• The Invisible Man

    The Invisible Man

    ★★★½

    If you know nothing about this movie, then I recommend watching before reading anything at all should you be so inclined.

    The happiest surprise of The Invisible Man was how much it didn’t conform to my expectations. I was thinking wacky hijinks with special effects that were amazing for the time. While there is a bit of that, the selling point (for me) was the surprisingly intense violence. If it isn’t a horror movie by contemporary standards, it still gets…

  • Dead Pigs

    Dead Pigs

    ★★★½

    Technically masterful, even as the story suffers from first-movie-itis. The obvious comparison is Magnolia (for reasons that don’t qualify as spoilers, but shouldn’t be spoiled all the same), but it feels more like Knives and Skin to me, in terms of being a singular vision, dominated by vision rather than specific auteurist concerns.

    There’s a feeling one gets when watching a movie in which one can nearly instantly tell whether the director is an artist or a hack, and even…

  • Infernal Affairs

    Infernal Affairs

    ★★★

    I’ve not yet watched The Departed because I’ve literally had this movie on my various shelves since the early aughts. Still, it took me a long time to see Infernal Affairs because I feared I had a bead on the proceedings, and Andrew Lau has never excited me the way Tsui Hark or John Woo (or even Ringo Lam) have.

    And, yeah, what you expect is pretty much what you get, even if, like me, you’ve not seen the Scorsese…

  • Skyfall

    Skyfall

    ★★★★

    Previous inelegant entry that catalogs many of the strengths and weaknesses.
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    A lot of times in movies, reluctant action heroes act in ways contrary to the interests of a film franchise. The most extreme bit of sequelization is, of course, Die Hard which for a movie about a guy who literally wants to be anything but an action hero, has gained surprising traction by turning McClane into a superhero, but Alien³, T2 and many other sequels attempt to explicitly…

  • Compañeros

    Compañeros

    ★★★

    Compañeros feels weirdly like a dry run for Duck, You Sucker!, as if there needed to be a road test of the idea of a native revolutionary teamed up with a jaunty European, trying to rescue a leader and liberate gold. To the good of this film, there is also Jack Palance playing one of his weirder villains and not one, but two men who have starred in movies with the name "Django" in the title. But nearly all of…

  • The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

    The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

    ★★★½

    The word "agreeable" is a tricky one, right? It carries an implicit rebuke of the art in question, that it isn't doing enough to challenge any ideas or status quos? But I don't know enough about the status quo in 1976 to know if the basic idea, a buddy-comedy road-film starring Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones, in which capitalism as practiced by black owners of sports teams, is the real enemy, is already revolutionary enough.

    Plus agreeable sometimes…

  • Being There

    Being There

    ★★★★

    Alas, Being There is so excellent for so long before being nearly undone by one of the dumbest endings I’ve ever seen. It’s not just the final shot (though that is collosally stupid, adding interpratations that either can not be supported, or that actively undermine the rest of the film) that is bad, but everything political as well, which is not only ahistorical, but puts a really dumb button on what was, until that point, a finely tailored suit.

    Ashby…

  • The Irishman

    The Irishman

    ★★½

    There’s the old maxim that the Oscars less reward best acting than most acting, but to be fair, a lot of critical acclaim is similarly weighted. The actor I would argue has been most egregiously victimized by this mindset is Joe Pesci. The crazier he acts out on screen, the more public adulation, whereas when he spends that majority of the movie restrained, the more his performance flies under that radar[1]. Which sucks, because as Pesci portrays him here, Russell…

  • Night Moves

    Night Moves

    I think I'm going to have to watch this again (per Ebert's warning) to sort out my reactions. In retrospect, it's brilliant and extremely dense; what looks initially like Chandler-esque "Who cares who killed the chauffeur?" story, with the detective aspect being secondary, turns out to be an actual mystery of sorts that exacts costs on Hackman's Harry. And the price isn't just that his idealism is smashed by learning just how much people suck (as with movies like Chinatown

  • Cruising

    Cruising

    ★★½

     I’m sure you’ll make the right choice

    I’m not a person to comment well on this, obviously. This entry is so that I can remember my initial feelings. I'm not pretending my analysis is worth anything on this subject.

    It’s a less judgmental movie than I feared, if still dated in some unpleasant ways. The early ‘80s weren’t a very safe time for gay guys, but I’m not sure about the atmosphere of menace. I suspect it is amped up…

  • Moby Dick

    Moby Dick

    ★★★½

    It’s a misbegotten idea, isn’t it, attempting to adapt the original Great American Novel into a two hour film? Particularly as large sections of that novel are (sometimes scientifically laughable!) educational digressions for the reader, as well as tart observations about humanity, pity, temperance, and religion. I suppose that if one reduces Moby Dick to only the actual narrative action then two hours is about correct, though the obvious charge is that misses the point of the novel.

    Which makes…

  • Kate

    Kate

    ★★½

    D.O.A. meets Black Rain meets Everly in a movie that manages to be not particularly good in spite of the usually reliable presence of Mary Elizabeth Winstead. At least it isn’t the worst Yakuza film on Netflix.

    Derivative barely scratches the surface, but Winstead, Woody, and newcomer Miku Martineau are all solid, and of course Jun Kunimura is his pro self, though that reinforces (as does the Osaka setting) the unflattering comparison to Black Rain. The sets are beautiful and some of the action is good, but it definitely plays as Atomic Blonde-lite for long sections.