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1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Once a year, practically like clockwork, Woody Allen puts out a new film and once a year, practically like clockwork, there are a slew of think pieces from critics bemoaning his relentless production schedule and wishing that he curtail it and either make fewer films or just retire entirely. This might seem a tad ungenerous—his run of groundbreaking works from the Seventies through the mid-Nineties is legendary and his latter-day career, though admittedly much more hit and miss than previous, has still offered up gems like “Match Point,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris”—but after watching his latest work, “Wonder Wheel,” I for the first began to consider that those naysayers may actually have a point. In the past, even his lesser efforts have usually contained some element to make them worth considering—even a disaster like “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” featured that hilarious supporting turn by Charlize Theron as a femme fatale for the ages—but other than Vittorio Storaro’s reliably stunning cinematography, there is nothing alone those lines here. Instead, the film presents viewers with a perfect storm of crumminess consisting of a substandard screenplay based upon an exceptionally dubious premise, lackluster direction and the grisly sight of one of the best actresses in the world delivering one of her very worst performances." (more)
"McDonagh's best yet."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "An unburied corpse, in ancient Greek tragedy, gave pause to the very gods themselves. It was the ultimate indignity, an affront to life as well as death, a refusal of humanity." (more)
"A good con job needs a perfect plan."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Have there been a lot of pyramid schemes collapsing in South Korea recently, or one big one which captured the public's imagination? It's a theme that has recurred in a lot of the Korean films to make it to North America this year (either in general release or on the festival circuit), with "The Swindlers" the one that seems to offer the most light-hearted con artistry. It's not a bad entry in one of cinema's most potentially-enjoyable genres, even if it is the sort where the audience is more placing bets on which big twist it will have rather than being surprised by that sort of thing." (more)
"Seeking golden cities in the jungle is safer for audiences than explorers."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Oro" opens with the aftermath of carnage, not bothering with any sort of build-up suggesting honorable intentions or excited curiosity for this set of conquistadors seeking a fabled city of gold. No, director Agustin Diaz Yanes leaps straight into cynical, cutthroat territory, and while that means there's less high adventure to hook an audience, there's still enough in the way of thrills to keep an audience excited." (more)
"Can You Really Trust Anyone?"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "In the 14 years since it initially moved—perhaps “oozed” is a more apt word for it—from deserved obscurity to a bizarre but genuine place in the pop cultural firmament, I have never once written at any sort of length about “The Room,” the thoroughly demented stab at Tennessee Williams-style melodrama that was done in such an inexplicably awful (when it wasn’t just inexplicable) manner that a loyal and ever-growing cult following developed around the film, which was embraced as unintentional comedy of the highest order, and its singular writer/director/producer/star, the one and only Tommy Wiseau, a development that has inspired no small amount of personal relief. Look, I am not unfamiliar with the pleasures that can be had from sitting down and watching a truly bad movie unspool and unravel before ones eyes—I was attending bad movie festivals when I was still a barefoot boy with cheek of tan, I used to carry a copy of “The Golden Turkey Awards” around like a Bible and I have willingly watched “Manos: The Hands of Fate” multiple times without the MST3K commentary—and I have watched it a number of times in situations ranging from at home on DVD to the full-out in-theater experience but I am at a loss to explain what the appeal, no matter how ironic in nature, could possibly be. If a group of decidedly anti-social tolls decided to make a film about relationships despite lacking any working knowledge in the areas of human behavior, cinematic craft or the basic cadences of the English language, what they might come up with would only begin to approximate what Wiseau slapped together. To make matters worse, “The Room” commits the one sin that no movie hoping for camp classic status can afford to make—it is boring beyond belief. which no amount of enthusiastic spoon-throwing or impassioned impressions of Wiseau’s inimitable (though instantly imitated by all who encounter it) accent can quite overcome." (more)
"Focuses as much on the fuse as the detonation."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Movies are easily and frequently mocked for jamming an explosion into the action in order to placate the less--sophisticated members of the audience, and it can be a fair criticism - explosions are often a fairly blunt tool, not exactly used for subtle purposes. Filmmaker Chang Zheng apparently took that as a challenge, building his film "Yin Bao Zhe" ("Explosion" in English) not as an action spectacular, but as a film noir, and making it a pretty good one, even if much more does blow up here than is usual for that genre." (more)
LUCKY (2017)
"Middling as a movie, but indelible as a farewell to a legend."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Anyone who has ever loved Harry Dean Stanton in one of his two hundred film and TV credits over the last sixty-three years will have to make some time for Stanton’s leading-man swan song "Lucky," even though it’s a bit of a chunk of dry toast, a little too knowingly thrown as a low-key vaya con dios party for him." (more)
"A beautifully animated film of an ugly situation."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Breadwinner" is a pretty terrific film that may not get the attention that it might have even a year ago because of certain changes to Academy Award voting rules expected to favor big-studio blockbusters over more adventurous, individual films from around the globe. That's a crying shame, because nominating movies like this and getting them onto people's radar is where the Oscars are most useful - this one, for instance, is not what most expect from an animated film, but it uses the medium for clear, powerful storytelling that leaves a strong impression." (more)
"Intimate and grand, a perfectly human horror film."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson have not only not made a bad movie yet, but they're 3-for-3 in making fantastic films that at some point make the viewer's eyes bulge with delight at one point or another, when it becomes clear that they are doing something really clever. "The Endless" is no exception, building tension in an almost conventional way and then making sure that both the things that build mystery and resolve it are genuinely thrilling. It's a genuinely great horror film that will excite their fans and likely impress even those who aren't huge fans of the genre." (more)
"Great-looking but god-awful."
1 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "I can’t quite bring myself to convince you that the entire two hours and seventeen minutes of "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" are worth sitting through for Rihanna’s appearance some eighty minutes in." (more)

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