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SYNCHRONIC
"The Moorhead & Benson team is 4-for-4."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL 45: The three previous feature films by the directing team of Aaron Moorehead and Justin Benson have earned them a great reputation in sci-fi/horror circles and been the sort of movies that fans build a festival schedule around, but their particular combination of meticulous construction, genre awareness, and emotional tensions has seemingly conspired to keep them from playing to a larger audience. "Synchronic" seems like a movie that could go wider; it's smart and witty and occasionally exciting without seeming quite so clearly focused on its own intricacy." (more)
DOWNHILL
"Vad Ar Poängen?"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "How one feels about “Downhill” will depend to a large degree on whether or not they have seen “Force Majeure,” the celebrated 2014 comedy/drama from Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund that it is based on. Granted, this is not the most startling observation to make about a remake, especially of a film of a relatively recent vintage, but in this particular case, there is a slight difference. Those who have not yet seen that original film are likely to dismiss it as just an odd and ultimately missed opportunity that contains a couple of good ideas and a couple of good performances but doesn’t have any clear idea of what it wants to do with them. Those who have seen the original, and who have therefore seen just how effective this particular material can be when in the right hands, are more like to be straight-up outraged with how thoroughly the writer/director team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have botched things up here in just about every possible way by transforming a wry, subtle and penetrating dark comedy about a seemingly ideal family unit whose hidden fissures are inadvertently exposed for all to see into a bigger, dumber and more crashingly obvious work that is notable only by its resounding pointlessness." (more)
MAN STANDING NEXT, THE
"The President's Last Game"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Man Standing Next" is a pretty fair example of a movie that takes the known facts of recent history and stitches them together in the way that most resembles a thriller. The suspense comes as much from the craft as the pieces of that history where one doesn't know the exact details, meaning the most exciting set piece is in the middle rather than the climax. There's no mystery for many watching the film in South Korea, but at least some tension." (more)
DUSTWALKER, THE
"Abjectly refuses to put its good pieces together well."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL 45: The distributors that pick this Australian horror movie up will likely be able to cut a good enough trailer that the people who stream it wonder why it just doesn't click afterwards, even discounting the visual effects that look a few years out of date. Watching it, I noted that it's been a while since I've seen a film struggle so much to string scenes together, leaving one always a bit out of sync. It feels a bit like someone took a prefabricated monsters-from-space movie kit and didn't read the instructions, just tossing the "extra" bits away after gluing the obvious ones together." (more)
PROXIMA
"Parents in different cities is tough on kids. A mom in space..."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL 45: Among the many things that intrigue about Proxima is how the standard narrative of movies like this seem built to push the story, and the audience, in a specific direction. Lots of movies that didn't live up to their potential have made it as easy to joke about them being about "discovering what's REALLY important" as "friends we made along the way" or the like. And yet that construction works, because what counters it? [I]Proxima[/I] is at its best when it makes you wonder." (more)
MYSTERY OF THE NIGHT
"That's certainly a lot of rage."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Everybody's folklore is kind of messed up, but this movie makes it feel like a competition that the Philippines could win. It's a simple but impressively nasty combination of colonial horror and local legend, giving the audience what they've come for, albeit on a scale that may be a little too grand for what the filmmakers have to work with." (more)
LODGE, THE
"Baby It's Cold Inside"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With their acclaimed 2015 narrative feature debut, “Goodnight Mommy,” the writer-director team of Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz took a story that could charitably be called implausible and presented it with such style and precision, not to mention a flair for truly squirm-inducing imagery, for the duration of its running time that it was only long after it ended that it began to dawn on viewers that it didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in hindsight. With their long-awaited follow-up, “The Lodge,” they have once again offered up a grim and horrific tale involving children, isolation and people who may not be exactly who they appear to be—this time in English and with a couple of familiar faces in the cast—but the whole thing is so preposterous practically from the get-go that it never manages to work up the feeling of quiet dread that it is clearly trying to achieve." (more)
BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN)
"Contains Several Cups Of Meat"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” the latest entry in the DC Comics cinematic universe, is a film that has been made with an abundance of style and energy, a certain degree of wit and an undeniably charismatic performance from Margot Robbie at its center. That is good since those elements have to pick up the slack for the items that haven’t quite made the scene here, such as a coherent and compelling storyline or a compelling bad guy. The end result is a film that is not nearly and transgressive or anarchistic as it clearly thinks it is but which still packs enough charm and gleefully brutal go-girl insouciance to make for a reasonably winning entertainment, especially in comparison to the painfully self-serious bullshit of the absurdly overblown" (more)
DOCTOR SLEEP
"A worthy (if not superior) sequel."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Few, I imagine, will be surprised by the news that "Doctor Sleep" — based on Stephen King’s novel, a sequel to his "The Shining" — packs a heftier emotional punch than does Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining."" (more)
PORNO
"Hopefully coming soon to a neighborhood theater near you."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Porno" is the sort of movie that feels like someone should have thought of it and done it before, but I can't think of anything particularly similar, and I bet those with better catalogs in their brains won't think of a better "monsters in a run-down movie theater" picture (although, as this is very much my thing, I'm happy to hear what obvious example I'm blanking on ). Inspiration usually seems obvious in retrospect, and thus is inspired even before the nice cast and quality, fearless execution shows up." (more)

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