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  • City Lights

    City Lights 1931

    ★★★★ Watched 28 Mar, 2015

    I know almost nothing about silent-era comedy and thus have zero credibility -- as evidenced by the fact that this is my first viewing of CITY LIGHTS. Most of it is obviously delightful, but my instinctive reaction is that the Tramp is too play-acted, too choreographed -- the funniest moments here are the precious few where Chaplin lets chaos break loose, like in the awesome nightclub sequence. Like, I don't have a ton of experience with Keaton either, but my…

  • Spring

    Spring 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 24 Mar, 2015

    Only one real quibble, and it's with the ending -- to be as vague as possible, the thing that happens in the film's final seconds is set up kind of mechanically, through dialogue, a mere few minutes earlier, and the pay-off feels like a contrived and too-easy resolution to a heartrending conflict that had theretofore played out unpredictably and organically. That aside, Moorhead/Benson's follow-up to RESOLUTION is bold, gutsy stuff, risking embarrassment to deploy horror tropes in service of sincerity…

  • Citizen Kane

    Citizen Kane 1941

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 22 Mar, 2015

    The remarkable thing about the identity of "Rosebud" is that: (1) when you learn what it is, the mystery is deepened rather than solved; (2) that doesn't make it any less satisfying or cathartic as resolution; (3) its power doesn't remotely diminish with knowing the answer in advance.

  • Faults

    Faults 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 21 Mar, 2015

    A wee bit of a letdown in the end, though perhaps only because so much of the second act is so astonishingly creepy that a satisfying plot-based resolution would be a tall order. (Though I must say that the Lance Reddick/John Gries half of the storyline remains as unimaginative as it seems -- the rest of the film is so clever that I expected it to have something up its sleeve w/r/t that, too, but no dice.) The whole thing…

  • Lucy

    Lucy 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 20 Mar, 2015

    Might be overrating this somewhat owing to being totally blindsided by its weirdness and ambition, but after one viewing this seems like the one recent film actually worthy of comparisons to 2001 -- a movie that takes seriously the question of what it would be like for humanity to ascend to a higher plane of existence in this universe. I suspect ultimately the pointless goofiness of the gangster throughline might knock me down a half a star or so, but…

  • Ex Machina

    Ex Machina 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 09 Mar, 2015

    Smart as hell -- unlike a lot of screenwriters who dabble in this sort of thing, Garland seems at least a little bit versed in AI research, software engineering, etc. -- and engaging, too; maybe the first time I've truly appreciated Oscar Isaac as a versatile performer. If there's a problem it's with the resolutely small-scale three-hander of a plot, which has a killer set-up but finds itself without anywhere to really go and grinds to a wet noodle of an ending. Still very much worthwhile, I think.

  • Still Alice

    Still Alice 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 08 Mar, 2015

    Played me like a piano, since it's about my worst fear, but I do think it vividly captures the horror of this sort of decline. A lovely family drama, too -- Moore's praise is deserved, but Kristen Stewart is also perhaps unexpectedly fantastic in a tricky role.

  • It Follows

    It Follows 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 07 Mar, 2015

    Despite the universal praise from both general cinephiles and genre fans, Mitchell's debut led me to expect something a bit languid and arty, but nothing doing: this is spectacular, full-on horror, with the opening scene alone enough to place it among the best of this decade's crop. Scarier than THE BABADOOK, and braver for not making its horror just abstractly symbolic. Mitchell also somehow finds a great ending, satisfying plotwise and a lovely thematic/allegorical button too.

  • Whiplash

    Whiplash 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 03 Mar, 2015

    Just about as good as everyone says, though I guess I wish the film had played it a little bit softer with Fletcher -- just enough that the stuff he said in the jazz bar before the climax could be seen as roughly plausible. I know that's what the movie intends anyway with the big ending but Fletcher is so manifestly a bastard that I'm not sure it comes through. Anyway, great stuff.

  • Focus

    Focus 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 28 Feb, 2015

    Fun, and mid-budget studio flicks for adults are always welcome. Plotted as essentially a triptych, with three separate plots lined up end-to-end, which is interesting enough to make up for the fact that none of them is individually super-compelling (the last one comes the closest). My main objection is to the ending, which tries to straddle the line between being a twisty con-man-flick payoff and a sentimental resolution to the main romantic throughline, and ends up just being kind of flabby. Also, I'm sorry, but the Jess role required someone other than Margot Robbie, who is dullsville.

  • The Immigrant

    The Immigrant 2013

    ★★★ Watched 27 Feb, 2015

    Big James Gray fan, and this sweeping period melodrama about a penniless immigrant sold into prostitution is very much in my wheelhouse on paper, but somehow it just didn't quite play, despite a phenomenally modulated performance by Joaquin Phoenix. I think the love triangle ended up being the problem, with Phoenix being the emotional fulcrum but with Cotillard very clearly the protagonist (and with Renner being kind of vaguely defined and in the background) -- it never quite engaged me…

  • Jupiter Ascending

    Jupiter Ascending 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 22 Feb, 2015

    I agree with most of the criticisms leveled at the Wachowskis' latest opus, but am baffled at the inability to recognize the abundant awesomeness nonetheless present here: roughly six movies' worth, yes, but that's not a terrible problem to have. The plotting is indeed lamentable, structured as Mila Kunis going around having various characters explain things to her. But the Wachowskis' vision of an intergalactic aristocracy dependent on vast bureaucracies and machineries of state to exploit planets full of commoners…