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"More crime, less MMA"
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "So far as I know, no North America distributor has yet bought up the rights to the latest entry in the "Sha Po Lang" franchise, renamed it "Kill Zone 3", and waited until nearly a year after its Hong Kong release to release it, and that's both kind of surprising and kind of not: As much as noteworthy Chinese movies have been getting same-day (or at least quick) releases abroad in recent years, and this series is certainly noteworthy, this entry is a different beast, less focused on the martial-arts action and more on the dark, underlying themes." (more)
" this serious?"
1 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Filmed in snowy Newfoundland, the trim siege thriller 'Braven' opens with some tasty widescreen views of the landscape. Tasty, but forbidding: You wouldn’t want to live out here, much less die out here." (more)
"Just another long, would-be epic heist."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "140 minutes long, this thing is, and that doesn't even include the line from the trailer about the crew being addicted to heists. What the heck is up with that? Sure, sometimes a moment that can seem too on-the-nose in the film can be great for selling it, but other times it can seem like a clear sign that the movie won't just get to the point, and that's the case here. "Den of Thieves" is a thriller that spends a lot of time screwing around but not much actually thrilling." (more)
"A Lesser 'Tomorrow'"
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "What, I ask, is the point of remaking "A Better Tomorrow" without John Woo and Chow Yun-fat? It's admittedly a fine enough crime story that under normal circumstances it could stand a new version that adapts it to a different time or place, but as the movie that paired those two Hong Kong action legends, it's legendary itself, and it's therefore not good enough for a remake to just be competent. You've got to offer more than the same basic material in Mandarin rather than Cantonese and people using cell phones to make it worthwhile." (more)
"Casts a new but familiar spell."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Though it's generally unfair to compare every cel-animated film that comes out of Japan to those of Studio Ghibli, especially if they made with kids in mind, this one invites it: Not only is the style fairly similar, but the filmmakers worked at Ghibli and built their new studio to do the same kind of work once that studio shifted to maintaining their catalog rather than producing new material. Also, I'd lay money that one character, a wise but curmudgeonly gardener, was modeled on Hayao Miyazaki. So it's not entirely unfair to watch the opening and tag it as "Kiki's Delivery Service" with a bit of "Castle in the Sky" mixed in, or flip those proportions when describing it later. What's important is that it turns out to be a worthy successor." (more)
"What's The Matter With Parents These Days?"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Most actors have retinues of agents, managers, handlers and hangers-on who are employed specifically to ensure that screenplays like the one for “Mom and Dad” never get anywhere near them, let along end up in their hands. Nicolas Cage, as has pretty much been proven definitely over the years, is not like most actors and I suspect that if this movie had somehow been made without his participation, he might have immediately fired his entire staff for failing to put him in a project that seems to have been tailor-made for his unique talents and his decidedly peculiar taste in material. Happily, the script landed in Cage’s hands and the result is a cheerfully deranged, if somewhat uneven, freak show that takes one of the more audacious story premises of recent memory and runs with it with a kind of crazed energy that is a perfect match for the material at hand." (more)
INFERNO (1953)
"Technicolor noir - not necessarily a contradiction in terms."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""3D", "Technicolor", and "film noir" are not three things that traditionally go together, and that's a large part of what makes "Inferno" such a nifty discovery: It really is all three, and not just that, it's good at all three. It takes an intriguingly gritty crime story, transplants it from the city to the desert and strips it to the bone, and gets a heck of a lot of impact from its visuals." (more)
"The Pangs and company don't quite catch fire until the end."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Brothers Danny and Oxide Pang made a splash on the Chinese film scene with "The Eye" and "Re-Cycle", and have worked steadily both on individual projects as a team since, but the movies they have made don't seem to be booked at a lot of genre festivals any more. Maybe it's because they're like "Out of the Inferno" (aka "Inferno" and "Out of Inferno" depending how the title is translated) from 2013 - well-made enough but not unique. Hollywood makes things like this, and the Pang's good eyes roughly making up for the difference in effects budget between there and Hong Kong doesn't quite grab one's attention, even if it is a perfectly fine movie about heroic firefighters." (more)
"Generic Title, Premium Film"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There was once a time when a film like “Small Town Crime” would have easily gotten a theatrical release and while it almost certainly would not have become a box-office sensation, my guess is that it would have received enough attention to allow it to find a wider audience once it hit home video and cable—the kind of thing that lifted the likes as “Cutter’s Way,” “Red Rock West” and “The Last Seduction” out of obscurity and transformed them into cult favorites. Alas, that is no longer the case and not only is it primarily being pushed as a VOD release, with only token play in a small handful of theaters, it is liable to get lost amid the glut of similarly distributed product that arrives each week. This is a shame because while the film is far from perfect, it has plenty of virtues and might actually strike a chord with some viewers—if they knew it even existed, of course." (more)
"If you missed it in theaters, it's still worth catching at home."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "To what extent do we not really see a movie — see it, hear it, experience it — if we haven’t seen it on the big screen? The life of a film, after all, goes on long past its youth in the multiplexes; most people will come to it via DVD, or even on cable." (more)

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