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"It never hurts to remind ourselves that Buster Keaton was a genius."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Is there necessarily much new to learn about Buster Keaton in 2018, a hundred years after his first on-screen successes and ninety after his most fertile period ended? No, not really, although many viewers of Peter Bogdanovich's "celebration" will likely pick up something new to them. It's a good primer by a meticulous student of the medium, and it's worth having one of those come around once in a while to remind people of Keaton's brilliance anew." (more)
ROMA (2018)
"Maybe Cuaron's best, smart and heartfelt and beautiful all at once."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There are those that believe that subtlety is the mark of truly great art, and manipulation is its enemy, but it seems unlikely that Alfonso CuarĂłn is among them, and not just because he has done as much popular, commercial work as art-house material. "Roma" falls into the latter category, and viewers can spend a lot of time teasing out how it works and what its symbols mean, but even without putting that sort of academic effort in, they'll feel what CuarĂłn is saying and be pulled along. It's superficially a piece of film-snob material that anybody can enjoy." (more)
"This combination should be more fun."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "You might reasonably expect a fusion of palace intrigue and supernatural action to be a lot more exciting than "Rampant" turns out to be, or at the very least more crazy. Maybe that's an inevitable peril of setting this sort of horror movie in a time when people mostly believed in demons - they are just not going to yell "what the hell?" when discovering that they're in the middle of this crazy mash-up the way the audience is - but either half could certainly be a better take on its genre." (more)
"Doesn't want to be a 'losers make a big score' movie, can't be otherwise."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Oddly enough, the part of the true story which inspired "Museo" that most seemed to intrigue the people waiting in line for the film - that the artifacts stolen just sat in the thieves' houses for years - doesn't really factor into it; the circumstances that lead to that are important, but it's almost gilding the lily. The point is made without that. And, as the opening credits remind the audience, this is just a "replica of the original" events." (more)
"A voice that says more or less than it seems."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Huh. I have apparently aged to the point where I am incapable of distinguishing pop music from a parody of such. That makes this one difficult to figure; writer/director Brady Corbet gives his story of a pop star's rise and potential stumble a heightened presentation and occasionally absurd details but otherwise plays things almost completely straight, cutting off the easy routes to mockery or earnest appreciation. It's an interesting set-up, but one which often leaves its characters and audience in an in-between spot." (more)
"Big-screen adventure and then some."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "There's a program of adventure sport movies playing a local theater in a week or two - there always seems to be some compilation of movies about people climbing, skiing, surfing, biking, or the like grabbing a screen for a few shows here, if you know where to look - and I'm tempted to catch it not just for the promised thrills but so I have a baseline for what makes movies like "Free Solo" (and the filmmakers' last feature, "Meru") make the jump to the multiplexes. Is it just more grandiose accomplishments, more artistically sophisticated choices by the filmmakers, a better human story, or some combination of them? "Free Solo" certainly belongs on the biggest and best screen one can find for all those reasons - it delivers on the astonishing climax it promises and finds a worthy film in the lead-up." (more)
"It Isn't Just The Wind That Blows Here"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With his raw and undeniable charisma, his unabashedly sexual presence, his ability to command the attention and focus of anywhere he stood, from a recording studio to the stage of the mammoth Live Aid concert, and, of course, that knockout voice that filled arenas throughout the world with a series of raucous anthems that continue to be played and celebrated decades after they were recorded, Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the hugely popular rock band Queen was, even by the oftentimes outlandish world of contemporary music, a performer who could legitimately be considered one of a kind. For anyone trying to put together a biopic centered around Mercury, that leads to the inevitable problem of trying to find someone capable of perfectly emulating all of those aspects that made Mercury stand out amongst his peers while at the same time delivering a convincing dramatic performance. This is no doubt the reason why “Bohemian Rhapsody” took so long to get made—there are precious few actors out there who would even seem to qualify for consideration (I have always thought that the only ideal person would have been the “Rocky Horror”-era Tim Curry) and the ones that might have been able to pull it off—Sacha Baron Cohen reportedly flirted with the part for a while—presumably bailed because of the extremely high risk of failure." (more)
"Don't Try So Hard"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Over the years of my existence, I have seen more permutations of the holiday favorite “The Nutcracker,” ranging from readings of the original E.T.A. Hoffmann short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” to several live productions of the ballet adaptation staged by legendary choreographer Ruth Page to more film versions than I care to recall, including a clinically insane 2010 take that somehow managed to work Nazis, Albert Einstein (played by Nathan Lane, no less) and the augmentation of Tchaikovsky’s legendary music with lyrics by the slightly less immortal Tim Rice and then presented it in exceptionally ugly 3-D to boot. I must confess that I have never particularly cared for the story, regardless of the format—my favorite version is probably the one they did on “SCTV” in which they used it as a framework to skewer the increasingly hacky stylings of a certain comedic genius in an elaborate film parody entitled “Neil Simon’s Nutcracker Suite”—but I have seen enough of them to tell when one isn’t working for me just because of my general antipathy towards the material (such as the Ruth Page productions, which I dutifully attended as family events because my younger brother, perhaps inevitably, adored it) and when one is working because it is just bad. Until now, I would have named that aforementioned version that included Nazis and Einstein (and which also included John Turturro as the Mouse King, as I recall) as the impossible-to-beat nadir but now that I have seen “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” I have to admit that we have a new winner for that deeply dubious title. At least with the one with Einstein, it was of such a screw-loose what-could-they-have-been-thinking? badness that it compelled you to watch, if only to see how much more frothing mad it could get. This one, on the other hand, is such a misshapen lump of ham-fisted “fun” that the mere act of sitting through it becomes actively painful after a while—imagine having a three-ton gumdrop sitting on your lap for 90-odd minutes and you can only begin to fully conjure the horror that this movie inspires." (more)
"Dance Girl Dance"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Even at a time when it seems as if every horror movie with an even vaguely recognizable name has either gone through the remake process or has one waiting in the wings, the announcement that Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece “Suspiria” was going to be getting one was so wildly absurd on every possible level that the news raised more eyebrows than ire among genre buffs. More of a cinematic fever dream than a coherent narrative, the film had a basic story idea—an American ballet student travels off to study at a remote dance academy in Germany that turns out to be the cover for a coven of witches—that it used as a simple laundry line from which to dangle a number of elaborately staged and extravagantly gory set pieces in which unspeakable things happen to the characters. The genius of the film—and I do not use the word “genius” lightly in this context—is that, with its lurid visual style, the throbbing musical score by Goblin and grisly tableaus that suggested the works of Thomas de Quincey as adapted by Sam Peckinpah, Argento created a fever dream of a film that was impossible to watch passively—you truly felt all of the shocks along with the characters and when it was all over, you probably could not explain most of what you had just seen (such as why a ballet school would have a room filled with nothing but barbed wire) but you knew that you had just gone through a true cinematic experience that you would be hard-pressed to forget anytime soon." (more)
"Sounds silly, but unfortunately isn't."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""The Sisters Brothers" is not even a quarter as playful as you might expect it to be from its title, but at times it seems like it's trying to be, a set of eccentric characters guided by a script whose every attempt to be darkly comic only winds up making everything more sad. But even taking that as the filmmakers' true intent or a beneficial side-effect, perhaps the most unfortunate thing to happen is that it's not even a powerful, affecting sadness very often." (more)

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