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Lone Wolf and Cub

Lone Wolf and Cub is a series of six samurai films following Ittō Ogami, a wandering assassin-for-hire who pushes his young son, Daigorō, along the road in a baby cart. Ogami relies on his considerable fighting skill and resourcefulness to overcome opponents, and though all the films feature simple plots, they’re notable for their stylized, increasingly cartoonish fights. Characters leap to impossible heights. They signify their deaths with absurd red fountains. Ogami constantly reveals that he’s booby-trapped the baby cart with bladed wheels and machine guns and other weapons. Tomisaburo Wakayama portrays the character with a constant scowl and a piercing glare alongside a credible fighting ability, and in fitting with the character, the actor looks more like a villain's most powerful henchman than a traditional hero. The series does, however, fall pretty constantly into scenes of troubling sexism; you start to expect something horrible any time a woman appears onscreen, and it feels exploitive even when you consider the time period portrayed. And though the movies are filmed with style (all sweaty close-ups and striking colors and harsh shadows), they do peak early – the first looks the best, and the second is the most engaging with near-constant action. While the others (except maybe the fourth) remain quite entertaining, inventive, and admirably consistent, they don’t recapture the quality of the series when it was fresh. All the films are available in subtitled Japanese, though this release also includes Shogun Assassin, an English language version that edits together parts of the first and second films. Overall Rating: B+
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Humanz by Gorillaz

It's been seven years since the last Gorillaz album, and you can tell.
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Blank Face LP by ScHoolboy Q

At just over 72 minutes in length, the fourth album from ScHoolboy Q features the Top Dawg Entertainment rapper at his most ambitious. Across 17 tracks, production influences range from trap to jazz rap to West Coast gangster rap, all of it forming this thick, aggressive, foreboding atmosphere. But even on the heaviest tracks, Q, with guest spots from Kanye West, Vince Staples, Anderson Paak, and others, never sacrifices a good pop hook. His raspy, often choppy delivery sets him apart from his peers, even as he tackles familiar subjects like newfound fame and gang life, some of it celebratory but much of it steeped in regret and anxiety. Although some songs highlight Q’s clever metaphors and wordplay, Blank Face LP often finds him coasting on attitude rather than lyricism; he squanders his most vivid, personal lines in vague bars that paint him as an enigma, faceless in the way the album’s title implies without the same sense of purpose. And despite a few great songs (“Groovy Tony,” “JoHn Muir”), Q just doesn’t have the content or the insight to fill out an excessive 72 minutes. There are few truly weak tracks, but the album is sprawling and formless and overall a bit of a chore to get through in its entirety without a truly gripping artist at its forefront. Overall Rating: C+
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Hot Thoughts by Spoon

The word that best characterizes Spoon’s music is “solid,” both in their ever-present backing layer of thick, punchy drums + keyboard and their general sense of reliability. Hot Thoughts is their ninth album in just over 20 years, and that workmanlike quality can sometimes overshadow what is otherwise pretty good songwriting. Though it’d be a disservice to the quality of their work to label them another Adequate Indie Rock Band, they can provoke about the same level of investment – often, their music is to be admired rather than engrossed by. Barring a handful of electronic touches and semi-experimental tangents (“Pink Up,” “Us”), Hot Thoughts finds Spoon in their comfort zone: brief, catchy, vague, and artsy without being inaccessible. It’s not a bad place to be when it produces songs like “Shotgun” or “Can I Sit Next to You,” even if it isn’t particularly exciting. It’s not much of a jumping-in point, either – for that, see Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga or Kill the Moonlight. Overall Rating: B-
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T2 Trainspotting

T2 Trainspotting was probably never going to live up to its predecessor. The first Trainspotting is an undisputed classic gifted with a perfect soundtrack/sense of humor/style blend that would be just about impossible to replicate 21 years later. The fact that director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge, both returning, seem to know this is not a point in their favor. Their film uses self-awareness as a shield, with overt references to the original’s iconic scenes and speeches to disguise a thin concept where Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Edinburgh, Scotland two decades after running off with the cash his dysfunctional friends made from a drug deal. They haven’t changed much – Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in jail, Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) runs both a bar and a blackmail scheme, Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still addicted to heroin. Outside some vague gestures toward what they’ve all done in the intervening years, T2 mostly relies on our memories of these characters as they were. As a commentary on aging and nostalgia, it has little to say, and as a character piece, it’s more concerned with the group’s legally dubious antics (some of which are, admittedly, great fun) than with who they’ve grown to be. It’s more footnote than sequel. The original Trainspotting worked because it was about learning who these people were, about how their actions affected their own lives and the lives of others. In the absence of that, T2 Trainspotting isn’t about much of anything. Overall Rating: C
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Shin Godzilla

Shin Godzilla is a satire of Japanese bureaucracy and a vaguely nationalistic underdog story about politicians uniting in the face of disaster, which all sounds like a terrible idea. It sounds very people-centric, and people are never the point of Godzilla. People exist only to string together the real meat of the thing, the guys in monster suits stomping on miniatures, so that the final product can pass for a halfway coherent story instead of just some chaotic scenes of rampaging monsters strung end to end. But people are also what make Shin Godzilla so fascinating. Though the film has its share of traditional Godzilla destruction, it zeroes in on the government response, which is unprepared and largely inept and also fascinating with touches of subtle comedy. Through quick cuts, dynamic camera angles, breathless dialogue, and tons of characters, the film gives the politicians their own engrossing brand of chaos. And as a commentary on the Japanese response to the 2011 earthquake/tsunami, Shin Godzilla is aspirational in a way few movies in the franchise have been since the original. It loses some steam toward the end and it’s certainly not what people expect from a monster movie, but it can easily count itself as one of the best. Overall Rating: A
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Twin Peaks

A return, in the sense that the new season of Twin Peaks is often subtitled with “The Return,” implies a sense of comfort and familiarity, and in the context of a TV show, it implies the continuation of a story as well answers to lingering questions; Twin Peaks: The Return has some of these things.
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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is supposed to be about righteous anger -- in response to the killing of her daughter and the subsequent lack of progress on the murder case, Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) buys space on the eponymous billboards to take the local police to task.
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Florida Project

Six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) lives just outside Walt Disney World in Kissimmee, Florida, at the fringes of commodified happiness.
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Detroit: Become Human

The question of whether advanced artificial intelligence can constitute life is a crowded conversation in fiction--aside from numerous science fiction books, it includes recent pop culture like last year's Blade Runner sequel, the video game Nier Automata, Westworld, and now Detroit: Become Human, which has nothing to contribute except a crass insistence on leeching off real-life struggle to prop up its own creative bankruptcy.
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Ye

Ye feels like the end.
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The Endless

Don't be fooled by the rather ominous title/cover combo--The Endless is less of a horror movie than it is a sci-fi drama, and a pretty middling one at that.
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Madeline's Madeline

As a semi-experimental film about a definitely-experimental theater troupe, Madeline’s Madeline sounds impenetrable and intimidating—pretty much the definition of eating your cinematic vegetables—but instead, it’s a deeply affecting story about a girl grappling with mental illness.
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Suspiria (1977) - Movie Review

Though we have the forty-years-later remake from the director of Call Me By Your Name, we’ve also recently acquired the shorter, brighter, stranger original from famous horror director Dario Argento.
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