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"a.k.a. Will Ferrell's Waterloo"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "The Eurovision Song Contest is a yearly competition in which over 50 eligible countries, mostly European-based, submit a homegrown act to perform an original song before an enormous audience in the hopes that they will be determined the winner. The contest has been running since 1956 (although this year’s edition was cancelled due to coronavirus fears) and a number of the participants have indeed gone on to international fame, such as contestants Lulu, Nana Mouskouri, Julio Iglesias and Olivia Newton-John and winners Celine Dion and ABBA, whose 1974 victory launched them into instant superstardom. With the combination of slick music, glitzy-gaudy costumes and high drama, the contest would seem to be a natural subject for an entertaining film. Perhaps one will eventually come along and “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” can be forgotten even quicker than it deserves to be. The latest misfire from Will Ferrell, this is a weirdly leaden botch of a film that has no discernible comedic point or purpose, inexplicably goes on forever and produces only a couple of mild and very scattered laughs amidst a seemingly endless array of dead spots." (more)
"Not Quite."
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When Jon Stewart made his big-screen debut as a writer-director with “Rosewater” (2015), it surprised many observers who went into presumably expecting a cinematic variation of the kind of sardonic political humor that he became famous for on television with “The Daily Show” and discovered that it was a an earnest and serious-minded true-life drama about the ordeal of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist who was arrested and brutally interrogated for 118 days on suspicion of being a spy based on a comedic interview he did for a 2009 “Daily Show” segment. The resulting film was uneven at times but it was made with a genuine sense of anger and earnestness, not to mention the unmistakable feeling that this was a story that, perhaps out of guilt, he was absolutely compelled to make. However, my guess is that his fans felt a sense of relief when it was announced that his follow-up film would be the kind of thing that they were presumably hoping to see from him the first time around—a straightforward satire of the current American political scene that would, as a bonus, reunite him with his former TV colleague Steve Carrell for good measure. Yes, “Irresistible” will definitely remind one of the old days of “The Daily Show”—unfortunately, the days in question are the ones when Craig Kilborn ruled the roost and the humor was laced with a certain unmistakable smugness. The result is the kind of film that Stewart himself might have righteously smoked on his show for pulling its punches and favoring humor that is more toothless than biting." (more)
"Never finds a proper identity."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Telling a horror story or thriller from the point of view of the monster is often an intriguing idea, but one that requires a little more care than writer/director Justin McConnell takes with "Lifechanger", although that's not its only issue. The exciting high concepts of its shape-shifting plot and the practical limitations of the production keep running into each other, and it's easy to lose patience by the time it gets to the clever bit." (more)
"Listed in order of interest."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Sylvester Stallone has optioned "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil" for an American remake intended to return Ma Dong-Seok to the title role, even though it's the sort of part that he would be smart to snag for himself. On the other hand, it's also a sign that he's smart enough to see what made a movie work and not mess with it: The high concept in this movie isn't bad, but the star is the best reason to see it." (more)
"Stirfry of Echoes"
3 stars
Lybarger says... "Unlike a lot of other writes who have stepped into the director’s chair, David Koepp has demonstrated he consistently belongs there." (more)
"Panic Rooms"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Back in 1999, writer-director David Koepp and actor Kevin Bacon teamed up to make “Stir of Echoes,” a modest-but-effective adaptation of Richard Matheson’s supernatural thriller about an ordinary man who finds himself plagued by inexplicable and increasingly haunting visions that seem prepared to harm him and his family. Twenty-one years later, the two have reunited to make “You Should Have Left,” an adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann’s supernatural thriller about an ordinary man who finds himself plagued by inexplicable and increasingly haunting visions that seem prepared to harm him and his family. Perhaps they should have limited their reunion to recording a new commentary track for a special edition Blu-Ray of “Stir of Echoes” because their new collaboration is a handsomely mounted but dramatically film that not even their combined professionalism can boost to the level of being mildly interesting." (more)
"Bloody black comedy."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: This pitch-black comedy may be the most action-packed film of the festival, a bloody mess of a movie that maintains a breakneck pace for much longer than one might expect and manages the neat trick of having several of its characters doing corrupt, violent things while still maintaining some level of sympathy, which is kind of the only way this sort of free-for-all works. "Why Don't You Just Die!" is as darkly comic and violent as you'd expect from the title, but occasionally shows that it knows where the line is between that sort of darkness and outright nihilism." (more)
"Almost the buddy-cop movie it's trying to be."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: This movie opens with an entertaining bit of action and then, immediately, informs the audience that it's not going to be getting any more of that for a while, and I'm not going to lie, that's pretty disappointing. It's also got a different sense of where the line between hostile and abrasive is than American buddy-cop movies, and while it should - it is South Korean, after all - It's got trouble maintaining a tone that works in other ways. The mean streak you often find in even Korean crime comedies doesn't serve this one very well, especially when it's trying to be very silly and very solemn at the same time." (more)
"Time Has Come Today"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "For about its first hour, Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” his first feature since winning his long-overdue competitive Oscar for “BlacKkKlansman,” is a spellbinding stretch of filmmaking as good as anything that he has ever done before in his career—it puts a new and audacious spin on some familiar cinematic tropes, it gathers together a number of strong and compelling performances and it is presented in a stylistically dynamic manner that reminds you that you are in the hands of a master filmmaker who is not afraid to try new things even at a point when they could comfortably rest on their laurels and no one would take any issue. The trouble is that the film runs for 155 minutes and it is at about this point that it starts becoming very uneven as moments of great emotional power and angry social commentary rub shoulders uneasily with far more conventional and far less interesting B-movie thrills and histrionics. The end result is a film is not a great Lee film on the order of “Do the Right Thing,” “Bamboozled” and “BlacKkKlansman” but the combination of the stuff that does work and Lee’s uncanny ability to make a movie whose ideas and concerns feel absolutely in sync with this particular moment in time, even though it was obviously made months ago, gives it the kind of spark that hasn’t been seen in a major film since “Parasite.”" (more)
"G for, at least, Good."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: My first thought upon seeing this was "well, that's kind of g-ross", but awful g-related puns aside, there's an impressive race between outrageous events and striking style at the start of this movie that almost blunts them both, taking a while to find some sort of equilibrium. Once it does, the story kind of cruises for a while, jumping back and forth to let the environment sink in. The filmmakers never settle things down once that's happened, but that's generally enough to cover for any weaknesses in the plot." (more)

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