• The Mitchells vs. The Machines

    The Mitchells vs. The Machines

    ★★★

    I'm not completely immune to the charm, but the Lord & Miller style of humor combined with the internet meme video stuff is immediately exhausting for me. Still, the animation is great, it's pretty fun (and short if you factor the 10+ minutes of closing credits), and the heartwarming stuff works better than it really needs to.

  • Rampo Noir

    Rampo Noir

    ★★½

    Bought this on DVD over a decade ago for a paltry 4 dollars. It seemed like something in the vein of the Tartan Asia Extreme catalogue and I was a huge fan of Three... Extremes, another Asian horror anthology released around the same time; plus, I watched pretty much anything I could get my hands on that starred Tadanobu Asano. I lent it to a friend who returned it disappointed and recommended that I just watch the Caterpillar segment and…

  • The Circle

    The Circle

    ★★

    When this was announced, I sought out and read the book, because I thought the concept sounded intriguing and I enjoyed Ponsoldt's other work. The book turned out to be pretty bad, though easy to read, but the ending resonated with me. It definitely didn't redeem the endeavor, but at least closed out on a semi-thought provoking and interesting note. I skipped the film when it was released, mostly because of the scathing reviews—but also, I embarrassingly misread the casting…

  • Nobody

    Nobody

    ★★

    I hate most of the John Wick movies—to the immense chagrin of some—so I expected very little from this film, which has drawn ample comparison. Honestly, I don't really see the similarity, because Nobody lacks the only thing Wick has in its corner: style. This is about as barebones and generic as action movies get—everything is boiled down to its rudimentary parts, so much so that the bad guy is literally referred to as "the bad guy" at one point.…

  • Stowaway

    Stowaway

    ★★★½

    Like in Penna's previous film Arctic, the more melodramatic moments and overbearing score hinder the film's focus on naturalism, but to a much lesser extent here. The strong cast is a major factor, but I was most impressed by Penna's direction—the material could easily have been wrung dry of pathos, but he mostly underplays the bigger scenes, demanding shockingly subdued performances from his actors. The patient cinematography and editing instill a tranquil atmosphere, which is contrasted by the tense content…

  • Mortal Kombat

    Mortal Kombat

    ★★

    Occasionally cool when it brings classic Kombat moves/moments to life, but mostly just a bloated cringe-fest. Kano's character feels ripped out of a different film which embraces the silliness of the games—though I'm not sure how much better that film would be, since the humor relies on modern day references and a juvenile obsession with curse words—but everything else lacks self-awareness entirely. Eventually I grew numb to the clichés and dead-faced delivery of absurdly stupid lines of dialogue, but even at 99 minutes (before the end credits), this felt longer than the Snyder cut.

  • Dear Wendy

    Dear Wendy

    ★★★½

    Vinterberg and Von Trier insist that the film is not intended as a message movie. Initially, like contemporary critics, I scoffed at this notion of ambiguity, because the film appears to share a lot in common narratively and thematically with Von Trier's previous film Dogville—though trading the extreme formalism for a more traditional presentation, it similarly paints a picture of a small community through distinct, richly drawn characters, feeling both literary and theatrical at the same time—but by the end,…

  • Ripley's Game

    Ripley's Game

    ★★★

    Takes its time in the first hour to set everything in motion, but once it gets going, it's pretty fun and energetic. The abrupt shift towards dark comedy in the train sequence was both jarring and welcomed. Malkovich's presence elevates every movie he's in, and it's certainly the case here, but there's shockingly little of Ripley in Ripley's Game.

  • Ishtar

    Ishtar

    ★★★

    First half hour is perfectly paced and often hilarious, but once it gets to the actual Ishtar stuff, it drops off in both regards. Thankfully, there are enough great throwaway lines ("it's gonna be a scorcher") and appearances from Grodin to compensate for the intentionally convoluted espionage plotting—a one-note bit which works much better in Burn After Reading, largely due to the colorful characters—but the pacing never recovers.

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

    Ralph Breaks the Internet

    ★★

    A kid-friendly journey through internet references/advertisements and Disney properties which doesn't offer any genuine laughs, attempts at satire, or poignant messages about technology. It's thematically and narratively hollow (the stakes are unbelievably low), the characters are one-dimensional, and there set pieces—except for the finale—are poorly designed and unexciting. The visual style is interesting, especially when it blends different animation styles/framerates, but overall, it's a remarkably uninspired sequel to an already mediocre effort.

  • The Talented Mr. Ripley

    The Talented Mr. Ripley

    ★★★½

    Misremembered this as an austere drama, but it's far more pulpy and flashy—maybe it's biggest downfall, as the compelling material would benefit from a gentler touch. It's a somewhat minor complaint though, because it would take a more than a whimsical score and some blunt imagery/"sub"text to diminish the incendiary acting and tense character dynamics. But overall when it comes to flicks about pity-baiting compulsive liars, I'm more of a Shattered Glass guy.

  • Lone Star

    Lone Star

    ★★★

    Westerns and noir films aren't typically my bag, so a combination of the two wouldn't normally appeal to me, but the overwhelming acclaim paired with its relative obscurity had me curious. The overelaborate plotting and deliberate pacing inherent to most noir still bugs me here, and I think it attempts to bite off more than it can chew narratively and thematically, but the acting firmly tips the scales so it's enjoyable even in its more tedious and cliché scenes.