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"Nothing But The Truth"
4 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "As I am assuming you all know by this point, pretty much every movie that I have covered since around mid-March is one that I have reviewed off of my television or computer from the confines of my lightly fortified bunker. While I would almost always prefer to see a film in a theater as opposed to on a much smaller screen, this adjustment has been relatively easy to make since the big-ticket movies that truly require the full big-screen experience have all been delayed until further notice and the ones that have emerged have not really lost all that much as a result of the diminished size of their presentations. (In the case of a listless clunker like Kenneth Branagh’s disastrous fantasy “Artemis Fowl,” the decision to premiere it via streaming may have saved Disney millions of dollars and an untold amount of embarrassment.) In the case of “The Outpost,” we have the first new movie in several months that clearly needs to be seen on the big screen in order to get the full concussive impact of director Rod Lurie’s attempt to recreate a particular harrowing 2009 battle between US forces and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And yet, the film has been made with such skill and dignity that its impact still manages to come across despite the greatly reduced circumstances under which most people will be experiencing it." (more)
"Not just another troubling teacher/student story."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "The makers of "The Audition" don't exactly hide what's really going on at any point, but it is nevertheless fascinating because it is not, by and large, the teacher/student story that it initially appears to be. That is there but it's just one facet of what's going on, and the one which often seems least important, giving the filmmakers a lot of room to explore the other things which tend to be going on around this type of story" (more)
"Tough to steal scenes at the center of the movie."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "I love Bill Nighy even when he's in an awful movie, in large part because his screen persona is one seemingly built to steal scenes. It leads him to the sort of part that a good actor can give nuance in those brief moments, but there sometimes seems to be a limit to how far those parts can be stretched when placed at a movie's center. "Sometimes Always Never" is the result of stretching that sort of appeal just far enough to not break; it could do more and hit harder, but it seldom makes a genuinely wrong step." (more)
"It Is Not A Good Kindergarten Cop Clone"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Once upon a time—about thirty years ago, to be exact—a movie by the name of “Kindergarten Cop” came out that asked the question “What would happen if you took the biggest action movie star in the world—Arnold Schwarzenegger in this case—and put him in a vehicle that included all the standard thriller beats but also included scenes of him acting opposite little kids as a way of widening his fan base to include family audiences?” As it turns out, you got a good-sized hit—albeit one that may have miffed some parents when it proved to contain more straightforward action than the kid-friendly ads suggested—that would prove to be a template that any number of action stars would find themselves adhering to at least once in order to widen their own audiences, some more effectively than another. (It would be hard to ascribe any one film as being the nadir of Burt Reynolds’ somewhat uneven career, but “Cop and a Half” (1993) comes as close as any of them.) “My Spy,” in which the hulking Dave Bautista takes a whack at the format, may not be the worst film to be made along these particular lines (that one where John Cena was babysitting some kids at a fire station—a film whose title I refuse to expend any energy on looking up—was pretty ripe) but it might go down as the least inspired of the bunch from the shameless way that it cribs from its predecessor throughout." (more)
"a.k.a. Will Ferrell's Waterloo"
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "The Eurovision Song Contest is a yearly competition in which over 50 eligible countries, mostly European-based, submit a homegrown act to perform an original song before an enormous audience in the hopes that they will be determined the winner. The contest has been running since 1956 (although this year’s edition was cancelled due to coronavirus fears) and a number of the participants have indeed gone on to international fame, such as contestants Lulu, Nana Mouskouri, Julio Iglesias and Olivia Newton-John and winners Celine Dion and ABBA, whose 1974 victory launched them into instant superstardom. With the combination of slick music, glitzy-gaudy costumes and high drama, the contest would seem to be a natural subject for an entertaining film. Perhaps one will eventually come along and “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” can be forgotten even quicker than it deserves to be. The latest misfire from Will Ferrell, this is a weirdly leaden botch of a film that has no discernible comedic point or purpose, inexplicably goes on forever and produces only a couple of mild and very scattered laughs amidst a seemingly endless array of dead spots." (more)
"Not Quite."
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "When Jon Stewart made his big-screen debut as a writer-director with “Rosewater” (2015), it surprised many observers who went into presumably expecting a cinematic variation of the kind of sardonic political humor that he became famous for on television with “The Daily Show” and discovered that it was a an earnest and serious-minded true-life drama about the ordeal of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian journalist who was arrested and brutally interrogated for 118 days on suspicion of being a spy based on a comedic interview he did for a 2009 “Daily Show” segment. The resulting film was uneven at times but it was made with a genuine sense of anger and earnestness, not to mention the unmistakable feeling that this was a story that, perhaps out of guilt, he was absolutely compelled to make. However, my guess is that his fans felt a sense of relief when it was announced that his follow-up film would be the kind of thing that they were presumably hoping to see from him the first time around—a straightforward satire of the current American political scene that would, as a bonus, reunite him with his former TV colleague Steve Carrell for good measure. Yes, “Irresistible” will definitely remind one of the old days of “The Daily Show”—unfortunately, the days in question are the ones when Craig Kilborn ruled the roost and the humor was laced with a certain unmistakable smugness. The result is the kind of film that Stewart himself might have righteously smoked on his show for pulling its punches and favoring humor that is more toothless than biting." (more)
"Never finds a proper identity."
2 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Telling a horror story or thriller from the point of view of the monster is often an intriguing idea, but one that requires a little more care than writer/director Justin McConnell takes with "Lifechanger", although that's not its only issue. The exciting high concepts of its shape-shifting plot and the practical limitations of the production keep running into each other, and it's easy to lose patience by the time it gets to the clever bit." (more)
"Listed in order of interest."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "Sylvester Stallone has optioned "The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil" for an American remake intended to return Ma Dong-Seok to the title role, even though it's the sort of part that he would be smart to snag for himself. On the other hand, it's also a sign that he's smart enough to see what made a movie work and not mess with it: The high concept in this movie isn't bad, but the star is the best reason to see it." (more)
"Stirfry of Echoes"
3 stars
Lybarger says... "Unlike a lot of other writes who have stepped into the director’s chair, David Koepp has demonstrated he consistently belongs there." (more)
"Panic Rooms"
2 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "Back in 1999, writer-director David Koepp and actor Kevin Bacon teamed up to make “Stir of Echoes,” a modest-but-effective adaptation of Richard Matheson’s supernatural thriller about an ordinary man who finds himself plagued by inexplicable and increasingly haunting visions that seem prepared to harm him and his family. Twenty-one years later, the two have reunited to make “You Should Have Left,” an adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann’s supernatural thriller about an ordinary man who finds himself plagued by inexplicable and increasingly haunting visions that seem prepared to harm him and his family. Perhaps they should have limited their reunion to recording a new commentary track for a special edition Blu-Ray of “Stir of Echoes” because their new collaboration is a handsomely mounted but dramatically film that not even their combined professionalism can boost to the level of being mildly interesting." (more)

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