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"Christmas Eve isn't the only trick this home invasion has up its sleeves."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT MONSTER FEST 2016: Talking about something being fun when it comes to horror movies probably strikes non-fans as bizarre even at first glance, with trying to do so in specific terms raising the ante to alarming, and trying to do so without spoiling the surprises marking the speaker as completely insane. So, pardon me if this review of "Safe Neighborhood" makes me sound nuts, because my feeling conflicted on it being fun or not extends right down to the premise at its very core." (more)
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "After staggering out of the theater after the screening of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the 2015 screen adaptation of E.L. James’s improbably successful slab of mommy porn, I comforted myself with the thought that even though Universal had already announced plans to film the two followup books, it would be virtually impossible for those films to plumb the same depths of staggering ineptitude as their predecessor. Well, having seen the first of the sequels, “Fifty Shades Darker,” I have to step up and humbly admit that in this particular case, I was dead wrong in that assessment because this one is so awful—so badly constructed, ineptly acted and staggeringly unsexy—that it almost makes the original seem like some kind of classic by comparison. Admittedly, I am not exactly a part of the target audience for this particular franchise but I would find it very hard to believe that even those actually liked the first film—such people presumably exist, though I have yet to meet any of them—could possibly come away from this misfired exercise in pseudo-kink thinking that it was anything other than a botch and if there anyone that does, it must mean that they are even better at absorbing punishment than any of the nitwits on the screen." (more)
"Building a Better Batman Movie, Brick By Brick"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Almost exactly three years ago to the time I am writing these words, I found myself settling down in my seat for the press screening of “The LEGO Movie” with more than the usual amount of trepidation. After all, what kind of movie could possibly inspired by a bunch of small plastic bricks that I could never quite get a handle on when I was a barefoot boy with cheek of tan? When the screening was over, I was more than a bit surprised to discover that the film was actually shockingly good—bright, colorful, very funny (it came close to resembling the classic ‘Gremlins 2: The New Batch” in the way that it goofed on any and all aspects of popular culture including its own existence), possessing one of the most insanely catchy theme songs in recent memory and with surprisingly smart and thoughtful things to say about the importance of creativity in a world where too many people are content to simply follow arbitrary rules because it is just easier that way. Because it was such a huge hit—one of the few blockbusters of our time to deserve such a financial bonanza—it was inevitable that a slew of sequels and spinoffs would eventually follow." (more)
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When the original “John Wick” premiered in 2014, most people went into it assuming that it was going to be just another bit of anonymous action movie hackwork—after all, how could a film featuring a star whose best days as an action lead were perceived to be behind him, a first-time director whose previous gig was serving as the stuntman for said star and a plotline so absurd that it almost seemed like a spoof of the conventions of the genre (a former hit man comes out of retirement to go after the guys who stole his car and killed the pet dog that was a parting gift from his recently deceased wife) possibly be? Pretty damn great, as it turned out, because rather than the paint-by-numbers effort that was expected, the film was instead a sleek, stylish and impeccably crafted work that gave viewers a screenplay that was much smarter than anyone might have expected, especially in its depiction of a vast and incredibly well-organized criminal network that seemingly controls everything, a fiercely convincing performance by Keanu Reeves that restored the aura of holy cool that sort of slipped away from him in the wake of the disappointing “Matrix” sequels and an astonishing array of action sequences that were so stylishly and impeccably conceived and executed that they offered viewers the kind of jolt of excitement that they felt the first time they encountered the works of such masters of the genre as John Woo, Walter Hill and Luc Besson." (more)
"Well-heated Southern Pulp Gothic."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT MONSTER FEST 2016: The title of "My Father Die" may not be great in terms of English grammar, but in terms of describing the raw rage that drives the characters in this movie, it seems perfectly reasonable: The building blocks of what someone feels without all the formal niceties, ready for action (although I wonder if it’s close to how one might express an idea in American Sign Language). This movie gets overheated at times, but is committed enough to that temperature that it works out pretty well." (more)
"A new cast and new director means it's not quite the same."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "For all the noise some critics made last year about Stephen Chow’s "The Mermaid" being “hidden” because they hadn’t been paying attention to how release patterns and promotion for Chinese movies had changed, Chow’s previous film is the one that is truly overlooked: "Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons" was a shockingly good take on an oft-told tale, providing not just the expected slapstick and action but some genuine horror and thoughtful romance that all but went straight to video in America. It’s a tough act to follow, even with fellow Hong Kong legend Tsui Hark in the director’s chair, although when "The Demons Strike Back" disappoints, it’s sometimes less for its actual shortcomings than for only being the movie its predecessor appeared to be." (more)
"Not much to it."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT MONSTER FEST 2016: Because I work a full-time job in addition to writing movie reviews, covering a festival can mean the final reviews trickle out a month or two later, as reliant on notes taken during or right after the screening as first impressions, and does that ever reveal disposable genre movies like "The Hollow Point" for the minor works that they are. It just doesn’t make much of a long-term impression, although maybe that’s better than seeing the movie’s name and groaning." (more)
"A new Journey to the West."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Though "Kung Fu Yoga" likely has the higher American profile of the two Chinese movies involving weird, action-filled trips to India released to coincide with the Lunar New Year, "Buddies in India" actually had the bigger opening weekend in China. The directorial debut of star Wang Baoqiang, it’s colorful and silly, often to the point of tackiness, though usually funny in spite of itself." (more)
"Kung fu, yoga, and a CGI lion."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There’s a peculiar paradox to "Kung Fu Yoga" coming out roughly a month after "Railroad Tigers" (with their American releases even closer together): It demonstrates that he’s still popular enough to open movies on holiday weekends in short succession, and that he can keep grinding them out, but they also make it clear that he’s not what he was as a martial-arts star these days; even reunited with Stanley Tong, the director of some of his best-known films, he seems a bit faded, still showing skills but delegating the good action a bit more." (more)
"A director to watch."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Roger Ebert, who I’m pretty sure would have loved "Moonlight," had a recurring dictum: “A film is not about what it is about, but how it is about it.”" (more)

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