Review: Casey Affleck's amazing work anchors fest best 'Manchester By The Sea'
Credit: Amazon Studios
A+

Review: Casey Affleck's amazing work anchors fest best 'Manchester By The Sea'

What a remarkable work by writer/director Kenneth Lonergan

Grief is a terrible animal, red of claw and tooth, and once it gets hold of you, there is no way of knowing what it will do to you. Over the last year, I've watched a dear friend of mine struggle with back to back losses of two of the most important people in her life, and at times, I've genuinely worried that it would be too much for her to take. This is a strong, vibrant person, and grief landed on her in a way that very nearly crushed all of that joy and vitality right out of her. I've had my own bouts with profound sorrow over the last year as a result of the end of my marriage, and while I feel like I've reached the other side of all of that, I remain shaken by just how damaged I was by things. For the first time in my adult life, I had to turn to a professional for help, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

One thing I've learned for sure is that no one can judge anyone else's sorrow from the outside, and we are not all built to bounce back when life kicks us in the teeth.

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'The Chickening' is here to make you feel like you're insane
Credit: Generic Versatility, Inc/FORCE! Exreme Anti-Mation

'The Chickening' is here to make you feel like you're insane

Remix culture just made Stanley Kubrick spin in his grave like a centrifuge

When I was at the Toronto Film Festival this year, I went to have drinks with one of the filmmakers before the midnight premiere of his film, and while I was there, I had a long conversation with Colin Geddes about The Chickening.

Colin, for those of you who don't know his name, is the programmer of Midnight Madness at the festival, and one of my favorite people walking the planet. His excitement about The Chickening was positively infectious, and once I'd laid eyes on the film, I understood that excitement. It's since played at Fantastic Fest and then again here at Sundance, and now the filmmakers have released this big fat slice of insanity online for all of you to enjoy as well.

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Review: 'The Birth Of A Nation' is a furious act of subversive historical drama
Credit: Fox Searchlight
A-

Review: 'The Birth Of A Nation' is a furious act of subversive historical drama

More battle cry than biopic, this is one of the must-sees of this year's Sundance

Recently, I've found myself having to discuss some very difficult moments from history with my oldest son because I am deeply frustrated by the history he's being taught in school. It's the same history I was taught, whitewashed and sanitized and, unfortunately, not true. It's hard to explain to him that he has to regurgitate the bullshit version of things in order to pass his tests, and he's getting angry about the vast differences between what he's taught and what actually happened.

When I emerged from today's screening of Nate Parker's exceptional The Birth Of A Nation today at Sundance, I overheard an exasperated "How many movies do they have to make about slavery?", and it almost stopped me in my tracks. It's not my job to get into an angry argument with anyone about a movie, but that sentiment almost did it. The correct answer to that question is "As many as it takes for us to stop denying that America's history was written in blood and skin." While I admire Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, part of the point of that story is that it was an anomaly, and following a free man into the world of slavery, black or not, gave us a tourist's view of life in the time of slavery. This is decidedly not that film, and as a result, there's no comfortable distance that you can maintain as a viewer.

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The director of 'The Raid' prepares for his next film with some amazing test footage
Credit: Gareth Evans/YouTube

The director of 'The Raid' prepares for his next film with some amazing test footage

If his next movie looks like this, can I buy my ticket now?

Gareth Evans is, with the exception of George Miller, the finest action filmmaker working today. Both The Raid and The Raid 2 exhibit such a masterful command of action choreography that it's almost embarrassing watching some of the half-ass fight scenes in Hollywood action films afterwards.

Evans was approached for several big Hollywood movies, and there was one in particular that he came very close to making. In the end, he opted to continue to make films outside of the system, working instead with the same stunt team and the same actors that have made his films so far so compelling. He's been gearing up for his next film, Blister, for a while now, and I'm dying to see whatever it is.

