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"Old dark house, fun old movie."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There really should be some sort of revival of "old dark house" movies, because for as much as everything about them would likely come off as absurdly dated today, there is a great deal of fun to be had when you play by the rules in place at the time. But given that you're already kind of doing that with silent movies anyway, it's not that big a leap, and it makes for an amusing diversion." (more)
"Stays in place and moves backwards, which mostly works for it."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Given that its name is a hashtag, one might expect "#Stuck" to have social media play some sort of central part of the story, and maybe cringe at the inevitable mishandling. Fortunately, filmmaker Stuart Acher doesn't choose to stack storytelling gimmicks three deep, instead mostly just choosing to let the romantic comedy rest on its actors' performances. It's not a bad plan." (more)
FURY (2014)
"Tanks & testosterone."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "David Ayer seems unlikely to make a romantic comedy any time soon; his films are testosterone baths packed with bloody action and male bonding, an unrepentant couple hours of traditional masculinity with just enough self-awareness that, even if that's not your thing, you can at least acknowledge it as a fair examination of manhood. And if it is your thing, "Fury" is a darn good war movie, no closer examination necessary." (more)
"A 3D theatrical Saturday morning cartoon, which is perfectly fine."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The Saturday morning cartoon block officially became a thing of a past this fall, although every obituary has mentioned that television now has more animation than ever; it just migrated to syndication and then cable. What emerged was a different sort of cartoon, more irreverent and as likely to reflect an individual creator's aesthetic as a company's house style (which, as a side-effect, often makes them more authentically multicultural). "The Book of Life" is that progression making its way to theaters, a high-energy animated adventure with style and a big-screen voice cast." (more)
"Short life, long movie, both well worth it."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Most of the descriptions of Xiao Hong biography "The Golden Era" spend some time talking about what made her remarkable as a writer, and the film does give those of us not terribly familiar with 1930s Chinese literature a bit of a taste of her words and why they are remembered despite her short career and life. But while the focus is less on what she created and more on how what she wanted - a "quiet place to write" - was elusive, the way in which screenwriter Li Qiang and director Ann Hui tell the story is often what will be the most striking." (more)
"YA with a dash of genre infliction"
3 stars
Daniel Kelly says... "The YA fiction boom must now be reaching crisis point, a meltdown is seemingly imminent. In 2014 one cannot take a bus without being reminded of cancer addled heroines, who in their hopeless dystopic futures represent humanity's sole salvation. Such texts are probably regarded as 2014's most prominent handbag accessory. John Green is the new John Grisham. Cinema has been deeply afflicted by the trend, and whilst there have been a handful of oases amid the dreck (last year's “Hunger Games” sequel was a cosy achievement), by and large the going's been tough. “The Maze Runner” is the latest example of this ignoble canon, dragged kicking and screaming to the screen from a 2009 best-seller by author James Dashner. I am tempted to suggest this is much to the chagrin of all, but in truth, Dashner's saga has proven popular and the box-office reception of the picture strong enough to convey a hungry audience. I haven't read the book (it might in fact be very good), but my infuriating need to constantly expose myself to this underwhelming sub-genre has left me bitter, tired and impartial. I no longer fear disappointment, but actively embrace it as inevitable. Perhaps this is why “The Maze Runner” left me moderately satisfied, or maybe it's just that the feature is a capable little thriller on its own terms. Either way, “The Maze Runner” benefits from a handful of well directed action asides and pays some attention to tested literary traditions." (more)
"Quite well drawn."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "One of the neat things about "Art and Craft" is that it hints at a number of different angles to an already-interesting story, acknowledging that it is all but impossible to fit the entirety of a tale of art forgery and con artistry that spans decades into a ninety-minute documentary produced at the tail end. Faced with this situation, many filmmakers will wind up calling attention to the gaps rather than maintaining a sharp focus that allows them to make a strong movie with the material they can get." (more)
"Has Talent."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Once upon a time, the Weinstein brothers might have been able to make the pleasant-enough "One Chance" a sleeper hit, if not necessarily an awards contender; today they are barely able to get it noticed. And that's not fair either - it's a fine evening's entertainment, delivering exactly the same sort of charming true story that it promises." (more)
"The Bells Of St. Murray"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I have seen more than my fair share of movies over the years that have blatantly attempted to manipulate audiences to their side but "St. Vincent" not only takes the cake, it pretty much seizes the entire bakery in its efforts to emotionally bludgeon viewers into submission. Though it only runs for about 100 minutes, it nevertheless finds room for such ingredients as a crusty old codger, an adorable kid, an overworked mom reeling from a recent divorce, cute animals, a sickly spouse, a priest, a pregnant stripper, a sudden illness, a local dive filled with quirky regulars, surprise revelations, people coming to terms with things, a tear-jerking testimonial in the final reel and a unique rendition of Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" playing over the end credits--these are just the ones I came up with off the top of my head without consulting my notes. In fact, if this film had been made at any other time starring practically any other actor in the SAG rolls--if Robin Williams had made it about six years ago, for example, I am fairly certain that most critics would be jeering it off the screen because of its sheer shamelessness but because it stars no less of a figure than Bill Murray--one of the most beloved performers of our time, both on screen and off--it has been receiving hosannahs in most quarters. And yet, Murray's singular presence brings so much to the proceedings that I found myself willing to overlook, or at least forgive, most of the mawkishness on display because he somehow makes it work despite itself." (more)
"Zombies are the living dead - and rocket fuel."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014: It's no bad thing, I say, that "Wyrmwood" feels like a season's worth of an eventful TV series packed into an hour and a half; it's an exhausting ride at times, but there's not ten or fifteen minutes anywhere in the movie that don't come across as exciting or have at least one really cool thing in them. Though making it over four years surely has brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner ready to take a break for a while, it's one of the rare movies where the audience's inevitable requests for a sequel seems like a great idea." (more)

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