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The Devil All The Time (2020)

Netflix's 'The Devil All the Time' is an overheated mess: Movie review

DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos

CAST: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Jason Clarke, Riley Keough, Bill Skarsgard, Eliza Scanlen, Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Harry Melling

REVIEW:

An adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock’s novel of the same name, The Devil All The Time suffers from a scattershot ensemble narrative—and overly slavish fidelity to Pollock’s sprawling written work—but compensates with a solid cast and a strong sense of atmosphere and slow burn tension to be a morbidly engrossing odyssey into darkness, even if it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.

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Mulan (2020)

hollywoodreporter.com on Flipboard: 'Mulan': First Reactions from the  Premiere

DIRECTOR: Niki Caro

CAST: Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Yoson An, Rosalind Chao

REVIEW:

After such titles as Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast, Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin, and Jon Favreau’s The Lion King, Niki Caro’s Mulan finally does something a little different. Partly the filmmakers had a little more wiggle room because the 1998 animated musical original is not as iconic as the above titles, and was never considered among Disney top tier, but avoiding a scene-by-scene regurgitation helps Mulan avoid the feeling of an expensive cosplay that befell the previous live-action remakes. Mulan overall feels fresher and stands on its own as an engaging adventure.

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Project Power (2020)

DIRECTOR: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost

CAST: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback

REVIEW:

Project Power is at least an attempt to do something a little different and original; an entry in the superhero genre (sort of) that’s not based on a comic book or preexisting property, and tackles superpowers as a thinly-veiled (very thinly) drug allegory. Were that the results were more memorable….Project Power, while an entertaining enough diversion for the undemanding, feels generic and half-baked and fails to utilize a potentially unique and intriguing premise to its full potential.

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Hamilton (2020)

DIRECTOR: Thomas Kail

CAST: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff

REVIEW:

Counting Hamilton as a “movie” is using the term loosely, rather a live film recording of the original run of the 2015 Broadway musical featuring its original cast, but while no filmed recording can fully recreate the immersive nature of seeing a show live, Hamilton‘s release on online streaming service Disney + (following Disney outbidding all competition to call dibs on the film rights) gives a chance for those who missed or could not afford the opportunity to buy Broadway tickets, or those who wish to revisit the play’s original run with its original cast, a chance to experience the phenomenon for themselves. A musical adaptation of Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda composing the songs, writing the lyrics, and starring in the title role, Hamilton deserves its success and popularity. While non-musical fans might not be converted, for those to whom the medium appeals, it’s a lively, lavish, passionate production of the highest quality combining rap, pop, and showtunes to turn a biography into an engaging and energetic modernized history lesson that both educates and entertains.

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7500 (2020)

DIRECTOR: Patrick Vollrath

CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Omid Memar, Aylin Tezel, Paul Wollin, Carlo Kitzlinger

REVIEW:

From first-time German director Patrick Vollrath comes this spare thriller taking place within the closed confines of a plane cockpit. For much of its slim hour and a half runtime, 7500 is a tense, uneasy experience in a claustrophobic environment, but even at its brisk length, it runs out of gas before dragging itself across the finish line with a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion.

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Birds of Prey (and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn) (2020)

DIRECTOR: Cathy Yan

CAST: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina

REVIEW:

Like last year’s Shazam!, the wordily-titled Birds of Prey (and the fantabulous emancipation of one Harley Quinn) demonstrates that the most enjoyable entries to emerge from the troubled DCEU are those that throw the dark and dreary approach brought into vogue by Zack Snyder to the wind and go into outright comedy mode (or, barring that, are simply unconnected stand-alones like Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed Joker or Matt Reeves’ upcoming Batman movie). DC’s answer to Marvel’s Deadpool, Birds of Prey employs a similarly madcap comedic approach, stylized action, a whiz-bang pace, and an unreliable (and thoroughly whacked-out) narrator/protagonist (Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, who stole the show in the Suicide Squad ensemble and has been rewarded with her own movie). While Birds of Prey is not as well-constructed as the first Deadpool, it’s in similar enough vein that it might appeal to some of the same audience. It’s a glibly vapid and chaotic hyperkinetic mess that never completely comes together, but it’s at least never boring.

