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‘The Last Jedi’: A Dense, Subversive, and Gripping Middle Act to the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

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(2017—Director: Rian Johnson) — by Renard N. Bansale — Low ★★★★½ (out of 5 stars) “What do you know about the Force?” … “It’s a power that Jedi have that allows them to control people…and make things float.” … “Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong.” — Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) Potential spoilers below What …

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‘The Post’: Spielberg’s Express Delivery of Prestige Journalism

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(2017—Director: Steven Spielberg) — by Renard N. Bansale — High ★★★½ (out of 5 stars) “You know, my husband once said that ‘the news is the first rough draft of history.’” — Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) to Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) Potential spoilers below To say that Steven Spielberg has had a storied career is one of cinema’s greatest understatements. …

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A Solid Concept Album Idea Becomes a Sparkling Cinematic Diversion in ‘The Greatest Showman’

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(2017—Director: Michael Gracey) — by Renard N. Bansale — Low ★★★½ (out of 5 stars) “You don’t need everyone to love you, Phin. Just a few good people.” — Wife Charity Barnum (Michelle Williams) to husband P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) Potential spoilers below When La La Land made its splash and won many hearts towards the end of 2016 (including …

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Grief Escalates to Restless Anger in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

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(2017—Director: Martin McDonagh) — by Renard N. Bansale — High ★★★ (out of 5 stars) Billboard #1: “Raped while dying” Billboard #2: “And still no arrests?” Billboard #3: “How come, Chief Willoughby?”  “I’m doing everything I can to track him down, Mrs. Hayes. I don’t think them billboards is very fair.” … “The time it’s took you to come out …

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An Unlikely Friendship Births a Cult Movie Phenomenon in ‘The Disaster Artist’

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(2017—Director: James Franco) — by Renard N. Bansale — Low ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) “Even the worst day on a movie set is better than the best day anywhere else.” — Carolyn Minnott (Jacki Weaver) to Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), Juliette Danielle (Ari Graynor), and Philip Haldiman (Josh Hutcherson) Potential spoilers below Any cinephile worth their salt will, at …

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‘Lady Bird’: Portrait of a Restless High School Senior

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(2017—Director: Greta Gerwig) ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) “The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it’s a palindrome.” — Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) to her mother Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf)  “Don’t you think they’re the same thing? Love and attention?” — Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith) to Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) Potential spoilers below From …

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Music Unites Family in the Visual & Audial Splendor of ‘Coco’

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(2017—Director: Lee Unkrich) ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) “Remember me / Though I have to travel far / Remember me / Each time you hear a sad guitar…” Potential spoilers below Coco finds Pixar at the height of its powers as the preeminent storytellers of western cinematic animation. It originated from a concept centering on Mexico’s Día de Muertos (Español: “Day …

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‘Justice League’: The DCEU’s Underwhelming Yet Harmless Group Venture

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(2017—Director: Zack Snyder) Low ★★★ (out of 5 stars) “Sorry, guys; I didn’t bring a sword.” — Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), transferring mid-battle into the tank-like Nightcrawler Potential spoilers below Compared to Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Fox’s X-Men franchise, Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has struggled to recognize the need for legs and feet before one can …

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Ranking Superhero Cinema at the Edge of ‘17

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— by Renard N. Bansale — Potential spoilers below November’s Thor: Ragnarök and Justice League have finished off 2017 in terms of superhero cinema. As such, I have the opportunity to look back on that subgenre of films from this year and consider which ones I prefer more than others. I have learned, now having surpassed my annual goal of …

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Kenneth Branagh Carries the Old-Fashioned ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

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(2017—Director: Kenneth Branagh) High ★★★ (out of 5 stars) “I believe it takes a fracture of the soul to murder another human being.” — Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) to Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley) Potential spoilers below Every new generation receives updated adaptations of classic works of literature. Their quality may tend to trend downward, but each serves as an apt …