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  • Two Step

    Two Step 2015

    ★★★½ Watched 20 May, 2016

    Flirts with greatness, both in the accumulation of strange, specific details (Jason coming back to his grandmother's house and having to clean up the wrappers and latex gloves left behind by the medics, Duane distracted from his video game and muttering "let me pause this" as he fiddles with the keyboard, the way the expression on Amy's face morphs when Webb first comes back home, a day early) and in the unexpected ways the plot lurches forward -- that Webb…

  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

    Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015

    ★★★ Watched 15 May, 2016

    Wasn't bothered by the style, which seemed to me more literary than precious or overly quirky, but while this is breezy and well-made, it isn't as funny as it thinks it is, and no one quite comes off as a real human being. I dug the main character arc in principle -- strange friendship makes deeply insecure young man come out of his shell -- but wished there had been more meat on the bones

  • White Bird in a Blizzard

    White Bird in a Blizzard 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 15 May, 2016

    On the surface a standard coming-of-ager/cautionary tale about disappearing (literally) into a passionless married suburban existence, but quietly subversive in the way it acknowledges how hard it is to really learn from others' misfortune and chart your own happier course: my favorite scene might have been the brief argument with Kat's lovely Berkeley boyfriend, with Kat's Pavlovian anger response shutting down a potentially fulfilling path forward. Climactic revelation further develops this theme, showing how little we really understand about the…

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964

    ★★★★ Watched 14 May, 2016

    First viewing since college, and I came away with a much greater appreciation of the specificity and intelligence of its satire, lampooning the tortured logic of mutually-assured-destruction scenarios, the extent to which Cold War thinking about warfare and diplomacy was a scam perpetrated by people with an interest in keeping the machinery of government scared and suspicious. I was a bit less impressed with some of the comedy -- Dr. Strangelove himself struck me as kind of tortured and broad…

  • Top Five

    Top Five 2014

    ★★★ Watched 10 May, 2016

    Though most of the best stuff here is still basically stand-up material (my favorite: the riff on whether Tupac, were he still alive, would be a Senator or a supporting player in Tyler Perry movies), Rock does make a couple of attempts at comic set pieces that are more at home on the big screen, most notably the long flashback with Cedric the Entertainer, which is nicely off-kilter and has a grim sort of momentum. (The other, similarly structured sequence…

  • Kill Your Friends

    Kill Your Friends 2015

    ★★½ Watched 01 May, 2016

    Mildly compelling so long as it's focused on the day-to-day of running a record label in the 90s -- the hit artist delivering an "experimental" second album, a band exploding after sitting in the slush pile for months, pitching prospective signees on how your label "invests in its artists," etc. -- but the murder plot is a bust, embodying a grotesque cynicism that has no point or coherent larger significance and that goes nowhere.

  • 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.