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Little Women (2019)

DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig

CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, James Norton, Bob Odenkirk, Louis Garrel

REVIEW:

When it comes to a story that’s been adapted as many times as Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women (most prominently by Gillian Armstrong in 1994), the differences between versions of such an oft-told story are matters of performances and screenwriting choices. Comparing Greta Gerwig’s adaptation to Armstrong’s is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Armstrong’s was a straightforward telling. Gerwig juggles the time frame and deconstructs some aspects while (as might be expected from her prior cinematic output) honing in on the feminist elements. The result is intriguingly “different” enough to have a valid claim to exist as its own thing, but in some ways is a less satisfying experience.

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Just Mercy (2019)

DIRECTOR: Destin Daniel Cretton

CAST: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson, Rob Morgan, O’Shea Jackson

REVIEW:

Just Mercy is an example of an entry in a well-traversed genre—the “based on a true story” courtroom/social justice drama—that doesn’t transcend its expected tropes but elevates them. It’s a well-made, well-acted, stirring, compelling, and affecting docudrama telling the story of a true miscarriage of justice that forces viewers to face the uncomfortable question of how many other similar stories have gone untold.

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1917 (2019)

DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman

REVIEW:

Despite being the original so-called “War to End All Wars” (only to be surpassed for both global scale and body count by WWII a mere twenty years later), WWI hasn’t gotten much attention from the movies. Apart from All Quiet on the Western Front all the way back in 1930, and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, there aren’t many notable films, or even films period, centering on the 1914-1919 conflict. With 1917, Sam Mendes has added at least one worthy entry to the slim ranks of WWI films. Filmed in seemingly one continuous unbroken take, 1917 is a visceral, immersive experience that takes us along with its two protagonists on a harrowing odyssey. It’s not the most “feel good” viewing (though nor is it as unremittingly bleak and hopeless as All Quiet on the Western Front), but it is by turns harrowing, heart-tugging, exhausting, heroic, and satisfying. All Quiet on the Western Front is its only real rival for the best WWI film ever made—not that there’s much other competition for that title—and for one of the last films of the year, it also stakes a worthy claim to being one of the most technically impressive and most powerful.

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Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams

CAST: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Richard E. Grant, Domhnall Gleeson, Keri Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, Anthony Daniels

REVIEW:

In my previous reviews, I considered J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens—the first installment of Disney’s continuation of the Star Wars saga after acquiring Lucasfilm from creator George Lucas—to be (despite some valid criticisms about it being more-or-less a reworked variation of A New Hope) a promising launching pad. Alas, that promise was squandered by the follow-up, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, which received some praise but proved deeply divisive among fans and which I unfortunately came down on the negative side of, considering it both narratively unwieldy and having the feel of a Star Wars movie by someone who doesn’t like Star Wars and determined to deconstruct and subvert expectations at every turn for its own sake without having anything satisfying to replace them with. And now, with J.J. Abrams retaking the director’s chair—reportedly due to Lucasfilm head honcho Kathleen Kennedy deciding to go in a “safer” direction after the mixed response to The Last Jedi—we get Overcorrection: The Movie. In fairness to Abrams, he came back onboard with strikes against him: Johnson undoing some of the groundwork he’d laid in the first place, as well as the offscreen death of Carrie Fisher. Unfortunately but perhaps unsurprisingly, Abrams has not succeeded in righting the ship enough to end on a strong note. Rise of Skywalker is scattershot and convoluted, filled with extraneous characters, a poorly-focused narrative, and an overly frenetic pace that seldom slows down enough to make much sense of anything (not that there’s much sense to be found).

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