The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is a sequel that’s sometimes as unwieldy as its title. Almost all of the major characters from the 2014 original have returned, and the same weirdly anarchic spirit that ran through the first film revives itself every so often in this follow-up. But where The Lego Movie was unexpected and often surprising, The Lego Movie 2 is mostly familiar, treading ground that other animated films from competing studios have already covered with more insight.
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After Taken, Liam Neeson’s career changed drastically. He went from being the dramatic actor from Schindler’s List to an official ass-kicker, inhabiting action movies that could best be described as Dad Rock – films tailor-made for fathers across the land to enjoy. This newfound reputation occasionally backfires, though. The most obvious example is The Grey, a fantastic, haunting movie about death and grief that was marketed as Liam Neeson Fights Wolves. The marketing sunk the movie in a lot of people’s minds.
Now here comes Cold Pursuit, which might suffer the same fate. The ads play up the angle that this film involves Neeson out for revenge, and while that’s certainly a part of the film, there’s a lot more going on here. And I don’t know if casual moviegoers are prepared for that.
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Everyone has that one movie, TV show, book, or album that came along at the perfect time in their life. Just when everything felt like it was crumbling around you, this incredible piece of art lifted you up to make everything seem like it might be all right. In the irresistible coming-of-age indie Blinded by the Light, this revelation comes to a teenage Pakistani boy named Javed (Viveik Kalra) when he needs it the most. Suffocated by a small town, forced into a career he doesn’t want, and harassed by Neo-Nazis, Javed suddenly finds inspiration in an unlikely hero: Bruce Springsteen. Read More »
To say Gina Rodriguez was born to be an action star would be a misnomer. Up until last year, Rodriguez was best known as the star of the satirical CW comedy Jane the Virgin, winning a Golden Globe for her infinitely charming performance as the plucky title character. But an action star is what Rodriguez seems destined to be, and that’s all right by me. The actress has taken to the character type like it was second nature, impressing last year as a gruff and damaged paramedic in Annihilation. It was the birth of an action star and Rodriguez has smartly doubled down on that to make her proper action movie debut with Miss Bala. However, while Rodriguez unsurprisingly gives a gripping performance in the lead role, the drug cartel crime thriller surrounding her doesn’t do her any favors.
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Anime is the final frontier, the last genre that Hollywood can’t seem to crack. Just look to the hilariously misguided Dragon Ball or the shallow husk that is Ghost in the Shell. Whether it be out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the source material, the messiness of cultural and racial divides, or simply the incompatibility of anime with any live-action form, anime adaptations have had a notoriously bad track record in Hollywood.
But Alita: Battle Angel may have just broken that losing streak.
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How much brutality can you take from a movie? How much is too much? How many scenes of pain, suffering and bloodletting can you stand before you throw up your hands and cry uncle? With The Nightingale, her follow-up to the horror hit The Babadook, director Jennifer Kent seems to posing those direct questions to the audience. The filmmaker knows that we, as a species, have a thirst for violence. But that thirst has its limits. Kent wants to push beyond those limits, and then keep going. And then go further. And then ask, “Isn’t this what you wanted? Why so squeamish now?” As an experiment, it’s fascinating. As a film, it’s almost too much to stand.
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Dwayne Johnson now has a huge blockbuster career, but before that, he was one of the most popular professional wrestlers in the world. Now he’s returning to his roots as himself in the new comedy Fighting with My Family, written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the creator of the UK version of The Office.
But this isn’t the story of The Rock. Rather, it’s the true story of Divas wrestler Paige and how she worked her ass off and rose to WWE fame thanks to the support and obsession of her unconventional wrestling family. And the result is not only the wrestling movie fans have always wanted, but one of the best underdog sports movies ever made about a female athlete. Read More »
“Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” This line from the book of Luke helped give birth to the religious rite of snake handling in Appalachia. As is the case with often questionable religious practices, the worshippers following this tradition have taken things literally, pulling hissing, venomous snakes from crates and practically daring the creatures to bite them. If they are truly one with the Holy Spirit, they will remain unharmed. If they’ve sinned? Well, that’s another matter.
An Appalachian snake handling community is at the center of Them That Follow, an almost unbearably tense drama from directors Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage. In this closed-knit community of worshippers, there’s nothing to fear from serpents…as long as you haven’t transgressed.
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At last year’s Sundance Film Festival, both Blindspotting and Sorry to Bother You weaved Oakland’s gentrification into their underlying stories. At this year’s fest, co-writer/director and fifth generation San Franciscan Joe Talbot addresses the subject in an even more direct way with his memorable debut film, The Last Black Man in San Francisco. Read More »
Pink Freud, the fictional band in The Death of Dick Long, consists of Dick, Zeke, and Earl – three Alabama rednecks who stumble their way through covers of songs like Staind’s 2001 hit “It’s Been Awhile.” One night after band practice, Dick poses a fateful question to his pals: “Ya’ll motherfuckers wanna get weird?”
After a late-night montage of shotgunning beers, blasting cans with shotguns, and launching fireworks from between their legs, there’s a hard cut to a few hours later, when Dick has been horrifically injured. Zeke and Earl drop him off outside the emergency room, but it’s not long before they learn Dick didn’t make it – and the audience spends the first hour of the movie wondering exactly how he died as the survivors dig themselves bigger and bigger holes with their ill-conceived lies to cover up the events of the previous night. When the reason for Dick’s fate finally arrives, the movie takes a turn away from its comedic roots and becomes a more disturbing, melancholy exploration of masculinity. Read More »