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ASSASSINAUT
"Kids feeling alienated."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 21: On a scale of "Turbo Kid" to "Prospect", Drew Bolduc's "Assassinaut" probably lands closer to the latter; in terms of the amount of youthful exuberance on display (or relative lack thereof). It's a bit of sci-fi horror that is not messing around any more just because most of its characters are kids, but that also helps it feel a bit more thrilling and enjoyably homemade than the same movie with gorwn-ups might have been." (more)
DEAD DON'T DIE, THE
"Brains! Braaains!...Somebody took Jim Jarmusch's braaaains!"
2 stars
alejandroariera says... "The idea of a Jim Jarmusch zombie movie raises a whole lot of expectations, not to mention that it draws a bemused smile. Jarmusch, after all, is no stranger to genre fare; he brought his distinctive, sometimes ironic, laidback touch to such genre exercises as the hired killer film (“The Limits of Control” and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”), the vampire film (“Only Lovers Left Alive”) and the Western (“Dead Man,” still his masterpiece). How would he handle a genre that’s been shot in the head countless times by movies, comics and TV series alike? What new ideas could Jarmusch bring to the table? Turns out that none, actually. There is nothing Jarmusch does in “The Dead Don’t Die” that hasn’t already been done better by the likes of the genre’s (as we know it) grandfather George Romero and by the likes of Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Alejandro Brugués (“Juan of the Dead,” itself a riff on Wright’s film). “The Dead Don’t Die’ may have been conceived as a lark, an alumni reunion for the actors who have worked with Jarmusch in the past. And the film is amusing…for awhile. But it soon wears out its welcome." (more)
DEAD DON'T DIE, THE
"a.k.a. Coffee and Cigarettes and Brains"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There have been so many zombie-related films and television shows that have come along in recent years that I could probably go the rest of my life without seeing another one of them and not feel as if I have missed anything, especially since George Romero, who kickstarted the genre with such classics as “Night of the Living Dead” and “Dawn of the Dead,” is no longer around to make them. That said, when I first heard of the existence of “The Dead Don’t Die,” I could not wait to see it for myself. Yes, it is a zombie horror-comedy, an offshoot almost as tiresome these days as more straightforward takes, but it is one from the mind of writer-director Jim Jarmusch, who has proven himself to be one of the most consistently intriguing and unique American independent filmmakers since making his big breakthrough with the 1984 low-budget classic “Stranger Than Paradise.” In addition, it also contains one of the most eyebrow-raising casts to appear in any sort of film in a long time, including the likes of Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Danny Glover, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Selena Gomez, Rosie Perez and, perhaps inevitably, Tilda Swinton. You would think that any film bringing together a collection of talents of that caliber would have to be interesting by default—I would personally pay a great deal of money to see a documentary of this group sitting down to have lunch one day during the shoot—but despite the amount of unique personalities at its disposal, the film never quite manages to generate one of its own. It isn’t a disaster by any means and it does contain a number of laughs and good individual moments but it never quite gets around to pulling them together in an interesting way that might make it seem like something more than a hipster version of “The Cannonball Run.”" (more)
SHAFT (2019)
"Seriously, Shut Your Mouth!"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "At one point during “Shaft,” the fifth big-screen adventure centered around the quintessential blaxploitation hero (and the third of the bunch to be called “Shaft”), a character refers to the titular hero, bad-ass detective John Shaft, as being “the black James Bond.” If this is true—and there was a time when I for one would not have argued that particular notion—then this film finds him trapped in the equivalent of one of those lesser Roger Moore vehicles that told lame, unfocused and creatively bankrupt stories that leaned way too heavily on the kind of forced humor that tried to plant its tongue in its cheek but ended up landing it somewhere lower. I suspect that most people coming into this film with at least some working knowledge of the history of the franchise will probably have certain expectations regarding what they hope to find—most of them presumably revolving around Shaft swooping in at any given moment to shoot a lot of bad guys in the face while the unmistakable voice of Isaac Hayes goes on at supremely funky length extolling his virtues both as a detective and as a ladies man par excellence. What they are probably not expecting to see are endless scenes featuring Shaft as a grumpy ol’ gun-toting man constantly complaining about those darn millennials with their WiFi and their Ubers and coconut water. And yet, that is the aspect that ends up dominating the proceedings and transforms what was once a genuinely revolutionary and transgressive action franchise into little more than an extended episode of “The Cosby Show” with a higher body count than usual." (more)
MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL
