• Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie

    Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie

    ★★★★★

    Dorky-cool sci-fi pulp nonsense where every frame looks like the sickest 70s paperback cover you've ever seen. Plays like someone dropped Han Solo in the middle of a Saturday morning cartoon directed by Seijun Suzuki. Feels like absolutely anything can happen at any point, including an extended fight scene with a disembodied head and musings about the transferability of love for someone from one soul to another. This is the exact kind of thing I am powerless against. I would be lying to myself if I didn't give this the full five.

  • The Hunt for Red October

    The Hunt for Red October

    ★★★★

    I'm a big fan of the cinematic subgenre of "airport spinner-rack genre fiction spit-shined for the silver screen by an army of masters," and this is great example of it. Full of McTiernan's clean action, de Bont's crisp frames, Poledouris's exciting score, and just a murderer's row of great actors delivering the goods (Neill, Skarsgård, and Vance, who all rule here, are billed 10th, 11th, and 13th, respectively). Important piece of "just do whatever accent, it's fine, no really" cinema.

  • Casino

    Casino

    ★★★★½

    Rhymes with obvious double-feature partner Goodfellas in many key ways, but this is no mere rehash. This is the opulent operatic hire-the-whole-orchestra cocaine double-album Vegas residency version of a similar story of violence, greed, and the unsustainability of being on top. There's no such thing as a sure bet.

  • The Last of the Mohicans

    The Last of the Mohicans

    ★★★★

    Typical Mann in its violent, propulsive action, terse tough-guy talk (A sample: "The situation is that his guns are bigger than mine and he has more of them."), and outlining of corrupting forces, but atypical in its classical sense of sweep, drama and romance ("I will find you! No matter how long it takes, no matter how far. I will find you!," are you kidding me bro, I love it). This could be because Mann is working deep in "period"…

  • Dunkirk

    Dunkirk

    ★★★★½

    A 107-minute time-dilated WWII action moodtape so booming and so loud your teeth will rattle like spent shell casings on cobblestone. For the last 15 years, Nolan's chief means of emotional conveyance has been volume: more of all of it, everywhere on screen, on stages of increasing ambition and scope, as big as the tech allows and as loud as the speakers can stand. Elsewhere, I've called Nolan's post-Memento work "maximalist pulp," and this is basically his version of Two-Fisted Tales. I don't know that this is Nolan's best movie, but I'd wager that it is the quintessential one.

  • The People vs. Larry Flynt

    The People vs. Larry Flynt

    ★★★

    As I was watching this, I was trying to figure out what a "Milos Forman movie" was; how do we account for someone who went from Czech New Wave weirdo to sturdy Hollywood artisan? What I landed on was the impishness of the subject, the various weirdos, outsiders, and difficult geniuses of varying stripes Forman gravitates towards. So this one kinds fits pretty snugly in there; this is way closer to Man on the Moon than, say, Amadeus, where the…

  • The Green Knight

    The Green Knight

    ★★★½

    Sumptuous to look at and anchored by a charismatic lead performance from Patel, but I kind of wish this was... crazier? Headier? There's no way this was going to be Excalibur or Valhalla Rising or any heavy-psych fantasy excursion you care to name, but it's definitely adorning itself with the signifiers of that kind of cinema (severed heads and halo crowns and the design of the titular Green Knight, all highlights). Lowery's penchant for slow wide shots and languid pacing…

  • Rope

    Rope

    ★★★★½

    As in "give 'em enough;" a character type I can never get enough of is the smarmy intellectual murder hobbyist, so clinical, so logical, so steadfast in their belief that their murder will be the perfect one, until either they fuck up by getting too cute or they get outfoxed in some way. John Dall plays this part with great relish here; it's not that he's into it (that much is made clear like two minutes in), but to what…

  • The Lady Vanishes

    The Lady Vanishes

    ★★★★

    Gaslighters on a Train

    Crystallizes everything good in, say, the The 39 Steps (which I watched right before watching this, hence this comp) into something great: this is lighter on its feet, more assured, funnier, more screwball-y, tenser, weirder, cheekier. There's a scintillating quality to Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave's interplay here. Another fun, in-the-pocket thriller, the kind of movie that's easy to take for granted; ho-hum, another winner from the Master of Suspense, made just as he's about to enter his first prime. I mean, it's true; this is a blast from top to bottom.

  • The 39 Steps

    The 39 Steps

    ★★★½

    Neat little meat-and-potatoes wrong-man thriller that Hitchcock would go on to hone and perfect in Hollywood. It's a hair rough around the edges for my liking but Hitchcock is in fighting trim in the director's chair, and Donat and Carroll are both game leads; this movie flies highest when they're literally handcuffed together.

  • Withnail & I

    Withnail & I

    ★★★★½

    Richard E. Grant has here what is surely one of the best film performances of the era, a flurry of jagged one-liners, every swear word and jaundiced image delivered with clammy, bug-eyed gusto. With respect to Paul McGann, who's great in this too as the put-upon "I" of the title, Grant is the beating withered heart of the piece, a complete scoundrel and an asshole for the ages. Everything here looks damp or squalid. I don't think the lead characters are sober or well-rested at any point. This is the funniest movie I've seen in a while.

  • Wonder Boys

    Wonder Boys

    ★★★★

    A literary boomer stoner comedy that is broadly about storytelling and self-actualization but is way more about watching Michael Douglas, looking here like the Most Divorced Man Alive, get into hijinks in and around a beautifully-shot, lovingly-rendered Pittsburgh. Deep bench of great supporting performances. Warm in spite of the freezing winter rain all over it.