• Parallel Mothers

    Parallel Mothers

    ★★★★

    A moving meditation on the intertwined relationship between history and personal narrative, a theme that Almodovar quietly sketches until the film’s knockout final shots. This striking ending seemed out of left-field to me at first, but in retrospect it's a powerful final note for a film that's really about living through history - the various social and systemic challenges that demand so much resilience from regular people, day in and day out. In the way the central relationship alternates between…

  • The Ballad of Cable Hogue

    The Ballad of Cable Hogue

    ★★★★

    Sam Peckinpah repurposes some of his favorite themes - the death of the west, the savagery of men toward women - for this wistful comedy about a washed-up prospector, the spring he miraculously finds in the desert, the prostitute who he falls in love with, and the way of life that's disappearing around him. The film is as heartfelt as it gets, but largely free of sentimentality. Instead, Peckinpah fleshes out the emotions through hard-edged scenes - Cable and Hildy's…

  • Highlander

    Highlander

    ★★★½

    Russell Mulcahy essentially makes no effort to present the script's multiple timelines in a palatable, comprehensible way. I don't mind because his visual style is so distinct and intense; from the moment his camera flies over a packed Madison Square Garden crowd in the opening sequence, I'm hooked. For Mulcahy, the timeline jumps achieve the same effect as the wild camera movements and distorted angles—a visceral impact divorced from the particulars of the narrative. Consequently, the movie contains the rush…

  • Red Rocket

    Red Rocket

    ★★★★

    An unflinching, very funny, surprisingly abrasive portrait of a fast-talking porn actor and his shameless attempts to groom a 17-year-old from his Texas hometown into the industry's next big star. Everything that's good about Red Rocket flows through Simon Rex's astounding, performance - instantly magnetic, every one of Rex's lines feels fresh and spontaneous. It's as if Mikey Saber is surprised by his own cleverness as he continually digs himself into deeper holes, giving the film a compelling comedic energy.…

  • Predator

    Predator

    ★★★★

    Jungle, big guns, bigger muscles. These are axioms of the cinema. It wouldn’t be quite accurate to call Predator minimalist but it does concern itself with tactility and atmosphere with an intense focus that very few action movies of the era can match.

  • The Boston Strangler

    The Boston Strangler

    ★★★★

    Richard Fleischer's true crime thriller uses a splitscreen technique that still seems innovative today. Not content to merely show two moments at once a la Brian De Palma's films, Fleischer instead loads his frame with six or seven or eight shots at once, creating a cacophony of sound and image that reminded me at various points of Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls or some of Godard's later essay films. And this technique entirely informs Fleischer's experiential storytelling approach - at least…

  • Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

    Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

    ★★★★★

    It doesn't get any better than this.

  • Forced Vengeance

    Forced Vengeance

    ★★

    Early, mediocre, pre-Cannon Chuck Norris vehicle where he's fighting people in Hong Kong for reasons I already can't remember. The filmmakers make the inexplicable choice to give Chuck a lot of hardboiled voiceover, and he mostly talks about how important his hat is to him and how much he likes Hong Kong; every time he pipes up over the action, the effect is pure bewilderment and disorientation. Chuck's blank screen presence could have been put to good use if he…

  • The Last Run

    The Last Run

    ★★★½

    A seriously downbeat thriller about grizzled getaway driver George C. Scott taking annoying escaped convict Tony Musante from Spain to safety in France. This is at its best when it's at its most minimal - long chase scenes across desolate countrysides photographed in cold tracking shots, alternating with scenes of Scott quietly brooding. The doom-and-gloom atmosphere loses its spark when the film shifts to scenes of its principal characters conversing in dark hotel rooms. The sparseness is a virtue, but the film still seems to be missing something. Walter Hill would take this general concept to much louder ends with The Driver.

  • The Cranes Are Flying

    The Cranes Are Flying

    ★★★★

    A real triumph of visual style. The material is familiar and simplistic and maybe even outright heavy-handed (the over-extended sequence in the hospital where all of the soldiers gather around to complain about women who marry another man after their boyfriends go off to war), but Mikhail Kalatozov's grand, expressive direction - swooping camera movements, dazzling long takes through crowded streets, delicate lighting, slightly-too-close close-ups and tightly sketched wide shots - breathe so much life into every single moment. And Tatyana Samoylova is superb.

  • The New Centurions

    The New Centurions

    ★★★★

    Richard Fleischer's vibrant portrait of two Los Angeles cops and the way their livelihood figures into a complex system. Fleischer's distant, perceptive style is perfect for the episodic screenplay, shifting from carnivalesque comedy to blunt drama through a series of loosely linked scenes. The cool, composed rhythm enables Fleischer to highlight both his protagonists' existential woes and the parallel political commentary without losing the immediacy that makes each scene so striking.

  • Best Friends

    Best Friends

    ★★★

    A low-budget drama about two Vietnam veterans whose friendship is strained during a tense road trip with their girlfriends. I admire the ambition on display here - the way the movie suggests exploitation without ever going fully into it, and especially the homoerotic undertone of jealousy that drives the story forward. The drifting, alienating road trip vibe is very well-done, although it tends to falter whenever it goes beyond that into bigger dramatic moments.