The Scheme

There may be no March Madness this year but there’s something truly insane related to college basketball this Tuesday. Airing on HBO after its canceled SXSW premiere, “The Scheme” tells the story of Christian Dawkins, a man whose ambition and business savvy became the focus of a major federal operation to bring down corruption in …

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Vivarium

There’s more hand-me-down genre movie tropes than recognizable human behavior in the new sci-fi/horror hybrid “Vivarium,” about a young couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) who is abducted and forced to raise a creepy pod person child. Which wouldn’t be so bad if “Vivarium” wasn’t about the suffocating nature of marriage and parenting in the …

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Banana Split

There’s something about the summer in between high school and college. Friendships break up or become super clingy, due to all that impending separation anxiety. Romances break up. People get way too drunk and hug it out. Tears are shed. Things get a little … intense. “Banana Split” takes place during such a summer, complete …

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Uncorked

Whether it’s a major character like in “Book Club” or a passion to be followed like in “Good Year” or “Sideways,” wine isn’t often portrayed in American cinema as an integral part of the black experience. In his good-natured feature debut “Uncorked,” writer/director Prentice Penny (“Insecure,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) sets out to challenge and change these …

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There’s Something in the Water

The celebrity-driven documentary is a tricky one. It’s obvious that these famous faces want to talk about something they’re passionate about—they may even have talked about their cause célèbre on a talk show or shared countless links on social media. But when they take the extra step of making a movie about this issue, the …

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Fascinated by Temporary Love: Writer/Actress Hannah Marks on Banana Split

We expect friends to have a common interest, but it’s unusual when that common interest is a boy who is one girl’s ex, and the other’s current boyfriend. In “Banana Split,” co-writer Hannah Marks stars as April, who broke up with her boyfriend Nick (Dylan Sprouse) and then gets jealous when he almost-immediately starts dating the …

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Early Shorts by Great Filmmakers Pt 2: Jenkins, Wang, Waititi, Diop

After previously discussing the short films of Bong Joon-Ho, Alma Har’el, Céline Sciamma, and the Safdies, this new batch of early shorts comes from the minds of new Oscar winners and should-be nominees. These directors have burst onto the scene in the last five years with feature debuts or follow-ups that were adored audiences and critics alike. …

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All the Major Titles Dropping Early on VOD Because of COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering theaters across the country, studios have had to get creative, releasing films that were just playing at the local multiplex much earlier than they were initially planning. Disney, Universal, Sony, Warner Bros., and others have dropped titles on VOD for rental or purchase, hoping to make back a portion of the …

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Tape

There are few modes of healing as cathartic as sharing one’s truth through the prism of art. It was the world of avant-garde theatre in New York that first enabled filmmaker Deborah Kampmeier to explore the abuse she endured while growing up in the South. Her first three movies center on heroines who share the …

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Stuart Gordon: 1947-2020

Most of the obituaries for Stuart Gordon, who passed away yesterday at the age of 72 from multiple organ failure, will no doubt describe him as a “Master of Horror” and not just because of his contributions to the television anthology series of the same name. He pretty much owned that particular designation from the …

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Cloud Atlas in the Time of Coronavirus

Released in October 2012, “Cloud Atlas” was a box office bomb that was derided by critics—Newsday wrote that “the quasi-profound message of cosmic connectedness isn’t worth all the trouble,” while the New Yorker questioned, “Even as we applaud the dramatic machinery, are we being kept emotionally at bay?” But the timeline fusion epic, directed by Lana and …

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Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

“This camp changed the world, and nobody knows this story.” Produced by Michelle and Barack Obama, “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution” is not your typical inspirational documentary. In my years in this business, I’ve seen a lot of manipulative documentaries that pull at the heartstrings—so many that I’ve grown a little immune to them and …

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One Day at a Time Moves to Pop

Never let it be said that March 2020 brought only bad news. Yes, pretty much everything is terrifying—not that it isn’t always in some way—but the resurrected “One Day at a Time” has returned to television and that is nothing but good. The network is new (and Netflix, which canceled this gem after three wonderful …

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Where to Find Roger Ebert’s Great Movies Streaming

We’re all stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re all looking for something to watch. There are new movies that were just in now-closed theaters already hitting VOD. There are literally thousands of options vying for your quarantined time. Why not dig a little deeper than the recent hits and find a truly …

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Binge Options During the Quarantine

During the COVID-19 pandemic, between exercising my dogs (because Canine Coronavirus disease in dogs isn’t the same as SARS-CoV-2 that causes the novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 and “there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people”), here’s what I’m watching using my …

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Netflix’s The Letter for the King Written with Medieval Cliches

The most unique feature of Netflix’s teen knight series “The Letter for the King” might be its proper nouns: Tiuri; Dagonaut; Ardanwen; Unauwen; Lavinia; Evellian, etc. These are the names and places from a world originally created by author Tonke Dragt, and they’re like window dressing for a series that otherwise feels like it’s been …

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True/False 2020 Dispatch 3: IWOW: I Walk on Water, Mayor, Some Kind of Heaven

One of the big premieres at the festival was Khalik Allah’s latest feature “IWOW: I Walk On Water,” a 200-minute self-portrait that lays bare his filmmaking process, his relationships with friends and family and ex-girlfriends and documentary subjects and Wu-Tang members, his thoughts on subjects ranging from religion to root vegetables, and, obviously, himself. It …

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Tiger King

“Tiger King” is Netflix comfort food of the highest order: it immerses viewers in a lifestyle and series of mind-boggling scandals, and yet the term “true-crime” doesn’t do justice to its greatness. This is animal-print Shakespeare; a sociological excursion into the minds of eccentric Americans who are addicted to the power that comes from owning tigers, …

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The Platform

It’s interesting to consider how the TIFF Midnight Audience Award winner “The Platform” would have tracked a decade ago. It would have had a limited theatrical release, gaining a cult following in midnight screenings around the world before really catching fire on DVD as a word-of-mouth genre hit. All of those steps are gone in …

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Human Capital

“Human Capital” is so exquisitely cast, down to the smallest role, that it puts viewers in the unusual position of wishing a film were a TV series or a much longer movie, the better to take advantage of its best assets. Written by Oren Moverman (“The Messenger,” “Ramparts”), directed by Marc Meyers (“My Friend Dahmer”), and …

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