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TERRIFIED (2017)
"More than just "how about THREE haunted houses"?"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Give "Terrified" a lot of credit for not screwing around on the way to the good stuff. A lot of haunted house movies will do a slow build, hint at things that could have a rational explanation, or otherwise play things coy. Writer/director Demián Rugna says to hell with that, going all in on the paranormal barely ten minutes into the movie, and rather than having nowhere to go from there, he builds a contained but still grand mythology, finding ways to make things bigger while still placing them within the corners of our world." (more)
CAPTAIN MARVEL
"A.K.A. Marvel’s Mid90s"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Having sat through pretty much every superhero saga that has hit the big screen over the last couple of decades—it is hard to imagine that there was once a time when such films were few and far-between—I have come to realize that, at least to my eye, most examples of this particular genre tend to fall into one of three categories from a quality perspective. There are the undeniably good-to-great ones that offer thrills, laughs and excitement even to those viewers with no real prior knowledge of the comic books that they came from—films like the original “Superman,” the Christopher Nolan Batman films and such recent triumphs as “Wonder Woman,” “Black Panther” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” There are the one that are noisy, nonsensical duds that offer viewers nothing more than the sight of oddly costumed people whomping the crap out of each other while some form of CGI armageddon rages around them—I won’t list any specific examples but as I am not one especially partial to the genre as a whole, my list is probably a lot longer than yours. Finally, there are the ones that may not be particularly great but which contain an element or two that is so genuinely inspired that one shudders to think of what it might have been like without it—the casting of Jack Nicholson as The Joker in “Batman” and of Robert Downey Jr. as “Iron Man” are perfect examples of this. After all the [i]sturm und drang[/i] surrounding its production over the last few months, largely inspired incel twerps waxing wroth over the very notion that those female-type people that terrify them so might actually deserve a place at the pop culture table, it seems a little odd to report that the highly anticipated “Captain Marvel” also falls into the latter category. The movie as a whole is nothing particularly special—it is okay but there is little to it that you haven’t seen before—but there are a couple of things it has going for it, chiefly the presence of Brie Larson in the title role, that keep it moving along and have you leaving the theater thinking that it is better and more satisfying than it really is." (more)
GRETA
"It’s In The Bag"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Greta” is essentially the art house version of one of those relatively low-budget and decidedly by-the-numbers thrillers that a studio like Screen Gems grinds out on a regular basis and puts out during slow periods on the release calendar for a quick profit at the box-office before going on to permanent rotation on basic cable. This, I hasten to add, is more of an observation than a criticism and I enjoyed the whole thing on some basic level, especially when it hits the point where all involved evidently decided to just lean into the ridiculousness rather than continue the struggle to take it seriously. That said, watching the enormously talented people going through their oftentimes generic paces here is a lot like going to a recital given by a master pianist and discovering that the program is 90 minutes of scales topped by a rendition of “Chopsticks”—their work is impeccable but you can’t help but wish that they could have combined on something a little more challenging." (more)
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD
"A muted finale but a beautiful film."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Give DreamWorks credit for knowing when they're done with something, even when the temptation to keep a successful series going must be strong, as when the "Madagascar" series stumbled upon its end and didn't fight it. They probably could have stretched "How to Train Your Dragon" out a while longer, but there's not a whole lot more to say, to the point where they kind of have trouble building a new story. Fortunately, the series still has just enough of what makes it work to glide in for a satisfying landing." (more)
CHESLEY BONESTELL: A BRUSH WITH THE FUTURE
"Worth learning more about."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL 44: Sometimes, watching a movie like "Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future", I wonder what the line is between "documentaries" and "educational films", or if one is a subset of the other. The film Douglass M. Stewart Jr. has made serves its purpose in describing Bonestell's career to people who may not know about this particular artist well enough, and if it comes off as more equivalent to a chapter in a middle-school textbook more than the sort of non-fiction that people read for pleasure, that's fine. It would be nice if the film created the sort of rapt fascination that Bonestell's work did, but it gets the job done." (more)
LAST SUNRISE
"A pleasantly smaller Chinese end-of-the-world picture."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL 44: Do they know something in China about how the Sun is about to screw humanity over in some incredibly catastrophic way, or is it just a coincidence that two films which take that as a starting point have come from that part of the world in relatively rapid succession? It's probably nothing, but you wonder. "Last Sunrise" is a far less bombastic take on the idea than "The Wandering Earth", the small indie version that has more to say about two people at the end of the world than the event itself." (more)
EXTREME JOB
"Good cop, good cook."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's something almost delightfully random about what becomes a big hit in South Korea, especially based on what tends to export well to the various audiences in North America. This flick, for instance, is a slight action-comedy that seems like it would be a dime a dozen, the sort of movie that has a good opening and then moves aside for the next one. Why has this one hung around? Probably because it gets the basics right and then kicks into gear right at the moments it feels like it should fall apart." (more)
AXCELLERATOR
"Basic boy gets teleporter, meets girl, goes on the run story."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL 44: "Axcellerator" is one of those movies that straddles the border of irreverence and parody, to the extent that its makers would probably, upon being asked which it was, ask what you wanted it to be. There are worse offenses a movie can commit than landing in that grey area, especially since it's got the energy and most of the charm it needs to pull either option off, but every once in a while it does something dumb enough that you can't help but wonder what it could have been if some of its ambition and enthusiasm had made its way into the script." (more)
LIFE AFTER FLASH
"Nice for the fans, I guess."
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "As a child of the ‘80s, I found one thing in particular (aside from the obvious two or three dozen) galling about the Queen biopic 'Bohemian Rhapsody': There was no mention of the band’s pop-transcendent score for 'Flash Gordon.' It was the ideal meeting of hyperbolic sound and hyperbolic image." (more)
EVERYBODY KNOWS
"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)

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