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"Not quite classic Hong Kong action, but not a counterfeit."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Movie stars don't exactly age just like the rest of us - even the ones who don't go in for surgery have personal trainers and agents and paparazzi and on-screen persona who in some way give them a harder push one way or another than those of us who only gradually realize that we're not quite the way we see ourselves in our heads anymore. Some go gray and bulk up to become on-screen dads, some defy the aging process and keep doing what they're doing, and some, like one-time international superstar Chow Yun-fat, lose the soft features that made them baby-faced anti-heroes and become lean, weathered villains. It's a transformation that suits him for most of "Project Gutenberg", although the rest of the film doesn't catch up to his comfort level until it's almost too late." (more)
"Does a bit more than dress old material up in new clothes."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Hello, Mrs. Money" is a classic cross-dressing farce, but it comes by that pedigree honestly - it's adapted from Brandon Thomas's stage comedy "Charley's Aunt" first performed in London back in 1892 and Broadway soon after. That its translation and adaptation from British play to Chinese play to Chinese movie to subtitling for worldwide release means that "Cha Li" gets referred to as "Richard" throughout the film is an amusing bit of extra trivia, but it's kind of fitting - the movie tends to find something funny even when it makes weird or screwy choices." (more)
"Heavy Metal Hilarity"
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Though the "trip" part of the movie only includes a fiercely funny last act, that's no disappointment; this Finnish heavy-metal comedy is pretty much a delight throughout, mostly because our never feels like its characters being both big metalheads and lovable dorks is any sort of conflict that has to be resolved. The filmmakers are well aware that some parts of this type of music (and almost any hobby) are kind of ridiculous even if very serious, but doesn't disrespect it for that." (more)
"The Natural"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When Robert Redford began doing press for his latest film, “The Old Man & the Gun,” a couple of months ago, he caused quite a stir by suggesting that it would mark the conclusion of his acting career. Whether or not this proves to be true or not (and Redford himself seemed to be backtracking on the suggestion a few days after the news broke), he could not have picked a more appropriate vehicle to mark his departure from screen superstardom. While acting legends like Sean Connery and Gene Hackman have apparently decided to go out on such haphazard dross as “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Welcome to Mooseport,” Redford could not have found a project with a more overtly valedictory feel to it if he deliberately went out in search of just such a thing in the first place. At the same time, this is not just an excuse to watch one of the most durable movie stars of our time take a final cinematic victory lap while viewers once again bask in the golden boy charms that made him such a star in the first place. In fact, this is a quirky and undeniably entertaining film that works both as a meditation on mortality and as a pleasantly screwy caper saga, confirms that writer-director David Lowery is one of the most intriguing new American filmmakers around and gives its star the chance to knock it out of the park one more time with one of the best and most endearing performances of his entire career." (more)
VENOM (2018)
"Someone Needs To Rescue Michelle Williams."
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Years from now, when Michelle Williams is fully ensconced in her position as one of the most gifted American actresses of her generation, future film scholars will look back on her body of work and no doubt ask the same question that I have been asking for the last couple of months—what in the hell is she doing in the likes of “Venom?” Face it, as an actress, she tends to gravitate towards more serious-minded fare (though she is equally adept at comedy, as her hilarious turn in the underrated “Dick” will confirm) that is not aiming for blockbuster success and when she does turn up in a film that becomes a big hit, as she did last year with “The Great Showman,” it is more of a fluke than anything else. I mean, I know why she presumably signed on—she probably got paid enough money to finance three or four Kelly Reichardt films all by herself with plenty left over—and I certainly don’t fault her for that. My question is, of all the would-be franchise projects out there that presumably had roles to offer her, what was it about the utterly nondescript part she plays in “Venom” that made the producers think of her for the role and what was it about it that caused her to finally sign on for her tent pole debut. Actually, most viewers will probably find themselves contemplating this question since the film, an adaptation of the Marvel comic book (and not a remake of the weird 1982 thriller of the same name in which Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski put on a scenery-chewing clinic for the ages) is such a complete garbage fire of a movie that they will want to distract themselves with something while waiting for it to come to its merciful end." (more)
"Not easygoing or easy watching."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There is, I suppose, a good movie to be made about someone so dedicated to not being labeled a quitter that he just doesn't get off the couch until he has completed some sort of challenge, no matter how isolated it ultimately makes him, but this isn't it. It's just nasty and gross, never finding enough of its poor slob's ingenuity or enough pathos to make watching him interesting." (more)
"Becomes too crazy, too late."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's not so much that "A Simple Favor" goes from generic to nuts in the blink of an eye that I don't like, but the fact that it takes so damn long to actually do so. The set-up takes forever, and then when things start to get weird, it's such a hard turn that there's no room for the characters to even hint at being anything other than maniacs. It never gets to feel exhilaratingly untethered." (more)
"Not so bad as it sounds, but it's awful close."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I'm not going to lie - I was expecting something mind-bogglingly awful out of "Fat Buddies", a Chinese spy spoof whose two main characters are played by guys wearing fat suits, and to find it just kind of tacky but with enough good jokes to not feel like a complete waste of time is kind of disappointing - one kind of wants to see it proved that a bad idea leads to bad results. Sure, it's also something of a relief, in that getting some laughs for the price of a ticket is better than none, but the movie as a whole still seems like a bad idea." (more)
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "The best performance in 'Solo: A Star Wars Story,' as is often the case in these films, comes courtesy of someone playing a droid — Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the voice of L3-37, who navigates the Millennium Falcon for its pilot, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover)." (more)
STAR IS BORN, A (2018)
"The Fame"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Considering that the two previous iterations of the cinematic warhorse that is “A Star is Born”—the masterful 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason and the fairly laughable 1976 take co-starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson—both arrived in theaters amidst astonishing levels of promotional ballyhoo, it is perhaps only fitting that a new take would hit multiplexes while riding a wave of hype that is ordinarily only seen today in films featuring the words “Star” and “Wars” together in the title. And yet, the hoopla surrounding this one, which has only grown further since rapturous screenings at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, has now gotten so excessive that some people are claiming that it is not just the best variation of this particular story but one of the great films of all time as well as being the immediate front-runner in this year’s awards scrum. There are few films that could live up to such expectations and this one, when all is said and done, is not quite one of them. This is not to say that it isn’t good—it is a well-made and entertaining take on an old chestnut and features a debut screen performance (assuming we are overlooking her jokey bit part in the “Machete” sequel) that could legitimately be considered a star-making turn. However, anyone going into the film expecting a masterpiece for the ages definitely needs to dial down expectations—not only is it not one of the greatest films ever made, it is not even the best version of this particular story by a long shot." (more)

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