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  • Central Intelligence

    Central Intelligence 2016

    ★★★ Watched 25 Jul, 2016

    Definitely runs out of steam, and the plot is less than a throwaway, but I laughed a lot. One of those movies that lands on a schtick that just works -- so well, in this case, that I wished Thurber et al. cared more about providing a screenplay worthy of it. Funny even for those who aren't fans of Kevin Hart's brand of motormouth improv, since (in kind of a brilliant stroke) it's employed here mostly as a sign of bewildered cowardice.

  • Gates of Heaven

    Gates of Heaven 1978

    ★★★ Watched 24 Jul, 2016

    I dunno, maybe it's the political moment, but somehow watching people obsess about something as objectively trivial as an animal's corpse was exasperating. (The rendering plant owner is clearly the real hero here.) Morris obviously starts to veer way off course after a half hour or so, and some of the weird-ass monologues that come later are more interesting, though I guess I don't get as much out of candid, felicitous depictions of quirky salt-of-the-earth types as others do. And I'm just 100% indifferent to the emotional hook here, and wish these people would spend the energy on almost literally anything else.

  • Star Trek Beyond

    Star Trek Beyond 2016

    ★★★ Watched 22 Jul, 2016

    Not sure I'm 100% on-board with the purported anti-militarism message here -- clearly intended as a nod to the old STAR TREK tradition but really kind of laughable given how relentlessly violent and, well, militarized these new movies are. (Kirk delivers his rebuke on this score to the villain while giving him a beatdown, as I recall.) Thematic poseurishness aside, Lin does a nice job with the copious action and this continues to be among the more visually interesting of…

  • Lights Out

    Lights Out 2016

    ★★★ Watched 21 Jul, 2016

    Starts out in a spooky Wes Craven-ish vein, with a minimum of exposition and so a bunch of fun WTF-ery in addition to the reasonably nifty jump scares; liked the choice, too, of keeping the kid mostly in the background and making us guess the extent of what, exactly, he's been going through in that house. Deflates once it's forced to start explaining, especially since it doesn't really have satisfying explanations, and the nature of the villain just goes from…

  • The Infiltrator

    The Infiltrator 2016

    ★★½ Watched 19 Jul, 2016

    Pretty much making a beeline for any non-franchise, non-niche theatrical release for adults this summer, on an "any port in a storm" theory. This, sadly, turned out to be more complicated than interesting -- it wants to be a wonky procedural about international money laundering, which would have been fascinating were Furman not too committed to his grimy faux-Oliver-Stone aesthetic to get into the nitty-gritty. The result is that all the details are kind of vague and the suspense (of…

  • Floating Weeds

    Floating Weeds 1959

    ★★★½ Watched 18 Jul, 2016

    Possibly not the best entry point into Ozu, with tasteful restraint rendering the melodrama a bit tedious. I have to say I disagree with Ebert's contention, in his Great Movies essay, that this is "not a sad film" -- it worked best for me as a movie about disappointment, coming to terms with one's own lot in life and hoping for better for your progeny, and I found that though I did a fair bit of finger-tapping while I watched, the movie did kind of quietly bloom in my memory when I thought of it this way.

  • Gone with the Wind

    Gone with the Wind 1939

    ★★★★ Watched 10 Jul, 2016

    Still managed to be consistently engaging for four ours, and still kind of stealthily sophisticated in its portrayal of Scarlett, who stubbornly throws away happiness at every turn in her quest for something it's clear from the start she cannot possibly have -- a fact that consistently (and intentionally, I think) undercuts the heroic portrayal of her resilience. Obviously horribly offensive in ways that have been amply enumerated, but also a strong case for why we can't just erase stuff for that reason.

  • Saving Private Ryan

    Saving Private Ryan 1998

    ★★★★½ Watched 14 Jul, 2016

    Forgot how straight-up incredible most of this is on a visceral level -- the landing at Normandy had me slackjawed all over again -- and totally forgot about the fate of the Jeremy Davies character, which seems amazingly gutsy today, making a trenchant and important point about the nature of warfare at the "expense" of a character it seemed to be building up to be a plucky underdog that could. Not totally sure what happened in the final seconds, which seem to have been pasted in from another, much dumber film.

  • Green Room

    Green Room 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 16 Jul, 2016

    Wasn't a fan of Saulnier's BLUE RUIN, but this is much better, mostly because the set-up is so credible -- the dynamic between the band members, the half-assed gig that results in a $6/pp payout, the jaded way they shrug off the possibility that skinheads will show up to a show ("There are always a few") -- that it's able to more or less steamroll through any issues down the line. Middle section, with everyone trapped in the green room,…

  • The American President

    The American President 1995

    ★★ Watched 17 Jul, 2016

    Astonished that Sorkin somehow completely ignored the grave ethical implications of an active DC lobbyist dating the President of the United States -- an objection that may seem like small beer in what's essentially a romantic comedy, but that the film consistently invites by having the plot revolve around Republican objections to the relationship, and ultimately hinge on whether the President will renege, for political advantage, on a deal he earlier made with the lobbyist who is NOW HIS LOVER.…

  • Tickled

    Tickled 2016

    ★★★½ Watched 03 Jul, 2016

    Not much as a film -- it's unwieldy, struggling vainly to make likable rogue heroes out of its narrator and his partner/co-director, with staged sequences and weird elisions that at times made me question its veracity -- but nonetheless quite enjoyable in a what-happens-next sort of way, and ultimately surprisingly credible as a psychological portrait: despite the dearth of information, I felt like I could imagine how Mr. D'Amato got to this point. Also features a bunch of fun personages…

  • Our Kind of Traitor

    Our Kind of Traitor 2016

    ★★★ Watched 02 Jul, 2016

    Decently entertaining Le Carre adaptation in a Hitchcockian mode, featuring an ordinary college professor and his corporate lawyer wife dragooned into international espionage shenanigans; there's some really fun stuff in the first hour, which gradually lets us (and its hero) divine what's going on in the murky world of Russian mafia power shifts. Trouble is, the film -- which easily could have been a miniseries, I imagine -- doesn't have a lot of time for its putative heroes, who are…