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"Goes big well, but then fizzles."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: After seeing this, a festival buddy suggested that part of the reason this fell flat for her was that we'd just seen another over-the-top revenge piece in "Puzzle". I didn't have quite the same reaction; where she was bored, I was actually pretty well sucked in for most l of it, from the "Hell is coming" opening titles to much of the big standoff, but afterward I sort of shrugged, said it was a movie I had seen, and moved on." (more)
PUZZLE (2014)
"Meticulously and impressively constructed deathtraps."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I'm sure that the title of "Puzzle" was supposed to describe the sensation of watching it to a certain extent, although there were several times that I think filmmaker Eisuke Naito may not necessarily have meant to set the degree of difficulty quite so high. Some of that may be down to subtitling, though, and if that's the case, Naoto has made and even better murder-by-remote-control movie than I thought - and I'm pretty fond of this one already." (more)
"Just play the game."
1 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It was bad enough for "Heavenly Sword" to be terrible, but for it to be the second and more egregious bad movie I saw from the same category is annoying. It makes me regret my "Bayonetta" review, because I fear that even though I may not have used all my "how movies from video games are generally terrible" material on that, I kind of feel like I'm slagging a whole broad category of movies more than I want to, when the actual situation is that the festival booked two real stinkers, probably because they are predictable in terms of decent tickets sales." (more)
3 stars
Charles Tatum says... "It's another turn at the age old haunted house story, but "Haunt" does answer a very pressing question- whatever happened to Ione Skye?" (more)
"Time to retire lads."
1 stars
Daniel Kelly says... "Looking back at my archives, it appears I neglected to pen anything on the subject of 2012's “The Expendables 2”, despite a vivid memory of absorbing the picture in my local, endearingly scruffy flea-pit. The sequel was an improvement over the dour 2010 original, a feature that promised jazzy nostalgia and career revivals for the world's most famed beefcakes, but actually delivered little other than an occasional witty line. “The Expendables 2” dispensed with any pretence of earnestness, instead becoming an intentionally ludicrous post-modern jaunt through the annals of late 20th century action cinema. It was a crass effort for sure, but one that generated enough smiles to eke out mild satisfaction. Essentially these films amount to an elaborate practical joke, which leads me to assume “The Expendables 3” is the punchline. The third outing has an expanded cast and even a hot new director (Patrick Hughes, who helmed the exceptional Australian thriller “Red Hill”), but somehow manages to become the most impressively redundant of the series so far. The film attempts to cultivate the sombre essence of part one whilst indulging the cheesy chuckles of its immediate follow-up; yet provides none of the limited pleasures permitted by either. It's an unapologetically dumb feature, but that's forgiveable. The real mortal sin perpetrated is the lack of finesse or energy evident in anything other than a shrill Antonio Banderas." (more)
"Gilliam's best in a decade an a half."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I wonder if writer Pat Rushin ever thought something along the lines of "this script is so screwed if we don't get Terry Gilliam" when writing "The Zero Theorem". There are other directors who would dive into the weirdness of its world, but the material seems so perfectly matched that Gilliam passing on it or expressing interest and getting bogged down in development hell or the million other things that can seemingly go wrong when Gilliam makes a movie seem like they would have killed any chances to see this." (more)
"Dead last in the ratings."
1 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Japanese makeup/special effects artist extraordinaire (and decent director as schlock goes), loves himself some zombies, and got a couple of other directors to go in with him making this riff on the things, resulting in 78 minutes of sketches purportedly coming from a network dedicated to zombie-oriented programming. It's as thin a concept as it sounds, especially getting the whole thing in one gulp." (more)
"Hauntings - and perhaps hope - in suburban hell."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: According to the post-movie Q&A, writer/director Richard Bates Jr. initially couldn't get any projects off the ground after "Excision", in part because that movie, despite garnering many positive reviews and festival awards, was just absurdly dark. So for his next one, he bounced back with something still kind of freaky and gross but also aggressively light. "Suburban Gothic" is about a guy who can see ghosts and who must help one find her final rest Or Else, but there's barely a moment without something enjoyable goofy going on." (more)
"Calm seas, then a whirlpool of historical military action."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Let's be honest about "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" ("Myeongryang - Huiori Bada" in the original Korean, and apparently sometimes only either half of the English title is used): Roughly 95% of why people buy a ticket is for the great big battle sequence at the end, and the intrigues that set it up and put human faces on the combatants really just need to be not-awful. That's about where it lands - good enough for the first hour or so, but coming through with what it promised." (more)
"Meatheads Is Murder"
3 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Last week saw the passing of Menahem Golan and while that name may not be immediately familiar to some of you, anyone who grew up watching movies in the 1980's has likely seen some examples of his work both as a filmmaker and as the co-head of the then-omnipresent Cannon Films, especially those with a fondness of the over-the-top action spectacles of the era. Although he would produce high-end art house fare that would include works by the likes of John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard and Barbet Schroeder, not to mention the avant-garde classic "Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo," he also cranked out a huge amount of action films that would feature mucho-macho heroes--sometimes featuring a current star like Chuck Norris and sometimes with one slightly past his prime such as Charles Bronson--lots of explosions and gunfire and, as noted drive-in critic Joe Bob Briggs used to say, absolutely no plot to get in the way of the story. These films were supremely dumb, of course, but they served their purpose and many of them, despite their flaws, possessed a certain goofball style that is generally lacking in most of today's would-be blockbusters" (more)

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