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"Would really be something if everyone did as good as job as the FX crew."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Though the work of everyone else involved in the movie, from writers to cast, should not be diminished, the best reason "Mortal Engines" exists is that WETA Workshop got to build a bunch of crazy steampunk material, whether on set, as miniatures, or digitally. Traditionally, critics are supposed to say that this sort of thing is supposed to be in service to the rest of the story, but WETA is arguably better at this sort of thing than anybody else in the world, so why not build a movie as a showcase for what they do really well? It's an approach that leads to terrific, larger-than-life images on screen, even if the rest of the movie often doesn't serve the effects team as well as they could." (more)
"Pop Life"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Remember that bit in “Back to School” where history professor Sam Kinison goes off on a hilariously bizarre riff about the wars in Korea and Vietnam and Rodney Dangerfield, after responding in kind, remarks “He really seems to care. About what, I have no idea.” I found myself thinking a lot about that line while watching “Vox Lux.” Here is a film in which writer-director Bradley Corbett tries to tackle subjects ranging from familial conflicts to tortured artistes to terrorism (both domestic and international) to the myriad ways in which even the most disposable forms of contemporary popular culture are inextricably intertwined with the horrors and chaos of the times even as they ostensibly serve as an escape from them. The film certainly has ambition to spare but what it doesn’t have, alas, is any clear or concise idea of what it wants to say about any of it all or how it wants to say it. The result is a movie that starts off promisingly but then quickly goes downhill and trust me, it does not go down quietly." (more)
"Everything Will Be Tingling After This One"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Even though I am still not much of a superhero film buff by any stretch of the imagination, I must confess that the genre has been on a bit of an upswing in the last year or so. Oh sure, there have been duds like the increasingly clunky half-a-movie “Avengers: Infinity War) and the astoundingly awful “Aquaman” but at the same time, we have seen such welcome surprises as the game-changing “Black Panther” and the cheerfully goofy “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Teen Titans Go to the Movies.” Now comes “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and it could well be the most welcome surprise of them all. On the surface, it may look like just another attempt by Sony to make a few more bucks off of a character that they have already presented in no fewer than three separate live-action iterations over the past 16 years via the presumably cheaper method of animation. In fact, it turns out to be an absolutely inspired and compulsively entertaining work that is jam-packed with smart humor, eye-popping visuals and a story that takes the time to examine the Spider-Man mythos in a manner that its predecessors have largely eschewed over the years. Let me put it this way for you. You know how “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is generally put right up there with the original “Superman” as one of the greatest of all superhero movies? I don’t know if I could actually say right now for certain that this one is better than “Spider-Man 2” but if someone were to put forth that argument, I would not necessarily disagree with such a statement." (more)
"A Whole Lotta Pretention Going On"
1 stars
alejandroariera says... "“A 21st Century Portrait” is how director Bryan Corbet subtitles his sophomoric effort, “Vox Lux.” I can think of a handful of films that are far more deserving of this subtitle, some of which I even saw this year: films such as “Sorry to Bother You,” Boots Riley’s surreal and phantasmagoric exploration of racism and class struggle and “Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu’s sympathetic portrait of youth, parenthood, and making ends meet in Middle America. Heck, given the recent revelations of Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica, how the latter harvested data from millions of users without their consent and how Facebook hired a lobbying firm to silence its critics, David Fincher’s and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network” (2010) is THE “21st Century Portrait” par excellence. That’s not to say that “Vox Lux” is lacking in ideas, it’s just that Corbet doesn’t know what to do with them; he opts to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks, instead of thinking things through." (more)
"Having other worlds to run off to isn't all it's cracked up to be."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Parallel" sometimes feels like two or three high-concept sci-fi films sewn together, not always cleanly, and then accelerated with certain bits taken out to increase the suspense in the second half. It's kind of exhausting at times, to be honest, a puzzle box that keeps inventing new rules lest the characters solve it to fast. Still, it's kind of impressive that it doesn't become just frantic." (more)
"You may have seen a lot of it before, but it's still top-tier action."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Well, okay, you might think as you watch the awkwardly named and punctuated "The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion", this is kind of an okay young-adult riff on genetically engineered superhumans, but I kind of feel like I've seen it all before, with the shadowy agencies and people in black suits and the hiding things we can kind of predict. Then there's a sudden, extremely violent action scene, and you remember, oh, that's right, this is a South Korean action movie. You still might not be ready for just how much all hell breaks loose in final act, at which point your eyes will probably go really big and you'll want to now why you can't get "Part 2" right now." (more)
"You start with head transplants, you've got to be kind of crazy."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: For a movie whose basic premise is goofy enough to include head transplants, this doesn't play as nearly the bit of madness it could have. Granted, you've got to scale expectations down a bit for Vietnam - the effects budget it's not going to be huge - but there's still a feeling of rather mild ambition here, of taking the superhero stuff in stride because you know the beats." (more)
"Malek is fine. The rest is spinach."
2 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "If we agree that movies — even documentaries — are not the first place to look for the unalloyed truth, the question then becomes, What story are we being told? To what ends are the facts being bent?" (more)
"Another pretty good animated middle-school fantasy from Japan."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Go figure - a couple years ago, we were talking about whether Matoko Shinkai could be the new Miyazaki, and now "Fireworks" is being promoted in large part by how it's like a Shinkai movie and from a "Your Name" producer, though it's also noteworthy for being based upon a TV-movie made by Shunji Iwai. Time sometimes marches on fast! It may not be quite at the same level as those filmmakers' best, but it's an enjoyable youth fantasy that should certainly appeal to fans of those filmmakers." (more)
"Despite its title, it plays it enjoyably straight."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Knuckleball" is a solid little thriller that gets an occasional raised eyebrow for how ruthlessly capable its young main character can be; it makes some thematic sense at the end and has been hinted at, but, still, hmmm. That goes a bit for the plot in general, which has an awful lot of stuff that probably comes as a package more often than you'd like in real life, but seems a bit excessive for a movie." (more)

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