the trip to greece review

Few could have guessed that a simple BBC travelogue series that followed two British comedians riffing and doing Michael Caine impressions would take off, but the Trip movies have been a comforting part of our pop culture landscape for the past decade. Like a warm blanket. Or a nicely grilled scallop. For 10 years, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have been traveling across Europe, feasting on local delicacies while exchanging hilarious banter and ponderous musings about life and aging. It’s a formula that has worked for the past three movies, and which director Michael Winterbottom repeats again with a heavier dose of melancholy in The Trip to Greece.

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12 hour shift review

“Did you ever smell sadness?”

Films may not be able to give off scents (yet), but 12 Hour Shift, with its washed out yellow walls and harsh fluorescent lighting, practically reeks of anesthetic and musty hospital bedsheets. And a little bit of sadness. But that sadness is quickly overtaken by the bizarro bloodbath that unfolds in Bea Grant‘s stylish, darkly comic thriller.

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the high note review

Too many female-led comedies focus on the romance of it all. The chick flick, the rom-com – they’re terms that are interchangeable. But there is so much more depth of emotion that women feel, so many more nuanced relationships that women have, that are rarely show on the big screen. Only a handful of so-called “rom-coms” dig into them, but they’re often mislabeled because it’s less about the romance, or even the comedy, then it is about the women at the center of them.

One of the more recent films to nail the complexity of female relationships was Nisha Ganatra‘s 2019 dramedy Late Night, which followed Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling as a reluctant late-night show employer and employee pairing who become close friends. Ganatra seeks to repeat this formula with The High Note, a flashy comedy/drama that stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson in those roles, but now set in the glamorous music industry. But with newcomer Flora Greeson on the script and none of Kaling’s winking humor to drive the drama, Ganatra’s attempt to recapture the success of her previous female-led workplace dramedy unfortunately falls a bit flat.

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the lovebirds review

Falling in love is easy, staying in love is hard, at least in The Lovebirds. This breezy rom-com from director Michael Showalter takes the immensely likable, very good looking Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, and sets them on a madcap capper involving mistaken identity, blackmail, and murder. It has all the makings of the type of mid-budget piece of entertainment Hollywood tends to avoid these days. A light runtime (86 short minutes), two attractive leads – what’s not to love? Well…a couple of things.

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scoob digital release

When you think of the world of Scooby-Doo, what might pop into your head? There’s a quartet of human friends, of course, and their goofy dog pal. Oh, yes, and their colorful old-school van the Mystery Machine. It’s in that van that they drive around and around, solving supernatural mysteries in spooky locations. And the solutions to those mysteries usually involve a crabby old man hiding under a sheet, just pretending to be a ghost or a vampire or whatnot. That, at least, has been the basic formula of almost every Scooby-Doo story for 50 or so years. What the new film Scoob! presupposes is…what if a Scooby-Doo story had almost none of those elements? It’s a weird, baffling animated feature that’s all too willing to avoid being a Scooby-Doo movie, in favor of a superhero adventure no one asked for.

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capone review

Al Capone wanders out of the bushes, a diaper sagging around his midsection, a Tommy Gun at the ready. And not just any Tommy Gun, but a Tommy Gun made out of solid gold. A carrot clenched between his teeth like a cigar, Capone begins firing wildly, growling, screaming, drooling. He chomps down on that carrot like a deranged Bugs Bunny, and hikes up his soiled diaper.

This is Capone, Josh Trank‘s strange hybrid that wants to be both a gangster movie and also a horror pic. At the center of it all is Tom Hardy, who gets another excuse to use a strange voice. Hardy’s Capone is not the legendary gangster at the height of his Scarface days, but Capone nearing the end of his life, his mind ravaged by neurosyphilis. Here is a man who will not live out his final days with dignity.

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The Half Of It review

“This is not a love story.” So The Half of It warns us early on, but it’s easy to be lulled into complacency by the familiar tropes that Alice Wu‘s teenage rom-com wields. A modern-day riff on Cyrano de Bergerac — the classic Edmond Rostand play that follows an intelligent man with an “ugly” nose who woos a woman through a more handsome suitor — The Half Of It presents itself as a cute LGBTQ twist on an age-old rom-com narrative: Guy asks girl to write a love letter to popular girl, girl falls in love with popular girl, everyone lives happily ever after. But unexpectedly, The Half Of It becomes something far deeper and more interesting.

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extraction review

“Sounds like some mythic shit!” So says Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth), the brooding hero of Extraction, when he’s tasked with his latest job. That’s actually a pretty wordy sentence for Tyler, who spends most of the film grumbling monosyllabically and silently shooting people. Lots and lots of people. In fact, Extraction might as well be retitled Chris Hemsworth Shoots People. Sadly, despite Tyler’s promise of some “mythic shit”, Extraction is little more than a predictable action-thriller – a film that gets by with some admittedly cool shoot outs and fights, but ultimately has nothing on its mind.

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Tigertail review

There are many things I never told you,” Tzi Ma‘s Pin-Jui tremulously tells his daughter (Christine Ko) in Alan Yang‘s moving immigrant drama Tigertail, the Emmy-winning Master of None writer’s feature directorial debut. It’s the emotional catharsis, the eye-opening reveal of an aging father’s untold life and memories, in Yang’s generations-spanning immigrant tale. And it’s a sentiment shared by hundreds of first-generation immigrants whose children struggle to overcome those generational divides.

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Trolls: World Tour Trailer

Because of the truly strange and incomprehensible moment we’re all battling through, the only major new release in the month of April 2020 is Trolls World Tour. It’s a weird sentence to type, just as Trolls World Tour is a weird film to watch. This sequel to the 2016 DreamWorks Animation film, based on the colorful dolls that have survived popular culture the way cockroaches survive a nuclear apocalypse, could be worse. Slap that pull-quote on the poster, Universal/DreamWorks. That’s the best praise I can hand out to a movie whose predecessor was visually unpleasant and creatively bankrupt. Trolls World Tour is neither as garish to watch nor as troubling to ponder. But to call this a good movie in the midst of a pandemic is to dub a drop of water in a desert an oasis.

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