howard review

“To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful.”

The dedication to the lyricist behind some of Disney’s most beloved animated hits that runs in the closing credits of Beauty and the Beast is brief but beautiful — which is a fitting description of the life of Howard Ashman, whose amazing life was cut short by AIDS in 1991, right on the cusp of what would be his greatest and most lasting achievement. It’s a fitting description too for Howard, the Disney+ documentary directed by Ashman’s friend and colleague, Beauty and the Beast producer Don Hahn. Featuring never-before-seen archival footage of Ashman working on soon-to-be Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, Howard is an all-too-fleeting snapshot of one of the greatest lyricists in musical history, the tragic circumstances of his death lending an air of melancholy and depth that is rare in a Disney-affiliated documentary.

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an american pickle review

For all its occasional bursts of fleeting beauty, the world is an inherently lonely place. And even those who prefer to remain loners can, on occasion, seek out the warmth of connection, however brief or fleeting. That search for connection is hidden within An American Pickle, a sweet, silly movie that never quite decides what it wants to be, but not for lack of trying. Once you move beyond the goofy premise – which involves a man brined in a pickle vat for 100 years – you find a film filled with characters who seek that connection; that spark. Characters who need one another, whether they like it or not.

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the rental review

The Rental is a relationship drama that suddenly turns into a slasher movie. It probably shouldn’t work, and yet, director Dave Franco finds a way to strike the right balance. As we grow more and more caught up in the drama surrounding two couples, the tension builds. We’re waiting for the shoe to drop, and for some terrible mistake to trigger a catastrophe. And just when the sticky romantic situations involving the couples have built to a fever pitch, out comes a silent, masked killer wielding a bloody hammer.

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First Cow Review

(This review originally ran during our coverage of the New York Film Festival last year. First Cow is now available on VOD.)

Her films might not blare “it’s the economy, stupid,” but make no bones about it – Kelly Reichardt’s cinema frequently obsesses over how the mechanics of commercial arrangements affect interpersonal relationships. Though micro in scale, her films are macro in mindset. Her latest look at the subject, First Cow, goes all the way back to the fledgling days of American capitalism. The film finds an effective and ultimately touching contrast between the friendships born of enterprising businessmen and the ruthlessness of competing with entrenched elites.

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relic trailer

Some say that time heals all wounds, but thats a lie. Time doesnt heal; it reshapes. As the years pass, wounds morph into new perspectives and sometimes alter into vague memories or forgetfulness altogether. However, that metamorphosis does not necessarily engender a mending. The degree of pain may fluctuate, but some wounds simply do not heal if the wound is severe enough. Japanese-Australian writer/director Natalie Erika James explores the transformational toll that time and generational trauma has on the physical, mental, and emotional body among three related women with her debut feature, the horror film Relic.

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greyhound premiere

Tom Hanks’ obsession with quiet, persistent heroism first became truly evident with Apollo 13. That 1995 film is a thrilling piece of real-life drama, in which there are no real villains and heroism is embodied by good, honorable men doing good, honorable work, both in outer space and on the ground. There’s not a lot of flash or flamboyance in the film, nor in subsequent history-driven miniseries and films either starring or overseen by Hanks, from Band of Brothers to Saving Private Ryan. But the height of quiet, unassuming heroism is best typified by the events depicted in Greyhound. This new war drama aspires to be peak Dad Movie, yet winds up like a History Channel movie with a big-name lead.

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the old guard review

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in these divisive times, it’s that the sight of Charlize Theron kicking some ass is fun. Be it Mad Max: Fury Road or Atomic Blonde, Theron has the physicality and screen presence that makes the sight of her throwing down and pummelling some fools spectacular cinema. So why then is The Old Guard, a movie where Theron does almost nothing but fight, so dang dull?

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hamilton review

Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s hip-hop musical Hamilton is an unqualified masterpiece: a once-in-a-generation combination of brilliant writing, indelible performances, and spectacular music that became a genuine pop culture phenomenon and crossed over into the mainstream.

So it feels strange to say that director Thomas Kail‘s filmed version of Hamilton, which was shot with the original cast at the height of the show’s fame in 2016 and which debuts on Disney+ this Friday, left me slightly underwhelmed. As a big fan of the musical who has listened to the cast recording of the album tons of times through, it’s legitimately amazing for a high-definition version of this show people paid hundreds of dollars to see in person to simply pop up on a streaming service, accessible for the low price of $6.99 a month. But as the credits rolled, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of being just a little bit disappointed. Read More »

eurovision song contest the story of fire saga review

America is no stranger to the outsized singing contest. We’re a country that made American Idol the top-rated show for years and we can thank The X-Factor for creating beloved boy bands like One Direction. Glee and Pitch Perfect were bonafide cultural phenomenons. But every year, across the pond, something strange and outlandish takes place that we still struggle to wrap our heads around: the musical smorgasmord that is the Eurovision Song Contest.

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irresistible trailer

We’re nearly five years removed from the last time that Jon Stewart hosted The Daily Show, a departure that seemed almost deliberately timed to coincide with the rise of Donald Trump from a loud, know-nothing right-wing presidential candidate to a loud, know-nothing right-wing president. Fans of Stewart’s may have wondered in the last half-decade how he would’ve responded to the even nastier shift in right-wing politics and the D.C. machine. You can breathe easy – Stewart’s second directorial effort, Irresistible, is a political satire of the present day, squarely residing within the current Trump administration. The downside is that Irresistible is one of the dullest, most toothless comedies in recent memory.

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