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Unhappy Death Day

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Tobias Höiem-Flyckt/Dark Star Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Koko-di Koko-da (2020)

It’s not often that a movie truly lives up to its horror billing. Sure you get scares, thrills and women being mistreated in the most unspeakable of ways, but it’s rare that you are made to feel as if you are in an interminable nightmare. This Swedish oddity, about three lives which are wrecked while on holiday in Denmark, does exactly this. It’s awful to watch, and not in a good way.

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Disinfo Wars

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Patti Perret/Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
The Hunt (2020)

After President Donald Trump personally “canceled” it in a tweet, “The Hunt” was abruptly bumped from its Sept. 27, 2019, release date indefinitely — until now. Its premise involves a group of “woke” “libtards” declaring open season on “deplorables” and kidnapping a dozen of them. That’s basically its plot: The "elites” pick off the conspiritards one by one in gory detail over a bogus conspiracy dubbed “Manorgate” until a few escape and strike back in similarly gory detail. The end.

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Necronomicon Air

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NonStop Entertainment

MOVIE REVIEW
Color Out of Space (2020)

If you’re going to return to making feature films after 27 years away, you might as well pick up where you left off. The opening credits of “Color Out of Space” have Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) carrying out a Wicca ritual, appealing to the angels to take care of her mother, and the words "Directed by Richard Stanley" appear over a close-up of the antique compass in her hand. Back in 1992 Mr. Stanley’s previous feature, "Dust Devil," started with another pilgrim looking at a hand-held totem; but then the figure was a supernatural serial killer and the item was a pocket watch going backwards. And back before that, the credits of “Hardware” ended with a post-apocalyptic scavenger dressed in the very 1990 boho-gothic style of Carl McCoy from the band Fields of the Nephilim (for it was he) holding another battered compass in equal close-up, although the credits on-screen at that exact instant are the freighted names of Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Three films, three nomads, looking at three antique analogue icons for some signal from a cosmos that shows every sign of being otherwise engaged.

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La même Nikita

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Bernard Walsh/Paramount Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
The Rhythm Section (2020)

The Broccolis, whose Eon Productions holds film rights to Ian Fleming’s lucrative James Bond franchise, are probably keen on turning Mark Burnell’s Stephanie Patrick novels into their next cash cow, but “The Rhythm Section” plays out more like “La Femme Nikita” than “Dr. No.” Blake Lively channels Anne Parillaud as Stephanie Patrick, a junkie prostitute trained into a deadly assassin under the Tchéky Karyo-esque hard-bitten Jude Law. She then trots the globe to hunt in exotic locales replete with sand roads and teal walls and colorful parrots chirping for the terrorists responsible for murdering her entire family.

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A Loose Screw

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Patrick Redmond/Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
The Turning (2020)

It’s difficult to imagine “The Turning,” Universal Pictures’s newest throwaway in the January trash heap following the dismally reviewed “Cats” and “Dolittle,” being worse than those two debacles. Indeed, music video auteur Floria Sigismondi’s first film since indie gem “The Runaways” a decade ago could pass as respectable if not for its utterly impenetrable final minutes.

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Creep Dive

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Twentieth Century Fox

MOVIE REVIEW
Underwater (2020)

A remarkably late addition to Fox’s 1980s sci-fi canon, “Underwater” finally surfaces some three years since the completion of principal photography. To be sure, the studio has never gotten out of the B-picture business entirely, but for the past few decades its niche pipeline has been mostly outsourced to Eurotrashy outfits like Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, resulting in more bargain actioners like “Taken” while the low-budget sci-fi well ran dry in favor of . . . James Cameron’s other preoccupations.

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Girls Tripped

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Eli Joshua Ade/Paramount Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Like a Boss (2020)

Miguel Arteta’s distinctive directorial style could, depending on the film, be seen as either auteuristic or indicative of a limited range. He is at his most memorable, for better or worse, when his characters walk the line of childlike naiveté and mental imbalance à la “Chuck & Buck” and the recent “Duck Butter.” “Like a Boss,” only the second studio film in Mr. Arteta’s two-decades-plus career, retains this intangible indie/sitcomesque sensibility in spite of the raunchiness promised by his star Tiffany Haddish.

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They Shall Not Grow Dull

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François Duhamel/Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
1917 (2019)

Alfred Hitchcock pulled it off in 1948 with “Rope.” Regarding “1917,” Paul Schrader wrote on Facebook: “The ‘one shot film’ is no longer an innovation. It has its own Wikipedia entry. The question is no longer ‘how did they do that shot?’ but ‘why did they do that shot?’ ”

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Taxied to the Dark Side

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Jonathan Olley/Lucasfilm

MOVIE REVIEW
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The first three words in the crawl are "The dead speak!"

Other critics can talk about how the movie looks awful – the reliance on CGI and seizure-inducing light effects doesn't make up for its feeling of flatness. Others can tell you how the camera swooshing around constantly is supposed to provide big emotions. Others can tell you that the death of Carrie Fisher apparently killed all the ideas the film apparently had for its climatic 40-year resolution of this fight between good and evil, but that did not stop them using her likeness (body doubles, CGI superimposed on footage with poor Daisy Ridley, and yes, full CGI again) to make it appear she was part of this. And if that was the only way the dead spoke, it would almost – almost – have been bearable.

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Suffering Succotash

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Universal Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Cats (2019)

There is nothing wrong per se with musicals, but Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh have been rubbish. With that out of the way, any big-screen adaptions of their work can be afforded some leeway to be judged independently of flaws inherent in the source materials. Regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Webber’s 1981 West End production, “Cats,” Tom Hooper’s expensive version feels like belling the cat. A musical of course necessitates the suspension of disbelief, but Mr. Hooper seems never to have quite made up his mind on whether to approach the material with theatrics or realism and winds up with something the cat dragged in.

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