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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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Loving Vincent: Revolutionary Animation Serves a Thin Whydunnit

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(2017—Directors: Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman) High ★★★ (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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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) …

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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 …