John Cleese and A Fish Called Wanda at Cornell Cinema

I am gonna come clean now: I didn’t know who John Cleese is until two weeks ago. My best friend was appalled when he asked if I wanted to go to this Cleese talk together, and I looked at the event title and said “sure, I loved Kirshner’s class.”

But now I’m converted! The Monty Python star wrote, directed and stars in the brilliantly silly heist movie, A Fish Called Wanda, which screened at Cornell Cinema on Sept. 10. Cleese and professor Jonathan Kirshner, government, engaged in a prescreening conversation, which is just as funny and nutritious as the film.

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So Many Movies, So Little Time: Cinemapolis Fall Preview

The independent theatre’s fall line-up is jam-packed, full of must-see indies, fascinating documentaries and local collaborations. It hurts me to say this, but I simply can’t make it to all of them (I already missed Brigsby Bear, for God’s sake). Honestly, there are too many great offerings to even profile them all, so I’ve made some tough decisions and given you the run-down on my viewing wish-list.

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Leap! Barely Gets Off the Ground

Leap! has taken a very peculiar path. It actually came out a year ago under the title Ballerina, appearing in both France and the UK. Now the Weinstein Company has delivered the movie to US theaters. Directed by Éric Summer and Éric Warin, Leap tries to take on some inspiring (if cliched) themes, but falls flat due to a combination of botched writing and animation.

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Primate Philosophy and Gorilla Warfare

After walking out of the theater, I was upset that War for the Planet of the Apes was billed as a summer blockbuster. On paper, the film meets the criteria: it has a big budget, CGI action sequences and notable stars. Yet in the midst of its noisy and spectacle-driven contemporaries, War for the Planet of the Apes stands awkwardly out of place. It boasts a quieter tale and seeks not simply to thrill but to instruct as well. The blockbuster appeal serves as an invitation to a wider audience, who are treated to a delightfully introspective film.

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Dunkirk: Sound and Storytelling

So I’ve been trying to write this review without swearing but uhhh… holy shit did this movie floor me. If you’re one of those people who reads only the first couple lines of a review: go see Dunkirk. It’s breathtaking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-eMt3SrfFU

And that’s the first thing I need to harp on — Dunkirk is beautiful. There were more than a couple of takes in this movie where I couldn’t help but think director Christopher Nolan and director of photography Hoyte van Hoytema were just showing off, flexing their cinematographic muscles.

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Spidey Swings Home

After a semi-successful trilogy by Sam Raimi and two over-the-top films from Marc Webb, it seemed like everyone’s neighborhood wall crawler was going to put up the cowl for good, while studios battled over whether Spider-Man should be portrayed as an emo teenager or an emotionally challenged Tobey Maguire. Yet, who would have thought that thirty minutes of Tom Holland donning spandex in Captain America: Civil War was a sign of better things to come? Holland’s performance earned him stripes for his own solo movie in the form of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the title of which references the eponymous high school dance and is symbolic of Spider-Man joining the larger Marvel family owned by Disney. As with anyone who has to interact with new relatives, Homecoming can feel awkward and terse as it attempts to navigate and connect with past films, but once it finds its own footing, the movie flips into high gear. In the end, the latest Spidey excels as a greater extension of the Marvel Universe, and also as a solid stand-alone feature buoyed by a stellar supporting cast, infectious humor and a fresh, contemporary high school setting.

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Oh Baby…

“How to explain this movie in a nutshell? Well, Baby drives the car. But music drives Baby.” That’s what director Edgar Wright had to say about this film on the opening page of the soundtrack booklet. Yes, I paid money for a physical copy of the soundtrack, a CD with 30 songs on it. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for a contrarian, negative review of Baby Driver, go watch some hack on YouTube lashing out for more followers.

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Pixar’s “Cars 3” is Worth a Spin

Ever since Cars hit theaters in 2006, the franchise has been one of Pixar’s biggest revenue streams, with toy merchandise filling store shelves for years. Heck, you can even visit Radiator Springs at Disney’s California Adventure! That being said, it’s never been a favorite of critics, especially the 2011 sequel. Now that Cars 3 has arrived, though, I can definitely state that the franchise is ending on a high note — or at least, as high as the original movie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LeOH9AGJQM

Cars 3 is directed by Brian Fee, a long-time artist at Pixar who’s now taking the director’s chair for the first time.

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A Dim Start to The Dark Universe

The onslaught of reviews towards Universal’s newest monster flick The Mummy are as malicious as they are creative. “The Mummy should have stayed buried” and “It’s a movie best kept under wraps” are some of the insults in a series of horrendous comments that have given Alex Kurtzman’s picture a 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is quite clear why the film was critically panned. With the release of Wonder Woman the week prior and audience fatigue for shared cinematic universes, The Mummy’s by-the-book execution of its characters and obvious attempts to world-build, instead of telling a cohesive stand-alone story, represented everything wrong with the “traditional” summer blockbuster. And, the best action sequences were revealed in the trailers.