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"Or As Mae Whitman Might Say, "Phew!""
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Truth be told, the 1996 sci-fi blockbuster “Independence Day” was not a particularly great movie by any stretch of the imagination and while it has been years since I have revisited it, I have a sneaky suspicion that it probably has not exactly withstood the test of time either. That said, the alien invasion/disaster movie hybrid did strike a chord with audiences around the world back in the day thanks to the quirky performances from Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum as two of humanity’s more unlikely saviors, elaborate action sequences that saw such familiar locales as the White House being destroyed in an orgy of noisy visual effects and an undeniably effective ad campaign that made it the must-see film of that summer. However, I can’t say that there was anything about the film that suggested the need for a sequel (I would have much preferred a continuation of “Mars Attacks,” the wildly underrated Tim Burton alien invasion goof that came out a few months later and served as an unintentional spoof of everything that the earlier film held sacred) to anyone other than NewsCorp stockholders. Of course, a little thing like being patently unnecessary has never stopped most sequels from being made but upon seeing “Independence Day: Resurgence,” even the loyal fans of the original are liable to be outraged by the sheer shoddiness of the goods that they have been served this time around. Hell, there are SyFy Channel movies that have been put together with more care and concern than this one even tries to muster." (more)
"Squad Ghouls"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Over the first decade or so of his directorial career, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn slowly established himself on the international movie scene with such works as the violent crime drama “Pusher” and its two sequels, the violent biopic “Bronson” and the violent Viking saga “Valhalla Rising” before having his big breakthrough with 2011’s “Drive.” Although the film owed more than a little bit to the works of such noted genre auteurs as Michael Mann and Walter Hill, it enough things going for it—a slick visual style, a soulful turn from Ryan Gosling as an antihero willing to jeopardize his life for the sake of a woman he barely knows and a standout performance from Albert Brooks, cast way against type as an alternating hilarious and terrifying crime boss—to become a moderate hit and to greatly expand Refn’s fanbase, who were now eager to see what he would come up with next. That, alas, turned out to be “Only God Forgives” (2013), a savagely violent and staggeringly pretentious Bangkok-set drama about a drug smuggler (Gosling) pressed by his monstrous mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) to avenge the murder of his brother—a guy whose own depravations included the grisly slaughter of a 13-year-old prostitute, mind you. This was the kind of disaster that was so wrong in so many ways that it almost confirmed the belief among Refn’s more ardent fans that he was actually some kind of genius—after all, an ordinary hack would never have dared to dream up something like that film in the first place, let alone convince people to put up the money to shoot it and appear in it. It was such a commercial and critical disaster—even his proponents had difficulties justifying its existence—that it seemed to serve as a kind of deck clearer that would help set the stage for his next film without laboring under the expectations of his previous works." (more)
"Is there a movie equivalent of the slush pile?"
1 stars
alejandroariera says... "Editing —whether it's a poem, short story or novel, a press release, a 3,000 feature story for a magazine or website, a breaking news story, you name it —can be a thankless task. You take red pen or to begin to track changes to a piece of writing its author may deem sacrosanct and you hammer it into some sort of coherent shape. You engage the author, whether directly or indirectly, in a conversation about the text, one that involves what worked, what didn't; one that can result in ideas that can improve the text; one that involves fact checking; and one that can involve such extra-literary considerations as images to illustrate the story or book cover, page layout (physical and digital) or managing a writer's ego when the bad reviews come out. And sometimes, sometimes, you hit gold and find that piece of writing that is so perfect, so pristine, that all you need to do as an editor is proofread it just in case. "Genius," Michael Grandage's directorial debut based on A. Scott Berg's 1978 biography of legendary American editor Max Perkins (“Max Perkins: Editor of Genius”), comes close to capturing the exhilarating, frustrating, bang-head-against-the-wall excitement of editing a text, of entering into a partnership with a writer, to then collapse under the weight of its own pretensions." (more)
"Happy we’ll be…beyond the aquatic park"
4 stars
alejandroariera says... "Outside “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3” —which I really don’t consider sequels at all as they are part of a much larger story about growing up and away from childhood— the Pixar studios have pretty much struck out when it comes to sequels. “Cars 2” was pretty much an excuse for Disney and Pixar to launch a new line of merchandise and tie-in items; and “Monsters University” may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but its story of how Mike and Sulley met in college turned out to be an obnoxious, unfunny and unnecessary prequel to the far superior and heartfelt “Monsters, Inc.” So, as a critic and as a fan of Pixar, I proceeded with caution as I put on my 3D glasses and let the first images of “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” wash over me. And even though “Finding Dory” follows the same narrative template of its predecessor and lacks its sense of wonder, its treatment of a subject matter rarely explored in commercial animation is handled sensibly and with a lot of heart: how to raise a child with a learning disability and how, as an adult, that child learns to live with that disability." (more)
