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Arrow: Starling City (2019)
Season 8, Episode 1
9/10
Nostalgic
17 October 2019
I very well may have said this about the premiere last year, but this episode didn't have to do a whole lot to excite me about the season. Season 7 is the worst season in the show's history and the show hasn't had more than one good episode in a row since Prometheus was still on the board. Well, strangely enough, this episode just so happened to co-star Josh Segarra in what was a surprisingly well thought out 42 minutes with more than just great fan-service.

Really, if it weren't for the flash-forward's, there would be no reason to not give the episode a 10. I love the idea that this season will be taking Ollie back to events of his past, or perhaps more vaguely, characters (and actors) we haven't seen in years. How incredible was it to see Moira and Malcom back on screen (together!) for the first time since the season 5 crossover (and really season 2)? The show has missed those two mightily, but I also admire the guts of the writers at the time to kill them off when they did. Something The Flash almost certainly will never do with its 'beloved' characters.

Did I just write two paragraphs without even mentioning the Bruce Wayne/Batman mask easter eggs? Yeah, well those mentions don't really have the weight or impact they once did. Even so, hearing Prometheus say he's gotten advice from Wayne before certainly gave me chills.

One of the things I loved about the structure of the episode was that it didn't feel the need to explain everything to its audience. The Flash often struggles to understand how to communicate complicated plot to its viewers. Sometimes the answer is to just wing it and choose not to. We didn't even know what earth Ollie was on (or why) for quite a few scenes. That's much better than what CW typically attempts to do.

Couple of other things I need to mention: the Ollie/Dig scene in the car brought back memories and a massive smile to my face. The mansion made its return! Ollie repeating the "I'm 10 steps ahead of you" line to Chase was picture perfect. The Tommy/Oliver dynamic mirroring season 1 was awesome, even though most may consider it pandering. Whether or not next week's (and the rest of the season's episodes) live up to this week's is to be determined, but I'm just glad the show is about Ollie again. Because it definitely wasn't for the last 2 years.

9.5/10
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The Walking Dead: We Are the End of the World (2019)
Season 10, Episode 2
7/10
Brave Enough to Walk With the Dead
15 October 2019
It feels like it's been awhile since we've had a flashback heavy episode that gives us a better idea as to who some of the more background characters are and where they came from. Not that The Whisperers are background, but considering we barely know any of their stories besides Lydia's (to a certain extent), this episode provided some further context.

Once again Samantha Morton came to play in a big way as we got a sort of side by side look into her life years ago as the apocalypse was unfolding and where she's at now as she looks for a new new daughter figure in her life with Lydia a part of the Alexandrians. We got to see her breakdown and be emotional for the first time, give Beta his name, and proclaim Gamma the new 3rd in command of sorts after saving her life. If for nothing else, I'm always down for a TWD episode that shakes up for the formula and sets the stage for something larger. This episode certainly provided that.

It sure seems like the "Whisperer War" is beginning sooner rather than later this year. I'm undoubtedly okay with that.

7.8/10
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The Walking Dead: Lines We Cross (2019)
Season 10, Episode 1
8/10
The Villains of Someone Else's Story
7 October 2019
Surprisingly it felt like this off season without Walking Dead went by quicker than ever, even though the series is coming off what could be considered the best season ever.

I figured the episode would 'hide' Alpha and The Whisperers for a good chunk to reintroduce the audience to the mystique of the show, and they did just that. It also reintroduced us to the structure of a show that still clearly has about 4-5 too many characters. Whether it's the mostly unnecessary but entertaining training sequence, to Negan introducing himself to Lydia, or Carol/Daryl's ride, the show decided to focus more on characters than it did plot. Especially as the majority of the episode dealt with the arrival of a satellite that burnt down most of the forest right along the border.

More than anything else, the episode made me want to revisit the last few episodes of last season, especially the fair episode. Besides the final staredown, there wasn't a ton of things to tackle in terms of an official review but it was a promising start to what should be a phenomenal season 10.

8.0/10
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La Haine (1995)
8/10
The World is Yours
6 October 2019
24 years later, a story about 24 hours in the life of three young men in France after riots and police brutality change their lives, still feels incredibly relevant. In fact, I wrote down in my notes that the film is ripe for a remake, whether that be a film or mini-series, it feels like time. Whether it's the unclear symbolism of the cow, it's comment on the power you feel with a gun, references to Taxi Driver, or other various homages, La Haine clearly has a lot on its mind, and I'm all here for it, right up to its final, brutal & devastating moments. You can see why this film is considered one of the greats.

