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LATEST REVIEWS
SHOOTING THE MAFIA
"Interesting despite a couple of gaps."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: This is an intriguing but odd documentary, in that it seems like it could be more focused or detailed or illustrative, but instead the filmmakers just let their subject take them where she would, and if that wasn't where they expected, so be it. It helps to have the sort of subject who is willing to take you places in that case, although sometimes that means being ready for them to just not be interested in certain parts of the story." (more)
ROADS NOT TAKEN, THE
"Multiple possibilities, not one of them interesting."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "For a movie about a (presumably) talented writer imagining the different ways his life could have gone, "The Roads Not Taken" shows an almost stunning lack of creativity. Everyone seems to be doing their job well enough that one can get through its 85 minutes easy enough, but it eventually feels like a whole lot of set-up for an ending that feels like the film's first truly clever moment, but not enough." (more)
HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD
"Deserves attention."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The very last detail I noticed during the screening of "House of Hummingbird" - indeed, the very last detail there is to notice - is that the copyright is assigned directly to writer/director/producer Kim Bora, rather to a production company or some group of investors, and I wonder if it meant she started out with more resources at her disposal than the film's young heroine or if it's just that much more important to claim the story as hers. It doesn't matter, really - the film is good either way - but it's the sort of small detail that can stick with you at the end of a movie about a girl who is often overlooked." (more)
MASQUERADE HOTEL
"As luxuriously cozy as a mystery can get."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Masquerade Hotel" is not, technically speaking, a murder mystery so cozy that there's no actual murder, but it's not far off. It's a whodunit built around a posh location, sleuths so focused on the business at hand that they are really only almost flirting, and a healthy dose of clues, codes, and red herrings, one which is all-in on the way mysteries can be puzzles and not terribly concerned with them being thrillers. It's not a route many films go these days, and it makes "Masquerade Hotel" a light, entertaining treat." (more)
DOOR LOCK
"Never lets one feel truly safe."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It seems as though nifty movie ideas get passed around the world and redone for local audiences more than they used to, well beyond how folks used to complain that it was mainly Americans who didn't want to deal with subtitles. I think that I have seen the movie which inspired this film ("Sleep Tight"), but it's not like the case of another Korean remake of a Spanish thriller a couple years ago when I realized that I knew what's going to happen next about ten minutes in. It certainly feels like its own movie, and a thriller that doesn't mess around much to boot." (more)
BEAUTIFUL MOMENT, A
"A beautiful half-hour in the middle of lesser material."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The neat idea that sells "A Beautiful Moment" is not close to being a wholly original idea - I feel like I've got the names of two or three other movies that play with the lead actor in romantic comedies often being old enough to have dated their opposite numbers' mothers on the tip of my tongue - but it's a fun one and potentially clever, especially with this cast. That's why it's so bizarre and frustrating that filmmaker Patrick Kong Pak-Leung spends so much time on doing other things." (more)
LIFETIME TREASURE, A
"Just watch "Gallants" again."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's probably a listicle or three out there counting down the best "a bunch of movie stars have gotten old" films, hopefully not to grim in terms of how many great actors passed away soon after doing a movie that cracked wise about how they used to be sex symbols and are now the butt of jokes about peeing every ten minutes. Unless they're exhaustive, "A Lifetime Treasure" will probably not show up on many of those lists, and not just because it's relatively recent or because many overlook films not made in Hollywood; it's just not very good and a few of the folks involved have done it much better." (more)
FATHER'S SHADOW, THE
"A somewhat magical take on a child's grief."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Father's Shadow" is the second film from Gabriela Amaral as writer/director and it's more or less what one would hope for in a second feature: It's got the style and intensity that makes it a piece with "Friendly Beast" but a story that is not any sort of repetition and the confidence to try something more emotionally ambitious. That "has she made anything else/oh I liked that/and this is even better" hit is one of the best parts of going to festivals or immersing oneself in less-heralded films long-term." (more)
BOOKSELLERS, THE
"A bit of an exercise in judging books by their cover."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Movies like "The Booksellers" don't exactly backfire when, halfway through, certain viewers find that this film meant to celebrate a rare and vanishing breed of person is instead providing examples of just how that breed rubs them the wrong way. A documentary doesn't necessarily need to be capital-c convincing to be worthy, but at times there is enough self-satisfaction evident in this one to visibly crowd out the more dynamic stories that filmmaker D.W. Young could be telling." (more)
BLACK MAGIC FOR WHITE BOYS
"Weird and skewed in how it's funny, and maybe that's the point."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I'm not particularly curious to see the previous iteration(s) of "Black Magic for White Boys", which got a fairly thorough retooling between its initial screening at Tribeca and when it played Fantasia two years later, including a time when it was retooled as a mini-series. I'm not sure whether or not to be surprised that this work still left it with obvious gaps and issues; it's a messy process but one that could have filled in all the gaps. It's still frequently funny in a charmingly homemade way; its seemingly effect-less effects and unrefined characters have the nice effect of Onur Tukel's film just laying what it wants out there." (more)

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