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'Early Man' review: 'Gromit' creator returns to animation

Surrounded by body parts in a former aluminum warehouse on the outskirts of Bristol, in the southwest of England, Nigel Leach enthusiastically hands me an arm. "Feel that," he says, as I gingerly pinch the disembodied limb. Rather than a grisly crime scene, I'm on a tour of the puppet-making department...

  • 'The Great Buddha +' review: Black comedy that's a digital-era homage to 'Rear Window'

    'The Great Buddha +' review: Black comedy that's a digital-era homage to 'Rear Window'

    Two small-town nobodies who get cheap thrills from car dash-cam videos lay eyes on more than they can handle in "The Great Buddha +," a mordant black comedy that's a digital-era homage to "Rear Window." Sporting an ingeniously cinematic concept that's nimbly executed by writer-director Huang Hsin-yao...

  • '24 Frames' review: Iranian director's meditation on death

    '24 Frames' review: Iranian director's meditation on death

    What's the most romantic song ever written? If I told you it was "Love Never Dies," by Andrew Lloyd Webber (the title number from his unsuccessful 2010 musical), you'd probably say I was nuts. But when you come out of the theater after seeing "24 Frames," the final film by Abbas Kiarostami, that...

  • 'Fifty Shades Freed' review: Marriage, wealth and a wink to kink

    'Fifty Shades Freed' review: Marriage, wealth and a wink to kink

    The "Fifty Shades" film franchise is a study in contradictions. It's kinky, but conservative. It's filled with plot, but none of it means anything. The adventurous sex turns out to be fairly vanilla monogamy. The films are bad, but they are entertaining. "Fifty Shades Freed," the final film of...

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  • 'The Insult' review: An argument heightened by politics. Sound familiar?

    'The Insult' review: An argument heightened by politics. Sound familiar?

    In the provocative Lebanese film "The Insult," a minor conflict over a gutter between two ordinary men in Beirut spirals and escalates to the level of national significance with the stability of the country hanging in the balance. The film, from director Ziad Doueiri ("West Beirut," "The Attack"),...

  • 'Bilal: A New Breed of Hero' review: Violence, never-ending platitudes impede plot

    'Bilal: A New Breed of Hero' review: Violence, never-ending platitudes impede plot

    Dubai's first animated feature puts top-class artwork to use in a story designed to preach about the inclusive, non-discriminatory aspects of the Muslim faith to younger audiences. Loosely based on the life of Bilal ibn Rabah, a companion of the Prophet who was born a slave and became the first...

  • 'Django' review: A pretty fraud of a musical biopic of jazz guitar great

    'Django' review: A pretty fraud of a musical biopic of jazz guitar great

    How many fabrications can one fact-based, fiction-forward movie handle, before the movie falls forward and can’t get up? More than you’d think. A tremendous amount of fabrication, in fact. Historically inspired films owe the audience virtually nothing in terms of sticking to the historical record....

  • 'Vazante' review: A Brazilian origin story

    'Vazante' review: A Brazilian origin story

    An acquisition of Chicago-based Music Box Films, the austere and compelling drama “Vazante” lives in visual proximity to a recent Music Box success, the black-and-white Polish export “Ida,” which ended up winning the foreign-language Academy Award. But there’s a crucial distinction. Here, the frame...

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