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  • Lion



    Not a ton of narrative thrust here -- the first half is just kind of a sad thing that happens, and then adult Saroo solves a tricky Google Earth problem and has a (mostly) joyful reunion. At its best in the 40 minutes or so it devotes to Saroo's sudden existential dislocation, and Patel broods compellingly -- though the film ultimately offers up a simplistic explanation for his sudden angst (realizing that his mother and brother spent years not knowing…

  • Passengers



    No number of bad reviews could have prepared me for the disastrous last half hour, which completely ignores everything that came before it -- the film lingers on a fascinating, thorny set-up and then proceeds to a climax and conclusion that are *entirely agnostic* as to whether anything in that set-up took place, and could have capped almost literally any space adventure. It's baffling, but the first hour remains pretty compelling, the film looks great, and Thomas Newman delivers a…

  • Sully



    Clint's clearly still got it, as the suspenseful, cleanly-edited crash sequences demonstrate, and there's some great stuff here about the immense difficulty of realtime decision-making under pressure. (Hanks is just fantastic, too, particularly the second time through the crash, signaling the combination of adrenaline, instinct, and reasoning that must have gotten Sullenberger through.) I have no idea why the screenplay is determined to fashion the NTSB into craven mustache-twirlers (resulting, among other things, in a bizarrely hysterical performance from Anna…

  • Morgan



    I'm a sucker for the sorts of ethical questions this initially tries to pose, which are fundamentally the same ones that preoccupied A.I. Unfortunately, the endgame the film has in mind* just isn't all that interesting, and requires an extended and frankly boring series of action climaxes piled on top of each other to get there. (Said climaxes are also at odds with the repeated assertion that Morgan is super-intelligent.) Mostly a wasted opportunity, though there's a hell of a…

  • La La Land

    La La Land


    Perfectly charming, though I'm obviously not quite as over-the-moon as some. Stone and Gosling's relative lack of singing and dancing chops is part of the problem; the fact that the story is propelled mostly by their charm + Chazelle's desire to resurrect the classic Hollywood musical is another, and the movie sometimes feels like it's about little other than itself. But the music is actually good, the dialogue sharp, and Chazelle is shrewd in ways large and small: one of…

  • Equity



    A little bit iffy on the details -- all the Silicon Valley stuff rang awfully false, and if you happen to be a big-time stockbroker engaging in some shady info-dealing and you're approached on your lunch break by a federal prosecutor wanting to chat, the key words are "lawyer" and "no thank you." That said, the intersection of sexism and corporate venality is an interesting and little-explored topic, and Anna Gunn's portrayal of an ambitious professional navigating a high-pressure job is compelling enough in itself to justify a watch.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


    Grateful, at this point, to have a franchise movie with a semblance of a beginning, an ending, and a reason to exist; real stakes and characters who make real sacrifices. Worked well for me as a propulsive action flick: whatever script issues bedeviled its makers don't seem evident (except perhaps in the fate of Mendelsohn's character, delivered a bit abruptly); the whole thing makes sense and is well-paced, elegant (particularly in the way the ending is staged), and even pretty…

  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe

    The Autopsy of Jane Doe


    For around 10 minutes starting at the 40-minute mark, this lovingly-crafted second feature from the director of TROLLHUNTER combines rhythmic editing, well-timed drips of plot, and payoffs to earlier set-ups (the cloth, the bell) to achieve a sort of holy grail for this type of film: a breathless, edge-of-your-seat creepiness that borders on the sublime. (I audibly gasped at one point.) Ultimately veers off toward dopeyness, providing an explanation that seems too self-aware (not to mention silly), and so breaks the spell. But this is well-worth checking out for some classy, classical chills.

  • Bugsy



    Plays a bit differently in an age where a lot of us are trained to think more critically about an old white guy going through life doing whatever the hell he wants, refusing to take no for an answer, freely manhandling women, and generally imposing his will on everyone around him -- and then being more or less hailed as a visionary. Still pretty compelling, at its best when taking advantage of Beatty's peerless timing ("Sure, but Mussolini's a dead man"), less a gangster film, classically speaking, than a character study about a man who tests the limits of bluff and bluster.

  • Bastille Day

    Bastille Day


    Sought this out as a fan of everything Watkins had done to date (including a beautifully bleak episode of BLACK MIRROR), but this is sadly second-rate stuff, getting no traction either with the attempt at buddy-comedy chemistry (pairing a badass CIA spook with a rakish pickpocket) or with the faceless fascist goon villains and their dumb plan to sow chaos in Paris. Far from unwatchable, but plenty bland and forgettable, and I'm not really sure why it was made.

  • The Edge of Seventeen

    The Edge of Seventeen


    Along with MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, the year's finest pop art, getting at something profound by cleverly reshuffling storytelling conventions and populating them with characters that feel real and heightened at once. Much of the genius here is the way that Fremon very intentionally subverts the expected cliches and yanks them toward something like real life: I'm thinking here of Nadine and Krista in the front yard after Nadine finds Krista in bed with her (Nadine's) brother, and Nadine's response when Krista…

  • Rebirth



    Sounded intriguing, but what it is is a strange, totally unsuccessful riff on Fincher's THE GAME, with zero credibility either moment-to-moment or in retrospect. I take it, since the production company is "Suppressive Pictures," it's an anti-scientology thing?