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15:17 TO PARIS, THE
"Train In Vain"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Thanks to one of those unfortunate scheduling snafus that crops up from time to time, the sole press screenings of Clint Eastwood’s “The 15:17 To Paris” and “Fifty Shades Freed,” the theoretically long-awaited climax to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy, ended up taking place at the exact same time, obligating local critics to choose between looking at the Clint or looking at the—well, you know. For most, the choice was relatively easy since even though Eastwood’s output of late has been a bit on the uneven side, he has still made more than his share of stone-cold classics and his willingness to experiment at an age when most filmmakers become increasingly entrenched in the tried-and-true, even when those experiments end up going sideways, promised something more interesting than the wooden acting and tepid stabs at “kink” that have distinguished the “Fifty Shades” films so far. Adding to the lure of the Eastwood film are the unusual circumstances surrounding its existence; in recounting the story of the attempted 2015 attack on an Amsterdam-to-Paris high-speed train by a man named Ayoub El-Khazani, a suspected terrorist armed with a box cutter, an Ak-47 and hundreds of rounds of ammo, that was thwarted when three young American friends—Airman First Class Spencer Stone, National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos and college student Anthony Sadler—managed to overwhelm him when his rifle jammed, Eastwood elected to eschew the traditional casting route by having the three real-life childhood pals play themselves. (A couple of Frenchmen and a British businessmen also helped to subdue the attacker as well.) On paper, it sounds like a fascinating conceit for a film of this sort, though maybe not as audacious as the hype might suggest, but when it was all over, I know that I wasn’t the only one thinking that perhaps I went to the wrong movie after all. “Fifty Shades Freed” probably would have been terrible but at least its flaws could be expected and even rationalized based on the failings of its predecessors while “The 15:17 to Paris” is so bewilderingly terrible that all you can do is scratch your head in disbelief while quietly admiring the still-potent strength of Eastwood’s power in the industry that would allow him to make a film that is virtually indistinguishable from the instant and usually dreadful made-for-TV movies torn from the headlines that were all the rage a couple of decades ago." (more)
CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, THE
"And You Thought Tom Brady Had A Crappy Post-Super Bowl Evening"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "In 2008, J.J. Abrams pulled off one of the biggest surprises in recent Hollywood history by producing “Cloverfield,” a film so top-secret that no one even knew of its existence until a trailer, with plenty of eye-catching visuals but no title at that point, appeared in front of “Transformers,” and which turned out to be a pretty entertaining riff on alien attack movies. Eight years later, he somehow managed to pull off the same trick a second time with “10 Cloverfield Lane,” a loosely connected project that was so under the radar that even the stars did not realize that they were making a “Cloverfield”-related film and which also turned out to be a fairly strong entertainment as well, even if the link to the previous film was tenuous at best. Of course, pulling off such a trick a third time was going to be a challenge and indeed, there have been rumors for months that a film that Paramount was producing by the name of “The God Particle” was yet another “Cloverfield”-related item, a fact confirmed when the studio scuttled plans for a theatrical release and instead elected to sell it to Netflix, where it was scheduled to premiere at the end of April. However, Abrams pulled off the biggest of the “Cloverfield” coups with a pair of ads airing during the Super Bowl that tantalized people with their very first look at any imagery from the film, now called “The Cloverfield Paradox,” and then shocked them by announcing that it would be available to stream a couple of hours laters after the end of the game" (more)
MONKEY KING, THE
"A big enough false start that one wonders how it got even a recast sequel."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I'm not sure whether Monkey King Sun Wukong has been more ubiquitous as an on-screen character in recent years or if it's just a matter of more Chinese films coming to international audiences' attention and the guy suddenly seeming to show up every six months. That seems more likely, because one would think this film being a DC-movie type disaster (not well-liked but making too much at the box office to be considered a failure) would otherwise put the kibosh on not just Cheang Pou-soi's planned trilogy but other planned takes on the story; instead, everybody else kept going while Cheang found a way to make The Monkey King 2 but basically start from scratch. It's certainly not hard to see why the filmmakers more or less discarded everything about this movie before making its two sequels; this version of "The Monkey King" just does not work and even though some of its most visible elements aren't really the problem, you kind of need to show that you're making changes rather than doing it quietly." (more)
FANTASTIC WOMAN, A
"A keeper, and Vega is a find."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "The low-key but affecting Chilean drama "A Fantastic Woman," one of 2017’s Best Foreign Language Film nominees, restores the smooth melancholic power of the Alan Parsons Project’s “Time,” long a staple of easy-listening radio. Here it feels like a deep bruise of loss." (more)
TILL THE END OF THE WORLD
"Simple but striking survival"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Till the End of the World" feels like the sort of movie that they used to show us in school when they needed to give the teachers a break or there was a hole in the lesson plan - an attention-grabbing story of survival that nevertheless had something like a PG rating and enough science and practical information that we could be said to be learning something useful. It's not bad, as that sort of thing goes, and has the sort of Antarctic photography that's worth seeing on the big screen, even if it is kind of too long and gets heavy by the end." (more)
WINCHESTER: THE HOUSE THAT GHOSTS BUILT
"A decent ghost story that could have been as unique as its setting."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Winchester" is one of those movies that is just good enough that one can understand why it attracted a fair amount of talent while also falling well short of its potential. It's full of enough good performances, solid ideas, and capable work that it's especially disappointing when it eventually shows a lack of ambition, or at the very least, the inability to deliver on its earlier potential." (more)
BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
"Finds an excellent rhythm even when it changes speeds."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""120 Beats Per Minute" (to translate its French name literally) is a fairly long movie, and it's in large part because it keeps going after the rallying-cry scene that would often serve as the fist-pumping finale for a film about activism and activists. It's a shift in focus that reminds the audience that this fight is not something abstract, but a matter of life and death, a fight that in many cases would pay off for the next wave of people infected with HIV (or, given that much of the work is focused on prevention, not infected). It's a shift from what's come before, but a good one - the bulk of "Beats Per Minute" is a terrific movie, but one cannily aware that what makes a good movie doesn't necessarily tell the whole story." (more)
ZEBRAMAN 2: ATTACK ON ZEBRA CITY
"Even lesser Miike has a few moments of well-done insanity."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City" came out three years before "The Purge", and that you didn't hear the fans of Japanese pop culture in general and the prolific Takashi Miike in particular grumble is that the thing they have in common is an indication of just what a shotgun approach Miike can take to making movies: Though he had slowed down from his earlier insane pace, he was still cranking out two features a year, and not all of them are exactly carefully crafted. "Zebraman 2" bounces between ideas and gags like Miike's career as a whole does, but at that scale it's more randomness than variety." (more)
LADY BIRD
"It’s a gentle thing, but far less fragile than it looks."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Greta Gerwig’s 'Lady Bird' is one of the nine films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It doesn’t seem to fit the description — it’s wee, technically modest, undemonstrative to the point of obliqueness — and I don’t know that I’d put money on it myself, but the more time I have away from it, the more warmth I feel for it. It’s cozy; it’s fine." (more)
PADMAAVAT
"Fantastic to look at even if it could use a bit more chemistry."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Padmaavat" is the first Imax 3D film from India, or so I've read, which seems like kind of a late arrival to the party, although I don't know how many other epics of this sort have been made on such a scale in Bollywood lately. It is, if nothing else, a feast for the eyes, with expansive desert landscapes, beautiful palace sets, and some dance numbers that suggest that the rest of us really haven't been using this technology properly. Whether it's enough more than great-looking to be worth a trip in spots where it won't necessarily be getting the big, deluxe presentation is a trickier question." (more)

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