Author: Riley Humphrey

“This is based on a true story” is a phrase that flashes across movie screens several times a year, usually around award season. But never has a movie gotten so much out of its “true story” as “The Last Duel” has. Taking place in medieval France, the film follows a hotheaded knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), who is the favorite of the powerful Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck). While initially friends, de Carrouges challenges his Le Gris to a duel after his wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) accuses the squire of raping her.…

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When it was released stateside in July 1996, “Trainspotting” producers wanted to market it as a British “Pulp Fiction.” Trailers played up the action and the edgy tone while a classic rock staple blared over the top. The movie is crazy, but it’s a completely different beast than “Pulp Fiction,” and it was never trying to be a copy. Sure, the dialogue is punchy, but the characters in “Trainspotting” are trying to say something about their world and themselves, and director Danny Boyle’s movie is less interested in structure and references than it is with painting a portrait of British society in the ’90s. The film follows a group of impoverished young people in Scotland during the mid-1990s, most of whom are addicted to heroin (among other things). This story still feels…

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Few stories can completely captivate an audience, but “Zola” is one of the rare ones that can do so in under 140 characters. “Zola” follows the legendary story of Zola King, a waitress from Detroit who accompanies a stripper to Florida and gets dragged into a web of prostitution and murder. King would later share the events in a viral Twitter thread, and six years later director Janicza Bravo has turned it into a full-fledged movie. And “Zola” has all the makings of an indie darling: it tells an edgy story with a ’70s film grain, the A24 name and Riley Keough in the cast. While I hate to take the bait, I simply can’t deny that this is a good movie. Zola is a great character. She functions well as the audience POV, always looking in on…

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Despite its overlong runtime, “In the Heights” is a successful take on the now-rare big-budget musical. There have been entries these past few years, but many are either derivative (Disney’s live-action “Aladdin”) or complete disasters (2019’s “Cats”). While “In the Heights” is no timeless classic, it thankfully avoids these categories. If I could compare it to anything, it would be cotton candy: light and airy, but still sweet and a good treat for the summer months.  The film follows the residents of Washington Heights, a New York neighborhood where everyone is chasing their dreams and falling in love. This setup is a good fit for a musical, and the filmmakers have obviously studied the genre’s 1950s and ’60s heyday, mining the classics of that era for inspiration.  Director Jon Chu (of “Crazy Rich Asians” success) creates…

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Author: Riley Humphrey Movies like “Cruella” live or die on their style, and what a strange style “Cruella” has: not bold or shocking, but gangly and mismatched. The pseudo-prequel to Disney’s 1961 animated film “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” follows Estella (Emma Stone), a young thief and aspiring fashion designer living in 1970s London. She begins working for the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a notorious fashion icon, setting her on the path to becoming the criminal Cruella de Vil. Like its main character, the movie has two halves that it can’t reconcile. One side wants to be a ’90s live-action Disney movie, with CG dogs, slapstick fights and wacky supporting characters. This is where the movie spends roughly 80% of its time — inoffensive but clunky.…

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