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"School’s Out"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Perhaps in response to criticism that their output was becoming dominated by sequels to proven successes instead of the original works that made them a brand name in contemporary animation, the last two releases from Pixar, “Onward” and “Soul,” were undeniably ambitious works that grappled with weighty issues, including coming to terms with death and what it means to have a soul, in smart and intelligent ways. The only problem is that while it was easy enough to admire those films, it was much tougher actually like them because they were trying so hard to do something different that they never quite figured out how to make themselves entertaining at the same time. Their latest effort, “Luca,” is nowhere near as thematically ambitious as its predecessors—at least on the surface—but what it may lack in that area, it makes up for in terms of basic entertainment value by telling a charming, small-scale in a bright, colorful and ultimately endearing manner." (more)
"A.K.A. This Movie Can F--- Itself!"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Last week saw the release of “In the Heights,” a film that almost seemed to have been designed specifically to lure moviegoers back into the multiplex after a long pandemic-inspired hiatus with a riot of humor, drama and music presented in a manner so exciting and energetic that viewers will be instantly reminded of the glory of seeing a top-notch movie presented in all of its big-screen glory. This week, on the other hand, sees the release of “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” a film that seems to have been created as part of a diabolical plot to convince people to stay at home and never return to theaters again. I suppose there is a chance that a worse film than this one could come along sometime in the next six months but if another one somehow comes along that demonstrates a greater contempt for both the cinema as a whole and its audience than this one does, I may have to begin contemplating a career change of my own." (more)
"Not a great introduction, but likely a blast for fans."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... ""Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train" is not the biggest pandemic hit at the American box office, but it has sold a lot more tickets than movies that have had a lot more play in the media, even those sites dedicated to the "geek beat". That's understandable - even if an outlet wants to talk about it, there's a lot of catching up to do, a lot of work for something that may be a flash in the pan - but maybe short-sighted. This is a big deal, even if the movie itself may feel like a two-part episode of an animated series stretched way out to feature length to those of us jumping in for the first time." (more)
"On The Town"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "In recent years, it has become evident that the most important sequence in most movie musicals is almost always the first big production number. While audiences were once perfectly satisfied with characters suddenly bursting into song and dance, the perception these days is that while that may be fine on stage, some viewers are not willing to accept such things in the ostensibly more realistic world of film. Therefore, the first number is key because it not only theoretically sets the tone for what is to follow but it also serves as an indication as to the mindsets of the filmmakers—are they going to play timid and try to conceptually rationalize the singing and dancing in order to satisfy uncertain viewers or are they just going to go for it and embrace those conventions wholeheartedly on the assumption that moviegoers will be willing to join them." (more)
"An unusual love story under an eccentric satire."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED VIA INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL BOSTON 2021: If "Strawberry Mansion" is not specifically what the average movie with deadpan surrealism and kitchen-table production design is going for, it is nevertheless one of the best recent examples of such things. It's lo-fi sci-fi that takes its silliness seriously, having fun with its clever story but seldom feeling like the filmmakers are amusing themselves at the expense of the audience." (more)
"Horse Things."
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "I must confess that my memories of the 2002 film “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” are fairly hazy at best but that it at least made an effort to try to do something different from the other animated films of the time—it eschewed the rage for CGI animation by going the traditional route and while the heroic horse at the center was voiced by Matt Damon, that voice was only meant for us to hear his innermost thoughts as this was not a talking animal film. If I didn’t care for it that much, that probably has more to do with my general disinterest in horse-based narratives (with the exceptions of “The Black Stallion” and “A Day at the Races,” of course) that with the film itself (though I could have lived without the Bryan Adams songs on the soundtrack) and if I had to put it up against the other animated output by Dreamworks, I would certainly take it over most to all of the “Shrek” films. The film was not a success in theaters but fifteen years later, Dreamworks elected to reboot it in 2017 with the television series “Spirit: Riding Free” and has now brought that show to the big screen with “Spirit Untamed,” a film that evidently retells the origin story of that show with slightly better animation, more familiar names among the voice cast and little in the way of anything resembling genuine imagination or originality." (more)
"They're Coming To Disenfranchise You, Barbara"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "In 1973, a Pittsburgh-based Lutheran group decided to produce an educational film that would highlight the perils of ageism and expose the harsh and cruel ways in which the elderly members of society are treated once they are no longer deemed to be useful. To accomplish this, they, in what was either a moment of genius, sheer insanity or hometown boosterism gone wildly awry, recruited George Romero, who had caused a sensation a few years earlier with his debut feature, a little thing by the name of “Night of the Living Dead.” Unfortunately, he lost the copyright to that cinematic landmark and the failures of his subsequent features “There’s Only Vanilla” (1971) , “Season of the Witch” (1972) and “The Crazies” (1973) left him in a position where he welcomed such a seemingly unlikely offer. He went off, did the film, entitled “The Amusement Park,” and when he turned it in to the producers, they decided that it was far too intense and horrifying for their target audience and refused to release it." (more)
"Essential for Romero fans; all others beware."
4 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "The prospect of a “lost film” from George A. Romero (1940-2017), director of "Night of the Living Dead" and its several sequels, may sound as mouthwatering to you as it did to me. A word of warning, though: don’t let anyone overhype it for you." (more)
"Dead from the neck up."
2 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "It’d be nice if Athena Perample got a career bump from Zack Snyder’s mediocrity at length "Army of the Dead."" (more)
"Cruel Intentions"
1 stars
alejandroariera says... "“Cruella de Vil, Cruella de Vil, if she doesn’t scare you, nothing evil will.” Who would have thought that Mel Leven’s original song would prove to be so prophetic? For “Cruella,” Disney’s latest so-called reimagining of its vast library of characters and stories, defangs the “101 Dalmatians” villainess that was so perfectly voiced by Betty Lou Gerson in the original 1961 animated classic and snarkily brought to life by a fabulously campy Glenn Close in the 1996 live remake and its 2000 sequel, “102 Dalmatians.” Given Cruella’s penchant for skinning puppies and turning them into coats, the character lends itself perfectly for an almost gothic dark comedy. But as directed by Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”) and written by not one but FIVE writers —script by Tom McNamara and Dana Fox from a story by Aline Brosch McKenna, Kelly Marcel and Steve Zissis— “Cruella” is the kind of origin story that literally takes you to the very beginning: the future villainess’ actual birth. It quickly goes downhill from there." (more)

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