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Holy Split, Signs of M. Night Shyamalan’s Return Are Happening

Director M. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of crap, and rightfully so. Until his most recent outing, Split, he hadn’t made a good movie in more than a decade. After Earth was bad. The Happening was so bad that it was funny. The Last Airbender was so far down the scale of badness that it was no longer eligible to be funny.

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Documentary Explores Whether All Governments Lie

All Governments Lie, created by a team of independent journalists and award- winning filmmakers, plays as an intro track to Donald Trump’s presidency.  The film, first released in September of last year, offers no break from Trump’s ubiquity with a cynical look forward and an expansive look back on American history’s most notable players and under-investigated moments. All Governments Lie functions in the current political atmosphere in three ways: 1) It channels Trump’s dissent with bureaucracy and the anti-establishment sentiment that resonated with his voters and propelled him to the oval office, 2) It carries the fear, frustration and horror half the country felt and continues to feel over Trump’s election and 3) It develops the media, which Trump calls the opposition party, with as much character and determination as these journalists have caricatured the President. Trump, always having a way with words, might argue that the movie’s basis aligns with his views and that the next four years symbolize an interruption of governmental norms: the faux transparency, the personal e-mail, the misleading and the lies. Trump, an impressively confident man, might even say yes, all governments lie, and that he stands apart.

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Hidden Figures: A Triumphant Look Back into NASA and Civil Rights History

I am by no means a space history buff. That said, I believe I know some very basic stuff: Alan Shepard was the first American into space, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men on the moon. Importantly, I know that none of those men died on their respective missions. Very basic stuff.  So the fact that Hidden Figures had me on the edge of my seat wondering if John Glenn would survive re-entry into the atmosphere is a real testament to the film.

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Damien Chazelle’s Land of Palm Trees, Streetlights and Song

If I’m honest with you, I don’t quite know how to write about this movie. It’s a musical and it’s awesome so I’m completely out of my element. I’m far more comfortable ripping into mediocre action flicks at present but if Ryan Gosling agreed to sing on camera I’ll give this a whirl. La La Land is a musical-comedy-romance-drama shindig directed by Damien Chazelle, who brought us Whiplash in late 2014. As awesome as Whiplash was I don’t feel bad saying his new work is a step up.

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Honor Among Rogues

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in December 2015, to say that it had to live up to high expectations would be a tremendous understatement. A decade had passed since the last live-action Star Wars movie was released, and the trailers had promoted the film as an exciting new take on the galaxy far, far away while also promising plenty of nostalgic moments, evidenced by the inclusion of John William’s iconic soundtrack and appearances from Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2. Although The Force Awakens was by no means a bad film, time and nostalgia made audiences and critics willing to forgive its more egregious flaws: mainly that it was a recapitulation of the Star Wars: A New Hope’s storyline albeit with superior special effects. However, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story does not benefit from the same circumstances that surrounded The Force Awakens. The familiar glow of a lightsaber or an incredulous rendition of “I’ve got bad feeling about this” are not enough to satisfy fans anymore.

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Illumination’s Sing Deserves to Take a Bow

Illumination Entertainment’s still the new kid on the block, but more and more they’re showing that they have the guts to fit in with the older names in animation. Chris Meledandri’s company has delivered another par for the course with Sing, an animated family musical. Directed and written by Garth Jennings, known for adapting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 2005, and joined by Christophe Lourdelet in his own debut as co-director, Sing is a delightful holiday treat that’ll leave you with good vibes. The film centers around Buster Moon, a koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey who’s living the dream of owning his own theater. The problem is, his dream’s piled up with debt that he cannot pay back.

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Passengers: A Wasted Chris Pratt Oscar Nomination

There is no reason that Passengers had to be a mediocre film, and it is just that — mediocre. Though I certainly enjoyed parts of the film, there’s no chance I remember this movie next holiday season. That’s a shame because director Morten Tyldum’s film had a 110 million dollar budget and a star-studded cast. Passengers is the tale of Jim Preston, played by Chris Pratt, a traveler on the Starship Avalon, which is voyaging from an overpopulated Earth to a budding colony world. When a collision with a large asteroid causes Jim’s hibernation pod to malfunction, he finds himself alone aboard a ship nearly 90 years from its destination — doomed to never see the Avalon’s destination.

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Like the Assassins, Assassin’s Creed Will Stay in the Dark

Michael Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed is probably the best video game movie adaptation I’ve ever seen and I hated it. Though this movie certainly has its own issues, which I’ll get into later, my greater frustration is that it continues the trend of video game movies falling flat. As someone who has spent most his life playing video games, it pains me to keep seeing my favorite franchises have their reputations smeared on the silver screen. Every release, from Tomb Raider to Mortal Kombat, has been a regular disappointment. I’d say the Resident Evil franchise has made waves but despite getting the green light for a total of five sequels its films get torn apart by critics and fans alike.

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Confirming the Excellence of Confirmation

Confirmation is a timely exploration of gender, race and power, based on the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce). However,the movie is not really about Thomas — it follows Anita Hill (Kerry Washington), who shares her experiences as his advisor and assistant, and was subjected to sexual harassment by him. A historical drama at the genre’s best, Confirmation presents the proceedings mostly factually, although leaning to the side of Anita Hill. The bias doesn’t seem to get in the way of fact, and allows an important story to be told. Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas share many characteristics.

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Certain Women: Tender Stories Told with Restrained Patience

The episodic structure of Certain Women falls closer on the spectrum of ensemble pieces to the dark, flaccid mirth of a film like Weiner Dog from earlier this year rather than the rapturous display of interconnectedness of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. However, this is not to say that Certain Women is a bad film. Rather, it is a film composed of three distinct parts — all whose plots intersect in very minor, trivial ways within the same state of Montana — that inherits a problem endemic to “multiple storylines” of this sort: some of the storylines are just much more interesting than others. The film commences with what is probably the weakest of the film’s three stories. A lawyer in Livingston, Montana, performed sufficiently by Laura Dern, is dealing with a disgruntled client attempting to sue his former employer, who later returns to his former workplace and holds a security guard there hostage.