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"Le Mens"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Ford v. Ferrari” tells the story of a couple of iconoclasts who have been employed by a monolithic company to pull off a seemingly impossible task and follows them as they struggle to accomplish this in the face of a unyielding corporate structure that seems to be designed solely to stymie them from accomplishing the very job that they were hired to do. This is a narrative structure that will always be timely but in this case, it is especially resonant because this is a film that was made by 20th Century Fox, a studio which was recently purchased by Disney, the superhero/animation/remake factory that would have never dreamed of investing a single cent in an expensive adult-oriented drama if they had been offered the chance to finance it. Although obviously inadvertent, this odd behind-the-scenes parallel adds an unexpected level of resonance to an otherwise familiar, if undeniably well-made, film, the kind that Hollywood used to make on a regular basis but which has now become an increasingly rare occurrence in the industry’s unfortunate shift to an all-tentpole business model." (more)
"Kicking And Screaming"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "if I were to sit down and make a list of the directors whose name on the credits of a new film is enough to fill me with the kind of scorn and dread usually reserved for trips to the dentist or the musical recitals of other people’s children, I must confess that Noah Baumbach would most likely be very near the top of it even if it wasn’t in alphabetical order. He has been making movies for 25 years now and, to be fair, some of his films have received plenty of critical acclaim, even from observers whose opinions I respect. However, whatever qualities they have found to celebrate in works like “The Squid and the Whale,” “Margot at the Wedding” and his Greta Gerwig-led trilogy of “Greenberg,” “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America” have managed to elude me completely. To these eyes, he specializes in films centered around wildly unpleasant and deeply solipsistic narcissists who spend their time making themselves and anyone who happens into their rarefied orbit as miserable as possible. Mind you, I don’t object to films based around obnoxious or unlikable people—my objection is that seems incapable of also presenting them in a manner interesting enough to make me want to sit through their narratives for any other reason outside of professional obligation. To be fair, I did like “De Palma,” the fascinating documentary on the life and work of a slightly more interesting filmmaker that he co-directed with Jake Paltrow, and he did co-write the screenplays to the Wes Anderson films “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” I dunno—maybe, in direct opposition of what has been suggested in the majority of his oeuvre, he simply plays well with others." (more)
"Tests close to the top of its class."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "You can tell when a film and filmmaker are just better than their peers, as was the case with Derek Tsang's previous film "SoulMate", the best in a wave of seemingly dozens of Chinese movies about people looking back on their high school years. That's a description that could technically apply to "Better Days", especially with the bookends made to satisfy the censors, although it's a far harsher film than those, but effectively so: Tsang brings something visceral to his story of bullying and revenge where all too many might be satisfied to make it easier for the squeamish to grapple with." (more)
"Not just about a tabloid."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "A gore-soaked tabloid, whose publisher had mob connections, was ultimately involved in helping install the President of the United States. This story, worthy of James Ellroy, is at the heart of the documentary 'Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer.'" (more)
"Another talent to watch."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Every shot of 'Paradise Hills' is otherworldly in its beauty. I’m not sure how it “reads” as a narrative, but as a visual work of art, a tone poem, and a riff on some familiar but evergreen themes it makes one stand and applaud." (more)
"Should've called it quits at two."
2 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "So it turns out that Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding was the corroded soul of Rob Zombie’s “Firefly” films." (more)
"And signifyin' is his game."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Eddie Murphy has been in movies for thirty-seven years, but 'Dolemite Is My Name' is the first time he has played a real-life person — Rudy Ray Moore, the self-described “ghetto expressionist” who rose up by making records and then movies that turned the African-American urban experience into ribald slapstick." (more)
"Not well-planned."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""My Dear Liar" involves a fairly dumb master plan and I don't think the people making this movie thought it through much better than its scheming characters did. It's the sort of film that makes murder just something that happens during insurance fraud and never lets itself enjoy the pleasures of a good con, always far too well aware that what these characters are doing is deceptive and/or illegal, so much so that it can't separate the thrill of a small-time grift with the horror of a large one. And if that's the case, why bother?" (more)
TRUTH, THE (2019)
"Taking family friction to a new continent."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I don't really think that Hirokazu Kore-eda has made a French-language movie because his particular arthouse niche was getting kind of tight, but it's darkly amusing to imagine international film financiers imagining that the combination of his understated Japanese family dramas and French films where Catherine Deneuve makes a movie about being Catherine Deneuve might get screens and audiences that neither alone might find. Heck, there's a third element in play that might draw a different audience! Fortunately, even when the film feels like it is assembled out of different pieces, the craftsmanship that puts them together is as fine as one might hope, creating a work that should satisfy audiences no matter what drew them to it." (more)
PRIMAL (2019)
"Ship For Fools"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "At this point in time, the relentlessly prolific filmography of Nicolas Cage can be roughly broken down into three key sections. There are the occasional films that are a little more ambitious than usual and/or offer him unique challenges for his still-considerable skill set as an actor—these would include films ranging from the intense drama “Joe” to the legitimately jaw-dropping revenge thriller “Mandy.” There are the junk films that he seems to select almost at random and which he delivers the barest amount of effort required to earn his paycheck—you and I could each select a dozen or so titles fitting this particular bill and there is an excellent chance that the lists would be almost entirely different from each other. Then there are the films containing premises that are so screwy and beyond the pale from a conceptual standpoint that you pretty much know that they are Nicolas Cage movies even before you know that they are Nicolas Cage movies. “Primal” definitely falls into the latter category, though this is one of the unfortunate examples where so much energy evidently went into devising the admittedly nutball premise that there was virtually nothing left in the tank when it came time for the pesky task of executing it." (more)

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