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LATEST REVIEWS
SECRET GARDEN, THE (2020)
"Think Twice."
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Up until now, there have been no fewer than five film adaptations of “The Secret Garden,” the 1911 novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett that has gone on to become one of the most-beloved classics of children’s literature. Although I cannot say that I have seen all of them, I am a great admirer of the 1993 version from Agnieszka Holland, which was nicely acted, visually striking and boldly embraced the darker themes present in the original text, and the 1949 version with Margaret O’Brien and a young Dean Stockwell is not without interest either. However, there have been enough versions of it over the years (and I am not even counting the various TV and stage adaptations that have cropped up) so that anyone electing to put the story through its paces once again had better find a new angle or approach to the material in order to make it come alive, the sort of thing that Greta Gerwig did to transform her version of “Little Women” into perhaps the definitive adaptation of that often-filmed book. Unfortunately, the result here is a clunky and dispiriting work that just never clicks, especially in the areas where it elects to ignore the text and go its own way with generally dismal results." (more)
STAR WARS EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
"A hollow, disappointing finale, but perhaps not a disastrous one."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I said back during this film's theatrical release that it was probably going to take me a second viewing to decide whether this movie is genuinely bad, with most of what I enjoyed being a Pavlovian reaction to John Williams's score, or just a decent movie that is nevertheless a massive letdown because it follows (and in some ways undermines) the series's best entry in 40 years. It says something that I'm willing to consider that second viewing - it's "Star Wars", and even the messiest and most flawed movies in the franchise have had something to impress - but probably something else that I didn't get around to it while it was still in theaters and instead waited until the home video release was on sale for a reduced price. For a movie that should have been a triumphant finale along the lines of what Disney's Marvel office achieved with "Avengers: Endgame" earlier in the year, it winds up forgettable, and lucky to be so, because it's filled with decisions worth forgetting." (more)
FORCE OF NATURE
"Skip the shit out of it."
1 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Its critical reputation as a racist thriller is a little overstated, but "Force of Nature" is still ten pounds of ass in a five-pound bag." (more)
GREYHOUND
"No-frills, drum-tight, but minor."
3 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Maybe, like me, you’re in just the right mood for something like "Greyhound," a taut, exciting, no-nonsense war movie that weighs in, less the end credits, at one hour and twenty-three minutes." (more)
UNDERCOVER VICE: STRAPPED FOR DANGER PART II
"Griffin does it again."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "At a moment when protesters are being taken away in unmarked vans by feds in camo, it’s a goofy relief to see cops doing nothing more terrible than posing as gay porn actors in "Undercover Vice: Strapped for Danger Part II."" (more)
PAINTED BIRD, THE
"Well-crafted, but a rough sit."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "An intense and prolonged experience about the inhumanity of war, "The Painted Bird" might take its rightful place as the most prestigious endurance test since 1985’s "Come and See."" (more)
RELATIVITY
"Pretty decent, forward and back."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "One of the first scenes in Relativity has doctoral candidate Aron (Julius Feldmeier) defending his thesis on how time's arrow is bidirectional, the future and the past part of larger patterns that can be extrapolated in either direction, which is somewhat fatalistic if you take it as meaning that the universe is a mechanism that has no room for free will. In a way, it serves more as instructions for watching the movie - though I'm not sure whether it means to treat "Relativity" as a puzzle to be solved or to not do that. It may just mean to look at the events as a sort of four-dimensional pattern, with only certain facets visible at once." (more)
AMULET
"Looks the part but doesn't give the audience enough."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's always worth asking what particular thought is the one which drove the creation of a movie. Is it a metaphor, a twist on familiar tropes, a particular image, or scene, or potential performance? Or are people just making movies because it's their job and this keeps them employed? "Amulet" never fully seems to be that, but seldom offers much more than just people doing their jobs in capable but not exactly inspiring fashion." (more)
SECRET, THE: DARE TO DREAM
"BS On The Bayou"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "For those of you who had either forgotten about it or have until now remained blissfully unaware of its existence, “The Secret” was a self-help book by Rhonda Byrne that managed to spawn an entire cottage industry back in the mid-2000s after Oprah Winfrey publicly endorsed it. The popularity certainly wasn’t the result of its underlying thesis, which was little more than reheated Norman Vincent Peale-style piffle about how if you really desire something in life and think really hard about how much you want it, the universe will snap into ask-and-ye-shall-receive mode. After a few years, the craze died down and I had assumed that it vanished to the grand metaphorical closet where all the pop cultural embarrassments of that period are tossed away and quickly forgotten. And yet, for reasons that I am at a loss to explain, along comes “The Secret: Dare to Dream,” a film that takes its inspiration, for lack of a better word, from the book’s teachings, for lack of a better word, and jams them together into a film that also seems like a refugee from about 15 years ago and not just because that was around the last time that one might normally have seen the likes of Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas scoring top billing in a film." (more)
SHE DIES TOMORROW
"The Sun Will Not Come Out. . ."
3 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Amy Seimetz’s “She Dies Tomorrow” is a low-fi horror movie that seems to have everything going for it—a simple but undeniably gripping premise, strong performances across the board, a screenplay that resists succumbing to the usual gene cliches at every turn and a quietly haunting visual style that adds just the right touch of understated dread to the proceedings. And yet, while I admire it for all of those reasons, I found myself unable to really get involved with what was going on as I was watching it. The whole thing is more like an intellectual exercise and while it does work on that particular level, the end result simply left me cold and too far removed from the proceedings." (more)

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