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Reluctant Revenge and Biblical References in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’

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(2017—Director: Matt Reeves) Low ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) “Maurice was right. I am like Koba. He could not escape his hate…and I still cannot escape mine.” – Caesar (Andy Serkis) Potential spoilers below The rebooted Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy has become the defining trilogy of the 2010s, managing to improve with each installment. Rise of the Planet …

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Loving Vincent: Revolutionary Animation Serves a Thin Whydunnit

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(2017—Directors: Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) Low ★★★½ (would be lower if not for the animation) (out of 5 stars) “He struggled to be what they wanted him to be.” — Père Tanguy (John Sessions) to Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) on the late Vincent Van Gogh Potential spoilers below The 2010s have seen several cinematic ventures that one can say …

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Visual Sci-Fi Splendor Compensates for Hollow Plot in ‘Blade Runner 2049’

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(2017—Director: Denis Villeneuve) High ★★★½ (out of 5 stars) “Dying for the right cause is the most human thing we can do.” — Freysa (Hiam Abbass) to Officer K (Ryan Gosling) Spoilers below French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) took on immense pressure when he agreed to helm the long-awaited sequel to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s landmark 1982 science fiction …

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Improvisational Spirit Enlivens the Messy Yet Jovial ‘Thor: Ragnarök’

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(2017—Director: Taika Waititi) ★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars) “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people. And its people need your help.” — Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) “I have been FALLING for thirty minutes!” — Loki (Tom Hiddleston), after emerging from a realm of free fall  Potential spoilers below If one were to make a list …

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Prescribed Psychological Terror in ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

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(2017—Director: Yorgos Lanthimos) ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) Stage #1: Paralysis of the Legs Stage #2: Refusal to Eat or Drink Stage #3: Bleeding from the Eyes Stage #4: Death  “The most important thing in life is to have good friends, not lots of friends.” — Martin (Barry Keoghan) to Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) Potential spoilers below When non-American …

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Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad Take Over the Courtroom in ‘Marshall’

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(2017—Director: Reginald Hudlin) Low ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) “The only way to get through a bigot’s door is to break it down.” — Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) to Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) Potential spoilers below From Anatomy of a Murder (1959) to FX’s The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (2016), from Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) to A …

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‘American Made’: Doug Liman’s Second Halfway-Decent 2017 Release

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(2017—Director: Doug Liman) Low ★★★ (out of 5 stars) “All this is legal?” “If you’re working for the good guys, yeah. Just don’t get caught.” — Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) and Agent Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) Potential spoilers below Director Doug Liman is one 21st-century director whose reputation tends to fall under the radar with even the slightest disappointment. His …

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Peter Just Can’t Wait to Be an Avenger in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’

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(2017—Director: Jon Watts) Low ★★★★ (out of 5 stars) Earlier this year, I was visiting my local library when I came across a DVD of Cop Car, the 2015 sophomore effort of writer-director Jon Watts (Clown). I chose to borrow it. By the time its 88 minutes of kids joyriding in a police cruiser with corrupt cop Kevin Bacon hot on their …

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Pop Song-Saturated Spy Shenanigans in ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’

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(2017—Director: Matthew Vaughn) Low ★★½ (out of 5 stars) “Manners…maketh…man. Let me translate that for you.” — Agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) to some Kentucky bar thugs Spoilers below When writer-producer-director Matthew Vaughn released Kingsman: The Secret Service in 2015, audiences loved it for its stylized action sequences, charismatic characters, and slick aesthetics. Critics gave Kingsman positive notices as well, although …

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‘Mother!’: Darren Aronofsky’s Allegorical Wail for Humanity

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(2017—Director: Darren Aronofsky) High ★★★½ (with strong moral reservations) (out of 5 stars) “Why does the sun go on shining? / Why does the sea rush to shore? / Don’t they know it’s the end of the world / If you don’t love me anymore?” — “The End of the World” by Arthur Kent & Sylvia Dee, performed by Skeeter …