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  • Get on Up

    Get on Up 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 30 Apr, 2016

    Ups the level of difficulty, creating a coherent psychological portrait out of fragments, like a jigsaw puzzle -- and it's actually kind of thrilling to watch it come together. Its thesis is that Brown was a juggernaut of a man, forged in the flames of a brutal childhood, conditioned -- correctly, as it turned out, or perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy -- to believe that he needs no one, not for validation or affection or support, a conviction that…

  • The Major

    The Major 2013

    ★★★ Watched 27 Apr, 2016

    Beautifully shot and a nailbiter in spots, but Bykov is too determined to rack up pat ironies and the last forty minutes or so are painfully overwrought.

  • Eye in the Sky

    Eye in the Sky 2015

    ★★★★ Watched 17 Apr, 2016

    More nuanced and thoughtful than I could have possibly expected -- not a screed or a polemic, but an incisive examination of the way human systems fail to deal with technological advances that make ordinary what was once momentous. I'd have avoided the little-girl POV all together, since the point seems to be that these people are acting on information that their tech is able to provide to them; think about how much more heartbreaking that final shot would have been had we not already been made privy to that moment more than an hour before.

  • The Night Before

    The Night Before 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 09 Apr, 2016

    Maybe I was just in the right mood, but this worked really well for me -- lots of big laughs, strong momentum, and real sweetness in a way that recalled the two good HAROLD & KUMAR films.

  • The Invitation

    The Invitation 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 09 Apr, 2016

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Astonishing for a while, layering a dazzling thriller element over its protagonist's entirely credible outrage at the galling, irrational way his ex-wife has chosen to deal with the grief over the loss of their son. Ultimately a bit at odds with itself, insofar as the eventual bloodbath doesn't really jibe with that theme (the murderous nature of the death cult seems tacked on, if understandably given what the film wants to be), but Kusama's justly-acclaimed horror film remains a bracing examination of the way we use faith to bottle up and ignore painful emotions and difficult realities.

  • Bananas

    Bananas 1971

    ★★★½ Watched 07 Apr, 2016

    I feel like at some point Allen realized that his gifts as a pure physical comic were limited and ditched what he tried to do here, where his gifts for hyperverbal absurdism ("I once stole a pornographic book that was printed in braille") contrast rather painfully with long, self-conscious bouts of mostly unfunny slapstick. Still more than enough big laughs to get you through 82 minutes -- personal favorite: "To a guy like me, the greatest crimes are the crimes against human dignity," followed by him stepping out of a parked car and into a manhole.

  • Room

    Room 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 02 Apr, 2016

    Loses a lot, as one might expect, from the absence of Jack's interior monologue, though the pants-wetting suspense of the escape sequence remains, and Abrahamson works like the dickens to dramatize the boy's emergence into the world in the second half. All credit to him for keeping the movie grounded in Jack's psychology rather than traipsing off into sentimental triumph-of-the-love-of-a-mother-for-her-son territory, which must have been tempting.

  • Sisters

    Sisters 2015

    ★★ Watched 01 Apr, 2016

    Yikes. A few big laughs, but just goes on and on and on. Attempts to replicate the Apatow/Brent White model of leisurely editing together a bunch of improvised takes, but though Fey and Poehler are improv vets they're locked into characters that wouldn't pass muster in a 3-minute live scene, much less a putatively scripted two-hour monstrosity like this -- nothing makes sense, everyone's crazy, and the thing won't fucking end. Like, how the hell did that interminable scene with…

  • High-Rise

    High-Rise 2015

    ★★½ Watched 20 Mar, 2016

    Never quite coalesced into any sort of coherent dystopian vision for me, which detracted considerably from its allegorical oomph, but this could probably use a second viewing.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane

    10 Cloverfield Lane 2016

    ★★★ Watched 16 Mar, 2016

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    Enjoyable enough, but everything that happens in the bunker is basically irrelevant, isn't it, since Goodman's character is both delusional AND right, and apparently would have imprisoned her regardless of whether aliens were a-comin'?

  • Sing Street

    Sing Street 2016

    ★★★½ Watched 16 Mar, 2016

    Working class lads start a band to escape authoritarian schoolmarms, neglectful parents, and a bleak fate toiling away emptily in their dreary town. Except: (a) the songs are actually really good; (b) they're inspired by "The Cure" and "Duran Duran" rather than punk or the Stones; (c) the movie decided to just skip the part where they don't know how to really play and assume that they're actually talented. Mostly really fun, though I'm sick of the vaguely-drawn female beauty…

  • Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word

    Johnny Frank Garrett's Last Word 2016

    ★½ Watched 15 Mar, 2016

    Awful, which is pretty stunning given the formal mastery and emotional punch of Rumley's last two features. Only thing I can think is that he's just not cut out for (or maybe not interested in) straight-ahead supernatural horror; this is blunt, sepia-toned, and boring, where his other films are visually and narratively tricky and emotionally intricate but without, like, vengeful spirits and ghostly possessions and stuff. Let's all forget this happened.