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1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When people watch Nicolas Cage movies these days—I assume that there are still some hardy souls inclined to do so—they are doing so in the hopes of finding either the increasingly rare diamond in the rough that reminds them of the brilliant and ingenious actor that he used to be (as was the case with films like “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,” “Joe” or his singular turn in “Mom and Dad”) or, as is more often the case, those moments of batshit insanity that may not land on a Lifetime Achievement clip reel but will definitely find a home on countless YouTube compilations. Alas, even those faithful will have little patience with his latest effort (his fourth to be released so far this year), the dreadfully dull action thriller “211.”" (more)
"Good Girls Gone Bad"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "After the screening of “Ocean’s 8,” a colleague said that he found it to be “lightweight and disposable.” For a lot of movies, that might be seen as criticism but in the case of this one, it strikes me as being more of a simple observation than anything else. Like the previous “Ocean’s” films—both the original 1960 Rat Pack extravaganza and the star-studded 2001 remake (not to mention the latter’s two sequels)—this is not a movie bound and determined to take on the problems of the world in a thoughtful and introspective manner. No, it is a slickly-made piece of fluff offering viewers nothing more than a cheerfully preposterous caper comedy enacted by so many glamorous and well-known faces that it sometimes feels as if the contents of a magazine rack have suddenly come to life. This sounds easy enough in theory, I suppose, but to pull one of these things off properly requires an incredible degree of ingenuity and precision—one false move and the whole enterprise can come off like a smug and lazy bore that has only enormous paychecks for the actors and mild contempt for those in the audience. Happily, this is not one of those cases and while it will not going down as a masterpiece anytime soon, even the most unrepentant churl would be hard-pressed to resist its fizzy charms." (more)
"Believe The Hype"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Ever since “The Blair Witch Project” startled unsuspecting audiences when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival before going on to become a massive game-changing hit nearly twenty years ago, critics and audiences have flocked to the major film festivals in the hopes of coming across a previously unheralded genre item that they can instantly hype in the hopes of getting in on the ground floor if it winds up becoming a big success as well. Sure, there have been some occasional gems along the way—take such recent knockouts as “The Babadook,” “It Follows” and “Raw” that managed to more than live up to their hype, there have been far too many that were praised to the skies in the heat of the moment by people looking for the Next Big Thing only to look overrated at best and ludicrous at worst when viewed in a properly oxygenated atmosphere and without having already sat through five other movies that day beforehand. The latest film along those lines is “Hereditary,” which arrived at this year’s Sundance with a newcomer writer/director, a cast top lined by Toni Colette and Gabriel Byrne—two fine actors but not exactly box-office draws—and a midnight time slot and left with countless raves, including a money quote comparing it favorably to no less of a film than “The Exorcist” itself. It sounds like a classic case of a film that cannot possibly live up to its advance word but even the most cynical of moviegoers will have to admit that this is one that not only lives up to the hype but actually exceeds it. Actually, they may not be ready to do so immediately after seeing it because they will be too shaken to do much of anything. This one is a keeper—an instant genre classic that will almost certainly go down as one of the best and most memorable movies of the year." (more)
"As good as its subject was decent."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2018: All many people will want and need from "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is to be assured that Fred Rogers really was the guy he seemed to be, and to maybe revisit his television house and the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to recapture the feeling of love and understanding and utter lack of irony that they could find for a half hour every day during their youth. Filmmaker Morgan Neville does that and does so with earnest sentimentality but not saccharine nostalgia. So, good job there." (more)
"Punish the parents, punish the kids."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2018: "Tre Maison Dasan" will often be described as a documentary about growing up with at least one parent incarcerated, but it's not quite that: It's about being a kid whose mother or father is in jail, and that's something different. These three boys have too little control over their situations to overcome much, so the audience is placed in a position of mainly watching and trying to understand without much judgment. It's a tricky sort of documentary - the filmmakers can't really want the drama that creates a traditional storyline - but one that often proves engrossing and illuminating." (more)
"Punk enough, but better when it's strange."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Neil Gaiman's gift as a writer is that he can merge the fantastic with a sense of human isolation and, if the audience is receptive to that idea, make a person feel connected to the travails of a lonely god; director John Cameron Mitchell has shown a similar ability to connect with people at the margins. Mitchell adapting a Gaiman story sounds like it should be perfect, but "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" often comes across as having their talents a bit out of sync. Not enough to backfire, but the film only comes fully to life in its strangest moments." (more)
"And you think that mouse you saw the other day was a problem!"
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2018: I went on vacation to New Orleans just a couple months before seeing this movie, and while I would not have made other plans if that sequencing was reversed, just seeing its poster or even an image or two of nutrias might have given me pause, especially when I got to the part about how members of this 20-pound species can make their way up sewer pipes and into toilets. But that's also a big part of the appeal of this documentary: Discovering that there are peculiar and fascinating things not far out of plain sight." (more)
"Another trip into the unseen fringes with the maker of WINTER'S BONE."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2018: It's been far too long since Debra Granik's previous feature, "Winter's Bone", although it's important not to ignore "Stray Dog", the documentary she made a few years ago, which followed a group of veteran bikers, as likely being a major influence on this long-awaited follow-up. Its details echo in this very different story, although not so blatantly that what she and her cast do here ever feels like mere transcription - it's a terrific little film that makes one hope the industry will give her what she needs to make its like more often." (more)
"Ready Player Whannell"
3 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "“Upgrade” tells a story that is constructed from bits and pieces of so many other movies that Netflix could probably successfully petition the WGA for screen credit. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that a film has worn its influences on its sleeve but the better ones—the works of Joe Dante, for example—take those inspirations and run with them in order to turn them into something new and entertaining. This one, on the other hand, is content to merely play as an amalgam of too many movies to count—I can imagine film geeks challenging each other to come up with lists of the most references on display—and for a little while, it does evoke a certain junky charm thanks to its goofball premises, cheerfully low-rent effects and occasionally startling bits of gory excess. After a while, however, the lack of real inspiration begins to work against it and as a result, it runs out of steam long before its souped-up hero does." (more)
"Not as fun as it should be."
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "It’d be nice if a dark comedy called "Game Night" were more … playful. It has a few good laughs, and no shortage of clever little twists." (more)

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