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  • Don Jon

    Don Jon

    ★★★

    I think this got on my list because I saw that Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars, and also wrote and directed. Add in Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore, and I was intrigued. Had no idea what to expect, though.

    Gordon-Levitt is probably a better actor than writer/director, though he did pretty well at both of the latter. This is a very odd kind of coming of age story in romcom clothing. It's hard to actually like any of the characters, except probably…

  • El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

    El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

    ★★★★

    The end of the "Breaking Bad" season finale had Jesse making a howling getaway in an El Camino. We all figured it meant that he was going to be OK, but such assurances don't really exist in the world Vince Gilligan created.

    So all these years later we pick up (after a brief flashback) at exactly that moment and find out what happens with Jesse. The movie plays like an extended "Breaking Bad" episode, which is to say it's very…

  • Joker

    Joker

    ★★★★½

    I just had to sit in the car for a few minutes after leaving the theater, waiting to see if I was going to start crying or not. That's how deep and hard this film hit. If, as I tell my students, cinema's one job is to convey emotions then this is a cinematic tour de force.

    If Joaquin Phoenix doesn't win all the Oscars this year then the Academy is thereby rendered irrelevant. His performance, and I mean every…

  • Ida

    Ida

    ★★★★

    A very European, nay, Eastern European look at identity and relationships, "Ida" joins another favorite of mine, "A Ghost Story", on the list of modern, 1:1.33, black and white films willing to take the time to let a great face tell a story.

    Stunningly, this was Agata Trzebuchowska's first film role ever. (That's her in the poster.) Director Pawel Pawlikowski auditioned "400 - 500" actresses before a friend spotted Trzebuchowska in a coffee shop and sent him an iPhone photo.…

  • 13 Assassins

    13 Assassins

    ★★★

    This is a big, ambitious, quasi-historical action picture. It's beautifully shot (even if the director does lose track of left and right now and then) and, well, has plenty of action.

    The politics and plot are a little hard to follow, and I'm sure there are cultural things I missed, but essentially it's about a team of samurai in the mid 19th century, after the Age of War, who find one last shot at purpose by attempting to eliminate an…

  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

    South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

    ★★½

    My South Park curiosity is now slaked. The songs are clever; I especially liked the frustrated rhymes. Its heart is in the right place even if it goes legit preachy toward the end. But, as I think I suspected even back in 1999, it's not my jam.

    I'm glad friends suggested I watch this rather than slogging through the series. I watched the first couple of episodes of the first season and, well, kind of stopped.

    For fans of South Park the movie would be a real hoot, I'm sure. I mean, the title says it all.

  • A Zed & Two Noughts

    A Zed & Two Noughts

    ★★½

    Before "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover", Peter Greenaway made this painterly comedy. Because before he was a filmmaker, Greenaway was a painter.

    So this is kind of his motion picture attempt at a Vermeer, mashed up with his fascination with evolution and with twins. The story, such as it is, deals with twin zookeepers whose wives die in the same automobile crash. Naturally they become obsessed with the process of decay. We get time lapse decomposition, there's…

  • 7 Plus Seven

    7 Plus Seven

    ★★★

    Another time capsule that reminds me of what the world was like around 1971, and why anybody who ever wishes they could be 14 again is nuts.

    Weirdly, some of these kids now look and act like cartoons, British stereotypes.

  • Seven Up!

    Seven Up!

    ★★★

    Finally getting this series off of my shame list. These kids are only a couple of years younger than I so, even though England looks pretty foreign, the era is familiar. Damn, it makes me feel old.

    What was most interesting to me was getting a reflected portrait of their parents. Kids at seven have very few opinions of their own.

  • Rush

    Rush

    ★★★

    I can't quite put my finger on why this movie doesn't quite deliver. It has a great cast, the racing footage is imaginative, the score is good. Yes, Ron Howard seems to forget his lefts and rights when shooting conversations. (Why, Ron? Why?) But there's something more fundamental missing that should be delivering a more consistent emotional punch.

    The movie does end fairly well, with some affecting moments. The drama of the key races works for the most part. I…

  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

    ★★½

    By sheer coincidence I saw my second Jennifer Lawrence film in a row. ("Winter's Bone" was the other night.) While she was good in this, it's kind of the polar opposite of "Winter's Bone".

    Granted, it's been seven years since I saw "The Hunger Games", which I thought was OK. But at the end of this marathon I'm still confused as to some of the core relationships. Like who is Katniss actually in love with? And what are the rules…

  • Winter's Bone

    Winter's Bone

    ★★★½

    About all I remembered eight years after seeing this movie is that it, and especially Jennifer Lawrence, impressed me. That's pretty much still the case after this re-watch.

    This is a real actor's film, and the kind of art house production that might not even get a theatrical release anymore. I think a lot of what makes it stand out is that it was written and directed by women. There's something about the nicely-observed details of life in this bleak…