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"The plating is iffy, but the taste is good."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There are certain themes I see in every Hong Kong movie that makes it to America these days, even though it’s kind of simplistic and patronizing to expect the changes in the city and its relationship to the rest of the world - basically, the reason why Hong Kong makes the papers - is going to be the focus of any film made there. For better or worse, it’s part of "Cook Up a Storm", but so is everything else; the filmmakers are cramming about five different food movies into this one. The jumping around makes it kind of hard for any one story to really grab the audience, but there’s something kind of nice about how this allows its small stories to stay small rather than get too caught up in self-importance." (more)
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "The trouble with a lot of anthology films—especially ones of the horror variety—is that the very way that they are structured means that anyone watching them may get caught up in the frustrating experience of getting invested in a particular story and its characters, only to have them yanked away and replaced by new ones every 20 minutes or so. It also usually means that viewers will inevitably prefer some of the stories to others and spend the time during the latter wishing that they could go back to the ones that they liked. In the case of “XX,” a new horror anthology film with the hook that each of the four stories and the bits linking them together were written and directed by women, the good news is that these inevitable structural hiccups are not as bothersome as they might have been. The bad news is that the reason they aren’t so bothersome is that the tales on display are so uneven and relatively lackluster that few will mind being yanked abruptly from one to the other and that the gap in quality between the highlights and the lowpoints is not that vast." (more)
"There are no half-measures"
5 stars
Greg Ursic says... "Regardless your religious or moral bent, there is one simple rule that every man needs to remember; don’t mess with another man’s woman, his dog or his car. The only thing worse than breaking the rule is messing with the latter when the man in particular happens to be a retired near mythical assassin currently mourning his recently deceased wife." (more)
"The latest overrated Oscar-eater."
2 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Is the Hollywood musical worth saving? There may be a compelling argument to be made for it, but "La La Land," I’m afraid, isn’t it." (more)
"Good enough."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... ""Arrival," a Best Picture Oscar nominee that hits home video this week, is a poem about time. That may seem a lofty description of a sci-fi movie about a dozen alien spacecrafts hovering over various parts of Earth, but that’s what it shakes out as." (more)
"Hey, China, the bar for time-traveling by driving very fast is MUCH higher!"
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The credits for "Duckweed" include thanks for the”wisdom” of James Cameron’s "The Terminator", Jeannot Szwarc’s "Somewhere in Time", and Robert Zemeckis’s "Back to the Future", and though I haven’t seen the second, I wonder if seeing wisdom as the take-away from the other two is what makes Han Han’s time travel fantasy seem so bland and unambitious." (more)
"Christmas Eve isn't the only trick this home invasion has up its sleeves."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT MONSTER FEST 2016: Talking about something being fun when it comes to horror movies probably strikes non-fans as bizarre even at first glance, with trying to do so in specific terms raising the ante to alarming, and trying to do so without spoiling the surprises marking the speaker as completely insane. So, pardon me if this review of "Safe Neighborhood" makes me sound nuts, because my feeling conflicted on it being fun or not extends right down to the premise at its very core." (more)
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "After staggering out of the theater after the screening of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the 2015 screen adaptation of E.L. James’s improbably successful slab of mommy porn, I comforted myself with the thought that even though Universal had already announced plans to film the two followup books, it would be virtually impossible for those films to plumb the same depths of staggering ineptitude as their predecessor. Well, having seen the first of the sequels, “Fifty Shades Darker,” I have to step up and humbly admit that in this particular case, I was dead wrong in that assessment because this one is so awful—so badly constructed, ineptly acted and staggeringly unsexy—that it almost makes the original seem like some kind of classic by comparison. Admittedly, I am not exactly a part of the target audience for this particular franchise but I would find it very hard to believe that even those actually liked the first film—such people presumably exist, though I have yet to meet any of them—could possibly come away from this misfired exercise in pseudo-kink thinking that it was anything other than a botch and if there anyone that does, it must mean that they are even better at absorbing punishment than any of the nitwits on the screen." (more)
"Building a Better Batman Movie, Brick By Brick"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Almost exactly three years ago to the time I am writing these words, I found myself settling down in my seat for the press screening of “The LEGO Movie” with more than the usual amount of trepidation. After all, what kind of movie could possibly inspired by a bunch of small plastic bricks that I could never quite get a handle on when I was a barefoot boy with cheek of tan? When the screening was over, I was more than a bit surprised to discover that the film was actually shockingly good—bright, colorful, very funny (it came close to resembling the classic ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch” in the way that it goofed on any and all aspects of popular culture including its own existence), possessing one of the most insanely catchy theme songs in recent memory and with surprisingly smart and thoughtful things to say about the importance of creativity in a world where too many people are content to simply follow arbitrary rules because it is just easier that way. Because it was such a huge hit—one of the few blockbusters of our time to deserve such a financial bonanza—it was inevitable that a slew of sequels and spinoffs would eventually follow." (more)
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When the original “John Wick” premiered in 2014, most people went into it assuming that it was going to be just another bit of anonymous action movie hackwork—after all, how could a film featuring a star whose best days as an action lead were perceived to be behind him, a first-time director whose previous gig was serving as the stuntman for said star and a plotline so absurd that it almost seemed like a spoof of the conventions of the genre (a former hit man comes out of retirement to go after the guys who stole his car and killed the pet dog that was a parting gift from his recently deceased wife) possibly be? Pretty damn great, as it turned out, because rather than the paint-by-numbers effort that was expected, the film was instead a sleek, stylish and impeccably crafted work that gave viewers a screenplay that was much smarter than anyone might have expected, especially in its depiction of a vast and incredibly well-organized criminal network that seemingly controls everything, a fiercely convincing performance by Keanu Reeves that restored the aura of holy cool that sort of slipped away from him in the wake of the disappointing “Matrix” sequels and an astonishing array of action sequences that were so stylishly and impeccably conceived and executed that they offered viewers the kind of jolt of excitement that they felt the first time they encountered the works of such masters of the genre as John Woo, Walter Hill and Luc Besson." (more)

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