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LATEST REVIEWS
EXTRA ORDINARY
"Genuinely sweet and funny from start to end."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I suppose movies like "Extra Ordinary" are the domain of the streaming services now, but there should be theaters in every city that show movies like "Extra Ordinary" for relatively cheap, making it easier to experience them with an audience. It is built to be a cheap and memorable date, with plenty to make the audience smile, and even if someone somehow doesn't like it, it's just off-kilter enough to let you talk about how screwy it was." (more)
DANIEL ISN'T REAL
"Not a particularly interesting demon or delusion."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The trouble with using supernatural horror as a way to examine real-world issues is that while the metaphor may be pretty good, inevitably, someone has to bring up the thing you're trying to talk about on its own, usually before committing to one direction or the other, and for some in the audience, that makes the direction you go a disappointment. Like, dealing with schizophrenia can be scary, and demonic possession is just silly made-up stuff in comparison. I suppose it can go the other way, too." (more)
MIDSOMMAR
"One hell of a quantum leap from Aster's debut."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Whether it was curiosity or masochism that led me to 'Midsommar,' the second feature by Ari Aster, I’m grateful to whichever it was." (more)
BLOOD ON HER NAME
"An exceptionally well-constructed small-town noir."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Film noir has always tended to take place in the cities, whether because it makes for better shadows or because people have some revisionist image in their head where small towns are the "real America" compared to the places where individual acts of corruption can be large enough to be visible, but there's plenty of opportunity to be found elsewhere." (more)
PARASITE (2019)
"Once Upon A Time In South Korea"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho has made a name for himself throughout the world with a series of films that have combined bizarre humor, social commentary and a cheerful willingness to take classic genre tropes and twist them around in wildly unexpected ways. This has resulted in a number of great films over the year—the true-life serial killer investigation “Memories of Murder” (2003), the “Godzilla”-inspired monster movie epic “The Host” (2006) and the elaborate train-based dystopian sci-fi saga “Snowpiercer” (2013)—and even on the rare occasions when he has slipped—I confess to not being much of a fan of his odd “E.T.” riff “Okja” (2017)—his mistakes have at least had the good manners to be as ambitious as his successes. With his latest film, “Parasite,” he has managed to top not just himself but practically every other movie to come out this year. Arriving in town on a wave of hype that began when it won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, expectations could not have been higher but this film somehow manages to exceed them without even seeming to break a sweat with a one-of-a-kind combination of keenly felt drama and sly social satire that is already a master class in contemporary filmmaking before it shifts narrative gears in ways that need to see to be believed. (I will try to keep my specific points regarding the narrative in this review to as much of a spoiler-free minimum as possible but it is best if you go in knowing as little as possible.)" (more)
AMERICAN FIGHTER
"Good clean underground cage fighting."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "American Wrestler" is, I'm told, a more or less autobiographical story of an immigrant who came to America in the 1970s and integrated through sports, but this sequel isn't what happened next. It's what could have happened, if things had gone a bit differently, and for all that this particular alternate history is capably produced and enjoyable enough if you go for this particular genre, I kind of wonder why you'd stay so close to such a standard template if free to make up a whole new set of circumstances." (more)
MOON IN THE HIDDEN WOODS, THE
"An interesting if uneven animated fantasy from Korea."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: South Korea has been a spot where the frame-by-frame grinding out of animation is done for a long time, but has seldom been a place where notable animation is initiated; I cannot remember a Korean animated feature getting much notice since "Wonderful Days" (aka "Sky Blue") fifteen years ago. "The Moon in the Hidden Woods" probably won't be the one that remedies this; it looks rougher than theatrical animation from other countries and while imaginative, the storytelling leaves something to be desired." (more)
HOMEWRECKER (2019)
"Some hosts just won't let go."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Beware being too drawn in by descriptions, because while the way this movie was listed as being a lesson about being too polite and accommodating, that's actually just the hook; eventually, other things have to push the movie forward, and it never works quite so well as a story driven by specific intent than a riff on a lunatic who preys on good intentions. The less random it becomes, the harder it has to work." (more)
GEMINI MAN
"Too interesting to ignore, too difficult to embrace."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "It's a testament to the core idea of "Gemini Man" - both in terms of being something that would be fun for audiences to see on-screen and the foundation on which you can build a solid story - that work on it never really stopped over the past twenty-odd years, long enough to have originally been planned with Tony Scott directing Harrison Ford (or at least, those are the earliest names I can recall being attached) and the necessary visual effects technology just out of reach. The gestation period has been just long enough for its gimmick to go from revolutionary to almost commonplace, with the script probably being revised just enough times to sand a few too many rough edges off but still have the film remain interesting." (more)
PAIN AND GLORY
"Ocho y medio"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "It is always a bit disconcerting to come to the realization that the filmmakers who first burst onto the scene as iconoclasts determined to break free of established cinematic conventions and forge their own distinct paths have become the established voices whose newer works now take on a classical feel. Take the career of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, for example. When he first emerged in the early 80s with such brash and provocative hybrids of comedy and melodrama as “Matador,” “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” and the international breakthrough “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” he forged a unique and audacious personal vision and even if one did not necessarily respond to it (and I confess that I was one of those people for a long time), it nevertheless could not be denied. As time went on and his reputation grew, his films took on a new and more decidedly mature tone as each one was increasingly looked upon as an event. At one point, he even set out to make a film that deliberately evoked his wilder early works but the end result, “I’m So Excited,” was so dire that it almost served to prove that you can’t go home again after all, at least cinematically. With his latest work, the elegiacal “Pain and Glory,” he has turned his camera inward for a deeply, almost painfully, personal work that mines themes that he has explored in the past but in a more disarmingly direct and undeniably effective and moving manner than he has ever deployed before" (more)

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