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"'Ai' means love, but, well..."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Despite being one of those Japanese films that not only never actually seems to circle back around to the flash forward where it starts but has no spot where that scene would fit - with a more pointed opening than most films that do that - "Love and Other Cults" works in large part because, even with the jumps and changes it features, there's a sad inevitability of things getting to that point, that there's no way for its lost girl to avoid the situation she finds herself in at the start. And like a lot of those very same movies, the path that gets everyone to a depressing place is often not just darkly funny, but even exhilarating." (more)
"Big stars, legendary criminals."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "A large part of the buzz I saw on "Chasing the Dragon" was that it featured Donnie Yen in a role that was more "acting" than "action", but even though we know he's playing a character called "Crippled Ho", rest assured, he does a fair amount of punching and kicking in the first act. The rest of the film has a similar sort of stated ambition that ultimately delivers more conventional results, but given that the expected result is a Hong Kong crime movie with plenty of fistfighting and gunplay, that's not a bad fallback." (more)
"Note quite so go-for-broke as its title, but still pretty funny."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Mahua, the comedy troupe behind "Never Say Die", is not terribly well known outside of China - you'll forgive me if I mess up names because it is frustratingly difficult to find an English-language site that matches actors to characters - but they're a funny group whose last movie ("Goodbye Mr. Loser") may have made me laugh more than any other comedy from Mainland China. Their follow-up is only that funny in fits and starts, but it's got enough hilarious moments to recommend, especially since it seldom truly flops." (more)
"See it, don't eat it."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "“In Soviet Russia, sandwich eats you!” is not a joke featured in the retro sci-fi/horror tribute "Inhumanwich!" (pronounced IN-hyoo-MAN-wich), but there are plenty of other jokes." (more)
"More Human Than Human--At Least More Human Than "Arrival""
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I cannot easily think of another film in recent years that has filled me with such equal amounts of anticipation and trepidation as “Blade Runner 2049,” the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult classic that has overcome its initial critical and financial drubbing to become one of the most celebrated and influential sci-fi films of all time. On the one hand, it is a film that I have pretty much adored ever since I first encountered it as a kid 35 years ago and to be able to dive once again into the futuristic noir environment that Phillip K. Dick envisioned on the page and which Ridley Scott brought brilliantly to life is an undeniably enticing notion, especially with the original film’s star, Harrison Ford, back for more in the latest stop of his recent encore tour of his most iconic roles. On the other hand, the original film was just about perfect as is (although it may have taken a couple of decades and several recuts before Scott finally worked out all the kinks) and to continue it after so much time seemed to be redundant at best and pointless at worst—after all, when was the last time that any of you gave much thought to “2010”? My other major qualm with the film came when it was announced that while Scott would be participating as a producer and original co-writer Hampton Fancher would be one of the screenwriters, the directing chores were being handed off to Denis Villeneuve, the absurdly overrated man behind “Prisoners,” “Sicario” and “Arrival,” films which do have their supporters but which have struck as ridiculously overblown and pretentious genre films made with some style but no idea of how to tell a straightforward story, especially in regards to wrapping them up. The announcement that the deeply annoying Jared Leto would be playing a key role as well did not exactly help matters either, especially after it was recently revealed that one of the people discussed for the part that he played was none other than the late David Bowie." (more)
"Like little else out there, by (inevitable) design."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Laplace's Demon" is the sort of movie that feels like a throwback until you try and remember just what it's throwing back to. After all, when movies had this sort of look, not many people were actually making this sort of sci-fi/horror; the crisp monochrome photography, ornate setting, and trickily-mounted set pieces were too much for genre productions unless they got to shoot one the not-yet-disassembled set of a classier film. Like the films made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, these films are speculative fiction in terms of style as well as story, though this nifty film is contemporary in its setting." (more)
"Wonderfully strange and impressively mutable."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If nothing else, you've got to respect the very existence of an independently-made stop-motion animated sci-fi film that runs almost two hours. That thing is a labor of love that had one person exercising both amazing creativity and incredible patience. In this case, it looks like he started from an initial short, but that takes little away from the finished product, a dystopian odyssey where even the surface-dwelling human explorer is as changeable as the world around him after his quest to learn about the clone workforce underneath immediately goes awry." (more)
"Flying High"
3 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With its combination of prodigious amounts of guns and drugs, a relentlessly kinetic visual style and a jam-packed soundtrack that seems to resist bursting into “Gimme Shelter” only by a Herculean display of self-restraint—pretty much the only areas that demonstrates even trace amounts of such a thing—“American Made” is a film that seems to have been custom-made to inspire reviews that will compare it to the films of Martin Scorsese. On those superficial levels, it probably does deserve some comparison to such classics as “Goodfellas,” “Casino” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” However, those films also contained a certain degree of irony and moral inquiry that served as the ultimate price for all the over-the-top fun and games and which kept them from coming across merely as celebrations of the bad behaviors that they depicted in such intense detail, even if some observers did their best to overlook those aspects. Those details are exactly what are missing from “American Made” and it is their absence that makes what could have been a fascinating exploration of an especially combustible collision of drugs, corruption and America’s misadventures in Central America in the 1980s into a frustratingly glib celebration of bad behavior that has some entertaining moments here and there but which feels less like a lost Scorsese classic and more like the second coming of the late Ted Demme." (more)
"Must be seen for itself and argued with."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "“Words cannot describe,” said a man loudly in the theater, “what we just saw.”" (more)
"This sort of easy-money job is never as easy as it looks."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: As much as I suspected going in that this would be a fairly grimy, no-nonsense crime movie, I wasn't necessarily prepared for how little it sends to have going on aside from getting things into position and then getting people killed. That sort of seeming nihilism can be as much feature as bug - a lot of crime stories are about how the big score can seem like the only solution - although it's not necessarily a point that the filmmakers seem to be trying to make here." (more)

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