The Man Who Invented Christmas

Drama, History ‐ November 22, 2017
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Having seen pretty much all of the key cinematic depictions of the immortal Charles Dickens story “A Christmas Carol” over the years, I can honestly say that I could go the rest of my life without seeing another permutation of the tale. That feeling was again reinforced after watching “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” a saccharine stab at a new holiday perennial that tries to fuse the classic Yuletide yarn with a “Shakespeare In Love”-style literary origin story and manages to let both of them down, not to mention a performance by Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge that deserves a …

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Darkest Hour

Drama, History, War ‐ November 22, 2017
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I’ve been trying to think when there was a historical drama I found as electrifying as Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour.” It may have been Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” which topped my 10-best list a dozen years ago. They are very different films, of course, and it could be that Wright’s boasts stellar accomplishments in more departments. While Gary Oldman’s phenomenal work as Winston Churchill had been heralded in advance, it is astonishingly equaled by the film’s achievements in direction, screenwriting, score and cinematography.

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Coco

Adventure, Animation, Family ‐ November 21, 2017
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“Coco” is the sprightly story of a young boy who wants to be a musician and somehow finds himself communing with other talking skeletons in the land of the dead. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and veteran Pixar animator Adrian Molina, and drawing heavily on Mexican folklore and traditional designs, it has catchy music, a complex but comprehensible plot, and bits of domestic comedy and media satire. Most of the time the movie is a knockabout slapstick comedy with a “Back to the Future” feeling, staging grand action sequences and feeding audiences new plot information every few minutes, …

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Call Me by Your Name

Drama, Romance ‐ November 20, 2017
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Call Me by Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s films are all about the transformative power of nature—the way it allows our true selves to shine through and inspires us to pursue our hidden passions. From the wild, windswept hills of “I Am Love” to the chic swimming pool of “A Bigger Splash,” Guadagnino vividly portrays the outside world as almost a character in itself—driving the storyline, urging the other characters to be bold, inviting us to feel as if we, too, are a part of this intoxicating atmosphere. Never has this been more true than in “Call Me By Your Name,” a lush and vibrant masterpiece …

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The Star

Adventure, Animation, Comedy ‐ November 17, 2017
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You know what would make the Nativity story so much better? Wise-cracking animated animals that save the day—or so the creative team behind this holiday-themed family flick thinks. The critters apparently have waited far too long to be hailed for their participation on that special night. That appears to be the motivating factor behind “The Star,” a retelling of the first Christmas directed by Timothy Reckart in a feature debut that might have its heart in the right place but can’t quite manage to smoothly blend the spiritual with the silly without a few Biblical hitches here and there. 

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