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A.X.L. rate me!
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Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days 3.86
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Anna and the Apocalypse 4.08
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"Everything Will Be Tingling After This One"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Even though I am still not much of a superhero film buff by any stretch of the imagination, I must confess that the genre has been on a bit of an upswing in the last year or so. Oh sure, there have been duds like the increasingly clunky half-a-movie “Avengers: Infinity War) and the astoundingly awful “Aquaman” but at the same time, we have seen such welcome surprises as the game-changing “Black Panther” and the cheerfully goofy “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Teen Titans Go to the Movies.” Now comes “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and it could well be the most welcome surprise of them all. On the surface, it may look like just another attempt by Sony to make a few more bucks off of a character that they have already presented in no fewer than three separate live-action iterations over the past 16 years via the presumably cheaper method of animation. In fact, it turns out to be an absolutely inspired and compulsively entertaining work that is jam-packed with smart humor, eye-popping visuals and a story that takes the time to examine the Spider-Man mythos in a manner that its predecessors have largely eschewed over the years. Let me put it this way for you. You know how “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is generally put right up there with the original “Superman” as one of the greatest of all superhero movies? I don’t know if I could actually say right now for certain that this one is better than “Spider-Man 2” but if someone were to put forth that argument, I would not necessarily disagree with such a statement." (more)
ROMA (2018)
"Believe The Hype"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "In the wake of the massive success of his last film, “Gravity” (2013), which received critical raves, earned over $700,000,000 at the box-office worldwide and scored seven Oscars (including two for him personally for Directing and Editing), filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron fond himself in the rarefied position of being able to do pretty much anything he wanted to do for his next project. Oftentimes when filmmakers find themselves in this position, they talk at length about the small and deeply personal projects they would love to tackle but, more often than not, this usually turns out to be just talk and they move on to the next would-be blockbuster. In Cuaron’s case, however, he has taken advantage of this unique opportunity with a vengeance with his long-awaited follow-up, “Roma,” a film that seems to have been designed to give studio heads who would normally be eager to get in business with him advanced cases of heartburn. Here is a film that is a highly autobiographical tale with a narrative that cannot easily be summed up in a sentence or two and is in Spanish to boot, a cast led by someone who has never acted before and has been shot in both black-and-white and in 70MM, the large-screen format that most theaters are no longer equipped to present properly. To make matters even more bewildering, the film is being distributed by Netflix, which means that most of its viewers are going to wind up seeing it at home on their televisions than in theaters. It all sounds like a recipe for an auteurist boondoggle of mythic proportions that could only be avoided if the resulting film turned out to be an unquestioned, one-of-a-kind masterpiece that not only justifies all of its oddball creative decisions but makes you wonder why others don’t try them as well. Strangely enough, that is exactly what has happened in the case of “Roma,” which is quite simply one of the most dazzling, audacious and powerful cinematic experiences of the year." (more)
"No Exit"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When “Detour” went before the cameras for its abbreviated shooting schedule in 1945, there was no indication that it would turn out to be anything more than just another programmer churned out by Producers Releasing Corporation, one of many fly-by-night studios operating on the fringes of Hollywood at the time. The screenplay seemed to have been deliberately calibrated to utilize the fewest numbers of locations and actors possible while still legally being considered a movie, leads reportedly hated each other, the director was a long way away from the time when he made one of Universal’s biggest films of 1934 and the budget was so tiny that the car in which the main characters drive around for most of the running time was apparently the director’s own personal vehicle. However, in a twist of fate more unexpected and bizarre than any of the ones depicted in its terse 68-minute running time, all of those elements managed to click together in surprisingly harmonious ways and, much like its unforgettable (in all the wrong ways) female lead, it grabbed at anyone who encountered it and refused to let go. Instead of disappearing into the pop-culture ether in the manner of so many programmers made during that time, it was sought out and discovered by subsequent generations of filmgoers—many of whom (myself included) first learned about it in the pages of Danny Peary’s invaluable book “Cult Movies”— and is now regularly cited as one of the greatest film noirs of all time. Now “Detour” has returned for another go-around in theaters via a brand-new 4K restoration (funded by the George Lucas Family Foundation) before its rumored imminent inclusion into the celebrated Criterion Collection. Granted, the idea of a cleaned-up version of the film—which didn’t exactly transcend its Poverty Row aesthetic and which has been seen almost entirely in beat-up prints whose visual scuzziness proved to be an inadvertently perfect match for the material—sounds like a weirdo cineaste joke but even though it looks better than it ever has in its entire existence, no amount of digital sandblasting can remove the darkness at its bitter heart" (more)
"Insert Obligatory “Holiday Film With Bite” Headline Here"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Anna and the Apocalypse” is a head-on collision (and a gruesome one at that) between two of the most incongruous cinematic subgeneres imaginable—the whimsical holiday narrative filled with fresh faces and deliberately ugly sweaters that can be found running around the clock on the Hallmark Channel the moment that the Thanksgiving leftovers are safely put away and the super-gory zombie spectacular filled with rotting flesh, imperfectly severed limbs and gallons of blood spilled on every available surface. There are the usual array of romantic conflicts and silly holiday decor, to be sure, but every once in a while, one of the oversized candy canes from a lawn display has to be used to skewer another undead lug before it can take a bite out of someone. If that weren’t wild enough, consider the fact that, in addition to all that, the film is also a full-scale musical to boot with the characters warbling about live and love while at the same time crushing zombie skulls in the messiest manner imaginable. At first glance, it may seem like the kind of high-concept idea that looks undeniably promising as a two-minute trailer but which rarely manages to sustain itself as a 90-minute feature. Happily, this one prove to be the exception to the rule—a weirdo cinematic stocking stuffer filled a lot of laughs, a few legitimate scares, a number of catchy tunes and some hugely winning performances." (more)

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