REVIEW: 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' is a cynical chore

The newest film from the Harry Potter universe - or the Wizarding World, as a title card helpfully identifies it – is a scattershot, info-dump of a film, a series of trailer-like scenes glued into a movie. It seems shrewdly designed to download random bits of wizarding mythology to its fans, stringing along plot revelations to compel viewers to see the next three planned sequels in a five-film series.

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TV REVIEW: ‘House of Cards’ Season 6 closes out the series as a lame duck

It’s hard to intuit much of a thought process behind any of this, and Claire’s opponents are no better organized in their attacks. Claire claims this is all intentional, an effort to obscure her true plan, but instead it just reads like the writers losing track of things.

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REVIEW: ‘Widows’ proves heist films don’t have to get stuck in the past

The size and skill of Widows’ cast is enough to mesmerize on its own, but once you get a grasp of the various threads, it’s fascinating to watch how McQueen tightens each one in turn, until he can yank one and let the whole thing unspool.

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REVIEW: ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ is good at setup, bad at follow-through

Goddard brings vestiges of this approach to his newest film, Bad Times at the El Royale. He even carries over the theme of the characters being constantly watched by unknown forces. But though Goddard captures some strong performances in the process, Bad Times doesn’t have the subversion, shocks or flat-out hilarity of the filmmaker’s previous film. Instead, we get an overlong exercise in brilliant setup, with no follow-through.

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[VIFF 2018] REVIEW: Lanthimos delivers on "The Favourite"

Of course, there’s the usual palace intrigue – secret things are done and said in darkly lit corners, and the usual extravagance of the rich, including a candlelit ball and a duck race, are all present – but it’s presented in such a Lanthimosian manner it’s equal parts funny and somewhat disturbing.

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[VIFF 2018] REVIEW: 'Shoplifters' will steal your heart

The word “family” is used loosely here, and without giving away any key plot points, many of the common terms of familial endearment – father, wife, aunt, son, sister and grandma – are merely titles, and it’s clear that love, friendship and companionship are more apt ways to describe the Shibata clan.

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[TIFF 2018] REVIEW: ‘The Old Man and the Gun’ is a simple, energetic farewell to Robert Redford

Whatever the motivation, there’s no doubt that the new movie, from David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story) is a fine way for Redford to make his exit (if that is indeed the case). The Old Man and the Gun is a smooth, lively, and warm experience; it doesn’t break new ground, but proves that even in 2018, you don’t need a lot of flash or a lame gimmick to hold an audience’s attention. All it takes is some confident filmmaking, some chemistry between the stars, and a “so crazy it must be true” story.

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[TIFF 2018] REVIEW: ‘Border’ unlocks emotion and cultural commentary in a bonkers movie about trolls

The noteworthy detail about Border, however, is that it transcends the high-level logline and manages to be about more than a misunderstood female troll living in modern-day Sweden. It folds in commentary about forced cultural assimilation, racism, romantic relationships, and even child abuse. And while some of the imagery can make the work difficult to take completely seriously, there’s no denying that the film was made with a lot of commitment and heart, which is more than you can say for some fantasy/monster movies.

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[TIFF 2018] REVIEW: ‘Burning’ invites you to choose the genre – quiet drama or simmering thriller?

To be sure, the pace of Burning is slow, and those expecting a Hitchcockian everyman wrapping up a citizen-justice murder case in the space of 100 minutes will be disappointed. Lee lays out enough material that up until that final scene (and perhaps even beyond it), the door is still open for the tables to turn and Jong-su to be revealed as the one who kidnapped Ha-emi.

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[TIFF 2018] REVIEW: ‘The Wedding Guest’ is a well-shot but aimless crime drama

Which is all well and good, but the film doesn’t encourage us to cheer her on. We’re not given much evidence of her unhappiness with her family, and so she comes across as impulsive and entitled. Later on, she reacts inexplicably coldly to a violent act perpetrated by Jay, and it’s hard to tell how we’re supposed to feel about it. Then, despite being given many opportunities to part ways, Samira and Jay drift into something resembling a romance, though they have very little chemistry (unless evidence of it got buried in one of the many travelling montages). It adds up to be a rather uninspiring amount of character work, with no clear purpose.

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REVIEW: 'The Meg' shows a bad genre still has some bite

By the time the second act rolls around, it’s clear this movie isn’t quite as tongue-in-cheek as the Bobby Darin needle-drop in the trailer suggests. There’s a little too much self-seriousness to call it a comedy, and a little too much comedy to call it a thriller. The mixture of tones doesn’t make it impossible to watch, just hard to recommend; especially when you could easily go see Mission: Impossible – Fallout again.

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REVIEW: The jaw-dropping 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'

The film is very aware the story is not its strong suit; the entire plot is explained in the first 10 minutes in classic Mission: Impossible secret message fashion, and then promptly ushers you into an incredible two-hour escape. What’s most impressive is that it feels like there’s a legitimate mental and physical weight to the things Cruise is put through and that’s undeniably a part of his charm.

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REVIEW: ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is social commentary and self-critique in equal measure

But in a bizarre meta twist, it also looks inward, pre-emptively questioning its own message and those of its compatriots. The movie seems to ask, “Is this really progress? Or are we merely packaging up social commentary in a form that’s still palatable for white people?”

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Reviews of Classic Movies: ‘Being There’ cuts ever deeper as social media gets louder

The movie is a subtle, but damning representation of modern politics. We’re invited to wonder how many of our leaders and public intellectuals are really know-nothings who were lucky enough to stumble into recognition and respect. At the time Ashby (perhaps best known for Harold and Maude) was working on Being There, the political climate in the United States was nowhere near as charged as it is today.

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