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LATEST REVIEWS
KNIFE+HEART
"Queer and killer."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 21: "Knife+Heart" is a slasher set against a backdrop of gay porn in 1979 Paris and it's just as lurid as it sounds, which means it is not for everyone. It is top-notch as those go, clever and sometimes surprisingly emotional considering that it's also often well over the border of camp. There isn't much like it, and most of what is doesn't pull it off nearly so well." (more)
BOOKSMART
"Top honors."
5 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Booksmart" is a loud enough from the start to get those in the audience old enough to be its characters' parents cranky, but that is perhaps the way it should be, even with kids who don't initially seem the type. It earns that noise, though, growing into a tremendously funny movie that manages the neat trick of getting friendlier and bigger-hearted even as it gets sharper (and stranger) as it goes. Even us uncool old people should be having a ball by the end." (more)
DARK PHOENIX
"Not Exactly A Dazzler"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When they first started making “X-Men” movies nearly 20 years ago, my basic problem with them was that I could never quite keep track of the various characters or their individual abilities were—by the time they got to their inevitable conclusions featuring hordes of oddly costumed oddballs whomping the crap out of each other with their vaguely defined skill sets, I was too busy trying to remember who they were to get involved in what was happening. Over the next two decades there have been nearly a dozen sequels, prequels and spinoffs, all of which I have seen, and while I would not claim to be a fan of the franchise, there have been a couple of entries that I have liked (such as “X-Men: First Class,” “The Wolverine” and the admittedly overrated “Logan”) and I think that I finally have a grasp on at least the core characters and their abilities (although I would probably still do better on a quiz on the names and abilities of Taylor Swift’s squad in the “Bad Blood” video). Now, with the advent of the latest—and reportedly last, at least in the current iteration—installment, “Dark Phoenix,” my problem is not so much that I do not know who the characters are any more as much as it is the fact that I no longer care. This is a wheezy and lazy retread of familiar material—especially so in this case—that seems to have been made by people with nothing more on their minds than a massive box-office haul for people who will unquestioningly go to anything, no matter how lame, that involves the X-Men in some way and it is hard to believe that even they would be satisfied with the results this time around." (more)
ROCKETMAN (2019)
"Plays the hits."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "That "Rocketman" is a biography made with the full participation of it subject is a little less concerning than it is in other cases; Elton John has seldom shied away from shied away from admitting he can be a complete mess. Indeed, some of his stories of his early career verge on black comedy, and this movie is at its best when it catches that vibe - a life of extremes that is often kind of ridiculous in its details. It doesn't always manage that, but it does often enough to be, by turns, an entertaining musical and biography." (more)
NIGHTSHIFTER, THE
"Even dead drug dealers tend to be trouble."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 21: I suppose that once a person finds out that they can converse with corpses, their career is pretty much set - it would be a heck of a waste to be able to do that and work anywhere but the city morgue. From there, it's a matter of whether you think you're on an American TV show or not - if you are, the obvious next step is to start solving murders; otherwise, you may wind up on the sort of path StĂŞnio does here, which is more nastily entertaining than the procedural approach." (more)
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
"a.k.a. Kaijugogo"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Having seen at least a plurality of the 30+ films (a count not including the infamous “Bambi Meets Godzilla”) featuring Godzilla—everyone’s favorite titanic-sized atomic-powered sea monster—since the beast first burst across movie screens in his 1954 debut, I can assure you that they are essentially the cinematic equivalent of a ball park hot dog. Sure, the quality of the ingredients going into them can vary from gourmet to questionable but for the most part, they still manage to come across as reasonably satisfying and one has to work pretty hard to screw one up to the point of indigestibility. For most observers, the artistic low point in the history of the film franchise remains the mammothlyg expensive 1998 American remake by Roland Emmerich that demonstrated virtually no understanding of the appeal of the Godzilla mythos as it transformed it into little more than an extended Taco Bell commercial more notable for the careers that it helped stop dead in their tracks (wither Maria Pitillo) than for the utterly anonymous and poorly visualized mayhem that it offered up to increasingly disgruntled viewers. “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” the latest screen appearance by everyone’s favorite kaiju and a direct sequel to the surprise 2014 American-made “Godzilla,” is not nearly as bad as the Emmerich but there are too many times when it is headed in that direction for comfort. This is a messy, undisciplined and ultimately forgettable work that contains a few fleeting moments of real grace and beauty that are too often subsumed by a script more interested in creating a wholly unnecessary "universe" than in telling a compelling story and extended sequences of wholesale havoc presented in a manner so murky that it is often a challenge to discern what is going on in any given scene." (more)
ALADDIN (2019)
"It's not bad, but won't displace its predecessor."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "A remake of "Aladdin"? Sure, why not. It's been a generation, and even if the point of these movies is for Disney to continue to exploit their catalog in an era where re-releases and home video don't bring in close to what they used to, sometimes it becomes interesting. It's not so much the case here; like most of these live-action cover versions, I'll probably never watch this again while the original is also on my shelf, but it's not exactly a waste of time even if it's not the only family-friendly option at the local theater." (more)
ALL IS TRUE
"Kenneth Branagh's latest Shakespeare film is a bit different from the rest."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It is unlikely that any actor or director working today is as broadly associated with the works of William Shakespeare as Kenneth Branagh, and as a result it is both natural and kind of weird for him to make a movie where he plays the Bard himself - there are horror stories about obsessed fans that start this way! For better or worse, the most off-putting thing about "All Is True" is that, for someone who has consistently found ways to defy the popular idea that Shakespeare's plays are stodgy and archaic, it's almost shocking how dull this movie is. Neither he nor anybody else involved manages to find an angle that brings this story to life." (more)
FUGUE
"Not quite the strange tale it initially seems to be."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It looks like the makers of "Fugue" are going for horror at first, both from the creepy animated titles and the initial tendency to spring hostility on the audience when most will expect something else. It'd be an exciting, against-expectations gambit if director Agnieszka Smoczynska hadn't previously made "The Lure" (a horror-tinged period mermaid musical that was genre-confounding in a different way), but still has exciting potential. It ends up going in a different direction, and while the sincerity it embraces is laudable, it proves to be a somewhat harder path to walk." (more)
ANIARA
"An unusual but fascinating outer-space epic."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The opening credits describe "Aniara" as based on a "space epos" and a line or two at the end seem to call back to the old Viking Sagas, although it is very pointedly not a tale of thrilling adventure. It doesn't quite revel in mundanity or despair, but instead plugs away with a combination of practicality and despair, eventually finding a balance between the two that is much better than one might expect." (more)

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