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"Less plot, but more and better monsters."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There are many sorts of sequels, all with their various merits - the serialized story, the shifting genres, the attempt to recapture the same magic but with more resources. "Monster Hunt 2" definitely falls into the "more of the first" category of sequel, with a story that is often vague enough that it like some combination of treading water until a climactic third part or only having time for a loose outline before shooting because the filmmakers knew they'd have to leave time for visual effects in order to hit a Chinese New Year release date. That's okay; that first was pretty good and this doesn't throw much of it away to get Wuba and his human foster parents together again." (more)
"Less Monkey King, best entry."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Sometimes, the third time apparently is the charm - despite a pair of less-than-impressive predecessors, director Cheang Pou-soi's third "Monkey King" film winds up being pretty darn decent. It's been a heck of a troubled path to get there, as the producers basically scrapped everything and started over at one point, and there have been at least two better takes on the same material while this series of movies has been a going concern, but on its own, this particular flick isn't a bad way to spend a couple hours if your local theater has booked it for Chinese New Year." (more)
"This cloning movie is both something of an original and not quite right."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "Andover" is just good enough that and audience may or may not be able to overlook how thoroughly misguided it is at a fairly fundamental level, to the point where it's actually kind of impressive how precisely writer/director Scott Perlman finds the no-man's-land between a deliberately heightened dark comedy and hiding from the cruelty of the premise. It's hard to recommend despite getting frequent laughs, and probably needs to hit a viewer just right to work at all." (more)
"There's probably a slightly (but crucially) better version in another world"
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "The Gateway" (also called "Alpha Gateway" because there's a good chance your cable company lists its pay-per-view options alphabetically) is a reasonably capable parallel-worlds bit of science fiction that relies an awful lot on security procedures being terribly lax in all versions of Australia, even the paranoid violent one. It's the kind of thriller that simultaneously hopes you'll be impressed by its twists and not notice the really questionable things necessary to get to them, but at least it's got a decent-enough cast to make the good bits work." (more)
"High-quality and high-pollen-count."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "Flora" is a thriller that, like may first films, is built to work around pitfalls and get the absolute most that the filmmakers can out of what they have available, to the point where it sometimes seems that the characters and filmmakers are improvising in the same way. While that's not the most exciting way to present a movie, it can certainly make for one that catches the eye when reading a genre festival's catalog or a VOD menu, and in this case the results are not bad at all." (more)
"98% Of The Time, It Works 100% Of The Time"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Despite what some less informed commentators have stated elsewhere, “Black Panther” is not the first major motion picture to feature an African-American superhero at its center—films ranging from comedies like “The Meteor Man” and “Blankman” to the Shaquille O’Neal vehicle “Steel” to the “Blade” trilogy beat it to the punch decades earlier and I am sure that I am forgetting a few here and there. However, none of these films were especially memorable or good—Guillermo del Toro’s “Blade II” was the best of the bunch and that is by far his weakest movie to date—and one of the key problems is that while watching them, you always got the sense that the filmmakers were hedging their bets by dialing down that very aspect that made them unique on the assumption that doing so would help broaden their appeal to people who might otherwise be put off with the notion of a superhero saga with African-Americans in the lead roles. There are many great things on display in “Black Panther” but perhaps the best and certainly the most significant is its attitude. This is a superhero film that focuses exclusively on black characters and concerns and clearly does not give a flying fuck about tempering that down to attract a wider audience—in many ways (and I mean this in the best possible way), it looks and feels like the biggest and most elaborate blaxploitation film ever made. To do this was no doubt a gamble—albeit one that Marvel Studios could presumedly cover—but it is one that has paid off beautifully and while it may not be the unblemished masterpiece that some have suggested, it is a superior example of the superhero genre that should prove to be as much of a commercial and creative game-changer as “Wonder Woman” (which demonstrated a similar attitude towards its presentation of a female superhero) was last year. (Although I will try not to delve too deeply into plot specifics, those of you who are more sensitive towards plot spoilers may want to exercise caution before proceeding.)" (more)
"This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "If you ever wondered what the brilliant music video created for Taylor Swift’s hit song “Blank Space”would have been like with all of the fancy trappings left intact but without the wit, insight, strong writing, convincing performances and plausible choreography, then “Fifty Shades Freed,” the conclusion of the three-film saga based on the distinctly cut-rate but insanely popular series of books by E.L. James, will no doubt prove to be your jam. For everyone else, this astoundingly poor excuse for a story—one which, for all the huffing and puffing on display, is to honest-to-goodness erotica what Olive Garden is to authentic Italian cooking—will prove to be the low point in a trilogy that is not exactly overstuffed with highlights. At least those earlier films, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Fifty Shades Darker,” had stuff going on in them—inane, stupid and decidedly stuff, to be sure—but enough stuff to create the vague impression that a story was being told. By comparison, this film consists of maybe twenty minutes of discernible storyline—almost all of which could have simply been folded into “Darker” without missing a beat—surrounded by endless scenes of nothing much happening enacted by a couple of actors whose key motivation throughout seems to have been the knowledge that they would never have to see each other again once it finally hit theaters." (more)
"Ah, so THAT'S why it didn't make it to America."
1 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Bullet Vanishes" was a nifty little period mystery that featured the most entertaining variation on "she stabbed him with an icicle" to come about in a while, and it seemed to draw a decent crowd, so it was something of a surprise when this sequel - from the same creative team and looking just as slick - didn't also open in North America the way its predecessor did. Finally watching it, the reason why is clear - the new film is wall-to-wall nonsense, and only rarely the impressively bizarre sort." (more)
"Snap Crackle And Dance!"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "2018 is only a little more than a month old at this point but we already have a prime contender for the title of Strangest Movie with the release of “Basmati Blues.” Here is a film that is so absolutely dotty that if I relate even a cursory description of the plot, many of you might suspect that I had myself on the head and drifted in and out of consciousness with four or five different and wildly incompatible movies playing in the background. There is no real way that I could claim it to be a “good” movie by most conventional critical standards but I have to admit to feeling a strange sort of affection for its goofball charms. After a few weeks of dreary weather and drearier movies, a bit of unabashed silliness like this cannot help but look good by comparison." (more)
"Aging can put us in a lonely place."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's only reasonable to be somewhat skeptical about "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool"; present-day Annette Bening doesn't quite recall the image of Gloria Grahame in one's head, and that is potentially a huge hurdle for the movie to get over, especially since a large part of the audience is people who do have an image of her in her 1940s-1950s heyday in their heads (as opposed to the later years of smaller roles and TV work). It works in large part because the filmmakers are able to use and subvert that dissonance, creating an oft-intriguing story of fighting and accepting the march of time out of it." (more)

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