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"Making it work's never easy, but it's still funny."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Pang Ho-cheung’s "Love Off the Cuff" looks like a period horror movie as it opens (especially for those of us that can’t read the Chinese opening titles), and this bit goes on long enough that a viewer might start to wonder whether the theater had ingested the wrong DCP into their projection system. It says something that, despite having paid for a romantic comedy, I’d have happily watched this monster movie; no matter what he’s doing, Pang has a sense of fun even when he’s playing something straight. That’s what makes this one pretty good when it does finally deliver the expected; Pang and his cast can make this silly while still finding something real to consider in the characters’ relationship." (more)
CIRCLE, THE (2017)
"Circle (And Heads) In The Sand"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There are so many films that turn up in theaters these days without having any advance press screenings—generally considered to be a sure-fire signal that a movie is pretty awful—that it hardly even raises an eyebrow any more. However, when it was announced that “The Circle” was going to be going out the way of such clunkers as “Rings” and “Underworld: Whatever The Last Subtitle Was,” some were a bit shocked by that news. After all, this was a film based on a book by Dave Eggers (who co-wrote the screenplay as well), directed by James Ponsoldt, whose previous films included the acclaimed likes of “The Spectacular Now” and “The End of the Tour” and co-starring the likes of Emma Watson and Tom Hanks—how bad could a movie combining those talents possibly be? As it turns out, it isn’t nearly as bad as the lack of faith demonstrated by distributor STX might suggest—it is far from perfect and contains a number of cringeworthy elements but in its best moments, it is smarter and funnier than the dull-looking techno-thriller that the ads are trying to make it seem like, apparently in the hopes of luring in viewers who have been yearning for this generation’s “Antitrust.”" (more)
"Not So Much "Lost and Delirious" As Just Lost"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "If you ever wondered what the great French film “Blue is the Warmest Color” might have been like with half the running time, roughly twice as much nudity and not even a slim fraction of its extraordinary dramatic and emotional power, then the Canadian melodrama “Below Her Mouth” should be right up your deeply questionable alley. For everyone else, the film will come across as a deeply silly misfire that wants to be an erotic cry of the heart but feels more like a letter to Penthouse that was marked “Return to Sender.”" (more)
"Even finds the beauty in the parts that are scary."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 19: We are fortunate to have multiple great film festivals in the Boston area - in fact, this very review is part of a (failed) frantic attempt to talk up all the movies from the Underground before the Independent starts. With so many, and films generally making only one festival stop per city, where a given film ends up can sometimes be surprising. That is the case with "Most Beautiful Island", which initially seems more art-house than midnight-movie, but that it navigates between those two very different styles is what makes it kind of brilliant." (more)
"Right impulses, tricky to get done."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 19: "Neighborhood Food Drive" spends a lot of time taking aim at fairly easy targets, but they’re deserving targets and director Jerzy Rose scores some direct hits. It makes for a comedy that is not quite so delightfully vicious as Roses’s previous film ("Crimes Against Humanity"), but which is certainly able to score some points with those who enjoy watching clueless people get themselves into trouble." (more)
"Consumerism as found-footage horror."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 19: I am reasonably certain that “Fraud” is not a documentary, despite several film festivals labeling it as such and the lack of credits identifying the cast and crew at the end; it simply commits to its found-footage conceit more completely than is typical. It’s convincing even for those who know otherwise, and that may be an issue for some; it’s convincingly amateurish enough to not be a smooth watch and for the “subjects’” bad acts to come off as repellent rather than generic. Get past that, though, and it’s on point." (more)
"A tribute to British wartime cinema that is genuinely delightful."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "What a surprisingly delightful film. "Their Finest" is, to start with, about what you'd expect, a likable tale of Brits Doing Their Bit during WWII, cheekily aiming for the same sort of impossible mix of optimism and realism that the characters within are aiming for in order to keep spirits up. That would be quite enough, because it really is quite good on that count, but it’s got a level of self-awareness and ability to quietly be the sort of thing it venerates that makes it resonate all the more." (more)
"Roughly at par."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Normally, the movies that make me wish I’d brought someone else with me for a different perspective are aimed at kids, but things like "Tommy’s Honour" have a similar effect. It’s an amiable enough sporting biography, sure enough, but what the filmmakers tackle is specific enough that, while it won’t leave us non-golfers confused or out of the loop, it may perhaps have more interest to my golfing friends than it does to me, and if they’d find its details more intriguing." (more)
"The Kaiju Wears Prada"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Colossal” is one of those movies that is so audacious in so many ways that most viewers will find themselves needing to see it twice—the first time to be amazed and entertained by all of the impressive and unique things that it has to offer it has to offer and the second to be equally amazed by the fact that something so strange and wild and daring could have actually made it before the cameras without having all the things that make it so impressive and unique dumbed down or eliminated entirely in a misguided effort to make it more “accessible” to audiences. It belongs on that shelf with such works as “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in the way that it takes a premise that, taken solely at face value, is so utterly outlandish that there are literally hundreds of different ways in which it could have stepped wrong and somehow manages to avoid or overcome all of the potential pitfalls that it encounters along the way. (Needless to say, this is one of those films that is best experienced for the first time knowing as little about it as possible and while I will tread as lightly as possible in terms of details, some of you may want to check out now in order to avoid potential spoilers.)" (more)
"All Revved Up With No Place To Go"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "The trouble with making a film franchise that is predicated almost entirely on over-the-top action sequences featuring wildly elaborate stunts and special effects is that in attempting to top themselves with each subsequent entry, the filmmakers run the risk of going too far and crossing the line from cheerful lunacy into outright and borderline intolerable foolishness. Remember how the increasingly gaudy James Bond movies with Roger Moore in the Seventies got bigger and wilder until the producers were forced to send him into space in “Moonraker” (1979), generally regarded as one of the low points in the history of that series? Then there was the case of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas reinventing the action genre with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and then attempting to do that classic one better by devising a follow-up that was literally nothing but a string of show-stopping set-pieces—the result, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) was fun for about ten minutes or so but it tried so hard to knock viewers out with every single frame that the sheer effort of it all became wearying after a while." (more)

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