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February 2017

Crapshoot

Free-fire-movie-review-sharlto-copley-armie-hammer-brie-larson-cillian-murphy
Studiocanal

MOVIE REVIEW
Free Fire (2017)

Obsessive readers of the small print, having spotted that Edgar Wright was an executive producer of Ben Wheatley's "Sightseers" and drawn some conclusions about that film's intentions and wobbly rate of return, can go to town on "Free Fire" once the name of Martin Scorsese appears in the same capacity. It features a closed group of armed characters in a sealed location, a weapons deal that collapses in mistrust and sweary machismo, plus some ironic popular music on the soundtrack; so the director is hugging a certain strain of American crime story pretty tightly, at a time when that strain has become so naturalized as to have lost a lot of its virulence and surely all its surprise. Mr. Wheatley has a distinctive cinematic temperament, a very British high-altitude remove that on the domestic scene stands out so much that it might count as auteurist; but it isn't the right tool for all jobs.

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Unsung Heroes

Bad-rap-movie-review-salima-koroma-awkwafina-dumbfoundead
2016 Tribeca Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Bad Rap (2016)

The documentary “Bad Rap” encapsulates the travails of Asian-American rappers striving to make their voices heard. Some profiled here are relatively well known, most notably Awkwafina, who has parlayed her viral hit into VH1 punditry and bit movie roles. Another is Dumbfounded, an underground artist who recently garnered mainstream attention spitting verses on #OscarsSoWhite and #WhitewashedOut with the viral track “Safe.” Jin, the first Asian-American rapper to score a major label deal following an impressive freestyle-battle winning streak on BET, gets honorable-mention treatment.

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Part Company

Reset-movie-review-benjamin-millepied-paris-opera-ballet
Emmanuel Guionet/2016 Tribeca Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Reset (2017)

The documentary “Reset” recounts Benjamin Millepied’s brief tenure as the director of dance at the Paris Opera Ballet. Mr. Millepied rose to fame as a principal at the New York City Ballet, and went on to found the L.A. Dance Project and choreograph Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” But he remained an outsider to the Paris Opera Ballet for not having risen within its ranks.

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Suspicious Minds

Elvis-nixon-movie-review-michael-shannon-kevin-spacey
Steve Dietl/Bleecker Street

MOVIE REVIEW
Elvis & Nixon (2016)

Extrapolating entirely from a photo of Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley shaking hands in the Oval Office, “Elvis & Nixon” reimagines the events leading up to the curious meeting between the king of rock and roll (Michael Shannon) and the disgraced former president (Kevin Spacey). Suffice it to say, there’s less value to the history lesson on offer here than, say, the one from “Frost/Nixon.”

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Daddy Issues

Toni-erdmann-movie-review-sandra-hüller-peter-simonischek
Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
Toni Erdmann (2016)

This deeply strange German movie is about the limits of not only capitalism but also the human heart. Although it is focused on a German father and daughter, it is set mainly in Romania with characters who almost all speak at least three languages fluently. There is a genuinely outré sex scene which you will remember every time you see petit fours for the rest of your life. It’s being described as a comedy; but since the comedy is an odd combination of pathos and slapstick, it’s not the relaxing kind of laughter. In other words, this is a genuine one-off.

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