• Dirtbag

    Dirtbag

    ★★

    For a director garnering infamy on this site for disavowing his own work (see: Pine, Bath Tub, Wave Sounds) and generally cluttering the "Popular Reviews" section of each movie he reviews, it's a revelation to see what he believes is worth celebrating. And it's perhaps a little harrowing to see it on so many major festival line-ups, possibly with the benefit of name recognition from a popular (mediocre) YouTube channel. Not that short film festival line-ups aren't already flooded with…

  • The Breaking Point

    The Breaking Point

    ★★★★★

    A real shame we lost John Garfield when we did. Like Robert Walker or even Montgomery Clift, his brilliance as an actor is harder to talk about considering how short of a time they had to prove it. I consider both to be among the best. Perhaps if Garfield had a few more years to thrive rather than suffer under a blacklist, he'd rise the ranks to Bogart or Grant.

    The Breaking Point has to be my favorite Michael Curtiz…

  • The Blue Gardenia

    The Blue Gardenia

    ★★★½

    A lesser noir from Fritz Lang partly due to structure. Takes a while to get going, quite a lot of it feels somewhat familiar in the tricks to escalate conflict, and its resolution is a little too abrupt for my tastes. But I can't deny Lang's expressionist flourishes and grasp for detail. Anne Baxter does a wonderful job playing a character stuck in a hectic and harrowing circumstance, one that hinges its value not on logic but an emotional believability…

  • Brute Force

    Brute Force

    ★★★★

    Remarkable atmosphere and attention to detail, as to be expected from director Jules Dassin. Something as simple as the passing light through a window becomes not only a show of depth, but a persistent reminder of an overseeing oppression. Heavy resemblance to the great prison-break films to come: Bresson's A Man Escaped, Becker's Le Trou, Darabont's The Shawshank Redemption; films that feel deeply trapped within their setting and the brutality of its forsaken.

  • The Story of Three Loves

    The Story of Three Loves

    ★★★½

    Sometimes difficult to justify as a connected anthology with the stories not necessarily feeling aided by one another. It doesn't help that the film's third and final segment is so much longer than the first two.

    That said, I actually like all three stories in their own way. I thought Vincente Minnelli's would be the easy highlight, and the sincerity of his vision does shine brightly here, but relative no-name Gottfried Reinhardt does a damn good job in his own…

  • An Unfinished Piece for Player Piano

    An Unfinished Piece for Player Piano

    ★★★

    Nikita Mikhalkov: Once a remarkable young actor, then an internationally renowned director, and through much of it, a deeply controversial nationalist. Though for the record, Mikhalkov's more vocal political positions (such as his infamously close relationship with Vladimir Putin) are not the sole criticism of his filmmaking philosophies - while his directorial work has been celebrated by everything from the Academy Awards to Venice to Cannes, its praise isn't at all universal and varies from film to film. For someone…

  • Smile

    Smile

    ★★

    So there's this scary trauma demon running around. Most people try to avoid this evil menace, but you are a little more adventurous than the average death-fearer. Well, you are in luck. I now have expert knowledge in how to meet with and eventually become this demon pretty reliably. I am not responsible for any of the risks involved in becoming a smiley person on your own time through my helpful advice.

    First thing's first: What are the qualifications for…

  • Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman

    Paul Tomkowicz: Street Railway Switchman

    ★★★★

    A humble, deeply atmospheric sense of mundanity that acts as much like a time capsule as it does its own little stream-of-conscious worker's mindset. Granted, it does play heavy-handed into Canada's own identity crisis, but never in absence of a more vivid and perfectly imperfect reality.

  • Prometheus

    Prometheus

    ★★★

    Not a 'dumb' film necessarily, though its characters often are. Some conversations work, others feel noticeably underwritten. Gorgeous at times. I like where its mind is headed, though the balance between sci-fi conventions and subversion is not particularly satisfying. Something more visceral or something more abstract might have won me over. Trying to meet the standard structures, reveals, and (to an extent) action does it more harm than good, almost interrupting its greatest strengths. I appreciate its uniqueness, and I'm…

  • The Devil's Advocate

    The Devil's Advocate

    ★★★½

    Operatic, comfortably paced, and unapologetically goofy. The three leads are all good-to-great barring the awkward Keanu Reeves accent in an otherwise committed performance. But Charlize Theron's gradual descent is quite powerful as its own invading sub-plot, and Al Pacino has a shocking level of nuance for what would seem like a pretty hammy phone-in for an increasingly typecast actor. Instead, he gets to show a lot of versatility and humanity, making him all the more imposing as a result.

    The…

  • Jaws

    Jaws

    ★★★★½

    Most of my original 'encounters' with Steven Spielberg's work came at a much younger age. I suppose there are two major exceptions: I had the pleasure of catching Close Encounters of the Third Kind in a recent-ish theatrical run, and uhh Jaws, which up until now has been an easy "list of shame" choice alongside Mike Nichols' The Graduate. Halloween gave me an excuse to finally check this one off the list. The Graduate remains, as does Spielberg's own Catch…

  • Alien Resurrection

    Alien Resurrection

    ★★½

    Fetishistic faux-feminism on behalf of its writer, now having fallen from an already unstable grace. Joss Whedon admiration of strength seems tailored to his very specific tastes, as is the humor and logic of his entire cast. His script, as has been the case for his entire career, is an attempt at the same humanization seen in the series' first entry, Ridley Scott's Alien. While Scott's film (co-written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett) finds comedy in very natural and…