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"Doing It To Death"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When the original “Happy Death Day” came out in 2017, it was obviously better than most of the horror schlock ground out by Blumhouse Productions over the last few years but not quite good enough to fully recommend. The conceit of the film—a goofball fusion of “Groundhog Day” and your standard-issue college campus-based mad slasher exercise—was certainly intriguing but the screenplay never quite lived up to the promise of the premise as it grew a little repetitive at times (and not just in the intentional ways) and didn’t quite stick the ending. At the same time, however, it was made with a lot of style and a refreshing sense of humor that stressed the absurdity of the whole situation over endless sprays of blood and, best of all, it contained an undeniably winning and hugely entertaining performance from relatively unknown actress Jessica Rothe in the central role. It was a miss, I suppose, but it was the nearest of possible misses and when the news was announced that a sequel was being hustled into production after its predecessor proved to be a big hit, I found myself actually looking forward to it despite the fact that rushed sequels to horror films, especially ones with stories that don’t seem to obviously lend themselves to the franchise treatment, usually leads to artistic doom. Happily, “Happy Death Day 2U” is far more than just a lazy bit of hackwork hoping to exploit the goodwill engendered by its predecessor to squeeze a few more bucks out of the gullible. Instead, this is a smashingly entertaining film that retains all the stuff that worked the first time around while improving on the stuff that didn’t quite click. The end result is so good that even if you missed the first one, there is still a pretty good chance that you will have a blast here." (more)
"Survival is straightforward, but satisfying."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's often not a whole lot to say about this sort of survival adventure, especially if it's pulled off as well as "Arctic" is. You admire the difficult conditions, note how well the star communicates what's going on in his head with looks and body language, maybe try and find some other theme, and eventually decide that to a certain extent, the movie defies analysis because it's about a visceral experience. It can seem either very easy or like an impossible bit of alchemy because it feels like something anyone could do given the right location, and it's hard to pin down what makes a given attempt great." (more)
"Soderbergh Holds Court"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“High Flying Bird,” the latest film from Steven Soderbergh, may be set within the world of professional basketball but it is by no means a “sports movie” in any traditional sense—outside of a couple of dribbles on the court, the focus on this engrossing, dialogue-heavy drama is on the game behind the one be played out on the court that generates billions for those running the show but which leaves most of the actual players out to dry." (more)
"High Flying Birds"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There is no doubt that this weekend will find millions of parents taking their children to the multiplex to go see “The LEGO Movie 2” and I have no problem with that—it is smart, funny, visually dynamic and manages to live up to the expectations set by its equally impressive predecessor. That said, here is hoping that a few of those parents will realize that it will almost certainly be around for a few weeks and instead elect to take the kids to “Tito and the Birds,” a new animated feature from Brazil that may not feature characters that will turn up on T-shirts and video games but which does tell a story that will engage both younger and older viewers alike." (more)

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