternity, or Roman Holiday.
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