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LATEST REVIEWS
HALLOWEEN (2018)
"Boo!"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "You know that a horror franchise has been going on for a long time when the producers announce that the next film in the series is going to deal with the numerous substandard sequels and desperate plot twists thrown in to prop up interest by doing a metaphorical clearing of the decks that eliminates all of those followups from the continuity and going back to doing a straightforward continuation to the original. You know that a horror franchise has really grown a little long in the tooth when the producers make that announcement and you realize that this is the second time in the legacy of the series where they have made just such a maneuver. That is what has happened with “Halloween,” John Carpenter’s mercilessly effective 1978 breakthrough that revolutionized the genre, made a star out of then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis, introduced Michael Myers into the pantheon of legendary horror characters and remains one of the most stylishly made and genuinely effective horror films ever made. After becoming one of the most successful independent films ever made when it came out, it inspired an increasingly convoluted string of lackluster sequels that threw in new characters, killed off old ones who could no longer be lured back into the fold and which were utter indistinct from most of the ripoffs and retreads that it inspired in the first place. (The only good one of the bunch was “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” (1982), a standalone effort that told a completely unrelated and fairly crazy story that enraged fans when it first came out but which has gone on to become a cult favorite of its own.) Having spit the bit on all of the sequels save for the middling “Halloween II” (1981)—the series later killed her off off-screen in order to explain her absence—Jamie Lee Curtis made a grand return to the series that helped put her on the map with “Halloween: H20” (1998), a ostensibly serious-minded film meant to tie in with the 20th anniversary of the original that would ignore all of the sequels after “Halloween II” and find Laurie Strode, now a nervous wreck with a drinking problem and an uneasy relationship with her slaughter-aged child, coming face to blank face once again with the monster that didn’t kill her but did destroy her life." (more)
ALL ABOUT NINA
"Says the right things in an unimpressive way."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""All About Nina" is the sort of movie where you think, fifteen minutes in, that there's got to be some sort of really cruel sledgehammer blow coming, because otherwise it's just a movie about a stand-up comic who is not very funny and is kind of an awful person to be around besides. Sure, a lot of filmmakers will blithely make that sort of semi-autobiographical thing without realizing that is insufferable and dull, but even with a quality lead, there's a filter that prevents them from making their way to theaters." (more)
LOST, FOUND
"Missing kid and focus."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Though the listings suggest that "Lost, Found" is a drama built around divorce, it's actually a thriller that becomes a social-justice story, and it's just as confused as it sounds. It plays like the filmmakers only realized who the interesting characters were halfway through and had a heck of a time giving them the focus they deserved while also making the film they originally set out to make." (more)
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
"One of the genuine game-changers."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Fifty years ago this past October 1, George A. Romero invented what we know today as the modern zombie — not the previous voodoo kind, but a reanimated, cannibalistic corpse." (more)
NEOMANILA
"Fine Filipino neo-noir."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I wonder just how this crime flick plays in its native country, where the sort of vigilante killing at the center is a Thing That Happens rather than something as far outside the norm as it seems in North America. Is it just piercing rather than shocking? Or is it even that - maybe it feels like a well-made thriller that contains nothing that an observant person wouldn't expect." (more)
FIRST MAN
"One Shot"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Anyone planning on making a film about the life and achievements of astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, has to acknowledge two potential hurdles large enough to send even the most ambitious filmmakers scurrying away. For one thing, there is the fact that pretty much every potential ticket buyer knows the particulars of the story, or at least the particular of how it turns out. For another, there is the knowledge that the so-called space race that America took part in during the Fifties and Sixties has already spawned a number of exemplary films running the gamut from narrative features like Phillip Kaufman’s genuine epic “The Right Stuff” (1983) and Ron Howard’s exemplary “Apollo 13” (1995) to documentaries like Al Reinart’s “For All Mankind” (1989) and that any new film on the subject would inevitably be compared to them. In other words, Damien Chazzelle probably could have found a slightly easier project to do for his first film since the Oscar-winning musical hit “La La Land” (2016) and no one would have given him any static about it. Instead, has given us “First Man,” an Armstrong biopic based on James R. Hansen’s best-selling biography “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong,” and not only does he overcome those obstacles, he soars above them as Armstrong himself once did, with a thrilling, surprising and sometimes deeply moving look at the person at the center of one of mankind’s most widely-known and celebrated accomplishments." (more)
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
"Things to Do In California/Nevada When You’re Dead"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When Drew Goddard’s directorial debut, the meta-meta horror-comedy cult favorite “Cabin in the Woods,” arrived in theaters in 2012, it was after having spent more than two years sitting on the shelf as the result of delays caused by the financial collapse of its original distributor. For his long-awaited follow-up, “Bad Times at the El Royale,” Goddard seems to have deliberately chosen to one-up himself, at least symbolically, with a film that feels at times as if it had been sitting on its own shelf for at least 22 years, right around the time when the vogue for films aping “Pulp Fiction” was at its apex and one could hardly go to a multiplex without encountering at least one twisty tale involving talkative criminals, ironic violence, unusual time structures and colorful dialogue chock-full of pop culture references galore. If it had actually come out around them, it probably would have gone down as one of the better examples of that particular mini-genre. The problem is that, despite its occasional virtues, it eventually reveals itself to be a film that is simply too long, too overblown and not nearly as witty or clever as it clearly thinks itself to be." (more)
BEING NATURAL
"Makes an impressive jump from somewhat unusual to genuinely weird."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Before it takes a turn for the weird, "Being Natural" is kind of a low-key charmer, playing as a group of guys in late middle age growing closer, even though those bonds are not exactly of the strongest material. It's pastoral but not over-romanticized, as these things can sometimes be - indeed, not doing so is a good chunk of the point - enough that the satire can perhaps be missed right up until filmmaker Tadashi Nagayama pulls out the sledgehammer." (more)
SUSPIRIA (1978)
"Strange brew."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "A little over an hour into the classic fever dream 'Suspiria,' a killer comes after a frightened young woman we’ve grown to like, intending to dull his straight razor on her. She locks herself in a room, and the razor slides through the door opening and jiggles the latch." (more)
MONSTERS AND MEN
"A worthy notion."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I'm trying to get better about not judging movies exclusively on how effectively they tell a story, since the medium can do more, as well as just trying to absorb when shown things outside my own experience, no matter what the medium. It's a hard habit to break, or even bend, because "Monsters and Men" still had me fidgeting, like there's not much to it. It feels well-intentioned but unfocused, like the filmmakers had an idea but not a hook for the audience." (more)

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