8.7/10
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8/10
Largely Unnecessary Plot, But Laugh Out Loud 90% of the Runtime
6 October 2019
Not that there's a whole lot to review about a Between Two Ferns film, but at the very least it could be in the discussion for best comedy of the year, with Booksmart, Good Boys, and Long Shot. It's hard to believe there's only been a handful to choose from. The best thing to say about the film is that it's basically non-stop laugh out humor from beginning to end, with a plot around the jokes to be less than stellar. But if you're a fan of Galifianakis' dead pan humor, then the film is just for you.

8.0/10
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No Strings Attached (I) (2011)
7/10
Unfairly Criticized
6 October 2019
I'm a huge fan of the Mila Kunis/Justin Timberlake lead 'Friends With Benefits' which is probably the reason why I held off for so many years with 'No Strings Attached', released the very same year. Both plots are eerily similar but just like every other genre, if you succeed in using a similar formula, then what does it really matter? And technically this film came before 'Friends With Benefits'. Natalie Portman, who has truly become one of the greatest actors of this generation (and she's still under 40!), has great chemistry with fellow lead Ashton Kutcher, who expectedly begin to fall for each other after years of friendship. Much like the previously mentioned 'Friends With Benefits', the film is rounded out with a great cast of supporting actors, Greta Gerwig, Jake Johnson, Lake Bell, Ludacris, Mindy Kaling, and Kevin Kline. It's nothing earth-shattering, but the film is a good time nonetheless.

7.8/10
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Ad Astra (2019)
8/10
To the Stars
6 October 2019
I'll always contend that the single most important thing about a film is how it finishes and makes you feel as you leave the theater. Unfortunately for Ad Astra, it doesn't quite know how it wants to close out the story of a man sent to uncover the secrets of his father's mission decades prior, and potentially, save his life. There are sequences in Ad Astra unlike any other space film I've ever seen, including an extraordinary chase on the moon. I was thrilled the trailers didn't show too much either, and quite frankly, presented an entirely different movie in the marketing material. More than likely though, this film will be likely forgotten come awards season, much like First Man last year. The ending just falls too flat to leave you with a good taste as you leave the cinema. I would love to see James Gray do more sci-fi though.

8.2/10
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Hustlers (2019)
7/10
We Were Hurricanes
6 October 2019
Fair or not, Hustlers is very much Goodfellas with strippers, but that's not a criticism necessarily, but more of just a comment on the structure and tone of the story. When following main characters that are criminals, more often than not the film shows the rise and fall, and Hustlers is no different as the rise is far more captivating than the latter. I haven't seen a ton of Jennifer Lopez performances, but Hustlers is far and away the best she's ever been. The sequence on the pole that everyone is talking about just goes to show you how impressive she can be as a presence without saying many lines. Is she good enough to warrant a nomination? I'm not sure about that, but it's worth the discussion. The bottom line being that Hustlers is a story that should be told and I'm thrilled it was.

7.5/10
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5/10
Legends Never Die....
24 September 2019
It sure seemed like the end of Rambo 4 meant that he was finally going home and in a way "walking off into the sunset", well leave it to Stallone to revisit the character *one* more time. Last Blood in many ways feels like a fitting end to the series. It's extremely violent, Stallone is once again difficult to understand, and it contains as many cheesy one liners as it does moments to cheer for because of some elaborately gruesome kill Rambo makes on a henchman. It's like this film wants to be both Logan and Taken at the same time, while throwing in some over the top Expendables like action. It's nothing short of absurd.

5.2/10
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Rambo (2008)
6/10
"Killing is as easy as breathing"
24 September 2019
High octane action, Sly mumbling his words through 90 minutes, and unnecessarily ridiculously bloody action, Rambo is perhaps the deadliest movie of all time and I'm still not sure if that's a compliment for this type of action movie or not. The plot? Well, if you really care about that for a Rambo film, it revolves around a group of christian aid workers who decide to head into war torn Burma to assist the locals, and of course, get taken captive. It's incredibly convoluted and once again very silly (yet takes itself way too serious), but admittedly, it's much more entertaining than the 3rd film, and some say this is the best Rambo to date.

6.0/10
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Rambo III (1988)
4/10
"Come Full Circle"
24 September 2019
There have been 2 Rambo films since, but yet Rambo III deals specifically with the idea that John Rambo keeps getting pulled back into conflict, and it never truly leaves him. The third film focuses on his trek to save Col. Trautman from Soviet Forces in Afghanistan. Where the second film feels like dumb fun, Rambo III is almost all the former, presenting a script so silly only the 1980's can deliver. This is essentially a carbon copy of the second film, without any of the charm. And really, this probably should have ended the franchise, if it wasn't for Stallone constantly wanting to go back to the well and revisit old properties.

