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LATEST REVIEWS
DRESSMAKER, THE
"One size does not fit all."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Dressmaker" feels like somebody had a script for a nasty, weird sort of film noir, but it was only an hour long, so they padded it out with charmingly quirky material that it was playing as twisted otherwise, and then bolted the two halves of the movie together in a way that doesn't work with either. Being eccentric in either direction might have made a memorable movie; trying to be both just makes a mess." (more)
AGE OF SHADOWS, THE
"Double agent, double good."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Hearing that "The Age of Shadows" was selected as South Korea's entry for the Academy Awards' Foreign Language Film award was a bit eyebrow-raising - not only have certain other noteworthy Korean directors made well-regarded pictures this year, but filmmaker Kim Jee-woon's output, varied as it may be, is genre movies, not necessarily the sort of thing that is considered for awards, whether action, horror, or crime (all of which he has excelled at). This time around, he's making a period spy movie, and, yes, it is good enough to be right up there with the best of the year." (more)
LAZY HAZY CRAZY
"As is so often the case, coming of age at high speed."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Jody Luk Yee-sum has co-written some bawdy comedies in Hong Kong, so it's not surprising that one of the most memorable bits in "Lazy Hazy Crazy" is the one that comes off as a crude joke. It's not exactly representative, though, as the film as a whole turns out to be one of those coming-of-age films that seems kind of alarming to an older/male/foreign audience member like myself, even if the characters do seem more or less able to deal with what's thrown at them with fairly good humor." (more)
MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE (2016)
"No Longer Set In A One-Horst Town"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "At the risk of having my all-important man card permanently taken away from me, I would like to offer up the possibly heretical suggestion that the 1960 Western “The Magnificent Seven” is not quite the classic that its proponents like to think it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it is a perfectly entertaining genre movie but when put up against the solid classicism of the John Ford and Howard Hawks oaters that preceded it or the cheerfully gaudy operatics of the Sergio Leone epics that followed it, it cannot help but come across as a little square by comparison. What it does have going for it—pretty much the elements that tend to get cited by people who still proclaim it to be a classic—are one of the most stirring scores ever composed, courtesy of the great Elmer Bernstein, and, more importantly, one of the most charismatic casts ever assembled under one cinematic roof, including the likes of Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Horst Buchholz and James Coburn all trying to steal the movie from each other and Brad Dexter simply trying to keep up. And yet, it is so familiar and so beloved to many that it is not surprising to see that it is the latest to get the big remake treatment by filmmakers hoping to exploit the goodwill people have towards the title in order to sell it to a new generation of filmmakers. What they inexplicably failed to realize is that its key selling point—the once-in-a-lifetime competitive camaraderie between its killer cast—is the one thing that could not easily be replicated in a new rendition. As a result, this new take on “The Magnificent Seven” is only halfway there—there are certainly seven people at its center but, despite their obvious individual talents, they never quite mesh together in a way that even the easiest of graders would deem to be “magnificent” with a straight face." (more)
I.T.
"No Pennywise But Plenty Of Clowns Here"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Remember all those silly suspense films, mostly dating from the Nineties, in which cheerful Yuppies had their seemingly perfect lives infiltrated by people who seemed normal and friendly at first but who eventually turned out to be psychopaths determined to either destroy or somehow replace them—stuff like “Single White Female,” “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “One Hour Photo” and their ilk? Remember all those equally silly techno-thrillers, also dating from that same period, in which screenwriters took their vague knowledge about that sill-emerging phenomenon known as the Internet to construct stories in which people could do practically anything they wanted just by arbitrarily pounding a few random keys on a computer terminal—things like “The Net” and “Hackers”? Have you ever wondered what might have resulted if someone especially unimaginative hacks decided to combine the two genres into one giant bit of suspense-free silliness demonstrating less technological savvy than your average Amish community? If so, then the new thriller “I.T.” should prove to be the film of your dreams, though everyone else is likely to find it to be an equally listless and laughable work that looks and feels like the kind of generic crap that usually turns up on Lifetime, albeit with a slightly larger budget." (more)
S STORM
"Surprisingly, a pretty good bet."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "If you've seen "Z Storm", the opening title sequence of this sequel will immediately inform you that the scales have gone down a great deal - where the last one sketched out all of Hong Kong as being under the Independent Commission Against Corruption's watch, this one illustrates a soccer game. And while scaling back is generally not a great sign for sequels, it's the best thing for "S Storm"; it frees filmmaker David Lam up to make a more action-packed, entertaining movie." (more)
Z STORM
"Not quite worthy of investigation."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It surprises me a bit that "Z Storm " did well enough in Hong Kong to merit a sequel; though as sleek a crime movie as they come with a decent idea at the core, it's roughly as dull as investigating bribery sounds, the sort of movie that spends more time making sure the viewer recognizes an agency's mission as important than making the case exciting." (more)
COCK AND BULL
"Clever crime, far from nonsense."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I'm not one to demand perfect accuracy on a movie poster or video box, but the one for "Cock and Bull" that featured one of the characters brandishing a great big squirt gun in contrast to the more realistic weapons of the others really does the film a bit of a disservice. Not only does this never actually happen, but it gives the impression of a zanier, more absurd movie, and that sort of thing never appearing may disappoint those who might otherwise like this sort of twisty, darkly comedic crime story." (more)
BLAIR WITCH
"A perfeclty watchable sequel to a legitimately great movie."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Blair Witch" probably does "The Blair Witch Project" as well as a any movie since the original, and that's no bad thing - once upon a time, before home video or even television reruns, the purpose of sequels was just to give the audience more of a thing they liked more than a next chapter, and this film does that well. The thing is, even beyond how capturing the out-of-nowhere uncertainty of the first film is all but impossible in that first movie's shadow, one almost wishes that writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard had made a knockoff rather than a sequel - covering the same ground as well as they do might work better if it's not explicitly the second time through." (more)
OPERATION AVALANCHE
"You can fake pretty much everything for a found-footage film."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I'm moderately surprised that, in the post-"Blair Witch Project" world, there wasn't more one-upmanship in attempting to further blur the line between reality and fiction the way that film did, genuinely making the audience question whether they were actually seeing found footage or not. Instead, it became a style but a recognized one, where the details of how well the filmmakers are faking it are likely to be observed and dissected in real time. One of the few films to create the same sort of nagging worry that maybe the viewer is seeing something real and horrible was "The Dirties", and though the same crew has reunited for another but of faux-found-footage with "Operation Avalanche", they're smart enough to know that you probably can't get what is in large part the same audience to fall for the same tricks from the same people twice." (more)

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