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"Same funny detectives, different Chinatown."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's been a couple of years since it came out, but I seem to remember the first "Detective Chinatown" just being kind of conventionally wacky, not quite the over-the-top mess that its sequel turns out to be. Sure, part of that is a matter of how the move from Bangkok to New York lets American viewers like me see more clearly when it's doing some really tacky caricature work, but it really seems like there's nothing here that's not dialed up to 11, making a murder mystery play more like a party game, a step down from a slapstick comedy that had respected the genre." (more)
"Plays well."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Hey, check it out - a broad comedy where the characters actually, without-a-doubt, like each other! It doesn't seem like such a big deal to say, but so many of these movies are built around bickering and buried hostility that seeing how much the central pair is into one another - from a flashback opening that celebrates their shared eccentricity all the way to the end - is a breath of fresh air. "Game Night" is so flat-out fond of its goofball cast of characters that it seldom has to slow down to make sure that its many jokes don't get taken the wrong way." (more)
"Bring some patience."
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "A slow-burn psychological thriller like 'They Remain' requires patience. It seems to be more about mood and paranoia than about plot or easy scares — kind of like John Carpenter’s 'The Thing' but more minimalist, if that’s even imaginable." (more)
"Chinese military propaganda, but the bloody mayhem is done awful well."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Give old hand Dante Lam credit - he does not mess around. Less than two years after he had a hit with "Operation Mekong", he's got another insanely violent (but impressively mounted) tale of China taking matters into its own hands in theaters, one seem like it may have taken a page not just from actual events but last summer's "Wolf Warrior 2" (and why not, since that thing made a billion dollars). It's over-the-top action propaganda like all those movies, but you can't argue Lam doesn't know his way around the material even if he also doesn't exactly know restraint." (more)
"Not Entirely For The Birds"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I have a sneaky suspicion that many of those who flock to “Red Sparrow” in its first few days of release will be expecting something along the lines of “Salt” or “Atomic Blonde”—an action-packed espionage thriller featuring an enormously popular actress kicking all sorts of ass in a number of wild set pieces determined to equal or top the excesses found in the James Bond and Jason Bourne franchises. However, those attending the film on the promise of pure spectacle alone are likely to come away from it disappointed because while it certainly doesn’t skimp in terms of big action beats, the focus here is primarily trained on the kind of intriguing characters and intricate plotting normally found in the books of John Le Carre and the espionage dramas of Alfred Hitchcock. The result is an occasionally uneven but generally successful stab at the kind of spy narrative that kind of got put to the side, at least cinematically, by the success of the Bond films and which now comes across like a breath of fresh, if sometimes confused, air in the way that it comes across as both a throwback to a time when popular entertainment was allowed to be a little cerebral and as an eerily up-to-the-minute take on what is happening in the world today." (more)
"From The Studio That Brought You “mother!”"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Having already established himself as a novelist with the cult classic “The Beach” and as a screenwriter by penning the likes of “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine” and adaptations of “Never Let Me Go” and “Dredd,” Alex Garland made his directorial debut with 2015’s “Ex Machina,” a story set in the not-too-distant future about a programmer (Domnhall Gleeson) sent by his technological genius boss (Oscar Isaac) to administer the Turing test to a new and advanced form of artificial intelligence, a beautiful humanoid robot (Alicia Vikander). With its combination of startlingly effective visual effects, a trippy screenplay that served both as a enormously effective genre narrative a mind-bending meditation of what it means to be human and strong performances from the three leads, the film was celebrated as one of the best of the year and it even went on to become a modest commercial success as well. More importantly, it immediately established Garland as a filmmaker to watch and made one curious as to see what kind of provocation he might offer up next." (more)
"Denzel in fine form."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Public payphones have faded from the national landscape to such a degree that it brings us up short when we’re reminded they still exist." (more)
"Less plot, but more and better monsters."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There are many sorts of sequels, all with their various merits - the serialized story, the shifting genres, the attempt to recapture the same magic but with more resources. "Monster Hunt 2" definitely falls into the "more of the first" category of sequel, with a story that is often vague enough that it like some combination of treading water until a climactic third part or only having time for a loose outline before shooting because the filmmakers knew they'd have to leave time for visual effects in order to hit a Chinese New Year release date. That's okay; that first was pretty good and this doesn't throw much of it away to get Wuba and his human foster parents together again." (more)
"Less Monkey King, best entry."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Sometimes, the third time apparently is the charm - despite a pair of less-than-impressive predecessors, director Cheang Pou-soi's third "Monkey King" film winds up being pretty darn decent. It's been a heck of a troubled path to get there, as the producers basically scrapped everything and started over at one point, and there have been at least two better takes on the same material while this series of movies has been a going concern, but on its own, this particular flick isn't a bad way to spend a couple hours if your local theater has booked it for Chinese New Year." (more)
"This cloning movie is both something of an original and not quite right."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 BOSTON SCI-FI FILM FESTIVAL: "Andover" is just good enough that and audience may or may not be able to overlook how thoroughly misguided it is at a fairly fundamental level, to the point where it's actually kind of impressive how precisely writer/director Scott Perlman finds the no-man's-land between a deliberately heightened dark comedy and hiding from the cruelty of the premise. It's hard to recommend despite getting frequent laughs, and probably needs to hit a viewer just right to work at all." (more)

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