Not Your Capraesque American Dream

On a visual level, Ben Affleck’s Live by Night has everything we want and have come to expect from Depression-era crime dramas: Seedy speakeasies; sultry Latin clubs; sweaty jazz musicians; gangsters with Tommy guns; explosions in bars; brutal, graphic mobster hits in full view of the public; beatings in dark alleys; men in suits and fedoras obscuring their faces in fogs of their own cigarette smoke; conversations between shady people in quiet backrooms.
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Real Life Lessons from a Fantasy Creature

The standards of American culture wouldn’t allow J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls to be considered a family film. Generally speaking, it’s assumed that our younger audiences, particularly adolescents, aren’t prepared for films about life and humanity unless they’re sanitized to some degree. The other assumption is that they wouldn’t be interested in such films at all, and so they’re instead condescendingly peddled nothing but comic book adaptations and action extravaganzas.
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Early, Early, Early Risers

Passengers, which isn’t to be confused with Rodrigo Garcia’s God-awful 2008 film of the same name, is a 3D, effects-laden science fiction drama that, like an underachieving high school student, doesn’t live up to the potential it so clearly had.
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Another Franchise Spins Off

I never thought I’d see the day when the Star Wars franchise would branch off from periodic episode installments into a series of spinoff films. True, 2008 saw the release of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but it was such an underwhelming effort that I didn’t think anything more would come of it.
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A Musical Valentine to the City of Angels

La La Land had to have been a major risk for writer/director Damien Chazelle. Everything about it flies in the face of today’s blockbuster driven, comic book-obsessed Hollywood. It doesn’t pander. It’s doesn’t condescend. It doesn’t bombard our senses with explosions or fight sequences or overactive CGI. Instead, it combines the innocence and imagination of old-time romantic musicals with contemporary settings and themes.
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Disney's Polynesian Fairy Tale

Moana is a wonderful new entry in Disney’s long line of animated films, although it did repeatedly make me think of the people that love to hate Disney movies on general principles. That’s because it’s not merely a fairy tale; like 1995’s Pocahontas, it draws inspiration from real-life indigenous culture, tradition, and myth – from Polynesia, in this case – while never losing sight of the fact that, as a family film, details are freely altered and, to an extent, lightened up.
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A New Era in Rowling's Wizarding World

David Yates’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a glorious, exciting, insightful spinoff of the wizarding world J.K. Rowling introduced to the public nearly twenty years ago. In much the same way as the the Lord of the Rings saga, Fantastic Beasts and the original eight Harry Potter films aren’t self contained fantasy adventures but two offshoots of an entire universe so fully realized that adaptations and sequels could theoretically be made for years to come.
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An Alien Story About Humanity

Under the guise of a science fiction alien invasion thriller, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival tells an intelligent, insightful, poignant, and refreshingly optimistic story not at all about aliens, but about humanity. As the characters scramble to communicate with an alien species that has landed oblong spacecrafts all over the world, we’re made to take notice of the ways in which we communicate with each other – or, more accurately, how we often fail to communicate.
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The Universe Is Too Big for Comic Books

Doctor Strange, the fourteenth entry in the seemingly never-ending saga that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is founded on an intriguing premise and gets off to a decent start, but there comes a point when it loses its way, and by the end, it devolves into pure silliness.
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Preach, Gibson, Preach!

It was said that Desmond Doss, who served in World War II without weapons due to his pacifist Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, turned down all book and movie requests about his war experiences, wary of the possibility that his life and faith would either be inaccurately portrayed or used for sensationalistic reasons. Despite this, his story has been dramatized in Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s first directorial effort in a decade.
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