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  • Paradise Lost 2014

    ★★ Watched 30 Aug, 2014

    A good idea for a thriller, and del Toro and Hutcherson are great, but the screenplay seems almost deliberately constructed to surgically extract any real suspense -- we go into the lengthy climactic suspense sequence knowing pretty much exactly what will happen, at least until the very end. Really sloppy in other respects, too: Hutcherson's protagonist is absurdly naive, and the love interest is straight-up an idiot. Certain stuff does work, and the film might have been powerful in more…

  • Mommy 2014

    ★★½ Watched 30 Aug, 2014

    Really respect Dolan and think he's going to make a great film soon, but this isn't quite it. "Undisciplined" is the best word I can come up with to describe it -- a bunch of good ideas indulged in to beyond excess, with a handful of virtuosic moments (off the top of my head: Steve on his longboard posturing to hip-hop while a treacly pop song plays on the soundtrack; the dizzying, euphoric flash-forward sequence) floating amid a great deal…

  • Madame Bovary 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 30 Aug, 2014

    Feel like one needs to be familiar with the source material in order to really discuss this intelligently. I've never read the novel, but I dug the film, which at first feels like a pretty generic stifled-housewife-yearns-to-fly-free story, but soon starts to complicate its protagonist in all sorts of thorny and interesting ways. I did spend a bunch of time preoccupied with the actors' various accents -- everyone is speaking English for French, which is fine, but the Australian Wasikowska…

  • Red Army 2014

    ★★★ Watched 30 Aug, 2014

    A good double feature with LEVIATHAN, I guess. Slick, entertaining doc about the legendary Soviet national hockey team, a number of whose players eventually migrated to the NHL in the '90s. Superficial -- rest assured that it has no point of view whatever on any political issue associated with this topic -- but enjoyable anyway; I particularly liked the freewheeling approach to editing the talking head interviews, leaving in random asides, japes and insults, breaking up the torpor typically associated with the format. Nice score by Christophe Beck, too.

  • Leviathan 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 30 Aug, 2014

    Modern Russia as faceless, implacable destroyer of dreams, a continuous tragedy with no meaning or purpose. Zvyagintsev's fourth film is rangier and longer than THE RETURN and ELENA (I haven't seen THE BANISHMENT), with none of those films' genre trappings; it's closer to something like ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA, brooding and slow and arty, missing the tight control and precision I admired about Z's previous work. Still very good, though, with an incomparable sense of place and several…

  • '71 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 29 Aug, 2014

    Opens (-ish -- first 30 minutes) with maybe the best depiction of urban warfare I've ever seen, shot as a disorienting nightmare, trash can lids banging and seemingly disembodied angry faces converging from all sides, yet nonetheless with the lucid immediacy of a top-notch thriller; it's a dazzling display of pure visual filmmaking prowess, all the more so combining from a first-time director. Settles down and deflates a bit once the (probably needlessly convoluted) plot gets going, but it's still…

  • Two Days, One Night 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 29 Aug, 2014

    The Dardennes tackle morality writ large, believe it or not: how abstract moral choices become concrete, and the limited utility of fairness as a decisionmaking criterion. The protagonist gets put through the wringer, forced to grovel while using face-to-face discomfort as a tactic -- it's much harder to say no to someone's face than to a piece of paper -- and with the deeply demoralizing knowledge that she would probably say no in their place, too. What right do we…

  • The Lego Movie 2014

    ★★★ Watched 29 Aug, 2014

    Quite funny -- funnier than 22 JUMP STREET, I daresay, perhaps because it's less insistent on constant self-reference -- but also almost unbearably busy and frenetic, to the point where I had a huge headache by the time the titles rolled. And it's super-lazy thematically, ending up being precisely the sort of inspirational pablum that THE INCREDIBLES undercut so beautifully. Still, funny is funny. "Hey, who wants to share a croissant with this guy?"

  • The Unknown Known 2013

    ★★★★★ Watched 28 Aug, 2014

    Far more trenchant than THE FOG OF WAR, and possibly Morris's finest work; necessary viewing less for supporters of Rumsfeld and his ilk than for those who (unproductively, IMO) view them as mustache-twirling villains who cynically started a war for personal enrichment or oil or whatever. Rumsfeld believed everything he told us, and here is a movie focused not on trying to humiliate him (which seemed to me to be much of the point of FOG) or even to make…

  • Ace in the Hole 1951

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 24 Aug, 2014

    The only thing I wonder about is the stabbing -- it seems to me to be totally unnecessary in terms of creating tension, and in some ways it lets Tatum off too easily, though there's no denying the power of the final scene. (And, I guess, his death denies him the chance to "break" the story of his own conduct.) What I think I love the most about this is the almost complete absence of a voice of conscience --…

  • Under the Skin 2013

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 20 Aug, 2014

    Second viewing, still a totally singular vision; what struck me this time is how Glazer manages to maintain the cold, stark, alienating tone even as the story softens and becomes — on paper — downright sappy. Makes the tragedy of the ending hit that much harder. Side observation: living in Lagos rendered the chilly, bleak Glasgow cityscapes here weirdly nostalgia-inducing.

  • They Came Together 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 22 Aug, 2014

    Baffled by the lukewarm response to this -- the first comedy in a long time that had me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next brilliant gag. Maybe the first Wain film that counts as true parody (WHAS is the only other real contender and I'd submit it's not quite specific enough) and his ability to adapt his non sequitur sensibility to a genre-targeted lampoon is just about miraculous (e.g.: everything with Poehler's parents; the music video).…