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New movie reviews: Critics' picks

Check out the best new movies, as reviewed by Time Out's critics, then find showtimes and buy movie tickets.

New movies we love

It Follows

Imbued with the kind of idea that can turn a horror film into a sensation, David Robert Mitchell’s thriller sets a relentless camera on characters that have no idea what’s in pursuit.

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Seymour: An Introduction

A few years ago, before a pair of starring roles in two major Richard Linklater movies provided him with a jolt of career-affirming success, Ethan Hawke was having a crisis of confidence. “I’ve been struggling recently to find why it is that I do what I do,” the actor confesses to a crowd of friends at the beginning of the new film he’s directed. But Hawke isn’t there to talk about his problems—he’s there to shine a light on the reclusive 86-year-old piano teacher who solved them. Seymour Bernstein has been training concert pianists from inside his musty Upper West Side apartment for decades, and though Hawke isn’t training to play a recital at Carnegie Hall, Seymour: An Introduction makes it clear that he’s learned as much from Bernstein as any of the octogenarian’s pupils.  Hawke’s first documentary is a perfect movie for a gray Sunday afternoon, a gentle and loving tribute to a man so anachronistically convinced that talent is its own reward that the film might soon serve as our only proof that people like him ever existed. A living legend without a Wikipedia page, Bernstein values his solitude the way that others might their spouse, and Hawke’s movie is a model of how to portray a man who’s at peace with himself.  Seymour unfolds like a Jewish Jiro Dreams of Sushi—Bernstein may look like your average NYC grandpa, but he lives like a monk and talks like a guru. (Misleading title aside, the film is less of an introduction to Bernstein than a lesson in the value of his tea

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Wild Tales

Comedy seldom travels well from one culture to another, but to judge from the first episode of this engaging if uneven satire highlighting humanity’s baser instincts, it’s clear that Argentine writer-director Damián Szifrón has a knack for latching on to ideas with a humorous dimension that’s pretty universal. The opening sketch, about an almost surreally improbable situation—a plane-load of strangers is assembled by an unseen individual bent on revenge—demonstrates not only Szifrón’s taste in ultrablack humor but his preferred strategy of combining outrageous excess with a perverse but unavoidable logic. Grudges, minor insults and found-out flirtations lead to mayhem and murder on a cataclysmic scale. The funniest of the six stories is a brilliantly extended riot of absurdly brutal road rage. The most politically biting is a study of concealment and corruption among the wealthy, reminiscent of Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman. The great Argentine actor Ricardo Darín appears as an explosives expert plagued by a banal parking-ticket department. The first three episodes are the most amusing, but the final three also have interesting things to say about the psychological and moral health of contemporary Argentina—and, of course, the rest of the world.

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Chappie

After the out-of-nowhere sucker punch of his 2009 debut District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s second film, 2013’s Elysium, felt like the work of a Hollywood-designed, blockbuster-producing robot: slick and anonymous. So it’s a huge relief to discover that, with Chappie, the South African filmmaker has re-engaged his emotion chip and ramped up the weirdness factor for a lovably scattershot cybernetic satire.

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Cinderella

Disney has clearly had enough of these bold princesses getting all empowered and messing with their fairy tales. After Frozen and Into the Woods, it’s back to basics with director Kenneth Branagh’s lavish, sappily sweet version of Cinderella. That means microscopic waists, swooning bosoms and a happily-ever-after ending for the title heroine—just plain “Ella” (James, the naughty cousin from Downton Abbey). The “Cinders” part comes a bit later. The film opens shakily with scenes from Ella’s idyllic childhood dominated by the surrounding forest. “Have courage and be kind,” says Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell) with a saintly deathbed smile, cursing Ella to a lifetime of smiling primly and talking in singsong to her CGI pet mice. Cate Blanchett is wickedly good as her evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine, dressed to kill in the style of a 1940s femme fatale with Veronica Lake curls and bloodred lipstick. So far, it’s a pretty faithful retelling of the classic, but Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz (About a Boy) have rustled up enough of a backstory to stop Lady T. from being a straight-up psycho-bitch villainess. Left widowed and bankrupt by her first husband, she’s now bitter about being married to a man still in love with wife No. 1. You know the rest. Helena Bonham Carter is hilarious as the Fairy Godmother, a fashionista who sounds like she’s had a few too many gin and tonics: “Would you mind if I gee it up a bit?” she slurs, looking at Cinders’s frock. And has Branagh been insp

