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  • Mr. Turner 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 01 Sep, 2014

    Tender, thorny Mike Leigh biopic doesn't reveal its shape until after it's over.

  • Rosewater 2014

    ★★½ Watched 01 Sep, 2014

    Well-intentioned and even serious in its way -- Stewart isn't afraid to let history complicate his narrative -- but lacks a compelling protagonist and completely deflates once we leave the streets of Tehran and follow Bahari into solitary confinement. Casting Bernal as an Iranian and having everyone speak English is also an issue.

  • 99 Homes 2014

    ★★ Watched 01 Sep, 2014

    I understand the anger motivating this. But. You can make a movie about a hardworking man who loses his home to predatory lenders and their brokers, or you can make a movie about said predators. But a movie about the former who goes to work for the latter can only feel painfully didactic, and Bahrani meaningfully underlines every just-so irony. Garfield and Shannon are great, but for a take on these same issues that treats the audience like adults, try J.C. Chandor's MARGIN CALL.

  • Foxcatcher 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 14 Sep, 2014

    "Based on a true story" and works its ass off to turn the true story into art -- a sustained and compelling experience of strangeness. Caught me completely off guard and stayed with me for weeks.

  • The Homesman 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 31 Aug, 2014

    Austere, severe and heartbreaking. Hilary Swank for best actress.

  • The Imitation Game 2014

    ★½ Watched 31 Aug, 2014

    A damned shame -- virtually the worst imaginable telling of one of the most important stories of the 20th century. Turing's life and work and eventual fate are a basically unequaled testament to both human genius and human cruelty, but the film is dumbed down and sentimental; the screenplay has no interest in explaining Turing's science (Turing keeps telling everyone that they're too dumb to understand the machine he spends most of the movie building, and he might as well…

  • Birdman 2014

    ★★½ Watched 31 Aug, 2014

    Not interested in turning my knives out for this intriguing curiosity that everyone is going apeshit about, but I have mixed feelings -- I'm not sure it's actually all that clever, and I'm not sure it's more outré elements are actually thought through, rather than tossed about willy-nilly. The superhero stuff, especially, seems mined more for cool-looking or lyrical imagery than any sort of thematic resonance, particularly toward the end, and the one-take conceit struck me as calculated mostly to…

  • 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…