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"A decent, if not thrilling, abduction drama."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Right about halfway through "Everybody Knows", I had a horrible thought - what if this is one of those art-house thrillers where we just tread water for a couple hours, nothing is resolved, and the audience is expected to nod appreciatively at the truth of how nobody can ever really know anything for sure? Those films may not be bad by definition, but they can be rote and deflating unless there's something more interesting than the crime itself exposed. This film is not quite that sort of thing, but it's not far off." (more)
"a.k.a. Do Androids Dream Of Boy Band Rejects?"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "At first glance, the notion of a sci-fi epic combining the talents of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime meeting of the minds—the contemporary genre equivalent of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas coming together for “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The trouble with “Alita: Battle Angel,” the long-gestating live-action film adaptation of the popular 90s manga, is that it only takes a few minutes to realize that both of them have put their worst creative foot forward on this one—instead of a film combining Rodriguez’s cheeky wit and cheerful exuberance and Cameron’s unquestioned mastery of staging and executing incredibly complex action beats, they have offered up one that inexplicably and disastrously puts its focus on Rodriguez’s stately epic vision and Cameron’s flair for screenwriting with downright disastrous results." (more)
"Someone forgot this conspiracy thriller's conspiracy."
1 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Integrity" is the movie that took the biggest hit around here to make room for more screenings of "The Wandering Earth" (this didn't actually play until Monday despite showtimes listed starting Friday) and it turns out that's fair. This movie is a dull alleged thriller that gets more excitement out of the appearance that it will lazily use tired plot twists than anything it actually does." (more)
"Doing It To Death"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When the original “Happy Death Day” came out in 2017, it was obviously better than most of the horror schlock ground out by Blumhouse Productions over the last few years but not quite good enough to fully recommend. The conceit of the film—a goofball fusion of “Groundhog Day” and your standard-issue college campus-based mad slasher exercise—was certainly intriguing but the screenplay never quite lived up to the promise of the premise as it grew a little repetitive at times (and not just in the intentional ways) and didn’t quite stick the ending. At the same time, however, it was made with a lot of style and a refreshing sense of humor that stressed the absurdity of the whole situation over endless sprays of blood and, best of all, it contained an undeniably winning and hugely entertaining performance from relatively unknown actress Jessica Rothe in the central role. It was a miss, I suppose, but it was the nearest of possible misses and when the news was announced that a sequel was being hustled into production after its predecessor proved to be a big hit, I found myself actually looking forward to it despite the fact that rushed sequels to horror films, especially ones with stories that don’t seem to obviously lend themselves to the franchise treatment, usually leads to artistic doom. Happily, “Happy Death Day 2U” is far more than just a lazy bit of hackwork hoping to exploit the goodwill engendered by its predecessor to squeeze a few more bucks out of the gullible. Instead, this is a smashingly entertaining film that retains all the stuff that worked the first time around while improving on the stuff that didn’t quite click. The end result is so good that even if you missed the first one, there is still a pretty good chance that you will have a blast here." (more)
"Survival is straightforward, but satisfying."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's often not a whole lot to say about this sort of survival adventure, especially if it's pulled off as well as "Arctic" is. You admire the difficult conditions, note how well the star communicates what's going on in his head with looks and body language, maybe try and find some other theme, and eventually decide that to a certain extent, the movie defies analysis because it's about a visceral experience. It can seem either very easy or like an impossible bit of alchemy because it feels like something anyone could do given the right location, and it's hard to pin down what makes a given attempt great." (more)
"Sharp, silly, something else."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Well, this movie's something. Several somethings, in fact, starting out as a winking con-game movie set in samurai times and eventually becoming five kinds of absurd before a jaw-droppingly insane finale. Somewhere along the way, even the cheery parts get cynical and the biggest hucksters seem to have things right entirely by accident. Some may argue that this makes it a film perfect for modern times, and I don't know that I would disagree." (more)
"Worth it for ol' Sam."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "“It’s the Bigfoot, Ed. They want me to kill it.” That’s ol’ Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott) talking to his brother (Larry Miller) over a cup of powdered cocoa and mini-marshmallows." (more)
"Soderbergh Holds Court"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“High Flying Bird,” the latest film from Steven Soderbergh, may be set within the world of professional basketball but it is by no means a “sports movie” in any traditional sense—outside of a couple of dribbles on the court, the focus on this engrossing, dialogue-heavy drama is on the game behind the one be played out on the court that generates billions for those running the show but which leaves most of the actual players out to dry." (more)
"High Flying Birds"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There is no doubt that this weekend will find millions of parents taking their children to the multiplex to go see “The LEGO Movie 2” and I have no problem with that—it is smart, funny, visually dynamic and manages to live up to the expectations set by its equally impressive predecessor. That said, here is hoping that a few of those parents will realize that it will almost certainly be around for a few weeks and instead elect to take the kids to “Tito and the Birds,” a new animated feature from Brazil that may not feature characters that will turn up on T-shirts and video games but which does tell a story that will engage both younger and older viewers alike." (more)
"Rise Of the Anti-Stud"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I must confess that when “The Lego Movie” came out in 2014, I just did not quite get it. Oh, I thought it was bright, funny and clever enough to give it a good review and all—I hadn’t taken complete leave of my senses—but it wasn’t until I happened to revisit it a couple of weeks later that I belatedly began to realize just how inventive it really was, both formally and narratively, and how smart and incisive it was in how it explored its real subject, the myriad ways in which imagination and creativity manifest themselves in different people using the ever-popular Lego toys as a point of departure for those who slavishly follow the instructions to build their towering creations and those who prefer to create them on their own. The good news with “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” is that it didn’t take me nearly as long to recognize how good it is this time around. Obviously, the film no longer has the element of jaw-dropping surprise going for it—the realization that this was a film that was far more than just an extended toy commercial—but what it understandably lacks in that regards, it more than makes up for that loss with large doses of wit, intelligence and more emotional depth than one might rightly expect from a project in which all of the characters are made of plastic bricks." (more)

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