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"High Flying Birds"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There is no doubt that this weekend will find millions of parents taking their children to the multiplex to go see “The LEGO Movie 2” and I have no problem with that—it is smart, funny, visually dynamic and manages to live up to the expectations set by its equally impressive predecessor. That said, here is hoping that a few of those parents will realize that it will almost certainly be around for a few weeks and instead elect to take the kids to “Tito and the Birds,” a new animated feature from Brazil that may not feature characters that will turn up on T-shirts and video games but which does tell a story that will engage both younger and older viewers alike." (more)
"Rise Of the Anti-Stud"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I must confess that when “The Lego Movie” came out in 2014, I just did not quite get it. Oh, I thought it was bright, funny and clever enough to give it a good review and all—I hadn’t taken complete leave of my senses—but it wasn’t until I happened to revisit it a couple of weeks later that I belatedly began to realize just how inventive it really was, both formally and narratively, and how smart and incisive it was in how it explored its real subject, the myriad ways in which imagination and creativity manifest themselves in different people using the ever-popular Lego toys as a point of departure for those who slavishly follow the instructions to build their towering creations and those who prefer to create them on their own. The good news with “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” is that it didn’t take me nearly as long to recognize how good it is this time around. Obviously, the film no longer has the element of jaw-dropping surprise going for it—the realization that this was a film that was far more than just an extended toy commercial—but what it understandably lacks in that regards, it more than makes up for that loss with large doses of wit, intelligence and more emotional depth than one might rightly expect from a project in which all of the characters are made of plastic bricks." (more)
"A Star Takes Aim"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There are so many films out there, especially in the VOD universe, with deliberately ridiculous names that are in no way matched in terms of ambition or ingenuity by the movies themselves (including pretty much every low-budget CGI shark movie to emerge in the last decade or so) that it comes as a weird and welcome surprise to discover that “The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot” actually manages to live up to the promise of its admittedly unforgettable title." (more)
"Zero Curb Appeal"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "According to IMDb, there have been approximately 17 films that have been inspired to some degree or another by the allegedly haunted house at the center of what would become popularly known as “The Amityville Horror.” I cannot claim to have seen all of them—though I do remember catching the one where the evil is reborn within a dollhouse and the one where Bella Thorne was somehow involved—but of those that I have failed to avoid over the years, I have found them all to be unwatchable garbage with the sole exception of “Amityville II: The Possession,” the legendary 1982 prequel that took its inspiration from the genuine real-life mass murder that preceded all the paranormal piffle and which was such an unabashedly sleazy stew of abuse, incest and wild overacting that when the demonic stuff finally kicked in during the last half-hour, it almost seemed besides the point compared to what had come before it. Like that jaw-dropper of a film, “The Amityville Murders” takes that real-life crime as its jumping-off point but it seems to have been made by people who asked themselves “What would you get if you took “Amityville II,” stripped out all the around-the-bend lunacy and replaced it with stuff borrowed from the lesser “Paranormal Activity” sequels and the gratuitous use of Lainie Kazan?”. Shockingly—well, more shocking than anything you’ll find her—the answer is “Not much.”" (more)
"A bit more placid and pleasant than it perhaps should be."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Over the past decade or so of going to this festival, I've had a chance to see a lot of films based upon Japanese comics (with live action starting to displace animation over that time), and while "Laughing Under the Clouds" is far from the most aggressively pitched to existing fans rather than new audiences, it does very much feel like most of the intended viewers are going to know whether or not this is their thing before the movie starts. It's not a bad sort of fantasy story, but probably won't win a lot of new converts." (more)
"Go big or go bigger."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "You can't rightly say that China didn't pull out all the stops with what's being described as the country's first big-budget science fiction adventure after years of seemingly only movies about The Monkey King getting this kind of blockbuster treatment; "The Wandering Earth" is a movie of audacious scale that sometimes it seems to sacrifice everything else, but why not go for broke? The Chinese New Year IMAX 3D spectacular is grandiose and exciting space opera, well worth seeking out on a big screen now rather than discovering it on a streaming service a couple years from now." (more)
"Making a fascinating heroine a stock character."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's a thin line between an a biographical film embracing that its subject is larger than life and it seemingly trying to prove that she is significant, and while "Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi" lands on the wrong side, it may not be possible for it to have done otherwise. This is a woman who did significant things but was in a position to do them in large part because people saw the potential for greatness within her, and while there's an important lesson to be drawn from that, this filmmakers aren't quite able to apply it to the life in question. The history and battle is interesting, the framing less so." (more)
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "It’s been almost a decade since I last saw the original Swedish trilogy of thrillers featuring Lisbeth Salander, but I don’t quite remember them being reheated James Bond, as 'The Girl in the Spider’s Web' often is." (more)
"Good, old-fashioned raunchy comedy."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "With the amount of text people deal with on phones, signs, and what have you, it can be hard for those distributing movies in foreign markets to subtitle absolutely everything that may need it, which is why my notes for this movie had a certain character named "Bitch" until about three-quarters of the way through. She's actually named "May", it turns out, part of a group of friends that call each other that and have the group chat on their phones labeled as such, something a person who can read Chinese probably picks up a couple minutes in. It's an affectation that fits right into a Pang Ho-cheung comedy, where he goes for the casually vulgar and gets more than a few big laughs." (more)
"Sound And Vision"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "It is indeed fitting that the first thing that we see in “The Image Book,” the latest provocation from the cinema’s longest-running enfant terrible, Jean-Luc Godard. is a collection of hands that kicks off with a look at da Vinci’s “St John the Baptist.” That is because this film, more than any that I can recall seeing of late, feels more like the product of one person laboring to create a distinct and utterly unique piece of art in as single-handed of a manner as possible. This is a film that is so personal and utterly unconcerned with even the most basic formalities of conventional narrative filmmaking that even fans of the generally inscrutable filmmaker may find themselves trying to figure out what it is all supposed to mean. Hell, I consider Godard to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and even I am fairly certain that I would fail miserably if I were charged with properly describing and explaining every aspect of this defiantly dense effort. That may be true—as I fear that this following review will unfortunately demonstrate—but that doesn’t mean that it is not an exhilarating hurricane of sound, vision and heady thoughts that is as powerful to experience as it is elusive when it comes to summing it all up afterwards." (more)

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