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  • Acute Misfortune

    Acute Misfortune

    ★★★½

    For another nonfiction treatise, imagine if The End of the Tour became promptly sadistic in the Australian outback. Precocious journo Erik Jensen (Toby Wallace) is tasked to become the biographer of Archibald-prize winning self-immolated painter, Adam Cullen (Daniel Henshall) during a four year period. What unfurls is a relationship that is abusively destructive, as it is oddly co-dependent.

    Debuted writer-director Thomas M. Wright shoots in suitably claustrophobic 4:3 ratio. Meanwhile, it's edited with ragged rhythms, making this close-knit thriller feel…

  • Black Hawk Down

    Black Hawk Down

    ★★★★

    Extended Cut, 4K UHD. Still believe that positing the Rangers and Delta Force in "The Mog" makes for a relentless, incomparable experience. (At 2¼ hours, it's arguably the most sustained military raid ever committed to film). Simply put, Scott directs the heck out of this, depicting chaotic carnage via the Black Hawk's crash site, decrepit roadblocks, bombed-out buildings, as RPG's and Colt Model Carbines whiz by in superlative fashion.

    Before the Black Hawk choppers and Humvees are shot down, ample…

  • The Nice Guys

    The Nice Guys

    ★★★½

    Initial thoughts can be found here. Rewatch confirms the impromptu gatecrash at Shattuck's party as Shane Black's greatest sequence. Or at least the one where all its constituents are heightened—the campy glitz of 70s disco as Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" kicks in, to incidentally finding Amelia among the porn racket, while ratcheting Crowe and Gosling's luckless, oafish shtick. Each moment they share holds up; the former's comic variation on tough guy Bud White ("Let's play a game. It's called Shut…

  • The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

    The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

    ★★★★

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

    Prior to its Criterion release, I never knew why Gregorio Cortez received his pervasive injustice, besides a turn-of-the-century dispute between U.S. and Mexican folk. So when the despairing twist arrives that Cortez's brother, Romaldo, was killed over a linguistic misinterpretation between "horse" and "mare", it kicked into incendiary gear.

    Deliberately omitting the Spanish to English subtitles had clarified its purpose, and replaying its shrewdly unfurled flashback, which illuminated Cortez's protective retaliation. ("In Spanish, we make a distinction.") Before that, though,…

  • King of Kings

    King of Kings

    ★★★★

    Even a subversive juggernaut like Nicholas Ray (Bigger Than Life, Johnny Guitar) could be studio-bartered by an MGM biblical epic on Jesus. If you've seen this reiteration numerous times—the Three Wise Men arriving in Bethlehem, the speechified Sermon on the Mount, the anguish praying at Gethsemene, the solemn crucifixion in Golgotha, then King of Kings may come across as another reverential routine checklist. However, that would be dismissing what remains on the periphery, which I found quite remarkable. Cue the…

  • Lions Love

    Lions Love

    ★★★

    "Hello, Bank of America? I'd like to order $200 to go", Viva jokes around with her ménage à trois fuckbuds, Jim and Jerry, as they luxuriate at a Hollywood alfresco. Which is just one of numerous pseudo-doc, free-spirited scenarios that Varda has conjured up. I won't deny that Lions Love is cannily self-reflexive by casting the actual celebrities in a narrative, although it's unable to progress their trifled existence. Not often is this able to eclipse a lackadaisical affair—swimming naked…

  • Aladdin

    Aladdin

    ★★★★

    Since I've familiarized myself with Al Hirschfeld's caricatures (which are most indebted to the Genie), this has given me a newer appreciation that 90s Me would never have picked up on. I also don't realize why other animation films are unable to use their shapeshifting craft more often. Exempting the Abstract Thought sequence in Inside Out and Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi in The Lego Movie 2, it's an absolute delight to see the Genie contort himself with gleeful abandon.

    Between Robin…

  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

    John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

    ★★★

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

    This fiercely kicks off where Chapter 2 ended, with Wick running through Manhattan until he's deemed excommunicado. Less than an hour remains for a $14M global contract to be laid on him. With this minimal freedom, he'd like to get any affairs in order, but not even that seems possible. Such as the hasty assassin who refuses to wait until 6PM, and Wick beats him to death with a library book! In Latin, "parabellum" is translated to "prepare for war",…

  • John Wick: Chapter 2

    John Wick: Chapter 2

    ★★★

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

    Initial thoughts can be found here. A major caveat that escaped me on first viewing: Santino desiring his spot at the High Table. Not once does Wick ruminate about assassinating Gianna—clearly because he's unable to reject the marker, yet he seems genuinely surprised that Santino would put out a $7M contract to avenger her? That just seems like guileless plotting, since Wick's much smarter than someone who's so easily wheedled, especially by a protected pawn who can't even fight. Still…

  • Apollo 11

    Apollo 11

    ★★★½

    Anyone who's seen Super-8 stills of large crowds who gawk at the Saturn V launch, or the monochrome landscape of Tranquility Base, are bound to be more entranced now. Since the most dazzling aspect here is its never-before-released 70mm. Even beyond its basic documentation of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins heading to the moon, is a purified clarity that makes July '69 seem new. It's almost disarming to imagine buzzcut engineers at the Missing Control tower as contemporaries, yet somehow, it…

  • Le Doulos

    Le Doulos

    ★★★★½

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

    Few gangster noirs, specifically the fedora-and-trenchcoat type, have begun with such awesome gratification. (Not even Le Samouraï with its Zen-like methodology is on this pedestal.) I was instantly hooked by the reverse tracking shot, and scurrying retro font, which only gets compounded by a sinister brassy score. The tone is hard-boiled; further matched by Serge Reggiani's embittered, hangdog presence as ex-con Maurice Faugel, who's out to reap jewels from a heist.

    Subsequent encounter between Maurice and his "friend" Gilbert (René…

  • Dreams

    Dreams

    ★★★

    Initial thoughts can be found here. Still of two minds on the dual romances: Doris' materialistic urge by the rich Consul is beyond tedious, yet Susanne and Henrik's afflicted yearning is beyond poignant. If these two were structurally balanced, I'd be more forgiving, but they don't share equal screentime. The latter gets condensed to just 25 minutes; which is so emotionally lacerating that a feature-length could've been made on it. (Despite Bergman delving into another adulterous affair, it's the history