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Get Hard

Like a small child with a set of steak knives, Get Hard gleefully wields sharp ideas but doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s a please-don’t-let-me-get-raped-in-prison comedy—there’s really no other way to put it—on top of which is layered a mock coating of racist hauteur, tush-ogling sexism and plenty of sweaty gay panic. And still, miraculously, the movie doesn’t feel mean-spirited so much as profoundly awkward. Scripted by smart guys like Etan Cohen (Idiocracy, Tropic Thunder) and two behind-the-scenes writers on TV’s consistently excellent Key & Peele, the film feels both daring and foolhardy. If it succeeds at all, it’s because the kids with the knives are so gloriously good at playing dumb. James King (Will Ferrell, better as he ages) is a strutting Master of the Universe, a super wealthy stock trader about to marry his boss’s spoiled daughter (Alison Brie). When embezzlement charges rain down on him, turning him into a media symbol of unchecked privilege, he toys with Mexican flight in a fake mustache. Then he pleads with his longtime car washer, Darnell (Kevin Hart, terrific), whom he assumes has spent time behind bars (the guy is actually a married, wine-sipping striver), to make him a mad dog. If the above makes you cringe, that’s the point. We may be past a moment when race comedies like 1983’s Trading Places get an unquestioning pass. Get Hard actually feels more like Eddie Murphy’s debut, 48 Hrs., especially during a scene in which James and Darnell find themselves

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

Spoofing James Bond is hardly a new idea (see Woody Allen in the 1967 Casino Royale, not to mention the entire Austin Powers franchise), but that hasn’t stopped writer-director Matthew Vaughn from trying his hand at a little counterespionage with this full-throttle action-comedy. Colin Firth plays Harry Hart, one of an elite band of impeccably dressed crime fighters aligned with no specific government but steeped in old money and aristocratic privilege. When one of their number dies unexpectedly, Harry tries to fulfill an old promise by bringing latchkey kid turned bruiser Eggsy (Taron Egerton) into the Kingsman fold, with explosive consequences. Never less than slick, precision-tooled multiplex entertainment, Kingsman hews close to the formula Vaughn and his cowriter Jane Goldman established in their superficially similar Kick-Ass: hyperspeed action, pithy one-liners and grotesque ultraviolence. Firth plays it straight with a smirky twist, Egerton is a likable frontman, and there are winning cameos from Michael Caine as a shifty bureau chief and—get this—Mark Hamill as- a fusty British science professor. But like Kick-Ass, Kingsman can leave a sour taste. The script leans hard on nasty lad’s-mag humor, while attempts to play on timely themes of privilege versus poverty fall flat thanks to a crass, reactionary depiction of working-class life. If all you’re after are sharp suits, quick-fire gags and spectacular kill shots (one unforgettable sequence is destined to go down in

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Run All Night

Deep into his career rebirth as a gruff-talking action hero, Liam Neeson looks like he’s having the time of his life slumming it. But Run All Night reminds you of a particular set of skills he’s been deprioritizing, namely his acting chops. A New York City-set chase film that, in its better moments, nears the sweet spot last occupied by 1993’s The Fugitive, it gives Neeson an actual character to play. He is Jimmy Conlon, a washed-up mob hitman whose fearsome reputation has been marinating at the bottom of a Scotch glass. When Jimmy’s estranged adult son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), witnesses a brutal crime that quickly escalates into a self-defense killing, both Conlons are targeted by Jimmy’s old boss, Shawn (Ed Harris, furiously good in a too-small part), unless they can somehow... eh, just read the title again. Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra occasionally panics and sends his camera speeding high above the city like a drone on steroids, as if his audience would fall asleep at the thought of watching a scene without any punching. But in the main, he’s making a character-driven drama about betrayed honor, and the result is a film closer in spirit to the baggage-rich crime novels of Dennis Lehane than dumb multiplex fare. A dogged detective (Vincent D’Onofrio) could have been better developed, and after so much pungent location shooting in Brooklyn and Queens, it’s a drag to end up skulking around some boring upstate woods for a climax. But when the movie is doing its tough-

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Grey Gardens

Among the strangest real-life family dramas ever captured, a classic dysfunction doc is back onscreen

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Faults

If he weren’t a published expert at talking people out of cults, Ansel (Leland Orser) would be an obvious candidate for joining one. The beaten and bedraggled subject of Riley Stearns's mordantly funny first feature, he roams the jaundiced purgatory of Southern California, leveraging sparsely attended seminars to hawk his terrible new book about the virtues of free will.

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