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  • Joe 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 13 Apr, 2014

    He's back -- and how. Feels like DGG's career has been building toward this, since it combines the loose, kinda noodle-y tendencies of his early films with real, built-like-a-brick-shithouse dramatic and narrative drive, to heartbreaking effect. (The closest he had come before was SNOW ANGELS, which isn't nearly so assured as this.) Key thing to emphasize is that this isn't a crotchety-ex-con-with-a-heart-of-gold-gradually-warms-up-to-kid story; instead, it's constructed a little bit like a superhero movie -- a story about a guy who…

  • The Rocket 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 13 Apr, 2014

    Nice trick: an fairly bleak story about people beaten down and haunted by their history, smuggled inside middlebrow uplift. The fact that he titular rocket isn’t mentioned until halfway through the film should be a hint that Mordaunt is after something other than your typical cute-impoverished-tyke-beats-the-odds movie. THE ROCKET does go out on a triumphant high note, though the extent of the triumph is in question, and it isn’t over greedy bad guys or even poverty or misery or fate or anything like that. The question the film wants to ask is: is it possible to transcend a tragic past?

  • Frozen 2013

    ★★½ Watched 12 Apr, 2014

    I don’t love Pixar’s BRAVE either, but it seems to me that the two films nicely illustrate why the Pixar approach is still pretty singular and rare. In BRAVE, Pixar deployed a genuinely oddball plot to subvert genre archetypes and deliver an uncommon message about mothers and daughters; FROZEN, though superficially similar and with another spunky girl heroine at its center, is basically a conventional cutesy fairy tale, pretty close in spirit to the stuff Disney was churning out in…

  • Brick 2005

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 11 Apr, 2014

    The since-rising fortunes of Johnson and Gordon-Levitt haven't reduced this film one bit. I'm convinced, more and more, that it's one of *the* films of the 2000s.

  • Noah 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 06 Apr, 2014

    Probably won't surprise anyone that I thought this was pretty great, though it doesn't quite stick the landing -- I do wonder if Aronofsky had that final reassuring speech forced upon him by a studio unwilling to release a $125 million film that ends with the main character passed out naked on the beach in despair. Even with the sweetener, though, I can't help but be awed that he managed to make this movie on this budget; it's easy to…

  • A Birder's Guide to Everything 2013

    ★★★ Watched 06 Apr, 2014

    Seriously klutzy -- the birding conceit seems to have gotten received precisely zero thought; at least THE BIG YEAR *tried* -- but also pretty charming and quietly funny, and the lead performance, by THE ROAD's suddenly gawky Kodi Smit-Mcphee, is a good example of how to build a quirky, offbeat, memorable character without pushing too hard.

  • Run & Jump 2014

    ★★★ Watched 05 Apr, 2014

    I dunno. The backdrop here, of a man's irreversible, brain-injury-induced transformation wreaking havoc on his family, is so devastating and emotionally raw, that what's front and center -- a budding bond between the man's wife and his live-in psychiatrist (long story; it makes some sense in context) -- seems wispy and insubstantial. Green skillfully suggests the life this family used to have by carefully observing the husk of it that remains (the lead performance by Maxine Peake is great), but she struggles in vain to add heft to the main storyline.

  • American Hustle 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 29 Mar, 2014

    Enjoyed this more than y'all had led me to expect, though I think mostly for the performances -- Bale and Adams and Lawrence are just such a pleasure; Russell is not as funny as he thinks he is (see also: all of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK), and the plot is ultimately kind of indifferent, but I rolled with the GOODFELLAS-ish atmosphere and the acting and the general joie de vivre here.

  • 13 Sins 2014

    ★★★ Watched 23 Mar, 2014

    A lot of fun before the plot really gets going, when the urge to go gruesomely over-the-top and pile twists atop one another sort of starts to defeat the nifty conceptual hook. (Don't think the movie ever really tops the "make a child cry" challenge 20 minutes in.) The character stuff's not all bad by any means, though the climax gives up a chance to do something genuinely moving in favor of yet another cheap shocker; the conspiracy business is…

  • In Fear 2013

    ★★ Watched 22 Mar, 2014

    Guess I missed the boat here, since I don't understand even the theoretical appeal of this witless, hollow abstraction. Surely it's not the dimestore ruminations on manhood and violence, and it certainly can't be atmosphere or technical prowess -- Lovering has no idea how to set up a good scare, and his few attempts at it are more confusing than anything else. The goodwill surrounding this is just baffling.

  • Odd Thomas 2013

    Watched 21 Mar, 2014 1

    Almost unwatchable, and I'm the guy who liked VAN HELSING. Sommers has an undeniable knack for staging jaunty, soulless big-budget spectacle with a light touch, but he's apparently incapable of literally anything else, including humor, rhythm, and working with actors -- the scenes of "witty banter" here, in what I guess is supposed to be an action comedy, display an almost Uwe Boll level of what-planet-are-you-from? ineptitude, like they were written and shot by someone who's only ever had humor…

  • The Hunt for Red October 1990

    ★★★½ Rewatched 14 Mar, 2014

    Not quite the pop masterpiece I remembered -- main problem is that Alec Baldwin's Jack Ryan is a shitty hero, wiped off the screen by every character he interacts with; his only purpose in the film is to be the guy who's right while everyone else is wrong, but this is kind of a boring dynamic when we can't play along in any meaningful way, since it involves little more than a dude's conviction based on his expertise. (Come to…