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LATEST REVIEWS
WOLF WARRIOR
"Still training to be the best of the best."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Western movies like "Wolf Warrior" used to crowd direct-to-video racks, promising heroic soldiers fighting evil foreigners with much less nuance than flag-waving, and probably still do once you scroll past the bigger-studio options on a VOD menu (heck, there's a mini-industry of direct-to-video sequels to more ambitious war movies). The main difference an American will see for much of the running time here are that the flag is different and the mercenaries speak English; it's still a dead-simple plot that involves a lot of concealing oneself outside, a command center, and some pyro effects." (more)
BATTLESHIP ISLAND, THE
"Eventually, something close to a great escape."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Battleship Island" advertises itself as being based upon true events, and it's messy enough for me to buy that even if it's also got the sort of finale that seems a bit too good to be true. It's a fairly brutal war movie at times, especially when it gets elbow-deep in both torment and double-crosses, although it walks the line between being gratuitous and honest in its horror." (more)
INDIANA
"Hoping for a state of grace."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There are three or four kind of fascinating stories in "Indiana" which are not so much vying for time as falling short of quite pushing each other hard enough to get to the same place. This makes for a generally decent movie, and for some a genuinely great one, although I suspect that it would have to hit you just right to get that reaction." (more)
KIDNAP
"A.K.A. Babe Driver"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "A couple of weeks ago, I found myself revisiting some of the films of maverick writer-director Larry Cohen. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, his work, he specializes in coming up with movie concepts that are simultaneously so offbeat that you cannot imagine anyone else thinking of them and so instantly compelling that they can easily appeal to fans of both mainstream and cult cinema. Some of his more notable efforts have included “It’s Alive” (1975), in which concerns about the generation gap where given gruesome life in the form of mutant killer babies, “The Stuff” (1985), in which a mysterious dessert that took over the minds and bodies of all who consumed it helped effective satirize the consumer culture of the Eighties and “Phone Booth” (2002), a Hitchcock-style thriller that took place almost entirely within the confines of the last remaining phone booth in New York City. Although he doesn’t make many films these days, a film will come around every once in a while that is clever and audacious enough to remind me of his output—with its combination of horror tropes and sharp social satire, “Get Out” is a prime example of a Cohen-style negative. With its punchy basic premise and narrative conceit, the new thriller “Kidnap” sounds, at least on paper, like another story that might have sprung from Cohen’s typewriter. In this case, however, the end result is so idiotic and so completely lacking in even the most tenuous strands of plausibility and taste that anyone unlucky enough to sit through it will emerge from it either seething with rage over having wasted $12 and 90 minutes of their lives or practically bowled over with incredulous laughter over how inane the whole thing truly is." (more)
DARK TOWER, THE
"The Yawning Of The Audience."
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Like many people, I am an enormous fan of Stephen King and his work—I consider him to be one of the key American authors of the last century and would cheerfully describe a number of his books as being absolute classics, both fiction (“The Shining,” “The Dead Zone,” “It”) and non-fiction (his great horror history “Danse Macabre” and “On Writing,” one of the best examinations of the entire writing process I have ever read). And yet, I have never successfully made it through a single book of his mammoth eight-volume series “The Dark Tower.” I have made a couple attempts over the years but my general antipathy towards the sprawling fantasy saga genre as a whole caused my eyes to glaze over after only a few pages every time. Of course, millions of readers out there have felt otherwise and over the years, a number of filmmakers have tried to figure out a way to bring the stories to the big screen that would do justice to the sprawling fantastical narrative King had created—at one point, there was talk that Ron Howard was planning a massive adaptation that would have begun with a epic film and continued with a mini-series before wrapping things up with another feature film. That take inevitably fell apart but now we finally have a film version of “The Dark Tower” at long last (with Howard as one of the producers) but after watching it, most people will wonder why anyone bothered in the first place. What was clearly an epic on the page, based on volume alone if nothing else, has been rendered distressingly puny in its screen incarnation and the end result feels like an almost random assemblage of footage from a much larger work that is destined to annoy fans of the books while leaving newcomers trying to figure out a.) what is going on at any given point and b.) wondering why they should care about any of it." (more)
SPOOR
"When animals attack and retirees are okay with that."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: My first impression of "Spoor" was not quite that it was a "when animals attack" movie told from the point of view of the eccentric old woman that the young protagonists initially disbelieve, although that was certainly in my head once we had enough twenty-something characters for a love triangle. I've got no idea whether that was something the filmmakers had in their heads at any point, and suspect they didn't, especially if you figure that they really weren't making a horror movie, but instead a genre movie that was actually interested in older people - which is something they've done exceptionally well." (more)
NIGHT IS SHORT, WALK ON GIRL
"May be short, but it's packed with delight."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The first of two animated films by director Masaaki Yuasa at this festival is a delightful, fast-moving story of alcohol, used books, guerrilla theater, and the possibilities of youth, right up to the fantastic and seemingly impossible as college students try to arrange their own fates. It's exhilarating to watch even if that sort of thing isn't necessarily one's cup of tea; Yuasa packs its ninety minutes with energy and imagination that constantly surprises but always has something that feels real at its heart." (more)
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL
"All the blood and rage you'd want from an undying samurai."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Blade of the Immortal" is being advertised as Takashi Miike's hundredth movie (looking at the IMDB, the numbers don't quite seem to align, but, hey, close enough), and I suspect that his biggest hit outside of his native Japan is his remake of "13 Assassins", which demonstrated that while he may be known as the guy who does the weird stuff, he's one of the best action filmmakers out there when you strip that away. He returns to big samurai action with "Blade", which gets to be even bigger and bloodier." (more)
MAYHEM
"Provides what the title promises, plus chemistry."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Mayhem" is, if nothing else, up-front about how it's going to appeal to the id and allow things that even the most violent stories will disapprove of in some way, and that the filmmakers mostly manage to get away with that is as much a testament to the charisma of Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving as anything else. It's hardly the first movie whose appeal is in large part based upon enjoying well-done violence that might otherwise be found unacceptable; it just does a better job of directly selling that to the audience." (more)
FRITZ LANG
"A decent Fritz Lang film for not being made by Fritz Lang."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Though there have likely been many biographies and articles written about Fritz Lang, most primarily know him through his films, and that is the way this picture chooses to approach him and his time, refusing to step outside of its subject and instead creating a sort of alternate reality where Lang's life was a Lang film. It's a bit of a risky play - writer/director Gordian Maugg is likely not in the category of the man he pays homage to as a filmmaker - but it's at the very least an interesting one." (more)

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