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Review: Don Cheadle hits lots of sweet notes in the not-really-a-biopic 'Miles Ahead'
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
B+

Review: Don Cheadle hits lots of sweet notes in the not-really-a-biopic 'Miles Ahead'

This film breaks some pretty serious rules, but so did Davis, so that seems appropriate

It's pretty clear where I got the first name of my first son, Toshiro, and he's well aware of the legacy of the artist who inspired that name. While he hasn't seen Seven Samurai yet, he knows who Toshiro Mifune was and that he is an actor I hold in very high regard. What's less immediately clear is that my younger son is also named after one of my artistic heroes, because it's his middle name. He is Allen Miles McWeeny, and sure enough, he is named after one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, a towering figure whose music has meant more to me than I can ever fully express.

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Review: Matt Johnson's 'Operation Avalanche' is found footage done right
Credit: Lionsgate
B+

Review: Matt Johnson's 'Operation Avalanche' is found footage done right

Buzz Aldrin is not going to like this one at all

Frequently, when I am writing a review, I will have to look someone up to jar my memory. I see so many films that it is possible for me to like something, even review it well, and then never think of it again. Such was the case with The Dirties. I actually went back today and read my review, and as soon as I did, I remembered all the things I liked about the movie and its director/star/co-writer Matt Johnson. The same things are true about Johnson's new film, Operation Avalanche, but even moreso, and I think Lionsgate stands a chance at turning it into a low-key hit if they handle it right.

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Key and Peele and the world's cutest cat blow stuff up in the trailer for 'Keanu'
Credit: New Line

Key and Peele and the world's cutest cat blow stuff up in the trailer for 'Keanu'

April 22nd can't get here soon enough

When I was at Comic-Con in 2014, one of the things I had to do moderate the panel for Sony's Goosebumps. I was in the green room getting ready for the appearance when a huge group of people walked in to get ready for another one of the panels. I immediately recognized both Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key, and made a beeline for… Peter Atencio, the director of their beloved Comedy Central series.

Because as much as I love Key and Peele as performers and writers, what made that show such a special thing for me was the razor-sharp work done on the film and television parodies. Atencio has such a fantastic eye for the small details that make something recognizable that you can set his work right next to the original and all that separates them is attitude. Parody is incredibly difficult to get right, and Atencio approaches everything with such a keen awareness of genre that he elevates the joke, giving Key and Peele a tremendous stage for their work.

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Did 'Star Wars' just send James Cameron and Steven Spielberg running?
Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Did 'Star Wars' just send James Cameron and Steven Spielberg running?

How overloaded can one release date be?

So who blinks?

One has to assume there's no way both Ready Player One and Avatar 2 end up coming out on December 15, 2017 now that Star Wars Episode VIII has moved its release date. In both cases, there are reasons to expect that they wouldn't want to go head to head with Star Wars.

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How many times can George Miller say he is making more Mad Max films?
Credit: Warner Bros

How many times can George Miller say he is making more Mad Max films?

At what point do we believe him and stop reporting the opposite?

The Internet often feels like a gigantic game of telephone, and it can be exhausting trying to sort out what is true and what is false when you see outlets picking up stories and running them without any additional reporting, and often without taking even a moment to consider if a rumor makes sense.

George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most exciting success stories of 2015. Heading into the year, everything I was hearing from inside Warner Bros. was about how nervous the film made them and how there were execs at the top levels of the studio who simply didn't know what the hell they'd made. I had spoken to people who saw early test screenings, and the word from them was far more positive. I personally was just hoping for something fun. I was not prepared for the actual film Miller made, and watching him exceed all expectations has been delightful at every step.

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This first look at 'Pee-Wee's Big Holiday' is a delightful tease
Credit: Netflix

This first look at 'Pee-Wee's Big Holiday' is a delightful tease

A new Pee-Wee movie in March? Thanks, 2016!

It has been way too long since we've seen Pee-Wee Herman in a movie.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the last decade has been seeing the return of Pee-Wee to his rightful place in pop culture. I was sure when Paul Reuben was arrested in the early '90s that he had successfully killed his most famous creation, and for a while, it seemed like that was the case. I suspect Reuben was happy to see Pee-Wee go at that point. When I met him in that era, he seemed like he was running from the character. He couldn't have looked any less like Pee-Wee with his long hair and his full beard and mustache, and he got visibly irritated when people would walk up to him and talk to him about Pee-Wee.

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