"Searching For The Blue Tang Clan"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Over the years, Pixar Animation has excelled at any number of things but when it comes to making sequels to their films, the results have been uneven at best. Yes, the two followups to “Toy Story” proved to be just as good, if not better, than the 1995 original but others like “Cars 2” and “Monsters University” felt like ripoffs that were made for no other reason than to sell a half-billion or so each in tickets without putting much effort into doing so. “Finding Dory,” the sequel to their beloved 2003 hit “Finding Nemo,” winds up landing somewhere in between those two extremes. On the one hand, it is bright, funny and exciting and even contains a few moments of genuinely touching emotional power to boot. On the other hand, it is a film that is being asked to continue a story that ended on such a perfectly satisfying note 13 years ago that any further continuation would seem superfluous at best. In essence, it is a perfectly decent film that is undermined only by the inescapable fact that it never quite justifies its own existence as anything other than a much-needed boon to Disney stockholders in the wake of the critical and commercial disaster of Pixar’s previous effort, “The Good Dinosaur.”" (more)
NATIVE (2016)
"One goes native when cut off from what's familiar."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: For much of "Native", I wondered if the filmmakers might be doing the filmic equivalent of a theatrical production where costumes, set decoration, and the like are deliberately understated or anachronistic, to better focus the audience on the more universal aspects of the story. It may be the case, and if nothing else, it means that a particularly peculiar sci-fi tale can be told while spending the budget on a nice cast rather than a lot of ornamentation." (more)
"Boo! Redux"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When “The Conjuring” debuted in 2013, it proved to be that rarest of beasts—a horror film from a major studio that was not only a sensationally effective spook show that both critics and audiences could embrace wholeheartedly but one that, thanks to its ingenious conceit, could be transformed into a full-on franchise without necessarily repeating the stuff that worked the first time around. As a result, even though this summer’s movie derby has already proven to be fairly unkind to sequels, audiences may walk into “The Conjuring 2” with something resembling genuine enthusiasm (especially if they managed to avoid “Annabelle,” the terrible 2014 quickie spinoff that has already been forgotten in most sensible quarters. What they will uncover, however, is a film that, while made with undeniable skill and filled with performances that are about as good as one could possible ask for under the circumstance, just doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the genre and which is further hampered by an extended running time that it never quite manages to justify," (more)
"How The Hell Did Uwe Boll Not Get This Gig?"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Even though it arrives in theaters with some of the worst advance word in recent memory, I must confess that I went to the press screening of “Warcraft,” the long-gestating screen adaptation of the popular video game franchise with slightly more enthusiasm than I might ordinarily manage to muster up under the circumstances. The early reviews were terrible, of course, but they were so terrible—with “Battlefield Earth” being used as a point of comparison in some cases—that they suggested that it would be more than just a run-of-the-mill craptacular like “X-Men: Apocalypse” or that Ninja Turtle nonsense. My utter lack of knowledge about the history of the property—I know nothing about the video games other than the fact that they exist—might in this case work in my favor in that by not focusing on how it lines up and deviates from the source, I might enjoy it more than a nit-picking obsessive fan in the way that the film version of “The Bonfire of the Vanities” seems to play a little better with those who hadn’t read the book before seeing what was done with it. Finally, it was directed by Duncan Jones, whose first two films, “Moon” and “Source Code,” were two examples of smart and original genre storytelling that offered viewers more than the empty calories of elaborate eye candy—even if he wound up making a bad movie, the promise of his earlier works suggested that it might at least be an interesting failure." (more)
"But still, go see it."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "As we approach the dawn of the 'Ghostbusters' reboot, the original film seems to have assumed the status of a sacred text, an inviolable classic, so it’s good that the thing itself is getting a brief re-release in theaters nationwide." (more)
"A fitfully wonderful anti-date movie."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Early on in "The Lobster", it looks like filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is going to present a fairly unconventional message, that despite it seeming like the moral of nearly every story, maybe love is not the only way to feel truly fulfilled. It's a subversive-enough idea for a movie that it's perhaps the slightest bit disappointing when Lanthimos has a more conventional worldview, despite his intriguingly eccentric approach to the subject." (more)

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