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"More clever than its title and eventually even cruder."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2019: Just enough time passed between my seeing "The Death of Dick Long" and getting around to fleshing my notes out into a full review that it took me a while moment to remember exactly what about it made it stand out among "dumb person crime" movies, and I'm not entirely sure whether that speaks well of it or not. One the one hand, it's an entertaining dark comedy even without the twist, but on the other, I've got to wonder what it says that the filmmakers couldn't get THAT image lodged in my brain. Of course, maybe it says something about me." (more)
"Luton Rock City"
5 stars
Lybarger says... "When Bruce Springsteen screams, “It’s a town full of losers, but I’m pulling out of here to win” at the end of “Thunder Road,” you don’t have to be New Jersey car enthusiast to relate. The Boss’ lyrics can mean something to you, no matter where you might be on the globe." (more)
"The Ties That Bind"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Having long conquered the stages of Broadway, the jukebox musical—the storytelling format in which the narrative is formed around the most popular hits of a particular musical act—has begun to make serious inroads into the world of film that is sure to only increase exponentially as the studios respond in earnest to the wholly inexplicable success of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This summer season alone has seen three examples of the form that have arrived with, to put it mildly, wildly different levels of artistic success. “Rocket Man,” the flashy and surrealistic Elton John biopic, did a surprisingly effective job of fusing together his music and story in ways that might not have completely passed the historical smell test but which certainly captured the essence of him as an artist in thoughtful and eye-catching ways. On the metaphorical flip side, the truly execrable “Yesterday” utilized the music of the Beatles to anchor a story that took a potentially interesting premise—what would happen if the Fab Four had been mysteriously wiped from the collective consciousness and the one person who still remembered them attempted to reintroduce their music into today’s world?—and squandered it in ways that were deeply dopey at best and borderline offensive at worst." (more)
"Kids Say (And Do) The Darndest F*#$%(@ Things"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "From the increasingly bizarre twists and turns of the plot to the sight of a group of 11-year-old boys swearing like truck drivers (which I believe is still the standard by which profanity is based) while confronting mysteries of life ranging from knowing how to kiss to why that string of beads taken from a parental bedroom smells so bad, “Good Boys” is essentially an extended episode of “South Park” that has been presented in live-action instead of crude animation. Whether or not this represents progress is, of course, up to you." (more)
"Gets around to punching demons in the face."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The hook for "The Divine Fury" is such a simple and obvious genre mash-up - the martial artist whose hands have been blessed/cursed in such a way that he can exorcise demons by punching them in the face - that it's kind of surprising that such a film doesn't hit theaters every other week. The reason, I suspect, is likely why this movie is only half as cool as it could be: Shooting fight scenes is complex and time-consuming compared to talking about demons, so the movie inevitably doesn't do as much of the good stuff as one might hope." (more)
"Fringe but familiar."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2019: Movies like "Them That Follow" often have a hard time finding the right balance of respect and alarm in regard to the fringes of society where their characters exist, and in this case filmmakers Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage maybe veer too far toward the respectful. They've got too fine a cast to not make a good movie, but the naturally soapy elements get a bit blunted by not wanting to be insensitive and exploitative where its snake-handling community is concerned." (more)
"Heroic firefighter stories are the same (and exciting!) the world over"
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It seems like it would be hard to go too far over the top with a movie about heroic firefighters facing a massive but somewhat plausible danger, but "The Bravest" gives it a shot. The wall-to-wall firefighting action is more or less on point, but filmmaker Tony Chan Kwoik-Fai has trouble letting the heroism stand on its own, and there's sometimes an awful thin line between the moments that successfully make the audience stand up and cheer and the ones that try and get a snicker instead." (more)
"Take a dive."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "After all these years — it turns 30 on August 9 — James Cameron’s "The Abyss" remains the most intense movie I have ever seen." (more)
"Just let Renny Harlin make his Renny Harlin movie, China!"
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "As near as I can tell from its online footprint and the credits, "Bodies at Rest" started as an English-language script, got picked up by a Chinese company, was rewritten to be set in Hong Kong but shot in Beijing (in Mandarin), directed by a Finn, after which point it seems to have sat on the server for a year before being finally getting what release it did, dubbed into Cantonese for at least its North American release. That it is kind of a mess is unsurprising; that it's still a fairly acceptable little thriller is a sort of testament to everyone knowing what they're doing." (more)
"Like The Literary Journal “Mana,” They Are Samoa Bound"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "One of the great byproducts about last week’s release of “Once Upon a Time. . . in Hollywood” was that for one brief and shining moment, it actually got people genuinely interested and excited by a film that went far beyond the usual levels of hype for the first time in a long while. Sure, some of the discourse was inevitably on the dopey side—especially the Internet commentary that was clearly more interested in clickbait than anything else—but for the most part, when people talked and wrote about the movie, they were responding with the kind of enthusiasm and passion that films used to inspire in the days before the industry shifted to an all-blockbuster all-the-time format. Love it or hate it, it is the kind of film that does not instantly fade from memory the moment the credits roll as is the case with so many big-budget gumdrops and my guess is that people will be discussing and arguing its finer points for a long time to come." (more)

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