Swing and a Miss

Swing and a Miss

Hands of Stone can't carve out a distinctive space among boxing biopics
Y ou've got to hand this to Jonathan Jakubowicz, writer/director of Hands of Stone: It takes balls of stone to cast Robert De Niro in your based-on-a-true-story boxing movie. It's been 36 years since De Niro won his lone Best Actor Oscar for playing Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, and that film remains a kind of gold standard, not just for capturing the visceral, kinetic intensity of boxing, but for shaking up the often predictable rhythms of the movie biography.

Texas Heat

Hell or High Water is the crime drama you've been waiting all summer for
T his West Texas crime drama barrels in with the force of a full-gale dust storm over the flat, dry plains of our parched movie summer. Hell or High Water is a good but not great movie with sensational lead performances that elevate it to enjoyably memorable status.

Gun Show

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are armed and dangerous in the true story War Dogs
W ar Dogs was originally called Arms and the Dudes, which makes it sound like a stoner comedy about bumbling weapons dealers from the guy who made the Hangover movies. And it's not that at all.

Master of Puppets

Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeous, if conventional, epic journey
Pixar is widely regarded as the gold standard of animation in the 21st century. That makes sense: the studio has reeled off a series of masterpieces over the past decade or so (WALL·E, Up, Inside Out).

Meat is Murder

Sausage Party puts the gross in grocery store
In a letter to a friend, William S. Burroughs famously explained the title of his novel Naked Lunch by describing it as "a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork." At some point in human history, surely, after the third deep bong rip, some stoner must have heard that quote, grown very silent, and then wondered aloud, "But what if the food at the end of the fork, like... looked back?"

Magic Monster

Pete's Dragon is a reboot with an infectious spirit
I suppose this new Pete's Dragon falls under the umbrella of Disney's ongoing project to produce live-action remakes of all of its animated features. The 1977 film was mostly live-action, of course, except for the key element of the mischievous giant reptile itself, which was really cartoonish.

Old Tricks

Master of quirk Todd Solondz brings four stories together with Wiener-Dog
Call him a provocateur of the banal, a contrarian to the expected: Todd Solondz may be the original Peck's bad boy of American independent cinema, an uncompromising filmmaker with a perverse gift for going against the grain. In his eighth feature-length film, Wiener-Dog, happiness is not necessarily a warm puppy.

Villain the Blanks

DC tries too hard to play movie universe catch-up with Suicide Squad
At the Hollywood premiere for Suicide Squad, writer/director David Ayer took up the rallying cry suggested by a fan in the audience, and let loose with a hearty, "F--- Marvel!" For the benefit of those not caught up in silly fandom turf wars, enthusiasts of the Big Two comic-book publishers — DC (which includes Suicide Squad) and Marvel — have turned the movies based on their respective costumed characters into the latest battlefield in a grueling campaign over who rules and who sucks.

Tired Legacy

Jason Bourne works as an action film, but also shows that the franchise hasn't kept up with the times
It's been nine years since we last saw Matt Damon racing around the world and beating people up as brainwashed assassin Jason Bourne... and the weight of those interim years rests heavily upon this fourth installment. Oh, it's not that Damon, now 45 years old, isn't up to the physical demands of the role.

Cross-Cultural Collaboration

Yo-Yo Ma aims for more than music magic in this doc about his Silk Road Ensemble
"What might happen when strangers meet?" This was the question renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma asked himself in 2000, when he first pulled together more than 60 world-class musicians and composers for an epic classical jam session that eventually evolved into a global supergroup of sorts called the Silk Road Ensemble.

A Load of Scrat

Ice Age: Collision Course continues a franchise that keeps going only because it can
A curious realization came over me as I waited to watch Ice Age: Collision Course: I had no idea how many of these movies there had been. On the one hand, I was pretty sure that this was the fourth, though in fact it's the fifth; on the other hand, I wouldn't have been surprised if you had told me it was the 37th.

Cats and Dogs

The Secret Life of Pets is a pure joy of the imagination
What do our pets do all day while we're at work or school? Mostly sleep, probably.

Ain't Afraid of No Feminism

The Ghostbusters reboot dishes out laughs with a new team of ghoul chasers
My reaction to the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters reboot? I'm desperate for movies about women doing all sorts of things — including silly stuff like engaging in experimental particle physics, playing around with total protonic reversal and saving New York City — but I'd also like women to get their own stories and the opportunity to create their own iconic characters.

Wedded Miss

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates needs to go away
Do you think Adam Devine is the funniest person alive? Not do you think he's funny, but do you think he's light-years funnier than Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer and John Oliver combined?

Watch Me Whip

In the '80s, a couple of kids filmed a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark
If Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made was simply a good-hearted documentary about a bunch of kids remaking their favorite flick shot for shot, it might be entertaining for serious film geeks and Raiders of the Lost Ark fans, but few others. This charming movie, though, proves far more than that, as it recounts the story of three Mississippi 11-year-olds who spent the better part of the '80s — and their respective childhoods — crafting a homemade ode to the 1981 Steven Spielberg action classic.


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