4.0/10
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8/10
A Dangerous Truth
21 September 2019
It's sometimes difficult for films that deal with heavy dialogue covering subjects that are not always the easiest to translate on screen to create thrilling 100 minutes or so. Official Secrets does it well, bolstered by yet another great (period piece) performance from Keira Knightley. This film may not be revered as much as All the President's Men or Spotlight but it's up there for me. Separating itself by showing the true costs of being a whistleblower emotionally and physically while still succeeding in using a similar formula structurally. I was nothing short of enthralled with Official Secrets.

8.8/10
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The Goldfinch (2019)
5/10
Not a Disaster, But Certainly a Disappointment
21 September 2019
It's always disappointing when a film releases one of the best trailers (and I thought marketing campaigns overall) this year and then film comes out and bombs the way The Goldfinch did. And it doesn't help that the film itself isn't all that good to begin with. Packed with solid acting, gorgeous cinematography, and a story that should be extraordinary to tell on the big screen, The Goldfinch has every part of the process down for success, except for the execution. It was one of my most anticipated films of the back half of 2019, and sadly it's one of the bigger letdowns of the last few years. But it's also far from the atrocity some critics are making it out to be. It's certainly watchable, but it's far too long for repeated viewings.

5.9/10
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Meek's Cutoff (2010)
7/10
Am I Playing Oregon Trail?
21 September 2019
What's great about going back through Michelle Williams filmography is that there's a wide range of genres and roles for her to dive into. She's pretty much been a force in Hollywood for just about 15 years and I'm convinced there's nothing she can't do. With Meek's Cutoff, she explores the Oregon Trail era time when finding new land and gold was just about the only goal people had. The film mostly focuses on the former, as Williams along with Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, and Paul Dano also star as settlers in the middle of the desert with no water in sight, as tensions rise. It's largely a walk and talk (Linklater style) western set in the 1840's, but director Kelly Reichardt does a lot with a little, and brings extraordinary performances out of her actors.

7.7/10
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Flipped (I) (2010)
7/10
When Life Was "Simpler"
17 September 2019
While the movie overall didn't completely land with me emotionally, I love a story about the time in your life when things were simpler and your world view was small. For Juli Baker and Bryce Loski, a childhood crush was life or death. With that, Flipped is a lovable story about your childhood love and perhaps the judgements you make about people before you really know them, something everyone is guilty of when you're young. The bow that gets wrapped at the end doesn't necessarily feel earned, but it's a pretty sweet little film that not many have seen, and that should change.

7.0/10
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7/10
It's All About How You Finish
17 September 2019
One of the dying genres in cinema is comedy, however Brittany Runs a Marathon is a clear example of the potential that this type of film can bring to theaters. Heartfelt, earnest, and unique, Brittany Runs a Marathon is one of the most rewarding and pleasant films of the year. Jillian Bell is also fantastic in the titular role, in a film that finally shows her range as an actor, providing much more than comedic relief. There are some pacing issues and secondary characters that don't totally stick the landing, but the last 10 minutes are cinema at its finest. It had me tearing up for sure. This is a win.

7.7/10
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8/10
Derry Never Leaves You
15 September 2019
I don't know that I've ever anticipated a horror film more than It Chapter Two. The first film transcended the genre and created a thrilling and captivating small universe inside of Derry. So inevitably it was going to be difficult for Andy Muschietti and company to capture the same magic they did in 2017. The sequel doesn't necessarily live up to the high expectations of the first film, but it very well may be scarier. The Losers Club 27 years later contained just as much charisma and chemistry as the young kids, including a standout performance from Bill Hader (who continues to prove why he's one of the best talents Hollywood has), and I can never get enough of Bill Skarsgård as the titular It/Pennywise. However, the film is probably about 20 minutes too long and the ending doesn't necessarily stick the landing. But I would be very curious to see if Muschietti puts together one long cut of the film that could almost work as "mini-series of sorts", coming full circle with the first adaptation in 1990.

8.0/10
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7/10
This Series Has Not Fallen
15 September 2019
After looking at my list for this year, there really aren't that many straight forward action films made anymore. But Angel Has Fallen came at the perfect time, end of August/early September when there's not much else out in theaters, at least blockbuster movie wise. While not better than the first entry 'Olympus Has Fallen', it is certainly superior to 'London Has Fallen' from 2016, and it makes for a nice cap to the 'Has Fallen' trilogy. That is, if this is the end to the series. And look, there's a ceiling to Gerard Butler's acting talent, but he's more than serviceable in a role like this and last year's Den of Thieves. Oh and Nick Nolte? He's so dang good in this movie it feels like he's on an entirely different level than everyone else. I'm here for it.