"Where The Aliens Arrive From The Other Side Of The Galaxy"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When the original “Men in Black” film came out in 1997, the combination of a cheerfully goofball screenplay inspired by the lighter side of deep conspiracy theories, elaborate special effects and the strikingly effective teaming of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones transformed that film into that rarest of beast—a wildly expensive blockbuster that still managed to maintain noticeable levels of wit, charm and originality. Just how rare of a beast it was would become evident with the arrivals of “Men in Black II” (2002) and “Men in Black 3” (2012), two astonishingly clunky followups that preferred to simply copy the stuff that worked the first time around instead of trying to find a new twist or angle to the material and whose basic entertainment value was somewhat diminished by the fact that it was apparent that neither of its stars seemed particularly excited with the notion of returning to the fold. “Men in Black: International” is an attempt to restart the lucrative franchise with new people on both sides of the camera attempting to revive the spirit of the original one. Although the end result may be slightly better than such current dreadful cinematic brand extensions as “Dark Phoenix” and “Shaft,” the level of improvement is negligible at best and it still never comes close to justifying its existence." (more)
CHASING THE DRAGON 2: WILD WILD BUNCH
"New decade, new crimes, less excitement."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Chasing The Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch" (aka "Master of Ransom") has a number in its title but that's more about branding than anything else: Directors Wong Jing and Kwan Chi-yiu did a period crime story a couple years ago that did fairly well, so this otherwise unconnected movie gets "Chasing the Dragon" in its name. Sadly, it isn't nearly so good as its predecessor in any particular area, and all that adds up to a crime film disposable enough that it's barely even worth the effort to look up whether it, too, was based upon actual cops and robbers." (more)
HOLE IN THE GROUND, THE
"Steady changeling fare."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 21: Consume enough fantasy and horror, or get enough of a feel for various sorts of mythology, and you will start to recognize various things to the point where you maybe want a little more, even if a story is a decent example of what it is. "The Hole in the Ground" is like that: It's a perfectly fine little movie drawn from Irish folklore, and as soon as the specific bit of mythology is clear, the viewer will say "ah, it's about those", let it play out, and then maybe recall it when someone asks for movies about changelings but not come back to it that often otherwise." (more)
KNIFE+HEART
"Queer and killer."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 21: "Knife+Heart" is a slasher set against a backdrop of gay porn in 1979 Paris and it's just as lurid as it sounds, which means it is not for everyone. It is top-notch as those go, clever and sometimes surprisingly emotional considering that it's also often well over the border of camp. There isn't much like it, and most of what is doesn't pull it off nearly so well." (more)
BOOKSMART
"Top honors."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Booksmart" is a loud enough from the start to get those in the audience old enough to be its characters' parents cranky, but that is perhaps the way it should be, even with kids who don't initially seem the type. It earns that noise, though, growing into a tremendously funny movie that manages the neat trick of getting friendlier and bigger-hearted even as it gets sharper (and stranger) as it goes. Even us uncool old people should be having a ball by the end." (more)
DARK PHOENIX
"Not Exactly A Dazzler"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When they first started making “X-Men” movies nearly 20 years ago, my basic problem with them was that I could never quite keep track of the various characters or their individual abilities were—by the time they got to their inevitable conclusions featuring hordes of oddly costumed oddballs whomping the crap out of each other with their vaguely defined skill sets, I was too busy trying to remember who they were to get involved in what was happening. Over the next two decades there have been nearly a dozen sequels, prequels and spinoffs, all of which I have seen, and while I would not claim to be a fan of the franchise, there have been a couple of entries that I have liked (such as “X-Men: First Class,” “The Wolverine” and the admittedly overrated “Logan”) and I think that I finally have a grasp on at least the core characters and their abilities (although I would probably still do better on a quiz on the names and abilities of Taylor Swift’s squad in the “Bad Blood” video). Now, with the advent of the latest—and reportedly last, at least in the current iteration—installment, “Dark Phoenix,” my problem is not so much that I do not know who the characters are any more as much as it is the fact that I no longer care. This is a wheezy and lazy retread of familiar material—especially so in this case—that seems to have been made by people with nothing more on their minds than a massive box-office haul for people who will unquestioningly go to anything, no matter how lame, that involves the X-Men in some way and it is hard to believe that even they would be satisfied with the results this time around." (more)

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