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  • Snowpiercer 2013

    ★★★★★ Watched 13 Jul, 2014

    Now here is something that lives up to the hype and then some. Felt the same jolt of discovery that went through teenage me watching THE MATRIX for the first time in 1999 -- SNOWPIERCER is just as visionary and relevant, if not quite so shrewdly calibrated for popular appeal. I feel obliged to note that it's not quite the straightforward class-struggle allegory that many seem to see, but rather a broader meditation on the way societies are organized, their…

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 12 Jul, 2014

    Perfectly good, even excellent, along with STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (which you should watch again if you got hung up on the plot -- just *look* at it) the finest example to date of truly comprehensive blending of live-action and CGI. Matt Reeves is patently a massive talent, able to stage exceptionally lucid huge-scale action, and parts of DAWN play like they were directed by a less showy Alfonso Cuaron. (See, e.g., the gun turret shot.) But I'm bewildered by…

  • The Raid 2 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 11 Jul, 2014

    A substantial improvement on its predecessor, IMO, with the dazzling physical and cinematic acrobatics of the fight scene having *some* sort of narrative context we can latch onto, even if the story's nothing to write home about -- THE RAID was practically just a demo reel. And I must admit I actually kind of dug Evans' somber, portentous approach to the non-action scenes, which kind of reminded me of Nicolas Winding Refn's trademark garish slow-burn.

  • Like Father, Like Son 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 11 Jul, 2014

    Prefer Kore-eda's softie side, as seen here and in STILL WALKING and I WISH, to both the art-film catatonia of NOBODY KNOWS and the poker-faced, bluntly allegorical mode he unveiled in AIR DOLL. (I still haven't seen AFTER LIFE or MABOROSI, to my shame.) This is a reasonably ambitious and unabashedly sentimental exploration of the extent to which one should want one's children to reflect one's values -- whether the lack of spiritual harmony with one's offspring is a Failure of Parenting or just a fact of life. It's gentle and lovely and painstakingly crafted.

  • Filth 2013

    ★★½ Watched 07 Jul, 2014

    This is more or less the dumb, literal version of SHAME, which drew much of its power from never spelling out the cause of its protagonist's crippling self-loathing (and which certainly never played his habits for laughs). Still, McAvoy is incredibly committed and convincing, and Baird does eventually eke some pathos out of the character's malevolent flailing.

  • All That Heaven Allows 1955

    ★★★★ Watched 06 Jul, 2014

    I love this stuff, though I do wonder if Sirk didn't outsmart himself just a tiny bit: isn't Hudson kind of as guilty of gilded-cage-ing Wyman as her children and her society friends? "I can't live that way," he says when she suggests that they might keep her family home, insisting that she move into his old flour mill, or whatever, making clear that they will live *his* way and that there'll be no compromise. Doesn't she get her own uncompromising journey of self-discovery? I kind of don't blame her for backing away, frankly.

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit 1988

    ★★★★ Watched 06 Jul, 2014

    Effectively my first viewing -- I know I saw it as a child, at some point, but remembered nothing -- and I spent the first hour in awe at the straightfaced noir pastiche. I think "a Toon killed my brother," delivered by Hoskins with the weight of a dropping anvil, might be one of the most astonishing juxtapositions of absurdity and dead-seriousness I've ever seen. Everything about the set-up is basically perfect; I was a bit less interested in the…

  • Menace II Society 1993

    ★★★ Watched 28 Jun, 2014

    Very strange to watch a film that played as hard-hitting in 1993 but seems (if anything) soft-pedaled now. Part of the reason it's so odd, I think, is that the gritty milieu clashes with the film's reliance on sentimental cliches, which is what THE WIRE so mercilessly and brilliantly cut away. Still worth seeing (particularly for the ending, which does still pack a punch) but this is one movie that's just been overtaken, I think.

  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 27 Jun, 2014

    One of the great pop cinema triumphs of the last five years, harkening back to James Cameron in his pre-TITANIC heyday. No (evident) studio-note bullshit, no extraneous subplots added for "flavor," no plot convolutions that have to be torturously explained. Just large-scale storytelling, propulsive action filmmaking, and imagination. Heaven.

  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939

    ★★★½ Watched 24 Jun, 2014

    I get why people find this sublime, but was it really necessary to infantilize idealism to quite this extent? Did Jefferson Smith really need to be placed somewhere on the autistic spectrum, knowing various arcane details of American history but being somehow totally ignorant of how a bill becomes a law? Why is his pet legislative project so weird and dumb and like something an 11 year-old child might dream up? Why not make this passionate, prescient call for governmental integrity and paean to American values about a real person?

  • RoboCop 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 22 Jun, 2014

    Surprised this got pounded into the dirt, since it's not only impeccably executed but also unconventional and quite clever, changing protagonists in midstream and feinting toward a boring police-corruption plot before sidelining it in favor of a canny combination of dead-on satire and surprisingly potent meditation on techno-ethics. The movie takes sidelong aim at American arrogance, but the real target is the dehumanizing nature of technological progress -- the way it threatens to take biological skin out of the game,…

  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit 2014

    ★★½ Watched 22 Jun, 2014

    Starts out terrific, with the sort of clean, efficient, resonant set-up that great pop cinema is made of -- old hand David Koepp co-wrote, and I'm thinking the elegant and economical opening scenes, telling us exactly what we need to know about this rebooted version of Ryan with a minimum of fuss and clunky exposition, are his contribution. Just about everything else here is kind of unworthy of him; Branagh can pretty much direct an action blockbuster in his sleep…