7.0/10
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6/10
"I'm Coming For You Murdock"
15 September 2019
I feel like you always have to be a little weary going into an 80's action movie, or really, you just have to understand a lot of times that they rarely took themselves seriously and almost always over the top. I'm not a fan of the first Rambo film, as I felt it did the opposite of what I mentioned up top, but admittedly part 2 is infinitely more enjoyable as a laid back action film from the decade that defined the genre. It's predictable and cheesy, but that's what most would expect out of an 80's action adventure. It lacks nuance and originality, but most will likely be okay with your basic run of the mill Stallone film.

6.0/10
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7/10
Michelle Williams is World Class
11 September 2019
I'm so glad I went into this movie without knowing much (and frankly unaware of the original Danish film) because the direction the movie goes was both surprising and heartfelt. If it wasn't for the somewhat melodramatic third act, this would probably be a movie that could be up for awards this winter. Michelle Williams once again proves why she's a world class actress, Julianne Moore is equally as good, Billy Crudup provides a mostly reserved but nonetheless impactful turn, and newcomer Abby Quinn shows she has a legit future in this business. It's carried by the acting but leaves something to be desired in the adapted screenplay. All in all, this one was worth it to me.

7.6/10
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7/10
Jolly
11 September 2019
The Jane Austen Book Club is a largely harmless, mostly enjoyable addition to the rom-com-dram genre, and one with enough cleverness to be commended. Heck, it's significantly harder to make original romance films than most other genres, so there's something to be said about a film that feels unique in a tired (but hopefully still surviving) genre. And perhaps the best way to describe this film is 'Jolly', it's just so pleasantly enjoyable, while not being overly complicated or intricate. I'll take it.

7.4/10
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Junebug (2005)
6/10
Small Town Melancholy
11 September 2019
Although she was a clear standout in Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, Amy Adams was without work for over a year before she found Junebug, and the rest is pretty much history. Junebug itself is a decently impressive, more or less, serviceable drama that I guess is a lesson about what is truly important in life, family. But I guess most of all, this is just a nice slice of life film that deals with a small town and a small story, but perhaps a universal one. Ultimately though, Adam's performance, along with ben Mckenzie's out of control turn, is likely more memorable than the overall story.

6.5/10
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7/10
The Journey of Jen
11 September 2019
Fantasy was pretty big in the 80's thanks to the success of Star Wars, and The Dark Crystal managed to form its own sort of devoted fan base. So much so that Netflix has given the franchise a prequel series, just released, which was the reason I decided to finally sit down and give the original movie a shot. What I found interesting is not only the deep mythos it builds, but how surprisingly dark it was for being a PG movie, and I dug that. I also really appreciated the practical effects and the groundbreaking animatronics that were used. I can't say that I'll be revisiting the movie anytime soon but I can acknowledge the vast world Jim Henson & company set up, and eventually check out the prequel series.

7.0/10
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6/10
How Much is Enough?
4 September 2019
It's not easy rooting for a character to cheat on their significant other, especially when you're given time to enjoy the company of that couple on screen. So it's notably difficult to get behind the infidelity of Michelle Williams character in Take This Waltz because she has great chemistry with Seth Rogen, even when it feels like you're not supposed to like them together. More than anything, Take This Waltz is a fascinating exploration of marriage and how much effort is "enough" in a relationship to keep in afloat and feeling fresh. We don't often get movies that deal with infidelity in such a realistic way, it's something tackled on television far more frequently. The movie doesn't always work, but Michelle Williams is something worth seeing in anything, and she is effortlessly good here.

6.9/10
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Ready or Not (I) (2019)
9/10
"In-Laws"
4 September 2019
A great trailer can really shape your expectations about a movie. What was initially thought of (and pitched) as merely a hide and seek horror film, there was no real reason to get excited about Ready or Not. But oh boy did that trailer (and the marketing campaign overall) completely shift my hopes for the film. And luckily, the film is exactly what the marketing presents, endlessly fun, at times hilarious, and a devilishly delightful thriller vibe throughout. Oh, and Samara Weaving is an absolute star in the making, and far better than Margot Robbie 1a, which is what I initially referred to her as. One of the best films of the year, and a great way to end the summer.

9.0/10
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