Alan has written 64 reviews for films during 2021.

  • Licorice Pizza

    Licorice Pizza

    ★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    What an absolutely lovely vibe of a movie, which I would have gladly lived in for many more hours than PTA and company chose to give us. Both this and Almost Famous take place in the year I was born, and thus a time I'm too young to remember (though long lines at the gas station remained a problem long enough for me to notice), but each film recreates this moment with such love and specificity that it feels like…

  • The French Dispatch

    The French Dispatch

    Need to think on this one more. Or, rather, I need — and very much want — to see it again . Technique-wise, it may be the most dazzling thing Wes Anderson has done — or, at least, it's an accumulation of all the most visually impressive things he's done in his previous films, and just a pleasure to watch. Substance-wise, the allusions to The New Yorker and its most iconic writers, plus the sheer tonnage of information conveyed in the voiceovers,…

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home

    Spider-Man: No Way Home

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    The final films of the previous two live-action Spider-Man movie franchises both suffered terribly from superhero sequelitis, trying to squeeze in too many villains and too many story concepts. More often than not, when you have two or more villains in these kinds of films, you may as well have no villains, because nobody gets enough screen time to properly establish themselves. (The rare exception: Batman Returns, though it's arguable how much of a villain Catwoman is in that one.)…

  • Space Cowboys

    Space Cowboys

    ★★★

    Funny to think that the plot of this movie is nearly identical to Armageddon (but not, oddly enough, to Deep Impact). And also to think that 20 years after Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland played elderly astronauts, they did it again in Ad Astra. As for this one, it’s a likable and watchable movie, but kind of sloppy in the way Clint movies can sometimes get. (Among other minor things that still bug me: how is there not a better payoff to James Garner’s difficulty delivering homilies?)

  • Stagecoach

    Stagecoach

    ★★★★

    I love westerns, but somehow never saw this one before today. For that matter, I realize that other than Seven Sinners (which I watched ages ago on a Marlene Dietrich kick), I’d never seen a movie where John Wayne was a relatively young man. (My next earliest: The Quiet Man.) My god, to see him in his physical prime is to understand far more deeply how and why he became a star than I did from watching his classics from…

  • Hidden Figures

    Hidden Figures

    ★★★½

    A great story turned into a pretty good — and very likable — movie.

  • 2010

    2010

    ★★★½

    Here is my most heretical film opinion: I prefer 2010: The Year We Make Contact to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Let me clarify. 2001 is an objective masterpiece, one of the most ambitious, technically brilliant, thematically rich, and influential movies ever made. I acknowledge all of this, but I have never enjoyed watching it, in large part because I generally need characters to invest in on some level, and the most human figure in all of 2001 is HAL 9000.…

  • The Beatles: Get Back

    The Beatles: Get Back

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    For decades, Let It Be was the most famous music documentary nobody could see. Michael Lindsay-Hogg's legendarily dark chronicle of The Beatles' recording of what would become their final album (even if they recorded Abbey Road afterwards) has more recently become available online in low-res bootleg rips of the VHS version that was on sale briefly in the 80s. Mostly, though, the Let It Be film exists more as legend than fact — a legend in which the Fab Four…

  • Ad Astra

    Ad Astra

    This is an interesting one that I felt a bit cool towards as I watched it, but which I've been thinking about a lot since, and thinking more highly of as a result. Technically, it's stunning, but also very muted and leans so heavily on the estranged father angle that I'm surprised Damond Lindelof didn't at least have a shared story credit. But the more I thought about it, and read various pieces talking about the ways it's as much…

  • Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

    Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story

    ★★½

    We really enjoyed Jason Scott Lee in the first season of Doogie Kamealoha, M.D., inspiring me to revisit Dragon for the first time in forever. What a strange movie! Lee is fantastic, and in a more progressive Hollywood, this would have made him a star (or at least given him opportunities to become one with a better film). The movie's big conceit is to treat Bruce Lee's life as if it were a Bruce Lee movie, with Lee stumbling into…

  • Casino Royale

    Casino Royale

    ★★★★

    The Screen Drafts eps on James Bond inspired me to finally revisit Craig’s debut in its entirety for the first time in forever, rather than just rewatching the Parkour chase, or the collapsing house sequence, or James and Vesper’s first conversation. To my amusement, I realized I’d utterly forgotten about the existence of the Miami airport, which is one of the bigger set pieces the series had done to that point! It hangs together as a whole movie better than…

  • Gravity

    Gravity

    ★★★★

    Rarely have I seen a film that feels so different at home than in the theater. Even something like Lawrence of Arabia maintains a lot of its majesty if I watch it on a big enough TV here, whereas a lot of the immersive nature of this one went away when viewing it here (and without 3D, for that matter). It’s still a technical marvel, Bullock is still great, and it still makes space seem terrifying. Just not nearly as terrifying as the last time I watched it, back on initial release.