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LUCKY (2017)
"Middling as a movie, but indelible as a farewell to a legend."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Anyone who has ever loved Harry Dean Stanton in one of his two hundred film and TV credits over the last sixty-three years will have to make some time for Stanton’s leading-man swan song "Lucky," even though it’s a bit of a chunk of dry toast, a little too knowingly thrown as a low-key vaya con dios party for him." (more)
"A beautifully animated film of an ugly situation."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Breadwinner" is a pretty terrific film that may not get the attention that it might have even a year ago because of certain changes to Academy Award voting rules expected to favor big-studio blockbusters over more adventurous, individual films from around the globe. That's a crying shame, because nominating movies like this and getting them onto people's radar is where the Oscars are most useful - this one, for instance, is not what most expect from an animated film, but it uses the medium for clear, powerful storytelling that leaves a strong impression." (more)
"Intimate and grand, a perfectly human horror film."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson have not only not made a bad movie yet, but they're 3-for-3 in making fantastic films that at some point make the viewer's eyes bulge with delight at one point or another, when it becomes clear that they are doing something really clever. "The Endless" is no exception, building tension in an almost conventional way and then making sure that both the things that build mystery and resolve it are genuinely thrilling. It's a genuinely great horror film that will excite their fans and likely impress even those who aren't huge fans of the genre." (more)
"Great-looking but god-awful."
1 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "I can’t quite bring myself to convince you that the entire two hours and seventeen minutes of "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" are worth sitting through for Rihanna’s appearance some eighty minutes in." (more)
"Far Too Willing To Settle"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "If one was to make a list of the most charismatic actors working today, I cannot readily imagine one in which Denzel Washington was not in a place of high prominence. From the earliest days of his career, his searing magnetism, working in conjunction with his superlative skills as an actor, has made him into one of the most electrifying performers of his time—even when he is playing a thoroughly rotten and detestable person, he does it in such a compelling manner that he still manages to keep most audiences on his side despite the things that he says or does. For his latest film, “Roman J. Israel, Esq,” Washington has been given one of the biggest challenges of his career—dial down the charisma factor to practically zero and play a character that most people will be find to be genuinely off-putting throughout. Because Washington is a supremely talented actor, he actually manages to pull this considerable feat off but he is let down by a confused and meandering screenplay that doesn’t really seem to know what to do with his efforts." (more)
COCO (2017)
"Good Bones"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With a storyline that is set mostly in the land of the dead and deals with a young boy who accidentally crosses over and struggles to make his way back to the world of the living before he becomes a permanent resident of a world where everyone is a skeleton and one’s worth is measured by how much they are remembered in the real world, “Coco,” despite having been produced under the aegis of Pixar, may strike some as sounding a little on the dark and morbid side for a film ostensibly aimed at younger audiences. As it turns out, the film, despite its ostensibly creepy trappings, is a good, if not great, run through the standard Pixar formula that is bolstered by its distinct visual style, the long-overdue expansion of its cultural palette and a storyline that deftly charts the challenges of maintaining family traditions while at the same time striking out to follow the beat of their own drummer." (more)
PREY (2017)
"Fine lions."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Prey" is, make no bones about it, a silly extra-large-animal-attacks-humans movie, but it's one that is quite well aware of precisely what audiences want from that sort of picture. There is not really a single sequence that doesn't play out with exactly the beats that one might expect for this sort of B-movie, which adds up to the film in general playing in the same sort of way. This is thankfully more of an asset than a weakness here - director Dick Maas and company hit familiar genre notes, but hit them fairly well." (more)
"A littler, more eccentric mermaid."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Masaaki Yuasa had two feature films at the festival, which is some pretty spectacular productivity for someone working in animation, and I suppose that when you're on that kind of roll, it's no surprise that both wound up pretty darn good. "Lu Over the Wall" is a different sort of delight than "Night Is Short, Walk On Girl", in some ways a more conventionally unconventional coming-of-age fantasy: It's hardly the first story with magical creatures helping a lonely kid find his place and save the town, although few are quite the same feast for the eyes and ears." (more)
"Everybody Hurts"
5 stars
alejandroariera says... "“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt,” wrote American humorist Erma Bombeck. Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges,” “Seven Psychopaths”) obliterates that line with his darkly funny and tragically sad third film, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the story of a woman who has yet to overcome stage two of grief —anger— after the brutal rape and murder of her daughter." (more)
"The Signs, They Aren't A-Changing"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "While watching “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the latest film from audacious British writer-director Martin McDonagh, whose previous efforts were “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths,” I experienced a sensation that I rarely experience at the movies these days—I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen next. Most movies made today, even the good ones, tend to fall into comfortable patterns and once a viewer detects them, they can pretty much figure out, at least in the broad strokes, everything that is about to happen. With this film, however, even though I knew the basics of its plot, I spent most of the running time never knowing where it was headed—and on the rare instances when I was willing to hazard a guess, I was usually wrong—and that sensation only added to what was already a tremendous work. This is a darkly funny, deeply moving and always audacious high wire act of a film that, much like its unforgettable heroine, obeys none of the rules or niceties and is all the more memorable and exciting because of it." (more)

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