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  • War Dogs

    War Dogs 2016

    ★★½ Watched 28 Aug, 2016

    The least interesting possible version of this movie, conveying virtually all of the substance of the story through voiceover and stubbornly refusing to have any sort of moral or political point of view beyond cynicism. Almost worth it for Jonah Hill's performance, which lets his character's self-loathing and insecurity just barely peek around from behind the loathsome braggadocio. (Watch him in one of the film's rare quiet moments right after he ejects a new employee for contradicting him re: what…

  • Imperium

    Imperium 2016

    ★★½ Watched 24 Aug, 2016

    Mostly totally unremarkable undercover-cop thriller, attempting to get a lot of mileage out of the shock value of (often unexpectedly refined-seeming) people spouting insane white supremacist conspiracy theories to often-tedious results. Lurches, in its final seconds (and to be fair once or twice before that), toward something genuinely intriguing -- drawing an connection between bigoted nationalism and a sense of victimhood -- but since the bulk of the film is in no way about that, it's a bit of a waste. Radcliffe is fine.

  • Sausage Party

    Sausage Party 2016

    ★★★ Watched 14 Aug, 2016

    Only goes so far since it's not actually very clever, but the premise + the patented Rogan/Goldberg goofball vulgarity easily got me through 89 minutes.

  • Anthropoid

    Anthropoid 2016

    ★★★ Watched 14 Aug, 2016

    I continue to admire Ellis's sense of atmosphere and place, on a low budget -- THE BROKEN crafted an impeccably lonely and haunted London, METRO MANILA captured the menacing bustle and chaos of its titular metropolis, and ANTHROPOID conveys the oppressive paranoia of occupied Prague, a beautiful old city with something seemingly lurking around every corner. He also displays a gift for the old-fashioned thriller, with two major set pieces that would have looked just dandy in a $100 million…

  • Miller's Crossing

    Miller's Crossing 1990

    ★★★★★ Watched 19 Aug, 2016 1

    Last saw this back in college, when it seemed slick but kind of empty, and I now can't believe I ever thought something so stupid. Just floored, this time around, at the way the Coens implant heartbreak into the stylized dialogue and labyrinthine plot, and Tom Regan's character arc from devoted friend to ruthless gang operator seemed as affecting as anything in THE GODFATHER. And Carter Burwell's score -- wow.

  • Kubo and the Two Strings

    Kubo and the Two Strings 2016

    ★★★ Watched 22 Aug, 2016

    The story is frustratingly non-specific, and I somehow missed the broader resonance that everyone is finding. Both the film and the glowing reviews strike me as kind of wishy-washy -- what exactly does this (lovely-looking, perfectly palatable) movie *say* about storytelling, or family, or ancestry? Lots of very solemn signifiers but (from where I sat) not a lot of substance, either narrative or thematic.

  • Hell or High Water

    Hell or High Water 2016

    ★★★★ Watched 23 Aug, 2016

    Blessed with a Coen-esque specificity -- not just of the outwardly quirky variety, like the T-Bone shack waitress (who I would have sworn they truly found in a Texas hole-in-the-wall, but who is actually veteran actress Margaret Bowman), but of the every day kind, like the woman at the diner who refuses to return her $200 tip, and the numerous pick-up-driving cowboys whom Bridges runs across. Mackenzie trades the sinuous, dreamlike nature of his earlier films for painstaking attention to…

  • Pete's Dragon

    Pete's Dragon 2016

    ★★★★ Watched 12 Aug, 2016

    Like a breath of fresh air, or a drink from a cold, clear stream. Unconcerned with being the most spectacular thing of the summer, or (seemingly) with spawning a franchise or an eternal chain of sequels, this is a simple, emotional, timeless-feeling family film. Among other things, it's a triumph of good taste -- Lowery and his co-writer don't push anything too hard, not the dragon's cuteness (or menace), not Pete's tree-cavorting skills, not the de rigeur pro-family sentiment, not…

  • The Big Short

    The Big Short 2015

    ★★★ Watched 09 Aug, 2016

    Spends an entire hour explaining the same thing over and over again with three different sets of characters all of whom serve an identical function, and doesn't even explain it very well, frankly. Does generate some persuasive apocalyptic anger in the home stretch, and Steve Carell is hilarious.

  • Indignation

    Indignation 2016

    ★★★½ Watched 11 Aug, 2016

    Very much up my alley thematically -- how much do we really believe what we believe? To what extent do our convictions really dictate our emotions, and our behavior? Expertly acted and filmed, often transcending its literary origins: cinematic sparks fly during the big centerpiece between Lerman and Letts, for example, with a beautiful contrast between the former's growing panic and the latter's calm self-assurance nonetheless not signaling the former's defeat. And the hyperverbal, hyperarticulate characters, in the hands of…

  • A War

    A War 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 07 Aug, 2016

    The first hour-plus is a pretty remarkably smart portrayal of post-9/11 counterinsurgency -- its hazards and excruciating dilemmas and ultimately its impossibility without large-scale loss of life. It's a subject that's hardly been dramatized at all (only the great GENERATION KILL immediately comes to mind), and Lindholm's treatment is both compelling and credible. The last 45 minutes are a bit more ordinary -- a rather rushed portrayal of a war-crimes trial that hits all the hot-button issues but feels more…

  • Finding Dory

    Finding Dory 2016

    ★★★★ Watched 08 Aug, 2016

    A lot more fun than I anticipated, due to a fairly low sentimentality quotient (the importance-of-family stuff is there but the movie doesn't push too hard, and it generally plays second fiddle to the much more affecting and thoughtfully done messaging about living with a disability) and a plot that plays to Pixar's strengths by letting the characters romp through a strange-to-them, mundane-to-us setting a la the TOY STORY films. Also enjoyed the sustained silliness, e.g. the clever running whale-shark joke and echolocation taking the form of the bottlenose dolphin going "ooooooooooooh" and listening *really hard*. I laughed a lot.