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ANNIE (2014)
"Annie Hell"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... ""Annie," the stage musical adaptation of the long-running comic strip, has, of course, gone on to become one of the biggest hits in Broadway history but when it came time to transfer it from the stage to the screen in 1982, the end result was a critical and commercial disaster, largely due to the bizarre decision to turn the directorial reins over to John Huston, a legendary filmmaker who, as it turned out, had absolutely no affinity for the genre and its trappings--essentially it was the "Jersey Boys" of its day. Because of the show's enduring popularity, though, it was almost inevitable that someone would try to film another version of it at some point and now, after years of false starts, "Annie" is back and, astonishingly enough, it is worse than ever. Despite the incredibly low bar set by the previous film, this incarnation is such a grim and joyless slog in almost every imaginable way that not only did Huston make a better "Annie" back in the day, he made a better "Annie" when he did "Victory"--at least that one had something vaguely resembling choreography going for it." (more)
"Are We Out Of The Shire Yet?"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "As long-time readers have no doubt heard me pontificate about before at excruciating length, I have a general aversion to most medieval fantasies involving elves, pixies, sprites, broadswords, dragons (especially those of the talking variety) and other such accoutrements of the genre. Even when an example comes along that I am able to embrace on some level, as was the case with the "Lord of the Rings" films and "Game of Thrones," there is still something about the genre in general that keeps me at a distance and prevents me from embracing them as fully as their most rabid fans do. And yet, I felt a certain degree of elation while heading into the theatre for the screening of "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," the concluding chapter of Peter Jackson's ridiculously elongated adaptation of JRR Tolkien's relatively slim predecessor to his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. This sense of anticipation was not due to any sense of love for the film's predecessors--I found both "The Unexpected Journey" and "The Desolation of Smaug" to be bloated nightmares that found him stretching a thin narrative to unconscionable lengths for no obvious reason other than to milk the property for every possible cent. No, this anticipatory delight was due almost entirely to the realization that not only would the story finally have to find some focus in order to get to its conclusion but once the end credits finished rolling, it meant that I would almost certainly no longer be professionally required to give a damn about orcs, white wizards, walking trees and those goddamn talking dragons ever again. (Any smart-ass out there who even thinks of mentioning the title "The Silmarillion" is going to get SUCH a pinch.)" (more)
"Chris Rock & Rosario Dawson are a great top two."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It took roughly a minute of "Top Five" for me to realize that I really hadn't been anticipating this film enough - it is, after all, built around Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson hanging around and verbally jousting with each other, and I like both of them a lot. It's not much longer than that before it's clear that we're getting both of them at their best, and that makes for a formidably funny movie." (more)
"Bits are missing, but what's there instead more than makes up for it."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT FANTASTIC FEST 2014; "It Follows" is genuinely weird in a few places, and there are moments when I think writer/director David Robert Mitchell had a great idea for a horror movie without any idea of how he would finish it. This thing is pure distilled "stalker who won't stop and whom nobody will believe exists" without much worry about mythology, and that's okay - it lets Mitchell really get at the emotion of never feeling safe again, and the ending he comes up with is, in its own way, kind of fantastic." (more)

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