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  • John Wick 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 21 Feb, 2015

    After THE RAID, THE EQUALIZER, TAKEN, etc. I'm a bit weary of the one-man's-implacable-asskickery framework, but this is just beautifully made -- I don't remember the last film that took such obvious joy in action movie craft, executing its set pieces with astounding, loving precision -- the long nightclub sequence, in particular, seems downright intoxicated with its own intensity and beauty. The weird, baroque underworld it creates is fascinating, too, and gorgeously designed, reminding me a bit of Wayne Kramer's RUNNING SCARED.

  • Predestination 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 11 Jan, 2015

    Outstanding Heinlein adaptation integrates something personal and quite moving into a rock-solid sci-fi framework that ingeniously subverts the logical quibbles usually raised against time-travel flicks. Really impressed with how the Spierigs background the sci-fi details in favor of the character stuff here, such that you essentially end up working out the plot mechanics in retrospect, swept up as you are by the foreground melancholy -- but the answers are there, quite clever and subtly conveyed. Only complaint is the literary…

  • The Guest 2014

    ★★½ Watched 10 Jan, 2015

    Doesn't quite work, but there are bright spots for sure: the screenplay is sometimes elegant ("cash is easy to get" is such a beautiful line, doing so much work in five words) and sometimes quite clever, at one point swerving to become a giddy genre mash-up; Stevens is good as advertised, pushing at the edges of his assignment to stop just short of out-and-out silliness. I wish it didn't veer toward idiocy quite so aggressively in the home stretch, and…

  • The Equalizer 2014

    ★★½ Watched 04 Jan, 2015

    I have to say that, presumably through sheer persistence and practice, Antoine Fuqua has turned himself into a filmmaker worth following: this is technically flawless, and I downright loved the textured, atmospheric first hour, which is half of the best Boston movie since GONE BABY GONE. Imagine my surprise when I checked my AppleTV progress bar at what I would have sworn must be the film's big climax only to find that there was still an hour to go --…

  • Mockingbird 2014

    ★★ Watched 03 Jan, 2015

    Mostly just a film whose time has passed -- apart from the endless parade of found-footage gimmick flicks in the last few years, this has also been beaten to the punch by the likes of 13 SINS and CHEAP THRILLS. Beyond that, it's also surprisingly sloppy and inept, unable even to really get a handle on its own gimmick; the suspense of the "game" each of the characters is forced to play absolutely does not build as the movie bounces…

  • Into the Woods 2014

    ★★ Watched 01 Jan, 2015

    Freely admit that I'm just not sophisticated enough to appreciate Sondheim -- the songs are tuneless, unmemorable, the actors sort of sing-talking occasionally clever content to a soundtrack of endless burbling strings. (No, I don't like UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG, either.) SWEENEY TODD at least had cannibalism and Tim Burton's still-vital sensibility to get me through it; this offered me basically nothing, though it's probably Rob Marshall's most cinematically sophisticated work (I particularly liked his way of handling the giant, counterintuitively…

  • The Babadook 2014

    ★★★ Watched 01 Dec, 2014

    I'm even more ignorable on this one than usual, I think, because it hit on a few of my weird pet peeves, viz. an insistence on abstraction that feels to me a bit like laziness (i.e. there's no point developing the villain because it's all a metaphor anyway), and a preference for fast, rhythmic cutting that tends to undermine (for me) the sort of encompassing creepiness Kent is after here. Large parts are sufficiently well-done to work anyway, and as a longstanding fan of parenting horror I appreciated this as a film about a mother whose love for her son starts to unravel.

  • Chinatown 1974

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 02 Nov, 2014

    What struck me on third viewing was how beautifully *straightforward* this was -- told from a single point of view, with just about all the plot's mysteries neatly explained and the main character's backstory kept concise and simple. The movie connects so strongly, I think, because Polanski imbues the film with such an impeccable sense of place (there's a *reason* for this particular noir to be in color, you know?) and because Nicholson's tough noir hero manages to be so human despite living up to all the archetypes.

  • Stonehearst Asylum 2014

    ★★ Watched 27 Oct, 2014

    Very strange to see a movie this slack from Anderson, who usually imbues even his weakest films (e.g. THE CALL) with an urgency and energy that has made him one of the most beloved genre wizards in the biz. I blame the screenplay, which is thematically ambitious -- tackling no less heady a topic than The Moral Authority of Science, Necessary Conditions For -- but totally inert as thriller and drama despite the fairly crackling premise. Biggest concrete problem I…

  • The Rover 2014

    ★★ Watched 26 Oct, 2014

    Hey, so, no big deal, but generally speaking, if you're going to make your main character an enigma and spend the entire film playing hide-the-salami with his motivations, you really ought to make sure there's something remotely satisfying at the end of the road, or at least something better than the ludicrous schmaltz this movie ultimately offers. THE ROAD is the obvious point of comparison, as gritty post-apocalyptic wastelands go, but that (brilliant) film felt totally organic whereas Michod seems…

  • The Innocents 1961

    ★★★★ Watched 25 Oct, 2014

    Poised almost perfectly between old Hollywood (black and white, with a lush classical score) and new (CinemaScope photography, a fluid camera, action during the opening titles), this is a phenomenally skillful horror film, getting most of its mileage out of vague insinuations and a pervasive sense of confusion. Ordinarily I'd get annoyed at how scanty the plot turns out to be, but the movie absolutely thrives on ambiguity, preferring to operate as creepy mood piece and as metaphor for Victorian-era…

  • Iron Sky 2012

    ★★ Watched 19 Oct, 2014

    Doesn't take itself seriously and also isn't funny -- a toxic combination. Premise wears thin almost immediately.