For a brief period during the mid-aughts, Chinese director Yimou Zhang was the first international helmer in decades to find his foreign-language titles – 2004’s Hero, 2005’s House of Flying Daggers, and 2006’s Curse of the Golden Flower – receiving wide U.S. distribution. Predictably, the novelty soon wore off for mass audiences, and Zhang’s subsequent films, when we got them at all, were confined solely to specialty houses. But China has recently become such a yu-u-uge bottom-line consideration that Zhang is apparently again in-vogue – especially with action adventure The Great Wall having already earned some $200 million abroad. Since money talks, it isn’t surprising that Hollywood has re-embraced Zhang. In return, it seems that Zhang, for better and for worse, has fully embraced Hollywood. How else to explain a movie in which thousands of fierce Chinese warriors would be annihilated if not for the ass-kicking abilities of Matt Damon?

La La Land has 14 Oscar nominations. It won seven Golden Globe Awards – a new record – out of seven nominations. It won the Producers Guild and Directors Guild awards, both of which have led to Best Picture wins eight times out of the past 10 years. The movie is still in the box-office top 10 more than a month after its wide release, has grossed more than $125 million domestically, and is such a pop-culture touchstone that Saturday Night Live recently aired a skit in which two cops attacked a perp for the cardinal sin of insufficient admiration for the movie. The guy liked it; he just didn’t love it.

Mocking the Oscars – or any made-for-TV awards spectacle with the fool’s errand of crowning the “best” in the arts – is a time-honored tradition. Sometimes it’s even important, as with last year’s backlash against the whiteness of that Academy Awards slate of Best Picture and acting nominees. (That paleness was a bit of an anomaly in recent times, as I’ll show in a bit.)

So let’s give the Academy its due: Expanding the Best Picture field – starting with 2009 movies – from five nominees to as many as 10 was a smart and ultimately necessary change with substantial benefits, no matter how you parse it.

Now playing at area theatres.

The 2017 Academy Award nominees and their current locations updated for February 24, 2017

Here you’ll find links to all of Mike Schulz’s movie reviews from March 2000 to the present.

Brand-happy though Hollywood is, it’s still rare when three high-profile franchise extenders all debut on the same weekend. Personally speaking, it’s even rarer when all three are follow-ups to movies I liked. (One of which, to be accurate, I only kinda liked.)

In its blatant attempt to revive a scare-flick “franchise” that couldn’t even produce a second sequel, director F. Javier Gutiérrez’s Rings probably won’t make 2002’s The Ring and its 2005 follow-up relevant again, but the results are better than I expected – by which I mean the first 10 minutes are actually pretty good.

With apologies to my parents’ house cat Sam, who I’m crazy about, I’ve always been more of a dog person, and was totally anticipating a good cry at A Dog’s Purpose even in light of that notorious, upsetting footage of a German shepherd seemingly forced into a scary-looking aquatic stunt. Yet while its trailer never failed to slay me, I actually watched director Lasse Hallström’s family weepie completely dry-eyed, given how tough it is to get misty when your primary emotions are confusion, irritation, and offense.

The 2017 Academy Award Nominations

Nominees for the 89th Annual Academy Awards were announced this morning.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

It turns out they weren’t announced so much as revealed, because for the first time since the yearly nominations became an early-morning PR event several decades ago, contenders weren’t recognized in front of a gathered crowd of journalists and publicists. Instead, the news was delivered in a slick, 20-minute online presentation that also featured reminiscences from former Oscar nominees and winners such as Brie Larson, Glenn Close, and Terrence Howard, with Gabourey Sidibe wisely suggesting that when this morning's nominees eventually attend the ceremony, they should be sure to sneak in a flask. (That’s good advice for those watching from home, too.)

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