white snake review

For all the dominance that China has asserted on the movie industry in recent years, the country has not yet been able to gain a foothold in the animation market. There have been a few Hollywood productions co-financed or co-produced by Chinese studios, but no original films from China have yet to make a mark on outside of the country’s borders. And considering China’s rich cultural history and mythology — which has frequently been cribbed by Western animators — it seems like a long time coming.

White Snake, the second feature film from Beijing-based CG animation studio Light Chaser Animation, bears all of this baggage on its back and delivers a breathlessly imaginative and visually stunning animated film that is easily one of the most beautiful animated films this year. But for all its visual splendor, the story itself feels like an afterthought, too heavily inspired by the Disney films that it emulates.

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21 bridges review

Hollywood doesn’t pump-out many non-franchise action-thrillers these days, so perhaps we should be thankful for 21 Bridges. And perhaps that this movie hails from producers The Russo Brothers, a duo responsible for so many blockbuster franchise movies, is a good sign. But lordy, does the end result have to be so lifeless?

21 Bridges is a yawn-inducing long night’s journey into day, where a supposedly hotshot detective doesn’t pick up on big twists we spot a mile away, and where characters fire off dialogue that’s supposed to be weighty but comes out clunky. You get the sense that 21 Bridges wants to be a throwback to old school police action-thrillers, but you’d be better off avoiding this and renting one of those old school flicks instead.

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doctor sleep spoiler review

Time will be kind to Doctor Sleep, a bold, audacious, unapologetically sentimental horror film. The box office returns are paltry, and the film itself has its fair share of problems. And yet, Mike Flanagan‘s tender adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel shines because it’s so committed to embracing emotion. Stanley Kubrick’s cold, unfeeling, excellent The Shining jettisoned the sentimentality so prevalent in King’s work. Doctor Sleep attempts to reconcile this with Kubrick’s legacy.

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Noelle trailer

Noelle would seem to have all the necessary elements you’d want to find in a feature comedy: a few recognizable actors, a high-concept premise, a character arc, setpieces, etc. But there’s something just…off about the whole affair, from its opening moments. Maybe the key problem here is that the basic conclusion of the movie is such an obvious, foregone conclusion. Or maybe it’s that the humor is lifeless, or the emotion false and unearned. Whatever it is, Noelle is the kind of Christmas present that has shiny packaging and a whole lot of nothing behind all the wrappings.

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Frozen II Bruni and Elsa

“Some things never change,” or so go the lyrics in one of the songs in the highly anticipated Disney sequel Frozen II. This follow-up arrives six years after the worldwide phenomenon of Frozen took hold of popular culture, with its songs becoming so unavoidable and ubiquitous almost overnight. Frozen II attempts to carve out a place for itself while delivering the charm, catchy music, and core emotional underpinnings that so inflamed people’s imaginations in 2013. With its eye-popping animation, world-building, and character exploration, Frozen II is nominally a slight improvement on its predecessor. But it’s still limited by the burden of expectations.

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The Good Liar Review

The Good Liar is the latest entry in a slowly expanding subgenre best known as They Don’t Make Movies Like This Anymore dramas. In a time of infinite intellectual property, of franchises and sequels and reboots, The Good Liar is a small oasis in a cinematic desert where once there was more frequent life. This literary adaptation is a nasty little thriller, anchored by two elder-statesmen performers whose presence alone likely willed this film into existence. It’s not without its flaws, but The Good Liar has enough charm and is fresh enough by dint of being so different from what the rest of the multiplex has to offer.

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charlie's angels review

Whenever a reboot of a moderately successful property comes around, eyes will inevitably roll. Did we really need a new remake/reboot/reinvention of insert-movie-here? It’s a question that plenty of people will have going into Elizabeth Banks‘ new Charlie’s Angels. Did we really need a new Charlie’s Angels? Not really. Does it justify its existence? Not exactly. But Charlie’s Angels is a mostly inoffensive piece of empower-pop entertainment that does have a lot of Kristen Stewart being very gay, which has to count for something.

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midway review

In 2001, Michael Bay unleashed Pearl Harbor, a big, dumb, corny, effects-driven war epic about the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the battles that followed. Featuring a lifeless romantic subplot and an exhausting runtime, it’s not what anyone would consider to be a good movie. But watching Midway, the new catastrophe from disaster movie maven Roland Emmerich that covers similar material, one finds themselves pining for the nuance of Bayhem. For all his flaws, Michael Bay at least knows how to stage a scene with human characters interacting (sometimes). The same can’t be said for Emmerich.

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into the dark pilgrim trailer

(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.)

As a preacher of the good holiday horror word, Thanksgiving’s scant offerings leave my stomach rumbling. Last season’s November Into The Dark analysis began similarly; me lamenting over how Turkey Day has largely been ignored by genre filmmakers. Into The Dark’s Flesh & Blood popped out the oven dry and flavorless, but Marcus Dunstan’s Pilgrim charts a course for redemption. Guess that’s what happens when the minds behind multiple Saw sequels, three Feast flicks, and The Collector franchise take cosplaying to a disturbingly enraged level.

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Netflix’s The King is a reverse Hobbit: instead of adapting one book into three movies, it adapts three plays into one film. Shorn of Shakespearean dialogue, this loose retelling of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V gets by on character and plot. Timothée Chalamet brings a brooding intensity to the Henry V role, which sees him following in the footsteps of classically trained luminaries like Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Kenneth Branagh. That he can hold his own as a screen presence, even in comparison to thespians such as those, bodes well for his starring role in next year’s Dune.

The King also reunites director David Michôd with Joel Edgerton and Ben Mendolsohn, two actors who broke out internationally after appearing in Michôd’s 2010 Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom. Edgerton serves as Michôd’s co-writer here, just as he did for the 2014 dystopian outback Western, The Rover, starring Guy Pearce. Michôd brings back Robert Pattinson from that movie; like Chalamet, Pattinson is no stranger to heartthrob status, and he’s set to headline a future tentpole (just a little movie called The Batman).

The King arrives in a post-Game of Thrones landscape where at-home audiences have become inured to watching court intrigue play out in medieval settings. Yet its source material predates Game of Thrones by centuries. Writer George R.R. Martin drew from the same period of history as Shakespeare’s Henriad, the cycle of plays that this movie partially adapts. Among other things, The King depicts the muddy hell of the Battle of Agincourt, the original inspiration for the Battle of the Bastards. This may not be Westeros, but war is still bloody and mud underfoot is an apt symbol for the innocence-to-experience arc that Chalamet’s conflicted prince undergoes as he dons his father’s crown and enters the moral quagmire of adulthood.

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