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  • The Conjuring 2

    The Conjuring 2 2016

    ★★ Watched 21 Jun, 2016

    Between this and THE SHALLOWS, not a good week for genre craftsmen I once thought were going to save us from superhero and found footage hegemony. Unlike Collet-Serra, Wan, at least, has lost none of his formal chops -- CONJURING 2 is as stately and beautifully composed as any of his post-SAW horror films -- but something weird's happened to his storytelling instincts. This unconscionably long sequel has basically nothing of interest beyond a series of arbitrary J-horror-inspired theatrical horrorshow…

  • Midnight Special

    Midnight Special 2016

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 23 Jun, 2016

    Just as shocked-and-awed as I was last time by the fusion of Richard Kelly-esque cosmic wonder into Nichols' literate, fluid, minimalist aesthetic, but a second viewing further crystallized this for me as a film about parenting -- getting your child to where he belongs, whatever it takes, and then letting go. Final shots now seem (even more) perfect, and made me cry.

  • The Shallows

    The Shallows 2016

    ★★½ Watched 24 Jun, 2016

    Collet-Serra is an odd duck. With ORPHAN and NON-STOP, he seemed to announce himself as a shrewd genre classicist, imbuing straight-ahead thrillers with craftsmanship and momentum. Then with RUN ALL NIGHT and now THE SHALLOWS, he's unveiled this weird brand of brain-dead maximalism, positioning himself closer to a more technically proficient Michael Bay or a less po-faced Zack Snyder. The results go down easy enough but feel hacky and purposeless. Here, for example, I kept waiting for THE SHALLOWS' sun-kissed…

  • Love & Friendship

    Love & Friendship 2016

    ★★ Watched 09 Jun, 2016

    Whit Stillman + Jane Austen struck me as a huge miscalculation, since while the Stillman stock protagonist's blithe self-absorption might be funny and charming in modern-day Manhattan or on a college campus it's just painful and cruel amid the misogyny and social strictures of Austen, particularly when the person is in a position of power. Accordingly I spent most of LOVE & FRIENDSHIP wishing ardently that Kate Beckinsale's Lady Susan could be transported to the 21st century and rammed with a…

  • The Lobster

    The Lobster 2015

    ★★★ Watched 08 Jun, 2016

    Falls into a category I'm consistently uneasy about -- viz. the elaborate extended metaphor, its value tied inextricably to what you think of it as allegory. DOGTOOTH was marvelously creepy on its own terms; the universe of THE LOBSTER is goofy and strange and sometimes kind of funny, but it feels mostly like a put-on -- everyone for some reason talks and acts like some sort of savant, and there's never the sense that the people on screen are sentient…

  • Hail, Caesar!

    Hail, Caesar! 2016

    ★★★½ Watched 08 Jun, 2016

    Rumors of a misfire proved greatly exaggerated, thank goodness. If nothing else, this is very funny in an elaborate, conceptual way the Coens don't usually dabble in -- I could have spent the entire movie watching Laurence Laurentz (presents) attempt to direct Hobie Doyle in "Merrily We Dance" (Ehrenreich's "mirthless chuckle" is one of my favorite movie moments of the year), and I loved Thora/Thessily, what turns out to be the unexpectedly subtle joke in the Channing Tatum dance number,…

  • Money Monster

    Money Monster 2016

    ★½ Watched 07 Jun, 2016

    Flailing, scatterbrained hostage drama that flirts ever-so-briefly with incisive or at least punchy satire -- Clooney's showboating in the opening scenes made me smile -- but once the action starts it quickly abandons topicality and humor for essentially a series of dumbass thriller vignettes. Some of these, like the attempt to raise the IBIS stock price through a personal appeal by Gates to watching investors to save his life don't even make any sense -- MARKETS DO NOT WORK THAT…

  • The Taking of Deborah Logan

    The Taking of Deborah Logan 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 06 Jun, 2016

    One problem with the proliferation of crummy DTV found-footage horror flicks is that when a good one comes along it gets totally lost in the glut. This is one of the good ones, with a strong, smart female protagonist (the terrific Anne Ramsay), a backstory that's more-or-less generic but ingeniously deployed to ramp up the stakes in the climax, and the requisite creeper imagery done with genuine skill. And logistical questions w/r/t operation of the camera are mostly avoided (and occasionally played for a good laugh or two).

  • The Nice Guys

    The Nice Guys 2016

    ★★★★ Watched 06 Jun, 2016

    Black's entire premise here is a balancing act that's defeated many filmmakers before him -- pivoting from meanness and vulgarity to... well... niceness -- and he totally nails it, better than anyone since Zwigoff with BAD SANTA. The keys are the exquisitely calibrated performances (most especially Crowe, whose teddy bear of a tough guy might be the best work of his career), the judicious use of a precocious tween, and the way the humor plays on the protagonists' vulnerability and…

  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

    Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising 2016

    ★★½ Watched 05 Jun, 2016

    Attempts to replicate the inspired chaos of its predecessor but ends up mostly with free-floating idiocy -- the airbag scene is the clearest example of desperation, but there's also the tailgate, which is busy and vulgar, filmed with a shakycam intensity, but has basically no content or humor. And while I'm a sucker for the way this needles sexist double standards, something about the gender-equality message doesn't quite land. Maybe it's that I was never quite convinced of the girls'…

  • What If

    What If 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 05 Jun, 2016

    Nonsense title aside, this is almost supernaturally charming, with Radcliffe's spastic intelligence and Kazan's slightly offbeat charisma (and wonderful supporting turns by Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis) beautifully complementing a sharp and funny script (from the writer of ALONE IN THE DARK?!). So good, in fact, that I wished it had found some remotely non-inevitable out; sadly it goes pretty much exactly where you think. Between the breezy, smart appeal of this and GOON, looking forward to whatever Dowse does next.

  • Draft Day

    Draft Day 2014

    ★★★ Watched 04 Jun, 2016

    [airplane edit]

    Oil-slick, branded out the wazoo, and totally inorganic -- everyone constantly talks in impeccable screenwriterly soundbites -- but undeniably compelling in its focus on the mechanics of NFL draft deal-making. Works well when it sticks to those logistics, Reitman's fancy split-screen pyrotechnics adding some visual propulsion to what otherwise would have been a long series of match cuts of people talking on the phone. Otherwise, could easily have lost the relationship subplot, which ends up patronizing despite the…